What just happened with open access at the Journal of Vision?

Vision researchers recently received an email from ARVO, the publisher of Journal of Vision, that begins:

On January 1, 2016, Journal of Vision (JOV) will become open access.

But in the view of most, JoV has been open access since its inception! It’s always been an author-pays, free access journal: all articles are published on its website and can be downloaded by anyone.

But free-to-download is not enough for open access, not according to the definition of open access formulated in Budapest in 2001. Open access means (according to this definition) the right not only to download but also to

distribute, … pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers

But JoV, which has always held the copyright of the articles it publishes, says that “All companies, commercial and nonprofit, should contact ARVO directly for permission to reprint articles or parts thereof”.

Starting in 2016, such permission won’t be required.

However, paying your $1,850 for standard publication in JoV in 2016 will not get you everything. The updated Budapest declaration recommends that journals use the license CC-BY.  But JoV‘s publisher has instead chosen to use the license CC BY-NC-ND, , meaning that articles cannot be used commercially (“non-commercial”) and that you can’t distribute bits of the article (“no derivatives”). Yet increasingly today, parts of science involve mining and remixing previously-published data and content, which the ND clause of the license prohibits (unless you get special permission). Education and journalism requires re-use of bits too; think about how many textbooks and articles on the web show just one figure (a “derivative”) or illustration from a scientific paper.

And while the non-commercial, NC clause might sound rather harmless for spreading knowledge, it is sometimes unclear what non-commercial really covers. It may prevent a university, especially private universities, from distributing the article as part of course content that a student pays for (via their tuition).

For these reasons, CC BY is the way we should be going, which is why UK funders like the Wellcome Trust and RCUK require that researchers receiving grants from them publish their articles CC BY. To accommodate this, JoV as part of their new policy will license your article as CC BY, if you pay an additional fee of $500!

What ARVO has done here is only a small step forward for JoV, and unfortunately a rather confusing step. The bigger change has occurred with ARVO’s journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science (IOVS), which was only accessible via a subscription but starting in 2016, will be CC BY-NC-ND and CC BY.

As you can see, copyright is complicated. Researchers don’t have time to learn all this stuff. And that means recalcitrant publishers (not ARVO, I mean profiteers like Elsevier) can exploit this to obfuscate, complicate, and shift their policies to slow progress towards full open access.

Thanks to Tom Wallis and Irina Harris.

P.S. I think if ARVO had only been changing JoV‘s policies (rather than also the subscription journal IOVS) they wouldn’t have written “JoV will become open access” in that mass email. But because they did, it raised the issue of the full meaning of the term.

P.P.S. Partly because JoV is so expensive, at ECVP there’ll be a discussion of other avenues for open access publishing, such as PeerJ. Go! (I’ll be stuck in Sydney).

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7 thoughts on “What just happened with open access at the Journal of Vision?

  1. Alex – Thank you for the invitation to comment. You raise a number of interesting points, but I do want to stress one overarching goal of the migration to open access (from free access). To quote my recent JOV editorial: “From its inception, Journal of Vision has strived to be free, be everywhere, and be forever, as recorded on the back of the inaugural t-shirt in 2001.” We have tried to distinguish between “free access” and “open access,” but I agree with you that copyright law can be confusing. JOV and ARVO aim to be as transparent as possible about this, as well as our pricing model, which is very simple compared with many others.

    As I also noted, today many funding agencies mandate open access, and some (particularly in the United Kingdom) require not just access to the articles, but also that the contents can be copied, distributed and remixed. Our aim is to offer authors a choice while covering the costs associated with publishing a high quality journal.

    And while we understand that pricing is certainly a consideration, I must note that we vision scientists tend to write long articles; the average length of a JOV article is in excess of 15 pages. This makes the flat fee of $1,850 (with a $350 discount for ARVO members) quite cost-effective.

    In the end, researchers must publish in the journal that works best for them, whether that is based on pricing, Impact Factor, open access, reputation, time to publication or other considerations. Our aim is to offer the optimum mix of these. Thank you for sharing your views; I hope we can keep the dialogue open!

    Best,
    Dennis

    JOV editorial: http://jov.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2427739
    ARVO open access FAQs: http://arvojournals.org/SS/openaccess.aspx

    • Thanks for the comment, Dennis! You argue that JoV provides value for cost- to help the community form its own views on the value for cost, does or will ARVO or JoV provide financial reports of any kind?
      And why will ARVO/JoV charge $500 extra for CC BY? Is it because ARVO earns significant revenue from licensing individual figures, papers, or excerpts?

  2. Alex – not a worry; we’re happy to try to answer your questions. I’m not sure that ARVO or JOV financial reporting will provide prospective authors with the type of information that will help them decide if publishing in JOV is cost-effective for them, as of course that would depend on their individual funding circumstances and goals. However, as a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, ARVO’s IRS documentation is public. As for the $500 charge for the CC-BY licensing, ARVO’s considerations included other journals and their pricing models for Gold open access and again, the aim to cover expenses across the publishing program while keeping author fees as reasonable as possible for all three ARVO journals. Above all, I want to emphasize that this is new territory for ARVO and JOV, and that ARVO’s Board will closely monitor and reevaluate the journals pricing.
    Finally, I note that ARVO, through the ARVO Foundation, has initiated a publications grant program that potential authors with limited funds may wish to look into. Details can be found at:http://www.arvo.org/foundation/Awards_and_Grants/ARVO_Publications_Grant/

    Cheers
    Dennis

  3. Thanks for the information, Dennis, and that’s great about the publication grants. I myself benefited from JoV’s fee discretion, perhaps before it was formalized, when I was a postdoc with little funding.

    Many researchers including myself are interested in continuing to support JoV even if it is more expensive than other options such as PeerJ. But this support is, in my case and others I’ve spoken to, somewhat contingent on an assessment of how reasonable the fee is given JoV’s costs for delivering the published paper and maintaining it.

    You mentioned ARVO’s IRS filings. I found the 1099 form at https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/522322462 and went through it, but unfortunately found no indication of expenses or revenue specific to JoV or even to ARVO’s journals as a whole, so it doesn’t seem to help.

  4. Hi Alex,
    I’m glad to read “in the view of most, JoV has been open access since its inception” because I felt very stupid when I recently discovered that JoV is not in fact open access, only free access. It’s good I’m not alone! I’m glad JoV is finally becoming OA, but I feel a bit gutted about all the thousands of dollars I have spent over the past decade or so thinking I was making my papers OA. I wonder if ARVO could be persuaded to offer authors the chance to make their previously-published papers CC-BY?

  5. I would like to understand the practicalities before I submit another paper to JoV. Being retired and without a grant, an extra $500 charge each time does mean a lot to me,
    So, here is what I have learnt so far about reproduction:
    a) paying $500 would enable a textbook publisher to publish a figure from an article I wrote.
    b). but I could still submit a pre-publication figure that I have copy-right to, or, provide data for a graph that can be re-drawn….. no matter what the copyright; is this true ?
    c). nearly all publishers of books take their sweet time about it, so isn’t it worth my time to wait until any article becomes OA in due course? Or does the agreement with ARVO tie up the article for ever ?

    And here is what I believe about the ‘replicability crisis’
    d). since it is vitally important that we all share data whenever called for, no Journal,paid or not, shoule ever charge an author for providing raw data for a meta-analysis
    e). Any author of a met analysis should be under no obligation to pay for raw data from any source, published or not
    f). point e) applies to ‘supplementary material’ as well as data stored on the PI’s computer.

    And about teaching
    g). All published graphs would be available to all students, period. If there is a problem with this, there should be a mechanism by which Universities and Colleges can buy a blanket copyright exemption from the publisher, so that students are not subject to the bureaucracy involved in paying for individual graphs from individual studies (Note: I had to give up 2 interesting experiments in my perception lab class because of this complication, so I am not making this up !)

    I am sure there are other practical issues like these; I’d be grateful to here from other authors about their actual experiences, not just hypothetical ones, given that copyright law is confusing and agreements are
    not always enforced rigorously (for good reason; the law doesn’t, and cannot, cover every possible individual case, so discretion and ‘reasonableness’ are always involved)

    Adam Reeves

  6. Hi Adam, you raised a lot of important points here, and I think you might do a service to the field by reposting this on CVnet/visionlist (and I would comment if relevant).
    My short answer is that you are best off posting your manuscript as a “preprint” before or after submission to the journal and choosing CC-BY at the preprint server (e.g. PsyArxiv.org) , then all the re-use of figures etc. you mention can happen freely from the preprint, regardless of what rights the publisher tries to assert over their final PDF. For specific replies to your points:

    a) paying $500 would enable a textbook publisher to publish a figure from an article I wrote.

    Correct (unless JOV has changed its default license since I posted this).

    b). but I could still submit a pre-publication figure that I have copy-right to, or, provide data for a graph that can be re-drawn….. no matter what the copyright; is this true ?

    Correct.

    c). nearly all publishers of books take their sweet time about it, so isn’t it worth my time to wait until any article becomes OA in due course? Or does the agreement with ARVO tie up the article for ever ?

    I think you are referring to the embargo that many journals have that make the article OA after 6 months or a year. Unfortunately, many make an article free-to-read but do not change the license to CC-BY from e.g. CC-BY-NC-ND.

    d). since it is vitally important that we all share data whenever called for, no Journal,paid or not, shoule ever charge an author for providing raw data for a meta-analysis

    Indeed. Fortunately, data cannot be copyrighted (although perhaps some surface features of its form can) because facts cannot be copyrighted. There are some rare cases of labs charging other researchers a “preparation fee” or the like for sharing data, and unfortunately in the majority of cases (there have been studies of this), contacted labs never share data that is requested by another lab, even when the associated paper was published in a journal that mandates sharing data upon request. This is why many funders and open science advocates are moving to require data sharing upon publication (e.g. PLoS ONE largely does this).

    e). Any author of a met analysis should be under no obligation to pay for raw data from any source, published or not
    f). point e) applies to ‘supplementary material’ as well as data stored on the PI’s computer.

    About f), fortunately because facts cannot be copyrighted (see above), I haven’t heard of any rights required to use data from a supplementary figure (or raw data).

    g). All published graphs would be available to all students, period. If there is a problem with this, there should be a mechanism by which Universities and Colleges can buy a blanket copyright exemption from the publisher, so that students are not subject to the bureaucracy involved in paying for individual graphs from individual studies (Note: I had to give up 2 interesting experiments in my perception lab class because of this complication, so I am not making this up !)

    I agree. Unfortunately, the “NC” clause of CC-BY-NC, meaning “non-commercial” may be interpreted by some (or all) courts as applying to universities, at least private universities. That’s why many funders and open science advocates have pushed for CC-BY as the default. However, “fair use” (which varies widely from country to country and in no country seems to have a precise definition) can frequently be used to justify use in a class of an individual figure from a copyrighted paper.

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