(no subject)

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2008 15:16:40 +0100 (BST)

Subject: The American Physical Society Is Not The Culprit: We Are

    The American Physical Society Is Not The Culprit: We Are

    Hyperlinked version of this posting:

    SUMMARY: A journal's copyright transfer agreement is too restrictive
    only if it tries to disallow author self-archiving of the accepted,
    refereed final draft (the "postprint"), free for all on the Web,
    where any user webwide can access, read, download, print-out, store,
    and data-mine that full-text for any research purpose whatsoever. The
    American Physical Society (APS) was always the most progressive of the
    established subscription-based publishers, and the very first to adopt
    a Green policy on author OA self-archiving. Today, 62% of journals are
    Green, but only about 15% of articles are being self-archived. Hence
    the first and foremost priority today is to get all authors self-
    archiving and all journals Green. Institutional and funder OA self-
    archiving mandates can and will ensure that both these things come
    to pass. This is not the time to be pursuing still more rights from
    Green publishers, particularly the most progressive one of all,
    APS. It's the time to self-archive and mandate self-archiving. The
    rest will take care of itself, but not if we keep chasing after what
    we don't needinstead of grasping what is already within our reach.

        "Physicists slam publishers over Wikipedia ban"
        New Scientist 16 March 2008

I have some doubts about the accuracy of this New Scientist piece. What
exactly is it that the American Physical Society (APS) is being alleged
to be refusing to do?

The APS is the first publisher that endorsed OA self-archiving. It is the
greenest of green publishers. APS authors are encouraged to post their
unrefereed preprints as well as their refereed postprints, free for all, on
the web.

So what exactly is the fuss about? "Scientists who want to describe their
work on Wikipedia should not be forced to give up the kudos of a respected
journal." "Describe" their work on Wikipedia? What does that mean? Of course
they can describe their work (published or unpublished) on Wikipedia, or
anywhere else.

And what has that to do with giving up the kudos of a respected journal?

Does this passage really mean to say "post the author's version to Wikipedia
verbatim?" APS does not mind, but Wikipedia minds, because Wikipedia does
not allow the posting of copyrighted work to Wikipedia.

Solution: Revise the text, so it's no longer the verbatim original but a new
work the author has written, based on his original work. That can be posted
to Wikipedia (but may soon be unrecognizably transformed -- for better or
worse -- by legions of Wikimeddlers, some informed, some not). It's a good
idea to cite the original canonical APS publication, though, just for the

Still nothing to do with APS. "So says a group of physicists who are going
head-to-head with a publisher because it will not allow them to post parts
of their work to the online encyclopaedia, blogs and other forums." In a
(free) online encyclopedia that would provide the author's original final
draft, verbatim, and unalterable by users, there would be no problem (if the
encyclopedia does not insist on copyright transfer) as long as there is a
link to the original publication at the APS site.

Blogs and Forums (again on condition that the text itself cannot be
bowdlerized by users, or re-sold) will be treated by APS as just another
e-print server. "The physicists were upset after the American Physical
Society withdrew its offer to publish two studies in Physical Review Letters
because the authors had asked for a rights agreement compatible with
Wikipedia." This is now no longer about the right to post and re-post one's
own published APS papers on the Web, it is about satisfying Wikipedia's
copyright policy by going against APS's extremely liberal copyright policy.
I side with APS. Let Wikipedia bend on this one, and let the text be posted
(and then gang-rewritten as everyone sees fit). I see no reason why APS
should have to alter its already sufficiently liberal policy to suit
Wikipedia. "The APS asks scientists to transfer their copyright to the
society before they can publish in an APS journal. This prevents scientists
contributing illustrations or other "derivative works" of their papers to
many websites without explicit permission." APS already says authors can
post their entire work just about anywhere on the web without explicit
permission. And they can rewrite and republish their work too. This fuss is
about formality, not substance. "The authors of the rescinded papers and 38
other physicists are calling for the APS to change its policy. 'It is
unreasonable and completely at odds with the practice in the field.
Scientists want as broad an audience for their papers as possible,' says
Bill Unruh at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, who
has been lobbying separately against strict copyright rules." If you're
going to lobby against strict copyright rules, pick any of the Gray, or even
the Pale-Green publishers in Romeo. But leave the Green ones like APS alone
until all publishers are at least as green as they are.

And if you are going to lobby against copyright rules, make sure it is about
a matter of substance and not just form. "'To tell us what we can do with
our paper is completely at odds with practice in the field' Gene Sprouse,
editor-in-chief of the APS journals, says the society plans to review its
copyright policy at a meeting in May. 'A group of excellent scientists has
asked us to consider revising our copyright, and we take them seriously,' he
says." I am certain that the APS will accommodate all requests that are to
the benefit of science, as they always have. I'm not always sure those who
are lobbying for copyright reform really know what they want (or need)
either. I trust them more if they say that they have made all their papers
OA by self-archiving them. If they have not, yet they are still fussing,
then they might be thinking of Disney re-mixes rather than science. "Some
publishers, such as the UK's Royal Society, have already adopted copyright
policies that allow online reproduction." The APS has long had a far more
liberal OA policy than the Royal Society, a reluctant late-comer to OA.

There is something being misreported or misunderstood here.

A journal's copyright transfer agreement is only too restrictive if it tries
to disallow author self-archiving of the accepted, refereed final draft (the
"postprint"), free for all on the Web, where any user webwide can access,
read, download, print-out, store, and data-mine the full-text for any
research purpose whatsoever. That is what is called "Open Access."

Journals that have a policy that formally endorses immediate and permanent
author self-archiving of the postprint are called "Green" journals. There is
a directory of the policies of the 10,000 principal journals regarding OA
self-archiving: 62% of them are Green; 28% are "Pale-Green" (endorsing the
self-archiving of pre-refereeing preprints, but not refereed postprints) and
9% are Gray (disallowing the self-archiving of either preprints or

The American Physical Society (APS) is fully Green; it is the first Green
publisher and helped set the example for the rest of the Green publishers.

If anything needs changing today it's the policy of the 9% of journals that
are Gray and the 28% that are Pale-Green, not the 62% that are Green.

Once all publishers are Green, and all authors are making their papers OA by
self-archiving them, copyright agreements will come into phase with the new
OA reality, and everything that comes with that territory. For that to
happen, endorsing OA self-archiving is all that is necessary. There is no
need to over-reach and insist on reforming copyright agreements.

NB: Whenever and wherever an author does succeed in retaining copyright, or
a publisher does agree to just requesting a non- exclusive license rather
than a total copyright transfer, that is always very welcome and valuable.
But it is not necessary at this time, and over-reaching for it merely makes
the task of securing the real necessity -- which is a Green self-archiving
policy -- all the more difficult.

In particular, pillorying the APS, which was the earliest and most
progressive of Green publishers, is not only unjust, but weakens the case
against Gray publishers, who will triumphantly point out that they are
justified in not going Green, because the demands of authors are excessive,
unnecessary, and unreasonable, as they are not even satisfied with Green OA
(and most don't even bother to self-archive)!

The problem for the worldwide research community is not the minority (about
15%, mostly concentrated in computer science and physics) who are already
spontaneously making their articles OA by self-archiving them, but the vast
majority (85%, across all disciplines, including even some areas of physics)
who are not.

Moreover, there is something special about the longstanding practice in some
parts of physics of posting and sharing unrefereed preprints: That practice
is definitely not for all fields. Hence the universally generalizable
component of the physicists' practice is the OA self- archiving of the
refereed postprint. Posting one's unrefereed preprints will always be a
contingent matter, depending on subject matter and author temperament.
(Personally, I'm all for it for my own papers!)

There has been a big technical change since the first days of Arxiv. The
online archives or repositories have been made interoperable by the OAI
metadata harvesting protocol. Hence it is no longer necessary or even
desirable to try to create an Arxiv-like central archive for each field,
subfield, and interfield: Each researcher has an institution. Free software
creates an OAI-compliant Institutional Repository (IR) where the authors in
all fields at that institution can deposit all their papers. The
OAI-compliant IRs are all interoperable (including Arxiv), and can then be
searched and accessed through harvesters such as OAIster, Citebase, Citeseer
orGoogle Scholar.

Institutional IRs also have the advantage that institutions (like Harvard)
can mandate self-archiving for all their disciplines, thereby raising the
15% spontaneous (postprint) self-archiving rate to 100%. Research funders
(like NIH) can reinforce institutional OA self- archiving mandates too.

The objective fact today is that all physicists, self-archiving or not, are
still submitting their papers for refereeing and publication in
peer-reviewed journals. Nothing whatsoever has changed in that regard. The
only objective difference is that today (1) 15% of all authors self archive
their postprints, and among some physics communities, (2) most are also
self-archiving their preprints.

The OA movement is dedicated to generalizing the former practice (1)
(self-archiving peer-reviewed postprints, so they can be accessed and used
by all potential users, not just those whose institutions happen to be able
to afford to subscribe to the journal in which they were published) to 100%
of researchers, across all disciplines, worldwide.

Radical publishing reform -- like radical copyright reform -- are another
matter, and may or may not eventually follow after we first have 100% OA.
But for now, it is a matter of speculation, whereas postprint self-archiving
is a reachable matter of urgency.

The physicists, from the very outset, had the good sense not to give it a
second thought whether they were self-archiving with or without their
journal's blessing. They just went ahead and did it!

But most researchers in other fields did not; and still don't, even today,
when 62% of journals have given it their official blessing.

That's why self-archiving mandates are needed. (Author surveys have shown
that over 90% of authors, in all fields, would comply, over 80% of them
willingly -- but without a mandate they are simply too busy to bother --
just as in the case of the "publish or perish" mandate: if their promotion
committees didn't require and reward publishing, many wouldn't bother to do
that either!)

What is needed now is not to make a campaign of trying to force APS to
change its copyright policy. What is needed now is to generalize APS's Green
OA self-archiving policy to all publishers.

And to generalize the existing 39 university and funder Green OA (postprint)
self-archiving mandates to all universities and funders.

The rest (copyright reform and publishing reform) will then take care of

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 Thu Mar 27 2008 - 15:16:40 GMT

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