Re: Another Winning Article From OA's Chronicler and Conscience: Richard Poynder

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Wed, 11 Mar 2009 12:46:01 -0400

 On Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 10:32 AM, Leo Waaijers wrote:
      in order to mandate Green you must maintain the classical

Since no one is talking about canceling journal subscriptions when
users still need access and access is not yet OA, the need to
"maintain the classical journals" is not even at issue.

There are only two issues:

      (1) Do we or don't we mandate self-archiving of published
      articles (to provide universal OA) today?

      (2) Do we or don't we pay for Gold OA today?

The answer to (1) is yes, and we'd better start hurrying, if we want
OA at all today.

The answer to (2) is yes, pay for Gold OA today if you have the spare
cash and nothing better to do with it, but first mandate Green OA
too, otherwise you are throwing away your money both foolishly and

      Green does not cost anything EXTRA. In a transition
      period... payments for Gold are an extra... Is it worth
      then to go through this costly transition period?...
      Yes... because... ultimate[ly] Gold... is cheaper but
      mainly because it is [OA].

Green OA is OA too, and mandating Green OA entails no costly
transition: On the contrary, once universal it will eventually force
cost-cutting, downsizing, and transition to Gold OA at a much lower

      How to get from A to B? I think Green mandates are fine
      but insufficient. ... RoMEO may explain why Green
      mandates are taken up so slowly.

Sixty-three percent of journals already endorse immediate,
unembargoed, Green OA self-archiving. For the other 37% there is
immediate Closed Access deposit plus the Button, to provide immediate
"Almost OA " during any embargo.

So how does this explain that there are only 67/10000 Green OA
mandates and only about 15% of articles are being self-archived
spontaneously (unmandated)?

The answer is already clear, both from surveys and actual practice:

      The three main reasons researchers are not self-archiving
      spontaneously are (1) worries that it might be illegal,
      (2) worries that it might put acceptance by their
      preferred journal at risk, and (3) worries that it might
      take a lot of time. They need mandates from their
      institutions and funders not in order to coerce them to
      self-archive but in order to embolden them to
      self-archive, making it official policy that it is not
      only okay for them to self-archive, but that it is
      expected of them, and well worth the few minutes worth of
      extra keystrokes per paper.

So all that's needed is for the "slumbering giant " (the world's
10000 research universities and institutions) to wake up and mandate
Green OA. Harvard's newly optimized mandate model (upgraded to
include ID/OA without opt-out) shows the way.

      I think that all those who have the power to mandate
      Green access (funders, universities) should further
      non-proprietary peer review systems as well. These are
      systems that do not require the transfer of copyrights in
      exchange for publication.

But what does that mean -- apart from Harvard's newly optimized
mandate, with a rights-retention and immediate-OA clause from which
the author can opt out, but an immediate-deposit clause without

Journals are the "peer review systems" (indeed, essentially, that's
all they are): OA is not trying to re-invent journals, just to make
all peer-reviewed journal articles freely accessible online! We
already have more than enough peer-reviewed journals -- but far less
than enough access to their peer-reviewed articles.

      Gold journals are an example. Overlay journals are
      another - even cheaper - option (see e.g. John Houghton's

Gold journals will come. What we are talking about now is providing
OA, and Green OA mandates are both necessary and sufficient to
provide that. It is OA itself that is urgent, not Gold OA journals.
Green OA can be accelerated by universities and funders, through
Green OA mandates; Gold OA cannot be accelerated by universities and
funders -- except, again, through Green OA mandates!

"Overlay journals" is just a name for a useful (but rather trivial
and, here, irrelevant) online practice already being widely adopted
by existing journals ("Deposit your submitted draft here -- where
"here" can be Arxiv, as for the APS journals, or your own
Institutional Repository, or any other website where our referees and
editors can access it -- and we will peer review it there"). 

Another meaning of "overlay journals" is an untested (and I think
incoherent ) speculation about replacing peer review itself with an
open archiving system, with journals coming in and "tagging" deposits
with their imprimatur.

But what we need now, urgently, is OA itself -- to all peer-reviewed
journal articles, such as they are -- not alternatives to the
peer-reviewed journal system we already have. (We already have more
than enough journals -- but far less than enough access to their

      Funders and universities should call for tenders for such

Before funders and universities call for such tenders, could they
please just mandate Green OA first? All my nagging will stop then;
but until then, gold fever and overlay fervor is just distracting us
from the undone task at hand: providing OA today, and not at the heat
death of the universe, while we meanwhile gallop off in all other
directions but OA itself!

On Wed, Mar 11, 2009, David E. Wojick wrote:

       I am puzzled by his estimate that only 15% of authors
      voluntarily self-archive via personal webpages,
      institutional repositories and community eprint
      databases. We did a quick study in physics and found more
      like 60-80% just for author webpages, so either he is
      seriously wrong or he is including areas that may not
      archive. Who might they be? The high ratio we found is
      what makes our E-print Network
      viable We harvest 30,000
      webpages and databases.

Any information on his 15% number? If we are right then
voluntary green OA is a done deal in physics and related
fields. We also see these high numbers in computer science.

Yes, it's well-known that the numbers are higher in physics and
computer (and economics) but the global average across all fields
alas continues to hover at about 15% .

On Wed, Mar 11, 2009, Frederick Friend wrote:
            In writing about affordability, Richard also
            makes the classic mistake of concentrating
            solely upon costs and not upon the
            relationship between costs and benefits. The
            right approach is that of John Houghton and
            his co-authors in their report on "Economic
            Implications of Alternative Scholarly
            Publishing Models"
            lreport.aspx . Rather than "gold" OA
            losing out on affordability, the
            Houghton study shows the potential for both
            "green" and "gold" to win the "value for
            money" race with the subscription model. So
            rather than worrying about whether "gold" or
            "green" will win, the challenge I see is
            how the academic community can transition to
            a situation in which the research process
            yields a higher benefit/cost ratio for
            researchers, for users of research outputs
            and for the taxpayer than is currently being

The trouble is that we are here -- c. 15% -- and getting nowhere fast
(as we sit yearning for gold and fantasizing about overlays). The
real issue is one about immediate priorities, and probabilities.
Green OA mandates work, they are feasible, and they are sufficient to
generate universal OA, if adopted universally by universities and
funders. First make sure Green OA is mandated, now; then everyone can
return cheerfully to their gold rush or their peer-review reform
agendas. The real head-shaker is pursuing those agendas instead of
first mandating Green OA. 

Your weary and wizened Archivangelist,

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Mar 11 2009 - 16:46:51 GMT

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