Re: The UK report, press coverage, and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2004 18:50:31 +0100 (BST)

On Tue, 27 Jul 2004, David Goodman wrote:

> The press, understandably, concentrates on the part which is
> easiest to understand.

Then let a better effort be made to understand the part that is not so
easy to understand, especially as it is the most important!

    "Journalists, like moths and drunks,
    seem attracted, irresistibly,
    to where the light shines,
    not where the key lies"
               ---- Istvan Hesslein

> The Open Access Journal route, though probably difficult and slow to
> actually implement, is a relatively simple matter to understand.

But if one route (the golden OAJ route) is glacially slow, though simple
to understand, and the other route (the green OA self-archiving route)
is immediate, but harder to understand, is our time better spent
waiting for a slow, uncertain route's outcome or trying to understand,
for the sake of an immediate, certain route's outcome?

> The Repository route (and I see that this name is increasing used)

Let us not be seduced by this increased usage: It is the OAI: Open
Archives Initiative, not the "ORI,* "Open Repositories Initiative." Nor
is it "self-repositing" but self-archiving. Let us not allow terminology
to multiply and mutate needlessly and opaquely. It only adds to the
needless complications and misunderstandings:

It's Institutional Archives, or better, Institutional Open Access (OA)
Eprint Archives that this is all about. Let us leave "IRs" to those who
are speaking about other kinds of content than the peer-reviewed journal
articles we are concerned with in the OA movement.

    "Cliff Lynch on Institutional Archives"

    "EPrints, DSpace or ESpace?"

> [The OA self-archiving route] is not so simple.
> It is not clear exactly what is permitted: preprint, peer-review preprint,
> accepted preprint, postprint, publishers pdf, author's pdf, author's
> version, author's version with corrections, author's version with a
> separate list of corrections-- the distinctions between these are clear
> to those of us who have been following the discussion.

But these differences are of no importance, and dwelling on them merely
slows the progress to OA all the more. We have 10-20% OA now; we need
100% OA ASAP. We must stop fussing about minor differences in ice-cream
flavour when the cupboard is 80-90% bare! Fill the cupboard; then (if
you like) fuss!

> The ambiguities
> in publisher's statements, and even in the reports, show that they
> are not quite so clear to others--even others with a relatively good
> understanding of science publishing. Some think the distinctions do not
> particularly matter, that as long as it is a peer-reviewed text, one
> version is as good as another. Some think far otherwise. Both opinions
> are equally speculative, since the actual extent of differences and their
> significance is not apparently known.

So let's stop speculating and self-archive! To speculate more now is to
lose still more time -- time of which altogether too much has already
been lost.

> (I have asked that anyone with
> any actual scientific--not anecdotal-- evidence contact me off-list,
> and received a few replies hoping that I might supply some. I continue
> interested in such data.)

Why are these data and anecdotes important now? Isn't it filling the
80-90% empty OA cupboards ASAP that is the matter of importance and

> It is not exactly clear, (as above) whether what is being proposed is
> high quality maintained relatively inexpensive repositories like arXiv,
> high quality relatively expensive one like PubMed Central, University
> repositories of presumably variable quality and permanence, departmental
> repositories of presumable very variable quality and permanence, or any
> of the possible combinations and variations.

What is being proposed is 100% self-archiving. That's all. The other details
do not matter, and are only delaying us further, needlessly.

> Here at least something
> is known: for high-energy physics, asXiv has shown success and quality
> over a number of years. When the possible difficulties of extending
> this more universally are considered, and the timescale lengthened to
> decades and centuries, the unknown factors are greater.

The physicists are not worrying and speculating: They are self-archiving.
And their self-archived versions -- duplicates, supplements to the journal
version, which version persists as it always did -- are providing
continuous OA since 1991. If the physicists had instead worried and
speculated in 1991, 13 more years' worth of usage and impact would have
been needlessly lost.

> Some think the
> distinctions do not particularly matter, that as long as it is a compliant
> repository, one type is as good as another; others think very differently.
> Though there is a large realm for planning, much will inevitably be a
> matter of speculation, for not all of these matters can be accurately
> predicted in advance.

Let's not speculate; let's not predict: Let's self-archive!

> It took many centuries from the scientific revolution and the beginnings
> of scholarly libraries to reach our present level-- many centuries of
> planting (both good and inadequate), of experimentation (with variable
> results), unpredictable factors (both highly advantageous and disastrous,
> and increases of scale.

This is comparing apples and oranges. OA self-archiving is not providing
or evolving an alternative publication system: It is supplementing the
existing Toll-Access (TA) publication system with Self-Archived (SA)
versions, extras, bonusses: TA + SA = OA

We must stop slowing the growth of the SA supplement by worrying
needlessly about whether it will survive for centuries: Until further
notice, it is the TA original we should worry about, exactly as
before, if we are concerned with longevity. The SA version is just a bonus,
for immediate access, and it does that job just fine; it's been tested
and proven durable for at least 13 years. Use the next 13 years to worry
about its survival in perpetuum, if you must, but first let's get it up
from 10% to 100%!

> Our present level is relatively acceptable
> for those few who are scientists or students in some highly-favored
> universities or other establishments. Even for them, much better can be
> achieved with the techniques enabled by open access. For everyone else:
> less favored individual is the richer countries and everyone in the
> poorer, it is not acceptable, and can be seen as a technique of the
> elite for confining information to itself.

I don't know how the subject has suddenly changed from the problem of
the survival of the SA supplement to the problem of the inaccessibility
of the TA originals, but the latter problem is exactly what the SA
supplement is meant to remedy!

> It can reasonably be expected that the development time of the new system
> will also show difficulties and mis-steps. Some can be anticipated; some
> cannot. One possible error is very evident: not of the above questions should
> be allowed to hinder getting some form of open access established
> immediately. It cannot help but be an improvement, and the variations
> will provide needed experience for further development. And I am pleased
> that the press in general recognizes at least that.

The press does not recognise it; they just keep going on and on about OA
publishing; and as far as I can tell, those who go on and on about version
differences and preservation don't recognise it either. Otherwise they
would realize that the *only* difficulty worth speaking about today is
the difficulty in getting the 10-20% OA to grow to 100%, ASAP. Surely
no one thinks that speculating about versions and survival is the way
to get that to happen!

    "I worry about self-archiving because there may be many versions
    and there is no way to be sure which is which, and whether it is
    the right one."
    "I worry about self-archiving because archived eprints may not
    continue to exist or to be accessible in perpetuum on-line, the way
    they were on-paper."

See for the other 29 worries that
have been holding up OA for over a decade now.

Stevan Harnad

UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
policy of providing Open Access to your own research article output,
please describe your policy at:

    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.

A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at:
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Received on Tue Jul 27 2004 - 18:50:31 BST

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