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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2007 21:39:47 +0000

On Thu, 25 Jan 2007, Jonathan Eisen wrote:

> 1. The statement that Green OA can be mandated immediately but Gold
> OA cannot is not convincing.
> Why not? I believe there are sufficient Gold OA journals in
> existence now (well, depending on exactly how you define Gold OA) to
> take publications. And if the US, EU and other governments said "In
> six months, all government funded research can only be published in
> Gold OA journals ..." I do not see how that is different from the
> governments saying "In six months, all government funded research
> must be available in OA archives of some type"

The difference between mandating Green and mandating Gold is that mandating
Green (1) does not dictate the author's choice of journal, (2) does not
impose publishing costs, and (3) does not divert money from research.

In principle, everything could be published in just one global
mega-journal. So the issue is not whether there are enough Gold journals
already to absorb all the traffic, but (1) whether authors want their
journal choice dictated, (1) whether they want to pay for it, and (3)
whether they want that payment to be diverted from current research funds.

And, just as important, do they want (1)-(3) in exchange for having OA, when
self-archiving alone is sufficient to provide OA, retaining journal choice,
paying nothing, and not diverting funds from research?

Last: Multiple polls have shown that although most authors who know about
it do want OA, only about 15% of them want OA enough to self-archive
spontaneously and only about 10% of them want OA enough to publish
spontaneously in an OA journal. However, 95% report they would comply
with an OA self-archiving mandate, over 80% of them *willingly*.

So authors welcome a Green OA mandate. They have not been polled about
how they would feel about a Gold OA mandate, (1) dictating their choice
of journals, (2) requiring a publication fee, and (3) diverting funds
to pay for it from research funds.

If would-be Gold mandates got past (1) (because it is so easy now for any
publisher to offer a Springer-like "Open Choice" of optional Gold), they would
quickly come up against (2) the asking price, and (3) the prospect of paying for
it out of already scarce research funds.

But if Gold can only be patient long enough to allow Green OA mandates to be
adopted globally, without any strings attached that might prevent the mandates
from being adopted or complied with, then Green OA is the most likely path to
eventual Gold OA. Try to force a direct "short-cut" now, and we will get next to
nowhere, as we have been doing for too many years now.

If and when 100% Green OA causes unsustainable subscription cancellations and a
global transition to Gold, then those institutional subscription savings -- not
today's scarce research funds -- will be provide the natural pot out of which to
pay the OA publishing charges. Today, with subscriptions paying for publication,
there is simply no need for authors to pay for OA.

> What is the basis for the idea that authors can be forced to deposit
> articles in archives but cannot be forced to publish in Gold OA
> journals?

See above: Mandates, in order to be adopted, need the support of the
research community. OA has the research community's support. Green OA
mandates have the research community's support. But (1) dictating the
researcher's choice of journal, (2) imposing a publication fee, and (3)
diverting the funds to pay for it from research funds do not have the
support of the research community.

And no wonder, because the research community is quite capable of putting
2 + 2 together: A Green OA mandate will generate 100% OA without (1)-(3),
so why insist on imposing (1)-(3)?

> 2. The idea that Green OA and Gold OA are roughly equivalent in terms
> of benefit to society is not convincing.
> Yes, Green OA does theoretically make papers available for people to
> read. But first of all, to me Gold OA is about more than making
> papers available in some archive. It is also about giving the
> authors the copyright to their articles, and allowing anyone to make
> use of the articles in any way they see fit as long as they keep the
> original reference information intact. We are making significant use
> of this option in teaching and in public education. Green OA as far
> as I know does not allow for this to be done.

Jonathan, this issue has been debated many times (with your brother
Michael and others) in this same Forum:

    "Free Access vs. Open Access"

All the uses that are needed come with the territory when a full-text
is freely available on the web: It can be accessed, read, downloaded,
printed, stored, and data-crunched by any individual user webwide,
as well as trawled, harvested, inverted and indexed by google and other
search engines.

Republishing rights and the right to redistribute or re-sell multiple
hard copies is *not* part of OA. The possibility of OA was born with the
birth of the online medium combined with the longstanding practice of
research journal article authors giving away their articles for the sake
of research usage and impact rather than selling them for royalty income.

Nor are republishing or multiple paper redistribution rights needed any more,
when all one need distribute is the URL, to one and all (course pack included),
letting individual users webwide make use of the capabilities that come with the
territory once a document is OA.

So copyright retention too is merely one of the potential means, not the
end, in providing OA; nor is it necessary, in order to provide 100% OA.
All that's needed in order to provide 100% OA is to make the document
permanently accessible, free for all, on the web.

Copyright retention is desirable, and recommended, when it can be
successfully negotiated with the publisher; but it is not *necessary*
for OA or OA self-archiving; and to imply that it is necessary, as
some have done, is to do a disservice to OA and its progress, adding
yet another needless handicap (alongside (1)-(3) above). Over 90% of
journals have already given their blessing to some form of self-archiving
-- and the Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access (IDOA) Strategy covers all
the rest:

> 3. The idea that going first to Green OA will then likely lead to a
> shift to Gold OA is not convincing either.
> While I do not want to engender fighting between the gold and green
> OA supporters, I think that it is possible that a shift to a Green OA
> model will actually prevent, not promote, a Gold OA model. Yes, if
> everyone cancels their subscriptions then journals may be forced to
> try a Gold OA model. But it is unclear if everyone will cancel
> subscriptions if Green OA is mandated. I guess this depends on the
> terms of the mandate --- if the mandate says "immediately available
> in archives" maybe people will cancel subscriptions. But if the
> mandate says "after six months ..." then I think we will not see as
> much subscription cancellation as would be needed.

But Jonathan, I only said that 100% Green OA might eventually lead
to Gold OA (and that *if* there was to be 100% Gold OA, Green OA was
the most likely path to it). I didn't say 100% Gold OA was certain
(although I do think it is likely). The only thing that is certain is
that an institution or funder seeking 100% OA for its research output,
now, will get 100% OA, now, if it mandates Green.

But you've again gone beyond OA (as you did with the excess rights you were
concerned about above) if you imagine that 100% Green OA *needs* to lead to Gold
OA: Whether it does or it does not, it will have provided the goal of the OA
movement, which is 100% OA!

A transition to Gold OA publishing was merely *one* of the potential means
of reaching 100% OA. It is not the end itself. OA does not mean OA (Gold)
publishing, it means OA: free online access, webwide (immediately and

Here a temporary but extremely powerful compromise is needed,
as a start-up condition for successful Green OA mandates : The
Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access (IDOA) Mandate requires that the
metadata and full text of all articles be deposited in an OA Repository
(preferably the author's own Institutional Repository [IR]: PubMed
Central and other central repositories can harvest therefrom) immediately
upon acceptance for publication: If an access-embargo is allowed,
those articles are temporarily set as "Closed Access" instead of OA,
but the metadata are accessible webwide, and the IR's semi-automatic
"EMAIL EPRINT REQUEST" button allows any individual user to request --
and the author to provide -- one individual copy of the full-text by email
semi-automatically, with only one click from the author, to authorise it.
(This new possibility too, comes with the territory.)

This is not OA, but almost-OA; and, with just a little patience, it will usher
in full OA as a matter of course, once the IDOA mandates are adopted globally.

> Thus if, as I believe, Gold OA is better, then I am still willing to
> fight for it to be required now, rather than doing the two step model
> of requiring Green OA first. This is under my assumption from #1
> above that Gold OA could be mandated now.

Gold OA is better *something*, but not better OA, and not better now. Green
OA mandates finally look as if they might at last be progressing toward
universal adoption by funders and institutions, but that progress can
still be stopped dead in its tracks if they are now handicapped with
extra constraints (1)-(3) (imposed journal choice, publication charges,
diversion of research funds), constraints that are neither necessary
for 100% OA, now, nor appealing to the research community.

If you want a hint of how unappealing publication charges and diversion of
research funds is to researchers, I too have a brother, and here is what he
has posted (unprompted!):

    "Is OA (Gold) really a desirable goal for scientific journal publishing?"

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Jan 25 2007 - 21:49:25 GMT

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