Re: Institutional Mandates and Institutional OA Repository Growth

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 22 Sep 2007 13:44:46 +0100

On Fri, 21 Sep 2007, Sandy Thatcher wrote:

> You make it all sound so simple, Stevan, but there is nothing simple about
> a
> transition from Green OA to Gold OA, including the redirection of savings
> from journal subscriptions to funding Gold OA journals, because as many
> wise
> people like Jim O'Donnell have pointed out on this list, universities
> don't
> work that way.

I make no wishes, wise or unwise. And I make no conjectures -- only,
when forced, counter-conjectures, to counter others' conjectures.

The actual empirical evidence (neither wish nor conjecture) is that
self-archiving is (1) feasible, (2) being done, (3) beneficial, and (4)
being mandated. Whether and when it ever goes on to generate cancellations
and transitions and redirections is all pure speculation, based on no
empirical evidence one way or the other (except that it hasn't happened
yet, even in fields that reached 100% OA years ago). But if you insist on
asking a hypothetical "what if?" question just the same, I respond with
an equally hypothetical "then..." answer.

The factual part is fact. If wise men have privileged access to the
future, so be it. I have none. I have only the available evidence, and
logic. (And logic tells me that where there's a will, there's a way,
especially if/when the hypothetical cancellation windfall savings that no
one has yet seen should ever materialize. Till then, I'll just go with
the evidence-based four -- self-archiving, self-archiving mandates, OA,
and their already demonstrated feasibility and benefits -- leaving the
speculation to those who prefer that sort of thing.)

> Wishing it were so does not make it so. And by talking about
> peer review only, you oversimplify what is involved in journal publishing,
> which requires skills that go beyond simply conducting peer review and
> that
> are not most economically carried out by faculty, who are not trained for
> such tasks and whose dedication of time to them detracts from the exercise
> of
> their main talents as researchers.

Well, I could invoke my quarter century as founder and editor in chief
of a major peer-reviewed journal as evidence that I know what I am
talking about.

But I'd rather just point out that the conjecture about journal publishing
downsizing to just peer-review service-provision is part of the
hypothetical conditional that I only invoke if someone insists on
playing the speculation game. It is neither a wish nor a whim. I am
content with 100% Green OA. Full stop.

Apart from that, I'll stick with the empirical facts of self-archiving,
self-archiving mandates, OA, and their benefits, and abstain from the

> You are also wrong in interpreting PRISM as just another repetition
> of the same old tired anti-OA rhetoric. As a member of the publishing
> community whose press is a member of the PSP (but not an endorser of
> PRISM), I can tell you that this is not just more of the same.

If PRISM is making any new points -- empirical or logical -- I would be
very grateful if you point out to me exactly what those new points are.
For all I have seen has been a repetition of the very few and very
familiar old points I and others have rebutted many, many times before.

(You seem to have overlooked the linked list if 21 references I included
as evidence that these points have all been voiced, and rebutted, many
times before. If you send me a list of new ones, it would be helpful if
you first check that list to see whether they are indeed new. The list
is also archived at: )

> Whether we are getting close to a "tipping point" is of course a matter
> of conjecture, but then so is the overall benefit from Green OA, which you
> always state as though it were an established fact rather than a
> hypothesis
> with some evidence in support of it yet hardly overwhelming evidence at
> this
> point in time.

Since we are talking about wishful thinking, I know full well that the
OA self-archiving advantage in terms of citations and downloads is
something that the publishing lobby dearly wish were nonexistent, or
merely a methodological artifact of some kind.

I'm quite happy to continue conducting actual empirical studies and
analyses confirming the OA advantage, and demonstrating that it is not
just an artifact (of either early access or self-selection bias for
quality). That ongoing question is at least substantive and empirical,
hence new (especially when the challenges come from those with no vested
interests in the outcome). The doomsday prophecies and the hype about
government control and censorship are not.

    "Where There's No Access Problem There's No Open Access Advantage"

(I expect that the tobacco industry did more than its share of
wishing that the health benefits of not smoking would turn out to be
nonexistent or a self-selection artifact too: When money is at stake,
interpretations become self-selective, if not self-serving, too!)

Stevan Harnad

> > On Wed, 19 Sep 2007, Sandy Thatcher wrote:
> >
> > > Ah, yes, and if you'll remember our prior discussion about open
> > > access, Stevan, I warned that just this "success" might be the
> > > "tipping point" to drive a host of commercial and society
> > > publishers out of the business of journal publishing. One "tipping
> > > point" causes another? Witness, as partial proof, the reaction of
> > > STM publishers represented by the PRISM initiative. I read that as
> > > a warning that, if the government forces a change in their business
> > > model, they may just walk away from the business. I assume you
> > > wouldn't consider that a bad thing at all, but my question would be
> > > what kind of structure will take its place and what expectations
> > > will universities have of their presses to pick up the slack?
> >
> > What is remarkable, Sandy, is how actual empirical facts (very few)
> > are being freely admixed, willy-nilly, with fact-free speculations
> > for which there is, and continues to be zero empirical evidence,
> > and, in many cases, decisive and familiar counterevidence, both
> > empirical and logical.
> >
> > Nothing has changed since our prior discussions except that there
> > have (happily) been some more Green OA mandates (total adopted: 32,
> > plus 8 more further proposed mandates).
> >
> >
> > There has been no "tipping point." Just *talk* about tipping points,
> > and that talk about tipping points has been going on for years.
> >
> > There has been no one driven out of business, nor any empirical
> > evidence of a trend toward being driven out of business. Just *talk*
> > of being driven out of business, and that talk about being driven
> > out of business has been going on for years.
> >
> > And as to the "partial proof" in the form of the STM/PRISM
> > "reaction" -- that very same reaction (with the very same false,
> > alarmist arguments) has been voiced, verbatim, by the very same
> > publisher groups (STM, AAP, ALPSP), over and over, for over a decade
> > now. And they have been debunked just as often (see long list of
> > links below). But that certainly hasn't been enough to make the
> > publishers' anti-OA lobby cease and desist. Do you consider the
> > relentless repetition, at louder and louder volume, of exactly the
> > same specious and evidence-free claims, to be "proof" of anything,
> > partial or otherwise?
> >
> > And the phrase "the government forces a change in their business
> > model" is just as false a description of what is actually going on
> > when it is spoken in your own well-meaning words as when it is
> > voiced by PRISM and Eric Dezenhall: The government is *not* forcing
> > a change in a business model. The funders of tax-payer-funded
> > research -- and, increasingly, universities, who are not "the
> > government" at all! -- are insisting that the researchers they fund
> > and employ make their peer-reviewed research freely available to all
> > would-be users online, in line with the purpose of conducting and
> > funding and publishing research in the first place.
> >
> > This quite natural (and overdue) adaptation to the online age on the
> > part of the research community -- Green OA -- may or may not lead to
> > a transition to Gold OA publishing: no one knows whether, or when it
> > will. But what is already known is that OA itself, whether Green or
> > Gold, is enormously beneficial to research, researchers, their
> > institutions and funders, the vast R&D industry, and the tax-paying
> > public that funds research and for whose benefit it is funded,
> > conducted and published. (OA is also a secondary benefit to
> > education and the developing world.)
> >
> > So the "tipping point" for Green OA itself is an unalloyed benefit
> > for everyone but the peer-reviewed journal publishing industry,
> > whether or not it leads to a second tipping point and a transition
> > to Gold OA.
> >
> > Reality today, to repeat, is a growth in Green OA mandates, not a
> > tipping point (let alone two), not a subscription decline, not
> > publishers going out of business, not government pressure toward
> > another publishing model.
> >
> > You ask "what kind of structure will take its place and what
> > expectations will universities have of their presses to pick up the
> > slack?" I presume you are referring to the multiple hypothetical
> > conditional: *if* Green OA mandates reach the tipping point that
> > generates 100% Green OA, and *if* that in turn generates journal
> > cancellations that reach the tipping point that generates a
> > transition to Gold OA? The answer (which I have provided many times
> > before) is simple: The "structure" will be Gold OA, funded out of (a
> > part of) the institutional cancellation savings.
> >
> > 399we152.htm
> >
> > And this is not about publishing in general, commercial, society,
> > university, or otherwise. It is only about peer-reviewed journal
> > publishing, and their hypothetical transition to Gold OA under
> > cancellation pressure from mandated Green OA.
> >
> > Stevan Harnad
Received on Sat Sep 22 2007 - 13:57:38 BST

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