Re: Royal Society Offers Open Choice

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 25 Jun 2006 21:39:58 +0100

Jan, let's cut to the quick (because the rest is really just ideology,
hypothesis and posturing, on both of our parts):

Are you and Springer part of the publisher lobby opposing the FRPAA,
RCUK, and EC proposals to mandate author self-archiving, right now?

Springer is green on author self-archiving. If it is not, at the
same time, a part of the publisher lobby against mandating author
self-archiving, right now, then Springer is on the side of the Angels
and the rest of our quibbling does not amount to a hill of beans.

Remember that the postings by me on which you intervened were aimed
against the publisher lobby opposing the self-archiving mandates --
in particular, the latest attempt to replace the author self-archiving
mandate with a publisher paid-OA mandate.

And my objection to this attempt is conditional. If the funders have
the cash and the willingness to mandate paid-OA, and pay for it, right
now, and they implement it, right now, not a peep of objection from me.
Years of delay and non-OA will be over.

But if this move just results in still more delay, and still no OA
mandate, after it has been dragging on like this for years already,
then of course there will be more dissension.

I won't comment on your comments below, except the very last one, which
I think illustrates the yawning gap between the interests of publishers
(whether OA or NOA) and those of researchers (and it also limns who is
delaying what, and why). You wrote:

> "why wait and in the mean time set up costly institutional
> repositories... not just costly, but OA-wise sub-optimal...?

I think any disinterested 3rd party would see very clearly that the
research community is not "waiting": Its funders are proposing to mandate
OA self-archiving, and it is *publishers* who are delaying and opposing
that and forcing the research community to keep waiting for OA.

And not only are the (small) costs of setting up Institutional
Repositories utterly irrelevant to publishers (who are not being asked
to pay for them) but IRs are being set up any way, for a variety of
reasons, OA being only one of them (and alas not always the primary one!).

And as to the "sub-optimality" of having access only to the author's
refereed final draft, in an IR, instead of the publisher's proprietary
PDF: Please tell that to the many, many would-be users all over the
planet who have no access to either of those, and whose access to the
"sub-optimal" OA draft is being delayed and opposed by the publisher

Stevan Harnad

On Sun, 25 Jun 2006, Jan Velterop wrote:

> > (5) In place of mandating OA self-archiving, publishers are now
> > lobbying for mandates to pay publishers their asking price for
> > providing paid OA.
> Mandates to pay publishers their asking price? Has he ever heard of
> the notions of competition and negotiation? Stevan will not have
> actually read what has been proposed, at least by the publisher I
> represent; I do not speak for others. It's this: "We propose that a
> modified S. 2695 require open access, immediately upon publication,
> of journal articles resulting from federally funded research, that
> their publication with open access be supported financially by
> ^—article processing charges^“, and that these charges be required to
> be paid out of overheads on federal research grants."
> This is about a principle; not about an 'asking price', but that may
> be a tad too subtle for Stevan. Note the words 'require open access,
> immediately upon publication" in the proposed modification (see also
> Stevan's point 4).
> The next sentence is this: In this way the government would both
> ensure the survival of existing and proven mechanisms that deliver
> reliable and properly validated
> scientific publications, as well as immediate public access to
> scientific and medical research." If Stevan were truly in favour of
> immediate and sustainable OA, he would endorse this. But he seems to
> be about cost-evasion more than about OA.
> > (6) The asking price is being set at a time when subscriptions are
> > paying all publishing costs and there exists no evidence at all
> > that self-archiving reduces subscription revenue.
> OA publishing, on the other hand, *would* reduce subscription
> revenue, for the simple reason that subscription prices would go down
> with the uptake of OA. Stevan doesn't seem to understand that
> subscription costs and article processing costs are each others
> replacements. The only difference between the two is access: article
> processing charges ensure open access; subscriptions do not.
> > (7) If research funders and researchers are able and willing,
> > right now, to mandate and provide for paying publishers' asking price,
> > all is well.
> Agree.
> > (8) But if research funders and researchers are *not* able or willing,
> > right now, to mandate and provide for paying publishers' asking price,
> > then publishers are delaying and deterring a demonstrated
> > benefit for researcher, researchers and the public on the basis
> > of no evidence of any actual cost (let alone substantial cost) to
> > themselves.
> And then funders and researchers are just leaving it to the
> charitable nature of librarians to keep paying for subscriptions to
> sustain the formal peer-reviewed journal literature. Charitable as
> the librarians may be, relying on them to pay for subscriptions to
> journals of which all the research articles are freely available
> anyway, is not what I would regard a solid stable basis for
> sustaining the system of formal peer-reviewed research publications.
> > (10) With the objective evidence that cost-recovery needs to be
> > restructured will come the funds for paying for it -- because
> > institutional subscription cancellations mean corresponding
> > institutional subscription savings, out of which institutions can
> > then pay for their researchers' publishing costs using the same
> > money that is currently being spent on subscriptions -- instead of
> > extra money taken from what is currently being spent on research.
> Sure, but why wait and in the mean time set up costly institutional
> repositories (cash, i.e. the 'extra money taken from what is
> currently being spent on research' that he mentions, as well as other
> resources)? And not just costly, but OA-wise sub-optimal (no final
> published version, no built-in reference and other links, different
> versions, cumbersome to locate, et cetera).
> Jan Velterop
Received on Mon Jun 26 2006 - 00:03:04 BST

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