How to Counter All Opposition to the FRPAA Self-Archiving Mandate

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2006 16:01:10 +0100

The AAP (and PPS and FASEB and STM) objections to the FRPAA proposal to
mandate OA self-archiving (as well as its counterpart proposals in
Europe, the UK, Australia and elsewhere worldwide) are all completely
predictable, have been aired many times before, and are empirically
as well as logically so weak and flawed as to be decisively refutable.

But OA advocates cannot rest idle. Empirically and logically invalid
arguments can nevertheless prevail if their proponents are (like the
publishing lobby) well-funded and able to lobby widely and vigorously.

There are many more of us than there are in the publishing lobby,
but the publishing lobby is fully united under its simple objective:
To defeat self-archiving mandates, and if unsuccessful, to make the
embargo as long as possible.

OA advocates, in contrast, are not united, and our counter-arguments are
likely to go off in dozens of different directions, many of them just
as invalid and untenable as the publishers' arguments. So if I were
the publisher lobby, I would divide and conquer, citing flawed pro-mandate
or pro-OA or anti-publishing arguments as a camouflage, to disguise the
weakness of the publishing lobby's own flawed arguments.

We managed to unify behind our Euroscience recommendation. If we could unify
in our response to the anti-mandate lobby, making a strong, common front,
and if we then recruited our respective research communities behind that
common front (again, being very careful not to let anyone get carried away
by weak, foolish arguments!) I am absolutely certain we can prevail over the
publisher lobby, definitively, and see the self-archiving mandates
through to adoption at last.

Our simple but highly rigorous 8-point stance is the following (and we
can be confident enough of its validity to lay it bare in advance for
any who are inclined to try to invalidate it):

(1) Open access has already been repeatedly and decisively demonstrated,
with quantitative empirical evidence, to benefit research, researchers and
the public that funds research: It both accelerates and increases usage,
citations, and hence research progress substantially in all disciplines
so far tested (including physical sciences, biological sciences, social
sciences) substantially.

This is the key rationale for mandating OA self-archiving, because it is
simply not possible for publishers to argue that protecting their current
subscription revenue streams from undemonstrated, hypothetical risk
outweighs the substantial demonstrated, actual benefits to research. (They
know that well. Hence they will not and cannot try to push that
argument. They will try to skirt it, by exploiting potential weaknesses
in our stance. This is why it is important to make our stance rigorous
and unassailable by resolutely excluding as gratuitous and
unnecessary all weak or controvertible arguments or rationales.)

(2) There exists zero evidence that self-archiving reduces subscriptions;
and for physics, the longest-standing and most advanced in systematic
self-archiving, there are actually published testimonials from the
principal publishers, APS and IOP, to the effect that self-archiving has
not generated any detectable subscription decline in 15 years, even in
the subfields where it has long been at or near 100%, and that APS and
IOP are actively facilitating author self-archiving rather than opposing

So although even evidence of subscription decline would not be a reason
to deny research the benefits of self-archiving, there is not even any
evidence of subscription decline. Hence here too, the publishing lobby
will only be able to speculate and hypothesize to the contrary, but not
to adduce any empirical data, which is all in the direction opposite to
their negative hypotheses.

(3) The publishing lobby's most vulnerable pragmatic point, however -- and
this is ever so important -- is precisely on the question of the embargoes
they are so anxious to have (if they cannot succeed in blocking the mandate
altogether): The dual deposit/release mandate that we have specifically
advocated immunises the mandate completely from embargo-haggling, because
it is a deposit mandate, not an Open-Access-setting mandate: Deposit
must be immediate (upon acceptance for publication), not delayed; only
the access-setting (Open Access vs. Closed Access) can be delayed, with
immediate OA-setting merely encouraged "where possible," but not mandated.
This means that not even copyright arguments can be invoked against the
mandate, and embargoes cannot delay deposit: they can only delay

But the part we must keep clearly in mind is that an *immediate-deposit
mandate is enough*! There is no need to over-reach (and to either hold
out for an immediate-OA mandate or to capitulate and allow delayed
deposit). An immediate (no-delay) deposit mandate will generate 100% OA
as surely as night follows day. There is and has been only one obstacle
to 100% OA all along: getting the deposit keystrokes to be done. Once
those are done, the benefits of OA itself will see to it that authors
all soon choose to set access as OA. And until then, the bibliographic
metadata will be visible immediately webwide, and would-be users can use
the semi-automatic email-eprint request feature of the Institutional
Repository software to email the author individually to request and
receive the eprint by email, just as they used to request reprints
by mail in the paper era, but much more quickly. This will tide over
research usage needs until nature takes its course.

So what we must insist upon is an immediate -- no embargo, no exception
-- deposit mandate (full text plus bibliographic metadata) together
with encouragement to set access to the full text immediately as OA,
but allowing the option of a Closed-Access delay period if necessary. On
no account, however, should the delay be in the deposit itself -- just
in the OA-setting.

(4) In addition, 94% of journals already endorse immediate OA-setting. So
the email-eprint option will only be needed for 6% of articles, to tide
over any embargo interval.

This need not be rubbed in the noses of publishers (it is for our own
quiet satisfaction); but the fact that 94% of journals already endorse
self-archiving can be used strategically to weaken publishers arguments
against mandating it. ["You (94%) give authors the green light to go
ahead and self-archive, because you recognise that self-archiving
is to the benefit of researchers and research, and then you try at
the same time to prevent their institutions and funders from ensuring
that researchers go ahead and reap those very benefits by mandating the
self-archiving that generates them!" Making that contradiction explicit
(denying/affirming the benefits of author self-archiving) will go a long
way toward invalidating the weak and incoherent arguments publishers
will be making against self-archiving and self-archiving mandates.]

(5) I am absolutely certain that (1) - (4), clearly and resolutely put
forward, and used to defeat every angle of the publishers' argument
("it will destroy peer review" "it will be expensive to the tax payer"
"it will kill subscriptions" "it will destroy learned societies" "it's
not needed: we have enough access already," "there will be multiple
versions," etc. etc.), can be successful, even triumphant. But I
think it is a very bad idea to join in with publishers' speculations
about subscription revenue loss, for which there is zero evidence, with
counter-speculations of our own, about the way publishing will change,
evolve etc. Just stick to the fact that OA is reachable via self-archiving
and OA is optimal for research, and everything else can and will adapt,
if/when it should ever become necessary: The only sure thing now is that
self-archiving is good for research, and hence it should be mandated,
just as publishing itself is mandated.

(6) In response to attempts to delay and filibuster the adoption of the
mandate by asking for more "empirical studies to test for its likely
impact" the reply is crystal clear: Mandating self-archiving is itself the
empirical study to test its impact; the policy can be reviewed annually
to see what effects it is having -- apart from the beneficial effects we
already know self-archiving has.

(7) One tricky point to watch for is the "public access" argument: The
rationale that OA is needed for the tax-payer who funded the research is a
very shaky one. It may be a good vote-getter for a politician, but it
definitely does not have the empirical, logical and practical force of
the demonstrated research impact benefits of OA. The way to
rebut the publishers' (valid) claim that it is unfair to ask them
to put their revenues at risk merely or mainly for the sake of general
public access to a literature that almost none of the general public
will ever want to read (except in a few practical areas of medicine,
etc.) is to firmly redirect the "public right" and "public good" argument
toward the public benefits of the research that the public funds, which
are maximized by making it maximally available to the users for whom
it is mostly written, namely, researchers, so they can use and apply it
in further research and applications, to the benefit of the public that
funded it. (It will be publicly accessible too, but only as a secondary
benefit, not the primary rationale for OA, which is free access to
research for researcher use.)

(8) And last, we of course have all the evidence (e.g. from the
failed NIH public access "invitation" and the many near-empty
institutional repositories worldwide) that voluntarism, invitations,
etc. *simply do not work*, whereas mandates (CERN, Wellcome Trust, QUT,
Southampton, Minho, Zurich) do -- thereby confirming the outcome of the
JISC international, interdisciplinary surveys that found that 95%
of researchers report they will comply with a self-archiving mandate
from their employers or funders. Otherwise, only 15% self-archive

All eight of these points are simple, transparent, and cannot be defeated:
There are no viable counter-arguments to any of them. So if they are
rigorously and systematically deployed, the publisher lobby will fail
to block the self-archiving mandate. But if we venture into any shakier
areas (publishing reform, copyright reform, public "right to know"),
it is we who will fail!

I am certain, from long experience, that no argument at all against
a self-archiving mandate can be rationally sustained in the face of
(1)-(8), clearly and rigorously invoked. We have no weapon against
irrationality, of course, or against arbitrariness or brute force. But
inasmuch as reason, evidence and public good are concerned, the case for
a self-archiving mandate is extremely strong and I would say irresistible
(if we ourselves can resist weakening it, gratuitously, by invoking other,
fuzzy or defeasible arguments, or by failing to invoke the eight rigorous
points we have, clearly and explicitly!).

Stevan Harnad

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UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
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please describe your policy at:

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Received on Sun Jun 11 2006 - 18:15:01 BST

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