Re: Journal Publishing and Author Self-Archiving: Complementary Or Competitive?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 17:00:59 +0100

On Thu, 25 Aug 2005 Jan Velterop <> wrote:

> as much of the value of a published article derives from its formal
> certification, and self-archived articles are not nearly as valuable
> without that (non-peer-reviewed articles always have the 'vanity
> publishing' cloud hanging over them), this is an inherently parasitical
> situation.


Jan Velterop is certainly right that self-archived articles would be far less
valuable without the journal-managed peer-review -- indeed, they would not be
"articles" at all, but merely unrefereed preprints. That is why the primary target
of OA self-archiving is the refereed postprint.

But the trouble with the (rather pejorative) "parasitical" metaphor is
that it leave out the fact that the parasitism goes both ways here (hence
the biological metaphor either fails or must be replaced by "symbiosis"):

Yes, the author's final draft is parasitic on the refereeing -- which is
performed (for free) by the referees on the text provided (for free)
by the author, but with the process managed by the editor and paid
for by the journal. Hence the peer-review management process, and its
product (the published text) is just as parasitic on the author's unpaid
provision of the text and revisions and the referees' unpaid provision
of the refereeing!

So let us not make too much of the parasitism, and rather call it
complementarity (or symbiosis) all the way down...

> Publishers could stop loading their charges on dissemination (which
> they don't do too well, because dissemination needs to be restrictive
> to yield any income at all). Instead, they could start charging for the
> other functions, which they perform much better, and, more importantly,
> uniquely. Then there would be true complementarity without much overlap
> and parasitism.

As noted, there is already true complementarity, and it is already symbiosis. But
I agree that publishers *could* do as Jan says (and does), and I hope they will:

But the fact is that, as of today, the publishers of 95% of journals don't. And
hence the immediate question is: What should researchers do in the meanwhile? Keep
waiting patiently, while continuing to use their daily, weekly, monthly research
impact -- needlessly, and at the cost of lost research usage, progress and
income -- or should they self-archive now, and let publishing sort itself
out at its own tempo?

> In order to make such a transition smoothly, established journals
> could offer the choice to authors (and their funders and institutional
> backers): pay for the services of 'formal publishing' and have complete
> on-line open access for your article -- or don't pay, but then accept
> the necessity for the publisher to charge for subscriptions, with the
> sub-optimal dissemination that may entail.

> This is precisely what Springer Open Choice offers

It is indeed, and Springer is to be commended as being among the most
forward-looking of publishers today. But it is *extremely* important to understand
that this commendation is not just based on Springer's Open Choice Policy, but on
the fact that Springer journals are also among the 90% of journals that are
*green* on author self-archiving.

For that is the *real* open choice, and the choices are *three*, not two:

    (1) Publish with Springer (without OA)
    (2) Publish with Springer and pay Springer to make the Springer value-added
        version of your article OA (Springer Open Choice: optional gold)
    (3) Publish with Springer and self-archive your own author's (refereed) draft
        for yourself (green)

If Springer were not green, i.e., if it tried to oppose (3), then this would be an
entirely different story, and Jan Velterop would indeed be promoting parasitism
(in the reverse direction) rather than symbiosis.

But he is not; and hence what he is doing is to be greatly commended.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Aug 25 2005 - 17:14:20 BST

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