Re: Author Publication Charge Debate

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2004 15:21:21 +0000

I will not be replying further to A. Henderson or A.R. Suhail on the
Author Publication Charge Debate, for two reasons:

    (1) Direct spokesmen for PLoS, BMC, and the Developing World are
    better qualified to reply.

    (2) The "flavor" of OA to which I am devoting most of my own energy
    and efforts is "green" (OA self-archiving) rather than "gold" (OA
    Journal Publishing), and publication charges concern only the latter.

    "The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access"

    'The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition'

It does seem ironic, though, that a spokesman on behalf of the
developing world (ARS) should be making common cause with a publicist for
toll-access publishers (AH) who has long argued that the solution to the
serials crisis is to find money (from somewhere) to give to libraries,
so they can keep paying the rising journal prices. (It has repeatedly
been pointed out that "find money, somewhere, to pay the rising prices"
would be a universal formula for propping up the prices of all products
and services, if there were the money, somewhere.)

    "Invoking Cloture (Again) on 'Serials Crisis = Library Underfunding'"

    "The Affordable-Access (AA) Problem and
     The Open-Access (OA) Problem Are Not the Same"

Some final comments:

On Tue, 10 Feb 2004, Suhail A. R. wrote:

> OA journals do not provide tools without tolls, so it boils down to:
> will tolls provide better tools?

There is still far too little understanding of the access/impact problem
in the research community. Please let us not add to the confusion
by misusing the terminology that has evolved to clarify it: *tolls*
refers to *access-tolls* (subscription tolls, site-license-tolls,
pay-to-view-tolls) for *users*. OA journal publication charges to
*authors* are not access-blocking tolls to users. Call them whatever
you like, but not *tolls*!

    "For Whom the Gate Tolls?"

Moreover, "tools" should refer to secondary services applied
to the primary full-texts of articles, not to the primary OA
texts themselves (which are toll-free if they are OA). Some of
these secondary services might be toll-based, but many will be
toll-free (see the remarkable toll-free OAI service-providers that have
already been created even for the little OA that exists so far: ).

The open-access movement is concerned with freeing the primary
peer-reviewed full-text from access- and impact-blocking tolls. This
literature is currently held hostage to a toll-based number of
"value-added" enhancements (such as XML markup, PDF generation,
citation-linking, on-paper version, distribution, archiving,
access-provision). OA "unbundles" the full-text itself from these various
enhancements, provides toll-free access to this all-important "vanilla
version," and leaves it open whether there are further enhancements
("tools") that service-providers may wish to provide and users may wish
to pay for:

    "Separating Quality-Control Service-Providing from Document-Providing"

    "Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons"

Albert Henderson:

> > If higher education institutions
> > were to realign library spending to match the growth of R&D, I believe
> > publishers of research would be comfortable in permitting broad free
> > access. A solid case should be made for governmental support of the
> > indirect cost of libraries as a policy of science spending, since library
> > research is essential for the preparation of science.

Translation: Provide subsidies to guarantee permanent payment of whatever
prices we charge, and we will happily provide free access for all!

There is no product or service that would not be happy with that
solution. Its sole problem is that there is no unused and limitless
universal "pot" from which all those prices can be permanently
propped up! Only conspiracy theories about vast sums squirreled away or
misappropriated by villainous parties give this nonsense even the kooky
modicum of credibility they inspire.

A.R. Suhail:

> I never thought of this solution. I guess this is even a better idea than
> embargoed access for 1 year.

And an even better idea is to print more money!

Albert Henderson:

> > OA activists, including the major disciplinary associations, could be more
> > effective by persuading a few hundred universities and a dozen agencies
> > to support productivity in science than by trying to convince millions
> > of authors to reject the social bonds that determine where they submit
> > their papers.

A.R. Suhail:

> This has been exactly what I have been trying to say, but it is more
> pertinent to authors like us!

And when that persuasion has been successful, persuade them to prepay drug
companies whatever price they ask, so that medicine can be be given free
to all who are sick, do the same with food producers to feed the hungry
-- and (why stop there?) draw on that same mysterious, limitless pot,
currently meanly withheld, to do the same with all consumer products
and services!

Alas, what makes this "solution" so obviously unworkable in the
analog world of finite objects, finite resources and selfish genes
keeps it unworkable even in the digital world (where limitless
digital objects are not unthinkable) except in the rare special
case where the digital product is something that its author
*wants* to give away -- as all authors of peer-reviewed journal
articles want to do, in order to maximise their usage and impact):

    "On not conflating the give-away and non-give-away literature"

    Harnad, S., Varian, H. & Parks, R. (2000) Academic publishing in the
    online era: What Will Be For-Fee And What Will Be For-Free? Culture
    Machine 2 (Online Journal)

But as this ground has been covered so many times in this Forum, I must leave it
to the spokesmen for the OA journals and the Developing World to sort out the
questions about OA publication charges for authors who cannot afford
it today. I have a different row to hoe (OA self-archiving), one that
reaches the same goal without having to face such questions.

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at the American Scientist Open Access Forum:
        To join the Forum:
        Post discussion to:
        Hypermail Archive:

Unified Dual Open-Access-Provision Policy:
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Tue Feb 10 2004 - 15:21:21 GMT

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