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APA rethinks NIH policy after backlash from open-access community

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The American Psychological Association (APA) is looking again at its plans to charge authors to fulfil the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandate.

The NIH mandate requires all the researchers it funds to deposit their refereed final drafts in PubMed Central (PMC) within 12 months of their article being published. APA was proposing to charge an author's institution $2500 per manuscript to deposit the final peer-reviewed manuscript in PMC upon acceptance for publication.

The plan to charge for this angered some proponents of open access (OA). Peter Suber, an independent policy strategist for open access to scientific and scholarly research literature, called this ‘the worst publisher policy to date for NIH-funded authors’. He recommended that NIH-funded authors steer clear of APA journals if this policy is implemented.

‘A green OA fee is not a good use of grant funds, university funds, or author funds,’ explained Suber. He observed that ‘even after collecting the fee, the APA [would] not deposit the published version of the article, [would] not allow OA release for 12 months, [would] not allow authors to deposit in PMC themselves (and bypass the fee), [would] not allow authors to deposit in any other OA repository, and [would] not allow authors to retain copyright.’

However, not all take this viewpoint. Stevan Harnad of the American Scientist Open Access Forum is surprisingly supportive of the APA’s stance. His view is that the problem lies with the NIH mandate itself and that the APA is already giving open access through its long-standing policy of permitting immediate author self-archiving in author’s institutional repositories (a so-called green OA approach).

‘A publisher that is green on immediate OA self-archiving in the author's own IR is squarely on the side of the angels,’ he commented. ‘If that publisher seeks to profit from NIH's gratuitous insistence on institution-external deposit, by treating PMC as a third-party free-loader or rival publisher, hence legally requiring permission or payment to re-publish, I would say that NIH drew that upon itself.’

And Gary VandenBos, publisher at the APA told Harnad that he expects no change in the existing self-archiving policy.

Nonetheless, the backlash from the announcement has clearly had an impact on the APA. According to a new statement on the association’s website, ‘A new document deposit policy ... requiring a publication fee to deposit manuscripts in PubMed Central based on research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is currently being re-examined and will not be implemented at this time. APA will soon be releasing more detailed information about the complex issues involved in the implementation of the new NIH Public Access Policy.’

The APA says that it will continue to deposit NIH-funded manuscripts on behalf of authors in compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy.