All Green-OA embargoes are iniquitous
March 15, 2013
We’ve seen a lot of arguments recently about the RCUK open-access policy and the length of embargoes that it allows on Green OA articles under various circumstances. When is it reasonable to insist on six months? When might publishers have cause to want to stretch it out to 24 months? And so on.
The truth here is terribly simple. There is no justification for embargoes of any length on accepted manuscripts, ever. Remember that, whatever else they do, publishers do not fund research, nor peer-review. Up to the point where a manuscript is accepted for publication, they have made no contribution, and it’s nothing short of an outrage that current policies allow them any say in what happens to the work that has been done to that point.
After a paper has been accepted, then the publication process begins. That is when publishers add their own value, through copy-editing, formatting, typesetting, etc. It is perfectly reasonable that they should have some say in what happens to the final formatted papers which they have contributed to.
But that’s all. Every accepted manuscript should be immediately made freely available with no embargo.
Any publisher that argues against this policy is saying that the value they add is inadequate. Under a zero-embargo system, libraries would still subscribe to journals if they felt that the value added by publishers was worth what they charge for subscriptions. Publishers that do a good job at a good price would not be harmed. The only publishers that could conceivably suffer under such a policy are incompetent or exploitative ones. When did it become the government’s job to protect them?
[This post is a cleaned-up version of a comment that I left on a recent Times Higher Education article.]