Re: Mandating OA around the corner?

From: David Goodman <>
Date: Sun, 18 Jul 2004 14:49:16 +0100

Unlike Peter, I regard this as a typical example of what one does _not_ want from a government mandate.

There is only one positive thing to be said for this, which is that it is better than user-paid ("toll") access.

The proposal is for
"access to authors' final manuscripts (as accepted for
    journal publication) and supplemental materials via PubMed Central
    six months after publication"

This is the weakest form of OA that I have ever seen proposed. (I am open to correction by anyone who remembers worse--I cannot.) First, it accepts as OA access to authors' manuscripts together with supplemental material--by which I presume they mean corrections lists. Many are willing to consider this as OA , but they generally say that while this might be acceptable it is not very good. ("Pale green" is I think the preferred term.) It is inferior to authors manuscripts corrected by the author, which is in turn inferior to author-produced pdf copies from the publishers' print, which is in turn inferior to posting the pdf from the publisher.

Second, it accepts posting of even this weakest form, six months after publication. Some definitions of OA accept delayed OA. Those publishers which do offer delayed OA, offer delayed OA to the article as published, from the publisher's or supplier's site. If any publisher offers as little as this, I have yet to encounter it.

Third, it provides that the author might use government-provided publication funds for the publishing of material posted under the weakest form of OA. Those in favor of government mandates generally ask that it provides access to the authentic text.

This is a discussion of strategy, which involves the path to future progress; reasonable people might well differ here. Peter, and undoubtedly others, including Chuck Hamaker on liblicense, apparently think that requiring even this little is a positive step that will lead to future progress. I think that it is not productive to accept such a small increment, and that is may greatly delay substantial progress--that the government may now consider the problem solved permanently.

I suggest this analogy: it is like prescription drug assistance for the elderly. An absurdly weak bill was proposed, and some organizations like the AARP supported it. Others felt, as I did, that to accept this was to run the risk of never getting more. Analogies are not strong arguments, but here the parallelism is obvious.

I thus propose the following hypothesis: The publishers will not strongly oppose the bill. They will after perhaps minimal objections, be glad it is no worse, and realize that it might hold off real reform a few years longer.

I do not intend to oppose the measure outside our community. I might be wrong. I do not think it useful to argue whether or not I am, and so do not intend to reply further: this will very soon be settled by event. If I am wrong it will be evident first by the publishers' opposition and then by the bill's eventual success in leading to better, and I will so admit. Alternatively, if I am right, perhaps the parallel will hold further, and the outrage over getting so little will result in better measures. Those who intend to actively support the bill should first consider whether the effect may be the opposite of what we all desire. Peter and Stevan and Chuck and I should not forget that we all want to get to the same place.


Dr. David Goodman
Associate Professor
Palmer Library School, LIU

 and, formerly,
Princeton University Library

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Received on Sun Jul 18 2004 - 14:49:16 BST

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