Re: The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2004 00:37:19 +0000

On Mon, 22 Mar 2004, Waaijers, Leo wrote:

> May I stretch your argumentation a little, just to find out if I understand
> you well?
> Would you say: "no matter who pays the publication costs and how high they
> are, as long as the publication is not at the cost of the reader an open
> access protagonist is satisfied"?

First, can we correct this to: "at the cost of the *user or the user's
institution,*" so as to avoid turning this into a question about licensing?

With that slight clarification, however, my answer is that yes, that is
absolutely correct!

But let's not stretch that "no matter how" *too* high: If the OA
is bought at the cost of enslaving the planet we have gone off into
science fiction!

For what is really at issue here (rather than mysterious counterfactual
conjectures) is just this: There are currently about 24,000 peer-reviewed
journals publishing about 2.5 million articles yearly. Most of those
journals (95%) are Toll Access (TA). That means the only users who can
access the articles published in those journals are those users whose
institutions can afford to pay the access-tolls for those journals.

Let us call the total amount that the planet pays for those TA journals
today T$ and the total number of users who can thereby access them
today TN.

Now consider the following two scenarios:

The institutions that are currently doing the paying keep paying
into the T$ (apart from the usual price negotiations, cancellations,
budget variations, etc.) and the TN users keep using whatever their own
institutions can afford. Let us say that, by this means, each of the
2.5 million annual articles is on average accessible to t% of its
potential users and inaccessible to (100-t)% of its potential users.

So now we would like to reduce that (100-t)% to zero, or, equivalently,
raise that t% to 100% (i.e., OA), for all 2.5 million articles.

How do we do that?

One way is to try to create or convert more OA journals. Remember
5% of the 24,000 journals are already OA journals: So we would like to
raise that 5% to 100%. Let us try to do that, by all means. But
let us admit that it will be a slow and uncertain business, because so
far few of the TA journals have shown the inclination to take the risk
of converting, and the business of creating competing journals is a slow
and uncertain one too.

But we are working on it.

What about those (100-t)% of potential users per article in the
meanwhile? Should they resign themselves to waiting? And should the
authors of those articles resign themselves to losing the corresponding
percentage of their potential research impact?

Or is there something else to be done? Something that does not change
the amount of money being spent (T$) nor the number of users for whom
that money buys access (TN) nor even the ongoing efforts to create or
convert more OA journals. Just something that will bring the percentage of
potential users per article from t% closer to 100%; In fact, to test
Leo's "stretching" hypothesis, let us suppose that this other something,
which does not lower (or raise) what is being spent -- nor the number of
users benefitting from what is being spent, nor the amount of effort we
put into creating/converting OA journals -- *does* take us all the way
to 100% access to all articles for all their would-be users, i.e
takes us to OA.

Is there any reason whatsoever to hold this outcome at arm's length just
because it has not lowered T$ by one penny?

This other something is of course the self-archiving of all the
TA articles by their authors, in order to make them OA. This OA
self-archiving is already today providing (according to the latest
JISC/OSI Survey's estimate, which I suspect may be somewhat high because
of a sampling anomaly) 40% access, 10 times as much as the 4% that is
currently being provided by OA Journal publishing:

Let as (to be conservative) halve the estimate for OA self-archiving to
20%. And let us (to be gracious) increase the estimate for OA journal
publishing to 5% (corresponding to its approximate percentage of the
OA journals as per

That means we have already enhanced the t% accessibility to potential
users by 20% + 5% = 25% or t/4 (and reduced the (100-t)% inaccessibility
by t/4). What does that amount mean in usage and impact? We can estimate
that as well: Lawrence (2001), confirmed now by Kurtz et al. (2003),
Kurtz (2004) and Brody et al. (2004) find that the number of readers is
doubled and the number of citations is tripled by OA.

So an increase from t% accessibility to (5t/4)% arises from the existing
OA self-archiving (plus the existing OA journals) at no extra cost:

    Is there any reason whatsoever not to increase this to 100%
    accessibility through 100% OA at the very same cost?

(Leo's reply will no doubt introduce speculations about
self-archiving leading to journal cancellations, leading in turn
to journal price rises or journal collapse. Speculations are
speculations. They can be answered with counter-speculations --
-- but why
not just stick to already tested and demonstrated facts? Self-archiving
has already risen to 20% overall, and to 100% in some subfields, but
it has not yet generated either cancellations or price rises. So that
does not sound like a very sensible reason for holding self-archiving
at arm's length either.)

Brody, T., Stamerjohanns, H., Harnad, S. Gingras, Y. & Oppenheim, C.
The effect of Open Access on Citation Impact. Presented at:
National Policies on Open Access (OA) Provision for University Research
Output: an International meeting, Southampton, 19 February 2004.

Kurtz, Michael J.; Eichhorn, Guenther; Accomazzi, Alberto; Grant,
Carolyn S.; Demleitner, Markus; Murray, Stephen S.; Martimbeau,
Nathalie; Elwell, Barbara. (2003) The NASA Astrophysics
Data System: Sociology, Bibliometrics, and Impact. Journal of
the American Society for Information Science and Technology

Kurtz, M.J. (2004) Restrictive access policies cut readership of
electronic research journal articles by a factor of two, Michael
J. Kurtz, Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, Cambridge,

Lawrence, S. (2001) Online or Invisible? Nature 411 (6837): 521.

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
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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
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Received on Tue Mar 23 2004 - 00:37:19 GMT

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