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).