Fund Gold OA Only AFTER Mandating Green OA, Not INSTEAD

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 2009 12:40:29 -0400

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Phil Davis, in Scholarly Kitchen, raises the right questions regarding
the ?Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity?:

(Hyperlinked version of this posting )

"If the creation of a funding line to support a particular form of
publishing is designed as a hypothesis, what result are they
expecting? What constitutes a successful or failed experiment?... If
this is about access, let?s talk about whether this type of publishing
results in disseminating scientific results to more readers. If this
debate is about economics, let?s talk about whether Cornell and the
four other signatory institutions will save money under this model."

Underlying the proposed ?Compact? is the usual conflation of the
access problem with the affordability problem, as well as the
conflation of their respective solutions: Green OA self-archiving and
Gold OA publishing.

Open Access (OA) is about access, not about journal economics. The
journal affordability problem is only relevant (to OA) inasmuch as it
reduces access; and Gold OA publishing is only relevant (to OA)
inasmuch as it increases access -- which for a given university, is
not much: Authors must remain free to publish in their journal of
choice. Most refereed journals are not Gold OA journals today. Nor
could universities afford to pay Gold OA fees for the publication of
all or most of their authors' research output today, because
universities are already paying for publication via their subscription
fees today.

Hence the only measure of the success of a university's OA policy (for
OA) is the degree to which it provides OA to the university's own
research article output. By that measure, a Gold OA funding compact
provides OA to the fraction of a university's total research output
for which there exist Gold OA journals today that are suitable to the
author and affordable to the university today. That fraction will vary
with the institution, but it will always be small.

In contrast, a Green OA self-archiving mandate provides OA to most or
all of a university's research article output within two years of

There are 5 signatories to the Gold OA "Compact" so far. Two of them
(Harvard and MIT) have already mandated Green OA, so what they go on
to do with their available funds does not matter here, one way or the

The other three signatories (Cornell, Dartmouth and Berkeley),
however, have not yet mandated Green OA. As such, their "success" in
providing OA to their own research article output will not only be
minimal, but they will be setting an extremely bad example for other
universities, who may likewise decide that they are doing their part
for OA by signing this compact for Gold OA (in exchange for next to no
OA, at a high cost) instead of mandating Green OA (in exchange for OA
to most or all their research articles output, at next to no extra

What universities, funders, researchers and research itself need,
urgently, is Green OA mandates, not Gold OA Compacts. Mandate Green OA
first, and then compact to do whatever you like with your spare cash.
But on no account commit to spending it pre-emptively on funding Gold
OA instead of mandating Green OA -- not if OA is your goal, rather
than something else.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Received on Thu Sep 17 2009 - 17:41:07 BST

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