Re: Elsevier Again Confirms Its Position on the Side of the Green OA Angels

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 2008 23:38:05 -0500

On Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 4:08 PM, Michael Eisen <>
I will proudly claim the mantle of an OA extremist if it means
calling bulls**t on Elsevier's policy. I am very happy to see
Karen Hunter's message, because it confirms what I and many
others have been saying for years - that Elsevier only supports
Green OA publishing because they know it will be adopted by a
small fraction of their authors.

(1) There is no Green OA publishing, there is only Green OA
self-archiving (by the author).

(2) A publisher that is Green on OA self-archiving (by the author) is
removing the single biggest obstacle to Green OA (hence to OA), as
well as to Green OA Mandates by authors' institutions and funders:
The author's concern that to self-archive would be to violate
copyright and to risk not being published by his journal of choice.

(3) No one is asking non-OA publishers to support OA -- just not to
oppose it.

(4) What will ensure that not only a small fraction of authors but
all authors provide Green OA is Green OA mandates.

(5) Green OA mandates are facilitated by publishers with Green
policies on OA self-archiving.

(6) None of this requires that publishers agree to allow 3rd parties
to download their proprietary files automatically.

      What more evidence do you need that Elsevier is not
      actually committed to OA than this explicit statement
      that they prohibit the clearest and easiest path towards
      achieving Green OA to their published articles?

The clearest and easiest path to achieving Green OA to all published
articles is for their authors to deposit them in their institutional
repositories and for their institutions and funders to mandate that
they deposit them in their institutional repositories. It is not
Elsevier that is holding up that process. It is authors, in failing
to self-archive of their own accord, and their institutions and
funders, in failing to mandate that they self-archive.

The only relevant evidence from Elsevier here is that Elsevier has
removed the obstacles to immediate author self-archiving, as well as
to institutional and funder immediate self-archiving mandates. There
is nothing more that needs to be asked of Elsevier on this score, nor
anything more that Elsevier need do.

(I make no mention here about something else on which Elsevier can
indeed be faulted, namely, that they are an active part of the
publisher lobbying against Green OA mandates! But I think that on
balance their Green policy and example on immediate OA self-archiving
is far more of a help to progress on Green OA and Green OA mandates
than the publisher lobbying against Green OA mandates is a hindrance;
indeed the lobbying is failing, globally, and especially failing
against individual institutional mandates, which are far less
vulnerable to industry lobbying than governmental funding agencies,
although those too are successfully resisting the industry lobbying.)

      Why should Elsevier care whether authors download the
      articles themselves or if someone else does it for them
      other than the expectation that in the former case, the
      practical obstacles will prevent most authors from doing

Because construing a Green Light for authors to self-archive as a
Green Light for 3rd-party "self"-archiving, and 3rd-party archives
would be a carte blanche to 3rd-party rival publishers to free-ride
on Elsevier content.

(Again, the distinction is completely mooted, in practical terms, by
the nature of the Web and of Open Access: Once content is free for
all in one place, it is free for all in any place, and there is
scarcely any scope for "free-riding" on free content. But these are
alas still early days, and while authors and their institutions and
funders are still dragging their feet on self-archiving and
self-archiving mandates, there is plenty of scope for free-riders to
have a little field day with an Elsevier policy that allows anyone to
download and re-use their proprietary files today.)

      Unless and until Elsevier radically restructures its
      business model for scientific publishing, they will only
      permit Green OA so long as it is largely unsuccessful -
      the moment it becomes possible to get most Elsevier
      articles in IRs they will have to end this practice, as
      their current policy against IR downloads makes
      abundantly clear. 

On this point, Mike, I am afraid we will have to continue to
disagree, profoundly. You are an advocate of a direct transition to
Gold OA publishing; I am not, because I see so clearly that universal
Green OA is within reach, awaiting only universal Green OA mandates
by authors' institutions and funders. Those universal Green OA
mandates by authors' institutions and funders (which Elsevier's Green
policy greatly facilitates) -- along with time itself -- make it
increasingly difficult for publishers even to contemplate
back-tracking on their Green policies.

So I think you are simply wrong about this back-tracking bugaboo,
which is about as valid as the publisher lobby's repeated bugaboo
that OA will destroy peer review.

You continue to be impatient for Gold OA, whereas my overtaxed
patience is just for OA itself -- which, unlike Gold OA, is already
within sight and reach. All it takes is universal Green OA
self-archiving mandates by institutions and funders. Elsevier's Green
policy is such a great help in that (even though even that help is
not essential) that I think it far outweighs their lobbying against
Green OA mandates. And it certainly outweighs their unwillingness to
allow 3rd-party downloading of their proprietary files.

Happy Thanksgiving.

As a vegetarian, I'm for green thanksgivings, rather than
turkey-blood red ones. And I am certainly happy to thank Elsevier for
their green policy on immediate OA self-archiving... 

      -Michael "The Extremist" Eisen

-Stevan "The Moderate" Harnad

On Nov 26, 2008, at 12:46 PM, Stevan Harnad wrote:

      On Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 2:53 PM, Hunter, Karen A
      (ELS-NYC) <k.hunter --> wrote:

             As much as Elsevier appreciates praise
            for its policies, we also want to
            prevent misunderstanding.

            We are grateful that Colin Smith,
            Research Repository Manager of the Open
            University, approached us with a
            question on our author posting policy. 
            Mr. Smith had noticed that for some
            journals an early "accepted manuscript"
            version of an author's paper was
            available on ScienceDirect and he
            wanted to know if authors could
            download it and deposit it to their
            institutional repositories.  As our
            longstanding policy permits authors to
            voluntarily post their own author
            manuscripts to their personal website
            or institutional repository, we
            responded that we would not object to
            an author downloading this version.

            However, our broader policy prohibits
            systematic downloading or posting.
            Therefore, it is not permitted for IR
            managers or any other third party to
            download articles or any other version
            such as articles-in-press or accepted
            manuscripts from ScienceDirect and post
            them. To the extent that Colin Smith's
            message could be read as encouraging IR
            managers to download, it is a
            misinterpretation of our position.

Karen Hunter's response is very fair, and Elsevier's
policy on author self-archiving is both very fair and
very progressive -- indeed a model for all Publishers
that wish to adopt a Green OA policy.

I know there will be extremists who will jump on me for
having said this, and I am sure nothing I say will be
able to make them realize how unreasonable they are being
-- and how their extremism works against OA.

Green OA self-archiving provides the opportunity for
achieving universal OA precisely because it is author
SELF-archiving. Thus is it is perfectly reasonable for
Green publishers to endorse only self-archiving, not
3rd-party archiving, to endorse self-archiving in the
author's own institutional repository, but not in a
3rd-party repository, and to endorse depositing the
author's own final draft, not the publisher's draft.

The fact that we do not yet have universal Green OA is
not publishers' fault, and certainly not Green
publishers' fault. The only thing standing between us and
universal Green OA is keystrokes -- authors' keystrokes.
And the way to persuade authors to perform those
keystrokes -- for their own benefit, as well as for the
benefit of the institutions that pay their salaries, the
agencies that fund their research, and the tax-paying
public that funds their institutions and their funders --
is for their institutions and funders to mandate that
those keystrokes are performed.

It would not only be unjust, but it would border on the
grotesque, if the punishment for publishers who had been
progressive enough to give their official green light to
their authors to perform those keystrokes  -- yet their
authors couldn't be bothered to perform the keystrokes,
and their institutions and funders could not be bothered
to mandate the keystrokes -- were that their green light
was construed as permission to automatically harvest from
the publisher's website the drafts that their own authors
could not be bothered or persuaded to deposit in their
own institutional repository.

No. Open Access is a benefit that the research community
needs to provide for itself. The only reasonable thing to
ask of publishers is that they should not try to prevent
the keystrokes from being performed. It would be both
unreasonable and unfair to demand that publishers also
perform the keystrokes on the authors' behalf, through
automated downloads, for that would be tantamount to
demanding that they become Gold OA publishers, rather
than just endorsing Green OA.

What is needed is more keystroke mandates from
institutions and funders, not more pressure on Green
publishers who have already done for Green OA all that
can be reasonable asked of them.

Stevan Harnad

Michael Eisen, Ph.D. (MBEISEN_at_BERKELEY.EDU)
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Associate Professor of Genetics, Genomics and Development
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
UC Berkeley
Received on Thu Nov 27 2008 - 04:39:03 GMT

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