Re: Proposed update of BOAI definition of OA: Immediate and Permanent

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2005 03:39:50 +0000

On Sun, 13 Mar 2005, Leslie Chan wrote:

> I am against updating the BOAI definition of OA because I think the
> current definition is more than adequate

Leslie, do you think it is more than adequate that (1) 12-month
delayed-access (NIH Back Access) is being offered in place of immediate
access (and that if the BOAI definition of OA is not updated, this
could even be offered in the *name* of OA), (2) that this is being
used as a pretext for publisher Back-Sliding on Green (e.g., Nature),
(3) that these policies now risk being copied and cloned, and (4) that
this this could lock in Back Access in place of (and in the name of)
Open Access for many years to come?

    "Shulenburger on open access: so NEAR and yet so far"

    "Please Don't Copy-Cat Clone NIH-12 Non-OA Policy!"

    "Open Access vs. NIH Back Access and Nature's Back-Sliding"

And would you think it adequate if funders were to seek -- and publishers
to offer -- free access for a fixed period, subsequently withdrawn, in
the name of OA (as they could, technically, based on the current BOAI
definition of OA)?

> the proposed update is needlessly confusing...
> No one knows what "permanent" means in the digital realm,
> so why add that level of uncertainly.

Would it be confusing to say instead that free online access must be immediate
(upon acceptance for publication) and must not subsequently be withdrawn?
That captures the practical objective without asking for any clairvoyance or
omniscience on the subject of failsafe digital preservation.

> The current definition is sufficiently clear and sufficiently flexible to
> allow a broad range of approaches to OA

But the current definition is also sufficiently flexible so that I could
claim I publish an OA journal (gold) if it makes its articles freely
accessible online 24 months after publication for one day (only)!

I could also claim I publish an OA-friendly green journal if I give
my authors the green light to self-archive their articles for one day
(only), 24 months after publication.

If we are not ready to allow that an article to which you can have access
only if you (or your institution) pay an access-toll is either OA or
"partially OA" (or more OA the lower the access-price), then, by exactly
the same token, we should not be ready to allow that an article to which
you can have free access for only one day is either OA or "partially OA"
(or more OA the sooner or longer it is accessible free).

To allow either would immediately introduce a potential slippery slope that
would reduce "OA" to an absurdity.

> Let's agree that there are multiple flavours of OA (to use John
> Willinsky's term) and that there are no one-size-fits all solution for all
> circumstances.

But there *aren't* multiple flavours of OA: There are multiple *roads*
to OA (mainly the golden road of OA publishing and the green road
of OA self-archiving, plus combinations and variants thereof).

An article that is freely accessible online comes in only one flavour:
*freely accessible online*. But if it is obvious that an article that
is freely accessible online only for one day (or only a century after
publication) is no more OA than an article that is freely accessible to
me because my institution has paid the access-tolls, then it should be
obvious why immediacy and permanence need to be part of the definition
of OA.

One-day free access is no more a mere variant "flavor" of OA that merely
differs from the "flavor" of two-day free access than two-dollar toll
access is a different flavor of OA from one-dollar toll access: None
of these are OA, and our definition of OA should make this quite explicit
by specifying that OA must be immediate and permanent.

This does not imply that $1 toll-access is not preferable to $2 toll-access,
or 2-day free access to 1-day free access. It just makes it clear none of
these is OA!

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon Mar 14 2005 - 03:39:50 GMT

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