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Springer changes its self-archiving policy

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Green OA or Gold OA? The advantages and disadvantages of either model remains a never-ending topic of discussion. Both sides of the dispute have valid arguments and motivations, which makes it difficult to determine whether this debate has a chance of ever reaching a definite conclusion. Yet in its present form, Open Access continues to rely on both models. However, the success of Green Open Access may harm the interests of at least one group involved in the publishing of scientific papers: the publishers. Although forced to adjust to the new reality in which research results are shared on the Internet, many of them try to hinder this flow. For instance, one of the leading academic publishers recently imposed a publishing embargo on self-archiving (Green OA).

Springer decided to establish a 12-month embargo for depositing subscription-based journal articles in institutional repositories. Previously, authors had the right to add their works to repositories without embargo. Under the new rules, authors only have the right to publish their work on personal websites or blogs. According to official sources, the new Springer’s Self-Archiving Policy was introduced in order to standardize these rules.

The consequences of this new rule are obvious. Authors have to wait for at least one year to deposit their papers in institutional repositories; this certainly will not help in the development of Green OA.

Of course, Springer’s new policy was met with criticism. It is not surprising that critics see it as yet another brake on the development of Open Access and the free flow of scientific knowledge. Any embargo obstructs access to research results, not just for the average Joe, but also for the scientists. On the other hand it is hard to blame publishers who are trying to protect their commercial interests, and these are seldom in line with the interests of authors.

The problem does not lie in every one trying to achieve their own objective, but in the current system of scientific publishing and the verification of its quality, which affects in turn researchers’ careers. Reliance on Impact Factor, “prestige” and similar indicators has led to a situation in which the scientific community has “transferred” some of its rights to assess the quality of science onto third parties, including publishers. Without changing the current system and allowing a new paradigm to play its role, it is difficult to expect any meaningful changes in the relationship between scientists and publishers.

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