Re: Pre-Emptive Gold Fever Strikes Again

From: Steve Hitchcock <>
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2009 12:31:05 +0100

In the UK the government has revised road tax so that it is based on
CO2 emissions (bear with me). Low emitting vehicles can pay very low
rates of tax, or even nothing. This is a great saving for motorists.
Unfortunately, to achieve this saving you will need a new car, and
when you compare the prices of cars that have the lowest qualifying
emissions, the bluemotions and econetics, etc., it becomes clear that
the cost of these modified versions is quite a bit more than the
standard models. In other words, the first five years of tax savings
effectively goes straight to the manufacturers. Funny that.

Meanwhile, recently in the world of OA,The Journal of Visualized
Experiments announced that it was switching from OA to a subscription
(April 03, 2009)
Barely a couple of weeks later the journal revealed that it now
includes a CC BY-NC license, making it eligible as a cost for authors
funded by the Wellcome Trust and the UKPMC Funders Group
tml (April 20, 2009)
Funny that, but completely understandable from the journal's

Elsewhere, the Scholarly Kitchen noted that the Associated Press had
recognised somewhat belatedly the link economy that drives the wider
Web and was now trying rectify its earlier mistakes: "News providers
have a lot to figure out, but entering this battle with squirt guns
and strategies their adversaries have already appropriated or trumped
won't deliver victory."

Economics, incentives, timing, control, power. The lessons of the
real world and the digital switch are all around.

It is time for the enthusiasts for Gold OA - and my guess is that for
many in this group the main motivation for OA, mistakenly I think, is
what they believe to be excessively high journal prices - to work out
where their money will end up and what they will get for it, before
it is too late.

Stevan is absolutely right: "it is the pre-emptive publishing
reformers who are being foolish and short-sighted, needlessly
conflating the urgent and important research accessibility problem
with the journal affordability problem, not realizing that if they
solve the former, the latter loses all its apparent urgency and
importance." --
Steve Hitchcock
IAM Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 7698    Fax: +44 (0)23 8059 2865

On 24/04/2009 03:08, Stevan Harnad wrote:
           [apologies for cross-posting] 

Comments on:
Open Access to Research Outputs: Final Report to Research
Councils UK 

Once they have mandated Green OA self-archiving (as all 7 of
the RCUK funding councils have now done), what funders do with
their spare cash is entirely their own business.

But it does seem as profligate as it is unnecessary to propose
squandering scarce research money today on paying Gold OA
publishing fees pre-emptively while Green OA mandates are still
so few and subscription fees are still paying for publication.

This RCUK report shows signs of having been drafted under two
palpable influences: (1) the publishers' lobby, striving to
ensure that, whatever the outcome, revenues for publishers are
maximized and immunized against risk -- and (2) the publishing
reform movement, striving to ensure that publishers convert to
Gold OA at all costs.

If good sense were to prevail, funders and universities would
just mandate Green OA for now, and then let supply and demand
decide, given universal Green OA, whether and when to convert
from subscriptions to Gold OA, and for what product, and at
what price.

      With non-OA journals, subscriptions pay the costs
      of publication.

      With fee-based OA journals, author publication fees
      pay the costs of publication.

      Green OA mandates require authors to deposit their
      published articles on the web, free for all.

      Gold OA means the journal makes the articles free
      for all on the web.

The goal of the open access movement is open access to
research, in order to maximize research uptake, impact and
progress. Universal Green OA mandates from funders (like RCUK)
and universities are all that is needed to ensure universal OA.

Universal Green OA may or may not eventually lead to
subscription cancellations and a transition to the Gold OA
cost-recovery model. If and when it does, the windfall
subscription cancellation savings themselves will be more than
enough to pay for the much-reduced costs of providing
peer-review alone (which will be the only product that
peer-reviewed journals will still need to provide), with never
the need to redirect a single penny from the dwindling pot that
funds research itself. 

(That publication costs would only amount to 2% of research
costs is a specious calculation, when one fails to take into
account that publication costs are still being fully covered by
subscription payments today, while many research proposals
recommended for funding by reviewers are going unfunded because
there is not enough money in the research pot to cover them.
Nor is there any need whatsoever for researchers to publish in
fee-based Gold OA journals if their objective is to provide OA
for their work: Green OA self-archiving already provides that.)

The effects of pre-emptive Gold fever today are (i) to distract
from the urgent need for universal Green OA mandates, (ii) to
encourage a needless waste of scarce research funds, and (iii)
to facilitate the locking-in of today's asking-prices for goods
and services (print edition, publisher's PDF, storage,
dissemination) that will almost certainly be obsolete by the
time Gold OA's day really comes, once universal Green OA has
become the access-provider (and archiver).

The publishers are just doing what any business will do to try
to sustain and maximize its habitual revenues; it is the
pre-emptive publishing reformers who are being foolish and
short-sighted, needlessly conflating the urgent and important
research accessibility problem with the journal affordability
problem, not realizing that if they solve the former, the
latter loses all its apparent urgency and importance.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Received on Fri Apr 24 2009 - 17:25:28 BST

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