Re: Open Choice is a Trojan Horse for Open Access Mandate

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 21:19:20 +0100

On Wed, 28 Jun 2006, Rick Anderson wrote (on serialst):

> > SH:
> > I think Open Choice is a Trojan Horse, and that we should be
> > very careful about our reaction to it, as it risks eliciting
> > years more of delay for OA (under the guise of "preparing the way").
> RA:
> Is it my imagination, or has Stevan fundamentally misunderstood the
> concept of a Trojan horse? (According to his argument, Open Choice
> isn't a Trojan horse for OA mandates, but rather a Trojan horse for the
> delay of/diversion from OA mandates.)

It's a Trojan Horse for those who desire immediate OA (researchers and
the public that funds them) and have been trying to get the various
self-archiving mandate proposals adopted. Some of those who opposed the
self-archiving mandates are now instead proposing Open Choice: If those
who desire OA are taken in by this, if they say "Ok, let's instead try
to wait for Open Choice to take effect" or "Ok, let's instead try to
mandate OA publishing with Open Choice, and get research funders to pay
it" then they are in for many more years of waiting and next to no OA.

For Open Choice alone will never scale up to 100% OA, from where we are
now. Free self-archiving was already not being done above the spontaneous
self-archiving level of 15%, and that was the precise reason we needed a
self-archiving mandate. The spontaneous baseline for paid Open Choice
would be even lower!

And mandated "Open Choice" will not get adopted by most institutions
and funders, because all the potential funds to pay for it are currently
tied up in subscriptions.

What is needed now is immediate 100% OA, and self-archiving mandates
will generate that. To instead go for Open Choice now is to be taken in
by a Trojan Horse.

> RA:
> But that's not the important point. Here's the real question: if Open
> Choice is a bad idea because it threatens to "delay or divert the
> adoption of the OA self-archiving mandates," then really, is there any
> valid option other than self-archiving mandates?

No, for immediate (and already long overdue) OA, there is no other valid option
at this late date.

> RA:
> A couple of years ago, Stevan's line of argument seemed to be "OA doesn't
> have to mean formal publication in an OA forum, so please stop bothering
> me with your economic objections." Now it seems to have become "OA must
> not mean formal publication in an OA forum, so please stop proposing
> economically sustainable publication solutions."

I don't understand what Rick is saying here, and I suspect it may be
because he does not now, and did not then, understand or even come close
to understanding what I was proposing (despite both its simplicity and
the belief-beggaring volume of almost-rote repetition I have been
generating for years now):

OA means free online access to published, peer-reviewed journal
articles. The journals do not have to be OA journals; they just have to
be peer-reviewed journals, which they are.

All that authors have to do is to self-archive those published,
peer-reviewed journals in their institutional repositories. Fifteen
percent of authors do that spontaneously, but 95% say they would do it
if it was mandated. Hence the worldwide movement for mandating it.

Now what on earth does does Rick mean by "formal publication in an OA
forum"? Publication in an OA journal? That's fine, if you have the extra
cash, but only 9% of journals are OA today. Hybrid Open Choice journals
are now increasing the potential percentage substantially, but that does
not change the fact that the planet's publication funds are at the moment
all tied up in journal subscriptions. So few have the money to choose
the Open Choice spontaneously (and only 15% self-archive spontaneously,
so it is unlikely that a larger number will want to pay for it!). And
mandating the taking of the Open Choice (besides being self-contradictory)
is likewise up against the fact that all the pertinent cash is currently
tied up in subscriptions.

Meanwhile, what research needs is Open Access, right now. Yes, researchers
don't self-archive spontaneously above 15%, but probably they wouldn't
publish much either, if it were not mandated ("publish or perish"). So
the OA self-archiving of one's published research, like the publishing
of it, needs to be mandated, for the benefit of researchers themselves,
their institutions, and the public that funds the research so it can
be accessed, used, applied and built upon (i.e., in order to produce
"CURES," for want of a better cliche).

> RA:
> In other words, has Stevan now decided that self-archiving is the One
> True Way to OA, and all other possible approaches are dangerous
> diversions from it? (And if not, can he describe another legitimate
> approach?)

Yes, self-archiving is -- and has been since the advent of the online
medium -- the most direct, easiest, cheapest, fastest, and surest way
to reach 100% OA virtually overnight. It is clear now that it needs to
be mandated. And has been, and works.

OA publishing provides OA too, and it is welcome, but it most definitely
is *not* the most direct, easiest, cheapest, fastest, and surest way to
reach 100% OA: In fact, it is very slow and very unsure. On the other hand,
OA self-archiving might possibly accelerate it -- by first generating
100% OA and then perhaps freeing the cash that is tied up today in
subscriptions, making it available to pay for OA publishing.

That will be the era of Open Choice and the transition to OA
publishing. Not now. Right now, it's a Trojan Horse.

Stevan Harnad
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Received on Wed Jun 28 2006 - 23:17:53 BST

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