Re: Open Access: The Historic Irony

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 10:49:54 -0400

On Wed, May 5, 2010 at 9:58 AM, "FrederickFriend" <> wrote:

> Progress to OA is slower than it could be but Stevan's description of a mere
> 8 years since BOAI as "glacially slow" is rather exaggerated!

Well, everyone has a different inner clock. Mine starts not from BOAI
in 2001 but from the Web in 1990. The means for making every single
refereed journal article OA from the moment it is accepted for
publication have been there ever since then -- and the proof is that
some authors (about 10% then, about 20% now) have indeed been making
their articles OA.

But I do find 20% glacially slow for two decades -- especially
considering the benefits of OA, and that it is only a few keystrokes
that stand between here and there...

> And my
> experience is that the small amounts of money currently going into OA
> publication charges have not hindered repository deposit.

Spending scarce institutional or research funds on Gold OA (when Green
OA can be had for free) does not in itself go "against" Green OA. It
simply adds, if you like, "insult" to "injury"! It is injurious to
research not to make it OA. So not providing or mandating OA is
injurious. But since Green OA can be provided today for *all* of an
institution's research output at no extra cost (sic, see below), it
adds "insult" to "injury" to spend money on providing (Gold) OA for
*some fraction* of an institution's research output while failing to
provide it (for free) to *all* of an institution's research output --
by mandating Green OA.

And, to boot, I'll warrant that many of the universities that
triumphantly proclaim having supported OA by committing funds to pay
for Gold OA (without mandating Green OA) today will feel they've now
done their bit for OA, and will settle down for perhaps another
glacial decade of not doing the optimal, inevitable, obvious and
already long overdue: mandating Green OA.

But (to use a phrase now growing fashionable in the US) "make no
mistake about it": once an institution has indeed mandated Green OA,
they are of course more than welcome to do whatever they wish with
their spare funds, without insult or injury!

> If the speed of
> progress were a matter of money, "green OA" would already be racing ahead,
> as (certainly in the UK) much more money has been committed to repositories
> than to OA publication charges.

Quite right. Which again confirms that the the speed of OA progress is
*not* dependent on money but on keystrokes, and institutional (and
funder) policy...

But I would like to challenge the notion that the money spent on IRs
per se has been money spent on OA! As you know, there are many uses
for IRs. Moreover, most IRs are 80-90% of their OA target content.

So the money spent on IRs can hardly be counted as money spent on OA.
(Yet coupling IRs with Green OA mandates would do the trick!)

> The OA movement has always allowed for both
> "green" and "gold" OA, and there is no evidence that one is slowing down
> progress on the other.

"Allowing for" is not quite the same as concertedly advocating. Nor
does it take into account the contingencies mentioned above. The OA
movement has indeed been promoting both Green and Gold OA (which is
fine), but it has not made the strategic and practical priorities and
contingencies clear, and has played into a "gold rush" that is getting
us next to nowhere fast.

If the advocates of OA made it crystal clear why Green OA mandates
need to be given priority (mandate Green OA first, then spend what
money is available on Gold OA), I think things would move ahead much
more quickly.

> Most mandates, funders' policies and potential
> national legislation tend to favour some form of repository deposit, and if
> they do support the payment of OA publication charges, it is not at the
> expense of repositories.

I am not concerned about the institutions and funders that already
mandate Green OA. I am concerned about the many that don't!

> So what are the reasons for the slow transition to OA? The time taken to
> influence university presidents and provosts is certainly a major factor

It is, and if their attention could be focussed by OA advocates on the
feasibility, benefits, and cost-freeness of mandating Green OA (before
spending money on Gold OA) the transition would be a good deal faster
and more focussed.

> but they are now becoming convinced about the value of OA and are
> introducing mandates, not least because of national policies on research
> assessment which look for the impact of research publications on the economy
> and society. University leaders need their institution's research to have a
> high impact value and they are seeing that OA will give them that result.
> Government are also coming to understand that OA results in higher value
> from research expenditure.

Quite true. And even I, impatient as I am, have to admit that the
tempo of Green OA adoption among institutions and funders is beginning
to pick up, and no small thanks to OA usage and impact metrics. (But I
think it would accelerate even faster if not distracted by Gold Fever

> Institutions are still reluctant to enforce
> mandates, which would certainly be a fast way to grow OA, but could embroil
> OA in unnecessary disputes about academic freedom.

But Fred, shouldn't OA advocates be busy debunking such nonsense,
rather than just repeating it as a fact of life? If our universities
can tell us where, when and in what format we should deposit our marks
after examining our students without infringing on our "academic
freedom," why can they not tell us where, when and in what format to
deposit our refereed publications (e.g., for performance evaluation)?

The "academic freedom" canard is usually raised by authors who imagine
that a Green OA mandate is telling them where and what to publish --
rather than just that they need to deposit their (refereed)
publications in their IRs! (The canard is also encouraged by
conflations between Green OA and Gold OA, where the author might
rightly imagine that constraints are being placed on his freedom to
choose what journal to publish in. Anti-OA publishers are the ones who
love to exploit this canard. But OA advocates should be debunking it.)

(If the universal "publish or perish" mandate does not go against
academic freedom, surely extending that mandate to depositing the
publication in an IR to maximise its usage and impact does not

> A more effective route
> could be through authors noticing - or having it drawn to their attention -
> that repository copies of their peers' articles are receiving much heavier
> use than their own articles in conventional journals. Academic rivalry both
> at an institutional and at a personal level has the potential to speed up
> the progress towards OA.

That was what I too thought (or dreamt) nearly a decade ago, Fred:
that knowing and showing the OA Advantage in usage and impact will be
enough to induce researchers to provide Green OA. But it isn't. And
Alma Swan's surveys have shown why: Because researchers need a mandate
from their institutions and funders to provide OA, otherwise most just
won't do it.

So I don't think OA advocates should be counselling another patient
decade of waiting for the OA Advantage to convince authors to deposit:
What we need is Green OA deposit mandates, globally, now.

Once we have them, Gold OA can go on its merry way. The future belongs
to Gold OA. But, please, let's deal with the present first, by
ushering in universal Green OA, at long last!

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed May 05 2010 - 15:50:48 BST

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