Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Emerald Group Publishing tests ZEN, increases prices: what does it mean?

When in July 2012 Research Councils UK (RCUK) announced its new open access (OA) policy it attracted considerable criticism.
Photo courtesy of swiftjetsum626
Initially this criticism was directed at RCUK’s stated preference for gold OA, which universities feared would have significant cost implications for them. In response, RCUK offered to provide additional funding to pay for gold OA, and agreed that green OA can be used instead of gold (although RCUK continues to stress that it “prefers” gold).

At the same time, however, the funder doubled the permissible embargo period for green OA to 12 months for STM journals and 24 months for HSS journals. This sparked a second round of criticism, with OA advocates complaining that RCUK had succumbed to publisher lobbying. The lengthened embargoes, they argued, would encourage those publishers without an embargo to introduce one, and those who already had an embargo to lengthen it.

There was logic in the criticism, since one rational response to the adjusted RCUK policy that profit-hungry publishers would be likely to make would be to seek to dissuade authors from embracing green OA (by imposing a long embargo before papers could be made freely available), while encouraging them to pick up the money RCUK had put on the table and pay to publish their papers gold OA instead (which would provide publishers with additional revenues).

It was therefore no great surprise when, in April 2013, Emerald Group Publishing — which until then had not had a green embargo — introduced one. Nor was it a surprise that it settled on the maximum permitted period allowed by RCUK of 24 months.

It was likewise no surprise that Emerald’s move also attracted criticism, not just from OA advocates but (in May of that year) from members of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee, which was at the time conducting an inquiry into open access.

When taking evidence from the then Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts, for instance, the MP for Northampton South Brian Binley said “We have received recent reports of a major British publisher revising its open access policy to require embargoes of 24 months, where previously it had required immediate unembargoed deposit in a repository.” Binley went on to ask if Willetts could therefore please have someone contact the publisher and investigate the matter.

At the time I also contacted Emerald. I wanted to know the precise details of its new policy and to establish who would be impacted by it. This proved a little difficult, but it turned out that Emerald had introduced a “deposit without embargo if you wish, but not if you must” policy — an approach pioneered by Elsevier in 2011, but which it recently abandoned.

While the wording of the Emerald policy may have changed a little since it was introduced, at the time of writing it appeared to be the same in substance: authors are told that they can post the pre-print or post-print version of any article they have submitted to an Emerald journal onto their personal website or institutional repository “with no payment or embargo period” — unless the author is subject to an OA mandate, in which case a 24 month embargo applies.