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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2004 20:38:22 +0100

> PoliSci: House acts on research access
> Dee Ann Divis, United Press International 8/4/2004
> Congress is moving to force a shift to "open access," a form of
> free-to-consumer publishing, for scientific papers.

This is incorrect. The House Appropriations Committee merely recommends that
a further requirement be added to the conditions for receiving federal
research funding: It is already a requirement that the funded research
findings must be published in peer-reviewed journals, so that they can
be read, used, applied and built upon. The new requirement is that the
(peer-reviewed) findings must also be self-archived on the web (for
those would-be users worldwide whose institutions cannot afford the
journal version).

Many have misconstrued the House Committee recommendation as
requiring authors to publish in Open Access (OA) Journals instead of
in their traditional journals. (OA journals do not charge the
user-institution for access; they charge the author-institution for

    Harnad, S. (1995) Electronic Scholarly Publication: Quo Vadis? Serials
    Review 21(1) 70-72 (Reprinted in Managing Information 2(3) 1995)

But that is not what the House Committee recommended. There are two roads
to OA. (1) OA Journal Publishing is one of them -- the "golden road"
to OA -- and (2) OA Self-Archiving of non-OA journal articles by their
authors is the other road: The "green" road to OA.

    Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S.,
    Gingras, Y, Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E. (2004)
    The green and the gold roads to Open Access. Nature Web Focus.

Only 5% of the existing 24,000 journals are gold, but 84% of them are
already green, i.e., they have given their authors the green light to

In this light, the following makes no sense against green, and
is simply a misunderstanding if the Appropriations Committee's
recommendation is misconstrued as requiring gold:

> The move angers commercial publishers, who see their livelihoods
> threatened

Mandatory self-archiving of funded research has next to no bearing on
publishers' livelihoods. 84% of journals have given their green light to
self-archiving already. This mandate merely requires funded researchers
to take them up on that green light, and encourages the 16% that are still
gray to become green too (or risk losing their authors to green journals).

> Peer-reviewed journals are the life's blood of scientific research.

Correct, and the Appropriations Committee's recommendation changes
nothing as regards peer review!

> But prices for journals have skyrocketed.

True, but irrelevant. Self-archiving is about increasing access, not
about decreasing prices.

> High prices are closely linked to a lack of access to research
> results.

Not when articles are self-archived. And that is the point!

> The copyrights for the articles are largely held by
> the journal publishers. Some [articles] eventually are made
> available online for free, but many, if not most, are not.

Most are not, but not because of their publishers! It is purely because
of their authors that 84% of the annual 2,500,000 peer-reviewed journal
articles published are not yet OA! It required a mandate to ensure that
those authors published at all ("publish or perish"). It now requires a
mandate that they should provide OA to their articles, by self-archiving
them. That's what the Appropriations Committee recommends (as a condition
for receiving US funding for the conduct of the research).

> Commercial publishers in particular are archiving articles and charging
> for access.

Commercial and non-commercial publishers alike are charging for access.
But 84% of them have already given their authors the green light to
supplement this toll-access with OA for all would-be users whose
institutions cannot afford the access-tolls. The Appropriations Committee
is merely recommending that funded researchers be required to do just
that, as a condition for receiving research funding.

> The accumulation of price increases appears to be what has angered
> Congress -- that and the fact federal dollars support much of the
> research written about in the papers.

But Congress's anger is about access-denial to the findings of funded
research in particular, not about pricing. Product prices are not
generally within the purview of Congress. The conditions for receiving
research funding are.

> [publishers] are worried that free publication would kill their
> financial base.

The mandate, to repeat, is not for free (OA) publication (gold).
It is for self-archiving by US fundees!

Will self-archiving kill off journals' financial basis? There is no
evidence that it will, and considerable evidence that it will not --
but it might. There is some risk in going green. But far less risk than
in going gold.

Here are six of the reasons why 84% of journals have already gone green:

    (1) OA is Optimal and Inevitable for Research and Researchers:
    Open Access (OA) is clearly on the way. Its benefits to research and
    researchers -- in terms of enhanced research usage and impact -- are
    demonstrated and undeniable. Its progress is unstoppable. Going green
    is a natural way for research journal publishers to show support
    for OA and confirm that they are not in conflict with what is in
    the best interests of research and researchers. Opposing OA today
    is becoming increasingly bad public relations for journal publishers.

    (2) Green is a Hedge Against Gold: At the same time, the risks of
    converting to OA journal publishing ("gold") are still considerable:
    There are still uncertainties about who will pay and with what, and
    how much it should cost and for what. The OA cost-recovery model has
    not yet been tested long, and only by about 5% of journals. Hence
    going green is a rational hedge against pressure to go gold:
    "If authors want OA so badly, let them show it by providing it for
    themselves, with our green light and blessing, rather than pressuring
    us to make all the sacrifices, and take all the risk upon ourselves."

    (3) The Risk of Going Green is Low: There are physics journals that
    have been effectively green since 1991, and some of their contents
    have been 100% OA through self-archiving for years now, yet their
    subscription revenues have not eroded. The American Physical Society
    (APS) was the first green publisher. One physics journal (JHEP),
    born gold (subsidised), even converted back to green, successfully,
    by migrating to a green publisher (IOP).

    (4) If/When It Ever Came To That, Green Would Allow Publishers
    a Gradual Leveraged Transition to Gold: OA growth by author
    self-archiving is gradual and anarchic, article by article, rather
    than journal by journal. It gives journal publishers time to adapt to
    OA. If and when there should ever be a transition to gold, a prior
    green preparatory phase will allow this to be a stable leveraged
    transition rather than an abrupt and catastrophic one.

    (5) OA Enhances Journal Impact Too: Enhanced impact not only benefits
    reasearch, as well as authors and their careers, but it benefits
    journals too, as the journal impact factor (which helps sell journals)
    is the average of its articles' individual impacts.

    (6) Research Institutions and Funders Will Soon Be Mandating
    Self-Archiving: The US House Appropriations Committee and the UK
    Parliament Science and Technology Committee have both recommended
    that self-archiving be mandatory for funded research. As this mandate
    is implemented, it will produce pressure for journals to go green
    or risk losing their authors. It accordingly makes more sense to
    anticipate this mandate by going green 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 Thu Aug 05 2004 - 20:38:22 BST

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