Re: No, Mandating Self-Archiving Is Not Like Invading Iraq!

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 03:04:38 +0000

On Wed, 27 Dec 2006, Sandy Thatcher wrote:

> ...I'm supporting your point that universities should be doing
> everything they can now to put into place a system (whether based
> on self-archiving or something else--but who pays for CrossRef?)

Dear Sandy, I am just proposing (mandated) self-archiving, not CrossRef,

> [a system] that will actually be able to function if the hypothesized
> withdrawal of large STM publishers were to happen suddenly

The ones who need to prepare for and adapt to any hypothetical or actual
subscription collapse and/or title migration are publishers, old and
new, not universities; auniversities are the research providers, not the
publishers. Universities need to mandate self-archiving to maximize the
usage and impact of their own research output, not to plan the future
course of publishing.

The only thing universities can and should do is plan ways to redirect
their windfall subscription savings toward OA publishing charges for their
research output, if and when subscriptions should ever be cancelled, if
publishing should then convert to OA.

> I don't question that many people will see that funds will need to
> be reallocated from one purpose (subscriptions) to another
> (author fees). But I have lived in a university environment long
> enough (40 years) to realize how difficult change is to effect.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and this one is a no-brainer once it is
actual: It is only a brain-twister while it's hypothetical.

> It will be especially difficult to make the transition work
> smoothly if we have for an extended period of time a mixed system
> with subscriptions continuing for some journals while OA takes
> over others.

That is irrelevant, and up to the market: gradual change (H2). The question
you raised was about H3 (sudden change): subscriptions collapse and titles
migrate: Will there be enough OA publishers ready and willing to take them
over? Answer is: yes.

> Librarians may not so readily want to give up their
> funding for subscriptions when there are still many to pay for;

Sudden subscription collapse (H3) is not a journal by journal matter but
a global one: Sudden change means all subscriptions collapse. There is no
empirical or logical reason why self-archiving should cause some
subscriptions and not others to collapse. Self-archiving is gradual,
distributed and anarchic: It does not happen selectively, journal by journal.
Journal by journal change would be gradual change (H2).

> or they may want to take advantage of having more funds to
> allocate to buying monographs, where their collections have
> suffered because of the burden of STM journal costs.

This only appears to make sense in speculative mode. If all journals suddenly
collapse and many or most titles migrate, institutions will not be thinking
about buying more monographs but about covering their OA publishing costs.

> Will it again come down to a struggle between scientists asking, this
> time, for libraries to pay their author fees instead of buying
> more books for the humanists? Will the outcome necessarily be the
> same? It's not a simple matter, I think.

It's a simple matter: If 100% of institutional journal budgets suddenly
become windfall savings at the same time that 100% of institutional output
suddenly faces OA publishing costs (H3), the obvious and natural solution will
suddenly be found.

> I'm worrying, too, not just about what will happen with journals
> but what the effects on monograph publishing will be. In
> humanities, at least, it can't continue to happen that more and
> more journal literature is more widely accessible because
> available online, while the monograph literature is ever more
> segregated and confined to a small number of printed books. This
> goes against the grain of the interconnected web that knowledge
> wants to be. But, then, how does OA come to monographs?

The primary target of OA is the research journal literature. Monographs are
more complicated because they are not all author give-aways: Some authors
want (and some -- fewer -- actually get) royalties, so they may not want to
make their monographs OA.

For monographs that are author give-aways, like journal articles, written
only for research impact, not royalties or fees, a solution very similar to
OA publishing will be available.

> There I see the issue of author fees being a lot more difficult to
> resolve because the level of magnitude of cost ($20,000 to
> $25,000 for an average monograph exclusive of all costs
> associated with its physical format) is much higher.

I profoundly doubt those cost estimates for an online-only OA monograph.
My guess is that peer-review plus editing will cost a great deal less than
that. But I don't wish to speculate about monographs when we still have the
clearcut case of journal articles to attend to. When OA for journal articles
has reached 100%, we can talk about monographs.

> This [OA monograph system] system would have the
> advantage--as, indeed, OA does in journal publishing--of putting
> the burden for any purchase of a print form of the publication on
> the end user as an optional cost. That's the beauty of
> print-on-demand. technology for books.

Indeed it is. But first things first: Time to mandate the self-archiving of
all journal articles.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Dec 28 2006 - 03:46:52 GMT

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