Thursday 10 July 2008

Open Access: Nurture? Or Nature?

In the aftermath of the announcement about Nature depositing author postprints into PubMedCentral, I tried to use papers from Nature as an example for some EPrints sessions I am running at an Open Access workshop at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste. This morning I was trying to find some papers for the delegates to practise depositing into an EPrints repository, and I have discovered that you need an ICTP library password to be able to download Nature PDFs - there isn't a blanket IP subscription. Fair enough, I have no problem with how they manage their subscription. However, it turns out that if I go to's front page, I am forbidden from seeing the picture of Nature magazine's current front page! Literally I get the normal web page with a hole in it - and a request to type in my subscription password.

This is the difference between what I see from my home institute and at ICTP.
With SubscriptionWithout subscription
Now, I don't really think that Nature is trying to withhold a commercially valuable image from dirty-rotten-internet-freeloading-scoundrels. I am sure that it was just a mistake in translating company policy into HTML code. But I the fact that such a mistake is possible is evidence that Nature is genuinely conflicted between subscription access thinking and open access thinking. This is what my friend Stevan Harnad has recently pointed out - on the one hand Nature is offering something positive for OA, but on the other hand they are still restricting OA. On reflection and on balance, it would be better for them to give us what we cannot take for ourselves (permission for immediate OA) rather than giving us what we could have done anyway (deposits in PMC and repositories).

Some have suggested it is rather churlish or ill-mannered of Stevan to point this out, and that we should be grateful and just shut up. I don't agree. We still want Open Access to Research Outputs, not a 6-month intellectual headstart for paying customers.

1 comment:

  1. Hath not a blog permalinks, that posts may be linked to? *g*

    I will point out that Nature's agreement is the first and ONLY journal publisher concession that *specifically benefits IRs*. I also question "what we could have done anyway" quite strongly. Fact is, we aren't doing it, not in an automated fashion -- and we need to badly.

    Have the quarrel about embargoes some other time, please. What Nature did is good for the ailing IR.