Stealth Operations

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Thu, 16 Jul 2009 21:38:13 -0400

On 16-Jul-09, at 6:06 PM, Anthony Watkinson wrote:

> I am happy with this transparency, Stevan, but I cannot help
> noticing the difference between the words "very likely" i.e
> succesful populating of institutional repositories will make the
> subscription model untenable and the words "might or might not"
> provided subsequently. OK - there is no proof but it is very
> likely. We seem to agree on this. I find it difficult to see how
> there could be a proof.
> The aim of the so-called Green approach is to achieve Open Access
> by stealth - is it not?

I am truly perplexed! What is stealthy about advocating, openly,
vociferously, that Green OA should be universally mandated by research
institutions and research funders? If skywriting that all over the
stratosphere is stealthy, then what on earth would be UNstealthy?

Or is this perhaps just the usual conflation of OA with Gold OA?

(In other words, are you implicitly assuming that what I am really
aiming for is a conversion to Gold OA publishing, rather than just
universal Green OA? Well, let me say -- again as openly as one is
empowered to be, given the available human media of expression -- let
me say, write, and skywrite, with hand on heart, that all I mean or
ever meant by OA is immediate free online access to all refereed
research articles, and that that's what Green OA and Green OA mandates
provide. I have no intrinsic interest whatsoever in journal
publishers' cost-recovery models and I try to refrain from speculating
about them as much as I can. I admit lapses now and again, but if no
one else mentions it, I never do.)

So I repeat: There is no evidence yet that Green OA has reduced
subscriptions, let alone made them unsustainable. If and when it does,
journals can downsize and convert to Gold OA, and institutions can pay out
of their windfall subscription cancellation savings. Meantime, full speed
ahead toward mandated universal Green OA.

What is the probability that universal Green OA will force a
transition to Gold OA? I happen to personally think it's high. But who
am I? I was convinced that the probability of universal Green OA --
spontaneous and unmandated -- was so high in 1994 that it would be
with us virtually overnight. Here we are, a decade and a half later,
in 2009, and Green OA is still only at about 15%, and only 39 of the
planet's 10,000 universities have mandated Green OA!

Now I would take that as strong evidence that my personal belief that
universal Green OA is likely to lead to Gold OA (let alone the time-
scale on which this will happen) is not to be taken too seriously...


PS Anthony does have a point about what could be (mis)construed as my
"true agenda" based on the infamous 1994 "subversive proposal," in
which there was a definite lapse (but no stealth!). I should not have
said a single word about publishing there, just about self-archiving.
(I've since admitted this, in a 10-year retrospective "mea culpa.")
But the "subversion" I had in mind even in 1994 was not of the
publishing model, but of the access model. On publishing models, I
plead nolo contendere. The research community has far greener pastures
to harvest.

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Stevan Harnad" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Wednesday, July 08, 2009 12:51 AM
>> On Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 9:44 PM, Anthony Watkinson
>> <> wrote:
>>> I am puzzled by this statement in Professor Harnad's reply
>>> below. I quote:
>>> SH: "It is very likely that if and when universal Green Open
>>> Access (as a result of universal mandates to self-archive the
>>> author's final refereed drafts of all peer-reviewed journal
>>> articles immediately upon acceptance for publication) causes
>>> subscriptions to become unsustainable..."
>>> Yet this is the same Professor Harnad who suggests that
>>> institutional repositories are intended to make available
>>> refereed content for those who cannot afford access and not to
>>> damage journals.
>> Yes, one and the same: And your point is...?
>> One statement is about what universally mandated Green OA will
>> definitely do (make refereed research accessible to all users,
>> not just those whose institutions can afford subscription
>> access), and that is the one and only thing OA is intended to do.
>> The second statement is about what universally mandated Green
>> OA might or might not eventually do (make subscriptions
>> unsustainable, thereby inducing universal downsizing by
>> journals to peer review alone, and conversion to Gold OA). No
>> one knows whether or not that will be the eventual aftereffect
>> of universal Green OA (so, unlike universal access to all
>> users, it can hardly be the intention of the OA movement).
>> That said, there are certainly plenty of people in the OA
>> movement who have Gold Fever, and who would hence applaud that
>> outcome. But most of them haven't the patience to wait and see;
>> they are pushing for pre-emptive Gold right now, without even
>> waiting or working for universal Green OA mandates. (I would
>> say these advocates are not so much interested in research
>> access as in publishing reform. I am not one of them.)
>>> There are also others and maybe among his disciples who claim
>>> that there is no evidence that self-archiving will harm
>>> journal subscriptions because there is no evidence that this
>>> has happened.
>> This claim is perfectly correct. It is not a claim that it
>> never can or never will happen; just that it has not happened,
>> even in fields where Green OA has long reached 100%, and may
>> never happen, or not for a long time.
>> (I say: who cares? OA is about access, not economics.)
>>> There are also those who suggest to university authorities
>>> that mandates are mainly to project the profile of the
>>> university concerned.
>> Yes, that is one of OA's many benefits for universities.
>>> What is the real aim of some parts of the IR movement? What is
>>> Professor Harnad's main aim? Is it not to impose a universal
>>> Open Access regime by stealth?
>> I can hardly be called stealthy! I am for imposing universal
>> Open Access by universal Green OA mandates from institutions
>> and funders. (If that is still a secret to anyone then I have
>> been singularly unsuccessful in making my aim known despite
>> endless skywriting...)
>>> I think most publishers know what it is but does the academy?
>>> Perhaps they should be told. Or am I guilty of what former
>>> Professor Suber would call a misunderstanding my suggesting
>>> more transparency here?
>> But Anthony, how much more transparent can one be?
>> Stevan
Received on Fri Jul 17 2009 - 03:03:30 BST

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