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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 5 Oct 2003 16:40:50 +0100

        Scotomata in the Open Access Movement

A blind spot seems to be growing at the *center* (not the edges)
of the Open-Access-Publishing (OApub) road to Open Access (OA). OApub is a
valid and welcome road to OA, but in the minds of many of its proponents
the idea seems to have grown that OApub *is* OA, and that *only* OApub
is OA.

As a result, because OApub also seems to be a much easier concept
for researchers to understand than Open-Access Self-Archiving (OAarch),
and because this easier concept has now also trickled through to some
research funding bodies, legislators, and even the popular press --
Open Access (OA) itself, despite the superficial signs of its growth
and progress, is now again at risk of being detoured into yet another
decade of needless delay.

Part of the problem is that OApub has at least three substantial hurdles
to surmount:

    (OApub-1) OA journals have to be created/converted

    (OApub-2) Funding sources must be found for paying the author charges
    for publishing in those OA journals (hence the "Bethesda Statement" ), and

    (OApub-3) Authors must be persuaded to publish in those OA journals
    (hence the Sabo Bill ).

This would all be fine and as it should be were it anywhere near the
truth that OApub was indeed the only, or easiest, or most direct,
or surest road to OA. But none of that is the case! Not only
is there another road, but that other road is easier, more direct,
and surer. It calls for only one step, not three or more, namely:

    (OAarch-1) Authors must be persuaded to self-archive.

The archives are already there (but near-empty) for the making or
taking. At least 55% of publishers already support OAarch, and no further
funding or journal-creation, -conversion, or -renunciation is needed.

But if one is strongly committed to OApub as the *only* road to achieve
OA, or the main one, one will not have any inclination to stress the
*other* road to OA, let alone that it is faster, easier, more direct
or surer!

Worse, OAarch may not be just a blind spot for OApub: it may even be
perceived as an obstacle by some OApub advocates: For unless OAarch can
somehow be minimized or dismissed as an unstable, anarchic, impractical,
even *illegal* non-starter, there is a chance that OApub advocates may
have to face the possibility that putting all or even most of the emphasis
on OApub would be premature, and that OAarch, apart from being the surer
road to immediate OA, might even be the surer road to eventual OApub!

I think the dual OA algorithm

    (1) publish your articles in an open-access journal wherever available
    (2) self-archive the rest of your articles (>95%)

captures the true realities and possibilities and probabilities, and in
their true proportions.

But OApub leaves OAarch entirely out of its unilateral strategies and
desiderata -- or, worse, OApub portrays OAarch merely as a way to offload
the archiving and access burdens of OApub journals!

I have been on the OA circuit a long time. I have a good sense by now of
the maddeningly slow and slow-witted pace of progress toward OA, and
how Zeno's Paralysis, mutating in a Protean way with every apparent
step forward, keeps conspiring to side-track our progress toward this
long overdue and long accessible goal.

It is accordingly important that all open-eyed open-access advocates
now try to do everything we can to make sure that the 95% solution is
*understood* to be the 95% solution that it is, and is given 95% of the
open-access-seeking community's attention and efforts. The money is not
with us -- I don't have the PLoS's $9 million, nor even the BOAI's 3 --
but fortunately OAarch does not depend on money but only on understanding,
and the action flowing naturally from that understanding.

Now to comments.

> [Re. Butler's article on the authorship row at NEJM]
>anon> [The authors] could have published the paper
>anon> in NEJM and still achieved open access to the paper through
>anon> self-archiving. One of the great virtues
>anon> of self-archiving is the way it gives authors the freedom to
>anon> publish in any journal without sacrificing the benefits of
>anon> open access. This may be a blind spot.

This is indeed the OApub blind spot, and one immediately thinks of King
Solomon: Do OApub authors seek immediate OA (for their own work and
everyone else's) or are they merely doing public posturing for OApub?

But, as I said, anosognosia dictates that this must remain a blind spot,
for illuminating it would amount to recognizing that it is OAarch and not
OApub that deserves most of our OA efforts right now -- if we want to
maximize the returns on our efforts, in terms of immediate OA.

The rationalization -- in neurology they call it "confabulation" -- that
protects this blind spot is that it would be somehow "unstable" or
"short-term" to pursue OAarch full-speed: There would still be a long-term
day of reckoning to face in the transition to OApub, so we might as well
face it now.

Well that is precisely the *wrong* reasoning, for it not only needlessly
delays (yet again) immediate OA, even after having at long last awakened
to its merits and desirability, but it is based on the vague and
unexamined (and, I think, incorrect) notion that somehow it will be more
natural or more stable to make a direct transition from toll-access
publishing (TApub) to OApub than to have the transition mediated,
facilitated, indeed *driven* by OAarch, gradually.

OApub enthusiasts seem to be focused only on creating new OA journals
(and trying to beg or bully TA journals to convert to OA). That may be
fun. It may be more satisfying than trying to beg or bully researchers
to self-archive -- but it certainly will not bring us OA faster! Rather
the contrary. It is reducing the perceived pressure to self-archive,
researchers resigning themselves instead to waiting, passively, for more
OA journals to be created or converted for them.

>anon1> NEJM at least applied their principles correctly
>anon1> over the authorship issue.
>anon2> I don't agree that NEJM applied its own principles
>anon2> correctly -- or perhaps we just disagree on what its principles
>anon2> were. NEJM made it sound as though its responses were forced
>anon2> by copyright law. But copyright law does not (1) stop a journal
>anon2> from permitting open access or (2) stop a journal from letting
>anon2> an author withdraw his name from a co-authored article.

I would agree entirely that the "principles" that were invoked there were
self-serving, and that this is not the first time NEJM has done that
sort of thing:
However, no matter how whole-heartedly one advocates OA (and few will
fault me for half-heartedness in this!), can anyone deny that it is *not*
a journal's moral duty to become an OA journal if it does not wish to?

Never mind what rationale or rationalization the journal cites for
declining to become an OA journal (be it some self-serving invocation of
copyright law and copyright protection, or some spurious coupling with
peer-review and quality-control, or with preservation and perpetuity --
or even bonafide worries about the risks of making a radical change in its
business model): All the journal is *really* doing is declining to
convert to becoming OA publishers.

Surely they have that right. And if you or I were the publishers of NEJM,
we would decline too! But (assuming we still had command over our
souls, and did not become anosognosic, ex officio, to the obvious benefits
of OA to research and researchers), what we would instead do first would
be to agree to become (Romeo) *green* (OAarch-friendly) publishers,
on the rationale that:

   "Yes, OA is optimal for research and researchers. I don't
   wish to deny or obstruct that. So if a researcher wants OA so badly, I
   won't stop him from having it: He may self-archive. But why should *I*,
   as publisher, take on the added needless risk and burden of converting
   *now* to OA publishing, an untested model, and highly threatening to
   my existing revenue stream and modus operandi, when the researchers,
   who purport to want OA so much, don't even bother to do what is within
   their own power to do, today, in the interests of open-access to their
   work, *and with my blessing, as publisher*! Let them self-archive,
   and then if OA eventually prevails, I will gradually adapt to it
   in whatever way proves necessary. But putting a moral shotgun to
   my head, and my head alone, to convert to OApub at this time, seems
   as churlish as it seems unnecessary."

And *is* unnecessary, I might add. It is a needless hobby-horse, being
ridden instead of encouraging the self-help that is within the reach of
the research community. (I am guilty of once having taken a similar
moral line; but that was years ago, when things had not yet come into clear
focus. Indeed, let's not forget that I was among the very first to propose
the OApub "business" model -- author-end publication fees instead of
reader-end access-tolls [Harnad 1995].

        Harnad, S. (1995) Electronic Scholarly Publication: Quo
        Vadis? Serials Review 21(1) 70-72 (Reprinted in Managing
        Information 2(3) 1995).

But it has since become clear that conversion to OApub is not the fastest
or surest way to OA: OAarch is; and that OAarch itself will eventually
lead to OApub too -- but meanwhile we will already have OA!)

Stevan Harnad

> >>Open-access row leads paper to shed authors
> >>
> >>
> >>A spat between the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and one of the
> >>leaders of a movement for open access to the scientific literature has
> >>resulted in the journal rejecting a paper on kidney transplants at the
> >>last minute - and immediately re-accepting it without the names of four of
> >>the original authors.
> >>
> >>Caught up in the disagreement is Minnie Sarwal, a young researcher at
> >>Stanford University School of Medicine in California, the lead author of
> >>the paper, "Molecular heterogeneity in acute renal allograft rejection
> >>identified by DNA microarray profiling"(M. Sarwal, et al. N. Engl. J.
> >>Med. 349, 125-138; 2003), which was finally published on 10 July.
> >>
> >>One of her Stanford co-authors, Patrick Brown, says he wanted the paper
> >>to be sent to an open-access journal, but reluctantly agreed to the NEJM
> >>as this was important for Sarwal's career. Brown is a co-founder of the
> >>Public Library of Science (PLoS), which launches its first open-access
> >>journal next month. Papers published in PLoS journals are freely
> >>available from the time at which they are published, whereas most
> >>journals make papers available only to subscribers, for a period of time
> >>at least - six months in the case of the NEJM.
> >>
> >>Brown says that he insisted that the NEJM publish the paper under the
> >>terms of the PLoS open-access licence, which stipulates that the authors
> >>retain copyright but agree to allow the unrestricted use, distribution
> >>and reproduction of the article in any form, provided that the original
> >>work is properly cited.
> >>
> >>The terms on which the paper was originally accepted are now hotly
> >>disputed, however. When Brown received the galley proofs in June, a
> >>sentence - "This article is published under the terms of the PLOS open
> >>access license" - had been deleted from a previously agreed edit of the
> >>paper. Jeffrey Drazen, editor-in-chief of the NEJM, says that the
> >>sentence was only spotted at the last minute, and was unacceptable.
> >>
> >>[...]
> >>
> >>Drazen's decision to delete the PLoS rider presented Brown with a
> >>dilemma. He says that he wanted to withdraw the paper in protest, but
> >>felt that the results were important, and should be published without
> >>further delay. Sarwal also did not want to retract the paper, as she had
> >>distributed the galleys in confidence in support of a grant proposal.
> >>
> >>Instead, Brown called Drazen and demanded that his name and that of three
> >>other authors be withdrawn from the paper, and that this be explained in
> >>the published manuscript. Drazen refused. In a 5 June e-mail to Brown, he
> >>wrote: "We are withdrawing acceptance because all eleven original authors
> >>signed a letter, dated October 22, 2002, certifying that they were the
> >>sole authors of the work. Thus, we cannot subsequently represent to our
> >>readers that the remaining seven authors are the only authors of the
> >>entire paper."
> >>
> >>The paper was rejected, and a new one accepted, after Brown asked Drazen
> >>to reconsider, suggesting that the deleted authors be acknowledged as
> >>having contributed to the experiments, and sharing responsibility for the
> >>results.
> >>
> >>Drazen says that he agreed to re-accept the paper only after Sarwal
> >>confirmed that the new authorship represented the sole authors of the
> >>work, with Brown's team being important contributors. The paper was
> >>immediately published. Brown subsequently contacted Nature to persuade
> >>this journal to cover the story.
> >>
> >>The spat has resulted in name-calling on both sides. Brown alleges that
> >>the events constitute a "clear and documented case of editorial
> >>misconduct in the handling of an article", and that the change in
> >>authorship is "manuscript laundering".
> >>
> >>In a statement, the NEJM asserts: "It is unfortunate that Dr Brown chose
> >>to use important medical research affecting renal transplant patients to
> >>generate publicity for his planned publishing ventures. A researcher of
> >>his experience knows well that the Journal cannot selectively ignore
> >>copyright laws so that individual authors can draw attention to a
> >>personal cause. He placed his desire to promote his personal interest
> >>above his responsibility to his research colleagues."
> >>
> >>For her part, Sarwal says: "I am just a young scientist trying to do good
> >>science and feel terrible that any of this occurred."
Received on Sun Oct 05 2003 - 16:40:50 BST

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