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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2003 13:23:41 +0100

[Identity deleted] wrote:

> I agree with you completely that we need to persuade many more academic
> authors to self-archive, and... we have been working to achieve this.

I know and appreciate that some funding and advocacy support has been
given to self-archiving worldwide: Yet though it may seem churlish,
I feel that -- relative to what is already within reach today -- *far*
more support needs to be given to self-archiving. If you asked for it
in percentage terms, I would say that of the support (both funding
and promotion) that funders and supporters are investing in open
access, something closer to 95% should be devoted to the 95% solution
(self-archiving) and something closer to 5% to the 5% solution (open
access publishing), if we are hoping for anything like proportionate
overall returns on our investment in open access to research. To
invest more in a lower-yield stock makes no sense (though I am sure
there are ways to divert my stock-market simile to make it appear

> From your messages, you do not seem to allow for the benefit to the
> campaign for self-archiving from work with publishers and funding
> agencies.

As far as I am aware, the work with publishers and funding agencies is
currently all being directed at the 5% solution, open-access publishing:
Considerable effort is being invested in trying to persuade and help
publishers to become open-access publishers, and to persuade funding
agencies to support open-access publishing.

That is all fine, and welcome, but as a benefit to the campaign
for *self-archiving* this is rather like the benefit to a campaign
for universal vegetarianism that arises from trying to persuade beef
producers to produce broccoli instead: Yes, to the extent you succeed,
you indirectly benefit the campaign for universal vegetarianism, but not
nearly as much as you would if you also addressed the consumers directly,
rather than just the producers!

In fact, if anything, it is concertedly pursuing the 95% strategy now
(self-archiving) that will also benefit the open-access publishing
strategy in the long run, hastening and facilitating the transition.

Researchers and their institutions need to be persuaded to self-archive,
directly, and not just as a side-effect or spin-off of a campaign for
open-access publishing. The reason this is the 95% solution is that
every self-archived article is immediately eo ipso open-access -- and
the 95% of authors who have no suitable open-access journals to publish
in today can immediately self-archive their toll-access journal articles,
today, rather than wait for more open-access journals to be created, or
toll-access journals to be converted.

In other words, self-archivers can bring about immediate, 100% open access
overnight, without waiting passively for the 5% of journals that are
open-access to inch their way toward 100%, just
as consumers could immediately bring about universal vegetarianism by
switching from beef to broccoli without waiting passively for producers
to do it for them.

Yes, there is one concrete thing that addressing publishers and
funding agencies instead of addressing researchers can do to benefit
the self-archiving route to open access, and that is to help persuade
journals to support self-archiving -- as 55% of them already do! But,
as has been pointed out repeatedly, even without that extra 45% support,
55% already trumps 5% -- so that card needs to be played at least in
proportion to its strength!

Yet persuading publishers and research funders to support self-archiving
is *not* what is actually being done. The primary target in the current
ongoing campaign is open-access publishing, the 5% solution. The
self-archiving is only dangling there, as a vague afterthought. Its
logical and causal role is not clearly explained by open-access publishing
advocates. It is merely being mentioned as another "good thing" one
might want to do, for some reason or other!

This is why the true 5%/95% proportion needs to be brought out in the
open now: To make it clear that far from being just *another good thing*
one might do, alongside open-access publishing, self-archiving is by far
the fastest and most direct route to open access itself, and needs to be
promoted directly, alongside open-access publishing, and in proportion
to its potential power, rather than just as a vague spin-off of the
campaign for open-access publishing.

> We are not only persuading publishers to move to open access for the
> publication opportunities but also to make open access (including
> self-archiving) more acceptable to the academic community.
> You know as well as any of us how academics cite the attitude of publishers
> as a reason for not risking self-archiving.

The problem insofar as self-archiving is concerned is not one of publisher
"attitude." It is one of publisher *policy* -- actual as well as merely
perceived. And the policy in question is the one that distinguishes
the 55% of journals that already support self-archiving in their
copyright/licensing policies (Romeo's "blue" and "green" journals) from
the 45% that do not yet support self-archiving (Romeo's "white" journals).

But note that the policy in question is *not* the one that distinguishes
the <5% of journals that are already open-access from the >95% that are
not! Trying to persuade the publishers of the remaining 45% of journals
to become blue or green is not the same as persuading the remaining 95%
of publishers to become open-access publishers! To change metaphors:
a campaign to persuade McDonald's to remove beefburgers from their menu
does not benefit a campaign to persuade them to add vegeburgers to their
menu -- and the road to 100% success for the former campaign is a long
and uncertain one, compared to the second.

So vague spin-offs from the campaign for open-access publishing are
not the way to get the white publishers to go blue or green: A clear,
motivated and proportionate compound strategy for open access needs
to be formulated out of the two open-access strategies. Both their
complementarity and their relative power must be made transparent. And
that means making it clear to toll-access publishers that converting to
open-access publishing is *not* the only way they can help support the
open access that the research community so much needs: Adopting a blue
or green publisher self-archiving policy also counts as support.

And (as demonstrated by the fact that even the 55% of annual articles
that are published in the blue and green of journals are still far from
being self-archived yet), the real thing that is holding back
self-archiving is neither publishers' attitudes nor their policies. The
real problem is the *absence* of a systematic self-archiving policy
on the part of institutions and research funders:

What is needed is strongly and systematically encouraged or even
*mandated* open access, as a matter of explicit institutional and
funding-agency policy, through a simple extension of the existing
carrot/stick policy that is called "publish or perish" to: "publish with
maximised impact." That means open access, and mandating it means it must
be provided by the researcher, whether by publishing in an open-access
journal (where possible: 5%) or by self-archiving (the remaining 95%).

The current draft of the otherwise welcome and promising Public
Access to Science Act in the US Congress -- Sabo Bill, H.R. 261 -- is
needlessly proposing to mandate that all funded research publications must
be put in the *public domain* (renouncing all copyright protection),
which would be overkill even for the 5% solution, whereas all that
really needs to be mandated is that all funded research be made *open
access,* via either the 5% or the 95% strategy. The "Bethesda Statement"
is similarly focused entirely on the 5% strategy, calling for funding
agencies to cover the costs of publishing in open-access journals:
no mention of the cost-free 95% alternative at all, except as a way of
archiving articles that have been published in open-access journals!

> Likewise academics are worried about the attitude of funding agencies,
> and if we can get the funding agencies to support open access journals,
> this will also lead to more self-archiving.

I think this is a red herring. Academics are worried about impact
factors, because they know that articles in journals with higher impact
factors carry more weight (with both funding agencies and promotion
committees) than articles in journals with lower impact factors. Impact
factors come from journal track-records for quality. They have nothing
whatsoever to do with journal cost-recovery policy.

(It is *new* journals, whether online or on-paper, whether toll-access
or open-access, that start out with a handicap, until they establish
a track-record. No a-priori lobbying of funding agencies can or should
change this.

If we want to address academics' worries about research impact, we
should be persuading them to self-archive, in order to enhance the
impact of their own research immediately, regardless of which journal
it appeared in.

Hence it is self-archiving itself that funding agencies should be
persuaded to favour, not certain new journals, simply on account of
their cost-recovery models!

> The two strategies are inter-twined and the situation is not
> as black-and-white as your 5%/95% analogy.

It is not an analogy but a realistic estimate of the relative scope and
power of the two complementary open-access strategies. The two strategies
are indeed intertwined, in fact complementary, but in a very concrete and
specific way: If the goal is 100% open access for all refereed journal
articles, as soon as possible, then the optimal compound strategy for
all authors is:

    (1) Publish your articles in open-access journals whenever a suitable
    one exists (<5% currently)
    (2) publish the rest of your articles in toll-access journals
    (>95%) as you do already, but self-archive them as well, in your
    own institution's open-access eprint archives

Advocates of open access should, correspondingly, promote both
complementary strategies, intertwined (and apportioned) as above.

As to the black/white nature of the 5%/95% dichotomy: It is not
black/white, it is 5% light-gray and 95% dark-gray! And it accurately
reflects the relative scope, speed and power of the two open access
strategies today.

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 Mon Sep 15 2003 - 13:23:41 BST

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