Friday, June 12. 2009
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?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 (though it is not a waste of time to explain to those who are worrying about Gold OA how and why their worries are groundless).
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).
I will argue that all efforts by universities – the universal research providers – should be directed toward doing what Harvard (thanks to Stuart) and 85 other institutions, departments and funders have already done, which is to mandate Green OA (i.e., to require the immediate deposit in the institution's OA repository of all peer-reviewed journal articles, irrespective of whether they are published in a subscription-based journal or a Gold OA journal).
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.
SS: "Enaction of green OA policies at universities requires the broad support of faculty and administration, and careful attending to their wholly reasonable concerns. Chief among these is the following argument against a green OA policy:And the Kantian reply to this wholly reasonable concern is that if and when there is cancellation pressure on journal publishers – whether commercial or learned-society publishers – they will need to cut costs and downsize to providing only those services for which there is still a demand. Those essential services (as Stuart goes on to agree below) consist of peer review and the certification of its outcome with the journal’s “imprimatur” – i.e., the journal name and its track-record for quality.
And that service will be paid for by authors' institutions, per outgoing peer-reviewed journal article published, out of a fraction of their total annual windfall savings released by the cancellation of what they had previously been paying for, per journal subscription, to access the incoming peer-reviewed articles from other institutions.
The products and services (and their associated costs) that will have been phased out in the downsizing under cancellation pressure from universal Green OA will have been the print edition, the online edition, access provision (subscription fulfillment), archiving and preservation. All of these will instead have been offloaded onto the distributed network of institutional Green OA IRs worldwide.
Hence the only thing left to pay for will be the peer-review (and possibly some copy-editing), with its outcome certified by the journal's name.
Yes, downsizing means downsizing, and that means revenue loss for both commercial and learned-society publishers. And learned societies do perform “good works” (conferences, scholarships, lobbying) that are currently supported from their publishing revenues. If institutions and authors are interested in continuing to subsidize those good works after subscription collapse and a transition to Gold OA, then that too can be added to the asking price.
But I strongly doubt that institutions and authors will want to continue subsidizing learned societies' good works (conferences, scholarships, lobbying) as a surcharge on their Gold OA publication fees (as they do now, indirectly, through subscription fees). Let’s wait and see. It certainly makes no sense at all to pay for Gold OA pre-emptively now, when subscriptions are doing fine and what’s urgently lacking is universal OA!
SS: "This worry is by far the most common one that I encountered in working with three Harvard faculties in passing green OA policies, and still encounter as I work with the remaining faculties at Harvard and talk with other institutions."The worry certainly has a long pedigree. I have been tracking it since at least the early 1990’s. For years now it’s been #19 in the Self-Archiving FAQ (along with 33 other equally groundless worries underlying that "Zeno's Paralysis" that have been delaying OA). The right response has been available for just as long, but it needs to be clearly explained on every occasion that #19 arises...
SS: "Of course, there are a lot of “might”s in the worry. But, it doesn’t matter that there is no evidence that such a scenario will transpire, and that there is in fact evidence against it. (The case of physics is well known.) It doesn’t matter that many of the steps in the process may not occur. I myself have recapitulated these counterarguments many a time. What is important is that it certainly might occur, it is consistent with the laws of economics (even if not dictated by them), and most importantly, it is widely perceived as being a real possibility. For that reason alone, it is important to have a response."It is consistent with the laws of economics that if and when universal Green OA ever does make subscriptions unsustainable as the means of recovering the costs of peer review, then that will at the very same time generate the subscription cancellation savings out of which to pay those costs! That is the very core of the counterargument for #19.
But from a clear explication of that, it also follows that there is no need (or source) to make any extra payment for Gold OA until and unless universal Green OA makes subscriptions become unsustainable. The logic of this cause/effect scenario needs to be spelled out, clearly, to ensure that it is understood by naive authors when worry #19 arises (quite naturally and predictably) in their minds.
SS: "Let me first dismiss two inadequate responses:Access may be "the least important of the services that journals currently provide," but access is what the Open Access movement is about, and for! And it is technology -- the new online medium -- that made OA possible. And unimportant as access may be as a journal service, it is of paramount importance to researchers.[SH] “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!”If all that journals provided were access, then this response would be entirely correct. However, access is the least important of the services that journals currently provide—least important because technological advances have led to the ability to provide access at essentially zero marginal cost by the authors themselves.
(1) But first, there seems to be a misunderstanding here: The journal affordability problem is that institutions don’t have enough money to subscribe to all the journals whose articles their users might need to access. I don’t think Stuart disagrees that if and when all articles are made Green OA, (hence all users can access them all), the fact that institutions don’t have enough money to subscribe to all the journals whose articles their users might need to access becomes a far less urgent matter than it is today, at a time when all users still cannot access all articles. That's the fundamental difference between the journal affordability problem and the article accessibility problem.
(2) The “dystopia” to which Stuart is referring is subscriptions becoming unsustainable as the means of paying for peer review, imprimatur (and a variety of unspecified “production services”).
(3) But the premise of the subscription collapse hypothesis is that (institutional) subscriptions collapse, which means that each institution's funds to pay for peer review, imprimatur (and a variety of unspecied “production services”) are released (by the cancellations) to be used for payment in a universal transition to Gold OA fee-based publication in place of subscription fee-based publication.
(4) In contrast, that very same money is right now tied up in paying for subscription fee-based publication – while users still have next to no Green OA (without mandates).
(5) Hence the only real urgency today is to provide universal Green OA.
(6) And it would be the “dystopia” of universal Green-OA-induced subscription collapse that would eo ipso generate the “potentiality” to pay for publication via Gold OA (but only if and when universal Green OA actually does generate subscription collapse).
(7) So the urgency that we should not postpone is that of mandating Green OA universally, rather than that of finding a way to pay for a Gold OA that institutions don’t yet need, while they are still paying for publication via subscriptions.
By the way, there seems to be a logical oversight in supposing that if "dystopia ensued [because of universal Green OA], then all... [journal] services (other than access) would be lost."
This cannot be right. It is peer-reviewed journal articles that Green OA mandates require authors to deposit. Without those peer-reviewed articles there would be nothing to provide access to!
Hence what Stuart must mean here by "dystopia" is universal Green OA + subscription collapse leading to journal collapse, which then destroys both journals and Green OA!
This would be a perfect example of an “evolutionarily unstable strategy” – if it weren’t for the obvious and natural transition scenario, whereby peer-reviewed journals don’t collapse, but simply downsize to become what they always had been, if considered medium-independently, namely: providers and certifiers (with their journal name and track-record) of peer-review quality-level; and institutions pay journals (out of their windfall subscription cancellations savings) for continuing to provide this longstanding, essential service.
(The journal titles, editorial boards, referees and track-records of those publishers who may not be interested in downsizing to peer-review service provision alone should subscriptions become unsustainable can and will of course migrate to other publishers who will be happy to take them over on the Gold OA cost-recovery model. Journal migration itself is nothing new.)
That may sound dystopic to those who want to sustain the current scale and revenues of journals (print edition, the online edition, access provision, [subscription fulfillment], archiving and preservation) come what may, rather than downsize to just peer review. But it does not sound dystopic to those who want universal OA, come what may, and have no particular problem with journal publishing having to downsize to just providing peer review alone as a consequence.
But supply and demand can be allowed to decide: If institutions decide they want to use their windfall savings from Green-OA-induced subscription collapse to pay for more than just peer review, they are certainly welcome to do so...
(In the meanwhile, does it not make more sense to calm the worry about “dystopia” by drawing the natural transition scenario and self-faq #19 to the attention of worriers, rather than by needlessly throwing scarce money at it, prematurely, and at inflated prices, while journal budgets are still tied up in subscriptions and it is OA itself that is missing and urgently needed?)
If the goal is to "make it possible for a publisher to convert a journal to a gold OA business model," then how can it be that "gold OA journals are at a systematic disadvantage against subscription-based journals"? Conversion means we are talking about the very same journals! It sounds as if Stuart may be talking about conversion but thinking about competition between subscription journals and Gold OA journals.[SH] “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.”SS: "A response that “the market will solve this problem down the line” is not sufficient for two reasons.
Until there is universal Green OA, the institutions and funders have no choice -- or need -- other than to keep "subsidizing" subscriptions to the journals that their authors want and need now. Indeed that is their obligation. The only additional thing institutions and funders need to do is mandate Green OA.
There’s no need to start-up or subsidize or otherwise favor new Gold OA journals. (A handful were enough to demonstrate – for those who had any doubts – that peer-reviewed journals are peer-reviewed journals, regardless of their cost-recovery model, and that a natural cost-recovery model [Gold] is available as a viable alternative if and when subscriptions should ever prove unsustainable.)
“Hybrid” subscription/Gold journals are in a sense experimenting with a transition mechanism, by offering an “open choice” between the two alternatives – but not only is there no reason, yet, for authors’ institutions and funders to take up their Gold OA option, but it is almost certainly vastly overpriced, and will only start to look attractive once the needless add-ons (and their costs) that are currently co-bundled with it (print edition, the online edition, access provision, [subscription fulfillment], archiving and preservation) have been phased out under cost-cutting pressure from the universal availability of Green OA. It seems not only unnecessary but downright profligate to pay hybrid Gold OA’s asking price today.
Much the same is true of paying to publish in pure-Gold OA journals today too: It’s fine for those who have cash to spare. But if all you want is OA, Green OA is the cost-free way to provide it. And institutions and funders trying to tilt the balance so as to favor today’s Gold OA journals over today’s subscription journals by providing the funds to pay for Gold OA pre-emptively, when it’s not even needed, strikes me as singularly short-sighted (even though it is touted as the far-sighted strategy!):
Paying for pre-emptive Gold OA today -- when it is completely unnecessary if OA is all you want -- not only diverts attention and action from the obvious, cost-free way to provide OA (Green OA, through Green OA mandates), but it also helps to lock in the co-bundled obsolescent add-ons and their extra costs into the current Gold OA asking price and modus operandi. Pure Gold journals have phased out the print edition, but they are still far from having downsized to just peer-review service provision alone.
(By the way, I would not be writing any of this if we were already well on the way to universal Green OA mandates worldwide [instead of only 85/10,000ths of the way, as we are today]; for then all we would stand to lose would be some money. But the pre-emptive and premature preoccupation with Gold OA today is also losing us attention and action that should be dedicated to universalizing Green OA, and that's my only real concern.)
SS: "I return to the underlying issue, which is assuaging the worries of faculty considering green OA policies who are imagining the possibility of the dystopian scenario. The natural response is to assure the worrier that there is a reasonable alternative business model in the wings, namely gold OA. And to make that assurance plausible, we must address the viability of gold OA journals in a realistic way, at least under the same universalization that leads to the dystopian scenario. That is what the open access compact that I discussed at Cal Tech and elsewhere is intended to do."If the underlying issue is assuaging groundless worries about the “dystopian scenario” then the logical, evidential and practical bases of the worries should be addressed with the logical, evidential and practical answers.
When it has been the publisher lobby raising these same groundless worries, we have known how to answer them, decisively. Why then, when it is naive authors who are raising some of the very same worries, do we not share those decisive answers with them too, instead of just throwing money at it, needlessly and distractingly, as if the groundless worries had some intrinsic validity?
There is no need to subsidize Gold OA today, in order to assuage worries about Green OA destroying journals: Describe the Gold OA cost-recovery model, point out some of the viable (and in some cases, like PLoS, top-rank) Gold OA journals in existence today as proof that the model is indeed viable, explain the quid pro quo transition scenario that naturally arises if and when universal Green OA should ever make subscriptions unsustainable, and then focus on the one thing that is urgently needed for all of this to happen, namely, universal Green OA mandates.
Once Green OA mandates are safely universalizing, then any institution or funder that has cash to spare can spend as much of it as it likes on Gold OA. But not now, when talk of Gold OA just distracts -- and talk of spending extra money on it deters -- from mandating Green OA.
SS: "In summary, a university that commits to the open access compact will more easily be able to answer objections against green OA policies specifically because it has an approach to long-range support for gold OA publishing, not in spite of it. The two models are inextricably tied.Most universities don't yet mandate OA and most are also not as wealthy as Harvard. Why would one imagine that universities become more likely to adopt a Green OA mandate if it is coupled with a commitment to spend money on Gold OA? (The opposite outcome sounds much more likely, with universities failing to mandate Green OA, but thinking that they are doing their bit for OA by providing some funds for it -- as University of California and University of Calgary, for example, have done.)
For the dystopian fears of faculty, give them facts and figures; don’t couple them with proposals to squander funds needlessly. Apart from the palliative facts (about the quid pro quo in the collapse/transition scenario), Gold OA should not be further mentioned until the Green OA mandate is successfully adopted. (After that, spend away – but please don’t make that supererogatory and superfluous expense part of the best-practice model that is meant to inspire the rest of the planet’s 10,000 universities and research institutions to follow Harvard’s lead and mandate Green OA!)
SS: "Let me conclude by arguing against a view that support for the open access compact is at best “a needless waste of scarce research funds.”It is as difficult to have to disagree occasionally with Stuart Shieber as it is to have to disagree occasionally with Peter Suber. Both have made monumental contributions to OA. Both have displayed dedication and resourcefulness on a scale that will be sooner or later recognized to merit the eternal gratitude of the worldwide research community in perpetuo. Both have a profound and detailed grasp of virtually all the intricate OA issues. (The circumspect summary paragraph above by Stuart, for example, is as close to spot-on in its mastery of the subtle nuances of the Gold OA issue as a reasonable person could wish.)
So please do not take the relatively small points on which I sometimes have to diverge from Stuart or Peter as any sort of aspersion on their invaluable and unabating contributions to OA, for which I feel nothing but admiration and gratitude.
With that preface, let me close by demonstrating, again, that I am not a reasonable [sic] person!
(1) Any needless cost at all associated with adopting and implementing a Green OA mandate is a deterrent to arriving at consensus on adoption, not an incentive.
(2) Minimal costs for Harvard U are not necessarily minimal for HaveNot U.
(3) The way to explain the possible eventual transition to universal Gold OA is via its causal antecedent: universal Green OA.
(4) The way to allay worries about Learned Society Publishers’ future after universal Green OA is to explain the simple, straightforward relation between institutional subscription collapse and institutional subscription cancellation savings, and how it releases the funds to continue paying for publication via Gold OA. (And remind faculty that if their institutions really want to keep subsidizing Learned Society publishers' "good works" (conferences, scholarships, lobbying) as they are now through subscription-fees, they can certainly continue to do so through publication fees too, as a surcharge, on the Gold OA model, if they wish.)
(5) Reserve any plans for promoting pre-emptive payment of Gold OA fees for those institutions that have already mandated Green OA (and preferably only after we are further along the road from 85 mandates to 10,000!).
(6) Pre-emptive payment for Gold OA before universal Green OA just retards and distracts from providing and mandating Green OA. Moreover, it is incoherent and does not scale ("universalize"): It is like an Escher drawing, leading nowhere, even though it seems to.
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