Re: Op Ed piece to use to promote Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 6 Jan 2004 23:02:26 +0000

Apologies to Leslie Chan for neglecting to CC him the offline exchange in
question. I meant to, but the messages are coming too fast and furiously
at the moment. I agree with almost everything Leslie wrote. Just a
few comments:

On Tue, 6 Jan 2004, Leslie Chan wrote:

> 1. OA journals listed on DOAJ <>
> I share Arun's concern that readers need to be told that not all open access
> journals collect author-charges. Indeed the majority of the OA journals
> listed in DOAJ do not charge for processing fees and rely instead on other
> modes of funding. Perhaps it is worth emphasizing that input pay is only one
> of several economic models. A comprehensive study of the various funding
> models currently in place is badly needed.

I agree on all counts: input-pay is not the only cost-recovery model and all
parties concerned (the research community, the publishing community, the library
community) need to know that too. (But the short op-ed article in
question was just for the general public, who know nothing about all
this. Too much detail would kill off their interest! To tell them about
subsidies, about the possibility of providing OA to the Have-Nots while
still collecting TA from the Harvards, about volunteerism, etc. would
I think have made it even less likely that wide-spectrum newspapers and
magazines will publish the piece!)

> No one really knows the true number of open access journals out there and
> the listing of OA journals (672 as of today) on DOAJ are self-identified
> journals that submitted data to DOAJ. As far as I know DOAJ does not
> actively sort out all open access journals but rely on self submission.
> (Sara Kjellberg from DOAJ could shed some light for us). Note, for example
> that of the 115 open access journals in SciELO, only two are listed in DOAJ.
> So the number of "gold" journals world wide may well be under estimated.

I agree again, and have for a while now been using "1000" in place of
DOAJ's current "672" and perhaps that too is an
underestimate. I believe DOAJ's resources leave them reliant on golden
journals self-identifying. With some funds, DOAJ could systematically
query all 24,000 journals in ulrichs to find out whether or not they
are gold.

In fact, this worthwhile project could be conducted hand in hand with another:
Romeo, which queried 7000+ journals on whether they were green!

DOAJ and the new SHERPA-administered Romeo Table could make a strategic
alliance in providing both sides of the OA story, systematically
canvassing all 24,000 journals.

    "SHERPA will take over the Romeo Publisher Policy Table"

Both sides of the story from the *journal* side (gold, green and
white). We can get very definite figures there. But they will not tell us
the story from the *article* side! 24,000 journals, publishing 2.5 million
articles per year. The DOAJ/Romeo data will tell us how many journals
are gold, green and white. It can even tell us how many articles each
journal publishes annually. But it won't tell us how many of those
articles are OA! It can only tell us how many of the *gold* journal
articles are OA (all of them are!).

But the fact that (say) 55% of journals are green -- which means they support
author/institution self-archiving -- does not mean that 55% of articles are OA!
It only means 55% of articles *could* be OA! Whether they actually become OA
depends on their authors, and their authors' institutions and research funders.

(This is why it is far more important to formulate institutional and
national open-access provision policies than just to create OA journals
or OA archives: There has to be some pressure to *fill* those OA journals
and OA archives! That pressure can come from the very same source from
which the pressure to publish comes: "Publish or Perish." This needs
to be extended, in the online age, to "Provide Open Access for your
Publications" -- to maximize their visibility, usage, and impact.)

> This in no way serves to undermine the powerful argument for immediate open
> access through institutional archiving. It does illustrate however, that
> the wave of conversion from "green" to "gold" journals is gaining rapid
> momentum and we need to acknowledge that.

That *might* be what's happening, but I expect that's not really it. There
is as yet no great momentum for converting from green (or white) to
gold. If we look carefully at the existing c. 1000 gold journals (5%), there
are a few "core" journals and very many "peripheral" ones among them
(including some that are just experimenting with OA: such journals have
come and gone, as the High Wire Press Inventory shows; one year they're
OA, the next they are not). The exact numbers remain to be determined
through the exhaustive DOAJ/ROmeo surveying I've described, but so far
it's not clear what the true growth rate is, once the data-collection
has stabilized, nor what the core/peripheral balance is among OA compared
to TA journals.

> 2. Bioline International and Open Access <>
> You were correct that Bioline International contains a mix of toll-access
> and toll-free journals. However, as of Jan. 1 2004, we are converting to a
> portal for open access journals only and the transition should be completed
> by the end of the month. There was no mixing of agendas as you implied, as
> our goal has always been the maximization of visibility, accessibility and
> impact of research from the developing world.

I am not questioning the agenda of Bioline! I just did not want to
overcomplicate the op-ed piece!

But note that -- for logical reasons -- if we count (as we should)
all journals that make all their contents OA as gold journals, and
we include all the possible economic models for gold journals (which
include not only author/institution payment, subsidy and volunteerism,
but also TA [toll-access, i.e. journals that still cover their costs by
charging access-tolls to those who can and do pay, but they also make
their full-text contents freely accessible online)]) then we have a
complicated picture in which OA and TA are no longer mutually exclusive!

I have no problem with this picture, because it is very like the
co-existence between TA-publishing (green) and OA-provision via
self-archiving! Gold journals that keep charging tolls to those
institutions that can afford them but also make their articles OA are,
in a sense, "self-archiving" themselves! (Though I would dearly prefer
not to start using "self-archiving" that way!)

The difference is that a TA journal can experiment with OA for a year and
then change its mind, and then OA is gone. (Authors who have provided
their own OA have no reason to do that.)

I avoided all these details in my short article!

> Over the last several years we have been able to collect important user data
> that clearly differentiate the usage of open access publications relative to
> the toll-based material. We are able to validate the not so surprising
> conclusions that users are unwilling or reluctant to pay for publications
> from developing countries, regardless of their quality, and so open access
> is the only viable option for many journals from developing countries if
> they wish to remain in publication. Journal publishers and scientific
> institutions from developing world need to rethink why they publish and to
> develop funding models that do not rely on cost recovery from subscription.
> Our publishing partners have clearly learned that the gains from open access
> far out-weigh the minute toll return from readers. We think funding and
> aids agencies (e.g. UNESCO, World Bank, WHO) that fund many of these
> journals need to better understand open access and that was what Arun and I
> tried to get across at the recent WSIS in Geneva.

Subsidy definitely has a role to play in all this, but I don't know
it if is realistic to think of the core journals converting to gold
with only the prospect of subsidy to keep them afloat. I think we need
OA itself first, before committing ourselves to the economic model
for gold publishing; that does not require subsidy; it just requires

Stevan Harnad

> on 1/6/04 5:06 AM, Barbara Kirsop at wrote:
> > Leslie, this seems not to have been cc-ed to you, so you may like to
> > responde re Bioline.
> > Barbara
> >
> > --- Stevan Harnad <> wrote: >
> > Date: Tue, 6 Jan 2004 03:29:12 +0000 (GMT)
> >> From: Stevan Harnad <>
> >> To: Subbiah Arunachalam <subbiah_a_at_YAHOO.COM>
> >> Subject: Re: Op Ed piece to use to promote Open Access
> >>
> >> Dear Arun,
> >>
> >> Thanks for the suggestions: I know not all 1000 OA journals
> >> recover costs from author-charges, but this is a very simple
> >> general-public article, and I did not want to add
> >> needless complications.
> >> (People seem to have enough trouble understanding as it is!)
> >>
> >> Also, Bioline is a very worthy organization, but it is not
> >> a no-toll service but a low-toll (and sometimes no-toll) one.
> >> Again, this mixes two agendas, and for this article, I wanted
> >> to keep it simple: open-access only!
> >>
> >> Don't worry, I will promote Bioline in the appropriate places!
> >>
> >> Best wishes,
> >>
> >> Stevan
Received on Tue Jan 06 2004 - 23:02:26 GMT

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