Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More on the DC Principles Coalition's new old arguments

Stevan Harnad, The DC Coalition: A Matter of Principle, Open Access Archivangelism, February 22, 2007.

Summary:  The "DC Principles" Coalition is once again recycling old arguments that have already been repeatedly refuted:

(1) "Mandating self-archiving will destroy journals": There exists no evidence to date -- even in the subfields where self-archiving has been at or near 100% for years -- that author self-archiving ("Green OA") even causes cancellations; but if/when it ever does, publishing will adapt, quite naturally, first cutting costs, and then, if subscriptions become unsustainable, converting to OA publishing ("Gold OA"). In other words, this doomsday scenario is a counterfactual myth, designed to stave off the obvious, demonstrated and reachable benefits of the online era for research and researchers through crude alarmist speculation, based on neither objective evidence nor rigorous reasoning.

(2) "Mandating self-archiving will force a conversion to OA publishing which will force money to be redirected from scarce research funds": No research funds need be redirected if OA publishing comes only after those self-same subscription cancellations that were hypothesized to force the conversion, for then institutions will pay for their researchers' OA publishing costs by redirecting part of their windfall subscription-cancellation savings, rather than redirecting them from scarce research funds, as they would have to do if they had to pay OA publishing charges now, when the money is still tied up in subscriptions, and subscriptions are still paying the costs of publication.

(3) "Mandating self-archiving will destroy peer review": Peers review for free. Publishers just manage the peer-review process and certify its outcome with their journal's name and reputation. That is the service that OA publishing charges will pay for, redirected from institutional subscription savings, if/when cancellation pressure ever forces a conversion to OA publishing; until and unless that happens, self-archiving mandates will simply do what they are intended to do: provide 100% OA.

(4) "Mandating self-archiving will destroy Learned Societies' other 'good works'": The research community was never consulted, and never agreed to subsidise Learned Societies' other 'good works' from researchers' own lost access and impact. Those 'good works' (publicity, meetings, scholarships, mentoring, etc.), will need to find other forms of support if/when Learned Society publishing revenue surpluses no longer cover them (at the expense of research access and impact).

(5) "Mandating self-archiving means government control of publication": Nonsense: Self-archiving means researchers' ensuring that their own research findings are accessible (online) to all their would-be users, in their own Institutional Repositories, rather than just to those users whose institution happens to be able to afford a subscription to the journal in which they happen to be published, as was the case before the online era made OA possible.

(6) "Mandated self-archiving is unnecessary because publishers already provide a lot of free access of their own accord": Self-archiving mandates are to ensure OA for all those articles to which publishers do not provide free access of their own accord.