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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 2007 22:42:28 +0000

On Thu, 1 Feb 2007, Prof. Tom Wilson wrote:

> I fail to see why you are so sensitive to this issue: what part of 'to make
> publicly available' do you not understand? Whether one publishes once or twice
> is irrelevant - a paper publicly available in a journal AND publicly available
> on a archive Website has been 'published' twice. Why not, what's the problem
> with saying that is 'publicly available' in two alternative modes? Is it,
> perhaps, that you fear that the commercial publishers will become more
> resistant to archiving if one claims to be 'publishing' by archiving?

No, it's not the publishers I fear, it's the continuing passivity of the
research community, imagining that it is the publishing system that needs
to be reformed for them, if they are to have OA, not realizing that OA is
and has always been at the tips of their very own fingers all along.

    Harnad, S. (2006) Opening Access by Overcoming Zeno's Paralysis,
    in Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and
    Economic Aspects, chapter 8. Chandos.

> > Berners-Lee, T., De Roure, D., Harnad, S. and Shadbolt, N. (2005)
> > Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence
> > and Fruitful Collaboration.
> >
> The evidence cited in this paper for 'peaceful co-existence' relates solely to
> the physics archive and the experience of two scientific society publishers -
> one can hardly generalise across all disciplines and all publishers on this
> basis.

Physics is also the only discipline in which self-archiving is advanced
enough to provide any evidence at all.

Besides, surely the burden of providing evidence one way or the other is on
those who believe the Doomsday Hypothesis, that self-archiving will destroy
journals' means of making ends meet. There is *zero* evidence for that.

Does one have to produce counter-evidence against every doomsday
hypothesis, just because someone has raised it? Or is it not the
doomsayers who need to provide the evidence? But stay tuned, because
the empirical test of the doomsday hypothesis is about to start -- with
the self-archiving mandates. The likely contingencies have already long
been anticipated. All that was missing was for the inevitable passage
to the optimal outcome to be actively engaged, instead of continuing to
be second-guessed passively, paralytically, a-priori.

> The comments in that document are as hypothetical as mine :-) 'Downsizing' -
> the commonest way of cutting costs would involve publishers in either reducing
> their staffs - thereby cutting the quality of their journals, and probably the
> number of journals they could handle, or cutting the number of journals
> directly.

Instead of continuing to hypothesize and counter-hypothesize a priori,
in the continuing absence of OA, why don't we usher in OA with the Green
OA mandates, thereby also putting our hypotheses to the empirical

> > SH:
> > 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.
> I'm not arguing for publishers to convert to OA publishing - I'm arguing that
> there is a strong economic and social benefit case for all those authors who
> currently submit to toll-payment journals to submit to free OA journals where
> they exist and to establish such journals where they do not yet exist.

And I would rather not keep waiting for OA publishing to be built up
bottom-up by researchers and mysterious subsidies! I'd rather do the
obvious and mandate the long-overdue keystrokes that are guaranteed to
generate 100% OA, without having to wait to rebuild publishing or to
find mysterious subsidies.

> You seem to think that I am a) arguing against archiving, which I am not - I've
> said time and again that I support it; and b) that I am arguing that commercial
> publishers should find alternative cost-recovery or subsidy models, which I am
> not - I am arguing for the scientific community itself to take the process of
> scholarly communication into its own hands and launch free, subsidised OA
> journals, because the technology makes that possible and, ultimately, makes the
> commercial publisher irrelevant to the process.

The way for the scientific community to take OA in their own hands is to
move their fingers to self-archive. You support self-archiving, but you
do discourage it too, in echoing the doomsday hypotheses that have been
holding it back:

    "And if, as some suggest, self-archiving leads to the demise of those
    journals? 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."

I do not interpret the above as either an incentive to authors to
self-archive, or to universities and funders to mandate self-archiving.
Rather, it echoes precisely the rationale that the publishing lobby has
been using repeatedly to try to block the self-archiving mandates.

Alas, experience has been that whenever I hear "I support self-archiving,
but..." it tends to be followed by something that in fact does not
support self-archiving after all, but some other approach (or changes the subject

> open archiving is, for me, an
> intermediate technology, that ought to be (and perhaps will be) overtaken by
> technological developments that make the free OA journal a more widespread
> phenomenon.

Perhaps (though it's not clear what). But the priority today is not to
try to second-guess technology's future course but to put its present
resources in the service of immediate 100% OA -- already within reach
for well over a decade, much moaned about since, but still not grasped.

> Where is the future without pipe-dreaming academics? Once upon a time you had a
> pipe-dream of OA through self-archiving :-)

Fair question! I think a fair answer is this:

    (1) Self-archiving was not really a pipe-dream, but a simple,
    practical reality, at the fingertips of each and every academic
    already in 1994.

It is not out of mere cynicism but out of mounting frustration that
I keep saying OA is not rocket science, but raincoat science: the
intellectual equivalent of "Look kids, it's raining: Time to put on the
ol' raincoats!" Not the dream but the nightmare has been the litany of
anosognosic denials, deferrals, distractions! Anything but the digital
dynamics that are what

    (2) Pipe-dreams are welcome, essential, *except* when they in fact
    get in the way of putting already-available, practical means
    into practise.

(As I said, once the keystrokes are mandated, all pipe-dreams -- even
doomsday scenarios -- are welcome: but not now, when they simply serve
to keep delaying the optimal, inevitable and already reachable: it is
all already too long overdue.)

So let us return to persuading authors to start new OA journals and find
new sources of subsidy *after* they are all safely providing OA, thanks to
universal self-archiving mandates.

> Fine - let us agree then, that self-archiving should be pursued vigorously, and
> that free, subsidised OA journals should also be pursued vigorously. We have
> nothing to lose by urging both courses of action and the community will have
> much to gain.

Well, not quite, but close enough! Nolo contendere.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Feb 01 2007 - 23:20:24 GMT

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