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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2004 18:29:20 EDT

On Tue, 27 Jul 2004, Jan Velterop wrote:

> Stevan Harnad wrote: The press just keeps on missing the mark!
> The mark is Open Access... The press is not missing that mark...
> Which tactical or strategic method is being used to get to Open Access
> is perhaps a secondary mark, not of interest to the press.

The mark is Open Access (OA). How we get to that mark is of primary
importance, whether or not of secondary interest to the press. When the
press misses or misrepresents the historically important recommendations
of the recent UK (and US) Committees, they miss and misrepresent how and
why it is recommended that we get where. To miss that is to miss the mark,
primary, secondary, or otherwise.

To be more specific: When the specific recommendation of both UK and US
Committees is to mandate OA self-archiving of authors' published journal
articles, it is a misrepresentation to call that a recommendation to
publish in OA journals, or a recommendation for OA publishing.

The correct summary of the UK recommendations is this:

    (UK-1) Mandate author-institution OA self-archiving of all UK-funded
    research output (and fund and support the practise, as needed)

    (UK-2) Fund author-institution costs of publishing in OA journals

    (UK-3) Fund and support further experimentation with the OA journal
    publishing cost-recovery model

The correct summary of the US recommendation is this:

    (US-1) Mandate author OA self-archiving of all NIH-funded research

The reason it matters what the press reports is that press reports
influence what the public learns and understands and does about OA. The
public includes the tax-payers who are meant to be behind this mandate
and, even more important, the university administrators and grant-funding
officers who are meant to implement it, and, more important still, the
researchers who are meant to comply with it (and benefit from it).

Dwelling instead -- irrelevantly and misleadingly -- on what the reports
did *not* recommend mandating -- namely OA publishing -- not only fails to
convey what they actually did recommend, but it propagates and prolongs
the prevailing and persisting misunderstandings about OA and how to reach
it that have so long delayed OA itself.

OA is the target, and that target will not be reached by waiting for OA
publishing (gold). It will be reached, immediately, by OA self-archiving
(green), which is what both reports recommended mandating. Implementing
that mandate depends on authors, their universities, and their funders,
not on publishers or publishing.

If journal publishers are to be pressured to do anything at all, it is to
go green, not gold -- i.e., to give their official green light to
author-institution self-archiving, as they have already done for 84% of
their journals:
Mandated self-archiving will help raise that green percentage to 100%:

> The target is Open Access, whichever arrows we use, even if the press is
> confused about the colour of the arrows' vanes. What's important is that
> they do not lose sight of the target.

It's not about color confusion, it's about concept-confusion,
strategy-confusion, target-confusion -- and the press's failure to
convey the essence of both recommendations. OA is the end, and mandated
self-archiving is the means. That's what needs to be understood by
journalists, and that is the understanding that needs to be conveyed to
their readers. *Then* the opinions can be solicited, and that chat-show
panorama so favoured by today's journalists and readers can be duly

But first get the facts straight.

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 - 23:29:20 BST

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