Re: The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Rick Anderson <>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 22:00:49 +0000

This will be my last attempt to drag the conversation back to the issue
I've been hoping we could discuss (as opposed to the question of whether
it's okay to discuss it); if this one doesn't work, I'll have to give
up. (Is that the faint sound of cheering I hear?):

Stevan Harnad wrote:

> the reason Rick keeps getting stuck in this one-sided choice between (1a)
> maximizing "prestige" and (1b) maximizing readership is that he thinks
> (1) Gold is the only OA option, or an option that somehow can and should
> be weighed independently of the other OA option, which is (2) Green.

(1) No, I do not believe that Gold is the only option.
(2) Yes, I do believe that it can (and must) be weighed independently of
the Green option -- at least, if you're planning to start up an OA
journal and start competing for authors with other journal publishers.

Let me hazard an analogy: if I want to drive from Reno to Los Angeles,
my primary options are two: I can take I-395 south through Carson City
and Bishop, or I can take I-80 west over the mountains, then south on
I-5. Both of those roads exist, and while I'm planning the trip I
should consider both of them. But when I embark, I'm going to have to
choose between the two. To suggest that the I-395 option cannot or
should not be weighed separately from the I-80 option is silly, and will
not help me get where I'm trying to go. The two roads are not
complementary sides of a single coin; they are mutually exclusive
options between which I must choose.

The marketplace can have both Green and Gold journals in it, of course,
but no single journal can be both Green and Gold. (The same is not true
of readership and prestige. A publication can simultaneously have high
readership and low prestige, or vice versa.) I'm trying to look at this
from the perspective of a publisher that wants to establish a new Gold
journal. How will that journal compete for authors in a marketplace
that gives authors other choices (especially if the publisher plans to
charge authors for the privilege of publishing in its new journal)?

Saying "authors will choose the Gold journal because it will have lots
of readers" is insufficient. To the degree that authors want readers,
it is primarily as a means to the end of greater prestige, and most
authors will happily submit their articles to toll-access journals
(despite the access barriers they place before readers) if doing so will
net them higher prestige. High-prestige, toll-access journals may be
Green, of course, and when they are that's wonderful. But do we
actually want to see new Gold journals emerge? If not, then I have
nothing more to say on the matter; let's encourage all journals to
choose the Green road and forget about the Gold one. But if we do want
to see new Gold journals, what can be done to help them compete for
authors with established, prestigious toll-access journals? I believe
that publishers of OA journals face some unique challenges in that
regard, and I've detailed those in the article I mentioned earlier.
Offering an author lots of readers is fine, but we're fooling ourselves
if we think that high readership is the author's ultimate goal and that
she will automatically prefer an OA publishing forum simply because it
minimizes barriers to access.

And by the way:

> are you suggesting that all 2.5 million articles currently published in
> the planet's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals could be rechanneled to just
> 1 of those 24,000 journals? No?

No. I'm suggesting that the relatively small number of OA journals has
no effect on any individual author's ability to submit an article to one
of those journals. You can defend the idea that there's only room in
those journals for 5% of the articles in the general marketplace, but
your assertion that "95% of authors today have no option *but* to
publish in a non-OA journal" is what doesn't make sense. (Which 95%?
Am I one of them? How would I know if I were?)

> Jim Till wrote: Two questions: 1) Which are the top three journals
> in which to publish articles about OA? 2) Of these, which ones
> are of a hue of green such that they permit self-archiving of the
> final peer-reviewed, accepted and edited version of the article?
> Jim Till University of Toronto

David Spurrett wrote:

> "Serials Review" is a peer-reviewed journal.
> "American libraries" does not appear to be peer-reviewed at all,
> although I'm not certain that it isn't. It looks a lot like a trade
> magazine from its web page.

That's right -- but it's beside the point, if we believe that all an
academic author cares about is attracting lots of readers. AL offers
many more readers than SR. If an author in the library field really
just wants to "maximize users," she will write for whatever publication
will offer her the most readers. In fact, she may well bypass the
formal publishing system altogether and simply post her article to a
website, throw in some good metadata tags and mention it in a few
carefully-selected discussion groups. Will this approach yield her much
in the way of scholarly reputation, or help her to earn tenure?
Probably not. Will it bring her lots of readers? Probably so.

> Rick Anderson's example therefore seems irrelevant to the question
> what of two journals, both equivalent in respect of being
> peer-reviewed, an author might or should prefer.

Being equivalent in the respect of peer review doesn't mean being
equivalent in the ability to confer prestige on authors. There are
differences in prestige between peer-reviewed journals, and journals
gain prestige gradually over time. Instead of taking up a lot more
bandwidth here with a rehash of my concerns in this regard, let me refer
you to the new issue of Serials Review that David Goodman mentioned in
his recent posting; my article in that issue treats the three areas that
I believe are going to pose problems (at least in the short term) for
new OA journals in an author-competitive marketplace.
Rick Anderson
Dir. of Resource Acquisition
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
(775) 784-6500 x273
Received on Tue Dec 14 2004 - 22:00:49 GMT

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