Re: On the Need to Take Both Roads to Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2003 15:05:22 +0100

On Sun, 14 Sep 2003, Sally Morris wrote:

> In my opinion, you definitely should not do it without the author's
> permission - and in each case checking whether the publisher allows the
> author to deposit the peer-reviewed, published version or not
> Sally Morris, Secretary-General
> Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers

As I have already indicated, an official, agreed-upon university
self-archiving policy would include a blanket permission to do proxy
self-archiving for all of its authors. So universities asking individual
authors for permission article by article would be a pointless waste
of time.

I think Sally has also misunderstood the strategy that is under discussion
here. The query from the (identity-deleted) Ivy League University
Librarian was about institutional proxy self-archiving -- of articles
written by their own institutional authors -- that have been published in
the 55% of journals that Romeo lists as already supporting self-archiving
(the "blue" and "green" journals). The query was *not* about articles
published in the 45% of journals that still need to be asked individually
on an article-by-article basis (the "white" journals in the Romeo list):

Sally is quite right to point out, however, that the 55% figure
refers to a combination of "blue" journals (supporting either preprint
self-archiving *only* [36%], postprint self-archiving *only* [2%], but
not both) and "green" journals (supporting the self-archiving of both
preprints and postprints [17%]).

A fully detailed 4-step procedure covering all possible contingencies
would accordingly be the following (but see discussion that comes after
these 4 points!):

    (1) Get one blanket confirmation (not an article-by-article
    confirmation!) of the journal publisher's blue or green policy. This
    is merely a one-time request for confirmation of the publisher's
    policy as communicated to Romeo, and it need not even be confirmed
    at the individual journal level, but only at the publisher level.

   (2) With the "green" publishers, also clarify (again on a one-time,
   blanket basis) whether what they mean by the self-archivable "postprint"
   is the publisher's PDF or only the author's own refereed final
   draft. (More about this below.)

   (3) With the preprint-only "blue" publishers, clarify whether by
   "preprint" they really mean the unrefereed draft, or just something
   other than the publisher's PDF.

   (4) Where the replies to (1)-(3) indicate that the publisher's PDF can
   be self-archived, self-archive that (if you prefer). Where it cannot,
   self-archive the author's final refereed draft (where appropriate).
   In the remainder of cases, self-archive the unrefereed draft, and
   append the corrigenda (exactly as with "white" journals that refuse
   even when asked on a per article basis -- except that the unrefereed
   preprint need not be self-archived *before* submission to the journal).

These publisher queries will show that what the publisher really means
in most cases by both "preprint" and "postprint" is the "vanilla" draft:
the author's version of the refereed final draft, but not the publisher's
PDF (and hence all publishers mean by "pre" vs."post" is timing). Hence
the proxy self-archiving policy can be simplified considerably if all
efforts are simply focused on the vanilla draft, forgetting about the
publisher's PDF altogether.

Remember that the purpose of self-archiving is to provide immediate open
access to all would-be users worldwide whose institutions cannot afford
access to the publisher's toll-access version. The vanilla draft is
definitely enough to stanch this daily needless research impact loss,
*completely*, and it will assuredly usher in the open-access era. Fussing
about the PDF would be a complete waste of time, and would only delay open
access still longer. What researchers need, urgently, is the research
content, not the canonical page-layout. (Please don't let these worthy
efforts become paralysed, yet again, by pointless pedantry!)

Even the above 4-point procedure is in reality a waste of time, despite
covering all conceivable contingencies. (The physicists, self-archiving
since 1991, never bothered with it! They just went ahead, sensibly, and
self-archived, both preprints and postprints.) If there are any publishers
who think an article from their journals should not be self-archived,
let them show cause and request removal, on an article-by-article
basis. (The Physics Arxiv -- approaching 200,000 articles -- has had no
publisher removal-requests or removals, as far as I know, in its entire
12-year existence!)

    "The 'Los Alamos Lemma'"

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):

Discussion can be posted to:
Received on Sun Sep 14 2003 - 15:05:22 BST

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