In August of last year, 57 members of the scientific community signed an open letter to the Society for Neuroscience outlining our concerns about their new open access journal, eNeuro. In particular, we objected to SfN’s plans to use the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) license as default and charge authors an extra $500 to select the more open CC BY license. We argued in favor of CC BY and asked SfN to set this as the default license, with equal pricing for all licensing options. Shortly after we submitted our letter, I learned from one of the signers, Stephen Eglen, that the Journal of Neuroscience (SfN’s flagship subscription journal) was also using CC BY-NC for their Open Choice hybrid option and charging authors extra to choose CC BY.
Last September, in response to our letter, I received an email from SfN’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs. It read as a form letter, with vague lines like, “we are committed to taking into consideration all of the many facets of online publishing” and “we appreciate your letter and its contributions to the dialogue about eNeuro“. I was disappointed. It looked like we had been written off and our recommendations ignored. I wondered what our next steps should be, if any. Meanwhile, eNeuro launched and began publishing articles.
Then today, I found this press release saying that SfN journals, including Journal of Neuroscience and eNeuro, have adopted the CC BY license. In explaining the change, they write:
The journals’ previous CC-BY-NC license did not allow free reuse of material for commercial purposes. The license change benefits researchers by allowing them to reuse and adapt material from SfN’s journals for any purpose, not just nonprofit use. This will also help the larger field, as content from The Journal of Neuroscience and eNeuro can now be used in for-profit education materials, such as textbooks.
SfN made this move relatively quietly – I didn’t see an announcement on their Twitter feed or receive an email notification (As far as I know, I am still subscribed to their listserv). I only found the news by accident while searching for an article on their website. They did not mention our letter as a factor in their decision. Who knows? Maybe the letter was not a factor. However, I can’t help but think we made a difference, shaped internal conversations, and at least in part, influenced this decision. A huge thanks to everyone that contributed to and signed the letter (the full list can be found here). I especially want to acknowledge Fabiana Kubke (@Kubke), who spent many hours online with me editing and writing.
I also want to thank SfN. This was absolutely the right move and an excellent example to set as a scholarly society and publisher. Their journal, eNeuro, is now fully compliant with the definition of open access under the Budapest Open Access Initiative. And us neuroscientists concerned with making our work open now have a great new publishing venue to consider.