Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Addressing long-term worries about the rise of OA

Stan Katz has blogged some notes on the OA discussion, including his talk, at the AAUP Annual Meeting 2008 (Montreal, June 26-29, 2008).  Excerpt:

...I will come back to the topic in another blog, but for the moment let me say that I fear that the obligation to “publish” by mounting articles on free websites will make it impossible for nonprofit presses (such as the university presses I was addressing in Montreal) and learned societies to sustain themselves. Harnad’s suggestion is that the universities transfer the payments they are currently making to their academic presses to subsidize peer review and archiving of their faculty scholarly output. I argued that there are at least two problems with this approach. One is that universities increasingly expect their presses to be self-sustaining economically, and are unlikely to put up the necessary funding. The other is that not all scholars (and nonprofit publishers) are connected to universities. Who will subvene their publications?

Harnad is an accomplished advocate, and I agree with much of what he has to say. But I also think that we are living in interesting times from the perspective of scholarly publication. And I am worried....


  • I wasn't there and shouldn't speculate on what Harnad said to Katz.  (Moreover, Stevan will surely speak for himself.)  But I suspect that Stevan's point was slightly different.  If we're talking about the hypothetical future in which the rise of green OA threatens the survival of peer-reviewed TA journals, and the question is how to preserve peer review, then the answer is to redirect the money now spent on journal subscriptions, not to redirect the money now spent on university presses.  In any case, that's my recipe.  For more details, see the detailed discussion in my article from September 2007.  Quick excerpt:
    [W]ill the rise of OA archiving cause cancellations of TA journals? ...The evidence, as opposed to the fears, is that it won't. But if it will in some fields other than physics, then we'll lose some peer-reviewed TA journals. As we do, we'll reap savings that we can redirect to peer-reviewed OA journals (which might be the same journals under different business models)....

    I am not saying that we should deliberately defund TA journals in order to fund OA journals, and I am not saying that TA journals should die....I am saying that funding agencies should mandate OA archiving without fear. (So should universities, but I'm omitting that argument here.) Either peer-reviewed TA journals will survive the transition, as they have in physics, or they won't and we'll face the decision whether to re-fund peer review by spending the savings on peer-reviewed OA journals....

  • I would also question the assumption that society publishers have more to lose than to gain from OA, as well as the slightly different assumption that more society publishers will lose by OA than will gain by it.  Half a year ago, Caroline Sutton and I found 425 societies publishing 450 full OA journals and 21 societies publishing 73 hybrid OA journals.  Our latest numbers are even higher and we'll release them soon.

Update (6/30/08).  I was right that Stevan would speak for himself.  See his blog post.