Ensuring Access to High-Quality Science

ACS Position Statement

The American Chemical Society (ACS) supports universal access to the results of scientific research via publishing models that are sustainable and that ensure the integrity and permanence of the scholarly record upon which scientific progress is based. The ACS does not support unfunded mandates that place constraints on authors or that interfere with our ability to fulfill the Society’s mission as a provider of indispensable information to the world’s community of chemistry professionals.

The following principles are aligned with those of the Brussels Declaration on STM Publishing as set forth by the International Association of STM Publishers on November 1, 2007, to which the American Chemical Society was a cosignatory.

  1. Central to its mission, the ACS seeks to maximize the dissemination of knowledge through economically self-sustaining publishing models. Sustainable access to the authoritative scientific record as embodied in peer-reviewed journal articles is essential to basic research innovation and ensuring that the United States remains a competitive global economic leader. The broad visibility of content in ACS journals not only helps scholars to achieve new scientific breakthroughs but also leads to practical applications that directly benefit human health and welfare.
  2. The ACS organizes, manages, and financially supports the process of independent peer review that is essential to maintaining the integrity of the scientific research record. The Society’s peer-reviewed journals contribute to an informal, yet widely recognized, ranking process used by funding bodies and the academic community to assess research quality, impact, and priority—key factors used to allocate funding resources, evaluate personal research achievement, and enable professional advancement. Toward that end, the ACS invests heavily in a worldwide network of expert scientific journal editors, highly trained staff, and specialized technology resources.
  3. The ACS launches, sustains, promotes, and develops journals for the benefit of the scholarly community. Successfully coordinating these activities requires a significant financial and human resource investment. It is by deriving economic value from the published article that ACS is able to sustain its efforts to transform the author’s original creative work into a final published work that has value to science professionals. Taxpayers and funding agencies support the underlying research, but not the cost to create articles that describe and interpret the research or expenses associated with independent peer review and publication of the results. Sustained investments in ACS journals have resulted in many recognitions of excellence for selecting, refining, and showcasing the world’s most impactful research in chemistry and related sciences.
  4. The Society’s current licensing models deliver broad and significantly increased scholarly access to scientific research. ACS has developed, and continues to develop, innovative and accessible publishing models, policies, and practices to support the scholarly communication process and to broaden the public’s access to, and understanding of, scientific information. While ACS journals are globally accessible in print and in electronic media, the Society recognizes special situations faced by institutions in developing countries and those located in areas with economic hardship. Where subscription access is unavailable, ACS offers “pay-per-view” individual article purchase options, as well as interlibrary loan privileges that enable free access to the public. For those authors or their funding agencies wishing to sponsor immediate public access to research, ACS offers the ACS Author Choice fee-based open access licensing option whereby the final article of record is made available immediately upon publication, free to any reader.
  5. Copyright protects the intellectual property and investment of both authors and the Society. ACS strives to strike an appropriate balance between enabling public access and ensuring that it can sustain its publishing activities. All bibliographic information that describes our published journal content, including the complete abstracts of all published ACS research articles, is freely available on our website for the benefit of professional scientists and the public alike. The Society grants back to ACS authors broad rights for the re-use of various versions of their published work for non-commercial purposes.  ACS also provides all authors the option of enabling unlimited access to the final published article after an appropriate interval post-publication, via our ACS Articles on Request program.
  6. The ACS supports the creation of rights-protected archives that preserve scholarship in perpetuity. Consistent with its own mission as a scholarly scientific society, the ACS has created and maintains a digital legacy archive of the historical published content contained in the Society’s journals. In keeping with publishing industry best practices for digital archiving, the Society has also deposited its legacy content with a third-party archive, Portico, which is committed to long-term preservation of the scholarly record.
  7. The ACS endorses the view that researcher-validated primary data should be made freely available. The Society sees an appropriate role for governmental and other funding agencies to identify standards and best practices for the management of primary scientific data that are generated via taxpayer or other research grant funding that supports independent investigators. This role could include standards for the interoperability of data repositories with the published research literature. Such data resources could be linked (under license) to the published article at the websites of publishers,  which would enable access to the authoritative record of science and eliminate the need for building, maintaining, and modifying  redundant and costly government repositories/infrastructures.  Such linking arrangements would avoid diversion of government funds away from basic research, lessen the impact of government competition with the private sector, and protect the public availability of the scientific record from changes in funding priorities.
  8. Publishing in a variety of media has associated costs. Each key stakeholder in today’s scholarly communication system fills a unique role in which it is most experienced and best suited. Scientific publishers, such as the American Chemical Society, fund the infrastructure that enables the certification, dissemination, and preservation of research articles through an independent process of peer review and publication in scientific journals. This includes investment in web-publishing technologies and platforms, innovation with dissemination methods, and publishing models that ensure reader access to research is wider and faster than ever before.
  9. Initiatives that mandate the open deposit of accepted manuscripts risk destabilizing subscription licensing revenues and undermining peer review. The ACS, along with numerous other scientific societies, opposes government policies that mandate the free dissemination of journal articles that report on research with federal funding without regard to either an appropriate interval for publishers to recoup their investments or a mechanism to ensure appropriate compensation for the federal taking of value inherent in publishers’ copyrights. Mandating free access after too brief an embargo period ultimately could shift the costs of peer review back to authors and federal agencies, which would force taxpayers to pay for the verification and publishing of research. Agencies would be forced to cover these new dissemination costs by shifting funding from actual research to supporting additional costs associated with publication.

    Since Congress mandated the NIH Public Access Policy[1] the ACS has, as a service to its authors, facilitated author compliance by offering to coordinate the required manuscript deposition for all ACS authors. The Society nonetheless asserts the federal government could better foster publishers’ compliance by directly designating funding for licensing the open availability of the final published version of record. Such sponsorship arrangements by funding agencies in support of their researchers would respect author and publisher rights, while ensuring a sustainable scientific publishing enterprise.
  10. A “one-size-fits-all” open access policy is unworkable. Because each scientific publisher follows different publication models, ACS cautions that a one-size-fits-all open access mandate could undermine the sustainability of the scientific publishing enterprise—both in terms of access to high-quality peer-reviewed literature, as well as loss of jobs. ACS supports an independent analysis of the potential impact government public access mandates would have on scientific journal publishers and the disciplines they serve. Such an analysis must include a careful assessment of the national need that public access proponents seek to address, the impact on scientific quality, long-term cost to the federal government, and possible non-federal alternatives. At a time of large budget deficits, policymakers must also consider the long-term cost of all research agencies developing, procuring, and managing major new electronic database systems.

 

[1] Requires the deposition into NIH PubMed Central of peer-reviewed manuscripts for open availability not later than 12 months after publication, without direct compensation paid to publishers