Academic publisher Reed Elsevier says it will allow scientists to post copies of their articles on the web, a u-turn from its previous position. The move means as many as 200,000 articles could now be made available online, The Guardian reports, albeit under very strict Ts&Cs.
The publishing conditions allow authors to put a plain text version of their papers up on their own websites. Reed insists that the sites link back to its own front page, and say there must be no external links to the re-published text.
Until now, Reed has taken a very pro-subscription stance on the debate over open access to academic papers. It argued that the quality of published research would suffer if it was made available online. Other publishers who take a more open approach charge academics a publishing fee, and then makes the content freely available.
Despite some positive responses from Universities, notably from Stevan Harnad, professor of cognitive science at the University of Southampton and a leading proponent of open access, rival publishers dismissed the decision as a piece of cynical PR.
They accuse the company of making a token effort, and say the purpose of the decision is to distract attention from criticism of the heavy subscription fees Reed charges universities and libraries for its journals. Reed's chief executive has recently had to defend its fees before the Commons science and technology committee.
Deborah Cockerill, assistant publisher at open access publisher BioMed Central, told The Guardian that this kind of archiving was almost totally useless, and barely scratched the surface of the issue of controlled access.
"They [Reed] are offering a series of limited forms of access - so partial compared with open access so that it won't threaten the subscription model. This kind of archiving is in many ways useless to the majority of scientists, mainly because no one will know the copies exist at all or where to find them," she said. ®