JoVE goes closed access

1 April 2009 by Noah Gray, posted in Uncategorized

This is a pretty important development, possibly a set-back, on the frontiers of scientific communication and the future of publishing. Obviously, the debate regarding open access has raged on in a variety of places, and certainly, this recent lack of announcement by JoVE will ignite those flames again.

Nevertheless, the most peculiar thing about the whole move is the way in which it went down and was revealed to the public. Basically, it was done on the sly. One day you had free access, and the next you were asked for $1000s. For a journal priding themselves on clear communication of scientific concepts and protocols, JoVE certainly didn’t apply those principles to its business dealings. Regardless of the reasons to go closed, and they have every right to do so, this decision should have been made more openly, with the leaders of the journal clearly making their case and revealing their short- and long-term future plans for their journal’s business model.

As evident from a commenting thread on friendfeed, even those closely working with JoVE only found out about this by either not having access to documents, or simply by reading the friendfeed comment thread. Given the amount of support and cheerleading that has been done on behalf of JoVE by those prominent in the Open-Access community, these closed-door decisions and the lack of courtesy to at least release an official announcement downright sucks will not leave many feeling too sympathetic for JoVE as it attempts to re-brand and alter its business model.

10 Responses to “JoVE goes closed access”

  1. Anna Kushnir | Permalink

    Wow. I am honestly shocked. I wish JoVE luck, as I think they have a great tool at their disposal. How they use that tool… I have disagreed with them in the past. I certainly don’t agree today. Seems like telling your own people what’s up your sleeve would be a good idea.

    This does provide an interesting sociological experiment. Can you stuff the cat back in the bag? Once OA, can a journal become subscription only and maintain the same level of interest from the readership (or viewership, as the case may be)? I will be curious to see if they find the same level of support and interest from medical librarians/institutions that they have enjoyed from individual researchers. I suspect I know the answer, but time will tell.

  2. Richard P. Grant | Permalink

    Yah, I’m also deeply shocked, and will be interested to see what happens.

  3. Anna Kushnir | Permalink

    I should amend my previous comment to say that if this is an April Fool’s joke, it’s probably the most self-destructive one I have ever seen.

  4. Richard P. Grant | Permalink

    They claim, on Friendfeed, that it isn’t a joke. It’s a pretty bad one if it is.

  5. Anna Kushnir | Permalink

    Just covering my own butt on that one. Didn’t want to seem humorless :)

    I checked. The videos lock after a minute or so. I just can’t believe that this is a wise move, now of all times, when libraries are so strapped for cash. I would like to think that libraries are hip enough to webby tools to spend money on them, but… I don’t think that’s the case. Hope they have done their homework on this.

  6. Moshe Pritsker | Permalink

    We (JoVE) are changing our model, and from now will provide our content under subscription. Until now it was all for free.

    The reason is simple: we have to survive. To cover costs of our operations, to break even, we have to charge $6,000 per video article. This is to cover costs of the video-production and technological infrastructure for video-publication, which are higher than in traditional text-only publishing. Academic labs cannot pay $6,000 per article, and therefore we have to find other sources to cover the costs.

    As much as I would like to continue to provide our content for free, JoVE has to survive. I believe the world would be a better place having a video-publication under subscription than not having a video-publication at all.

  7. Frank Norman | Permalink

    Anna – this is not the first example. BMJ switched to part-open acccess (research articles are free, other content needs a subscription) some years ago, and J Clin Investigation has just done the same (from Jan 2009). I think there are other examples in different subject areas too.

  8. Noah Gray | Permalink

    The issue of changing business models is significant, but in this case, please read through the friendfeed discussion I linked to above. My disappointment and that of many others is greater because of the manner in which JoVE handled this switch. It is not good business sense to make radical changes and not pre-announce them to your trusting users, or advocates who have made efforts as board editors or bloggers. This change may or may not prove to salvage JoVE ’s financial crisis, but I am sure that they have alienated many of their formerly vocal supporters.

  9. Anna Kushnir | Permalink

    I did read the FriendFeed thread – all 100,000 comments of it. Yes, the whole thing was handled very poorly, and Nikita knows that. There were better ways to go about breaking the news, without pissing people off. The JoVE folks are (relatively) new in the business and maybe are not familiar with the ruthlessness and mind-bending response time of the blogosphere/internet. I hope that they will take lessons from this “incident” forward, in guiding their interaction with their customers.

  10. Cameron Neylon | Permalink

    Anna, Noah, for me you’ve hit the real issue on the head here. The process shows a disturbing lack of understanding about how the online world, and in particualr the well connected and distributed online research community, works. If this had been discussed in the open, reasoned out, and that particular online community persuaded then JoVE would have had a small international army of well connected people to go out and request libraries to subscribe. As it is they’ve annoyed many of their most vociferous supporters to the extent that many of them will just walk away.


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