In last month's issue (p. 5), Publications Board co-chairs Ronald Boisvert and Jack Davidson highlighted some of the recent changes to ACM's Copyright Policy and at the same time introduced a new service launched several weeks ago. This new service, aptly named the ACM Author-Izer, is a unique link-based self-archiving tool that enables ACM authors to generate and post links on either their home page or institutional repository (IR) that will lead any visitors clicking on these links to a free and definitive version of the author's article archived inside the ACM Digital Library. The main goals of the service are to offer the computing community the greatest possible access to the definitive versions of published works and to empower ACM's authors to showcase the definitive versions of their work on their home pages or IRs in a way that is consistent with ACM's existing subscription model.
In addition to being among the first publishers to offer such a service, ACM is effectively jumping into the Open Access debate with a bold move that crosses the line many other publishers have been hesitant to cross in recent years regarding self-archiving. While we feel very strongly that the existing paid-subscription model coupled with fair and affordable pricing is in the best interest of both the computing community and ACM alike, we also believe strongly that it is in the best interest of the community to provide easy access to only one version of an author's work, and that this should be the definitive version. Increasingly, access to published work starts with a Google or Google-like search and the user is often given a long list of links to a particular work. In many cases, these links lead to earlier versions of an author's work or even accepted but not yet published versions. Such versions may be hosted on different sites and it becomes increasingly difficult for users to distinguish between immature pre-published works, accepted but not yet published works, and the definitive works. In addition to the potential confusion caused, the user is oftentimes not using the most "functional" version of the article containing important meta-data, reference links, and figures or images that have been added by the publisher during the final stages of the publication process, nor is the author given valuable feedback in the form of usage statistics for how often their articles are being downloaded and read.
By creating a free and persistent link for the author to post on their own home page or IR and enabling real-time usage statistics to flow through to those pages from the DL archive itself, ACM is encouraging authors to do away with the multiple versions that tend to build up over time on multiple sites and point to the one definitive article that exists. ACM authors continue to enjoy all of the existing rights and benefits of authorship with ACM, but there is now an added benefit that we believe will be embraced by the community.
To "Author-Ize" your own published articles in the ACM Digital Library, simply go to your own ACM Author Profile Page inside the DL, sign in, and follow the comprehensive instructions on how to generate these persistent links. Once you've done this, please let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
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This is a step to right direction but fails to ensure fluent and unrestricted availability to scientific literature published by ACM. While this issue is tied with the funding models, ACM should follow general recommendations in the field, such as the ISCB Public Policy Statement on Open Access to Scientific and Technical Research Literature (http://bioinformatics.oxfordjournals.org/content/27/3/291.full) such as "1b) At a minimum, every scientific journal should offer an open access option to every published research paper--", and other recommendations therein.
I would like to thank "Anonymous" for posting this comment and I agree that ACM's introduction is a step in the right direction. As many have already pointed out in the blogosphere in response to ACM's announcement, the Author-Izer service is not a full-fledged Open Access option, but it does address many of the concerns raised by both the funding agencies and the community itself, while at the same time providing a valuable service to authors.
ACM is walking a very fine line with Author-Izer, and while we support the underlying goal of widespread distribution of scientific literature, we believe this needs to be done in a responsible and sustainable way.
It is worth noting that the idea for this new service arose out of a discussion regarding ACM's copyright policy between the members of the ACM Publications Board, who are themselves members of the scientific community. In that discussion, various models and options were discussed, including a full-fledged Open Access model, but after careful consideration the Board concluded that simply opening up access to all content in the ACM Digital Library without some sort of sustainable financial model to support the associated costs of publication was not a viable option, and that following the same "Author Pays" approach that many other scholarly publishers have implemented was not in the best interest of the community. In reality, most publishers that have implemented such "hybrid OA" models have not actually reduced or even kept flat their annual pricing for institutional subscriptions. In reality, most of these publishers have created a new revenue source by charging both the institutions for continued access to their publication platforms and the individual scientists to make their articles (via these same platforms) openly available.
The ACM Publications Board viewed this as "double dipping" and not necessarily in the best interest of the scientific community.
As implemented, ACM Author-Izer does provide a back-door for any individual looking to freely access a scholarly article directly from an author's individual website or institutional repository and it does eliminate the need for authors to post the accepted but not yet published version of their article, but it does not open up the entire ACM Digital Library as a platform, since we believe strongly that this would not be in the best interest of the community, because it would jeopardize the very publications the community has come to rely on over the past half-century.
In addition to the above, it is worth having a look at Andrew Appel's blog entitled "ACM opens another hole in the paywall" and especially at the string of comments, such as the one written by Appel himself, which states, "Professional societies and scholarly publishers such as the ACM provide an essential service in their peer review process. Furthermore, it's not an "us versus them" situation; I have served as the Editor in Chief of a major ACM publication, as Chair of major ACM conferences, and many times as reviewer for ACM journals and conferences. Yes, it's true, ACM has a paywall, but the paywall is low. That is, ACM journals have always been priced quite cheap, and access to the ACM Digital Library is also very reasonably priced, both for individuals and for institutions. And the paywall is porous: policies on author self-distribution of ACM-published papers are not onerous, and never have been.
I made a decision 20 years ago that, in general, I would not submit my papers for publication in journals with unconscionably high and exclusionary paywalls. But the ACM has arranged its paywall to raise just enough money to effectively serve the scholarly peer review process. I am happy to publish my papers there, to serve as a reviewer, and to encourage the publishers in other disciplines to moderate their policies as the ACM has.
And therefore, I have not signed the research-without-walls petition." - signed Andrew Appel.
This is a great announce! Other publishers are going in the opposite direction and are raising the subscriptions for institutions up to 30%. The natural consequence will be that many subscriptions will be dropped. Instead ACM Digital Library, not only has the lowest subscription price for institutions, but is going also into the right direction. Well done and congratulations.
That is a very important step towards making science what it was originally all about and what is should be: freely advancing the human knowledge. You have made me proud of being an ACM member. Congratulations.
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