Re: Are Chemical Journals Too Expensive and Inaccessible?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2004 22:26:44 +0100

Prior Amsci Topic Thread:

    "Are Chemical Journals Too Expensive and Inaccessible?"

    Below is a somewhat asymmetric (read "unbalanced"!) summary of the
    NAS Roundtable Workshop, National Academy of Sciences. Washington
    DC 25-26 October 2004: "Are Chemical Journals too Expensive and

    My summary is unbalanced, but only to redress the huge imbalance on
    the workshop programme itself, which focussed (like so many other
    Open Access [OA]-related meetings today) almost exclusively on OA
    Journal Publishing (the "golden" road to OA) rather than on OA itself,
    to the neglect of the OA self-archiving of non-OA journal articles
    by their authors (the "green" road to OA).

The NAS Workshop "Are Chemical Journals too Expensive and Inaccessible"
devoted 95% of its time to the problem of Cost and only 5% to the problem
of Access. As a consequence, most of the discussion was focused on the
"golden" road to Open Access [OA], and particularly the OA Journal
Cost-Recovery Model (author-institution pays publication costs per outgoing
article rather than user-institution pays costs per incoming journal):
Is gold desirable? Is gold viable? What might gold do to journal revenues
and survival if it prevailed?

Since fewer than 5% of journals are gold so far, this means that 95% of
the NAS Workshop was devoted to the "5% Solution" to the Access problem.

In contrast, the "95% solution," the "green" road to OA -- which is for
the authors of the articles in the 95% of journals that are *not* gold
to provide OA to their own articles individually by self-archiving them
in their own institutional OA Archives (or in a Central OA Archive like
PubMed Central or ArXiv) -- was given only 5% of the time and attention,
despite the fact that over 92% of journals are already green! That means
that although they are not ready to take the risk of converting to gold
(i.e., giving away their contents online toll-free), green journals do
not wish to stand in the way of OA itself, and its benefits to authors,
and hence they give their individual authors the official green light
to self-archive their own articles if they wish to make them OA.

The relevance of this to this particular workshop, which was focused
on the Chemical Sciences, is particularly salient, for, unlike the
American Physical Society (APS) -- which is already green, and whose
Editor-in-Chief, Marty Blume set a fine example, along with Nick
Cozzarelli, Editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences (PNAS), for the American Chemical Society (ACS) to follow --
the ACS is not yet green (even though the Royal Society of Chemistry
[RSC] already is).

One could forgive the ACS for not getting a clear message from the sense
of this Workshop, though, because with all the attention that was being
given to gold, one could get the wrong impression that what was being
urged upon ACS was that it should convert to gold! Yet in reality all
ACS need do now in order to be on the side of the angels is to go green:
That is all that the APS and RSC have done, and the PNAS have only gone
a little further by adopting a policy ("optional gold") of giving each
author the option of paying PNAS to make his own article OA for him
(rather than simply making it OA for himself, by self-archiving it in his
own institutional archive, as he could do instead, with PNAS's blessing,
PNAS also being green!).

(PNAS has also made all of its back-contents fully accessible online
as of 6 months after publication, which is an extremely commendable and
welcome step, but it is not Open Access, which pertains particularly to the
growth region of research, which begins the day the peer-reviewed draft
is accepted for publication -- and, at the author's discretion, even
earlier, in the pre-refereeing preprint stage. The 6-month access-delay
after publication is not OA but merely the Shulenburger NEAR proposal of
1998: ).

ACS is already quite close to becoming green, with a policy that provides
all ACS authors with a special URL that connects with ACS and automatically
generates a free "eprint" for the first fifty requesters. Now it is important
to understand that if the ACS simply (1) removed the 50-eprint limit and
(2) made that URL public for every ACS article, then that would amount
to the ACS's immediately turning into a 100% *gold* publisher without
even asking the author to pay for it, as the PNAS does! This is
certainly *not* what the Workshop is urging ACS to do: APS and RSC
are not gold, and PNAS is only optional-gold. At the Workshop, only
PLoS was a gold publisher (represented by Vivien Siegel).

Converting only to green, like APS and RSC, would be far less risky and
radical for ACS: It would just mean giving each ACS author the green light
to self-archive his own final, peer-reviewed draft (but not necessarily
the ACS PDF) in his own institutional OA Archive (or, optionally, but
not necessarily, in a central OA Archive such as PubMed Central or Arxiv).

Why would an author want to self-archive? The data from collaborative ISI
citation studies conducted in the UK, Germany and Canada and presented
by me (Stevan Harnad) showed that across fields -- physics, mathematics,
chemistry, biological sciences, social sciences -- articles made OA by
self-archiving have a significantly (and sometimes substantially) higher
citation impact than non-OA articles in the very same journal and year. OA
articles also have a higher download impact. This all stands to reason
as OA articles can be accessed by far more potential users than just
those whose institutions can afford the paid-access to the journal.
It also means that authors are losing research impact daily until they
self-archive their articles.

ACS going green will demonstrate ACS's support for Open Access and the
enhanced research impact it provides, thereby immunizing ACS from criticism
and pressure from the movement for OA worldwide, and it will encourage ACS
authors to maximise the usage and impact of their research even before
the self-archiving mandates currently being contemplated or already
proposed in the UK, US, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, Norway,
Switzerland, Scotland, Japan, India and elsewhere are actually implemented.
Most important, it will show historically that ACS did not try to
stand in the way of ACS authors wishing to maximize the impact of their

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Oct 28 2004 - 22:26:44 BST

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