Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Need for green OA regardless of cost of gold OA

Stevan Harnad, Journal Affordability, Research Accessibility, and Open Access, Open Access Archivangelism, June 14, 2008.  Excerpt:

Poynder, Richard (2008) Open Access: Doing the Numbers. Open and Shut. Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Excerpt: "Can OA reduce the costs associated with scholarly communication? If so, how, and when? If not, what are the implications of this for the "scholarly communication crisis?" These are important questions. But without accurate numbers to crunch we really cannot answer them adequately. Wouldn't it be great therefore if other publishers decided to be as "open" as APS in discussing their costs? One thing is for sure: If OA ends up simply shifting the cost of scholarly communication from journal subscriptions to APCs without any reduction in overall expenditure, and inflation continues unabated, many OA advocates will be sorely disappointed..."

Richard Poynder has written another of his penetrating, timely and incisive analyses of the causal dynamics underlying the OA movement. His relentless probing is invaluable. Nor is it anodyne neutral journalism that he keeps offering us: Richard is engaged and thinking deeply, and causing more than one uncomfortable moment to both proponents and opponents of OA....

As usual, though, I cannot agree 100% with everything Richard writes..., this time on the true costs of journal article publishing. My demurral is on two points: (1) whether the question of the true costs of the various components of journal publication (which I too have cited, as an important unknown, many times in the past) needs to be answered right now (i.e., whether any practical action today is in any way contingent on knowing those costs in advance -- I think not) and (2) whether reducing the costs of journal publication is or ought to be one of the explicit objectives of the OA movement. (I think journal unaffordability is merely one of the two principal factors that drew the research community's attention to the need for OA. Journal cost reduction is not itself the explicit objective of OA.)

The need for Open Access (OA) is driven by two problems: (i) journal affordability and (ii) research accessibility -- in other words, spending less money and accessing more research. Richard Poynder points out in his essay that it is not known whether or not universal Gold OA publishing would save money.

But OA is not the same thing as Gold OA publishing. (Richard is of course fully aware of this.) Once universally adopted, Green OA self-archiving and Green OA self-archiving mandates can and will (and do) provide 100% OA, solving the research accessibility problem, completely....

The rest, in contrast, is all a matter of pre-emptive (and paralytic) speculation and counter-speculation: Can-we, could-we should-we reach 100% OA directly via Gold OA alone? Would it save money? Would it make publishing unaffordable to some in place of making research inaccessible to others? Would Green OA give rise to Gold OA (and the above hypothetical problems)? Or would it lower the costs of publishing?

No one knows the answer to these (and many other) questions about hypothetical contingencies regarding universal Gold OA and its hypothetical costs. The only thing we do know is that Green OA, if all universities mandate it and all researchers do it, will provide OA itself, solving the research accessibility problem completely. And that is all we need to know. The rest is about what we need to do....

Providing and mandating Green OA is a no-brainer, like providing and mandating seat-belts, or smoke-free zones. It is obvious in the latter two cases that speculating instead about hypothetical economic effects on the tobacco or car-manufacturing industry instead of doing the obvious would be absurd....