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Saturday, June 13, 2009

More on whether gold OA support is premature

Stevan Harnad, The Argument Against (Premature) Gold OA Support, Open Access Archivangelism, June 12, 2009.  This is a relatively short excerpt from a long post.  Those following the debate should read the whole thing.  Excerpt:

In The argument for gold OA support, Stuart Shieber [SS] wrote:

SS: "Are green and gold open access independent of each other? In particular, is worry about gold OA a waste of time, and are expenditures on it a waste of money?
   Stevan Harnad has
brought up this issue in response to a recent talk I gave at Cal Tech, and in particular my remarks about a potential “open access compact”. I will take this opportunity to explain why I think that the answer to both questions is 'no'."

I welcome this dialogue with Stuart Shieber, who, with his patient, resourceful, tireless efforts at Harvard succeeded in achieving consensus on the adoption of what is indisputably the most important and influential of Green OA self-archiving mandates to date – a historic milestone and turning point for the entire global OA movement.
Although Green and Gold OA are definitely not independent of each other, their interdependence is subtle and not at all the simple, parallel complementarity that many imagine it to be. I will try to show why worry about Gold OA at this time is indeed a waste of time....

I will also try to show why spending money pre-emptively -- whether redirected from the university’s (serials-crisis-burdened) library acquisitions budget or from funding agencies’ scarce research funds -- to pay for Gold OA at this time is indeed a waste of money (though it will not be a waste of money if and when gold OA’s time actually comes – which it certainly has not done yet)....

Once (1) universal mandates have made Green OA universal and (2) if and when that universal Green OA in turn makes journal subscriptions unsustainable, then and only then is it time for a transition to paying for peer review on the Gold OA model: not before, when what is urgently needed is far more OA -- which is provided by implementing Green OA mandates to deposit all journal articles, not by paying needlessly for Gold OA journal publishing.

Moreover, the price for Gold OA then -- when it is actually needed -- will be much lower than what is being asked now, pre-emptively, when subscriptions are intact and Gold OA is not yet needed. And the money to pay for Gold OA (then) will come out of the windfall savings from the very same institutional subscription cancellations on which this if/then scenario is predicated, rather than out of universities’ already overstretched library budgets and/or funders' overstretched research budgets....

Update (6/15/09).  Also see (1) Stevan's discussion with David Prosser on this point, (2) his clarification on Michael Smith's blog, and (3) his new post arguing that "it is far more productive (of OA) for universities and funders to mandate Green OA than to fund Gold OA."

Update (6/20/09).  Also see Bill Hooker's comments on both Stevan Harnad's and Stuart Shieber's contributions in this debate.