Re: Five Universities Sign Open Access Funding Compact

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Sun, 20 Sep 2009 08:03:54 -0400

On 19-Sep-09, at 10:17 PM, Sandy Thatcher wrote (in liblicense):

> I applaud these five universities for putting their money where
> their mouth is. This will help obviate one of the perils of the
> Green OA system that Stevan Harnad advocates, viz., the
> proliferation of different versions of articles as publishers
> allow peer-reviewed but unedited articles to be posted while
> reserving the right to distribute the final versions themselves
> exclusively.

Two of the five universities (Harvard and MIT) who have signed COPE
are to be applauded -- for putting their total refereed research
output where their mouth is by mandating that it must all be made OA
(through Green OA self-archiving) today.

Sandy Thatcher can rest assured that the many access-denied would-be
users worldwide who would otherwise not have had access to a
particular item of that refereed research, because their institutions
could not afford subscription access to that item, do not feel
imperiled but "empowered" by the fact that they now have access to its
self-archived final refereed draft (though not the publisher's PDF)
rather than no access at all. Research progress -- and OA -- are about
content, not form.

Nor do those access-denied would-be users care one bit about "version
proliferation." What they care about is access proliferation, so they
can get on with their research using all the relevant refereed
research there is rather than just the fraction of it that their
institutions can afford to subscribe to today.

But there is nothing whatsoever to applaud in the case of the three
out of five universities (Cornell, Dartmouth and Berkeley) who have
signed COPE but failed to put their total research output where either
their mouth or their money is -- committing to use whatever spare cash
they have available today to pay "equitable" Gold OA publishing fees
for the small fraction of their total research output for which Gold
OA is available and affordable today, while failing to mandate Green
OA self-archiving for all the rest.

Nor is this bad example to other universities -- of unnecessarily
committing scarce cash to pay for Gold OA for a token subset of their
research output without the necessary, urgent and overdue provision of
Green OA to all the rest -- to be applauded or welcomed, for if
followed, it will just serve to keep delaying OA still longer, instead
of reaching for what is already within the university community's
grasp today.

The reason universities are cash-strapped and can only afford to buy
Gold OA for a tiny fraction of their total refereed research output is
that their cash is currently committed to journal subscriptions that
are providing whatever access they can afford for their own users

Committing to spend still more cash for Gold OA, over and above what
they are already spending on subscriptions, amounts to a symbolic,
token pittance; it provides OA for a fraction of their total research
output at a high extra cost, unnecessarily, while leaving users
access-denied for all the rest, instead of mandating Green OA
self-archiving for all of their research output, at no extra cost.

Nor can the cash that universities are committing to pay for
subscriptions today be liberated, through individual cancellations, to
pay instead for Gold OA -- as long as the necessary content that
ongoing subscriptions are buying in for the university's own users is
not otherwise accessible to them.

What the reader who is thinking realistically rather than applauding
COPE unreflectively will realize at once is that the only realistic
way that the world's 10,000 individual universities can liberate their
current subscription funds to pay for a transition to universal Gold
OA is if universal OA is first provided to the total research output
of all universities. The means of providing this universal OA today is
through the universal adoption of Green OA self-archiving mandates by
most or all universities, not by the committing of scarce surplus cash
to pay pre-emptively for Gold OA for some small fraction of total
research output.

And charity begins at home, with cost-free mandates to provide Green
OA to each university's own total refereed research output, not with
expensive, unnecessary and ineffectual gestures like COPE, which
merely serve to mask and paper over the already long overdue need to
mandate Green OA.


"Please Commit To Providing Green OA Before Committing To Pay For Gold OA"

"Fund Gold OA Only AFTER Mandating Green OA, Not INSTEAD"

> But by all rights OA should apply to monographs, too. It makes no
> intellectual sense to isolate book-length works in print form in
> a few hundred libraries while making journal literature on the
> same subjects accessible worldwide for free. So, when will these
> universities, and others, step up to the plate and pay author
> fees for monographs, too?

Maybe if (1) the worldwide university community has the sense to do
what is the very first urgent priority -- to mandate Green OA
self-archiving for the refereed final drafts of all their research
article output  today -- then the resultant universal Green OA will
eventually induce (2) the subscription cancellations, downsizing and
transition to universal Gold OA publication for refereed research
journal articles at "equitable" prices, paid for out of the windfall
savings from the subscription cancellations.

Then this might in turn (3) leave some left-over windfall savings to
pay for Gold OA for monographs too.

But this certainly won't be possible as long as universities lack even
the cash to buy in print monographs for their libraries, because the
potential funds to pay for them are still tied up in paying for their
journal subscriptions...

Having said all this so many times before, all I can offer is clichés:
Charity begins at home. First things first. Don't put the cart before
the horse. Keep your eye on the ball. Don't build (golden) castles in

Your weary archivangelist,

Stevan Harnad

> Sandy Thatcher
> Penn State Press
>> " . . .five schools at the forefront of the open access debate --
>> Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, MIT,
>> and UC Berkeley -- have announced their joint support for 'A
>> Compact on Open-Access Publishing.' The release accompanying the
>> Compact touts the economic advantages of a robust author-pays
>> option for scholarly publishing, and urges the academic community
>> to step up university-wide efforts to make the author-pays model
>> more viable."
>> Bernie Sloan
> --
> Sanford G. Thatcher
> Executive Editor for Social Sciences and Humanities
> Penn State University Press
> 8201 Edgewater Drive
> Frisco, TX  75034-5514
> e-mail:
> Phone: (214) 705-9010
> "If a book is worth reading, it is worth buying."-John Ruskin (1865)
> "The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people
> who can write know anything."-Walter Bagehot (1853)
Received on Sun Sep 20 2009 - 13:04:58 BST

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