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Open Access in 2008: The Harvard Policy and the APA’s Attempt to Profit from the NIH Open Access Mandate

Clancy Ratliff, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Two significant events occurred on the open access front in 2008. First, Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Law School voted to put an open access policy into effect. Second, the American Psychological Association attempted to collect a $2,500 fee per article from authors required by the NIH Open Access Mandate of 2007 to make their article available in PubMed Central. In this report, I will describe both of these developments.

Harvard Goes Open Access

This policy, voted into effect by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on February 12, 2008 and by Harvard Law School on May 1, 2008, requires faculty to deposit their articles into DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard), Harvard’s institutional repository. While faculty still own the copyright to articles they write, the open access policy grants the university a nonexclusive, automatic license to publish faculty members’ articles in their repository. Faculty members are required to deposit the author’s final version or the published version of the article (Office for Scholarly Communication, 2008a).

Open Access and the American Psychological Association

The open access community cheered when, in 2007, a law went into effect stating that any articles coming out of research funded by the National Institutes of Health must be made open access through PubMed Central, an open-access repository. Although the final version of the mandate allows for the publishers a six-month waiting period to provide a continued incentive to pay to subscribe to the journal for immediate access to the articles, and thus a profit for the publishers, the mandate was a gain for open access advocates.

However, in July of 2008, the American Psychological Association attempted to charge a “deposit fee” to any author required to deposit his or her article into PubMed Central. Within one day, the APA had pulled the policy. Librarian Dorothea Salo (2008b) preserved the language of the policy on her weblog, Caveat Lector:

Authors publishing in APA or EPF journals should NOT deposit, personally and directly, Word documents of APA-accepted manuscripts or APA-published articles in PubMed Central (PMC) or any other depository. As the copyright holder, APA will make necessary deposits after formal acceptance by the journal editor and APA.
[. . .]
In compliance with NOT-OD-08-033, APA will deposit the final peer-reviewed manuscript of NIH-funded research to PMC upon acceptance for publication. The deposit fee of $2,500 per manuscript for 2008 will be billed to the author’s university per NIH policy. Deposit fees are an authorized grant expense. The article will also be available via PsycARTICLES.

For an author to deposit an article into PubMed Central, it is free. The APA, however, declared that for the privilege of being published in one of its journals or those of the Educational Publishing Foundation, the author must agree not to deposit the article himself or herself (for free), but must instead give the APA $2,500 to deposit the manuscript. The authors, or their universities, would have had to buy the right to make the article open access, which is required by law anyway. In addition, as PubMed Central mainly covers biology, public health, and medicine, articles in psychology only make up a tiny fraction of the articles in the repository. The APA, apparently, did not want to make even a small number of articles available on PubMed Central without a hefty fee.

Open-access bloggers and librarians, including Peter Suber, Dorothea Salo, and Stevan Harnad, immediately began posting about the story and emailing faculty members, and the APA experienced pressure from a variety of parties. Suber summarized the absurdity of the APA’s policy thus: “Even after collecting the fee, the APA will not deposit the published version of the article, will not allow [open access] release for 12 months, will not allow authors to deposit in [PubMed Central] themselves (and bypass the fee), will not allow authors to deposit in any other [open access] repository, and will not allow authors to retain copyright” (2008). The next day, the APA removed the language from its site and posted a notice saying that they would post articles of NIH-funded research in PubMed Central in compliance with the open access mandate (Salo, 2008c). Though there is not an easy way to tell which articles in APA journals have been funded by NIH, I strongly suspect that those articles – available free of charge on PubMed Central – still cost $11.95 each as do all articles on APA’s site for their journals, PsycARTICLES.

They are still, however, charging any author whose research was funded by the Wellcome Trust, a charity that funds medical research, a fee of $4,000 per article to make the article open access. The Wellcome Trust has a policy that any articles based on research it funds must be made freely available to the public in PubMed Central or UK PubMed Central. If an article in an APA journal is based on research funded by the Wellcome Trust, APA charges the author and/or the author’s university $4,000 for the right to put that article in PubMed Central, which the Wellcome Trust will reimburse (American Psychological Association, 2008). The APA will also make those Wellcome Trust articles available open-access on PsycARTICLES, the APA’s site for their journals. Whether the APA’s loss for publishing one journal article in PubMed Central and UK PubMed Central equals to $4,000 I leave as an exercise for the reader.

Conclusion: Implications for Rhetoric and Composition

When I first heard about the Harvard Open Access Policy, and the MIT university-wide policy that followed in early 2009, I wondered: what happens if a journal publisher says it won’t publish a paper if an early draft or author’s final version is already published online? This practice, which open access conversationalists call the Ingelfinger Rule, carries no legal weight, as the author owns the copyright at the time the paper is put into an institutional repository, but a publisher’s policy can be quite forceful for professors who are expected to publish to keep their jobs. I thought Harvard and MIT might be effectively forcing their faculty members to play chicken with the publishers: “If you won’t let me publish this paper in my repository, I’ll be forced to send the paper elsewhere – and you’ll no longer have the opportunity to publish a paper by a Harvard professor.”

On further thought, though, and after I read some material about the policy on Harvard’s Office of Scholarly Communication site, I understood the policy’s power. If a journal refuses to publish an article previously made available via open access, a Harvard faculty member has a few options: she can withdraw the submission and try to publish the paper elsewhere, she can petition for a waiver from Harvard’s Open Access Policy, or she can try to get the publisher to change the contract to allow the repository publication – with the full support of Harvard and its Office of Scholarly Communication, which will help professors negotiate with publishers. Salo offers the following analysis of the policy (2008a):

The Harvard policy puts publishers in an extraordinarily weak position. They can’t denounce it; that’s tantamount to denouncing faculty, which would be utterly suicidal. (Publishers can and do slag librarians. They can and do slag government. They can’t slag faculty, and they know it.) I don’t think they can sue; even if they could win in court (which I rather doubt, though standard not-a-lawyer disclaimers apply), the hideous publicity from suing Harvard would stick like tar. They can’t prevent eager librarians at Harvard from setting up and filling a repository. Even their standard lines of FUD won’t work—they can’t seriously spin this as “a vote against peer review,” because really, is Harvard going to do anything that damages peer review? Of course not! All the publishers can realistically do is plead poverty, and a look at their lobbying budgets and profit margins scotches that argument.

As faculty members, we have more power than we think in negotiating with publishers. I will reiterate here, as I often do, the importance of trying the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition’s Author’s Addendum when asked to sign a publishing contract, even if the publisher is likely to say no. In 2005, members of the Intellectual Property Caucus called this the “Just Ask!” campaign, with the idea that even if the publisher does not allow the author to retain copyright, regain copyright a year after publication, self-archive the paper, or whatever the author is requesting, the publisher will be on notice that faculty members want to do things like this. When an Author’s Addendum is backed by an institution, the message is even stronger. Perhaps 2009 will bring more institutional open access policies, but because we cannot always depend on our institutions to support our desire to self-archive our publications, I argue that as composition and rhetoric scholars, we should organize and write a statement directed specifically to publishers of journals in our field, answering specific language of their copyright contracts and advocating open access of our work.

Appendix: An Open Access Glossary

The first three terms can be found at Harvard’s DASH Repository: Rights and License FAQ:

Author’s draft: a paper that you or I might write – this paper might not have gone through a peer review process yet, or it might have gone through informal review by colleagues you ask for feedback, or you might have gone through blind review and revised it, but not gotten it accepted yet. “Author’s draft” simply means a paper in some stage of revision for which you, the author, still own copyright.

Author’s final version: a paper that’s been accepted by a journal after you’ve revised for peer review comments. You still own the copyright, but you’re probably about to sign it away to a journal publisher.

Published version: a paper in-press. It’s like the author’s final version, except with the copyediting, formatting, and typesetting done by the journal publisher. You probably don’t own the copyright to this version.

Green road to open access: a term referring to authors’ self-archiving, and more specifically to journal publishers that allow these rights (Harnad et al, 2004).

Gold road to open access: scholarship that is open access by default, particularly journals that  are open access (Harnad et al, 2004). In rhetoric and composition, we have several of these: Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy; Enculturation; The Writing Instructor; Composition Forum; Computers and Composition Online; KB Journal; Across the Disciplines; and more.

The Ingelfinger Rule: the policy of some publishers that they do not publish work that has been posted anywhere in the past, even in draft form. The term comes from Franz Ingelfinger, a past editor of The New England Journal of Medicine (Suber, 2004).

Works Cited

American Psychological Association. (2008). Document deposit procedures for APA journals.  Retrieved March 30, 2009, from

Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallières, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S., Gingras, Y., Oppenheim, C.,  Stamerjohanns, H., Hilf, E.R. (2004). The access/impact problem and the green and  gold roads to open access. Serials Review, 30, retrieved March 30, 2009, from

Office for Scholarly Communication. (2008). DASH repository: Rights and license FAQ.  Retrieved March 30, 2009, from

Office for Scholarly Communication. (2008). Policy FAQ. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from

Salo, D. (2008, Feb. 14). Pyrrhic victories. Caveat Lector. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from

Salo, D. (2008, July 15). NIH’s acid test. Caveat Lector. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from

Salo, D. (2008, July 16). Surprise! Caveat Lector. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. (2006). Author rights: Using the  SPARC author addendum to secure your rights as the author of a journal article.  Retrieved March 20, 2009, from

Suber, P. (2004). Guide to the open access movement. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from

Suber, P. (2008, July 15). APA will charge authors for green OA. Open Access News. Retrieved  March 30, 2009, from

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