A misleading survey

Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable is running a survey on OA.

Before the questions begin, the authors define some key terms. Here's how they define gold OA: "Authors pay article processing charges (APC) to the journal for publishing the paper and making it freely available upon publication." This is false, and it has been known to be false since 2005.

To rehearse the well-known facts one more time: Gold OA refers to OA delivered by journals, regardless of their business models. Charging APCs is the best-known business model for peer-reviewed OA journals, but it's far from the most common.

It's not true that all OA journals charge APCs, and it's not even true that most charge APCs. Today, only 31% of journals listed in the Directory of Open Access journals charge APCs or conditional APCs (2,463 charge APCs + 302 charge conditional APCs, out of 8,887 OA journals total).

The overwhelming majority (nearly 70%) of OA journals charge no APCs. Moreover, when they do charge APCs, the fees are usually paid by funders (59%) or by universities (24%). Only 12% of the time are they paid by authors out of pocket. See Table 4 of the comprehensive Study of Open Access Publishing (SOAP).

The survey definition of gold OA leaves two false and harmful impressions: first that all (or even most) OA journals charge APCs, and second, that all (or even most) APCs are paid by authors. But most OA journals charge no APCs, and most authors even at those APC-charging journals don't pay them. In fact, only 3.7% of authors who publish in OA journals overall (12% of 31%) pay APCs.

I've been complaining since 2006 about interviews and surveys that misinform their subjects, on just this point, before questioning them.

In my book (Open Access, MIT Press, 2012, p. 140) I put it this way: "The false belief that most OA journals charge author-side fees also infects studies in which authors misinform survey subjects before surveying them. In effect: 'At OA journals, authors pay to be published; now let me ask you a series of questions about your attitude toward OA journals.'"

I urge Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable to withdraw this misleading survey. The misinformation in the preface will make the results worthless. Please rewrite it, and then relaunch it. In the meantime, I urge people not to take this survey.

#oa #openaccess  
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