The length of the embargo period built into the "green" model for journal publishing will be a crucial issue in the forthcoming report from the Finch Working Group, say publishers.
Science minister David Willetts last week said that the Finch Committee, looking at the funding of publishing academic research, was exploring two working proposals.
One, a "green" model, sees publishers allowed to charge subscriptions for a limited embargo period before making articles open access. Meanwhile the "gold" regime entails the research funder paying for the costs of publication outright, with all material freely available from the outset.
Sage deputy m.d. Ziyad Marar said: "Finch will have to find a balance to enable the publishing industry to continue while optimising the amount of access. Not all disciplines have the same half-life; Finch will have to recognise that the humanities and social sciences have a longer lifespan than science, and show a more granular understanding of what embargo is suitable."
Wim van der Stelt, executive vice-president of corporate strategy at Springer, said the publisher wanted the embargo period during which articles were held to subscribers only to be "a minimum of a year." He said: "For 'green' to work, we think a six-month embargo is too short. We lose substantially on our subscription income. These journals will not be sustainable any more, the total system will fade away."
Springer "strongly" prefers the gold model, said van der Stelt. "The material is immediately available for free, there are no restrictions on the use of it and it is more sustainable, so it works better for both parties," he said.
Marar said Sage's first major gold model journal, Sage Open, launched early last year, has had over 1,000 submissions. "It is not a straightforward solution, but one we strongly support," Marar said. But he warned that, "for a category of amateur scholars," the charge for submitting a paper can be "a block to publish."
The report of the Finch committee is expected to be released in June.