Re: Five Universities Sign Open Access Funding Compact

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 21 Sep 2009 22:16:42 EDT

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

> I applaud these five universities for putting their money where=20
> their mouth is. This will help obviate one of the perils of the=20
> Green OA system that Stevan Harnad advocates, viz., the=20
> proliferation of different versions of articles as publishers=20
> allow peer-reviewed but unedited articles to be posted while=20
> reserving the right to distribute the final versions themselves=20
> exclusively.

Two of the five universities (Harvard and MIT) who have signed=20
COPE are to be applauded -- for putting their total refereed=20
research output where their mouth is by mandating that it must=20
all be made OA (through Green OA self-archiving) today.

Sandy Thatcher can rest assured that the many access-denied=20
would-be users worldwide who would otherwise not have had access=20
to a particular item of that refereed research, because their=20
institutions could not afford subscription access to that item,=20
do not feel imperiled but "empowered" by the fact that they now=20
have access to its self-archived final refereed draft (though not=20
the publisher's PDF) rather than no access at all. Research=20
progress -- and OA -- are about content, not form.

Nor do those access-denied would-be users care one bit about=20
"version proliferation." What they care about is access=20
proliferation, so they can get on with their research using all=20
the relevant refereed research there is rather than just the=20
fraction of it that their institutions can afford to subscribe to=20

But there is nothing whatsoever to applaud in the case of the=20
three out of five universities (Cornell, Dartmouth and Berkeley)=20
who have signed COPE but failed to put their total research=20
output where either their mouth or their money is -- committing=20
to use whatever spare cash they have available today to pay=20
"equitable" Gold OA publishing fees for the small fraction of=20
their total research output for which Gold OA is available and=20
affordable today, while failing to mandate Green OA=20
self-archiving for all the rest.=20

Nor is this bad example to other universities -- of unnecessarily=20
committing scarce cash to pay for Gold OA for a token subset of=20
their research output without the necessary, urgent and overdue=20
provision of Green OA to all the rest -- to be applauded or=20
welcomed, for if followed, it will just serve to keep delaying OA=20
still longer, instead of reaching for what is already within the=20
university community's grasp today.

The reason universities are cash-strapped and can only afford to=20
buy Gold OA for a tiny fraction of their total refereed research=20
output is that their cash is currently committed to journal=20
subscriptions that are providing whatever access they can afford=20
for their own users today.

Committing to spend still more cash for Gold OA, over and above=20
what they are already spending on subscriptions, amounts to a=20
symbolic, token pittance; it provides OA for a fraction of their=20
total research output at a high extra cost, unnecessarily, while=20
leaving users access-denied for all the rest, instead of=20
mandating Green OA self-archiving for all of their research=20
output, at no extra cost.

Nor can the cash that universities are committing to pay for=20
subscriptions today be liberated, through individual=20
cancellations, to pay instead for Gold OA -- as long as the=20
necessary content that ongoing subscriptions are buying in for=20
the university's own users is not otherwise accessible to them.

What the reader who is thinking realistically rather than=20
applauding COPE unreflectively will realize at once is that the=20
only realistic way that the world's 10,000 individual=20
universities can liberate their current subscription funds to pay=20
for a transition to universal Gold OA is if universal OA is first=20
provided to the total research output of all universities. The=20
means of providing this universal OA today is through the=20
universal adoption of Green OA self-archiving mandates by most or=20
all universities, not by the committing of scarce surplus cash to=20
pay pre-emptively for Gold OA for some small fraction of total=20
research output.

And charity begins at home, with cost-free mandates to provide=20
Green OA to each university's own total refereed research output,=20
not with expensive, unnecessary and ineffectual gestures like=20
COPE, which merely serve to mask and paper over the already long=20
overdue need to mandate Green OA.


"Please Commit To Providing Green OA Before Committing To Pay For=20
Gold OA"=20

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

> But by all rights OA should apply to monographs, too. It makes=20
> no intellectual sense to isolate book-length works in print=20
> form in a few hundred libraries while making journal literature=20
> on the same subjects accessible worldwide for free. So, when=20
> will these universities, and others, step up to the plate and=20
> pay author fees for monographs, too?

Maybe if (1) the worldwide university community has the sense to=20
do what is the very first urgent priority -- to mandate Green OA=20
self-archiving for the refereed final drafts of all their=20
research article output =A0today -- then the resultant universal=20
Green OA will eventually induce (2) the subscription=20
cancellations, downsizing and transition to universal Gold OA=20
publication for refereed research journal articles at "equitable"=20
prices, paid for out of the windfall savings from the=20
subscription cancellations.

Then this might in turn (3) leave some left-over windfall savings=20
to pay for Gold OA for monographs too.

But this certainly won't be possible as long as universities lack=20
even the cash to buy in print monographs for their libraries,=20
because the potential funds to pay for them are still tied up in=20
paying for their journal subscriptions...

Having said all this so many times before, all I can offer is=20
clich=E9s: Charity begins at home. First things first. Don't put=20
the cart before the horse. Keep your eye on the ball. Don't build=20
(golden) castles in Spain...

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
> e-mail:
> Phone: (214) 705-9010
Received on Tue Sep 22 2009 - 04:03:25 BST

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