Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Stevan Harnad on publisher dilemmas

Stevan Harnad, Gold Conversion: A Prisoners' Dilemma? Open Access Archivangelism, October 7, 2007.

Summary:  Given the undeniable, irreversible and growing clamour for Open Access (OA) worldwide, journal publishers face two Prisoners' Dilemmas. (1) The first concerns whether to continue business as usual, to mounting opprobrium from the academic community as well as the tax-paying public, or to convert directly to Gold OA now, at the risk that institutional subscriptions at current prices for incoming journals may not transmute stably into institutional "memberships" for outgoing article publication costs at the same institutional price. If publishers convert from institutional subscriptions to institutional Gold OA "memberships" today, they counter the opprobrium and lock in current subscription rates for a year (or whatever duration-deal is agreed with institutions), but they risk institutional memberships defecting after the duration elapses, with cost-recovery fragmented to an anarchic individual author/article level that may not be enough to make ends meet. (2) The second Prisoners' Dilemma facing publishers is that if they instead counter the opprobrium by converting to Green OA now (as 62% of them already have done), Green OA Self-Archiving Mandates may still force their conversion to Gold eventually, but because access-provision and archiving (and their costs) will by then be performed by the distributed network of mandated Green OA Institutional Repositories, the revenues (and expenses) of journal publishing then may be reduced from what they are now. (Perhaps this can all be integrated into just a single Prisoners' Dilemma -- or perhaps it is not a Prisoners' Dilemma at all: just the optimal and inevitable outcome of the powerful new potential unleashed by the online medium for the communication of peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific research.)

PS:  Though not evident from this summary, Stevan's full post includes a critique of Mark Rowse's idea for flipping a journal to open access that I summarized, elaborated, and recommended in the October issue of SOAN.