Re: June 27 2004: The 1994 "Subversive Proposal" at 10

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 1 Oct 2004 16:49:09 +0100

Richard Poynder has written a short and insightful chronological
survey and analysis of the past OA decade that makes me a little less
apprehensive about being grilled by him next week in Information Today's
public roast.

The article:

    Poynder on Point
    Ten Years After
    By Richard Poynder
    Information Today 21(9)
    October 1 2004

    "The open access (OA) movement has had some big wins this year:
    In July, a cross-party group of British politicians called on the
    U.K. government to make all publicly funded research accessible to
    everyone "free of charge, online." That same month, the U.S. House
    of Representatives Committee on Appropriations recommended that
    all NIH-funded research be made freely available 6 months after
    publication. But where did the OA movement come from, and where is
    it taking us?"

The roast:

    What Is Open Access? A Live Interview
    Internet Librarian International 2004.
    London. 11 October, 2004.

    "Green roads, gold roads, free roads, toll roads -- descriptions of
    the world's various and sundry open access initiatives tend to be
    full of colourful metaphors. What is "open access" and what does
    it have to do with internet librarians? In this special session,
    you'll have the opportunity to catch up on the topic and then tell us
    what the issues are from your point of view. Following the session --
    and a companion event scheduled in November in the United States --
    Information Today will publish the results."

Poynder's survey and analysis omits one seminal contributor to OA
progress, and that is the gentle, ecumenical, and indefatigable Peter
Suber, who not only understood it all well before most others did, but
is now everyone's first port of call when it comes to keeping up with
the increasingly fast and frequent developments in OA.

Poynder's article is just the first of two. He closes with:

    "In Part Two, I will explore in more detail how publishers are
    responding and pose the question: Is the self-archiving roadmap as
    straightforward as Harnad claims, or even sustainable?"

Although I have largely stuck to what is certain and already demonstrated
by solid evidence -- that (1) self-archiving is feasible, that (2)
it is sufficient to provide 100% OA, immediately, and that (3) it will
dramatically enhance research impact -- I am as capable as anyone else
of speculating about the future, and the passage quoted below, I think,
covers all the possible outcomes. (In terms of how thoroughly this
passage has been ignored, it has been second only to my recommendation
to self-archive itself!). The passage is quoted from:

    For Whom the Gate Tolls?

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.
Received on Fri Oct 01 2004 - 16:49:09 BST

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