There is no "Platinum" Road to OA

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 30 May 2007 17:57:17 +0100

On Mon, 28 May 2007, Prof. Tom Wilson wrote:

> Peter Suber reports the Bundesrat decision on OA in his Open Access News - the
> decision includes the statement:
> the Bundesrat... points out that open access does not avoid the
> costs of knowledge processing and knowledge transfer, but rather shifts them
> from the users to the authors

(1) The Bundesrat is here doing the usual conflation between OA in
general and OA publishing (Gold OA) in particular. The other way to provide
OA -- OA self-archiving (Green OA) -- has nothing to do with cost-shifting.

(2) Those Gold OA journals that cover their costs by charging for publication
charge the author's institution or funder; it is not expected that authors pay out
of their pockets.

(3) The majority of Gold OA journals are still covering their costs in other ways
-- either from traditional subscriptions or from subsidies -- rather than by
charging for publication.

> Of course, this is only true if the 'author pays' model is assumed to be the
> only OA publishing model. Peter's newsletter has recently recorded a growing
> number of 'Platinum route' (i.e., free, subsidised, OA) journals

I'm not sure if it's a growing number: The majority of Gold OA journals,
since the very beginning of keeping track of journals that make all
their full-text contents freely accessible online, have covered their costs
by means other than charging for publication.

It has to be said, though, that the majority of Gold OA journals are also small
journals and that the minority of Gold OA journals that do charge for publication
are also the high-profile ones, such as the PLoS and BMC ones.

It is not clear what the "platinum route" means. It seems to be Gold OA journals
that cover their costs from traditional subscription revenue and/or subsidies. I
don't see the advantage of calling that another route to OA. The Gold route was via
OA journals and the Green route was via OA self-archiving. How publishing was funded
was never part of the definition of either OA or OA journal.

> Bundesrat decision points to a lack of information on the validity of this
> approach. Clearly, lobbying by the publishing industry has had its effect here,
> as evidenced by the comments favourable to the publishing industry.

I think the lack of clarity in the Bundesrat statement comes both from (i) failing to
understand OA (either Green or Gold) and (ii) being heavily and successfully lobbied
by the publishing industry -- mainly against mandating Green OA (which is the only
thing within the Bundesrat's remit, as a research funder).

> Part of the problem is that the debate within the OA community has also centred
> on the choice between open archiving and author payments as routes to Open
> Access, but Peter's notes on new, truly OA journals demonstrate that more and
> more initiatives are taking the 'Platinum' route.

No, the OA options have always been OA self-archiving (Green) and OA
publishing (Gold). There is no platinum option; there are merely the
alternative ways to fund Gold OA publishing: (a) traditional subscription
charges, (b) author/institutions publication charges, or (c) subsidies.
(No one yet knows which of these will be sustainable, and the priority
in any case is not sustainable Gold OA publishing, but OA!)

Stevan Harnad
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Received on Wed May 30 2007 - 20:13:23 BST

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