Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 15 May 2005 02:57:11 +0100

    Prior AmSci Topic Thread begins:
    "Free Access vs. Open Access" (August, 2003)

In "The Spectrum of E-Journal Access Policies: Open to Restricted Access"

Charles Bailey proposes a rather abundant new spectrum of color codes
to add to the ones we have already (Gold: OA Journal; Green: Gives Green
Light to Author Self-Archiving; Gray: Neither Gold nor Green). Charles
proposes reassigning "Green" to "Gold" and adding "Cyan," Yellow,"
"Orange" and "Red" (hinting there might be more!).

    A Plea For Chrononomic Parsimony and a Focus on What Really Matters

                Stevan Harnad

Ah me! There's no legislating color tastes or color codes, but could I put
in a plea on behalf of the original purpose of doing the color-coding in
the first place? It definitely was not in order to assign a hue to every
conceivable variant of either (i) journal copyright policy or (ii)
journal economic policy. There aren't enough colors under the sun to
tag every possible variant of either of those two, and *who cares*!

What we care about, presumably, is making sure that all would-be users
have immediate, permanent, webwide online access to all research journal
articles, rather than just those for which their institutions can afford
to pay the access-tolls: I take it that that is what all the fuss about
journal prices and IP is about. It is not an exercise in l'art
pour l'art.

So the only two pertinent distinctions insofar as immediate, permanent, webwide
online access to research journal articles is concerned are these:

    "The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access"

(1) Does the *journal* make the full-texts of all of its articles
immediately and permanently accessible to all would-be users webwide
toll-free? If it does, the journal is an "Open Access Journal." Color
it GOLD. Never mind what its cost-recovery model is: It could have
many. Never mind what its copyright policy is: It doesn't matter, because
the purpose of the "open access" movement was to get immediate, permanent,
toll-free, full-text, webwide online access, and Gold journals provide
it. End of story. Nothing about republication rights, paper distribution
rights, etc. etc. That is all completely irrelevant.

Second distinction. No need even to ask about it if the journal is Gold, as you
already have what you wanted. But what if the journal is not Gold? (Reminder: That
means it does *not* provide immediate, permanent, toll-free, full-text online
access to all of its articles webwide.)

(2) Does the journal give its authors the green light to self-archive
their own articles so as to provide immediate, permanent, toll-free,
full-text online webwide access to each of their own articles? If it does,
color the journal GREEN. (Green comes in two shades, because articles have
two embryological stages: pre- and post-peer-review. Color the journal
Pale-Green if it only gives its green light to the self-archiving of
pre-peer-review preprints and full Green if it gives its green light to
the self-archiving of the post-peer-review postprint.)

Lemma (trivial): All Gold journals are, a fortiori, also Green. (*Please*
let's not waste time talking about it!)

Other utter irrelevancies to avoid (and, a fortiori, to avoid assigning
a color code to, since the colors are meant to draw attention to what
is relevant, and not to immortalize every distinction anyone could
conceivably become fascinated by:

(a) It is irrelevant (to the open access movement) what the copyright
transfer agreement or license is *if the publisher is Green.* Let us not start
eulogizing Creative Commons Licenses in all their variants. They are lovely,
highly commendable, but *irrelevant* if the publisher is Green (insofar as open
access is concerned, which is, for those of you who may already have forgotten:
immediate, permanent, webwide access to the full-text of the journal
article, toll-free, online).

    "Making Ends Meet in the Creative Commons"

(b) It is irrelevant (to the open access movement) what the publisher says about
the website where the author may self-archive his own article: it doesn't matter
if it's called "home page," "personal website," "institutional server,"
"institutional repository," "institutional archive," or what have you. And on no
account assign -- to all those arbitrary distinctions in how your employer elects
to label your personal disk-sector -- a color code of its very own!

(c) Time is a continuum, like space. Please don't try to color-code
it either. If a publisher is green, that means the green light
to self-archive immediately, not in 6 weeks, 6 months, or six
years. Embargoed back-access is not what the open access movement (or
research progress) is about. A publisher that does not give the immediate
green light is not a Green publisher.

Have I left anything out? Oh yes, the distinction between "free" and
"open" access (which is beginning to take on the mystical overtones of the
holy trinity or transsubtantiation for some). There is no difference. All
the uses for which the open access movement was formed -- and let us
*please* not forget that it was the new online medium that spawned the OA
movement: it is all about access *online*, not about redistribution rights
*on paper*, nor about republication rights -- come with the territory
(which is, in case you have forgotten [repeat with me]: immediate,
permanent, toll-free, webwide full-text access online).

For those bent on replaying all the nuances and shades of
meaning inherent in this semiological exercise, you are welcome to plow
through the long thread entitled "Free Access vs. Open Access" in
the American Scientist Open Access Forum

But if you're willing to trust me, don't bother. The only relevant color
there is Red -- as in Herring.

Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S., Gingras, Y,
Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E. (2004)
The Access/Impact Problem and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access. Serials Review 30 (4) 2004

Harnad, Stevan (2005) Fast-Forward on the Green Road to Open Access: The Case
Against Mixing Up Green and Gold. Ariadne 42(January).
Received on Sun May 15 2005 - 02:57:11 BST

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