Now Elsevier starts a PLoS ONE clone

December 16, 2011

Hot on the heels of PLoS ONE-like open-access megajournals such as BMJ Open, Nature’s Scientific Reports, the Royal Society’s Open Biology and SAGE’s SAGE Open, now the king of evil predatory price-gouging publishers-whose-business-model-is-to-prevent-papers-being-read Elsevier are — you won’t believe this — launching their own PLoS ONE clone, FEBS Open Bio.

So please join me in giving a hearty “meh”.

I don’t see how this can work.  Surely the only reason people ever send their work to Elsevier journals rather than somewhere truly open is because of the reputation that individual Elsevier-owned journals have accumulated over the years?  No-one sends to Cretaceous Research because it’s published by Elsevier, do they?  In which case I don’t see who is going to submit to a brand new Elsevier journal just because it’s Elsevier’s when PLoS ONE already has the momentum and (increasingly) the prestige.

So I am not predicting a bright future for FEBS Open Bio.

And that suits me fine.  Success should go to people who went open because it was the right thing to do, not to for-profit publishers who are belatedly realising that the world has changed and scrabbling to make the best they can of it.

Mannion et al. (2011:fig. 3)

Mannion et al. (2011:fig. 3)

Oh, and by the way: a little bit of searching shows that FEBS Open Bio not actually Open Access.  Its User Rights page says that “articles are protected by copyright and may be used for non-commercial purposes”, and goes on to give a long list of things that you’re not allowed to do with FEBS Open Bio articlesAs Peter Murray-Rust points out, it’s not Open Access if it has the “non-commercial” clause, which has all sorts of undesirable consequences.

11 Responses to “Now Elsevier starts a PLoS ONE clone”

  1. SanSaurio Says:

    But PLoS ONE is not a free Journal. You musto to pay 1000 Euros more or less. Will be the “new” Elsevier free?
    For me this is the question.

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hi, SanSaurio. Yes, PLoS ONE is a free-as-in-freedom journal, which in the end is more important than free as in zero price. It’s not just that anyone’s allowed to read it; it’s that its articles can be freely used in all sorts of other ways — text-mining, statistical analysis, extraction of taxonomic acts, and so on. In short: the science is fully available to the world.

    On publication fees: it is true that PLoS ONE asks for a $1350 fee. However, they give a no-questions-asked fee waiver to anyone who doesn’t have funding for this, (That’s how Witton and Naish, from the perpetually miserly University of Portsmouth, were able to publish their 2008 azhdarchid palaeobiology paper there.) PLoS has a chinese wall between accounts and science, so that the handling editor and reviewers don’t know when a fee waiver is been taken, so that can’t affect the accept/reject decision or the reviewing process.

    By the way … I was a bit disturbed when I looked at the Palaeontologia Electronica site to see that I couldn’t find a statement of exactly what terms they make their papers available under. Looking at a recently published article, I see that the front page says Copyright the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology, which seems completely unnecessary. I sense a disturbance in the force.

  3. Mike, PE allows assigning copyright to either of the sponsoring societies, or others (i.e., your choice).

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    Heinrich, why? Why should I not retain copyright in my own work?

    And do you know which specific open licence PE uses?

  5. no I don’t know.
    You can retain copyright by signing it off to yourself ;)

  6. […] know that I’ve tended to be very critical of Elsevier on these pages [peer review, economics, PLoS clone, RWA, profits].  I’ve sometimes wondered whether that’s really fair: after all, […]

  7. […] Especially as the evidence suggests that Elsevier can’t compete on a level playing-field with the likes of PLoS […]

  8. John Mark Ockerbloom Says:

    PLOS One charges $1350 US and publishes under a CC-BY license.

    FEBS Open Bio charges EUR 1200 plus taxes (about $1422 US before taxes as of now, since the Euro’s recently fallen against the dollar; I don’t know how much taxes would tend to add). It lets authors choose between a CC-BY and a CC-BY-NC-ND license, (per )

    Unlike some journals that charge extra for more liberal licenses, Elsevier seems to be charging the same for either choice.

    So maybe Elsevier’s going after folks who want to make their papers readable without payment, but who are not keen on going CC-BY? I’m not sure how big a market that is (though I’ve seen a fair bit of FUD on CC-BY in some big-publisher-friendly forums)

  9. Mike Taylor Says:

    One aspect of this that intrigues me is that FEBS Open Bio, like Elsevier’s new as-yet unnamed PLOS ONE clone, offers a straight binary choice between CC By and CC By-NC-ND. I’m pretty sure I’ve seem that same dichotomy before. I wonder why there’s the assumption that authors who want NC will also want ND, and vice versa? If this was really about author choice, as it’s always portrayed, we’d probably see a broad choice among all the CC licences, but it doesn’t seem to be that way.

  10. […] use similar editorial criteria (Nature’s Scientific Reports, AAAS‘s Science Advances, Elsevier’s first attempt, Elsevier’s second attempt, the Royal Society’s Royal Society Open Science). Those […]

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