Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The right cure for what ails us depends on what ails us

Stevan Harnad, Gold Fever and Trojan Folly, Open Access Archivangelism, March 15, 2007.  Excerpt:

Summary:  Jan Velterop recommends, without any supporting argument, that at a time when publication costs are still being fully covered by subscriptions, research funders and institutions should not mandate Green OA self-archiving, because that would (according to Jan) be merely a "cheap palliative," not a "full cure".
    A full cure would be to double-pay for Gold OA (double, because publication costs are still being covered by subscriptions) until publishers voluntarily pass on their excess revenues by gradually discounting and eventually phasing out subscriptions.
    Our disease, it appears, is not our lack of OA (for mandating Green OA would provide 100% OA); our disease is our paying for publication in the wrong way (via subscriptions rather than publication charges). And the reason the "cheap palliative" of mandating Green OA is a bad idea (according to Jan) is that it might cause subscriptions to be cancelled.
    What Jan does not explain is why not-paying for publication in the right way is our disease, rather than not-having research access -- for it is access to research that the OA movement is all about, and 100% research access -- not something else -- that OA is meant to provide.
    Nor does Jan explain why 100% Green OA is not a cure for this lack of research access: Either the 100% OA generated by the Green OA mandates will eventually cause subscriptions to be cancelled so they no longer cover publication costs or it will not. If it does not, then Green OA mandates will merely have generated 100% OA. If it does, then Green OA mandates will also have generated a transition to Gold OA, along with releasing the money (the windfall subscription savings) out of which to pay the Gold OA publication charges without having to find the extra money to double-pay (for publication charges on top of subscriptions). It is not at all clear why Jan regards this as "cheap palliative care" rather than a "full cure," either way.
    If, that is, Jan is really for OA, rather than something else....