Green OA, Subscriptions, and Evidence

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2009 10:20:08 -0400

On Wed, Jul 22, 2009 at 6:57 AM, Sally Morris (Morris Associates)

> I am by no means opposed to OA in principle, but believe in
evidence rather
> than opinion (and the need for a way to keep viable those journals
> researchers still seem to want)
> The complete absence of response to the serious point in my posting
seems to
> reflect the distraction to which Steve [Hitchcock] refers...

Was this the following the serious point?

> SM: Back to the Gentil-Beccot et al article... - they only looked
> clickstream data on SPIRES, didn't they?

Probably, but what is the point? You were suggesting that Green OA
self-archiving would "destroy journals" (presumably by making
subscriptions unsustainable).

      SM: "It could be that the HE physicists (a) value
      journals too much to let them
      be destroyed by green OA and (b) are convinced that, if
      they don't put an
      alternative funding model in place, that is what will
      eventually happen."

I replied that all evidence to date (from HE Physics, which has been
at it for 18 years) is that Green OA does not diminish subscriptions.
(Hence either HE physicists do not have this hypothesis, or the
hypothesis is not founded on evidence.)

Then I suggested perhaps you were instead referring to diminished
downloads at the publisher's site, and I pointed out, citing
Gentil-Beccot et al's clickstream data as evidence, that this is
undisputed (i.e., HE physicists do indeed seem to prefer to use the
Green OA versions in Arxiv), but that diminished downloads are not
diminished subscriptions (they are merely manifestations of the fact
that users do indeed use Green OA); nor is there any evidence that
diminished downloads lead to diminished subscriptions, any more than
there is any evidence that Green OA leads to diminished

So what is your point? Is it that (1) Green OA does not diminish
downloads from the publisher's website after all? (Fine, have it your
way. It makes no difference in any case.) Or is it that (2)
diminished downloads do not imply diminished subscriptions? (Fine,
but why are you telling me this?)

Or was it just by way of stressing that (3) journals continue to be
valuable and necessary? But I agree completely: Peer-review continues
to be valuable and necessary to research and researchers, and it is
journals that provide it.

So I am afraid I continue to miss your serious point.

You go on to add:

> SM: When Kurtz et al
> ( - see Fig 5) looked
at ArXiv
> stats directly, together with ADS statistics for access to
> journals (which must be an underestimate, since not all readers
come in via
> ADS), they found that while HE physicists use ArXiv about twice as
> frequently for older papers as do astrophysicists or condensed
> scientists (who go directly to the journals).  

Something missing in the syntax here, but I take it that you are
repeating my own point that the preferred download site may not be
the same for HE physicists and for astrophysicists.

Could well be. But again, I ask: What is your point? The issue you
raised was about evidence that Green OA will destroy journals. And
there is no such evidence.

> SM: Unless HE physicists have a
> very different pattern of use from astrophysicists, however, it
would seem
> that they still preferentially use the journals for older articles.

Preferential use is not the issue. The issue is evidence that Green
OA will destroy journals. If users have access to both a Green OA
version and the publisher's version, let them use whichever they
prefer. Bless them. OA is about those users who don't have access to
the publisher's version.
I am quite ready for further discussion of serious points, if there
are any.

But I note that you have not yet either substantiated or retracted
the following:

> SM: Stevan is, I'm sure, well aware that IOP at least has claimed
> point (2) is erroneous and that it was misquoted by Swan

Point (2) (to recall and make it perfectly clear) was:

      (2) The two most important physics publishers -- APS and
      IOP -- have reported that there has been no detectable
      [subscription!] decline associated with those many years
      of Green OA self-archiving.

I take you at your word that you "believe in evidence rather than

Now where is the error, and the misquote? 

Stevan Harnad

P.S. I might add, by the way that even evidence that Green OA causes
subscription decline, were it to exist, would not be evidence that
Green OA will destroy journals. It would merely be evidence that
Green OA may eventually cause a transition to Gold OA publishing,
which will continue to keep journals viable even if/when Green OA
makes subscriptionsunsustainable:
Received on Wed Jul 22 2009 - 15:33:47 BST

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