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IEEE Statement to the National Research Council regarding proposed embargo periods for scholarly research

The following statement was delivered to the National Research Council the morning of Wednesday, 15 May 2013:

John Baillieul
IEEE Fellow and Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Boston University, USA

"I am John Baillieul, professor of Engineering at Boston University, and director of BU's Laboratory for Mechatronic Systems. When I’m not working with IEEE colleagues, my day job is teaching and research. My research has frequently led to publications, over 100 of which have cited support from U.S. funding agency grants. I address you today on behalf of IEEE where I am chair of the Product and Services committee, one of two committees that oversee our publications program.

"First, I’d like say we at the IEEE appreciate the chance to provide our recommendations to the National Research Council on how to meet the recent directive from the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy. It is important that we craft a coordinated solution to the public access conundrum rather than disparate approaches. The fact that multiple agencies have asked the National Research Council to coordinate this meeting to collect public comment is a big step in that direction.

"Those of you familiar with IEEE know that we have a very visible presence in the world of technology research. We have more than 425,000 members in over 160 countries. That makes us the world’s largest not-for-profit professional association. Our mission is simple: advance technology innovation and excellence to benefit humanity.

"A big part of this mission is our portfolio of peer-reviewed journals. IEEE is committed to providing authors with a choice of where to publish their work, to giving published articles wide visibility in the scholarly community, and to assuring the integrity of work it publishes.

"Our focus, however, is not only on authors. The IEEE supports the growing consensus that the public should have convenient and more economical access to the results of tax-payer funded research. The efforts to achieve this goal, however, must make sense and be sustainable for authors, readers and publishers. The IEEE therefore recommends a minimum embargo period of 24 months.

"The IEEE believes an embargo period of 12 months is not a workable solution in the areas of engineering and technology. We have found that 85 percent of users of our Xplore Digital Library already retrieve articles older than 12 months. This is largely because the research we publish in engineering and related disciplines has a very long shelf life and is valuable for many years.

"We fear that imposing a 12-month embargo policy would encourage users to forgo immediate access and cancel their subscriptions. They can simply wait out the 12-month embargo period.

"All that said, we certainly see the value in making research available for free in a timely manner. That is why we already offer open-access options for all of our journals. Any authors who wish to make their research immediately available for free have the option to pay article processing charges.

"And of course, the IEEE offers a traditional journal option, where there is no charge to the author, and content is accessed via membership or by subscribing to the IEEE Xplore database.

"It’s important to remember scholarly publishing is NOT a one-size fits all approach. With this in mind, any solution resulting from this body must preserve academic freedom and be business-model neutral. The policy should allow authors to choose the most-appropriate venue to publish their works – whether it is a journal funded through traditional reader subscriptions, author-pays open access, funder sponsorship, or some combination of these.

"An embargo period of fewer than 24 months will damage IEEE's ability to fulfill our mission to authors and scholars worldwide. On behalf of the IEEE, I strongly urge that the policy call for an embargo period of a minimum of 24 months.

"We at the IEEE applaud the OSTP’s call for public-private partnerships to find a reasonable path to making research more widely available. Such partnerships can leverage the infrastructure and experience of publishers and minimize the expense to taxpayers. Toward this end, IEEE is a supporter of the FundRef project that helps federal agencies identify journal articles related to the research they fund, all at no cost to the government. The IEEE stands ready to work with its colleagues in the scholarly publishing community to create a similar partnership that could provide agencies with low-cost tools to address the OSTP requirements.

"Thank you for this opportunity."

In addition to the above statement, the following statements were made with regard to IEEE’s position as it relates to the proposed embargo policies:

Gianluca Setti
IEEE Vice President for Publication Services and Products
Professor, University of Bologna (Italy)

"We appreciate that OSTP acknowledges that one size will not fit all when developing the details of the public access plan. In the case of Engineering, Computer Science, and the Technology subjects covered by IEEE, we believe the embargo should be at least 24 months old."

Peter W. Staecker, Ph.D.
IEEE President and CEO

"The fact that multiple US agencies have asked the National Research Council to collect these public comments demonstrates how much is at stake in this dialogue. It is important that the United States develops a coordinated approach to solving the public access conundrum."


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