Re: June 27 2004: The 1994 "Subversive Proposal" at 10

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 2 Nov 2004 22:50:30 +0000

Richard Poynder has just published a sequel to last month's:

    Poynder on Point
    Ten Years After
    By Richard Poynder
    Information Today 21(9)
    October 1 2004

This month's sequel is:

    Poynder on Point
    No Gain Without Pain
    By Richard Poynder
    Information Today 21(10)
    November 1 2004

I was going to do my usual quote/commentary critique of this article,
and I could; but as I began to write it I realized that I could not really
say anything that Richard Poynder had not already known or thought of,
or even written, elsewhere in this or the prior article. In fact, he even
catches me in a blatant self-contradiction, and produces the verbatim
quote to document it! My hat is off to Richard, and I hereby rescind (but
for Richard's work only!) the epigraph I had lately penned in frustration
at the incompetent way most journalists were covering OA:

        like moths and drunks,
        seem attracted,
        where the light
        shines, not
        where the key

Which is not to say that I agree with Richard's conclusions that

    (1) there is something missing in OA self-archiving, because although
    it does bring OA, it doesn't relieve librarians' affordability crisis

or that

    (2) OA self-archiving will lead to the kind of catastrophic crisis
    point that Richard so adroitly quotes me as having speculated that it
    would, a few years ago!

But the only way I could reply to that speculation would be to
counter-speculate, and I have for some time now explicitly renounced
all speculation (so I could denounce it in others!) in favour of the
actual accumulating empirical evidence to date: and that evidence all
indicates that we can reach 100% OA via the green road of self-archiving
without any kind of catastrophe.

    "The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition"

So let me instead use the same strategem that Richard used, and simply
cite my prior self, from the days when I still speculated, in a passage
where I described how any hypothetical catastrophe could and would be
naturally, and gradually, averted:

As far as I can tell, no one (including Richard!) has yet given any
evidence of having taken the hypothetical scenario described in that
passage into account, or even of having read it (despite the many, many
times I have cited it!).

As to the affordability crisis: 100% OA does not solve it, but it
certainly makes it less pressing! After all, the library's agonizing
over how to make the most out of a finite journals budget in the
face of rising journal prices becomes a rather less urgent matter
once all articles can be accessed for free! The agony, after all,
was for the sake of maximizing access for the library's users,
and 100% OA eo ipso takes care of that.

If that reassurance makes you restless about catastrophes again,
please look again at the link above, and try to keep in mind that any
publisher revenue losses arising from cancellations must *always*
equal institutional library windfall gains arising from those very same
cancellations. As one pot shrinks, the other must grow. The rest is left
as an exercise for the reader.

(Hint: There exists a much more realistic and natural transition scenario
from green to gold than the hybrid "open choice" ("optional paid
OA") model that some journals are currently experimenting with -- but only if
and when that transition should ever be forced by the market. For now,
even the (paid) paper edition still has a lot of good years left in it --
once the more urgent problem of access has been remedied by green OA.)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Nov 02 2004 - 22:50:30 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:47:39 GMT