Re: The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 2004 01:26:57 +0100 (BST)

On Wed, 11 Aug 2004, Fytton Rowland wrote:

> Stevan's reply to Brian is precisely what one would have expected him to
> say, given his previous statements. Like Stevan, I agree that
> peer-reviewed "journals" should stay, though exactly what a "journal" will
> look like in the middle-distance future is arguable. The majority of
> journals, as he also points out, are toll-access still.
> However, Brian had specifically talked about "in the long run". The
> issue, which Stevan usually specifically excludes talking about, but
> others of us may want to think about, is this: What happens if we are all
> merrily self-archiving our published papers, and thus no-one needs to buy
> journals any more, so they go out of business and thus can't organise the
> peer-review and editing processes any more? Stevan tends to say "let's
> self-archive and worry about the other thing if it happens". Others of us
> may wish to do slightly more pro-active crystal-ball gazing.

Actually, I tend to say I have stopped speculating about hypothetical
future contingencies in the interests of present certainties, but if
forced, I would repeat the speculation I have already made, and with which
I have already replied to this question many, many times before. Here
it is again in longhand (instead of just a link, which people apparently
tend to ignore):

4.2 Hypothetical Sequel:

Self-archiving is sufficient to free the refereed research literature
(steps i-iv, section 4.1). We can also guess at what may happen after
that, but these are really just guesses. Nor does anything depend on
their being correct. For even if there is no change whatsoever -- even
if Universities continue to spend exactly the same amounts on their
access-toll budgets as they do now -- the refereed literature will have
been freed of all access/impact barriers forever.

However, it is likely that there will be some changes as a consequence of
the freeing of the literature by author/institution self-archiving. This
is what those changes might be:

v. Users will prefer the free version?

    It is likely that once a free, online version of the refereed
    research literature is available, not only those researchers who
    could not access it at all before, because of toll-barriers at their
    institution, but virtually all researchers will prefer to use the
    free online versions.

    Note that it is quite possible that there will always continue to be
    a market for the toll-based options (on-paper version, publisher's
    on-line PDF, deluxe enhancements) even though most users use the
    free versions. Nothing hangs on this.

vi. Publisher toll revenues shrink, Library toll savings grow?

    But if researchers do prefer to use the free online literature,
    it is possible that libraries may begin to cancel journals, and as
    their windfall toll savings grow, journal publisher toll-revenues
    will shrink. The extent of the cancellation will depend on the
    extent to which there remains a market for the toll-based add-ons,
    and for how long.

    If the toll-access market stays large enough, nothing else need

vii. Publishers downsize to become providers of the peer-review
      service plus optional add-on products?

It will depend entirely on the size of the remaining market for the
toll-based options whether and to what extent journal publishers will
have to down-size to providing only the essentials: The only essential,
indispensable service is peer review.

viii. Peer-review service costs funded by author-institution out of
       reader-institution toll savings?

    If publishers can continue to cover costs and make a decent profit
    from the toll-based optional add-ons market, without needing to
    down-size to peer-review provision alone, nothing much changes.

    But if publishers do need to abandon providing the toll-based
    products altogether (for lack of a market) and to scale down instead
    to providing only the peer-review service, then universities, having
    saved 100% of their annual access-toll budgets, will have plenty of
    annual windfall savings from which to pay for their own researchers'
    continuing (and essential) annual journal-submission peer-review costs
    (10-30%); the rest of their savings (70-90%) they can spend as they
    like (e.g., on books -- plus a bit for Eprint Archive maintenance).


     Harnad, Stevan (2001/2003) For Whom the Gate
     Published as: Harnad, Stevan (2003) Open Access to Peer-Reviewed
     Research Through Author/Institution Self-Archiving:
     Maximizing Research Impact by Maximizing Online Access. In:
     Law, Derek & Judith Andrews, Eds. Digital Libraries:
     Policy Planning and Practice. Ashgate Publishing 2003.
     [Shorter version: Harnad S. (2003) Open Access to
     Peer-Reviewed Research through Author/Institution
     Self-Archiving: Maximizing Research Impact by
     Maximizing Online Access. Journal of Postgrad Medicine 49: 337-342.;year=2003;volume=49;issue=4;spage=337;epage=342;aulast=Harnad]
     and in: (2004) Historical Social Research (HSR) 29:1 [French
     version: Harnad, Stevan (2003) Ciélographie et ciélolexie:
     Anomalie post-gutenbergienne et comment la résoudre.
     In: Origgi, G. & Arikha, N. (eds) Le texte à l'heure de
     l'Internet. Bibliotheque Centre Pompidou: Pp. 77-103. ]

[Note added today: Those costs will be precisely the costs of what we
have now come to call "Open Access Journals" ("gold") -- Except that
today we are simply arbitrarily assuming what the essential products,
services and costs should and would be, whereas above it is the market
that decides what is essential and what can be dispensed with in a
green world (i.e., 100% OA through self-archiving), as well as how
much the true costs are. In other words, gold journals are premature:
OA itself, provided by green self-archiving, will sort out what the
essentials and their costs really are, and what options continue to have
a market. Today there is even still a market for the paper edition! It is
clearly premature to speculate about what people will want and be willing
to continue paying for in a 100% green (self-archived) world. We just
need to go ahead and do it, to find out. My own interest is in getting
that 100% OA provided as soon as possible, for the sake of research
and researchers, not in continuing to do next to nothing while
instead second-guessing the future (crystal-gazing!)! We've already had
more than a decade of that. I think part of this paralysis comes from
continuing to conflate the journal pricing/affordability problem with the
journal-article access/impact problem: They are not the same problem,
even though the first helped draw our attention to the second. Nor do
they have the same solution.]

See "Publishers' Future" and "Waiting for Gold" FAQs:

    Relevant Prior American-Scientist-Open-Access-Forum Subject Threads:

    "Savings from Converting to On-Line-Only: 30%- or 70%+ ?"
     (Started Aug 27 1998)

    "The Logic of Page Charges to Free the Journal Literature"
    (Started April 29 1999)

    "2.0K vs. 0.2K"
    (Started May 7 1999)

    "Online Self-Archiving: Distinguishing the Optimal from the Optional"
    (Started May 11 1999)

    The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)"
    (Started July 5 1999)

    "Separating Quality-Control Service-Providing from Document-Providing"
    (Started November 30 1999)

    "Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons"
    (Started July 2001)

    "Author Publication Charge Debate"
    (Started June 28 2001)

    "JHEP will convert from toll-free-access to toll-based access"
    (Started January 5 2002)

    "The True Cost of the Essentials"
    (Started April 2 2002)
    "The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review - NOT!)"
    (Started April 1 2002)
    "Journal expenses and publication costs"
    (Started January 10 2003)
    "Scientific publishing is not just about administering peer-review"
    (Started October 15 2003)
    "The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition"
    (Started January 7 2004)


    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.

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:
        To join the Forum:
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Received on Thu Aug 12 2004 - 01:26:57 BST

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