Re: Green Party Green on Gold but not on Green

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 13:20:13 +0100

In the interests of convergence and closure I will try to respond to
Jean-Claude Guedon as concisely as possible, and only on substantive
points, not already raised and answered repeatedly before:

On Sun, 11 Sep 2005, Jean-Claude Guédon wrote:

> J-CG: the OA movement has not paid enough attention to the social sciences
> and the humanities and... [P]ublishing in those fields is not exactly
> the same as in science.... the social science citation index in SSH has
> never acquired the importance that it has in STM. Monographs remain the
> prestige unit of publication. By and large, journal prices in SSH are
> much cheaper than in STM

(1) Our data show that social sciences gain as much of a citation impact advantage
as other disciplines. (For the humanities, stay tuned. There are some signs that
the category "Literature" may be anomalous.)

(2) I don't know if citation impact is less important in SSH, but with OA it will
no doubt become more important (everywhere).

(3) Where monographs prevail, nolo contendere.

(4) If SSH journals are cheaper, it still does not follow that all
would-be users can afford access. The OA citation advantage in sociology
seems to confirm this.

> > SH: Jean-Claude is... completely misunderstanding the purpose of the
> > self-archiving mandate...
> J-CG: Where do I misunderstand?


> > J-CG: "mandating" [would be] essential [if]... IR's were filling
> > pretty fast on the simple basis that the impact advantages
> > are convincing... scientists... to self-archive
> > spontaneously. We all know this is not happening..."

It is exactly the opposite: Mandating is essential precisely because
the impact advantages are not convincing enough scientists to self-archive.

> JC-G: How do you know [that subsidised] journals are few? Where is
> your evidence?

I think the evidential shoe is on the other foot.

> JC-G: I also believe that a large volume of marginal science falls in
> this category and I suspect Stevan thinks that this latter category fills
> the whole section of subsidized journals. If that were the case, then
> governments would have a problem: despite selection or competitive
> processes, they would subsidise only the inferior and the marginal
> publications? This seems hardly credible.

I am afraid I cannot follow any of this reasoning.

> J-CG: On the other hand, governments are not going to subsidise journals
> on the unique criterion of excellence anywhere in the world. I cannot see
> Canada subsidising an Elsevier journal merely because it stands at the top
> of its specialty. Governments mix the quest for excellence with national
> limits. They also add other considerations such as the need to distribute,
> equilibrate, etc. The result is a system of subsidies that aims at
> national excellence while paying attention to other local parameters.

Nor can I follow any of this. The only relevant questions seem to be (1) what
proportion of journals are subsidised by a funder in a position to mandate that
they become OA journals? and secondarily, (2) where do these subsidised journals
rank in the quality hierarchy? Unanswered questions.

> J-CG: I wonder how you can claim that publishers are not part of the
> problem and repeatedly mention how we must craft our messages carefully
> not to be manoeuvred by the publishing lobby?

Fair question: I should have said that publishers are a very minor part
of the problem, in the following two respects:

    (1) Publishers are (wrongly) perceived by authors as obstacles to
    self-archiving. They are not. Over 90% of journals have already
    given self-archiving their blessing, and self-archiving can be (and
    is being) done, legally and effectively, with or without their
    blessing. Authors simply self-archive their own drafts, prior
    to publication, or even prior to submission, and make whatever
    corrections and updates they see fit.

This author misperception needs to be corrected, and that is a problem,
but a very minor one (compared to the problem of inducing authors to
self-archive). Authors need to be made aware that self-archiving is
completely within their own hands; it does not depend on their publisher.

    (2) Publishers are worried that self-archiving may pose a risk
    to their revenues and are trying to delay or deter self-archiving
    mandates on the grounds of this perceived risk.

There is no evidence supporting this publisher perception and this needs to
be made clear. This too is a very minor problem (compared to the problem of
inducing authors to self-archive).

The major problem is inducing authors to self-archive, in their own
interests, and the interests of their funders and institutions. And the
solution to that major problem is obvious: Their funders and institutions
need to require their researchers to self-archive.

> And I wonder why you argue so much with the likes of me. How about the
> publishers' lobby once again?

Because you write papers like this:

        Guédon, Jean-Claude (2005) The "Green" and "Gold" Roads to Open
        Access: The Case for Mixing and Matching Serials Review 30(4) 2004

And I have done my share of critiquing of publishers' attempts to delay
or deter the RCUK mandate (and have even, to my regret, defended the
NIH policy).

> For starters, the 10% that is not green is directly in conflict with OA.

Vide supra.

> J-CG: (I am thinking about Springer's Open Choice in this regard).

Springer is green.

> J-CG: The recent row between The Lancet and Elsevier, although it deals with
> issues that have nothing to do with this particular discussion,
> nonetheless serves to demonstrate how divergent the values of commercial
> publishers and scientific editors can be.
> So, does it make sense to choose to behave as if publishers were not
> part of the problem?


Stevan Harnad

Posting on other topic thread; to save space, not posted separately:

To: American Scientist Open Access Forum
From: Subbiah Arunachalam <>
Subject: Re: Leading academics back UK Research Councils on self-archiving

Alma's reply to Sally Morris (on the impact of arXiv on physics
publishers) is very clear. No polemics. Just facts and reasoned
arguments. I like such postings.

Received on Mon Sep 12 2005 - 13:42:32 BST

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