Posted by: bluesyemre | October 13, 2022

Science’s no-fee public-access policy will take effect in 2023

From January, authors of Science papers will be allowed to post accepted manuscripts in a public repository of their choice without delay.Credit: Getty

The Science family of journals will soon allow authors to publicly share manuscripts more widely without incurring fees.

The publisher of the prestigious journal Science will soon allow the authors of its research papers to make public an almost-final version of their manuscript in a repository of their choice immediately on publication, without paying any fees.

This approach differs to that taken by the publishers of similarly high-impact journals Cell and Nature, which charge most authors fees called article processing charges (APCs) to make the final, published versions of their articles open access. (Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its publisher, Springer Nature.)

Science announced its new approach in a 9 September editorial penned by senior executives at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC. Since then, Bill Moran, publisher of the Science journals at the AAAS, has told Nature that Science’s policy will come into effect from January 2023 and applies to all five subscription journals in the Science family. (The AAAS does already have a fully open-access title, Science Advances, in which authors pay publishing fees; the new policy will not extend to this journal.)

He also said that the terms under which authors will be able to share their manuscripts have yet to be finalized, because a custom reuse licence for non-commercial use is still being developed. Open-access scholars say that this leaves questions about how liberally researchers will be able to share their work.

Currently, most authors publishing in the Science family of journals are permitted to post their accepted manuscripts only in an institutional repository or on a personal website. They have to wait six months after publication before adding the paper to other repositories, such as the life-sciences database PubMed. There are exceptions to this rule, including for some authors supported by funders who have joined the European-led open-access initiative cOAlition S.

Shifting policies

The new approach for Science comes hot on the heels of a huge policy shift by the US government regarding access to federally funded research. An August announcement stated that by the end of 2025, the findings of research funded by federal agencies should be free to read as soon as they are published — scrapping existing rules that allowed a year-long wait before work had to be made public.

It is significant that the AAAS is looking for alternatives to APCs, says Juan Pablo Alperin, who studies publishing at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. “Article-processing charges have become popular because they preserve the business of publishing, but this does not mean they are what best serves the academic community,” he adds.

The Science editorial argues that charging APCs works well for well-funded senior scientists in secure positions, who tend to be “overwhelmingly male and white”, but does not serve early-career researchers. “Also disadvantaged are scientists at smaller schools, including historically Black colleges and universities, and in underfunded disciplines like math and the social sciences,” the authors write.

The AAAS’s approach is “a step in the right direction and a better step than has been taken by some commercial publishers”, says Stephen Curry, a structural biologist at Imperial College London. Other non-profit publishers have introduced alternative open-access business models, such as PLOS’s Community Action Publishing scheme and the journal eLife’s ‘preprint first’ model.

Alperin and Curry await with interest the terms of the AAAS’s licence, which will dictate exactly how the work can be shared. One important question is whether the material can be used for teaching in universities, says Curry.

It’s not clear that Science’s approach would work for other journals, says Lisa Hinchliffe, a librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. “Science has almost 130,000 subscribers to their print edition. So it is unclear to me if that model is generalizable to the typical scholarly journal,” she says.



  • Clarification 11 October 2022: The story has been updated to clarify that it is the final, published versions of articles that Cell and Nature make open access.

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