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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2007 23:07:01 +0000

On Wed, 31 Jan 2007, Prof. Tom Wilson wrote:

> > SH:
> > But we are researchers and academics. And for research and academic purposes,
> > it is articles accepted for publication by peer-reviewed journals that we list
> > under "PUBLICATIONS" in our CVs, not preprints that we have merely posted on the
> > Web: Those we list under "UNPUBLISHED."
> > Nor do we list the posting of a published postprint on the web as yet
> > another publication. It is merely access-provision, just as mailing reprints is.
> TW:
> Your definitions are at variance with every dictionary definition I can find -
> here are some from Web sites:
> Publishing is the activity of putting information into the public arena. It is
> relevant to two specific legal issues: *as the process of giving formal notice
> to the world of a significant intention, e.g. to marry or enter bankruptcy,
> and*as the essential precondition of being able to claim for defamation, i.e.
> the alleged libel must have been published.But this page is concerned with the
> production of books, magazines, newspapers and other material (whether in
> printed or electronic format).

But that is *completely* irrelevant to the point at issue: It is not
"publications" in this legal sense that are at issue for scholars
and scientists, but articles published in peer-reviewed journals, the
academic sense of publishing. That's what counts as a publish-or-perish
publication, not a posting on the web!

If I publish an article in journal X and leave it at that, or if I publish
the article in journal X and also deposit it on my institutional website,
I am not publishing in two different ways. I am publishing in one and
the same way (in the journal) and providing supplementary access to one
and the same publication.

This is not just a word-game: Publishing a paper-only journal or
publishing an online-only journal, or a journal that is a hybrid of both,
really is a difference in the way of publishing. By the same token,
publishing a Gold OA journal really is a way of publishing that differs
from publishing a non-OA journal: an OA journal makes its contents free
online; sometimes it also recovers its costs via publication charges
rather than via subscriptions.

But publishing in a conventional non-OA journal and then self-archiving
ones own article free online is not a difference in the way we publish;
it is only a difference in the way we provide access to what we have
published. (By comparison, whether we did or did not elect to mail out
paper reprints to reprint requesters in paper days was likewise not
a difference in the way we published, but only in the way we provided
access to what we had published. Self-archiving is more of the same.)

And it is important to make this distinction, because it is the failure
to make this distinction that allows people to keep treating OA as if
it were synonymous with Gold OA publishing (truly a new way of publishing),
whereas OA is *not* synonymous with Gold OA, because there is also Green OA:
publishing in the ordinary way, and simply providing free online access to
the publication by self-archiving it. Green OA is not a new way to publish,
yet it is 100% OA.

> > SH:
> > Being held to ransom to journal prices in a world where 100% of published
> > articles have been "freed" by OA self-archiving mandates does not seem
> > too worrying a prospect! Yes, journals will still be subscribed to,
> > within the limits of affordability, as before, but is it not evident
> > that journal affordability will no longer be a life/death decision,
> > once there is the safety net of the author's self-archived postprints
> > for the articles in the journals that are unaffordable?
> TW
> And if, as some suggest, self-archiving leads to the demise of those journals?

Instead of arbitrary doomsday hypotheses, I suggest thinking realistically about the
likely contingencies:

    Berners-Lee, T., De Roure, D., Harnad, S. and Shadbolt, N. (2005)
    Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence
    and Fruitful Collaboration.

> TW:
> What then is the basis for self-archiving? If journal publishers see their
> profits falling as a result of self-archiving I imagine that the usual
> commercial interests will prevail and a number of options will be available to
> them: 1) they can increase subscription prices - putting a further load on
> institutions; 2) they can increase author payments where they already exist and
> introduce them in journals that have not used them previously - increasing the
> load on research budgets; 3) they can gradually withdraw from publishing and
> put their reserves into other forms of business.

When a product is losing clients the usual strategy is to find ways of cutting
costs, not raising prices (which just loses more clients).


> > SH:
> > But self-archiving depends only on the author (and his university and
> > funder), and is motivated by interest in maximising research impact.
> > Conversion to OA publishing depends on the publisher; it is not in the
> > author's hands, as self-archiving is.
> TW:
> Of course it is in the hands of authors - the vast majority of the publishers of
> free OA journals are themselves authors. The technology makes it possible and
> free OA journals are created by authors either individually or in consort.

But the vast majority of the publishers of non-free, non-OA journals
are not themselves authors, apparently, and that is the vast majority
of journals (21,500/24,000). And publishers cannot be mandated by
universities and funders to convert to OA publishing. But authors can
be mandated to self-archive.

> TW:
> To repeat: to 'publish' is to make publicly available - self-archiving IS a
> publishing model.

Saying it again alas does not make it more correct: The "publish" in
"publish-or-perish" refers to journal and book publication, with a
publisher, not self-publishing on the web. And the posting of published
articles on the web is not publishing, it is providing access to the
publication (in this academic, "publish-or-perish" sense). Getting accepted
by the journal is what counts as publishing.

> > SH:
> > ...if [only] there *were* such no-payment journals for all or most of the
> > research literature. But there aren't, so why are we talking about
> > hypothetical possibilities, when actual self-archiving mandates are already
> > within sight, and reach?
> TW:
> Self-archiving was a "hypothetical possibility" - all ideas about future states
> are "hypothetical possibilities" - by your actions you have helped to bring the
> hypothetical possibility of self-archiving into being - where is the problem in
> seeking to make real a different 'hypothetical possibility' - especially when
> it is no threat to self-archiving?

No problem once self-archiving has been universally mandated and we are thereby
all safely on the sure road to 100% OA. But self-archiving has not yet been universally
mandated, in large part because the research community has been trying to get
publishers to convert to OA publishing, and have otherwise been waiting passively for
OA, even though it was within their own reach, via self-archiving.

The idea now is to stop waiting passively, and stop relying on trying to persuade
publishers to do what they clearly have no inclination to do -- and cannot be mandated
to do. Trying to persuade publishers to adopt the OA cost-recovery model was already a
long, largely unsuccessful, uphill battle that has lost us years more of OA we could
have had if we had focussed on self-archiving. Trying to persuade them to find a
sustainable subsidy model is even a longer shot, and only entails more waiting.

So I would not call the quest for finding alternative, sustainable ways to cover OA
publishing costs a "threat" to self-archiving: It is rather a distraction; and a
retardant on the progress of self-archiving, self-archiving mandates, and hence OA.

Let us get on the sure road to 100% OA, via worldwide self-archiving mandates from
researchers' institutions and funders, and *then* lets turn to seeking sustainable
models for covering OA publishing costs if and when it should ever prove necessary.
Meanwhile, we will first have OA. But not if we go after subsidies instead of mandates

> TW:
> The situation we are now in reminds me somewhat of the introduction of CD-ROM
> databases in the 1980s - libraries established CD-ROM systems for network
> access at considerable cost and these remain for some databases in some places,
> but the technology of the Web made that technology redundant. Self-archiving
> seems to me to be rather like the CD-ROM database - valid for a period until
> the obvious benefits of the new technology become overwhelming.

I don't quite see the analogy, but the obvious benefit of self-archiving (no new
technology and next to no costs involved) is OA, and the benefits of OA. I'll settle
for the benefits of OA, already reachable, and already long overdue; and worry about
hypothetical benefits of an even higher order if and when they become visible, and

> Yes - the OA
> journals must exist, and they do, increasingly. I believe that the economic
> case for subsidised journals will become increasingly obvious to the scientific
> community and that authors will increasingly have the choice of submitting
> freely and ensuring that their work is freely accessible.

If/when enough suitable, subsidised (no-payment) OA journals exist for the needs
of all or most authors, there will no longer be the need for OA self-archiving
or OA self-archiving mandates. (For record-keeping, Institutional Repositories can
simply harvest their own research outputs from their own authors' journals' free

But alas, very far from enough subsidised (no-payment) OA journals exist for the needs
of all or most authors, and the idea is to stop waiting for such pipe-dreams, but
rather to do the simple thing that is needed in order to have immediate, 100% OA now:
mandate the keystrokes.

> > > TW:
> > > By all means mandate self-archiving and encourage it as much as possible,
> > > but it is only a half-way house to the genuine open access system.
> >
> > SH:
> > I don't know what a "genuine open access system" means, but self-archiving
> > mandates have already been shown to lead to full, genuine OA.
> TW:
> I define a genuine open access system as one in which there is no charge on the
> author for submitting a paper, and no charge on the reader for reading it. It
> is entirely possible to justify such a system economically, as McCabe has
> noted, and my expectation is that newly established journals will increasingly
> take that route.

I would be delighted with such an eventuality too. Let publication costs be subsidised
by someone or other, but neither the author nor the reader. But no such option is
remotely in sight at the moment, whereas self-archiving and self-archiving mandates are
within sight and reach, and certain to deliver 100% OA. So why keep speculating and
fantasising instead of mandating and doing the keystrokes that are already at everyone's

(A magic subsidy is highly unlikely; but it is undeniable that there is already more
than enough institutional money "in the system," and already paying all publishing
costs; if institutions got all that money back, they themselves could be the
"subsidisers" of their own publishing costs. But that too is speculation. The reality
is reachable OA, now: reachable by mandating the keystrokes.)

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Received on Wed Jan 31 2007 - 23:18:12 GMT

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