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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2007 15:02:57 +0000

On Thu, 25 Jan 2007, David J. Solomon,. Ph.D. wrote:

> It is so very frustrating to see people who read and post to this
> listserv waste time arguing over the "green" and "gold" approaches to
> OA.

Only one thing is more frustrating than that, and that is to see OA
-- which is already 100% reachable, today -- continuing to be delayed,
deferred and derailed by the *failure* to take the time to make, understand
and apply the green/gold distinction.

There are two ways to reach 100% OA. One (BOAI-1) is through authors
self-archiving their published journal articles in their institutional
repositories (Green OA) and the other (BOAI-2) is through journals
converting to OA publishing and authors publishing in them (Gold OA).

Both can in principle provide 100% OA. The difference is in their respective
probability and speed of reaching 100% OA:

Green OA is happening faster than Gold OA, but neither is happening
anywhere near fast enough. (OA is already well over a decade overdue,
reckoning from the time it has been reachable.)

But Green OA can be mandated immediately, and will then generate 100%
OA almost immediately.

Gold OA cannot be mandated (journals cannot be forced to convert to Gold
and authors cannot be forced to publish in Gold journals).

What is standing in the way of Green OA mandates? The publishing lobby. The
non-Gold publishing lobby is attempting to fight against OA in general, and
Green OA mandates in particular. Their tactics are becoming desperate, because
they sense that they are losing this battle:

But Gold OA publishers are a bit of a handicap to efforts to promote Green
OA mandates too, because they are lobbying to handicap the mandates
with a commitment to provide funds to pay for Gold OA. As there are no
free-floating funds available, this effectively makes it harder to get
Green OA mandates adopted at all, because researchers are understandably
concerned about redirecting their already-scarce research funds.

And, most important, providing extra funds to pay for Gold OA publication
is not necessary for OA: Green OA provides 100% OA without requiring
a penny to be taken from research budgets. The funds to pay for Gold
OA *do* exist, but they are currently tied up in paying non-OA journal
subscription costs.

Journal cancellations cannot be mandated. But they are not needed either, for
immediate 100% OA. Nor are OA publishing funds needed, for immediate 100% OA.

If and when 100% OA does generate a need to pay for OA publishing, because it
generates global cancellation of non-OA subscriptions, *then* there will not
only be a need to pay for Gold OA publishing (to which all journals will have to
convert) but there will also be all the institutional cancellation
windfall savings out of which to pay them.

If you don't make these green/gold distinctions, you are left with the
status quo: Only about 15% spontaneous Green OA and about 10% spontaneous
Gold OA. Only mandates can raise this to 100% OA; only Green OA can
be mandated (except for grant-subsidised journals); and tying Green OA
mandates to the funding of Gold OA is not only unnecessary and premature,
but creates resistance to the all-important adoption of Green OA mandates.

> Each have their advantages and disadvantages and both get us to
> the essentially the same place in this transition period where we
> still have an economic publishing model designed for paper journals.

Both get us there in principle -- just as redistribution of wealth would
get us to equality in principle, whether done voluntarily or through
taxation; but there is the practical problem of how to get there from

> Maybe I am missing something (please correct me) but it seems almost
> ludicrous to think author-funded OA journals, which I believe are NOT
> the most common form of OA journals are going to seriously damage our
> research funding system.

Good question. The answer has two parts:

(1) You are counting the number of Gold journals that currently charge for
publication. About 10% of journals are Gold today, and perhaps a third of them
charge for publication, so that's only about 3%. But there are also a growing
number of hybrid-Gold (optional OA) journals, and if they are paid too, that
might soon amount to all of the core journals. (And why not? If money were
available to pay your asking price, by the article, would you not offer the paid
OA option too?)

All of this (even the 3%) is worrisome to researchers who already find research
funds far too scarce.

(2) The attempts to add funding for Gold OA as a contingency to Green OA
mandates results in increased opposition to the adoption of those mandates,
among others, by the researchers concerned about their research grants.

> John Willinsky in his latest book estimated that the NIH spends
> $60,000 US for the research that generates each article based on NIH
> funding. He simply took the total NIH budget and divided it by the
> number of articles published I believe for 2005. It's a little
> simplistic but seems to me reasonable approach. The cost estimates I
> have seen for high-end OA publishing of the type found at PLoS are in
> the range of $3,000 US per article. Maybe its $4,000 ore $2,000 who
> cares, it's about 5% of the cost of the research the article is based on.

Ask researchers whether they are interested in a 5% reduction in their grants,
or in their probability of getting a grant, in exchange for OA. But don't forget
to add that they can have OA for free, via Green OA self-archiving.

And ask them what they would be happy to see mandated. The question has already
been asked about Green OA mandates alone, and over 95% of researchers say they
would comply, over 80% of them willingly.

But ask them how they would feel about such a mandate if it were coupled with a
5% reduction of research funds.

And don't forget to add that that 5% reduction of research funds would occur
while expenditures for journal subscriptions continued at their present levels.

Last, ask whether researchers would be happy with a Green-only mandate, allowing
Gold expenses to be paid out of subscription cancellation savings, if and when
subscriptions should ever be cancelled!

> Research and scholarship that isn't disseminated is useless so it
> seems quite reasonable to spend an additional 5% on disseminating it
> and its hard to see how this is going to seriously impact on research
> grant systems.

Might seem reasonable to those who do not lose the 5% funding from their
research, and to those who forget that hefty journal subscriptions are already
paying for the publication of 90% of journals!

> We also have a publication system in place that I think we can all
> agree is not working very well and at the same time very expensive.
> Whose paying for it? I think, (correct me if I am wrong) it's
> largely funded through subscription fees paid by academic libraries.

Correct. Note that it is not being paid for out of an extra 5% of research

> Where do the libraries get their funding for journal
> subscriptions? Since I live in the USA I am most familiar with the
> system here. Federal grands and to some extend foundation grants pay
> indirect costs to the institution that receives a grant. For federal
> grants its in the 50% range. This is for costs you really can't or it
> does not make sense to itemize in a grant budget. Things like lab
> space, heat, Internet access etc. Included in that is the cost of
> funding a research library because how can you do research without
> access to a good library. That is not the whole story but a big part
> of it and most of the rest of academic library funding comes from
> various public sources.

To the extent that research funds are already indirectly paying for
subscriptions, we are not talking about an extra 5% now, but about the
redirection of part of existing funding (overheads). Are you proposing that
research funders should require institutions to cancel their existing journal

(And if so, why? and how?)

Surely if journals are to be pressured to convert to Gold by journal
cancellations, it is up to the users (institutions and their researchers) to
decide when, where, and what to cancel, why. Open Access is about *access*,
not about forcible restructuring of the publishing industry.

Green OA mandates, in contrast, *are* specifically about access, provided by and
for researchers themselves. It can be mandated. And then (possibly), the
100% OA generated by the mandates can in turn cause cancellation pressure and
conversion to Gold OA -- while at the very same time generating the
institutional cancellation savings needed to cover the OA publishing costs.

So the arithmetic is right (there is already money enough "in the system,"
changing hands, without poaching anything extra from research), but the
pragmatics are wrong if you don't make the Green/Gold distinction and
don't consider what can be mandated and what must be left to take its
own natural course.

> So in essence, our research grant system (at least in the USA but I
> suspect elsewhere as well) is already paying for journals. It is just
> doing it in an inefficient, ineffective, overly expensive way that
> gives us lousy access, cuts off all sorts of people from the
> literature and makes large publishers rich.

Yes, in essence. And then the question is: How to get there from here?

Answer: Mandate Green OA, but do not pre-emptively redirect research
funds toward paying for Gold OA. Let Green OA take care of that on its
own, if/when need be.

> There is nothing wrong and plenty right with OA archiving manuscripts
> before and/or after they are published in fee-for-access journals. I
> really appreciate all the ground braking work Stevan Harnad has done
> in promoting OA. There is also nothing wrong and plenty right will
> promoting OA journals, even author paid OA though I don't believe it
> is necessarily the best approach. I believe both are reasonable stop
> gap mechanisms hopefully moving us forward to a rational OA economic
> model designed for electronic publication.

(I hope it's ground breaking rather than braking!)

Nothing wrong with promoting OA journals (I founded one of the first of them --
since suspended, alas), but first things first. The priority, is 100% OA now,
and only Green OA self-archiving (mandates) can do that, now.

And there is plenty wrong with redirecting the funds currently available for
research -- even 5% of them -- toward funding Gold OA publishing at this time,
especially if it gets in the way of getting Green OA mandates adopted.

Stevan Harnad

> At 12:19 PM 1/24/2007, you wrote:
> > [Apologies for Cross-Posting]
> >
> > 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
> > Transition
> >
> >(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
> >too.)
> >
> >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
> David Solomon, Ph.D.
> A-202 E. Fee Hall
> E. Lansing, Mi 48824
> (517) 353-2037 Voice
> (517) 432-1798
Received on Thu Jan 25 2007 - 15:35:11 GMT

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