“Background: The 2014 Gates Foundation OA policy put publishers on notice that in 2017 it would require immediate or unembargoed OA under CC-BY for articles arising from Gates-funded research. Some top journals don’t allow that today. Will the foundation back down in order to let its grantees publish in those journals, will publishers back down in order to publish Gates-funded research, or neither? …
I predict that the Gates Foundation won’t compromise….
Something similar happened when the NIH policy became mandatory in 2008. It allowed embargoes up to 12 months, and didn’t require open licenses. By Gates standards, the NIH policy is weak. But if you recall, many publishers at the time were very unwilling to accommodate it, and very vocal in their opposition. However, the NIH allowed no exceptions, and told grantees that if the publisher they had in mind wouldn’t allow OA on the NIH’s terms, then they must look for another publisher. Before long, all publishers came around.
Essentially, the NIH forced publishers to choose between accommodating the new policy and refusing to publish the large volume of high-quality research by NIH-funded authors. Not a single surveyed publisher has chosen to refuse to publish NIH-funded authors.
Nor have any of the accommodating publishers gone out of business as a result. Some have continued to make obscene profits. In 2011, three years after the NIH policy became mandatory, the Nature Publishing Group said it detected no harm to its bottom line and positively encouraged compliance, just as it had positively encouraged green OA since 2005.
Before publishers began accommodating the NIH policy, I don’t recall researchers protesting that it would bar them from publishing in the journals of their choice. Even if they thought it would, they evidently preferred to be funded.
The Gates Foundation will put publishers to the same choice between accommodating the policy and refusing to publish Gates-funded researchers. In 2008, some publishers might have taken the second course, but I doubt that any will do so today. Even if some do, I believe that their resistance won’t last long, if only because researchers will prefer to be funded.
Publishers might want to resist OA, or unembargoed libre OA, but in the end they must go where the authors are. Authors might want to publish in journals that are high in both quality and prestige, but in the end they must go where the funding is. Authors will find that path easier to take when they realize that many high-quality journals, OA and non-OA, are accommodating the Gates policy. They’ll find it easier still –again, in due time– when promotion and tenure committees catch up with history and stop creating the perverse incentive to choose journal brand over quality and access.
Research funders are in a key position to change the behavior of authors and publishers, and the Gates Foundation is one funder that really wants to create change.
Moreover, it’s a charity that funds research it finds useful or beneficial. Its interest is to make the results available as widely and easily as possible. It has no reason to compromise, and every reason not to.
That’s the outcome I predict. But I can add that it’s also the most desirable outcome. In 2008, the NIH did the right thing to force publisher accommodation, and in 2017 the time has (long since) come for funders to force publishers to the next level.”