There has been a big push toward open public access to research publications in journals, particularly over the past decade. Authors, federal granting agencies, and readers around the world look for open access in this digital age. But the real challenge for publishers of journals to provide this is also easy to understand. They would have to have very different business models than they have had in the past to survive. And they clearly are trying to look at this!
Back and forth, some times tense “negotiations” between publishers, agencies like NIH, and also the authors and their institutional employers is palpable. The latter typically see that they already provide a very generous contribution to the free peer review system that publishers rely on and often are frustrated that these efforts don't readily turn into open access publications.
Yet, to my knowledge, only one journal in the top 55 international journals in the field of eye, vision, ophthalmology, and optometry has an open access model. That journal (Journal of Vision) is one of two journals of the Association for Research and Vision in Ophthalmology (ARVO). The business model of Journal of Vision is for the authors to pay for the publication of their paper on a page cost basis and at least subsidize the Associations' support of the journal. Such a model is very dependent on attracting authors who can pay these costs, typically from grants they have been awarded. In some fields of science, researchers are much less dependent on grants (e.g., mathematics); in those cases, the author paying for the publication of their article presents a different level of challenge.
Federal agencies like NIH have required that research funded by them be published in a way that is open to the public. The National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy is a mandate that any published research that was funded by the federal science agency be submitted to the publically accessible digital archive PubMed Central within 12 months of publication. A most recent troubling (to some) development was the sponsorship of a bill [the Research Works Act (RWA) bill HR3699]. If pushed it would eliminate the open access requirements for federal grantees. The Association of American Publishers, a publisher trade group, supports it. As can be imagined, the bill is hotly debated. The bill, if passed, would “turn back the clock” from the authors, institutions, and the NIH point of view. Interestingly, one of the bigger publishers very recently (February 27) appeared to withdraw its lobbying support for the bill [see “In the News” in this issue of Optometry and Vision Science (OVS)]. Soon after, the sponsors of the bill said they would not push for action on the bill after all.
So, the controversy goes on and the opposing active players and entities remain “in battle.”
On the positive side, OVS and its publisher (Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins—LWW) have been increasingly able to provide significant open access opportunities for its readers. For some time now, one article in each monthly issue, chosen by the Editor-in-Chief, is made immediately free and open access. Occasionally there are two articles, as is the case for this April issue and the upcoming May Feature Issue on clinical imaging in the eye. In 2011, the publishers and OVS also made the entire Myopia Issue free and open access upon publication. And all OVS articles are free and open access 12 months after publication. Of course AAO members and subscribers always have open access at the time of publication. In each issue, there are free public open access sections such as the Features Articles on line, Editorials, In the News and New Products, Book Reviews, and Calendar of Events. Abstracts of all published articles are always open access and free to the public.
Both academy members and the public should be taking advantage of the OVS Collections of open access papers that we have set aside and are building. At present, all the free open access OVS Feature Articles of the last 12 months are available as a “one stop” collection: http://journals.lww.com/optvissci/pages/collectiondetails.aspx?TopicalCollectionId=3.
The OVS Collections include the OVS Announces, Featured Articles, Past Editorials (for the past 2 years), Press Releases (monthly LWW medical writer media releases on OVS articles since June 2011), Academy History, Profiles in Discovery, Book Reviews, In the News/New Products, and Editorials. Go to http://journals.lww.com/optvissci/Pages/collections.aspx?collection—Topical. These OVS Collections will grow over the coming year as the Editorial team put together topic collections in popular areas in optometry's essentially virtual theme issues of past OVS publications.
An exciting extension of open access to optometry publications is the joint venture, over the past year, between the Editors of the three top international optometry journals (including OVS) to have a single site where anyone can go to see what is “hot” in open access evidence-based optometric literature from those journals. We expect “What's Hot in Optometry” to launch in the next month or two; it is in its final stages of preparation.
On a completely different matter, I want to draw your attention to an interesting invited Guest Editorial in this April issue of the journal. It is provided by Murray Fingeret, OD, FAAO, the primary founder of the Optometric Glaucoma Society (OGS), which has met annually at the American Academy of Optometry since its outset almost a decade ago. In his Guest Editorial, Murray reflects on the emergence of optometry as primary care profession in the treatment of eye disease and pays tribute to one of the leading forces in that early movement, Louis Catania, OD, FAAO. Lou Catania will receive the 2012 Distinguished Service Award from OGS at the Academy meeting in Phoenix this October 23, 2012.
Anthony J. Adams