Universal University Open Access Mandates Moot The Problem of Uncontrolled Journal Price Inflation Caused By Inelastic Demand

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Wed, 2 Sep 2009 05:43:38 -0400

** Apologies for Cross-Posting **

Stuart Shieber, architect of Harvard's OA Mandate, asks: "Do we
continue the status quo, which involves only supporting a business
model known to be subject to uncontrolled inflationary spirals, or do
we experiment with new mechanisms that have the potential to be
economically sound and far more open to boot?"

The answer is simple: The only reason the uncontrolled inflation of
journal subscription costs is a problem at all (and also the reason
the upward spiral continues uncontrolled) is the planet's
universities' inelastic demand and need for access to the journal

Hence the solution is for universities -- the universal providers of
all those journal articles -- to provide Open Access (free online
access) to them by mandating that their peer-reviewed final drafts be
deposited in their institutional repositories immediately upon
acceptance for publication.

Universal OA self-archiving moots the problem of uncontrolled
subscription-cost inflation by putting an end to the inelasticity of
the demand: If your university cannot afford the subscription price
for journal X, your users will still have access to the OA version.

There is no need for universities to try to reform journal economics
directly now. What is urgently needed, universally reachable, and
already long overdue is universal OA self-archiving mandates from
universities. Focusing instead on reforming journal business models is
simply distracting from and hence delaying the fulfillment of this
pressing need.

Harvard should focus all its energy and prestige on universalizing OA
self-archiving mandates rather than dissipating it superfluously on
journal economics and OA funds.

Once OA self-archiving is universal, journal economics will take care of itself.

Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged
Transition</a>. In: The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of
the Electronic Age, pp. 99-105, L'Harmattan.
ABSTRACT: What the research community needs, urgently, is free online
access (Open Access, OA) to its own peer-reviewed research output.
Researchers can provide that in two ways: by publishing their articles
in OA journals (Gold OA) or by continuing to publish in non-OA
journals and self-archiving their final peer-reviewed drafts in their
own OA Institutional Repositories (Green OA). OA self-archiving, once
it is mandated by research institutions and funders, can reliably
generate 100% Green OA. Gold OA requires journals to convert to OA
publishing (which is not in the hands of the research community) and
it also requires the funds to cover the Gold OA publication costs.
With 100% Green OA, the research community's access and impact
problems are already solved. If and when 100% Green OA should cause
significant cancellation pressure (no one knows whether or when that
will happen, because OA Green grows anarchically, article by article,
not journal by journal) then the cancellation pressure will cause
cost-cutting, downsizing and eventually a leveraged transition to OA
(Gold) publishing on the part of journals. As subscription revenues
shrink, institutional windfall savings from cancellations grow. If and
when journal subscriptions become unsustainable, per-article
publishing costs will be low enough, and institutional savings will be
high enough to cover them, because publishing will have downsized to
just peer-review service provision alone, offloading text-generation
onto authors and access-provision and archiving onto the global
network of OA Institutional Repositories. Green OA will have leveraged
a transition to Gold OA.
Received on Wed Sep 02 2009 - 11:24:30 BST

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