Home > Scholarly Communication > What is up with the self archiving policies of APA Journals?

What is up with the self archiving policies of APA Journals?

Problem statement: Journal publishers (APA) intentionally and dishonestly associating Green OA with high costs.
Motivation: APA’s recent (but already retracted, yay) announcement concerning a $2500 fee for depositing in PubMed Central (PMC), the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature, got on my nerves. And Stevan Harnad defending it because he does not like NIH’s OA mandate is not helping, either.

So I read a blog post over at Caveat Lector concerning the Document Deposit Policy and Procedures for APA Journals.

The blog post, with claims that I have confirmed with a Google’s cached version of that particular APA page, quoted the following (bold emphasis is mine):

Authors publishing in APA or EPF journals should NOT deposit, personally and directly, Word documents of APA-accepted manuscripts or APA-published articles in PubMed Central (PMC) or any other depository. As the copyright holder, APA will make necessary deposits after formal acceptance by the journal editor and APA.


In compliance with NOT-OD-08-033, APA will deposit the final peer-reviewed manuscript of NIH-funded research to PMC upon acceptance for publication. The deposit fee of $2,500 per manuscript for 2008 will be billed to the author’s university per NIH policy. Deposit fees are an authorized grant expense. The article will also be available via PsycARTICLES.

“That is good money for just depositing a manuscript! Where do I sign up for that APA job?”

Infuriating. However, that declaration has since then been removed from APA’s website (damage control at work here!). And instead, now it states:

A new document deposit policy of the American Psychological Association (APA) requiring a publication fee to deposit manuscripts in PubMed Central based on research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is currently being re-examined and will not be implemented at this time. This policy had recently been announced on APA’s Web site. APA will soon be releasing more detailed information about the complex issues involved in the implementation of the new NIH Public Access Policy.

APA will continue to deposit NIH-funded manuscripts on behalf of authors in compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy.

Let us hope that that is the end of APA’s little anti OA run. However, our rather unsightly fairy tale continues for a little bit longer, because Stevan Harnad decides to get involved. And sad to say, not in a good way. He starts off with: In Defense of the American Psychological Association’s Green OA Policy (that’s APA in full, by the way)

Although it looks bad on the face of it — the American Psychological Association (APA) charging the author’s institution and/or research grant $2500, not even for Gold OA publishing, but just for depositing the author’s refereed final draft in PubMed Central (PMC) on the author’s behalf (“proxy self-archiving”), in order to fulfill the NIH mandate — things are not always as they seem.

Except that the announcement was not limited to only PubMed Central (PMC) but also ‘any other depository’. There are clearly conflicting statements. And if institutional archiving is not included in this statement, it needs to be clearer! APA should not say “not in PMC or any other depository” when they mean “but in your institutional repository is fine”. Realistically, I would find it odd to believe that APA’s policy makers were not up to date with their own policies regarding self-archiving in institutional repositories before writing their drivel. Especially since this conveniently puts OA in a bad light and money in their own wallets. Innocent mistake? I doubt it. Besides, if it were, what does that say about their priorities when it comes to their green OA policy in the first place? At the very least, APA is guilty of causing confusion concerning self-archiving policies for authors trying to publish at one of APA’s journals.

To repeat, a publisher that is Green on immediate OA self-archiving in the author’s own IR is squarely on the side of the angels.

Maybe, but these angels are not very popular right now. Which means that the same (and all the other) publishers can still sleep well at night. Even by Stevan Harnad’s own account: Green OA does not amount to much when there are no mandates to support it. He has repeated this numerous times. So both him and I agree that Green OA for self archiving in institutional repositories without mandates is currently not packing a real punch whatsoever. PubMed Central (PMC) and the NIH’s OA mandate, on the other hand, are the poster boys for Open Access. And APA just put it into a bad light by associating insane costs (for the authors or their institutions). How you can defend that as a OA proponent is beyond me. I am more infuriated at APA’s attempt to put OA in a bad light, but Stevan Harnad really dropped the ball here.

Sadly, the fairy tale continues for a little bit longer. Stevan Harnad’s second blog post on this goes: The OA Deposit-Fee Kerfuffle: APA’s Not Responsible; NIH Is. PART I. where he goes against his “comrade-at-arms” Peter Suber (who is by the way my favorite OA proponent, especially now).

Peter Suber: “Stevan is mixing up unrelated issues. The APA “deposit fee” had nothing to do with the distinction between disciplinary repositories (like PMC) and institutional repositories.

As shown in the original announcement, Peter Suber is right. APA never even remotely made that distinction between PMC and institutional archiving. It is absolutely wrong for anyone to defend that announcement with that argument based on the actual APA announcement. If they did not mean it like that, which is a rather naive thought in my opinion, then they need to modify just one sentence in their statement. Instead, they have taken the whole thing down and have done a 180 degree turn on the fees thing. This clearly does nothing to help the validity of their original announcement.

Peter Suber: If the NIH mandated deposit in IRs instead of PMC, then the APA would demand a $2,500 fee for deposit in IRs, and the fee would be equally noxious and indefensible. Even if the NIH’s preference for PMC were as foolish as Stevan says it is (a criticism I do not share), it would not justify the APA fee.”

Stevan Harnad: Peter seems to be replying with a hypothetical conditional, regarding what the APA would have done. But the APA has already been formally endorsing immediate Open Access self-archiving in the author’s own IR for six years now. Moreover (see below), the publisher, Gary Vandenbos, has confirmed that APA has not changed that policy, nor are there plans to change it.

Hypothetical, sure. Far fetched? Not really. As Peter Suber has said, there is no justification for this fee for a PMC deposit. It is not just opposing a Green OA mandate, but opposing Green OA at the same time. Stevan Harnad thinks the NIH’s OA mandate needs to be tweaked to be more effective/efficient to promote OA. Fine, but does anyone really think APA did that with the same intentions? To prove the point that NIH’s OA mandate needs to focus on institutional archives instead of central repositories like PMC? And therefore it is simply doing this to prove a point? No harm done? Authors currently submitting and complying with the NIH’s OA mandate will get refunds? Or does APA simply want to associate Green OA archiving with high costs, put it in a bad light and slow down the inevitable progress of OA with mandates? Because as mentioned before, Green OA without mandates is not something publishers lose sleep over, at all. And it is certainly not something most authors seem to be in any hurry to achieve, either.

If publishers really support Green OA they need to support Green OA mandates. Even the ones that they do not find optimal. It is always better than slapping a $2500 price tag on it!

  1. James
    November 11, 2009 at 9:24 AM

    After reading https://thewobblingmind.wordpress.com/2008/07/18/what-is-up-with-the-self-archiving-policies-of-apa-journals/, I thought this might be a useful resource for your site:


    The site is free, and perhaps the most comprehensive biomedical site on the web. It has all PubMed and MedLine documents, plus mililons more including full-text journal articles and a large database of theses and dissertations.

    And, you don’t have to register but if you do you can use portfolios to save documents, share documents (and comment on them) between users, and set up automatic alerts.

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