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June 27, 2007

Peter Suber Comments on Howard Hughes Medical Institute Mandate for Open Access by Its Grantees

HHMI is finally mandating that its grantees provide OA to their published articles based on HHMI-funded research within six months of publication. We knew last October that it was planning to adopt a mandate, but now it's a reality. Moreover, HHMI is taking the same hard line that the Wellcome Trust has taken: if a grantee's intended publisher will not allow OA on the funder's terms, then the grantee must look for another publisher. This is all to the good. Funders should mandate OA to the research they fund, and they should take advantage of the fact that they are upstream from publishers. They should require grantee compliance, not depend on publisher permission.

But unfortunately, HHMI is continuing its practice of paying publishers for green OA. I criticized this practice in SOAN for April 2007 and I stand by that criticism. HHMI should not have struck a pay-for-green deal with Elsevier and should not be striking a similar deal with Wiley. HHMI hasn't announced how much it's paying Wiley, and it's possible that the Wiley fees are lower than the Elsevier fees. But it's possible that they're just as high: $1,000 - $1,500. We do know that its Wiley fees will not buy OA to the published edition, but only OA to the unedited version of the author's peer-reviewed manuscript. HHMI hasn't said whether its Wiley fees will buy unembargoed OA or OA with a CC license. The Wellcome Trust's fees to Elsevier buy three things of value --immediate OA, OA to the published edition, and OA with a CC license-- while HHMI's fees to Elsevier buy none of these things. If HHMI gets all three of these valuable things for its Wiley fees, then it's basically paying for gold OA and no one can object to fees that are high enough to cover the publisher's expenses. But paying for green OA, when the publisher's expenses are covered by subscription revenue, is wrong and unnecessary even if the fees are low. For details, see my April article.

Source: Peter Suber. HHMI mandates OA but pays publishers to allow it. Open Access News Blog (26 June 2007) [FullText and update]

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