Re: Bean Counting

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 13:27:52 +0000

On Thu, 10 Mar 2005, Matthew Cockerill wrote:

> the fact that only, perhaps, 5% of journals are
> 'Gold' (i.e. offer immediate full Open Access) does not by any means imply
> that there is only a 5% chance of finding an appropriate Open Access journal
> for one's research.

We have been through this issue many times now in this Forum: In
principle, one could publish the 2.5 million articles that are currently
published in the world's 24,000 journals all in *one* journal instead
too (and I don't doubt that there are many publishers who would like
to be the publisher of that one mega-journal!). But that's not how
it works. Journals differ (and compete) in subject matter, contents,
quality, track-record, refereeing standards, impact factor. I think
it is extremely unrealistic (and wishful thinking) to imagine that we
could or should squeeze much or most of today's 100% literature into 5%
of its journals (and recent journals, to boot). More important, authors
(who don't yet even know enough about OA and its benefits to self-archive
the articles they already publish in their journals of choice so as to
make them OA *without* giving up their current journals of choice) are
unlikely to want to take the more radical step of giving up their current
journals of choice in favor of the new 5%, *just because they are OA*!

That is not to say that *some* authors will not be ready to do that:
Just that most will not, and hence it is the institutional self-archiving
route (with 92% of journals already green) that has the real immediate OA
growth potential -- and all it needs now is the adoption of institutional
OA self-archiving policies.

> The range of 'Gold' open access journals, at least in
> the biomedical field, is now so large that for pretty much any conceivable
> paper, there are several potentially suitable 'Gold' Open Access journals
> for an author to choose from.

Out of a much wider range of potentially suitable Green journals they
already publish in (92%). The weasel-word here is "suitable." I (as
publisher) may think that my new journal is perfectly suitable for many,
many authors. But the authors may not think so. They may prefer their
established journals. Also relevant: they clearly do not yet value OA
enough to reach for it via *either* Gold or Green (even though they are
reaching for it via Green at least three times as much (15%)).

Moreover, OA Green self-archiving can be made an institutional policy (i.e.,
a requirement to deposit all articles in the institutional repository, for
record-keeping and performance evaluation purposes).

But an institution cannot require its authors to publish in journals other than
the ones they *choose* to publish in (though they can encourage it, and help fund it).

> So I'm unclear why you continue to suggest
> that this 5% figure in itself a major obstacle to publishing in a 'Gold' OA
> journal. The 5% figure is simply a reflection of the fact that currently,
> only a subset of researchers publish in OA titles, just as currently only a
> minority self-archive.

But (even without mentioning, again, the 5%/100% camel/needle problem
discussed above), every institution is about 3 days of sysad time and a
$2000 linux server away from having a repository for all of its research
output to be deposited in for years to come, without any author having
to switch journals, whereas increasing the number of Gold journals or
persuading authors to give up their preferred journals in favor of the
ones that exist is a rather more improbable task (and even illogical,
since there is in fact no *need* to persuade authors to give up their
current journals in order to achieve 100% OA!).

That said, I quite agree that there is room for a lot more articles in
BMJ journals (in some cases a *lot* more room!). In my view, BMJ is more
likely to be able to expand dramatically only *after* 100% OA has been
reached via green self-archiving and even then only *if and when* 100%
OA should ever generate cancellation pressure on the 95% non-OA journals
(which may never happen, or only after a long time), forcing them either
to convert to the OA cost-recovery model or risk having their titles
migrate to publishers (like BMC) who are ready to do so. By that time,
of course (if it ever came ), the cancellations themselves would be
generating the institutional windfall savings (nonexistent now) out of
which they could pay the OA publishing costs.

But this is all just abstract armchair speculation: Today's concrete reality
is that there is already a way to reach 100% OA immediately via Green -- and
all that is now needed is systematic institutional self-archiving policies to
ensure that it is reached!

> But the 5% figure is no more of an absolute obstacle
> to the growth of 'Gold' OA publication, than the current (fairly low) rate
> of self-archiving is an absolute block to more self-archiving in the future.

The adoption of institutional self-archiving policies -- as will (one hopes!)
now be officially recommended by the Berlin Declaration -- will remedy that
promptly. There is no corresponding expedient for Gold, except to encourage and
fund it (which will also be part of the Berlin Declaration's recommendation).

Stevan Harnad

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Received on Thu Mar 10 2005 - 13:27:52 GMT

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