Thursday, April 30. 2009
An update of Harvard computer scientist Michael Merzinich's "The ACM Does NOT Support Open Access" (discussed here yesterday) reports that ACM has made it clear it is fully Green on OA self-archiving, but that discussions with Harvard are still underway for the extra re-use rights stipulated in the Author's Addendum.
The nuances here are about the differences between "gratis" OA (free online access) and "libre" OA (free online access plus certain further re-use rights).
I will make no secret of what my own view on this is -- and I've been at this for a very, very long time: Free online access ("gratis OA") is all you need in order to make all the rest happen. The rest will come with the territory, eventually; but the territory must come first. Gratis OA can be and is being mandated by universities and funders (but so far there are only 77 mandates, out of a potential worldwide total of 10,000 or more).
Libre OA asks for more, and entails more complications. Hence it is both harder to agree on adopting a Libre OA mandate, and harder to get compliance (rather than opt-out). The right strategy is hence to stick to mandating Gratis OA for now. Gratis OA is urgent; addenda can wait. The "Green" journals that have already formally endorsed providing immediate Gratis OA (63%) are on the side of the angels. It is foolish and counterproductive to demonize them. If one wants to rant at journals, rant at the pale-green ones, that only endorse self-archiving unrefereed preprints, and that embargo Gratis OA to the refereed postprints (34%); or the gray journals, that don't endorse any form of self-archiving at all (3%).
Libre OA will come, as surely as day follows night, once we have reached universal Green Gratis OA. To insist on over-reaching instead for Libre OA now (by insisting on Libre OA author addenda), instead of grasping the Green Gratis OA that is already within our reach (yet still not being grasped by 99.937% of the universities and funders on the planet) is just one of a long litany of gratuitous mistakes we keeping making over and over, needlessly delaying the optimal, inevitable, obvious and long overdue outcome, year upon year.
The "over-reaching" list is long, and includes the sublime and the ridiculous: Libre OA (re-publishing and re-use rights for refereed journal articles, when Green Gratis OA would already have them online free for any user webwide, 24/7), Gold OA publishing, central (rather than institutional) self-archiving, the publisher's PDF (rather than just the author's refereed, revised, accepted final draft), peer-review reform, publishing reform, copyright reform, freeing all "knowledge" (rather than just freeing all of refereed research first), solving "the" digital preservation problem, solving "the" online search problem, etc. etc.
Mark my words. We will no doubt continue this fruitless frenzy of over-reaching in all directions for some time to come (world hunger may be next on the OA agenda) instead of doing the immediately doable (which is the mandating of universal Green Gratis OA by all universities and all funders), but in the end it will become clear that in order to have all the good things worth having among the things that can be nontrivially linked to OA, all we ever had to do was those those simple 99,937 GG mandates (plus the distributed volley of keystrokes they entail).
Test What Already Comes with the Gratis Green OA Territory:
"Re-use rights for teaching" are as good example as any of how people are simply not thinking through what really comes with the territory with Gratis Green OA:
If you deposit your article, free for all, in Harvard's Institutional Repository (IR), every teacher and every student webwide has 24/7 access to it -- can link to it, read it on-screen, download it, print it off, data-crunch it.
The days of permissions and "course packs" (for refereed journal articles) would be over -- completely over -- if all universities and funders mandated that all their employees' and fundees' refereed journal articles (the authors' final refereed drafts) were deposited in their IRs, thereby making them Gratis Green OA (the kind ACM endorses).
Now try that out as an intuition pump with some of the other things you thought you desperately needed the Author's Addendum for, over and above GG OA...
There will be a few -- a very few. But none of them will be remotely as important and urgent as Gratis Green OA itself. Yet here we are, holding up GG OA because we are holding for and haggling over needless Author's Addenda instead of working to universalize vanilla GG OA.
And even the very few uses that don't come immediately with the GG OA territory will follow soon after, once we have reached or neared universal GG OA.
First things first... Or, Let not the Best stand in the way of the (immeasurably) Better...
Now back to the soothing fulminations against ACM for not immediately conceding the re-use rights that the author-addendum mandates are needlessly insisting upon...
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Harvard's Michael Mitzenmacher suggests -- though somewhat cautiously, acknowledging that there might be some misinformation involved -- that "The ACM Does NOT Support Open Access."
This is reminiscent of a similar case last July, in which it was the APA (American Psychological Association) that was being raked over the coals as being anti-OA (for trying to charge a $2500 deposit fee for making a direct central deposit in PubMed Central in compliance with NIH's Green OA self-archiving mandate). The APA later backed off the fee, but even before that I had to point out that the APA was already on the side of the angels insofar as OA was concerned, because it was completely Green on immediate, unembargoed OA self-archiving of both the preprint and the postprint -- but only in the author's Institutional Repository (IR). Since this already makes the IR deposit OA, I suggested that it was NIH that ought to optimize its mandate by allowing authors to fulfill it through direct deposit in their own IR, instead of insisting on direct central deposit in PubMed Central; the metadata of the IR deposit can then be automatically exported to PubMed Central via the SWORD protocol. (NIH is now considering adopting this option.)
By exactly the same token, it is completely incorrect to say that the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) does not support Open Access. Just like the APA, the ACM is completely Green on both preprint and postprint self-archiving. That means it too endorses immediate, unembargoed deposit in the author's institutional repository. What the ACM does not support is the author's addendum, which asks for more than this.
Current standard ACM copyright agreement:
Now the author's addendum is a fine, indeed desirable thing, when there is agreement to adopt it; but it is not necessary in order to provide OA -- and particularly not when the journal is already Green on OA (as 63% of journals already are). So since the ACM journals are all already completely Green, there is no need for the author's addendum. ACM authors can already make all of their ACM articles OA without it. As in the case of NIH, the institutions that mandate Green OA via the author's addendum should optimize their mandates so that their authors can fulfill their mandates by depositing in their IR even without the author's addendum in the case of articles published in journals that are already Green on immediate OA self-archiving (as ACM journals are), rather than leaving authors with no option but to opt out of depositing altogether under those conditions. (Harvard has already modified its mandate so as to require deposit even when the author opts out of adopting the author's addendum.)
ACM's current President, Wendy Hall, is not only the one who adopted the world's first Green OA Mandate (when she was Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science of the University of Southampton), but she was also instrumental in the adoption of the European Research Council's Green OA mandate, and other Green OA mandates as well. If she is to be written to -- as Michael Mitzenmacher suggests -- it should be to thank her for her enormous contributions to OA, rather than to complain that ACM has not yet agreed to the author's addendum.
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Friday, April 24. 2009
Those who still harbor any doubt that the mixing of talk about Gold OA publishing or funding with plans for Green OA self-archiving mandates causes anything but confusion, distraction, delay and failure to make progress toward universal OA: please read Peter Suber's comments on this latest fiasco at the University of Maryland -- and weep.
And then please trust some sound advice from a weary and wizened but world-wise archivangelist:
Disentangle completely all talk and policy concerning the requirement to self-archive refereed journal articles (the Green OA mandate) from any advice concerning whether or not to publish in Gold OA journals, and from any plans to help authors pay for Gold OA journal publishing charges, should they elect to publish in a fee-based Gold OA journal.Otherwise this mindless and thoughtless Gold Fever will just usher in yet another half-decade of failure to grasp what is already fully within the global research community's reach: universal Green OA through universal Green OA self-archiving mandates adopted by universities and research funders worldwide.
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Open Access to Research Outputs: Final Report to Research Councils UK
Once they have mandated Green OA self-archiving (as all 7 of the RCUK funding councils have now done), what funders do with their spare cash is entirely their own business.
But it does seem as profligate as it is unnecessary to propose squandering scarce research money today on paying Gold OA publishing fees pre-emptively while Green OA mandates are still so few and subscription fees are still paying for publication.
This RCUK report shows signs of having been drafted under two palpable influences: (1) the publishers' lobby, striving to ensure that, whatever the outcome, revenues for publishers are maximized and immunized against risk -- and (2) the publishing reform movement, striving to ensure that publishers convert to Gold OA at all costs.
If good sense were to prevail, funders and universities would just mandate Green OA for now, and then let supply and demand decide, given universal Green OA, whether and when to convert from subscriptions to Gold OA, and for what product, and at what price.
With non-OA journals, subscriptions pay the costs of publication.The goal of the open access movement is open access to research, in order to maximize research uptake, impact and progress. Universal Green OA mandates from funders (like RCUK) and universities are all that is needed to ensure universal OA.
Universal Green OA may or may not eventually lead to subscription cancellations and a transition to the Gold OA cost-recovery model. If and when it does, the windfall subscription cancellation savings themselves will be more than enough to pay for the much-reduced costs of providing peer-review alone (which will be the only product that peer-reviewed journals will still need to provide), with never the need to redirect a single penny from the dwindling pot that funds research itself.
(That publication costs would only amount to 2% of research costs is a specious calculation, when one fails to take into account that publication costs are still being fully covered by subscription payments today, while many research proposals recommended for funding by reviewers are going unfunded because there is not enough money in the research pot to cover them. Nor is there any need whatsoever for researchers to publish in fee-based Gold OA journals if their objective is to provide OA for their work: Green OA self-archiving already provides that.)
The effects of pre-emptive Gold fever today are (i) to distract from the urgent need for universal Green OA mandates, (ii) to encourage a needless waste of scarce research funds, and (iii) to facilitate the locking-in of today's asking-prices for goods and services (print edition, publisher's PDF, storage, dissemination) that will almost certainly be obsolete by the time Gold OA's day really comes, once universal Green OA has become the access-provider (and archiver).
The publishers are just doing what any business will do to try to sustain and maximize its habitual revenues; it is the pre-emptive publishing reformers who are being foolish and short-sighted, needlessly conflating the urgent and important research accessibility problem with the journal affordability problem, not realizing that if they solve the former, the latter loses all its apparent urgency and importance.
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Thursday, April 23. 2009
Friday, April 17. 2009
Stuart Shieber, the tireless architect of the historic Harvard self-archiving mandate that may at last have tipped the scale for global Open Access, has been traveling to spread the message, to Caltech on March 26th and to Berkeley on March 30th.
Click here to see the video of his CalTech talk. It was very clear and articulate (and often funny, too!).
I would add one strategic suggestion on how to make the message and priorities crystal clear to the 10,000 minus 76 institutions and funders worldwide that have not yet mandated OA:
Mandate Green OA Self-Archiving FirstMore than half of the CalTech talk (and just about all of the subsequent discussion session) was focused on journal costs, OA journal business models, and Harvard's "Compact" to subsidize "reasonable" gold OA publishing fees for Harvard authors that need it. There was next to no mention of mandates in the discussion session, although I'm certain that Stuart hoped, as I do, that CalTech too would consider adopting a self-archiving mandate like Harvard's.
The talk was of course addressed to a librarian audience rather than a researcher audience, and libraries are most interested in serials budget and pricing problems. But I think it is still a strategic mistake to focus on journal economics, and on new "compacts" for university funding of OA journal publication fees, instead of stressing the all-important priority:
To date, there exist 76 OA self-archiving mandates (40 of them adopted before the Harvard Mandate, 35 since), out of at least 10,000 universities and research funders worldwide.After over 20 long years of experience with this it is crystal clear to me that focusing instead on journal business models simply takes and keeps everyone's eyes off the ball.
If one can just manage to get mandates to propagate across universities worldwide, all the rest will take care of itself, quite naturally, of its own accord.
The Harvard mandate (now that it has been upgraded to include an immediate-deposit requirement even if the author opts-out of rights-retention, hence OA) is just wonderful: Thus revised, Harvard's is now the optimal mandate model for global adoption.
My suggestion to Stuart and to all others who are promoting OA is hence to promote the mandate very directly and exclusively, presenting the evidence of all of its advantages for research access and impact, and to talk about potential future business models for journals only if and when the (inevitable) question gets raised, rather than letting the urgent and immediate and solvable research accessibility problem get subsumed, yet again, by the journal affordability problem.
Once mandates become universal, even if the journal affordability problem is left entirely unaltered, that problem immediately becomes far less urgent, since all of its urgency derives from the accessibility problem, which universal mandates will have solved, completely! (Once everyone has online access to everything, it matters incomparably less how much journal subscriptions cost, and how many of them a university can afford to subscribe to.)
Apart from this basic strategic suggestion about priorities and focus, I have just two small comments, one on "branding" and one on what "reasonable" gold OA publishing charges would/will be:
1. Branding: What authors really care about in choosing a journal -- and what it is that they really mean by "imprimatur" or "brand" -- is the journal's known track-record for article and author quality. It is not a mysterious property of the "brand-name" but an empirical running average that the journal must earn, and sustain. It basically refers to the journal's ongoing quality standards for peer review (what portion and proportion of the overall quality distribution curve they accept for publication).
I think Stuart knows all this. It was latent in the very interesting data he presented in the video by way of reply to the familiar "vanity-press/plummeting-standards" argument -- though, again, the talk put the accent on pricing issues, whereas the real point is that authors try to publish in the journals that have the track-record for the highest quality-standards, and quality standards mean selectivity, based on quality alone: any lowering of peer-review standards so as to accept more articles will simply lower the journal's quality, and hence its attractiveness to authors seeking the highest-quality journals. As Stuart notes in the video, there are both subscription and OA journals at all quality levels (and, one might add, there are articles and authors at all quality levels).
But the urgent issue now is access -- and especially access to the higher quality journals.
(There are are about 4000 OA journals, out of a total of perhaps 25,000 refereed journals in all, and there are OA journals among the top journals too. However, it is also a fact that the proportion of OA journals among the top journals is far lower today than their proportion among journals as a whole. This simply re-emphasizes that what is urgent today is to make all articles in all journals openly accessible -- by mandating self-archiving -- rather than to find ways of paying for publication in OA journals.)
2. "Reasonable" gold OA publishing charges: Stuart also speaks in the video about what would be "reasonable" charges for publishing in OA journals. But surely this depends on what the true costs will turn out to be: Today, subscription journals publish both online and print editions and (as Stuart notes) they charge whatever they can get. But now let us focus just on what universal self-archiving mandates will bring, entirely independent of journal price:
With OA self-archiving mandated universally, all articles will be accessible to all users online for free. This, in and of itself, solves the research access/impact problem, completely, and with certainty. Its other side-effects are only a matter for speculation, but here are the possibilities:
2a. Nothing else changes: Universities continue to subscribe to the print and/or online edition of whatever journals they can afford, and journal costs (and prices, and price increases) continue as before, unchanged.So what? The access problem is completely solved. Everyone has online access to everything they need. So university subscriptions are now decided on the basis of other considerations (demand for the print edition, demand for the luxury PDF edition, preservation, prestige, habit, charity, superstition). These are all worthy supply/demand issues, but there would certainly be nothing left that could be described with the urgency of the "serials crisis," because that crisis derived all of its urgency from the need to provide access, and the universal OA mandates will already have taken care of that need, completely.
2b. More likely, the availability of the authors' OA versions will eventually reduce the demand for the publisher's print and online versions, and subscription cancellations will grow. The publishers' first response will probably be to try to raise prices, but if that just further increases cancellations, supply/demand implies that they will instead have to try to cut costs by doing away with inessential products and services. The ways are many. Cancel the online edition: If print subscriptions still cover costs sustainably, fine, it stops there. If cancellations continue to grow, then journals will have to cancel the print edition too. But then there is nothing left to sell via subscription. So journals must then convert to gold OA publishing, which means charging for their only remaining service: managing peer review.It is that eventual price -- the price for managing peer review alone -- that is really at issue here. That, and that alone, is the "reasonable" (indeed essential) cost of peer-reviewed journal publishing, once all access-provision and archiving has been offloaded onto the distributed network of (mandated) institutional repositories.
Not a single gold OA publisher today is operating on -- or even knows -- that irreducible, essential cost, because none of them have downsized yet to doing peer-review alone (because they have not yet had to do so, out of necessity, because universal Green OA is not yet there, exerting the pressure to do so, while at the same time providing the distributed infrastructure on which to offload all access-provision and archiving, and their associated costs). For this reason, it does not make sense to speak of (let alone subsidize) this "reasonable" price today, when the necessary precondition for downsizing to it (namely, universal OA mandates) has not yet been provided:
In other words, today's asking-prices are necessarily inflated, and will remain so, until universal OA itself forces the requisite downsizing.
So this, it seems to me, is yet another reason for not putting the accent on a pre-emptive "compact" to cover "reasonable" gold OA publication fees today, in the absence of universal OA mandates.
I hasten to add that Harvard, having already mandated OA, is of course entitled and welcome to do whatever it likes with its spare cash! But this should be separated completely from the really urgent message, which still needs to be communicated to the remaining 10,000 not-yet-mandating universities of the world, which is first to mandate OA, as Harvard did, before making plans on how to spend their spare cash. Otherwise they are just subsidizing an arbitrary gold OA publishing fee, for a minority of the journals (and an even smaller minority of the top journals) without first doing their essential part toward solving the research access problem.
(Lest it's not self-evident, however, let me reaffirm that all this carping and unsolicited advice on my part in no way diminishes my great admiration and appreciation for the enormous contribution Stuart Shieber has made, and continues to make, in having gotten a mandate adopted at Harvard, and now promoting mandate adoption globally!)
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Thursday, April 9. 2009
Two more Green OA Self-Archiving Mandates from the Russian Academy of Sciences (KAM and VSSC), as reported in eifl.net by Iryna Kuchma. (The other two eIFL mandates -- CEMI and TSTU (Ukraine) -- had already been announced.)
Wednesday, April 8. 2009
Depending on how you count and clock it, the Ukraine's Ternopil State Ivan Puluj Technical University (ELARTU) has adopted the planet's 73rd Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate and Belgium's Académie 'Louvain' (consisting of the Facultés universitaires catholiques de Mons, Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix à Namur, Facultés universitaires Saint-Louis, and the Université catholique de Louvain) has adopted the planet's 74th Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate.
(The Académie 'Louvain' is actually three universities, so this might be three mandates rather than one, and although Fabrizio Tinti alerted Peter Suber to the mandate on March 31 2009, the mandate was apparently adopted a year earlier (July 7, 2008).)
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