Re: On Proportion and Strategy: OA, non-OA, Gold-OA, Paid-OA

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 14 Jun 2009 18:19:55 +0100

On Sun, 14 Jun 2009, David Prosser (SPARC-Europe) wrote:

> So, there is little hard evidence as to whether discussion of Gold helps
> or
> hinders in an institution's attempt to implement a Green OA mandate.

Correct. Just the commonsense notion that it is harder to persuade
institutions to do something that costs more rather than less.

> One of the few pieces of evidence that we have, from Harvard, suggests
> that it can help. However, this fails to fit in with Stevan's narrative
> and so we are encouraged to ignore it.

David, surely by now you know that for me all this is not about
"narratives" but about results. Preoccupation with Gold OA has held up
for years even recognizing that Green OA is indeed OA, let alone
formulating, understanding and adopting Green OA mandates.

Now that Green OA mandates are at last beginning to be understood and
adopted, I am doing my level best not to see them weighed down with
unnecessary Gold OA baggage, especially inasmuch as it distracts from
or deters adoption of the Green OA mandates themselves.

The evidence is that the vast majority of the 85 Green OA mandates that
have so far managed to get adopted have *not* included a Gold OA subsidy
(whereas there are a growing number of Gold OA subsidy policies that
do not include a Green OA mandate: Peter Suber or Richard Poynder should
be listing them shortly).

Stuart rightly pointed out that author-worries about their journals'
future were prominent among the many prima facie worries he encountered
in his long but ultimately triumphant efforts to achieve consensus on
adopting the Harvard Green OA mandate.

No mention whatsoever is made of Gold OA subsidies in the motion adopted
by the faculty of Arts and Sciences to mandate Green OA:

What Stuart said was that reassuring faculty about the existence and
viability of the fee-based Gold OA model was helpful in assuaging their
fears about Green OA's possibly destroying their journals. But as far as I
know, it was only *after* the Harvard Green OA mandate was adopted (with
no mention of Gold) that we started hearing of the "open access compact"

And that too seems just fine: Once a Green OA mandate is successfully
adopted, the question of whether Gold OA subsidy delays, distracts from
or deters adoption is moot.

    "The Argument Against (Premature) Gold OA Support"

My disagreement with Stuart is only about what should and should not be
regarded and promoted as part of the Harvard Green OA mandate model.
For Harvard's example will be highly influential, worldwide. Inasmuch as
it actually inspires adoption, of course the question of whether or not
to include the Gold subsidy is irrelevant.

But inasmuch as the Harvard mandate model spreads globally as the model
for what a Green OA mandate *is* (and hence becomes the measure of whether
or not my own local institution can afford to adopt a Green OA mandate
at all), it can do just as much harm -- and act as just as much of a
deterrent, among Have-Not institutions that simply do not have the
resources to provide Gold subsidies (and are indeed spooked by the
prospect of paid Gold OA altogether) to imply that Gold subsidies
should be part of a Green OA mandate -- as the delay and deterrence that
the "OA equals Gold OA" misunderstanding has been causing for years now,
and is continuing to do today, in the worldwide growth of OA.

Those who are happy to continue to see OA plod along as a vague,
parallel/complementary double-agenda -- providing Green OA to articles
and converting journals to Gold OA -- do not perceive the weighing down
of Green OA mandates with Gold OA subsidies to be a handicap or hindrance:
"After all, we are working toward both, aren't we?"

But the time-line for achieving universal Gold OA is long and uncertain,
whereas the timeline for achieving universal Green OA could be very short
(indeed it could have been achieved years ago). Green OA mandates can
now fast-forward us to this optimal, inevitable and long-overdue outcome:
100% OA. It just depends on authors' institutions and funders mandating
the keystrokes. But not if the mandate is shackled to the need to find
funds to pay (needlessly) for Gold OA now, and to convert publishing to
Gold OA.

The irony is that this unnecessary retardant on Green OA is also a
retardant on Gold OA, because universal Green OA is needed in order to
pave the way for universal Gold OA.

This is not a "narrative," David, it is careful, focused reasoning and
reflection on the actual contingencies, in preference to a vague strategy
of "complementarity" and "parallelism" that only makes apparent sense
until we look at it more closely and see that what it really means is
continuing to obstruct the wide-open road to mandated Green OA with the
gratuitous obstacles of Gold OA -- to the ultimate detriment of both.

> I think that we can all agree that the Harvard mandate(s) is vitally
> important in triggering discussions at other universities - everybody
> wants to ape Harvard. However, rather than saying 'here are the arguments
> that led Harvard to adopt these polices' we appear to be putting forward
> reasons why these arguments will not work elsewhere: 'these arguments were
> a great success - don't under any circumstances use them!'. I find this
> positioning rather bizarre.

I can only repeat: The arguments needed to inform and reassure researchers
about the feasibility and benefits of a Green OA mandate are one thing
(and they do include careful explanation of the contingencies that might
eventually lead to a transition to Gold OA, if and when subscriptions
become unsustainable). But making Gold OA subsidy today part of the
mandate model is another matter. Harvard did not make Gold OA subsidy part
of its own Green OA mandate. Hence it should not be made part of the Harvard
model that is exported to other institutions eager to "ape" Harvard.

(And one can only "ape" Harvard to the extent that one has Harvard's
means. Most of the world's universities cannot afford Gold OA subsidies
today; they will only be able to fund Gold OA if and when the funds to pay
for it -- currently locked into universities' journal subscriptions -- are
released by Green-OA-induced subscription collapse. Not now, when there
are neither the funds nor the need for them: What is urgently needed
today is to mandate Green OA, with no [funding] strings attached.)

> If I were offering advice it would be for each institution to focus on the
> arguments that will work best locally. The 85 existing mandates have used
> a
> variety of arguments and strategies - adopt those that will work best
> locally. And if that includes talking about Gold then talk about Gold.

If (mirabile dictu) talking about Gold, or even subsidizing Gold, works
best to arrive at a speedy, successful consensus on a Green OA mandate,
rather than to delay, distract from or deter it, how could I have the
slightest objection? Rapid successful consensus on adopting Green is
the goal.

But my guess is that focusing on Gold is more likely either to delay and
distract from mandating Green (as it has for the dozens of institutions
who have adopted Gold subsidy policies, thinking they have then done their
bit for OA -- without mandating Green) or to deter from mandating Green
(which is likely if the cost of subsidizing Gold is wrongly taken
to be a necessary component of a Green mandate, and poorer institutions
accordingly conclude that they cannot afford to mandate Green OA).

Stevan Harnad
Received on Sun Jun 14 2009 - 18:24:57 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:49:48 GMT