Re: ACS Chemical & Engineering News Editorial: "The Open-Access Myth"

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2004 15:07:14 +0100

On Mon, 29 Mar 2004, Subbiah Arunachalam wrote:

> This is an excellent reply. But will the editor of C&E
> News publish it in his journal and give his response
> to it? How many readers of C&EN will read your
> response to the editor's editorial comments? The
> editor seems to have an undue advantage!

I doubt the editor of C&EN will publish my reply. But it does not
matter. The gist of what I am saying is that what is really relevant
is not the provisional reflections of editors or publishers on this
important topic. We have already wasted more than a decade needlessly
jousting with publishers because we believed, wrong-headedly, that Open
Access (OA) was somehow about journal prices and policy.

It is not! OA has almost nothing to do with publishers. All their
predictable (and understandable) defences of the *added value* and the
costs are simply beside the point. The point is about access provision
and impact maximization; and access needs to be provided by *ourselves*
(i.e., the research authors and their institutions), not by publishers.

This conflation of journal pricing and policy with access provision
is also one of the reasons we are still so one-sidedly fixated now on OA
*publishing* (gold) instead of on OA *provision* (both gold and green).

I don't regret that the issue is not played out further in publishers'
pages, or in the editorial pages of journals concerned with defending
their economic model for publishing, because I think it is begging
the question even to imply that economic models or publisher policies
are involved in our "right" to self-archive -- that we somehow need
publishers' or journals' "permission" in order to provide open access
to our own (unpaid!) writings. That too is incorrect.

We must resist the temptation to persist in this futile jousting with
publishers when what we should be doing is providing OA for our own
articles (and persuading our own institutions and funders to persuade
the rest of *us* to provide OA!).

    Swan, A. & Brown, S.N. (2004) JISC/OSI Journal Authors Survey Report.

This is about wanting and needing OA, yet instead of just going ahead and
*providing* that OA, so wanted and so needed by us, we instead just keep (1)
arguing with publishers about their prices and policies, or (2) trying
to beg/bully them into providing the OA for us, by converting to gold
(OA publishing)!

And when we are not wasting our time doing (1) or (2), we prefer to
believe that before we can take the green road we must first (3) beg/bully
publishers to give self-archiving their official green light! Yet *that*
too is not correct (as 13 years of self-archiving by physicists and
countless others -- without seeking or awaiting any green lights -- have
already demonstrated decisively).

The American Scientist Open Access Forum now includes most of the
provosts of the AAU, the top research universities of the US, plus the
top officials of the NIH and NSF and many European institutions. If the
reply to the ACS C&EN editorial gets through to them, that is worth much
more than continuing these polemics with publishers (or librarians!).

Having said that, I do wish that these postings reached a wider audience
as well -- not publishers and librarians again, but the research community
at large. I seem to be kept too busy writing them to be able to find time to
publish them, but many of them are full, self-contained articles, or
could very easily be turned into them, so I welcome any reader's proposing
them for publication anywhere they may judge that they might do some good.

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 Mar 30 2004 - 15:07:14 BST

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