Re: Challenge to "OA" Publishers Who Oppose Mandating OA via Self-Archiving

From: Arthur Sale <>
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2007 15:51:31 +1100

This is worthy of a published piece, Stevan. Edited of course.

I don't know how your fingers can type so much! Best wishes.


PS. Will you be in Canada in June if I come a-calling? I know it is
difficult to predict, but I am exploring a Round-The-World ticket.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Scientist Open Access Forum
> Sent: Wednesday, 28 February 2007 1:46 PM
> Subject: [AMERICAN-SCIENTIST-OPEN-ACCESS-FORUM] Reply to Jan Velterop, and
> Challenge to "OA" Publishers Who Oppose Mandating OA via Self-Archiving
> ** Cross-Posted **
> The online age has given birth to a very profound conflict of interest
> between what is best for (1) the research journal publishing industry,
> on the one hand, and, on the other hand, what is best for (2) research,
> researchers, universities, research institutions, research funders, the
> vast research and development (R&D) industry, and the tax-paying public
> that funds the research.
> It is no one's fault that this conflict of interest has emerged. It was
> a consequence of the revolutionary new power and potential for research
> that was opened up by the Web era. What is at stake can also be put in
> very concrete terms:
> (1) hypothetical risk of future losses in publisher revenue
> versus
> (2) actual daily losses in research usage and impact
> The way in which this conflict of interest will need to be resolved is
> also quite evident: The research publishing industry is a service
> industry. It will have to adapt to what is best for research, and not
> vice versa. And what is best for research, researchers, universities,
> research institutions, research funders, the R&D industry and the
> tax-paying public in the online age is: Open Access (free online
> access).
> The research publishing industry lobby of course does not quite see it
> this way. It is understandable that their first commitment is to their
> own business interests, hence to what is best for their bottom lines,
> rather than to something else, such as Open Access, and what is best for
> research and researchers.
> But what is especially disappointing, if not deplorable, is when
> so-called "Open Access" publishers take exactly the same stance against
> Open Access (OA) itself (sic) that conventional publishers do.
> Conventional publisher opposition to OA will be viewed, historically, as
> having been a regrettable, counterproductive (and eventually
> countermanded) but comprehensible strategy, from a purely business
> standpoint. OA publisher opposition to OA, however, will be seen as
> having been self-deluded if not hypocritical.
> Let me be very specific: There are two ways to provide OA: Either
> individual authors make their own (conventionally) published journal
> article's final draft ("postprint") freely accessible on the Web, or
> their journals make their published drafts freely accessible on the Web.
> The first is called "Green OA" (OA self-archiving) and the second is
> called "Gold OA" (OA publishing).
> In other words, one of the forms of OA (OA publishing, Gold OA) is a new
> form of publishing, whereas the other (Green OA) is not: it is just
> conventional subscription-based publishing plus author self-help, a
> supplement. Both forms of OA are equivalent; both maximize research
> usage and impact. But one depends on the author and the other depends on
> the publisher.
> Now both forms of OA represent some possible risk to publishers' revenue
> streams:
> With Green OA, there is the risk that the authors' free online
> versions will make subscription revenue decline, possibly
> unsustainably.
> With Gold OA, there is the risk that either subscription revenue will
> decline unsustainably or author/institution publication charges will
> not generate enough revenue to cover expenses (or make a profit).
> So let us not deny the possibility that OA in either form may represent
> some risk to publishers' revenues and to their current way of doing
> business. The real question is whether or not that risk, and the
> possibility of having to adapt to it by changing the way publishers do
> business, outweighs the vast and certain benefits of OA to research,
> researchers, universities, research institutions, research funders, the
> R&D industry and the tax-paying public.
> This question has been addressed by the various interested parties for
> several years now. And after much (too much) delay and debate with
> publishers, research funders as well as research institutions have begun
> to take OA matters into their own hands by mandating Green OA:
> As a condition for receiving grants, fundees must self-archive in
> their Institutional OA Repositories (or Central OA Repositories) the
> final drafts of all resulting articles accepted for publication: The
> European Research Council (ERC), five of eight UK Research Councils,
> the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the Wellcome Trust have
> already mandated Green OA self-archiving. In the US both the Federal
> Public Research Access Act (FRPAA) and a mandated upgrade of the
> NIH Public Access Policy are likewise proposing a self-archiving
> mandate. Similar proposals are under consideration in Canada,
> individual European countries, and Asia.
> In parallel, Green OA mandates have been adopted by a number of
> universities and research institutions worldwide, requiring all of
> their institutional research output to be self-archived in their
> Institutional OA Repositories.
> These Green OA mandates by research funders and institutions have been
> vigorously opposed by some (not all) portions of the publishing
> industry: these opponents have already succeeded in delaying the
> adoption of Green OA mandates on a number of occasions.
> htm
> Nevertheless, the benefits of OA to research are so great that these
> attempts to delay or derail the Green OA mandates are proving
> unsuccessful.
> The issue I wish to address here is the stance of (some) Gold OA
> publishers on the Green OA mandates: Most Gold OA publishers support
> Green OA mandates. After all, a Gold OA journal is also, a fortiori, a
> Green journal (as are about 65% of conventional journals), in that it
> explicitly endorses OA self-archiving by its authors.
> But endorsing individual author self-archiving is not the same as
> endorsing self-archiving mandates by funders and universities. So it is
> not surprising that although most conventional journal publishers
> endorse individual author self-archiving, many of them oppose
> self-archiving mandates.
> So what about those Gold OA journals that oppose Green OA mandates?
> This is an extremely telling question, as it goes straight to the heart
> of OA, and the rationale and justification for insisting on OA.
> Gold OA journals rightly represent themselves as differing from
> conventional journals in that they provide OA. To put it crudely, what
> they propose to authors is: "Publish in my journal instead of a
> conventional journal if you want your article to be Openly Accessible to
> all users." (And, for those Gold OA journals that charge publication
> fees: "Publish in my journal instead of a conventional journal and pay
> my publication fee if you want your article to be Openly Accessible to
> all users.")
> Apart from that, there is the usual competition between journals: OA
> journals competing with non-OA journals, and journals of all kinds
> within the same field, competing among themselves. For conventional
> journals and for OA Gold journals supported by subscriptions, there is
> competition for subscription fees. For all journals there is competition
> for authors. And for Gold OA journals that charge publication fees, the
> competition for authors is compounded by the competition for publication
> fees.
> What about OA itself? In order to be successful over its competition, a
> product-provider or service-provider has to provide and promote the
> advantages of his product/service over the competition. In the
> competition between OA and non-OA journals, the cardinal advantage of
> the OA journal is OA itself: OA journals provide OA, maximizing research
> usage and impact, conventional journals do not. For subscription-based
> Gold OA journals, OA is a drawing point. For publication-fee-based Gold
> OA journals, OA is a selling point.
> So what about Green OA mandates? For the 35% of conventional journals
> that have not endorsed OA self-archiving by their authors, their
> opposition to Green OA mandates is just an extension of their opposition
> to OA: We know where they stand. "What matters is what is best for our
> bottom line, not what is best for research."
> For the 65% of conventional journals that are "Green" in that they have
> endorsed OA self-archiving by their authors, those of them (their
> percentage is not yet clear) that oppose Green OA mandates are in a
> sense in conflict with themselves: "It's ok if individual authors
> self-archive to enjoy the advantages of OA, but it's not ok if their
> institutions or funders mandate that they do so." (This is an awkward
> stance, rather hard to justify, and will probably succumb to the
> underlying premise that OA is indeed an undeniable benefit to research.)
> But then what about opposition to Green OA mandates from Gold OA
> publishers -- publishers that are presumably 100% committed to the
> benefits of OA for research? This is the stance that is the hardest of
> all to justify. For the fact is that Green OA is in a sense a
> "competitor" to Gold OA: It offers OA without constraints on the
> author's choice of journal, and without having to pay publication fees.
> The only resolution open to a Gold OA publisher who wishes to justify
> opposing Green OA mandates is to adopt *precisely the same argument* as
> the one being used by the non-OA publishers that oppose Green OA
> mandates: that it poses a potential risk to subscription revenues -- in
> other words, again putting what is best for publishers' bottom lines
> above what is best for research, researchers, universities, research
> institutions, research funders, the R&D industry and the tax-paying
> public.
> Perhaps this was bound to come to pass in any joint venture between a
> producer who is not seeking any revenue for his product (i.e., the
> researcher-authors, their institutions and their funders) and a vendor
> who is seeking revenue for the value he adds to the (joint) product.
> I happen to think that this will conflict-of-interest will only sort
> itself out if and when what used to be a product -- a peer-reviewed,
> published journal article, online or on paper -- ceases to be a product
> at all (or at least a publisher's product), sold to the
> user-institution, and becomes instead a service (the 3rd-party
> management of peer review, and the certification of its outcome),
> provided by the publisher to the author's institution and funder.
> I also happen to think that only Green OA mandates can drive this
> transition from the current subscription-based cost-recovery model to
> the publication service-fee-based model, with the distributed network of
> institutional OA repositories making it possible for journals to offload
> all their current access-provision and archiving burden and its costs
> onto the repositories, distributed worldwide, thereby allowing journals
> to cut publication costs and downsize to become providers of the
> peer-review service alone, with its reduced cost recovered via
> institutional publication fees paid out of the institutional
> subscription-cancellation savings.
> Berners-Lee, T., De Roure, D., Harnad, S. and Shadbolt, N. (2005)
> Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence
> and Fruitful Collaboration.
> But this is all hypothetical: We are not there now. Right now, the cost
> of publication is being amply paid by subscriptions. Publishers are
> hypothesizing that OA self-archiving mandates will make that revenue
> source unsustainable -- but no actual evidence at all is being provided
> to show either that the hypothesis is true, or when and how quickly
> subscriptions will become unsustainable, if the hypothesis is true. Most
> important, publishers are giving no indications whatsoever as to why the
> transition scenario described above will not be the (equally
> hypothetical, but quite natural) sequel to unsustainable subscriptions.
> Instead, the only thing publishers are offering is hypothetical doomsday
> scenarios: the destruction of peer review, of journals, and of a viable
> industry. Then, on the pretext of the need to protect their current
> revenue streams and their current ways of doing business from this
> hypothetical doomsday scenario, publishers try to block OA
> self-archiving mandates, despite OA's substantial demonstrated benefits
> to all the other parties involved, viz, researchers, research
> institutions and funders, R&D industries, and the tax-paying public that
> funds the research.
> This is indeed a conflict of interest, although the future revenue
> losses to the publishing industry are completely hypothetical, whereas
> the current access/impact losses to research are real and already
> demonstrated (to the satisfaction of all except the publishing
> industry).
> I close with a reply to Jan Velterop, of Springer's "Open Choice":
> Springer is a subscription-based, hybrid Green/Gold publisher: It sells
> journals by subscription, it endorses author self-archiving, it offers
> authors fee-based Gold OA as an option, and Jan opposes Green OA
> mandates.
> This exchange begins with an attempt to justify (some) publishers'
> (unjustifiable) insistence on the transfer of *exclusive* rights (rather
> than just publishing rights) to the publisher; Jan suggests that
> transferring exclusive rights is a form of "payment" by the author to
> the publisher. Jan never says why the rights need to be exclusive. Then
> Jan goes on to oppose mandating Green OA self-archiving, as providing OA
> without paying for it. (No mention is made of the fact that that all
> publishing costs are currently being paid for already -- via
> subscriptions...)
> > On Wed, 21 Feb 2007, Velterop, Jan, Springer UK wrote:
> >
> > transfer of exclusive rights to a publisher is a form of
> > 'payment'. Payment for the services of a publisher.
> Is that so? And then what are subscription revenues? A fringe benefit?
> (I would have thought that assigning a publisher the right to publish
> and the exclusive right to collect revenues for selling an author's
> work, without even paying any royalties to the author, was "payment"
> enough for the value added by the publisher...)
> > The publisher subsequently uses these exclusive rights to sell
> > subscriptions
> > and licences in order to recoup his costs
> Why exclusive rights?
> > The advantage is seemingly for the author, who
> > (mistakenly) has the feeling that he doesn't have to pay for the
> > services of formal publication of his article, but who seldom realizes
> > why he is asked to transfer exclusive rights.
> Authors are naive, but not quite as foolish as that. They know the
> publisher needs to sell subscriptions to make ends meet. But what you
> haven't explained is why the publisher needs *exclusive* rights in order
> to do that.
> > The disadvantage is that payment in the form of exclusive rights
> > limits access, because it needs a subscription/licence model to
> > convert this form of 'payment' into money.
> Disadvantage or no disadvantage, subscriptions are currently making ends
> meet quite successfully.
> And you still haven't said why the rights transferred need to be
> exclusive.
> > And subscriptions/licences are by definition restrictive in
> > terms of dissemination.
> No problem, once the author supplements the access provided
> by subscriptions with free online access to his own self-archived draft
> (Green OA), providing eprints to would-be users who cannot afford the
> published version, exactly as authors had provided reprints in paper
> days.
> > Article-fee supported open access publishing,
> > where the transfer of exclusive rights is replaced by the transfer of
> > money, consequently doesn't have the need for subscriptions and can
> > therefore abolish all restrictions on dissemination.
> Yes. But where is the need for "article-fee supported open access
> publishing" (Gold OA) at a time when (a) most journals are
> subscription-based, (b) subscriptions are paying the costs of
> publishing, and (c) all the author need do is self-archive (Green OA)
> (and all the author's funder or institution need do is mandate it)?
> > Stevan Harnad c.s. will argue that none of this matters, because
> > there is 'green', meaning that whatever 'exclusive' rights have
> > been transferred, authors can still disseminate their articles via
> > self-archiving in open repositories. In that model, having transferred
> > 'exclusive' rights is meaningless, and that implies that the 'payment'
> > that exclusive rights transfer actually is, has become worthless.
> (1) You have not yet replied about why the transferred rights need to be
> exclusive.
> (2) Nor about what the problem is, as long as subscriptions are paying
> for publication costs, as they are.
> (3) If you choose to invoke the hypothetical "doomsday" scenario -- that
> mandated self-archiving will cause cancellations and drive subscriptions
> down to unsustainable levels -- by way of response, kindly first cite
> (3a) the evidence that self-archiving causes subscription cancellations
> and (3b) the arguments and evidence as to why publishing will not quite
> naturally make the adaptive transition to the Gold OA cost-recovery
> model that you favor, if and when self-archiving mandates ever *do*
> cause subscriptions to become unsustainable.
> > In mandates with embargos, the 'payment' may not be completely
> > worthless (depending on the length of the embargo) but is at least
> > severely
> > devalued.
> You seem to be singularly fixated (for an OA advocate) on payment rather
> than access (at a time when all payments are being made, but much access
> and impact is being lost).
> You also seem to be more concerned about payments than access delays,
> and you seem to be expressing some sympathy for embargoed access over
> immediate access in your (unsupported) defense of exclusive rights as a
> form of "payment."
> > I am a great fan of open access, but not a great fan of 'green'.
> Translation: I am a great fan of OA as long as it is paid Gold OA. (The
> accent seems to be on the "paid" rather than on the "OA".)
> But what is missing today is not publisher payment, but OA...
> > 'Green' is a kind of appeasement by publishers (some of who, it must
> > be said,
> > themselves didn't [and sometimes still don't] realise the 'payment'
> > nature
> > of exclusive rights transfer).
> Perhaps my interpretation is more charitable: 92% of journals did not
> endorse Green OA (65% for immediate postprint OA) merely to "appease" or
> "placate," but because they recognized that OA is indeed a great benefit
> to research and researchers, and that trying to oppose OA would be
> neither creditable nor successful.
> Jan seems to prefer the less charitable idea that endorsing Green
> self-archiving was merely a cynical sop, granted on the assumption that
> it would not be used, and perhaps even to be taken back, "Indian-Giver"
> Style, if too many researchers actually went ahead and self-archived:
> (But let us not forget that Jan is not speaking here of Springer, but of
> the competition...)
> > Appeasement is often regretted with
> > hindsight. Instead of allowing the nature of exclusive rights transfer
> > to be compromised, publishers should much earlier have offered authors
> > the choice of payment either transfer of exclusive rights, or cash.
> > The
> > appeasement, the 'green', now acts as a hurdle to structural open
> > access,
> > perhaps even an impediment.
> In other words, publishers should have refused to endorse Green OA
> self-archiving unless they were paid extra for it. Never mind that all
> publication costs were and still are being fully paid via subscriptions.
> No OA without extra pay (Gold).
> Because of this impetuous Green appeasement, Springer (a Green
> publisher) is now stuck with only being able to ask payment for Gold,
> not for Green too...
> > Harnadian orthodoxy will dismiss this. It holds that subscription
> > journals will survive, that they will be paid for by librarians even
> > if the content is freely disseminated in parallel via open repositories,
> > and that it doesn't matter anyway
> Shorn of the above rhetoric, my position is much simpler:
> Mandate self-archiving now, for immediate Green OA. If and when 100%
> Green OA ever does cause universal subscription cancellation, then use
> the self-same windfall subscription savings to pay for Gold OA. But not
> now, when there is next to no OA and no Green-induced subscription
> cancellations.
> > (the guru is tentatively beginning to admit that large scale
> > uptake of self-archiving, for instance as the
> > result of mandates, may indeed destroy journals)
> Nothing of the sort. There is no guru, but all I say is what I have been
> saying all along: if and when OA self-archiving makes subscriptions
> unsustainable, journals can and will adapt by converting to Gold OA, and
> institutions will pay the Gold OA fees out of (a portion of) their
> windfall subscription cancellation savings. (Only a part, because
> journals will have down-sized to peer-review service-provision alone.)
> 52.htm
> > because a new order will only come about after the complete
> > destruction of the old order.
> No destruction: merely a natural adaptation to the optimal and
> inevitable, made possible by the online medium.
> > After all, morphing the old order into the new, without complete
> > destruction,
> > entails a cost in terms of money, which "isn't there", and anyway, the
> > cost that comes with complete destruction of the old order is
> > preferred
> > to spending money on any transition, in that school of thought.
> Translation, shorn of Jan's rhetoric:
> Harnad (and many others) are objecting to needlessly (and
> wastefully) redirecting scarce research funds toward paying for
> Gold OA *now*, when (1) 100% Green OA is reachable without it,
> when (2) subscriptions are still covering publishing costs, and
> when (3) it is still a speculative matter whether and when Green
> OA will ever cause subscriptions to become unsustainable. The
> time to redirect funds toward paying for Gold OA is when
> the hypothesized subscription cancellations have actually
> materialized, so the new savings can be redirected to pay for
> the new Gold OA publishing costs.
> And the objection isn't primarily to the redirection of scarce research
> funds to pay for needless Gold OA costs. If the research community is
> foolish enough to want to do that, it is welcome to do so. The objection
> is to any further delay in mandating Green OA, wasting still more time
> instead on continued bickering about paying pre-emptive Gold publishing
> fees. Let research funders and institutions mandate OA Green
> self-archiving, now, thereby guaranteeing 100% OA, now, and *then* let
> them spend their spare time and money in any way they see fit.
> > I doubt that a complete wipe-out will come. But there are quite a
> > large number of vulnerable journals and a partial wipe-out as a result
> > of mandated self-archiving is entirely plausible.
> If what Jan is saying here is that journals will continue to be born and
> die, as they do now, I agree. Green self-archiving mandates don't affect
> journals individually, they affect them all, jointly, and the effects
> are gradual. No one funder or institution generates the contents of an
> individual journal. So as the percentage of self-archiving rises, there
> will be a (possibly long) uncertain period when it is unclear how much
> of the contents of any given journal are accessible online for free.
> If and when a point is reached where journal subscriptions do become
> unsustainable, there will be a natural mass transition to Gold OA.
> Before that time, it is a matter of the sheerest of sheer speculation
> whether Green OA will or will not alter either the rate or the direction
> of spontaneous journal births and deaths.
> > Although there seems
> > to be a myth that journals are very, even extremely, profitable, the
> > fact is that a great many journals are not profitable or 'surplus-able'
> > (in not-for-profit parlance). In my estimate it is the majority. Within
> > the portfolio of larger publishers these journals are often absorbed
> > and cross-subsidised by the journals that are profitable. Smaller
> > (e.g. society-) publishers cannot do that. Marginal journals do not
> > have to suffer a lot of subscription loss before they go under. Some
> > of these, especially society ones, will be 'salvaged' by being given the
> > opportunity to shelter under the umbrella of the portfolio of one of
> > the larger independent publishers. Others will just perish if they
> > lose subscriptions. They could of course convert to open access journals
> > with article processing fees, but setting those up is no sinecure,
> > and requires a substantial financial commitment, as the experience of
> > PLoS and BMC has shown. Journals that are run for the love of it, by
> > the commendable voluntary efforts of academics, are mostly very small,
> > and are the first to be affected, unless, of course, they do not need
> > any income because they are crypto-subsidised by the institutions with
> > which their editors are affiliated. Such journals have always been
> > there and there are probably more now than ever (and some are very good
> > indeed, or so I'm told), but to imagine scaling them up to deal with the
> > million plus articles per year published as a result of global research
> > efforts seems far-fetched, indeed.
> Part of this speculative account had some plausibility: Yes, journals
> are born and die. Yes some struggle to make ends meet (irrespective of
> OA). Yes some are subsidised. None of this has anything at all to do
> with OA.
> The causal influence of OA on this already ongoing birth/death/survival
> process, however, is pure speculation: Some titles will die; some will
> migrate (possibly to OA Gold publishers like Jan's former employer,
> BioMed Central -- which, I note in passing, has signed the EC petition
> in support of the EC OA Self-Archiving Mandate, whereas Jan's current
> employer, Springer, did not); some will survive, with or without
> subsidy, just as before. Nothing to do with Green OA, either in terms of
> rate or direction.
> But where on earth did Jan get to the non-sequitur of "scaling... up the
> [border-line and subsidised journals] to deal with the million plus
> articles per year"?
> Journals will continue to make ends meet as they did before, on
> subscriptions or subsidies; some will die, as they always did; others
> will migrate. Then, if and when subscriptions become unsustainable,
> there will be a transition (and downsizing) to OA Gold, paid for out of
> (a portion of) the very same subscription cancellation savings that
> drove the transition, redirected toward paying for Gold OA fees.
> Jan's own speculation only sounds like an Escher impossible-figure
> because he chooses to portray it that way. Without the imposition of
> that arbitrary distortion, the transitional landscape looks perfectly
> natural.
> > Open access is the inevitable future, and it is worth working on a
> > truly robust and sustainable way to achieve it.
> OA means free online access, and that is indeed worth reaching for right
> now, via Green OA self-archiving mandates, which are reachable right
> now. Jan instead recommends continuing to sit and wait for a
> hypothetical outcome, while meanwhile refraining from reaching for a
> sure outcome: 100% OA via Green mandates. Jan urges the research
> community instead to "work on" finding a way to pay pre-emptively for
> Gold OA now, when Gold OA is neither needed, nor are the funds available
> for paying for it (without poaching them from research) because the
> funds to pay for publishing are still paying for subscriptions.
> Caveat pre-emptor.
> Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Feb 28 2007 - 12:13:49 GMT

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