Re: Open Choice is a Trojan Horse for Open Access Mandates

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 14:24:46 +0000

On Sat, 10 Mar 2007, Jan Velterop wrote:

> The Howard Hughes deal is *not* a setback for open access, even
> if it is not the greatest imaginable step forwards perhaps.

It is not a setback for the minuscule number of articles for which HHMI
will finance paid (Gold) OA. It is a setback for all the other articles
that could be made (Green) OA through mandated author self-archiving,
for free, while subscriptions are still continuing to pay the publication

It is not only a waste of money, but it plays into the hands of those
who are trying to delay or derail Green self-archiving mandates at
all costs.

> To knock the HHMI for getting into this deal is short-sighted.

It is HHMI that is being short-sighted (and gullible). HHMI ought
instead simply to mandate Green OA self-archiving, and leave it at

> And subject lines like 'Trojan Horse' with their insidious negativity
> raise the suspicion that the agenda of some list participants is
> not really 'open access', but a desire to get rid of publishers
> or of the notion that publishing, including open access
> publishing, actually costs money.

Nonsense. Open Choice is a Trojan Horse if it is taken as a pretext
for paying for Gold OA instead of mandating Green OA. No one is trying
to get rid of publishers. We are trying to get rid of access-barriers.
Green OA does that. And while subscriptions are still being (amply) paid
for, no one is unaware of the fact that publishing costs money. What is
urgently needed today is not money to pay for Gold OA, but mandates to
provide Green OA.

> It's a delusion that one can
> get open access by self-archiving mandates that imply having to
> rely on librarians to keep paying for subscriptions to keep
> journals alive.

Institutions are paying for subscriptions today. That is no delusion.

There is little OA today. That is no delusion.

Green self-archiving mandates will generate 100% OA. That is no

What happens to subscriptions after that is speculation, not delusion.

> Or is the idea that librarians keep paying for
> journals of which the articles are available with open access
> part of the proposed mandates?

Institutions are paying for librarians today. That is not proposed; that
is already going on.

What is not already going on is OA self-archiving.

That is what the Green mandates are for.

Whether and when institutions will cancel subscriptions because of
mandated Green OA is a purely speculative matter, today. What is
not speculative is that if and when institutions ever *do* cancel
subscriptions, that money will then be freed to pay for Gold OA costs;
not before. Nor is it speculation that Green OA will already have provided
100% OA by then.

> Authors can self-publish easily these days and provide open
> access to their articles to their hearts' content.

Why is Jan telling us this? OA is not about self-publishing and it is
not about unpublished articles. It is about providing Open Access to
peer-reviewed, published articles.

> Once they
> involve a publisher, though, they don't do that out of altruistic
> motives.

No. Nor does the publisher. But publishers are being paid in full,
today, by subscriptions, whereas Open Access is not being provided,
today. And research impact is needlessly being lost today.

It would not just be altruism but profligacy to double-pay for Gold
OA today. And it would be (and is) not altruistic but foolhardy in the
extreme to continue doing without OA, and with the attendant daily loss
in research impact and progress, for failure to mandate Green OA.

(Foolhardy for the research community, and the public that funds it,
I mean: Not necessarily foolhardy for the publishing community!)

> They don't 'give' their articles to publishers. They
> come to ask for a 'label', a 'mark', an official journal
> reference that makes their article from a piece of text, perhaps
> interesting, but not recognised by the academic community, into a
> formally peer-reviewed and published article. It's not the
> publishers that compel them to do that.

I don't know why we are treated to all this rhetorical complexity:
Researchers submit their papers to journals for two reasons: (1) to get
them peer-reviewed and (2) to provide access to them. That is what
subscriptions are already paying for. OA is for those would-be users
who cannot afford access to the subscription version.

It is not authors who seek or get the revenues from subscriptions, it is
publishers. No altruism on either side. And the only thing missing, in
the online age, is OA. And Green OA mandates will provide that.

> And publishers cannot provide those services, on the scale they
> are needed, on a philanthropic basis.

No one is asking them to: Subscriptions are paying, amply. OA is about
those users who cannot afford access to the subscription version.

> This may be possible for a
> number of small journals, and where it is possible it deserves to
> be done that way and probably is already.

Jan (and the publishing community) keep talking about journals and
journal cost-recovery models. Fine.

The research community is talking about OA, and impact-loss-recovery

The only tried, tested, successful method of impact-loss-recovery within
immediate reach is mandating OA self-archiving. That has nothing to do
with journal cost-recovery models. Jan is talking at cross-purposes with
OA, with his fixation on payment models (when there is no non-payment
problem today, whereas there *is* a no-access problem today).

In thus talking at cross-purposes, Jan (and those of the same persuasion)
are standing in the way of a tried, tested, successful, and immediately
reachable means of solving the access problem. They are instead promoting
a Trojan Horse.

> But the worldwide
> scientific enterprise needs sustainable large-scale
> industrial-strength publishing to deal with the publication of
> more than a million new articles a year (and in terms of
> submissions a multiple of that, given that most papers are
> rejected at least once).

Can we transfer the problem of the "sustainability of large-scale
industrial-strength publishing" to another venue than discussions
of OA?

OA is an immediate, pressing, and immediately solvable problem for
research and researchers. Its solution is for research institutions and
funders to mandate Green OA, as a few have already begun doing, others
have proposed to do, and researchers and institutions have petitioned them
to do.

The quest for a solution to the "the problem of the sustainability of
large-scale industrial-strength publishing" can proceed in parallel
with the quest for OA, but it should not be conflated with it, or get
in the way of it.

To oppose Green OA mandates and urge "Open Choice" in their stead is
precisely the Trojan Horse against which I am warning.

> The HHMI deal is a very positive step towards sustainable open
> access and should be recognised for that. The 'cure' of OA
> publishing is to be preferred to the 'palliative' of
> self-archiving. The derision that funding agencies suffer who put
> open access first, and not cost reduction, is uncalled-for.

The disease is needless, ongoing, online research access/impact loss. The
cure is OA. Green OA is OA. It might be merely a "palliative" for
"the problem of the sustainability of large-scale industrial-strength
publishing" but it is a *cure* for the disease of research access/impact

What deserves exposure and derision is the attempt to deter and
devalue and deride a sure and reachable immediate cure for the disease
of research/impact loss in the name of some other uncured "disease"
that has next to nothing to do with the research community's immediate,
pressing, and solvable access/impact needs today.

> If a full, safe cure for a disease is possible, though not
> necessarily cheaper than lifelong symptom-management and the real
> possibility of a much shorter life, is it better to go for cheap
> palliative care than for this full cure?

As usual, we are talking about two different "diseases." One --
"the sustainability of large-scale industrial-strength publishing"
is a long-term, hypothetical money-matter with which the publishing
community is concerned; the other -- research access/impact loss -- is
an immediate, urgent, ongoing practical research-matter with which the
research community is concerned -- and it has an immediate, practical
solution: Mandated Green OA.

To deter, defer or derail the research community's solution to the
research community's problem, by portraying the publishing community's
industrial long-term sustainability problem as if it were the same problem
as the research community's immediate access/impact problem is simply
false and misleading.

To oppose the research community's immediate reachable solution to its
access/impact problem (mandated Green OA) in favour of paying for
Gold OA today is nothing more nor less than what I have called it: The
promotion of a Trojan Horse.

Caveat Emptor.

Stevan Harnad

> On 10 Mar 2007, at 02:53, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> > On Fri, 9 Mar 2007, Leslie Chan wrote:
> >
> >> I see the HHMI-Elsevier deal as a major set back for
> >> institutional self-archiving as it muddies the green
> >> landscape, which I am sure is one of the underlying intents of
> >> Elsevier and other publishers in the STM group. I suspect more
> >> publishers may follow suit and reverse their stand on green if
> >> they think there is money to be made. Something needs to
> >> happen quickly. The Trojan Horse has proved to work,
> >> unfortunately. What should we do???
> >
> > I know *exactly* what needs to be done, and it has been obvious
> > all along: The mandates have to be taken completely out of the
> > hands of publishers and out of the reach of embargoes, and
> > there is a sure-fire way to do it:
> >
> > The mandates must be Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access (ID/OA)
> > mandates.
> >
> > Let the *access* to the deposit be provisionally set as Closed
> > Access wherever there is the slightest doubt. Just so
> > publishers have no say whatsoever in whether or when the
> > deposit itself is done. And let the EMAIL EPRINT REQUEST button
> > -- and human nature, and the optimality of OA -- take care of
> > the rest of its own accord, as it will. If only we have the
> > sense to rally behind ID/OA.
> >
> > It is as simple as that. But *we* have to unite behind ID/OA,
> > and give a clear consistent message (and for that we have to
> > first clearly understand ID/OA!)
> >
> > If we keep flirting with embargoes and Gold and publishing
> > reform and funding instead of univocally rallying behind the
> > ID/OA mandate that will immunise us from publisher policies and
> > further embargoes, we will get nowhere, and indeed we will lose
> > ground.
> >
> > It is as simple as that.
> >
> > Stevan Harnad
Received on Sun Mar 11 2007 - 16:16:06 GMT

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