Re: Publish OA if you can - self-archive either way

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 15 Oct 2005 20:58:55 +0100

Re: Publish OA if you can - self-archive if you can't

On Sat, 15 Oct 2005, Jan Velterop wrote:

> Evidence, evidence.
> What I am interested in, and working on, is a sustainable way of
> providing open access, because open access is here to stay. Mandated
> or not. For the simple reason that it is beneficial and possible with
> the technology at our disposal. No evidence, just judgement. The
> question is not "why open access?" -- the question is "why not?"

Jan, that's been the question for at least 10 years now.

The answer is that although (e.g.) 34,000 biologists are ready to do the
keystrokes to demand OA from their publishers (by becoming OA [gold] publishers),
they are not ready to do the keystrokes to provide OA for themselves
(by self-archiving).

Publishers, in turn, have not been ready to respond to the demand for
OA by becoming gold -- though many of them (including Springer) have
been willing to go green (and in Springer's case, also to offer gold as
an option).

So if you want to know the answer to "why not [OA, now]?" it is that
researchers want OA enough to demand and wait for it to be provided, but
not enough to provide it (only 15% do that).

Publishers are even less willing: Under 10% are gold or part-gold (like
Springer) though over 90% of their journals are green. And if OA must wait
upon publishers to provide it, it's still got a long, long wait, as researcher
demands (in the face of researcher passivity) have fallen flat, and publishers
cannot be mandated to provide OA.

But researchers *can* be mandated (by their funders and employers) to provide OA.
Which is why the green route to 100% OA is the swiftest and surest one -- if the
mandates (like Wellcome's and RCUK's) are forthcoming.

> It is up to publishers to think of imaginative solutions if they wish to
> survive. Those solutions are neither brought about by believing
> 'evidence' that there is nothing to fear, nor by believing that there
> are no alternatives to subscription-based publishing.

For the moment, the only use to which (some -- not all) publishers
are putting the nonexistent evidence (that self-archiving causes
cancellations) plus their own, evidence-free worries about it, is to
try to fend off self-archiving mandates for as long as possible.

The question is: Are you, Jan, interested in (1) making common cause with the
publishers who are trying to fend off self-archiving mandates on the grounds
of the worries, with no evidence to support them, or are you interesting in
(2) encouraging self-archiving mandates, for the sake of reaching 100% OA as soon
as possible (after all these years)? (A specific answer would be very helpful!)

> I'm getting ever so slightly tired of all the 'evidence' that's
> floating around. In a rather fatamorganic way. There is no 'evidence'
> worthy of the name. On either side. What there is is conjecture,
> perception, hypothesis, opinion, judgement, fear, and hope.

I am interested in getting a better sense of this fatamorganic logic:
Would you say that when one replied to those who were trying to fend
off the fluoridation of drinking water (14 years after fluoridation had
already been going on) that "all the evidence to date is that fluoridation
does not have any negative effects on health" -- that "there is no
'evidence' worthy of the name on either side, just conjecture, perception,
hypothesis, opinion, judgement, fear, and hope."

Absence of a correlation *is* evidence, not lack of evidence. Statistically
speaking, the "null hypothesis" here is that self-archiving has no effect
on cancellations, and 14 years of data from APS and IOPP in physics
confirms it. Nor does it do to reply that, after all, self-archiving is
now only at 15%, whereas mandates would drive it to 100%, for some of
those physics fields have been at 100% self-archiving for a number of
years now.

> That's not necessarily a problem. What we need is persuasion.
> Evidence might help, if we had it, but persuasion rests on
> plausibility, not on truth-seeking per se.

We have the evidence (no correlation). And we are trying to persuade --
e.g. the RCUK -- to go ahead and mandate self-archiving, while some
publisher lobbies, such as the ALPSP, are trying to persuade RCUK
*not* to mandate self-archiving, based on no evidence.

Now the question comes: Which side are you on, Jan? *For* RCUK mandating
self-archiving, or against it?

> Nietsche noted that there are more people passionate about the way
> than about the goal. Some of the recent discussion on this blog
> supports that observation. But I would like to make a case for
> refocusing on the goal: open access. What happened to the excellent
> adage "publish with open access if there is an appropriate journal in
> which you can -- self-archive if there isn't"?

It is the unified policy that self-archiving advocates all support. The
critical point, though, is that the first component, "publish with
open access if there is an appropriate journal in which you can" is a
conditional "if" (and in over 90% of cases, the answer is that there is
none), and moreover it can only be recommended, not mandated. The second
component can be mandated.

So if the goal is 100% OA at last, it is very clear where most of the
persuasion is needed: The persuasion to mandate (so the mandate can
induce the self-archiving, which delivers the 100% OA).

> As for Stevan's assertion that his chosen way, self-archiving, can be
> mandated and the way of OA publishing not. Perhaps. But the more
> meaningful mandate is to require researchers to assure the goal: open
> access.

I can only repeat: Researchers can do three things for OA:

(1) Researchers can demand that their publishers provide OA, sign
petitions for it, threaten not to publish in, referee for or use
journals that do not provide it (as 34,000 biologists did in 2001,
to no avail).

(2) Researchers can wait for publishers to provide OA of their own accord
(meanwhile publishing, where/when they can, in the few journals that
offer it).

(3) Researchers can provide OA to their own articles, by self-archiving

Since none of these things that researchers *can* do has so far been
sufficient to generate more than 15-25% OA, a funder/employer mandate
can be a great help at this time.

Do you support this, Jan?

> "Publish with open access if there is an appropriate journal in which
> you can -- self-archive if there isn't". This encourages publishers
> and societies to start publishing with open access and it doesn't
> undermine Stevan's cherished self-archiving.

But Jan, the above is merely a statement, and one that most researchers
are aware of by now --- and it is not enough to generate more than 15-25%
OA on its own. Mandating my "cherished self-archiving" will.

So, are you for mandating it or not? (You seem here to be for fending
it off, joining those who try to fend off the 14 years' evidence of no
correlation is "fatamorganic"...)

Cheers, Stevan

PS I'd say: Publish OA if you can - self-archive either way

> Jan Velterop
> On 14 Oct 2005, at 22:18, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> >On Fri, 14 Oct 2005, Jan Velterop wrote:
> >
> > > The best defence against the dangers of self-archiving is pro- actively
> > > offering open access publishing. OA publishing is completely
> > > compatible with self-archiving, mandatory or voluntary.
> >
> >It seems the only ones who keep talking about the "dangers" of
> >self-archiving are publishers, whether OA or non-OA -- and ever
> >without
> >a shred of evidence.
> >
> >Speaking instead for the research community: what we need "defence"
> >against is not a hypothetical danger, with no objective evidence for
> >its effects. We need defence against an actual loss of research
> >impact,
> >with unrelenting daily, monthly, yearly evidence of its effects. We
> >need
> >immediate defence against daily access-denial and the resulting daily
> >impact-denial, which amounts to 50%-250%+ of our total potential
> >impact.
> >
> >And mandated self-archiving (along with publish-or-perish) provides
> >that immediate defence against daily access denial and impact loss. No
> >contingency whatsoever on OA publishing, and certainly no need to wait
> >for "pro-active" OA publishing (welcome though it would be, but which,
> >unlike self-archiving, cannot be mandated)...
> >
> >On all existing evidence, both OA and non-OA publishing are completely
> >compatible with self-archiving.
> >
> >Stevan Harnad
Received on Sat Oct 15 2005 - 21:24:35 BST

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