Re: Five Universities Sign Open Access Funding Compact

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 2009 07:49:00 -0400

On Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 8:07 PM, Elizabeth E. Kirk
<> wrote:

> Stevan, it is, as you say, about content. But it's not only about
> the content of Dartmouth's research output, or that of our peers.
> It's also about the value of the content provided through
> publishers, and the willingness of readers and institutions to
> look for that value.

Elizabeth, I am not sure what the "it" is. If it's OA, then the issue
is not the *value* of the content or the contribution of the publisher
or the willingness of readers and institutions to "look for" that

The value of peer-reviewed publication is already enshrined in the
fact that OA's target content is *peer-reviewed* content. And what is
being sought now is (online) access to that valued content, not only
for those users whose institutions can afford to subscribe to the
journal in which it was published, but for all would-be users,

The cost of the portion of that value that is added by publishers is
being paid in full today by institutional subscriptions today. What is
missing is not a recognition of that value, but open access to that
valued content.

That is why institutions should first adopt Green OA self-archiving
mandates -- to make their own own valued content openly accessible to
all users web-wide and not just those whose institutions can afford
subscription access to the journals in which it appears -- thereby
also encouraging reciprocal mandates by other institutions.

Having done that, institutions are free to spend any spare cash they
may have on paying for Gold OA publication, over and above what they
already spend on subscriptions.

But committing to Gold OA funding compacts like COPE before or instead
of mandating Green OA self-archiving is not only a waste of a lot of
scarce money in exchange for very little OA value; it is also a
failure to add OA value to all of their research output at no extra
cost (by mandating Green OA self-archiving).

> We both agree that the peer review process
> is a critical step in creating the finished work of scholarship,
> as well as "certifying" the work.

Yes indeed; but peer review is *already being paid for* -- in full,
many times over -- for most journals today (including most of the
journals users want and need most) through institutional subscription

To repeat: The value of peer review is not at issue. *Access to
paid-up, peer-reviewed articles* is at issue.

> Currently, open access
> journals--as you rightly put it--are a very small subset of the
> publishing pie.

And committing to fund that small subset of an institution's
contribution to the publishing pie today, before or instead of
committing to mandate OA for the vast supra-set of an institution's
journal article output, is committing to spend a lot of extra money
for little OA while failing to provide a lot of OA for no extra money
at all.

> Without a predictable financial stream, there are
> few avenues of growing an OA sector that can furnish peer review,
> copy editing, DOIs, and all of the other parts of publishing that
> have costs involved.

What is missing and urgently needed today -- for research and
researchers -- is not "predictable financial streams" but online
access to peer-reviewed research for those researchers whose
institutions cannot afford subscription access today.

"Open Access" is about Access, not about financial streams. The avenue
-- already wide-open -- that urgently needs to be taken today (for
research and researchers today) is overwhelmingly the avenue to
accessing the vast paid-up subscription stream that already exists
today, not the gradual growing of a future "OA sector."

Institutions first need to provide immediate access to the
peer-reviewed content they already produce today (its peer review
already paid in full by subscriptions from all the institutions that
can afford subscriptions to the journals in which that content already
appears, today). Having done that, there's no harm at all in an
institution's going on to invest its spare cash in growing new Gold OA

But there's plenty of harm in doing so instead, pre-emptively, instead
of providing the Green OA all institutions are already in the position
to provide, cost-free, today.

> Trying to grow that kind of OA sector by
> supporting those costs, and overcoming the misconception that OA
> means "not peer reviewed" (which many people said about 10-15
> years ago about **all** electronic journals, if you remember) is
> a honking good reason to join the compact.

Misconceptions certainly abound. But the fact that OA means *OA to the
peer-reviewed literature* has been stated from the very outset by the
OA movement (BOAI) loud and clear for all those with ears to hear.
Committing to funding Gold OA for a small subset of an institution's
peer-reviewed output instead of first mandating Green OA for the vast
supra-set of an institution's peer-reviewed output seems a pricey way
to drive home the message that OA's target content is indeed
peer-reviewed content...

> That kind of OA
> sector, which of course can only be built when more institutions
> join us, is one that may create actual competition in journal
> publishing over time, by which I mean competition that results in
> lower prices, more players, and multiple models. It could
> include, as well, any current publisher who might wish to move to
> producer-pays from reader-pays.

Prices, players, models, competition, payment, sectors: What has
become of *access* -- today, to today's peer-reviewed research -- in
all this Gold Fever, which seems to have left research and
researchers' pressing immediate needs by the wayside in favor of
speculative future economics?

> We care very much about the stability of and access to our
> research.

Then why doesn't Dartmouth mandate Green OA self-archiving, today?

> We are working on that from a number of fronts and in
> multiple conversations. The compact is not our answer to
> everything. But we certainly won't step back from an opportunity
> to help create a more vibrant publishing landscape.

But why is committing to provide a little extra Gold OA for
Dartmouth's peer-reviewed research output, at extra cost, being acted
upon today, whereas committing to provide Green OA to all of
Dartmouth's peer-reviewed research output at no extra cost (by
mandating Green OA) is still idling in "conversation" mode? --
especially since the cost of the value-added peer review for all the
rest is already being paid in full by existing institutional

Stevan Harnad

> Cheers,
> Elizabeth E. Kirk
> Associate Librarian for Information Resources
> Dartmouth College
> Hanover, NH, USA 03753
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Stevan Harnad" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Monday, September 21, 2009 10:16 PM
> Subject: Re: Five Universities Sign Open Access Funding Compact
> > 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 today.
> >
> > 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.
> >
> > See:
> >
> > "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
> > cliches: 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 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
Received on Mon Sep 28 2009 - 12:59:48 BST

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