Gold trading: the RSC's Gold for Gold model

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In discussions about gold open access and the risk of paying twice, The Royal Society of Chemistry’s approach is often mentioned. Max Espley and Serin Dabb explain how it works 

In 2012, born out of the recognition that researchers are often asked to publish open access (OA), but do not necessarily have the funding to do so, The Royal Society of Chemistry came up with its Gold for Gold model. 

Initially piloted in the UK in the summer of 2012, this initiative rewards all institutions who subscribe to RSC Gold (the Royal Society of Chemistry’s premium online package, comprising 41 international journals, databases and magazines) with voucher codes to publish a select number of accepted RSC articles gold OA, free of charge. Some institutions do use up their quota of gold vouchers and, in those cases, we offer them discounts on bulk purchases. 

The process requires institutions to nominate a representative to oversee the distribution of voucher codes. This is typically a librarian, but can be someone within the chemistry or research department. Institutions generally allocate their voucher codes on a first come first serve basis. However, conscientious librarians try to ensure that one individual does not get all the vouchers. 

Having applied for the codes, the representative can pass on an individual voucher code to an author once that author’s article has been accepted in one of our journals. It is then up to the author to submit their voucher code via the Gold for Gold online acceptance form. 

The response from researchers has been very positive, and the scheme has received praise from digital education authorities, as well as from David Willetts, the UK’s Minister for Universities and Science. Ron Egginton, head of the BBSRC and ESRC Team, Research Funding Unit at the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills commented: ‘the more that this type of thinking can be seen to permeate throughout the publishing industry, the better.’ 

Going global 

At the beginning of 2013 Gold for Gold went global, and today all of the world’s top 30 academic institutions (as defined by the Times Higher Education top 200 world rankings 2013-2014) subscribe to RSC Gold, entitling them to Gold for Gold voucher codes.  

A total of 878 Gold for Gold applications from 187 institutions in 26 different countries were made in 2013, with a monthly record number of 184 Gold for Gold applications made in November. There was also an increase in usage when RCUK funding for gold OA was made available for UK institutions. 

Unsurprisingly, due to enhanced awareness following the initial pilot in the country, the UK led the way with 278 Gold for Gold articles in 2013, followed by the USA with 100. Other prominent users included Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia. The communications journal Chemical Communications had the highest number of applications in 2013 with 143, followed by Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics and Dalton Transactions.  

Opportunities for librarians 

Gold for Gold provides an opportunity for librarians, representing a potential new role for them as guardians of the resources that an institution has to publish OA. They can also communicate and advise what researchers can and should do with OA publishing. A coherent strategy could prove vital in the long run, if OA is to become more prevalent. Librarians have noted the opportunity that this initiative provides to introduce an easy way for chemistry faculties to experiment with OA.  

‘The Gold for Gold initiative is a great opportunity to introduce the open access road to our researchers in chemistry,’ commented Margareta Fathli of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. 

‘The University of Queensland Library is very excited to participate in the RSC's Gold for Gold initiative as it adds to the library's support for open access to faculty at UQ,’ agreed Heather Todd of the University of Queensland, Australia. 

Information specialists in the USA have been particularly proactive here; for example, UCSF, UCLA and Stanford all have web pages dedicated to Gold for Gold. 

Many institutions from countries throughout the world now receive Gold for Gold voucher codes as part of an existing consortium deal, but the recent DFG-RSC Gold licence agreement in Germany goes a step further. The agreement means that 87 institutions in Germany, plus all Max Planck and Fraunhofer Institutes, will gain more than 900 Gold for Gold voucher codes in 2014. This is the first nationwide deal of its kind and will last for three years.

What about green? 

The focus at RSC is not all on gold OA, however. We have also recently launched the Chemical Sciences Article Repository, a non-commercial, subject-specific OA repository for chemistry papers, hosting papers and linking through to the publisher’s article of record. This aims to provide a central point for people to find and share OA articles from the chemical sciences. It includes fully-funded immediate OA, as well as author versions made OA after an embargo.

At the moment we only accept articles in PDF format that have been accepted for publication. However, as the repository develops, we may look to formats beyond PDF. We don’t specify whether articles are reviews, communications or papers, for example; the only requirement is that it is related to the chemical sciences and that it has been published.  

At every point of access to articles in the repository, users will be redirected to the publisher's version of these papers (the Article of Record). Links between the OA paper, and the publisher's website and brand will be as visible as possible. Users can search by entering search terms, or browse via subject, publisher or article type. At the moment we do not do semantic enhancement of the content, but this is something we are looking to do in the future. 

For researchers, this resource provides easy access to chemistry OA articles in a single place. For funders, it collects funded papers in one place, easing the process of checking compliance, while for librarians it improves the discoverability of the quality work of researchers in their organisation, further raising the library and institution’s.

Currently, the repository is only articles. However, The Royal Society of Chemistry will announce additional elements to the repository in the future, including the addition of data and theses. Work is already underway with major UK universities around data extraction and upload, electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) integration, and micropublishing. Offering functionality with chemical scientists specifically in mind, in the future the repository will support the building of validation and prediction models to maximise the value and quality of the data collections. 

Max Espley is marketing manager – librarians and corporates and Serin Dabb is executive editor, data at the Royal Society of Chemistry