Re: Evolving Publisher Copyright Policies On Self-Archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2005 13:03:44 +0000

On Tue, 18 Jan 2005, David Goodman wrote:

> I suggest it is time that OA [self-archiving] advocates upgrade
> our standards.

It seems to me that with OA self-archiving not yet being done
for more than about 15% of the 2.5 million articles published annually,
OA's problem is not low-grade standards but low-volume content.

And that the way to encourage the remaining 85% of non-self-archiving
authors to go ahead and do it is not by raising the bar and increasing
the barriers.

And that the way to encourage more publishers to give their green light
to OA self-archiving is likewise not to raise the bar or fault the 92% of
journals that are already green (79% postprint green and 13% preprint
green) but to encourage the remaining 85% of authors to act on the
green light they already have.

> The self-archiving of posprints whose reliability and correctness is unknown
> is a very poor excuse for the real version.

A very poor excuse for whom? For all those would-be users of those
articles who would otherwise have had no access to them all, because their
institutions could not afford the non-OA version? Isn't the purpose of OA to
provide access for them?

A poor excuse for the authors of the 85% of articles that are not yet being
self-archived at all? A poor excuse for what? For not doing even more than
they are already not doing now?

Or a poor excuse for the 15% of authors who have self-archived their articles?
Are they to be faulted, and the bar raised higher for them too?

Or a poor excuse for the publishers of the 92% of journals that have given their
green light to self-archiving, and not taken up on it by their authors?

Uncertain reliability and correctness? On whose behalf is this call for upgrading
the (mostly non-existent) self-archived OA content being made?

> It adds complexity for students,

Complexity for students? Are the 85% of researchers who do not yet self-archive
their articles, and the 15% who already do self-archive their articles, now being
asked to do *more* than self-archive the refereed, accepted final drafts of the
2.5 million peer-reviewed journal articles, most of them used only by other
researchers? More than what 92% of journals have given them the green light to do?
And more than what 15% of them already do (and 85% still don't) now?

And do it in order to make things simpler for students?

> and in fact makes it necessary for a research to... either
> use published articles only, or verify for each article used that the
> 2 versions do in fact match.

I have great difficulty following this: Use published articles only? Aren't
published articles what we are talking about providing Open Access to?

Or is this referring to the author's final, refereed accepted draft versus
the publisher's PDF? Well the *premise* of OA is that not every would-be
user happens to have access to the publisher's PDF. That's the problem
OA self-archiving is intended to solve.

Is David Goodman proposing that we should keep users deprived of
access until "standards are upgraded" by publishers agreeing to the
self-archiving of their proprietary PDFs?

And does David think "upgrading standards" is what will provide
OA to the currently missing 85% of the annual 2.5 million articles?

Of course scholarship dictates that in order to be absolutely sure
one is using or citing the verbatim published text, one needs to check
the published text. But how often -- in the daily desktop use of the
annual 2.5 million articles by researchers -- does David Goodman think
that verbatim checking is either necessary or done (where the PDF is

David's paradigm seems to be the hapless scholar, in possession of the
author's refereed final draft, but obliged to make the extra effort of
seeking the publisher's PDF to check whether a passage is precisely as the
author's postprint has it. (Please try to put a percentage on that case.)

My paradigm is the hapless researcher, who has *no access at all*
-- to either the author's self-archived postprint nor the publisher's
PDF. (Please put a percentage on that: It will be all would-be users
worldwide whose institutions cannot afford the toll-access version of
85% of the 2.5 million annual articles in the 24,000 journals.)

Then re-think the recommendation that what we need to do now is to
"upgrade standards" -- rather than to self-archive that remaining 85%!

> (preprints are another matter: they serve the same function electronically
> that they did in Xerox: to make the author's draft available before
> formal publication.or even before refereeing if so desired)

For all those would-be users whose institutions cannot afford access to
the published PDF, the "formal publication" time is immaterial, for they
have access neither before nor after, unless the author self-archives
the postprint! And that (not journal prices!) is what OA is about.

> It was right to use this admittedly less than perfect method as a first
> step towards publisher acceptance. I think we can now ask for better,
> and find our request matched by the more forward-thinking of publishers.

Ninety-two percent of journals agree to author self-archiving because of
the alleged desire of the research community for OA, 85% of researchers
don't yet bother to do go ahead and do it, and our "next step" is to be
to ask publishers -- rather than the researchers -- to do more?

If I were a publisher who had been responsive and responsible enough
to the research community's expressed desire for OA to give authors the
green light to self-archive -- only to see that 85% don't bother to do
it, and only come back asking for still more -- I doubt that I would be
quite so credulous about the research community's alleged need for OA
the second time!

The second step, after receiving the green light, is to self-archive. When
OA reaches 100%, and *if* that is still found wanting, we can talk about
"upgrading standards" then. But certainly not now.

> Poliically, it seems that it seems to be of little value to ask for
> just a compromise, as we watch the NIH proposal become weaker and weaker.

This is mixing apples and oranges. Publishers voluntarily went
green in response to researchers' expressed desire for the benefits
of OA. (Publishers going green wasn't necessary: 100% self-archiving
could have been reached without publishers giving it the green light,
and in some sub-areas 100% self-archiving was already reached years
ago. But publishers going green helped; it served as encouragement for
some sluggish self-archivers, and it confirmed the publishers' commitment
not to stand in the way of OA, if their authors want it so much.)

The NIH mandate is something else. I agree that it is a great pity
that it is being made weaker and weaker. But that regrettable (and
counterproductive) compromise on the part of NIH has nothing to do with
what green publishers have already agreed to -- and authors have not
yet done. Indeed, the NIH mandate is intended so as to get more authors
to do it. But in biomedical research 12 months after publication is not
Open Access any more, it's Ancient History!

So the fact that the NIH compromise is bad does not mean that it would
be a "compromise" to accept and act upon the publishers' green light such as
it is. What is David proposing? That authors refuse to self-archive
until/unless publishers tell them they can self-archive the PDF? But
they're already not self-archiving! Should the authors who threatened to
boycott publishers unless they became gold (OA) publishers now threaten to
boycott self-archiving unless publishers allow PDF self-archiving? Empty
threat, since they're hardly self-archiving anyway, and that's hardly skin
off the publisher's nose, who can point to it as evidence that researchers
don't really mean what they say about needing and wanting OA so much!

> I note that (even) the American Physiological Society now says it makes
> more sense to deposit the actual article. To insert from liblicense:
> "We already make content available on the Web at 12 months through
> links at Medline," said Alice Ra'anan, American Physiological Society
> spokesperson. "They'd be better off using the definitive article rather
> than the manuscript. "

And now David Goodman adds his own advice: "They'd be better of holding out
for the green light to self-archive the definitive article, rather than
self-archiving the refereed, accepted final draft now."

There is parity here: The APS (worthy of Marie Antoinette) says "let them
eat Ancient History" (instead of OA now); David recommends "let them
upgrade standards" (instead of OA now). And I say: OA now. It is within
reach. We need only grasp it. Fussing instead about "upgrading standards"
is merely distracting us from what really needs to be done, now.

Stevan Harnad

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Scientist Open Access Forum on behalf of Stevan Harnad
> Sent: Mon 1/17/2005 2:25 PM
> Subject: Re: Evolving Publisher Copyright Policies On
> Self-Archiving
> On the list of publishers at:
> is it the case that any publisher that is green is also pale-green?
> [Reply: Not necessarily, but it does not matter much. Open Access
> is about postprints, so if a journal is postprint green, it's
> as green as it needs to be, and as green as 100% OA needs it to
> be. The unrefereed preprint is an added bonus to OA. All authors
> may self-archived their pre-refereeing preprints without needing
> the green light from anyone. But it is always more encouraging to
> an author if the publisher endorses preprint self-archiving too.
> -- S.H.]
Received on Wed Jan 19 2005 - 13:03:44 GMT

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