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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2006 16:44:16 +0100

On Fri, 30 Jun 2006, Peter Banks wrote:

> If archiving isn't taking off, it isn't primarily because of publishers.

The fact that *spontaneous* (unmandated) self-archiving isn't taking off, but
instead only hovering at about 15% worldwide is certainly not because of
publishers. It is entirely the research community's fault. The reason is
(probably, in equal parts -- Alma Swan, who has twice surveyed authors can no
doubt give the precise figures): (1) uninformedness about the feasibility and
benefits of self-archiving on the part of researchers and (2) work overload
that makes academics reluctant to do it until/unless they are required to
(but then, 95% report they would self-archive, 81% willingly, 14%

    Swan, A. (2005) Open access self-archiving: An Introduction. Technical
    Report, JISC

The high compliance rates predicted by Swan & Brown's two author surveys,
now replicated by several others, have since been concretely confirmed
by the (few) actual self-archiving mandates that have already been
implemented so far (CERN, Southampton, Minho, QUT plus the Wellcome
Trust mandate):
And of course now we will have the MRC, BBSRC, and EPSRC mandates (and
soon, one hopes, CCLRC and the others) in the UK, and perhaps also the
FRPAA and CURES mandates in the US and a similar mandate recommended by
the European Commission.

So OA self-archiving mandates work, and successfully generate high levels
of OA. They are essentially natural extensions of publishing mandates
("publish or perish"), without which authors would not be publishing
much either.

So, no, it is definitely not because of publishers that authors do not
self-archive spontaneously more that they do.

> The SHERPA/ROMEO list of publishersą policies on copyright and self-archiving
> show that many major publishers permit posting of preprints and/or
> postprints. These include Blackwell, British Medical Journal, Elsevier,
> Wiley, Taylor&Francis, and many, many others.

This is completely correct. The publishers of the 94% of journals that have
already given their green light to immediate OA self-archiving by authors are
on the Side of the Angels, and it is the 85% of authors who are not yet
self-archiving that are at fault -- particularly because OA is in their own
interests (as well as the interest of the public that funds the research they
conduct and publish).

Not on the Side of the Angels are only those publishers who oppose
self-archiving mandates, and have been delaying them for three years now.

> The failure of the self-archiving movement stems mainly from the
> indifference or open opposition of the authors and researchers who are
> supposed to undertake it.

The failure of the self-archiving movement? I would say that the
self-archiving movement is currently doing quite well in its efforts to
promote self-archiving mandates the world over (RCUK, EC, FRPAA).

Where there is indifference (but certainly not opposition) is among uninformed
and overworked authors, who either don't know about the benefits and
feasibility of self-archiving, or wrongly believe it might represent yet
another time-consuming burden on their duties, outweighing its benefits
(whereas it actually just represents a few minutes and keystrokes per

    Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2005) Keystroke Economy: A Study of the
    Time and Effort Involved in Self-Archiving.

In any case, the remedy for author unawareness or inertia is the
self-archiving mandates that research funders and institutions are now
on the way (belatedly) to adopting, in the interests of research, researchers,
and the public that funds them.

> And remember that society publishers are not
> controlled by greedy staff publishers; they are controlled by governing
> bodies comprised of the authors and researchers affected by OA.

Some society publishers -- such as the American Physical Society and the
Institute of Physics Publishing -- are indeed acting responsibly and
in the interests of their researchers. Some, alas, are not, and indeed
some learned society publishers do seem to be controlled by "greedy staff
publishers" in a way one would have expected only from the crassest of
commercial publishers.

    "Not a Proud Day in the Annals of the Royal Society"

> Advocates have failed utterly to convince societies of the merits of OA because
> society volunteer leaders do not believe the fundamental premise that "the
> research community and public need 100% OA now."

The ones who need to be informed and convinced are the research community,
their institutions and their funders. That includes the *membership* of
Learned Societies. But remember that researchers wear many hats: they are
university employees and grant fundees, not just, or primarily, society
members. Nor is the protection of the revenue streams of the societies
of which they are members that is (or ought to be) researchers' foremost
priority: their priority is research impact and progress. And that is also
the priority of their institutions and funders.

Convincing learned societies of the merits of OA for research and researchers
is like convincing any publisher: Some will be persuaded, others will be more
persuaded by their concerns for their bottom lines.

> Those societies who
> advocate against mandates for OA--and not all do--have reasonable doubts
> about the accuracy and quality of preprints and postprints (especially in
> medicine, where mistakes can have serious consequences), the bibliographic
> confusion that archives are creating, and the difficulty archives cause for
> accurately tracking usage.

Peter, hand on heart, do you for a microsecond believe that those publishers
who are advocating against OA self-archiving are doing it for the sake of
research accuracy and quality?

In the face of the quantities of empirical evidence that OA self-archiving
increases research uptake and impact, do you imagine that publishers
are trying to hold all that at bay because they believe that it generates

As to tracking usage: It is trivially obvious that cooperative pooling of
usage statistics is the solution, not blocking the extra usage that OA will

> They also doubt that OA archives are a solution
> to long-term preservation, as often (inaccurately) claimed.

Self-archiving is not being proposed as the solution to the long-term
preservation problem. Solving that problem is not the OA movement's
responsibility (why on earth should it be)? The OA movement's objective
is to maximise immediate access to published research articles by
*supplementing* the official subscription-based version -- the one
that does have the long-term preservation problem, which has nothing
to do with OA -- with the author's final, refereed draft, to provide
immediate access for those would-be users who cannot afford access to
the publisher's official subscription-based version.

> In the 7 years I was publisher of two society journals, a total of zero (0)
> out of 18,000 members ever advocated for OA. Colleagues in other societies
> report a similar experience. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is
> a little foot-dragging among authors to the governmental stampede you
> advocate.

I am not sure when Peter's 7 years of journal publishing took place, but, for a
start, might I refer him to the 34,000 signatures of the PLoS Open Letter demanding
OA? (When he gets done reading those, I have other evidence for him.)

Having said that, I repeat: the research community *is* guilty, both of
uninformedness about the benefits and feasibility of OA self-archiving,
and foot-dragging about doing it spontaneously. And that is precisely
is why the OA self-archiving mandates were needed.

Stevan Harnad

Berlin 3 Recommendation:

    "In order to implement the Berlin Declaration institutions should
    implement a policy to:

            1. require their researchers to deposit a copy of all their
            published articles in an open access repository


            2. encourage their researchers to publish their research
            articles in open access journals where a suitable journal
            exists (and provide the support to enable that to happen)."
Received on Fri Jun 30 2006 - 16:53:04 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:48:24 GMT