There are significant differences between the raw results of research, which may be funded to some degree by taxpayers, and a finished, vetted, published journal article, which isn’t. Researchers’ manuscripts are often assumed to be simply compilations of data results. That’s wrong.
Manuscripts use such information as a starting point to report, dissect, analyze and interpret the completed research. That’s comparable to The Illinois Observer cutting and pasting public record documents versus using its professional expertise to study, examine and analyze that information to provide context.
You also assume that manuscripts somehow just pass through publishers and land in journals. That ignores the complex, extensive work done by publishers: They build and manage the peer review process that vets the validity and significance of authors’ research findings and improves it. They also edit, digitize, distribute and archive the published article of record so it can be discovered, delivered and preserved in multiple formats. These costs are borne by private sector publishers, with no taxpayer money. And like news organizations, publishers’ revenue comes from their professionally-finished works.
How critical are journal publishers to scholarly communications?
Less than 50% of submitted manuscripts are deemed qualified for publication following peer review. That acceptance rate drops to 5-10% for highly-selective journals. Taxpayers may pay for research but they don’t pay for publishers’ significant investments to ensure the public record is sound, accurate and safe.
The Obama Administration’s new policy, which was shaped with input from all stakeholders including publishers, aims to expand public access to federally funded research in a sustainable way. (And let me correct you: the 12-month embargo you cite was called a “guideline” in the policy, not a deadline.) Publishers are already working with federal agencies; these activities build on numerous public access initiatives publishers already manage, independently or in public/private partnerships with government agencies.
Illinois is one of several states currently examining this issue. In so doing, however, Illinois legislators need to recognize – and appreciate – the difference between raw research results and a validated, polished final article and carefully weigh possible unintended impact on the sustainability of research.
Andi Sporkin, Vice President, Communications
Association of American Publishers
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