Re: Maximising research access vs. minimizing copy-editing errors

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2007 07:15:06 +0100

On Tue, 10 Jul 2007, Atanu Garai wrote:

> > See Swan, Alma (2007) What a difference a publisher makes.
> > OptimalScholarship. Saturday, July 7 2007.
> >

> Stevan, Thanks for pointing out to this resource. In my opinion,
> in today's world it is erroneous to draw a straight line between
> publishers to access.

The straight Gold line is being drawn between publishers and access,
and the straight Green line is being drawn between between authors and
access (to their published articles) through self-archiving in their
institutional repositories, mandated by their institutions and funders.

And the Green line is straighter, faster, surer, and within immediate reach.

> You are aware that open access journals are
> also published by publishers like universities, societies, NFPs
> and even commercial publishers and the opposite is also true.

I am aware, and it is irrelevant. OA is between the research community and
itself. Types of publishers (e.g., commercial vs. non) are utterly irrelevant.

> The bottom line is that a publishing activity except blogging and
> mailing list posting does not emanate on its own, unless it is
> "motivated" by some external forces. These forces may be the
> employer, supervisor, commercial or non-profit publishing
> agencies, nagging editors, to name a few.

We do not have to reinvent peer-reviewed research publishing system from first
principles. It is already there. OA is about providing free only access to it,
at long last. (The Internet has been there for 25 years...)

> The point I am trying to make is that this is where publishers
> are standing.

Where is "this," and what do publishers have to do with it? OA is about
authors, their institutions and their funders, providing supplementary
online access to their research output for those would-be users who
cannot afford paid access to the publisher's version (paper or
online). That's all.

> It is altogether different matter whether the
> publishing output is open or closed or funded or commercially
> available.

I can't follow: What is different, from what? The publishing system is not at
issue. Online access to published articles is.

> But the bottom line is that for publishing at least in
> a journal, you shall have an editorial board, peer reviewers who
> will trigger the whole process. And it is the norm that not the
> authors but the publishers have so far commissioned these people
> in making journal publishing worthwhile and scholarly.

To repeat: there is no need either to recapitulate, formalise or reinvent
the peer-reviewed journal publishing system. It is there. What is not
there is free online access (OA), and that is what researchers need to
provide, and what their institutions and funders need to mandate that
they provide.

> Open access (particularly gold/IR version) benefits from
> publishers' commissioning of editorial board and peer review
> panel by simply taking benefit of existing copyright law (which
> is fair enough from legal point of view), but blames the
> publishers for not having enough input to the publishing process.
> Is it right?

I can't follow you. Gold OA is traditional publishing, but not charging
the user for access. Green OA is traditional publishing, but with
supplementary author self-archiving. Researchers provide (and benefit
from) peer review. Journals manage the process, and in exchange they
get to sell the subscription version (if they are conventional journals)
or to charge for the peer review, if they are Gold OA publishers. Peer
review per se, and copyright, have nothing to do with OA.

> I do not think this is right unless and until we have an
> alternative system of having the whole publishing support system
> without the publishers is ready.

You want to reform or replace the publishing and/or the copyright
system. OA just needs to provide OA to research output. Green OA, through
self-archiving and self-archiving mandates, is within immediate reach. Let
us grasp it, and then worry about publishing and/or copyright reform,
if we wish...

> To add to this, we would be more
> practical if we avoid generalizations of the publishers across
> the board, and in this case the publishers in question are not
> the open access publishers, but the commercial publishers.

The spectrum is not OA vs. commercial publishers. There are commercial and
non-commercial OA publishers and commercial and non-commercial non-OA
publishers. The issue is OA to peer-reviewed research output, now...

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Jul 11 2007 - 12:35:08 BST

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