Re: The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 03:00:06 +0100

On Mon, 9 Aug 2004, Brian Simboli wrote:

> A few questions for Stevan Harnad [AND OTHERS], stated rather cryptically.
> 1. With respect to achieving universal open access to the results of
> research, what is your vision of the best possible world to strive for "in
> the long run" (to borrow a phrase of which economists are fond)? Would it
> be a future in which the traditional journal as we know it still exists,
> or would it be one in which that model is thoroughly deconstructed, such
> that articles subsist independently of an organizing format such as a
> "journal"?

The best possible world to strive for in the long run is one in which
there is 100% Open Access. Yes, it will be a world in which the
traditional journal still exists.

Only one change is necessary: The full digital texts of all 2,500,000
articles published yearly in the world's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals
must be immediately and permanently accessible online toll-free, i.e.,
they must be Open Access (OA).

To achieve this change, the only action that is *necessary* is that all
the authors of all those articles must self-archive their own published
articles online in a OAI-compliant OA Eprint Archive.

No change is necessary in journals. No change is necessary (or desirable)
in peer review.

For critiques of "constructed" journals see:

A peer-reviewed journal is (and always has been) just a peer-review
service-provider and certifier -- plus an access-provider. As long as the
articles are all OA, there is no need for any of this to change, but it
might, e.g.:

> 2. What role does the green road play in achieving that best possible
> world? For example, is it a dialectical moment toward a world of pure gold
> access, or is "green"/ in se/ a worthwhile goal, regardlesss whether the
> purely gold universe is ever achieved?

Putting an end to all further online access-denial and all further
needless research impact loss by providing 100% OA through self-archiving
(green) is most definitely a worthwhile goal in itself for research and
researchers, regardless of whether or not it leads to any further changes.
(The article access/impact problem and the journal pricing/affordability
problem are not the same problem. Solving the first does not necessarily
solve the second -- though it definitely makes it less urgent and important.)

Author-institution self-archiving (i.e., the green road) is the fastest
and surest way to attain 100% OA, immediately. 100% OA may or may not
thereafter lead to an eventual conversion to OA Journal Publishing (gold,
5% currently), but what is sure is that the golden road alone will not
lead to 100% OA within our lifetimes!

The green road will not lead us to 100% OA very soon either, if it keeps
waiting for authors to self-archive spontaneously. Self-archiving needs
to be mandated by their institutions and research-funders, in a natural
online-age update of their already-existing publish-or-perish mandate.

The recent US House Appropriations Committee and UK Parliamentary Science
and Technology Committee recommendations look as if they are at last
moving in the direction of mandating self-archiving for all government
funded research articles.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Aug 10 2004 - 03:00:06 BST

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