Saturday, September 6, 2014

DOE says OA publishers must join CHORUS

Here is an article that I recently wrote for my newsletter "Inside Public Access."

DOE says OA publishers must join CHORUS
From Inside Public Access A weekly newsletter
September 2, 2014

 By David Wojick, Ph.D.

Synopsis: The US Energy Department says that if publishers want PAGES based public access for their OA articles they must join CHORUS to get it. This is ironic, as the OA community has been generally negative about CHORUS. Non-CHORUS publishers may want to ask DOE to reconsider this policy. However a limited form of immediate public access may be available for those publishers who do not join CHORUS. (Note: for background information see

How PAGES works

This picture is a bit complicated so bear with me. The US Energy Department (DOE) funds several billion dollars in research every year. DOE will make the journal articles based on this research publicly accessible via the PAGES system, which presently operates in beta mode. PAGES also includes a lot of human activity and document processing.

The PAGES system uses a tiered approach to provide what DOE calls the "best available version" of each article. The highest priority is given to the version of record posted on the publisher's website. Second highest goes to an accepted manuscript housed in a repository. This may also include an accepted manuscript posted on the publisher's website, but whether it does or not has yet to be determined. The lowest priority, or fallback position, is for DOE to post an accepted manuscript itself.

How DOE gets the links to the off site articles on the websites and in the repositories is important here. For every article, at least one author is supposed to report the event of publication and supply certain metadata for that article, as well as the accepted manuscript. (Technically, every author that used DOE funding probably has to do this.)
This metadata may include a DOI for the published article, on the publisher's website, even when that article is behind a pay wall. DOE will make this metadata available immediately, even though it may not make the article itself available until the end of the embargo period.

The role of CHORUS in PAGES

CHORUS is going to supply DOE with links to the funding related articles on the websites of its publisher members. As part of joining CHORUS, each member publisher agrees to make all articles related to US federal funding open no later than after the federal embargo period ends. However, some articles may become open sooner and PAGES will provide access to them at this earlier date. Thus all CHORUS based OA articles will be made immediately accessible via PAGES.

Note that being PAGES accessible involves more than merely having a DOI link posted in the PAGES metadata. It means, among other things, being indexed by PAGES and thus included in the PAGES search system.

OA publishers who are not in CHORUS

The question thus arises as to what happens to DOE funding related OA articles on the websites of publishers who are not members of CHORUS? The VoR is immediately available for public access, as far as the publisher is concerned. According to DOE these articles will not be made fully PAGES available immediately. Their availability will be limited to the fact that each will have a DOI listed in the article's metadata, just as though it were behind a pay wall.

It appears, moreover, that the fact that such articles are not behind pay walls will not be indicated in the metadata. Thus there is a big difference between being available via a metadata link and being fully PAGES available. Full PAGES availability includes a lot of discovery that a metadata link simply does not provide.

CHORUS is required for immediate PAGES access

In short, the only way an OA publisher can get their articles made fully PAGES available upon publication is by joining CHORUS. This requirement does not seem to be spelled out anywhere in the DOE Public Access plan.

Here is what the DOE plan says about CHORUS: "The publishing community is developing a multi-publisher portal, the Clearinghouse for Open Research of the United States (CHORUS), to provide access to journal articles resulting from government funding. Such an activity offers considerable economies in the integration of article metadata and links for publishers who want to participate in DOE’s public access efforts. PAGES, however, can operate successfully independent of CHORUS." (Page 8)

The last sentence above says that PAGES can operate successfully without CHORUS. It appears however that OA publishers wanting PAGES access cannot operate successfully without CHORUS. This is nowhere mentioned in the DOE plan, but it appears to be a major requirement. The key is that there is nothing in the plan about publishers submitting links to their articles, other than via CHORUS. In effect this omission makes the rule in question.

Moreover, DOE has confirmed this interpretation. In our correspondence, DOE summed up their policy with this statement: "At this time, DOE's engagement with the publishing community is through CHORUS."

The CHORUS membership requirement does make sense from an administrative standpoint. Former OSTI director Walt Warnick points out that CHORUS saves DOE the considerable effort of dealing with each publisher independently, one at a time. This effort is a significant cost for PubMed Central.

However, OA publishers may not be thrilled with having to join CHORUS in order to get immediate, full PAGES access for their articles. There is also the question as to whether DOE can show this sort of favoritism. The DOE quotation above suggests that the present situation may change in the future. Perhaps the non-CHORUS publishers will raise this issue with DOE.


That only CHORUS members will get immediate, full PAGES access for OA articles is a surprising policy, and a questionable one on DOE's part. This DOE policy seems not to have been disclosed but it should be deeply discussed before it becomes final. CHORUS is a great idea but that may not justify making CHORUS membership a requirement for full PAGES access.

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