Re: Another Winning Article From OA's Chronicler and Conscience: Richard Poynder

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 11 Mar 2009 16:30:11 -0400

On 09-03-11, at 15:16, leo waaijers wrote:

Thanks Stevan for your extensive answer. Of course I feel tempted to reply accordingly. But that would explode our exchange. Apart from that, readers of this professional mailing list can judge most arguments themselves I guess. But I cannot resist to point out that DOAJ shows more than 3900 OA journals, growing with an average of 2 journals per day. Why stop this process in favor of Green mandates? Leo.

Hi Leo,

I didn't suggest stopping Gold OA growth.

Most of the growth in Gold OA journals is either (1) TA journals making their online edition free (which is always welcome, and not at issue here) or else (2) new start-up Gold OA journals (which, like most start-up journals, OA or non-OA, don't last very long unless there is an empty niche they fill). Most important, most of the top journals -- the ones to which most researchers most need access -- are not OA. At best, they are "hybrid OA" -- TA journals that, unlike the TA journals that are simply making their online edition free, are charging sizable fees for OA, per article (these hybrid journals are not counted by DOAJ as Gold OA journals, rightly).

In other words, the Gold OA journal growth is not where the OA need is greatest.

Moreover, what I had said was that the research community should stop focusing on Gold OA journals until and unless it has mandated Green OA. Once Green OA is mandated, neither lost time nor wasted money matters any more; but without mandating Green OA, it gives a golden illusion of making significant progress towards global OA where there isn't any.

Gold OA growth (and in particular among the top journals where it is needed most) is not in the hands of the research community (i.e., authors, their institutions and funders). It is in the hands of the publishing community. And it cannot be mandated.

So Green OA is OA's real growth region; and that's why it needs to be accelerated and assured through Green OA mandates by universities and funders.

(Sorry my reply had to be longer than your comment!)

Chrs, Stevan

 Stevan Harnad wrote:
 On Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 10:32 AM, Leo Waaijers wrote:
in order to mandate Green you must maintain the classical journals.

Since no one is talking about canceling journal subscriptions when users still need access and access is not yet OA, the need to "maintain the classical journals" is not even at issue.

There are only two issues:

(1) Do we or don't we mandate self-archiving of published articles (to provide universal OA) today?

 (2) Do we or don't we pay for Gold OA today?

The answer to (1) is yes, and we'd better start hurrying, if we want OA at all today.

The answer to (2) is yes, pay for Gold OA today if you have the spare cash and nothing better to do with it, but first mandate Green OA too, otherwise you are throwing away your money both foolishly and needlessly.

Green does not cost anything EXTRA. In a transition period... payments for Gold are an extra... Is it worth then to go through this costly transition period?... Yes... because... ultimate[ly] Gold... is cheaper but mainly because it is [OA].

Green OA is OA too, and mandating Green OA entails no costly transition: On the contrary, once universal it will eventually force cost-cutting, downsizing, and transition to Gold OA at a much lower price.

How to get from A to B? I think Green mandates are fine but insufficient. ... RoMEO may explain why Green mandates are taken up so slowly.

Sixty-three percent of journals already endorse immediate, unembargoed, Green OA self-archiving. For the other 37% there is immediate Closed Access deposit plus the Button, to provide immediate "Almost OA " during any embargo.

So how does this explain that there are only 67/10000 Green OA mandates and only about 15% of articles are being self-archived spontaneously (unmandated)?

The answer is already clear, both from surveys and actual practice:

The three main reasons researchers are not self-archiving spontaneously are (1) worries that it might be illegal, (2) worries that it might put acceptance by their preferred journal at risk, and (3) worries that it might take a lot of time. They need mandates from their institutions and funders not in order to coerce them to self-archive but in order to embolden them to self-archive, making it official policy that it is not only okay for them to self-archive, but that it is expected of them, and well worth the few minutes worth of extra keystrokes per paper.

So all that's needed is for the "slumbering giant " (the world's 10000 research universities and institutions) to wake up and mandate Green OA. Harvard's newly optimized mandate model (upgraded to include ID/OA without opt-out) shows the way.

I think that all those who have the power to mandate Green access (funders, universities) should further non-proprietary peer review systems as well. These are systems that do not require the transfer of copyrights in exchange for publication.

But what does that mean -- apart from Harvard's newly optimized mandate, with a rights-retention and immediate-OA clause from which the author can opt out, but an immediate-deposit clause without opt-out?

Journals are the "peer review systems" (indeed, essentially, that's all they are): OA is not trying to re-invent journals, just to make all peer-reviewed journal articles freely accessible online! We already have more than enough peer-reviewed journals -- but far less than enough access to their peer-reviewed articles.

Gold journals are an example. Overlay journals are another - even cheaper - option (see e.g. John Houghton's report).

Gold journals will come. What we are talking about now is providing OA, and Green OA mandates are both necessary and sufficient to provide that. It is OA itself that is urgent, not Gold OA journals. Green OA can be accelerated by universities and funders, through Green OA mandates; Gold OA cannot be accelerated by universities and funders -- except, again, through Green OA mandates!

"Overlay journals" is just a name for a useful (but rather trivial and, here, irrelevant) online practice already being widely adopted by existing journals ("Deposit your submitted draft here -- where "here" can be Arxiv, as for the APS journals, or your own Institutional Repository, or any other website where our referees and editors can access it -- and we will peer review it there"). 

Another meaning of "overlay journals" is an untested (and I think incoherent ) speculation about replacing peer review itself with an open archiving system, with journals coming in and "tagging" deposits with their imprimatur.

But what we need now, urgently, is OA itself -- to all peer-reviewed journal articles, such as they are -- not alternatives to the peer-reviewed journal system we already have. (We already have more than enough journals -- but far less than enough access to their articles.)

Funders and universities should call for tenders for such systems.

Before funders and universities call for such tenders, could they please just mandate Green OA first? All my nagging will stop then; but until then, gold fever and overlay fervor is just distracting us from the undone task at hand: providing OA today, and not at the heat death of the universe, while we meanwhile gallop off in all other directions but OA itself!

 On Wed, Mar 11, 2009, David E. Wojick wrote:

 I am puzzled by his estimate that only 15% of authors voluntarily self-archive via personal webpages, institutional repositories and community eprint databases. We did a quick study in physics and found more like 60-80% just for author webpages, so either he is seriously wrong or he is including areas that may not archive. Who might they be? The high ratio we found is what makes our E-print Network viable We harvest 30,000 webpages and databases.

Any information on his 15% number? If we are right then voluntary green OA is a done deal in physics and related fields. We also see these high numbers in computer science.

Yes, it's well-known that the numbers are higher in physics and computer (and economics) but the global average across all fields alas continues to hover at about 15% .

On Wed, Mar 11, 2009, Frederick Friend wrote:
In writing about affordability, Richard also makes the classic mistake of concentrating solely upon costs and not upon the relationship between costs and benefits. The right approach is that of John Houghton and his co-authors in their report on "Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models" . Rather than "gold" OA losing out on affordability, the Houghton study shows the potential for both "green" and "gold" to win the "value for money" race with the subscription model. So rather than worrying about whether "gold" or "green" will win, the challenge I see is how the academic community can transition to a situation in which the research process yields a higher benefit/cost ratio for researchers, for users of research outputs and for the taxpayer than is currently being achieved.

The trouble is that we are here -- c. 15% -- and getting nowhere fast (as we sit yearning for gold and fantasizing about overlays). The real issue is one about immediate priorities, and probabilities. Green OA mandates work, they are feasible, and they are sufficient to generate universal OA, if adopted universally by universities and funders. First make sure Green OA is mandated, now; then everyone can return cheerfully to their gold rush or their peer-review reform agendas. The real head-shaker is pursuing those agendas instead of first mandating Green OA. 

Your weary and wizened Archivangelist,

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Mar 11 2009 - 22:33:46 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:49:43 GMT