Gold and Green Keynotes at IATUL 2007

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2007 19:35:09 +0100

    Here are some annotations on Richard Akerman's notes on Rudiger
    Voss's keynote talk at IATUL 2007 today:

In a nutshell, there were two IATUL keynotes, one by Rudiger Voss of CERN
and one by Tom Cochrane, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Queensland University of

Voss spoke for Gold OA, Cochrane spoke for Green OA and for Green OA Mandates.

Voss based his conclusions on what has been happening in physics since
1991. Certain areas of physics reached near-100% Green OA self-archiving,
spontaneously, unmandated, years ago.

The rest of the world's disciplines, however, have not shown the slightest
inclination to follow the spontaneous pattern of those areas of physics,
and it's been over a decade and a half now.

Hence I would like to suggest that this is neither the right time, nor
is there a rational basis, for holding up this latest (unfollowed) example --
of (certain areas of) physics that have already gone Green without the
need of a mandate, and are now considering converting their journals to
Gold -- as an example for the rest of the disciplines to follow:

Physics's earlier step (Green self-archiving) has not been followed,
unmandated, and that is why Green OA Mandates are being strongly promoted
now for all the other disciplines.

And physics's next step -- converting from Green to Gold -- is not even relevant
to the rest of the disciplines. It's rather like recommending conversion from
representative democracy to participatory democracy to a populace that has not
yet even shaken off feudalism.

Some comments (based only on Richard Akerman's notes):

> IATUL 2007 - June 11 - Dr. Rüdiger Voss - Open Access - SCOAP3
> Dr. Rüdiger Voss
> Physics Dep, CERN, Geneva, Switzerland
> Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics
> convert entire discipline to open access journal publishing

Not really the whole discipline of physics, just particle physics. But that field
already spontaneously converted itself to about 100% Green OA self-archiving
years ago.

> approximately 10,000 scientists worldwide
> 5016 articles published in 2005 in peer-reviewed journals
> 83% of all papers in 6 journals
> 87% of all papers published by 4 different publishers

Compare that with countless scientists and scholars, publishing about 2.5 million
articles a year in about 25,000 peer-reviewed journals, with less than 15% of
their articles being spontaneously made Green OA through self-archiving.

(There might be an order of magnitude problem here. 5016 articles would be
about the annual research output of one medium-sized university. There
are about 1000 major universities, and about another 9000 minor ones,
worldwide. We are talking here about less than 0.01% of the planet's
research output --or 1% if there was a missing zero or two somewhere.)

> CERN Convention (1953) is an early OA manifesto

But it was not till 1991 and the creation of the Web that that convention
became acted on in earnest. And no other field or institution had such
a convention at all.

What the other fields need now is a Green OA mandate, so they can catch up with
what the physicists have been doing since 1991, unmandated.

> embrace OA movement (

Arxiv has been there to be embraced since 1991; the rest of the
disciplines (and some other fields of physics) have been given plenty
of time to embrace Green, but have not done so. So it's time to mandate it,
not the time to convert (nonexistent) Green to Gold.

> * today particle physics is almost entirely green
> * without mandates, without debate

And that's the point! Today, the rest of the disciplines are not yet
Green. So first things first.

> peer-reviewed journals remain important as version-of-record archives and as
> key instruments of merit recognition and career promotion

Well, that makes it unclear what the motivation for the conversion to Gold is,
even in these areas of physics: It can't be the need for OA, because they already
*have* OA.

The rest of the research world does not.

> OA landscape in 2007
> * most particle physics journals offer OA options
> - hybrid model, authors buy OA to articles
> - reluctant take-up by authors

So what? The pressing thing today is not the reluctance of authors or
publishers to change economic models. The pressing thing is needless
research access and impact loss. That is something these areas of physics
have already fixed, and the rest of the disciplines do not. Why not help
them achieve Green OA, instead of recommending they take the Nth step when
they have not yet taken the prerequisite N-1 steps? And why stress that
physicists took those N-1 steps without a mandate? That's the point: The
other disciplines have not taken them. So the steps need to be mandated.

> * gold OA to journals is there, but variety of options bewildering
> in 2005: 72.6% NO OA option
> in 2007: 86.8% offer OA option
> time is ripe for a full transition to OA

Time is ripe for a full transition for whom? And from what? And why?

Outside particle physics, it looks very much as if the badly-needed
transition is from non-OA to 100% Green OA, which Green OA mandates
will provide.

A direct transition from non-OA to 100% Gold OA is not even on the radar
in other disciplines yet. And it is not even obvious (if OA is the goal)
why it is so urgent in the areas of physics that already have 100%
Green OA.

> OA issues
> * grant universal access to peer-reviewed results of publicly funded research

Green OA mandates do that.

> * in a green environment authors benefit for peer review and journal prestige

That's right. And it is that Green environment that physicists are already
enjoying. It is not obvious why (or even whether) they are so eager to convert to
Gold. But if they do, and can, that's fine. That's not the problem. The non-OA
world is the problem. It needs to be converted to Green.

> * bring subscription costs under control

OA itself does not do that. But so what? The reason the out-of-control journal
prices are a problem is that those who can't afford them are denied access.
Green OA remedies that. Prices are still out of control, but it matters far less:

Let those who can afford it and want to, keep paying. And let those who can't
or don't use the Green OA versions instead.

Then, if/when subscriptions ever do become unsustainable, there can be a
conversion to Gold (paid for out of the subscription savings).

But why now, when (1) particle physics no longer has an OA problem,
whereas (2) the rest of the disciplines do?

> * raise researcher awareness of economics of scientific publishing

Which researchers? Physicists, who already have (Green) OA? Why?

Researchers in other fields, who do not yet have Green OA? But why should they
worry about economic problems when they don't even realize they have an
access/impact problem, or what to do about it? Why not just solve their
access/impact problem, by mandating that they do what the physicists had the good
sense to do spontaneously, years ago?

> * inject competition into scientific publishing by linking price to quality

Why is this an issue for researchers? First, why is it an issue for researchers
who already have (Green) OA? And then why is it an issue for researchers who
don't even have (Green) OA? Is their problem not access/impact-loss, rather than
"journal price competitiveness"?

> * stabilize the diversity and future of journals which have served particle
> * physics well - but leave room for new players

Not clear why/how this is an issue at all, let alone an OA issue.

> SCOAP3 model
> in a nutshell
> * global consortium of funding agencies and libraries to convert all research
> journals important to particle physics to open access

Why, since particle physicists already have Green OA?

And if there is a reason for the Green-to-Gold conversion, why hold it
up as an example for other disciplines that have not yet even reached
Green OA?

> - funded through redirect of subscription budgets

That's fine when driven by subscription cancellation pressure from Green OA, but
it's a different story when there is no Green OA yet.

> * OA implemented through contracts between SCOAP3 and publishers
> - full sponsoring of core journals
> - partial sponsoring of broader topic journals
> * SCOAP3 sponsors e-journals only; publishers free to charge readers for print
> * and other premium services

It's obvious how an institution like CERN, which only subscribes to physics
journals, and already enjoys 100% Green OA, can contemplate doing this. But what
about universities, with many disciplines, all but (part of) one of them not yet
anywhere near 100% Green OA? And journals in all those fields? How is the
"redirection" supposed to scale, if done preemptively, in all those fields?

And most of all: Why? Isn't OA the problem, rather than publishing economics?
Green OA mandates solve the OA problem, as it has already been solved in particle
physics. What has this conversion exercise, for a field already enjoying OA, to
do with all the other fields whose problem is that they don't yet have OA?

> * estimated annual budget: 10 million euros
> * contributions on a "fair share" basis by nationality (affiliation) of
> * articles/authors
> How to put it together?
> LHC is a much bigger project, 40 funding agencies, 550 million $

I have no idea if this Big Deal can be worked out in particle physics,
but that's not where the real need is: The need is in all the non-OA fields,
for which this exercise is a completely irrelevant distraction from what *will*
solve their problems, namely, Green OA mandates.

> Benefits
> * online journals free to read for anybody

Green OA already provided that.

> * preserve high-quality peer review process

Green OA already provided that.

> * free to read and to publish for developing countries

Green OA already provided that.

> * generate medium and long-term savings for libraries and funding agencies

Is that the real purpose of all of this? But what about the OA for the non-OA

> SCOAP3 Status
> * report distributed
> * more work needed
> * potential funding parters to be invited soon to sign Expressions of Interest
> * once partners commit to sizeable fraction of budget, invite publishers to
> * tender in autumn
> * Goal: have SCOAP3 operational for the first LHC papers

My hunch is that this is something of a Trojan Horse even for Particle Physics,
and even for the goal of saving money, because it will lock in prices in an
artificial way, instead of letting Green OA drive cancellations and
cost-cutting, if and when it is ever destined to do so.

But who cares. That's just money.

But what about all the non-OA fields that this leaves high and dry (especially if
touted as an *alternative* to mandating Green OA) instead of helping them at
least to reach the Green OA that Particle Physics already has luxury (and the
good sense that needed to precede it) to enjoy?

To see the way for the 99% of disciplines that are not Particle Physics, I
suggest reading the recommendations of the other IATUL Keynote speaker, Tom
Cochrane, the DVC of the university with one of the first Green OA mandates:

Stevan Harnad

If you have adopted or plan to adopt a policy of providing Open Access
to your own research article output, please describe your policy at:
    BOAI-1 ("Green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access journal
    BOAI-2 ("Gold"): Publish your article in an open-access journal if/when
    a suitable one exists.
    in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
    in your own institutional repository.
Received on Mon Jun 11 2007 - 20:04:45 BST

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