Green OA is no threat to grants: Only Gold OA, today, might be

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2007 17:19:38 +0000

    Lane, Bernard (2007) Open access a threat to grants.
    The Australian, January 23, 2007,20867,21106899-12332,00.html

Peter Suber has excerpted the following passages from the above
in OA News:

    "The historically low success rate for competitive grant applications
    could dip further as an unintended consequence of the move to open
    access publishing.

    "The Australian Research Council, which has just adopted its first
    policy to encourage grant winners to make their results widely and
    freely available, said open access was shifting publication costs
    to authors.

    "If authors were allowed to cover those costs from grant money, then
    a new administrative and financial burden would fall on agencies
    such as the ARC.

    "Funding agencies would have to estimate publication costs before
    giving a grant and would probably have to audit this expenditure at
    project's end, the ARC says in a new submission to the Productivity
    Commission's inquiry into public support for science and innovation.

    " 'If the agencies' budgets were not supplemented to cover those
    costs in full, then the proportion of grant funding devoted to
    research activity would diminish,' the ARC says...."

Arthur Sale has written an excellent letter bringing out every salient
point and correcting all the systematic misunderstandings in Lane's
article in The Australian. I hope he will soon be posting it to
this Forum.

Mandating Green OA (self-archiving) is what needs to be focussed upon, as
that is the issue, and that is what ARC has done. ARC has not proposed
diverting research funds to OA Gold (OA publishing), as the article
incorrectly assumes and implies.

(1) The first priority, and an immediately reachable one, once we reach
for it, is 100% OA via Green OA self-archiving mandates from funders
and universities.

(2) The need to redirect funds toward Gold OA is hypothetical, not real
and actual, like the need to mandate Green OA. And the constant speculative
focus on hypothetical (Gold) economics is getting in the way of actual,
reachable (Green) OA.

(3) In addition, as we see from the Australian article, as well as from
the concerns occasioned by CERN's move toward immediate conversion to
Gold in particle physics: This premature and unnecessary "Gold Rush"
is generating opposition to OA itself, of either hue, on the grounds
that it would take money away from research.

(4) In reality, of course, 100% Green OA does not take a single penny
away from research.

(5) But direct conversion to Gold *now* certainly does divert money from
research, in a number of prominent cases (PLoS, BMC, plus all the hybrids
like Springer, etc.).

(6) It is repeatedly pointed out, by way of mitigating this, that most
Gold journals don't charge publication fees -- but this is rather hollow
reassurance, since most Gold journals -- other than the prominent ones,
which *do* charge -- are more minor journals. And, more important, no one has
the faintest idea whether *not* charging for Gold OA would scale, if most
or all journals were Gold. (I would say it is virtually certain that it
would not scale, and that publication fees would have to be charged.)

(7) It is not a bad idea to start thinking about how to prepare for
that eventuality. (I myself think 100% Green OA will eventually lead
to a conversion to 100% Gold OA.)

    "The Urgent Need to Plan a Stable Transition" (Started Sep 1998!)

    Harnad, S. (2006) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged

(8) However (and here is the crux of it), it is misleading in the extreme
to think of and plan for the conversion to 100% Gold OA as a redirection
of current *research* funds toward OA Gold publication charges.

(9) The "redirection" that needs to be planned is from the (vast)
funds that are currently being used to pay for publication -- namely,
institutional subscription/license fees! It is *those* funds that will need
to be redirected toward Gold OA publication fees if/when they prevail, not
today's research funds, which are already stretched to the limit. (I know
that some research funds today already go toward library subscriptions:
there the redirection will be direct and appropriate; but most
institutional library subscription funds today do not explicitly come
from a research pot.)

(10) Hence all this talk about OA costing more and taking money away
from research is being generated by all the overhasty Gold Fever,
for direct, immediate conversion to Gold, rather than the rational,
reachable intermediate step of "conversion" to 100% OA Green first,
via the Green mandates for which so many are now petitioning the EC.

(11) For, once Green OA prevails, we have 100% OA already.

(12) Then, if and when Green OA causes unsustainable subscription
cancellations, it will eo ipso generate the funds out of which to pay OA
Gold publication costs without taking a penny from the current research
pot. (And it will almost certainly generate substantial overall saving

In short, the Gold Rush is premature, unnecessary, misleading, and
counterproductive for OA at this time.

100% Green OA is not a funding issue today; it requires negligible
resources, distributed across institutions. And preservation costs are
not an issue either (even though preservation is of course being taken
care of by IRs) as long as Green is merely a parallel supplement to
subscription-based publishing, rather than a substitute for it. It is not
Green self-archiving that bears the preservation burden for the journal
literature at this time. And if/when there is a wholesale conversion
to Gold, offloading all archiving and preservation functions onto the
worldwide network of Institutional Repositories, this will distribute
the cost of archiving and preservation far more economically than it is
distributed now (via subscriptions).

Once institutions are self-archiving 100% of their research output
(thanks to Green mandates) instead of about 15%, as now, costs will *not*
rise. (Just ask the (few) institutions that are already approaching
100%.) Green can manage on not much more than its current budget for
years to come.

We are not talking about "the cost of a new research dissemination
system": we are talking about (mandating) 100% Green OA, which is merely
a parallel *supplement* to the current "research dissemination system."

If and when there is indeed a transition to a new "research dissemination
system," with all journal subscriptions cancelled, all access-provision
and archiving offloaded onto the Institutional Repositories, and all
journals converted to recovering their remaining costs via the Gold
OA publication-fee model, then the funds to pay for those will indeed
be drawn from one pocket to the other, out of existing funds, namely,
the windfall subscription cancellation savings:

But before we can get *there*, we first have to get to the 100%
Green OA that will both generate the OA *and* (perhaps) generate the
cancellations and the attendant savings. (If not, then we are speculating
for nothing.) But going instead for direct conversion to Gold right now,
without journal cancellations first, of necessity draws on existing
research funds that are far better used for funding research itself
(whilst researchers are busy providing OA to their findings via OA
Green self-archiving).

In summary, The Australian (and many others) have the wrong end of the
OA stick. We should all get the Gold Dust out of our eyes and get our
fingers moving, to perform the few keystrokes that are the only barrier
between us and 100% OA today.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Jan 24 2007 - 17:50:02 GMT

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