Re: Physics World: The CERN Gold OA initiative

From: David Prosser <david.prosser_at_BODLEY.OX.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2007 17:09:29 -0000



I agree with most of what you&#8217;ve written, especially about the
urgency of mandates.  Where I still disagree is with the idea that we are
losing focus by also exploring gold models.  In the field that CERN
covers they have 100% (or almost) open access.  I think they should be
free to now look at ways in which they can fund gold OA.  I do not
believe that they are beholden to promote green OA in other subject areas
(over and above what they are already doing, which is significant). 
Also, their model predicts that a funded gold OA model in particle
physics will be cheaper than the current subscription model.  (See
 So, for an investment now (the &#8216;double payment&#8217;) a
transition could free-up funds for research.


You make the point that this model will probably not scale to all
journals.  That&#8217;s true, but it doesn&#8217;t have to &#8211; all it
has to do is work for this community.  The Science/Nature model (large
number of personal subscribers and significant advertising revenue in
addition to institutional subscribers) doesn&#8217;t scale to all
journals either, but it is a valid business model.  Again, it is not the
responsibility of particle physics to develop a model for all journals.


So, should CERN being doing more to promote green OA in other subjects
&#8211; I don&#8217;t think that we should expect them to do more that
they already do.  Is the CERN gold experiment damaging to research? 
Well, it might free-up funds and so benefit research.  Does the CERN
experiment delay the day that we get 100% OA?  I really don&#8217;t think
so, although we may disagree on that!


Best wishes




David C Prosser PhD


SPARC Europe



Tel:       +44 (0) 1865 277 614

Mobile:  +44 (0) 7974 673 888



-----Original Message-----
From: American Scientist Open Access Forum
Behalf Of Stevan Harnad
Sent: 08 March 2007 13:14
Subject: Re: Physics World: The CERN Gold OA initiative


On Thu, 8 Mar 2007, David Prosser wrote:


> SH:

> '(The ERC funding would mean a redirection of scarce research funds of

> precisely the sort that researchers worry about.)'


> I think that we are in danger of overstating the amount of money that

> be 'diverted' to publication costs.  The ERC will allow publication
costs to

> be included in research grants.  Not everybody will take up this option

> not everybody will publish in journals that either have figure charge

> page charges, or open access publication charges.  Even if everybody

> what we are looking at is a figure of about 1-2% of the total research

> budget (based on the Wellcome research).


*Allowing* research fundees to use part of their research funding to

cover publication costs at their own discretion is not the problem (and

I of course have no objection to that). That is simply a change in the

allowable category of expenditure, as you note, and leaves the choice

entirely up to the fundee.




(1) On no account is the *needless* redirection of scarce research funds

towards other uses than research welcome.


(2) While subscriptions are still paying for publication, and Green OA

self-archiving is available to provide OA, it is needless in the extreme

redirect research funds to pay instead for Gold OA publishing fees.


(3) If/when subscriptions are no longer being paid, then (part of) the

subscription savings can be redirected to pay for Gold OA publishing


(4) Before that, it is simply a (two-fold) mistake instead to redirect

research funds for other purposes: unnecessary payment for OA and

unnecessary loss for research.


(5) This is true whether the unnecessary loss for research is 1-2%, as

estimated by Wellcome for biology, or 10-15%, as the letter by John

Harnad suggests might be the case for some areas of physics other than

particle physics.


(6) The notional calculation of publication expenses as a part of

expenses is valid, but what is left out of this homily is that

expenses are *already* being paid today, by subscriptions, *as a part of

(notional) research expenses.*


(7) To redirect research funds now would be to double-pay, and for no

reason (as OA is available for free, via Green self-archiving).


(8) The PLoS and BMC proof-of-principle demonstrations for the Gold OA

cost-recovery model were worth doing, to show it was possible.


(9) But what is needed now is OA, not more proofs-of-principle for the

OA cost-recovery model.


(10) The CERN experiment, in converting particle physics subscription

journals from the subscription model to the "consortial membership"

is hence unnecessary and a diversion from the real goal: 100% OA, which

100% reachable via Green OA self-archiving mandates.


> Is this being taken away from the research pot? Well maybe, but only in

> same way as the ERC's agreement to cover travel costs is diverting

> from research.  Or the ERC's agreement to cover indirect costs (such as

> management and general administration) is diverting funds from

> Funding bodies are beginning to view dissemination costs (including

> publication fees) as part of research infrastructure costs and this can

> be a good thing.


The issue is not ERC *allowing* the use of research funds to cover OA

publishing fees if the fundee wishes: The ERC is mandating Green OA. That

is exemplary. There is no problem at all with its also making OA
publishing fees

one of the allowable uses of part of its funding. That leaves the fundee

with the choice of whether to self-archive for free (Green OA) or to pay

Gold OA.


But the CERN-based deliberate conversion of a set of particle physics

journals to Gold OA would either leave the fundee with no choice but to

pay, or, as is likely, would be buttressed by a consortial "membership"

model that will not scale, on an individual journal by journal basis, for

the reasons I adduced in my post. (Institutional commitment to subscribe

a particular has no counterpart in institutional commitment to submit

papers to a particular journal or journal commitment to accept papers

a particular institution. Nor is there a parity, at a journal level,

between whether an institution subscribes to a given journal and whether

publishes in a given journal. This works for CERN, which is physics only,

but not for multidisciplinary universities.)


So it's not about ERC's allowing fundees to redirect, but about CERN

forcing them to do so.


> (And for the avoidance of any doubt, I think deposit mandates are a

> thing and should be implemented by all research funders.  But I view

> mandates and provision of publication charge funds as an 'and', not an

> 'or'.)


And, for the avoidance of any doubt, I think that if all funders (and all

universities, for unfunded research) first to mandate deposit (Green),

there would be no reason for concern about subsequent attempts to convert

journals (Gold), or to fund it, for 100% OA would already be inexorably

upon us.


But all funders (and universities) are *not* yet mandating deposit

(Green); far from it. And that's the problem:


    (Gold) Whiskey on (Green) Beer: Never Fear.

    No (Green) Beer before (Gold) Whiskey: Pretty Risky.


We don't need "redirection" of efforts and resources away from Green

OA mandates toward Gold OA conversion today: We need redoubled focus on

reaching for the reachable (100% OA, Green) at long last. After that's

safely grasped and upon us, let the Gold Rush gallop on at whatever pace

it wishes! We will already have reached the Optimal and Inevitable (and

Long Overdue)...


Stevan Harnad


> -----Original Message-----

> From: American Scientist Open Access Forum


> Behalf Of Stevan Harnad

> Sent: 08 March 2007 04:24


> Subject: Physics World: The CERN Gold OA initiative


>     In Open Access News, Peter Suber comments on John Harnad's critique

>     of the CERN plan for gold OA


> 87428697


>     Harnad, John (and others) (2007) Debating the future

>     of physics publishing.  Physics World 29 (3): 22



> Here are my comments on Peter Suber's comments. The full text of John

> Harnad's critique appears at the end. (As will be seen, on some points

> I agree with John Harnad, and on others I agree with Peter Suber.)


> >>  JH 1:  'Green' OA can achieve [OA] quite adequately, without

> transferring

> >>  the cost burden to researchers.

> >

> > PS: True. But under the CERN plan, there would be no burden to

> > either. Journals in particle physics would convert from TA to OA, and

> > the institutions that formerly paid subscriptions would thereafter

> > author-side publication fees. Authors themselves would pay nothing.


> This has neither been tested nor even thought-through. There are about

> 10,000 research universities in the world, perhaps 3000 "core"

> universities, and maybe 800-1200 mainstay institutional subscribers

> for the average journal.


> There are very few one-discipline research institutions like CERN.


> Subscriptions are collective annual packages and commitments.


> Institutional BioMedCentral-style "memberships" are not: Journals

> contract to accept N articles annually from a particular university

> and universities cannot contract to submit N articles annually to a

> particular journal.




> Even if annual quotas can be estimated annually from prior-year

> averages, this does not scale to universities that did not previously

> subscribe to the journal, yet publish articles in it.


> Nor does it scale to universities that have many journals in many

> disciplines, and cannot readily make special arrangements for a few

> journals and institutional contributors to that journal.


> I -- like Peter Suber and unlike my brother -- *do* believe that this

> kind of redirection will be possible if/when *all* journals in *all*

> disciplines at *all* universities are being cancelled because of 100%

> near-100% Green OA.


> Doing that redirection now, however, pre-emptively, journal by journal

> -- especially with no necessary match between subscription input and

> publication output at the journal or field level at a given university
> may look like it makes sense to one-field institutions like CERN, but
> it looks very different to the overwhelming majority of the c. 10,000
> universities that exist -- or even the 800-1200 subscribing
> that make up the mainstay of each journal.
> CERN may be able to talk this "consortium" of 800-1200 into a
> BioMedCentral-style "membership" agreement, but the question then is
> whether it will last, or scale. There is a *huge* speculative element
> the assumption that this can all be done as smoothly as CERN
> in the short- and long term. And either way: what is the point of doing
> now, when what is urgently needed is much more OA, not top-down
> experiments in fields where OA is already well along its way?
> >>  JH 2:  Journals must generate revenue by one or more of the
> >>  mechanisms....
> >
> > PS: This short list oversimplifies the situation. The majority of OA
> > journals charge no author-side fees and we don't know much about what
> > business models they use instead. But we do know that some receive
> > direct or indirect institutional subsidies, and some generate revenue
> > from a separate line of non-OA publications, auxiliary services,
> > membership dues, endowments, reprints, or a print or premium edition.
> > None of these revenue sources appears on JH 's short list.
> Peter is right that JH's list of funding sources and business models is
> not exhaustive, but, as Peter says, we don't know much about the
> viability of these other business models either -- nor whether they
> would scale to more journals or all journals.
> Again, a needless push is being given toward an untested business model
> a time when (1) what is urgently needed is more OA in other fields, not
> new business models, in a field that is already more advanced in OA
> most; and (2) for the reason mentioned earlier, it is not clear whether
> the pre-emptive "redirection" plans scale even within the field in
> question, rather than creating hardships for universities that don't
> fit the CERN model.
> >>  JH 3:  In most areas of physics...the choice boils down either to
> >>  "subscriber pays" or "author pays".
> >
> > PS: The DOAJ lists 199 peer-reviewed OA journals in physics
> > astronomy), of which 13 charge no author-side publication fees.
> > about 6.5%, even before the CERN plan takes effect.
> Again, if that 6.5% is itself sustainable (rather than short-lived)
> that still leaves JH's point applicable to 93.5% of OA journals --
> and much higher, once we consider the percentage of all physics
> (of which the OA ones are only about 10%). So it is probably quite
> realistic to say it's a choice between subscriber-institution pays on
> author-institution pays; and that there are no known, viable options
> other than subsidy or volunteerism, which do not scale.
> >>  JH 4:  Although some public funding agencies have expressed
> >>  in favour of OA, none have indicated willingness to increase their
> >>  total funding to cover such extra expenses.
> >
> > PS: The European Research Council is willing, although I believe its
> > willingness was only made known this week. In any case, the point is
> > moot for the CERN plan, since the publication fees will be covered
> > by the members of the CERN-assembled consortium.
> This is a straight "redirection" of the core 800-1200 subscribers from
> subscription charges to consortial "memberships." It might or might not
> work; short- or long-term. What is sure is that it's not what's needed
> urgently today; and it is likely it will cause problems for at least
> institutions and researchers.
> And it will not advance the cause of Green OA or Green OA mandates.
> (The ERC funding would mean a redirection of scarce research funds of
> precisely the sort that researchers worry about.)
> >>  JH 5:  There is also a mistaken notion that 'Gold' OA is more cost
> >>  effective, because electronic papers are much cheaper to produce
> >>  distribute. But this has more to do with advances in technology
> >>  the OA model itself.
> >
> > PS: Not true. Several kinds of savings can be traced to the OA model
> > itself: OA dispenses with print (or prices the optional print
> > edition at cost), eliminates subscription management, eliminates
> > DRM, eliminates lawyer fees for licenses and enforcement, reduces or
> > eliminates marketing, and reduces or eliminates profit margins. Also
> > note that one of CERN's findings in June 2006 was that "sponsoring
> > all journals ready for OA at the time of the enquiry would require an
> > annual budget of 5-6 Million ¤, significantly less than the present
> > global expenditure for particle physics journal subscriptions."
> I agree completely with Peter that getting rid of the paper edition
> and offloading access and storage onto the distributed IR network would
> cut both costs and services in a way that merely going online would
> But to realise those economies, the paper edition first has to be
> abandoned, and the offloading network need to be in place and filled.
> Cancellation pressure from universal Green OA might just give rise to
> that outcome. But the pre-emptive redirection instead being
> here sounds more like just re-baptising the current core subscriptions
> "consortial memberships" at the current asking price. So no economies,
> just redirection.
> >>  JH 6:  [T]he scientific quality of journals switching to the
> >>  model may be adversely affected.
> >
> > PS: For the case on the other side, see my October 2006 article, Open
> > access and quality.
> I agree with Peter that this is not a worry at all.
> >>  JH 7:  The ideal of open access can largely be achieved, however,
> >>  by encouraging deposit of all publications in freely accessible
> >>  archives.
> >
> > PS: Agreed!
> But that is the point! What is the point of going in this needless,
> untested direction when what is urgently needed is to mandate (not
> "encourage") Green self-archiving, in the rest of particle physics as
> well as the rest of the disciplines and institutions, so we can have
> 100% OA at long last? Why the Gold Rush instead?
> Stevan Harnad
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> Harnad J (et al.) 2007. Debating the future of physics publishing.
> Physics World 29(3): 22
> Clarifying Open Access: its implications for the research community
>         John Harnad, Director
>         Mathematical Physics Laboratory
>         Centre de recherches mathématiques
>         Montréal, Canada
> When referring to open access (OA) publishing (January, pp22--23),
> it is important to distinguish between two different approaches,
> sometimes called "Gold" OA and "Green" OA. In the former, a journal
> charges nothing for reader access, at least in its electronic version,
> while in the latter, the journal charges for subscriptions but allows
> authors to deposit copies of their papers in freely accessible
> "Gold" OA is currently being advocated by Rudiger Voss and others at
> Viewed however from beyond the confines of a huge, well-funded,
> physics laboratory, this model may not be in the best interests of the
> research community. If the objective really is to provide universal
> access to scientific research, rather than merely finding ways to
> journal subscription costs, "Green" OA can achieve this quite
> without transferring the cost burden to researchers.
> Journals must generate revenue by one or more of the following
> subscription charges, direct support from public or institutional
> advertising revenues, or page charges to authors. In most areas of
> direct grants to publishers or advertising revenue are not adequately
> available, so the choice boils down either to "subscriber pays" or
> "author pays". Relying solely on revenue from paper subscriptions while
> offering electronic versions for free is not a viable business model
> since most libraries would simply cancel their paper subscriptions.
> OA journals therefore have little choice but to transfer the cost
> from subscribers to authors.
> This would adversely affect most researchers. While in experimental
> particle physics the extra cost may be only 1-2% of research funding,
> in other areas, such as theoretical and mathematical physics, it could
> be as high as10-15%. Researchers without access to substantial research
> support would be particularly penalized by such page charges; e.g, (as
> pointed out by John Enderby) those from developing countries, and those
> who receive little or no funding under a highly selective process of
> grant attribution. Although some public funding agencies have expressed
> themselves in favour of OA, none have indicated willingness to increase
> their total funding to cover such extra expenses.
> There is also a mistaken notion that "Gold" OA is more cost effective,
> because electronic papers are much cheaper to produce and distribute.
> this has more to do with advances in technology than the OA model
> itself. Moreover, the cost savings could be beneficially applied to
> reducing subscription rates for "Green" OA journals, increasing their
> viability. It is also erroneous to expect that savings from libraries
> canceling paper subscriptions will somehow be passed directly to
> researchers as compensation for the extra costs imposed on them; the
> sources of such funding are generally completely distinct. Finally,
> the scientific quality of journals switching to the author-pays model
> may be adversely affected.
> Given currently available resources, a large-scale switch to "Gold"
> OA is thus not in the interests of the research community. The ideal
> of open access can largely be achieved, however, simply by encouraging
> deposit of all publications in freely accessible archives.  Naturally,
> such archives do not provide quality assurance through peer-review nor
> guarantees of long term preservation. But the parallel existence of
> "Green" OA journals with publicly accessible archives provides both,
> while making the results of scientific research universally available.
Received on Thu Mar 08 2007 - 18:11:20 GMT

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