Putting Science Publishing Into Perspective

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 15 Dec 2007 21:08:19 +0000

    Fully hyperlinked version at:

Commentary on: "Putting Science into Science Publishing" by Joseph
Esposito, Publishing Frontier (blog) December 11 2007.

The posting contains Joe's by-now familiar litany of (unreconstructed)

(1) Open Access is not only or even primarily about Open Access
Publishing (Gold OA): It is about OA itself, which includes Green OA,
the far bigger and faster-growing form of OA: Authors making their own
published, peer-reviewed non-OA journal articles (not only or primarily
their unpublished preprints) OA by self-archiving them in their own OA
Institutional Repositories. Only 10% of journals are Gold OA, but over
90% of journals endorse immediate Green OA self-archiving by their
authors -- with over 60% endorsing the immediate self-archiving of the
author's final peer-reviewed draft.

(2) The question of whether librarians will cancel journals is not about
Gold OA: It is about Green OA. Joseph Esposito contemplates
whole-journal cancellations of subscriptions to Gold OA journals, whereas
the speculations have been about whether and when librarians would
cancel non-OA journals as Green OA self-archiving grows. Green OA
self-archiving grows anarchically, not journal by journal. So not only
is it hard for a librarian to determine whether and when all the
articles in a given journal have become OA, but all the evidence (from
the publishers) to date in the few areas (of physics) where Green OA
self-archiving is already at or near 100% is that there are as yet no
detectable cancellations as a result of 100% Green OA. (Rather, the
publishers themselves seem to be adopting Gold OA in these areas:

(3) The OA citation impact advantage is not about unpublished or
low-impact Gold OA journal articles versus high-impact non-OA journal
articles: It is about the additional citation impact provided by OA, for
any non-OA article, including those articles published in high impact
journals! They don't lose their non-OA citations: they just gain further
OA citations.

(4) The international, interdisciplinary survey evidence of Swan and
Associates did not just tautologically confirm that people comply with
requirements if required: The point was that over 95% of researchers
report that they would comply with a Green OA self-archiving mandate
from their employers or funders and 81% report they would do so
willingly. (Only 14% said they would comply unwillingly, and 5% said
they would not comply.) Arthur Sale's comparisons of actual mandates and
compliance rates confirmed these findings, with spontaneous (unmandated)
self-archiving rates hovering around 15%, encouraged self-archiving
rates rising to about 30% and mandated, incentivized self-archiving
rates approaching 100% within two years. (Not surprising, since
academics are busy, and would be publishing much less too, if it were
not for the existing universal publish-or-perish mandate.)
Self-archiving is rewarded by the resulting enhanced research impact
metrics, which their institutions also collect and credit, if
researchers self-archive.

In sum, OA is not about publishing, it is about maximizing research
progress and impact. The outcome -- 100% OA -- is optimal and inevitable
for research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, the vast
R&D industry, and the tax-paying public.

Publishers need to adapt to the optimal and inevitable for research.
Research is not conducted and reported in order to provide revenues to
the publishing industry. The publishing industry is providing a
value-added service -- which, in the online era is rapidly scaling down
to just the management of peer review and the certification of its
outcome: The peers review for free, the authors can generate and revise
their electronic texts themselves, and their institutions can archive
and provide access to the final, peer-reviewed drafts in their OA
Institutional Repositories.

What is left of peer-reviewed journal publishing, then, is to implement
the peer review itself, and to certify the outcome with the journal's
name and track-record. For now, journals are still providing much more
than that (paper edition, mark-up, PDF, distribution), in exchange for
journal subscriptions, and as long there is still a market for all that,
the publishing status quo remains.

If and when subscriptions should ever become unsustainable because of
universal Green OA, journals can downsize and convert to Gold OA as
SCOAP3 is already doing. But for now, it is up to the research community
-- and the research community alone -- to hasten the transition to
universal Green OA.

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 Sat Dec 15 2007 - 21:23:57 GMT

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