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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2006 19:43:52 +0100

On Tue, 5 Sep 2006, L-Soft list server at SIGMA XI (1.8d) wrote:

> > SH:
> > Why should funders pay a penny more now, when all
> > publication costs are still being paid out of
> > institutional subscriptions?
> JV:
> And who funds the institutions to pay for subscriptions? The very same
> funders! They are paying right now. All I'm suggesting is that they use
> their money to support open access publishing directly. More money? The
> same money. No new or extra money.

Let me try to reconstruct Jan's argument:

(1) He is concerned that self-archiving might cause subscription

(2) So he suggests that funders should stop funding subscriptions
(thereby causing cancellations) -- and use the money to pay OA publishing
costs instead.

This makes Jan's into a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy!

But the reality is that:

(i) Subscriptions are not being cancelled (even in the few fields with
high spontaneous self-archiving rates)

(ii) But spontaneous self-archiving is still mostly far too low: hence
the need for self-archiving mandates.

We still have very few self-archiving mandates. It sounds to me --
correct me if I am wrong, Jan -- as if Jan would like to add to the (so
far still non-existent) self-archiving mandates the further condition
that funders should redirect funds from subscriptions to OA publishing

I think that is asking the mandaters to mandate a lot more, not less,
when we still don't yet even have enough of the less (i.e., self-archiving
mandates!). Meanwhile, research impact -- the rationale for OA (which
is not journal economics!) continues to be lost, daily.

Jan worries about hypothetical future loss of publisher subscription
revenue; I worry about actual present loss of research impact. The direct
and certain remedy for the latter -- actual, present -- problem is
self-archiving mandates.

I do not see why these self-archiving mandates -- hard enough (and taking
long enough) to get already -- should be further burdened by economic
demands that not only complicate them and create further resistance,
but for which there is not even any evidence that they are necessary.

Here is my counterproposal:

(1) Mandate OA self-archiving now.

(2) IF/WHEN OA self-archiving start shows signs of significantly reducing

(3) THEN redirect the subscription funds to pay OA publishing costs: "The
same money. No new or extra money."

In other words, do it empirically, as needed:
mandate self-archiving --> OA ?-->? cancellations --> redirection of funds

Not a-priori:
mandate redirection of funds --> OA

The goal of OA, after all, is OA, not redirection of funds!

> > SH:
> > (Jan, your arguments are awfully familiar, and they sound
> > very much like those of the non-OA publisher lobby that has
> > been opposing the OA self-archiving mandates...)
> Maybe it's time you read my comments more carefully.

I have, and have, and alas they still sound exactly like the publisher lobby:
"Don't mandate self-archiving: It will cause catastrophic cancellations and will
destroy publishing." (The only difference is that you add: "Mandate paying us for
OA instead -- and provide the funds for it too.")

Cf. "Open Letter to Research Councils UK: Rebuttal of ALPSP Critique"

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Sep 05 2006 - 20:14:44 BST

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