Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gold OA publishers and green OA mandates

Stevan Harnad, On "Open Access" Publishers Who Oppose Open Access Self-Archiving Mandates, Open Access Archivangelism, March 3, 2007. 

Summary:  The online age has made powerful new benefits for research possible, but these benefits entail a profound conflict of interest between (1) what is best for the research journal publishing industry and (2) what is best for research, researchers, universities, research institutions, research funders, the vast research and development (R&D) industry, and the tax-paying public that funds the research.

What is at stake is (1) a hypothetical risk of potential future losses in subscription revenue for publishers versus (2) actual, ongoing losses in current research impact for researchers. How this conflict of interest will have to be resolved is already clear: Research publishing is a service industry; it will have to adapt to what is best for research, and not vice versa. And what is best for research is Open Access (OA), provided through research funders and universities mandating the OA self-archiving of all their researchers' peer-reviewed research output.

The conventional (non-OA) publishing industry's first commitment is of course to what is best for its own business interests, rather than to what is best for research and researchers; hence it is lobbying vigorously against the many OA self-archiving mandates that are currently being adopted, recommended and petitioned for by the research community worldwide.

But what is especially disappointing, if not deplorable, is when "OA" publishers take the very same stance against OA itself (by opposing OA self-archiving mandates) that non-OA publishers do. Conventional publisher opposition to OA will be viewed, historically, as having been a regrettable, counterproductive (and eventually countermanded) but comprehensible strategy, from a purely business standpoint. OA publisher opposition to OA, however, will be seen as having been self-deluded if not hypocritical.

I close with a reply to Jan Velterop, of Springer's "Open Choice": Jan opposes Green OA self-archiving mandates, because they would provide OA without paying the publisher extra for it. But all publishing costs are currently being paid for already: via subscriptions. So opposition to Green OA self-archiving mandates by a hybrid Gold "Open Choice" Publisher sounds very much like wanting to have their cake and eat it too (even though that is precisely what they like to describe Green OA advocates as trying to do!).

For more on gold OA publishers and green OA mandates, and more in response to Jan Velterop, see Stevan's second post from March 3, Ceterum Censeo....  Excerpt:

I like my friend Jan Velterop's good-natured replies (even though, I cannot, of course, agree with most of what he says)....

(1) Jan is for OA; so am I.
(2) 100% OA can be had by (i) converting journals from subscriptions to publication charges, with (ii) author/institutions paying the publication charges, and (iii) the journals providing the OA (Gold OA).
(3) Or 100% OA can be had by (i) leaving journals as they are, (ii) with user/institution subscriptions paying the publication costs, and (iii) the author/institutions providing the OA (Green OA), by self-archiving their published articles.
(4) If and when Green OA ever makes subscriptions unsustainable, then the journals can convert to Gold and institutions can redirect their subscription savings to pay for their author' publication charges.
(5) But Green-driven conversion to Gold requires Green first.
(6) Neither Gold OA nor Green OA is happening spontaneously fast enough, despite their substantial demonstrated benefits to research.
(6) Green OA can be (and is being) accelerated by research funder/employer self-archiving mandates that are already being adopted, proposed and petitioned for.
(7) These Green OA mandates are being delayed by lobbying from some publishers.
(8) One would have expected Green OA mandates to be opposed by (some) non-OA publishers, but supported by all OA advocates, including (all) Gold OA (and hybrid Green/Gold) publishers.
(9) So the anomaly is the failure of (some) Gold OA or hybrid Green/Gold publishers to support the Green OA mandates, in some cases even actively opposing them.

Jan "challenges" me, in return, to say whether as an OA advocate I would support a Gold OA mandate that would forbid fundee institutions to use research funds for subscriptions, allowing them to be used only to pay OA publishing costs.

I can answer quite explicitly: If such a Gold OA mandate were also coupled with a Green mandate, and were ensured of wide, quick adoption, whereas a simple Green mandate alone was not, then I would definitely support the Green/Gold mandate....