Re: The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 14:13:10 +0000

On Tue, 11 Nov 2003, Steve Hitchcock wrote:

> The authors of this viewpoint in the Lancet seem to have got OAI and
> muddled:
> "The Open Archives Initiative (http://www. aims to create
> a global online archive of all published research and is funded by the
> Joint Information Systems Committee, part of the UK government's Higher
> Education Funding Councils of England, Scotland, and Wales.13 Its chief
> proponent, Stephen Harnad of Southampton University, UK, calls for all
> research, after publication, to be posted on personal or institutional
> websites and tagged in a standardised form, making it searchable,
> navigable, and retrievable. If publishers do not allow authors to post
> their articles on personal or institutional websites, Harnad suggests they
> post the submitted draft together with a corrigendum file highlighting the
> differences between it and the published version. Although this approach is
> not an alternative to the current subscription-based publishing model, it
> could improve access within it."
> Ref 13 Open Archives Initiative. Site accessed Feb 23, 2003.
> Pritpal S Tamber, Fiona Godlee, Peter Newmark
> Open access to peer-reviewed research: making it happen
> (free registration required)

Muddled indeed, and more than just muddled. What these BMC authors can't
quite bring themselves to say (being advocates of the golden road rather
than the green road to open access) is not only that the green road of
open-access self-archiving is indeed a road to *open access* (not merely
"improved access" but *open access*, in the full sense of the word),
but that it is a far faster and surer road than the golden one, and the
only one open for most of the annual research literature today!

The popular press is at the moment in a paroxysm of euphoria about
the golden road to open access (open-access publishing), and mute or
muddled about the green road (open-access self-archiving).

When the noise subsides and the air clears we will see the real access
landscape more clearly again, and what we will see is that all the
euphoria has been about a very small portion of the yearly traffic
of 2,500,000 toll-access articles. The 560 golden journals are only
conveying about 60,000 of those 2,500,000 yearly articles to open access
(i.e., less than 5%).

The green road is conveying at least three times as many already, and
is growing faster (without getting the press fanfare, partly, no doubt,
because no product is being promoted, and partly because of just plain
simplistic thinking by the press and the public); but even that three-fold
greater volume of open access is still a pathetically small portion
of the yearly traffic. The difference, though, is that the traffic
along the green road can be immediately increased to (at the *very least*)
55% of the total annual 2,500,000, virtually overnight, whereas the
traffic along the golden road can only be increased as quickly as we can
create, fund, fill and sustain new golden journals, journal by journal.

I hope we will soon separate the reality from the rhapsodizing, rechannel
the welcome new open-access awareness and support, and focus on attaining
more open access, now, in the way that is so obviously within our
reach. I'm afraid that all this eminently accessible open-access will
continue to be needlessly delayed as long as our attention and enthusiasm
continue to be directed solely or primarily at the slower road. We should
really be promoting both roads, and each in proportion to its immediate
capacity to deliver open access. What is happening now is instead rather
like trying to increase the population by promoting in vitro fertilization
alone, neglecting the faster, surer path...

It is certainly true, as the authors of the Lancet article state,
that open-access self-archiving "is not an alternative to the current
subscription-based publishing model." Let us not forget that this is
not the "alternative-to-the-current-subscription-based-model"
initiative. It is the *open-access* initiative. And the golden road
(with the changes in the subscription model that it requires) is just
one of the two roads leading to open access (and not the fastest or surest).

The rest is just speculation.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Nov 12 2003 - 14:13:10 GMT

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