Re: The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Waaijers, Leo <Waaijers_at_SURF.NL>
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2004 15:39:02 +0100


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 user or the user's
institution, an open access protagonist is satisfied."

I think that 'user' is synonym for 'reader' in your statement. OK? But,
normally, readers don't pay. It's their library who pays, that means their
institution. This reduces your statement to: "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's institution, an open access protagonist is

As someone must bear the costs, this someone must be the author's
institution then. However, in many a case this is the same institution as
the reader's. So, at the end of the day the financial effects of both
approaches (toll gate, or 'open submission' as Declan Butler calls it
elegantly, and 'open access') meet at the table of the financial manager of
the institution. And, whether you like it or not, (s)he wants to compare.
When promoting open access in the Netherlands, I am confronted with
questions about the underlying business model of open access.

For open access journals, the gold road, this is not too difficult. I can
easily demonstrate that the scientific community pays Elsevier $ 8000 for
having an article refereed, published and made accesible to a minority of
that same community, where BMC asks $525 and PLoS $1500 for refereeing,
publishing and making the article accesible to everybody. The subsequent
discussion is then reduced to the question whether BMC is too cheap or PLoS
too expensive. I allways answer that, contrary to the subscription world,
the open access world operates in a market situation and that will keep
prices competetive.

But the business case for the green road is far more difficult to explain.
First we have to pay Elsevier $8000 for the publication of the article, then
we have to beg permission for self archiving it and then some institution
has to put it in its institutional repository (again costs!) to make it
worldwide accessible. To hesitant looks my defense is: "It's better than
nothing", but I always have the feeling that I am not very convincing. I
could parafrase you and try: "Money is irrelevant". Still not convincing, I
am afraid.

May be that's why for articles the green road is less succesful than we al
wish it to be. Also because the permission to self archive it, is not always
given or, when it is given, is limited to access within the author's
institution. For the time being it is better than nothing, but it is not a
sustainable solution in my opinion.


-----Original Message-----
From: Stevan Harnad
Sent: 23-3-2004 1:37
Subject: Re: The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

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

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

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
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 that 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 provides access (TN) nor even the ongoing efforts to create
convert more OA journals. Just something that will bring the percentage
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
self-archiving (and 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:
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            journal whenever one exists.
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Received on Tue Mar 23 2004 - 14:39:02 GMT

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