Tuesday, September 29. 2009
JISC, the UK's Joint Information Systems Committee, has made a statement of support for EOS.
Dr Malcolm Read, OBE, JISC's Executive Secretary, says: "We're delighted to support the new EnablingOpenScholarship venture to encourage global discussion about open scholarly communications among institutions, and help address the issues those institutions can face in this area. As the drive for Open Access achieves ever-greater momentum, a membership organisation which provides a central focus, together with practical outreach to institutions, could not be better timed. We look forward to continuing to promote open scholarship and to working with EOS over the coming years."
JISC is funded by the UK HE and FE funding bodies to provide world-class leadership in the innovative use of ICT to support education and research. It manages and funds more than 200 projects within 16 programmes. Outputs and lessons are made available to the HE and FE community. JISC also supports 49 Services that provide expertise, advice, guidance and resources to address the needs of all users in HE and FE.
Register your IR and policy in ROARMAP to track all institutions that require ETDs
On Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 8:07 PM, Elizabeth E. Kirk, Dartmouth College Library, on liblicense-l, wrote:
"Stevan, it is, as you say, about content. But it's not only about the content of Dartmouth's research output, or that of our peers. It's also about the value of the content provided through publishers, and the willingness of readers and institutions to look for that value."Elizabeth, I am not quite sure what you have in mind with the "it" that it "is... about." But if it's OA (Open Access), then the issue is not the value of the content or the contribution of the publisher or the willingness of readers and institutions to "look for" that value.
The value of peer-reviewed publication is already very explicitly enshrined in the fact that OA's specific target content is peer-reviewed content. What OA is equally explicitly seeking -- now that the advent of the online era has at last made it possible -- is free (online) access to that valued content, so it is no longer accessible only to those users whose institutions can afford to subscribe to the journal in which it was published, but to all would-be users, web-wide, in order to maximize research usage, impact and progress.
The cost of the portion of that value that is added by publishers is being paid in full by institutional subscriptions today. Hence what is missing is not a recognition of that value, but open access to that valued content.
That is why it is so urgent and important that each institution should first adopt a Green OA self-archiving mandate -- to make its own valued content openly accessible to all users web-wide and not just to those whose institutions can afford subscription access to the journals in which that content appears. This institutional self-help thereby also encourages reciprocal mandates by other institutions, to open the access to their own content as well.
Having thus seen to it that all its own peer-reviewed output is made (Green) OA, an institution is of course free to spend any spare cash it may have on paying for Gold OA publication, over and above what it already spends on subscriptions.
But an institution's committing pre-emptively to Gold OA funding compacts like COPE before or instead of mandating Green OA self-archiving is not only a waste of a lot of scarce money in exchange for very little OA value: it is also a failure to add OA value to all of the institution's research output at no extra cost (by mandating Green OA self-archiving).
"We both agree that the peer review process is a critical step in creating the finished work of scholarship, as well as "certifying" the work."Yes indeed; but peer review is already being paid for -- in full, many times over -- for most journals today (including most of the journals users want and need most) through multi-institutional subscription fees, paid by those institutions that can afford to subscribe to any given journal. (There are about 10,000 universities and research institutions in all, worldwide, and 25,000 peer-reviewed journals, publishing about 2.5 million articles per year. No institution can afford to subscribe to more than a small fraction of those journals.)
To repeat: The value of peer review is not at issue. What is at issue is access -- access to paid-up, published, peer-reviewed articles.
"Currently, open access journals--as you rightly put it--are a very small subset of the publishing pie."And committing to fund that small subset of an institution's own contribution to the "publishing pie" today, before or instead of committing to mandate OA for the vast supra-set of that institution's total journal article output, is committing to spend a lot of extra money for little OA while failing to provide a lot of OA for no extra money at all.
"Without a predictable financial stream, there are few avenues of growing an OA sector that can furnish peer review, copy editing, DOIs, and all of the other parts of publishing that have costs involved."What is missing and urgently needed today -- for research and researchers -- is not "predictable financial streams" but online access to every piece of peer-reviewed research for every researcher whose institution cannot afford subscription access to it today. The "peer review, copy editing, DOIs, and all of the other parts of publishing that have costs involved" for those articles are already being paid in full today -- by the subscription fees of those institutions that can afford to subscribe to the journals in which they are published.
"Open Access" is about Access, not about "financial streams." The wide-open "avenue" that urgently needs to be taken today (for the sake of research and researchers today) is the already-constructed, and immediately traversable (green) toll-road to accessing the vast paid-up subscription stream that already exists today, not the uncertain and still-to-be-constructed (golden) road of "growing" a future "OA sector," by paying still more, over and above the tolls already being paid, for a new "stream" of Gold OA journals.
Institutions first need to provide immediate access to the peer-reviewed content they already produce today (its peer review already paid in full by subscriptions from all the institutions that can afford subscriptions to the journals in which that content already appears, today). Having done that, there's no harm at all in an institution's going on to invest its spare cash in growing new Gold OA "sectors."
But there's plenty of harm in doing so instead, pre-emptively, instead of providing the Green OA all institutions are already in the position to provide, cost-free, today.
"Trying to grow that kind of OA sector by supporting those costs, and overcoming the misconception that OA means "not peer reviewed" (which many people said about 10-15 years ago about all electronic journals, if you remember) is a honking good reason to join the compact."Misconceptions about OA certainly abound. But the fact that OA means OA to peer-reviewed content has been stated explicitly from the very outset by the OA movement (BOAI), loud and clear for all those with ears to hear the honking. Committing to funding Gold OA for a small subset of an institution's peer-reviewed output instead of first mandating Green OA for the vast supra-set of an institution's peer-reviewed output is a rather pricey way to drive home the home-truth that OA's target content is indeed, and always has been, peer-reviewed content...
"That kind of OA sector, which of course can only be built when more institutions join us, is one that may create actual competition in journal publishing over time, by which I mean competition that results in lower prices, more players, and multiple models. It could include, as well, any current publisher who might wish to move to producer-pays from reader-pays.""Prices, players, models, competition, payment, sectors": What has become of access -- access today, to today's peer-reviewed research -- in all this Gold Fever and "sector-growth" fervor, which seems to have left the pressing immediate needs of research and researchers by the wayside in favor of speculative future economics?
"We care very much about the stability of and access to our research."Then why doesn't Dartmouth mandate Green OA self-archiving, today?
"We are working on that from a number of fronts and in multiple conversations. The compact is not our answer to everything. But we certainly won't step back from an opportunity to help create a more vibrant publishing landscape."But why is committing to provide a little extra Gold OA for a small part of Dartmouth's peer-reviewed research output, at extra cost, being acted upon today, whereas committing to provide Green OA to all the rest of Dartmouth's peer-reviewed research output at no extra cost (by mandating Green OA) is still idling in "conversation" mode? -- especially since the cost of the value-added peer review for all the rest is already being paid in full by existing institutional subscriptions?
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Saturday, September 26. 2009
It would be churlish of me to criticize Richard Poynder's friendly article, with most of which I can hardly disagree. So please consider this a complimentary complement rather than a cavil:
Annual institutional subscriptions for annual incoming journals do not morph in any coherent or sensible way into annual institutional "memberships" for individual outgoing articles.
This is true of the multi-journal "Big Deal" subscriptions with journal-fleet publishers, and it is even more obvious with single journals: Are 10,000 universities supposed to have annual "memberships" in 25,000 journals on an annual pro-rated quota based on the number of articles each institution's researchers happen to have published in each journal last year? Or is this "membership" to be based on one global (and oligopolistic) "mega-deal" between a mega-consortium of publishers and a mega-consortium of institutions? (If this makes sense, why don't we do all our shopping this way, putting a whole new twist on globalisation?) Or is it just to save our familiar intuitions about subscriptions? Wouldn't it make more sense to scrap those intuitions, when they lead to absurdities like this?
Especially when they are unnecessary, as we can see if we remind ourselves what OA is really about. Open access is about access: about making all journal articles freely accessible online to all users. It is not about morphing institutional-subscription-based funding of publishing into institutional-membership-based funding of publishing. Indeed, it isn't about funding publishing at all, since it is not publishing that is in a crisis but institutional access.
Here's another way to look at it: The "serials crisis" is the fact that institutions cannot afford access to all the journal articles they need. They have to keep canceling more and more journals, thereby making their access less and less. If all institutions had free online access to all those journal articles then that would not make the journals any more affordable at current prices, but it would certainly make canceling them less of a big deal, because their content would be free online anyway.
And that is precisely the state of affairs that universal Green OA self-archiving mandates would deliver virtually overnight.
So why are institutions instead wasting their time and money fussing over how to fit the round peg of institutional subscriptions into the square hole of institutional memberships today, via pre-emptive Gold OA funding commitments that generate a lot of extra expense for very little extra access -- instead of providing Open Access to all of their own journal-article output by mandating Green OA self-archiving today?
That "the access and affordability problems are part and parcel of the larger serials crisis" is altogether the wrong way to look at it. The OA problem is access, and affordability is part and parcel of that problem today only inasmuch as alternatives to journal subscriptions increase access today -- which is very little, and at high cost, insofar as Gold OA is concerned (today).
So instead of waiting passively for journals to convert to the Gold standard, and instead of throwing scarce money at them pre-emptively to try to make it worth their while, why don't institutions simply make their own journal article output Green OA, today? That will generate universal (Green) OA with certainty, today.
If and when that universal Green OA should in turn eventually go on to generate journal cancellations to the point of making subscriptions unsustainable for covering the costs of publication, then that will be the time for journals to cut obsolete products and services for which there is no longer a market (such as the print edition, the PDF edition, archiving, access-provision and digital preservation, leaving all that to the global network of Green OA institutional repositories), along with their associated costs, and convert to Gold OA for covering the costs of what remains (largely just implementing peer review).
Unlike today -- when paid Gold OA is at best a useful proof-of-principle that publishing can be sustained without subscriptions and at worst a waste of scarce cash based on a premature and incoherent hope of morphing directly into universal Gold OA -- after universal Green OA each institution will have more than enough money to pay those much reduced publication costs (on an individual article basis, not via an institutional membership) from just a small fraction of its annual windfall savings if and when they decide they can cancel all those subscriptions in which that money is tied up today.
Hence it is mandating Green OA that will rewire the "disconnect" between user and purchaser that Stuart Shieber deplores, putting paid to the inelastic need and demand of institutions for subscriptions (today) because of their inelastic need and demand for access (otherwise unavailable today). The reconnect will not come from ("capped") Gold OA Compacts (like COPE and SCOAP3 but from the cancelation pressure that universal Green OA will eventually generate -- once the demand for the obsolescent extras currently co-bundled with peer review fades out as the planet goes Green.
In other words, even if it is the affordability problem rather than OA that exercises you, the coherent way to morph from institutional subscriptions to universal Gold OA is via the mediation of universal Green OA mandates, not via a pre-emptive leap directly from the status quo to Gold via funding commitments, regardless of the price and modus operandi. Meanwhile, along the way, we will already have universal OA, at last solving the access problem, which is what OA itself is all about.
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity: Mistaking intent for action?
Open and Shut, 26 September 2009
Friday, September 25. 2009
Video of Stevan Harnad's "The Open Access Movement: Integrating Universities' ETD-Deposit and Research-Deposit Mandates, Repositories and Metrics."
Presented at ETD2009 "Bridging the Knowledge Divide".
Please feel free to use it to promote OA and OA mandates.
Wednesday, September 23. 2009
From: Bernard Rentier
Monday, September 21. 2009
On 19-Sep-09, at 10:17 PM, Sandy Thatcher wrote (in liblicense):
ST: "I applaud these five universities for putting their money where their mouth is. This will help obviate one of the perils of the Green OA system that Stevan Harnad advocates, viz., the proliferation of different versions of articles as publishers allow peer-reviewed but unedited articles to be posted while reserving the right to distribute the final versions themselves exclusively.""Two of the five universities (Harvard and MIT) who have so far signed the Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity (COPE) are to be applauded -- for putting their total refereed research output where their mouth is by mandating that it must all be made OA (through Green OA self-archiving) today.
Sandy Thatcher can rest assured that the many access-denied would-be users worldwide who would otherwise not have had access to a particular item of that refereed research, because their institutions could not afford subscription access to that item, do not feel imperiled but "empowered" by the fact that they now have access to its self-archived final refereed draft (though not the publisher's PDF) rather than no access at all. Research progress -- and OA -- are about content, not form.
Nor do those access-denied would-be users care one bit about "version proliferation." What they care about is access proliferation, so they can get on with their research using all the relevant refereed research there is rather than just the fraction of it that their institutions can afford to subscribe to today.
But there is nothing whatsoever to applaud in the case of the three out of five universities (Cornell, Dartmouth and Berkeley) who have signed COPE but failed to put their total research output where either their mouth or their money is: They have committed to use whatever spare cash they have available today to pay "equitable" Gold OA publishing fees for the small fraction of their total research output for which Gold OA is available and affordable today, while failing to mandate Green OA self-archiving for all the rest.
Nor is this bad example to other universities -- of unnecessarily committing scarce cash to pay for Gold OA for a token subset of their research output without the cost-free, necessary, urgent and long overdue provision of Green OA to all the rest of their research output -- to be applauded or welcomed, for if followed, it will just serve to keep delaying OA still longer, instead of reaching for what is already within the university community's grasp today.
The reason universities are cash-strapped and can only afford to buy Gold OA for a tiny fraction of their total refereed research output is that their cash is currently committed to journal subscriptions that are providing whatever access they can afford for their own users today. Those subscriptions are also paying the full cost of peer-reviewed publication for most research output today.
Universities committing to spend still more cash, for Gold OA, over and above the cash they are already spending on subscriptions, amounts to a token, a symbolic pittance, insofar as OA itself is concerned. It provides OA for a small fraction of a university's total research output at a high extra cost, unnecessarily, while leaving users access-denied for all the rest, instead of mandating Green OA self-archiving for all of the university's research output, at no extra cost.
Nor can the cash that universities are committing to pay for subscriptions (and hence publication) today be liberated, through individual cancellations, to pay instead for Gold OA -- as long as the necessary content that ongoing subscriptions are buying in for each university's own users is not yet otherwise accessible to those users.
What the reader who is thinking reflectively rather than just reflexively applauding COPE will realize at once is that the only realistic way that the world's 10,000 individual universities can liberate their current subscription funds to pay for a transition to universal Gold OA is if universities first provide universal OA to their total research output. The means of providing this universal OA today is through the universal adoption of Green OA self-archiving mandates by most or all universities, not by by committing scarce surplus cash toward paying pre-emptively for Gold OA for some small fraction of each university's total research output.
Provide OA Unto Others As You Would Have Them Provide OA Unto You:
Charity begins at home, with cost-free mandates to provide Green OA to each university's own total refereed research output, not with expensive, unnecessary and ineffectual gestures like COPE, which merely serve to mask and paper over the already long overdue need to mandate Green OA.
ST: "But by all rights OA should apply to monographs, too. It makes no intellectual sense to isolate book-length works in print form in a few hundred libraries while making journal literature on the same subjects accessible worldwide for free. So, when will these universities, and others, step up to the plate and pay author fees for monographs, too?"Step up to the plate with author fees for monographs: sure enough, but where is the requisite cash supposed to come from?
Maybe if (1) the worldwide university community has the sense to do what is the very first urgent priority -- to mandate Green OA self-archiving for the refereed final drafts of all their research article output today -- then the resultant universal Green OA will eventually induce (2) the subscription cancellations, downsizing and transition to universal Gold OA publication for refereed research journal articles at "equitable" prices, paid for out of the windfall savings from the subscription cancellations.
Then this in turn might (3) leave some left-over windfall savings to pay for Gold OA for monographs too.
But this certainly won't be possible as long as universities lack even the cash to buy in print monographs for their libraries, as they do today, because the potential funds to pay for them are still tied up in paying for their journal subscriptions...
Having said all this so many times before, all I can offer is clichés: Charity begins at home. First things first. Don't put the cart before the horse. Keep your eye on the ball. Don't build (golden) castles in Spain...
Your weary archivangelist,
Sunday, September 20. 2009
On Thu, 17 Sep 2009 Heather Morrison wrote in the American Scientist Open Access Forum:
HM: "the Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity (COPE) is a key initiative in the transition to open access."In my last two postings -- "Please Commit To Providing Green OA Before Committing To Pay For Gold OA" and "Fund Gold OA Only AFTER Mandating Green OA, Not INSTEAD" -- I have been at pains to make it as clear as possible precisely why and how COPE, far from being "a key initiative in the transition to open access," is at best a waste of a university's scarce funds today and at worst a distraction from and retardant to a university's taking the substantive initiative that actually needs to be taken today to ensure a transition to open access (OA).
OA means free online access to published journal articles. A transition to OA on the part of a university means a transition to making all of its own published journal article output OA.
Committing to COPE makes only a fraction of university article output OA today -- that fraction for which the university has the extra cash today to pay "equitable" Gold OA publishing fees -- while the lion's share of the university's potential funds to pay for publication are still tied up in journal subscriptions. Hence, at best, this token pre-emptive payment for Gold OA is a waste of scarce funds.
But if -- because a university imagines that committing to COPE is the "key initiative" for providing OA today -- the university does not first take the initiative to make its own article output OA by mandating that it must be self-archived in the university's OA repository (Green OA), then committing to COPE is not just wasteful, but a diversion from and retardant to doing what universities urgently need to do to provide OA today.
HM: "Signatories are asked to make a commitment to provide support for open access publishing that is equitable to the support currently provided to journals through subscriptions."Universities currently "provide support" for whatever journals they are currently subscribing to. That is what is what is paying the cost of most peer-reviewed publication today.
Universities committing to spend whatever extra funds they might have available to pay for Gold OA publishing fees today provides as much OA as the university can currently afford to buy, at "equitable" prices, over and above what it subscribes to.
One need only go ahead and do the arithmetic -- calculating the number of articles a university publishes every year, multiplied by the "equitable" Gold OA price per article -- to see that a university can only afford to pay for Gold OA today for a small fraction of its annual article output as long as it is still subscribing to non-OA journals. (Most journals -- especially the top journals that most universities want and need to subscribe to and most authors want and need to publish in -- are non-OA today, let alone "equitably" priced Gold OA.)
The notion that a commitment to paying pre-emptively for "equitably" priced Gold OA today only creates the illusion of being "a key initiative in the transition to open access" if one equates OA with Gold OA. Otherwise it is clear that COPE is just a very expensive way of generating some OA for a small fraction of a university's research output.
Meanwhile, as I have also pointed out, three out of the five signatories of COPE to date (60%) have not mandated Green OA self-archiving for their research output.
That means that those signatories have failed to take the "initiative in the transition to open access" that really is "key" (if the meaning of "OA" is indeed open access, rather than just "the Gold OA publishing cost-recovery model"), namely, the initiative to mandate that all of their own research output must be made OA through author self-archiving.
Instead, the majority of the COPE signatories so far have indeed assumed that signing the commitment to pay for whatever Gold OA is available and affordable really is the "key initiative in the transition to open access."
If all universities who commit to paying for whatever "equitable" Gold OA they can afford today by signing COPE would first commit to making all their research output OA by mandating Green OA self-archiving today, then there would be nothing to object to in promoting and signing COPE. COPE would simply be universities spending their spare cash to try to steer publishing toward their preferred cost-recovery model, at their preferred asking price, having already ensured that all their research output is made OA (by mandating Green OA self-archiving).
But if universities commit to paying for whatever "equitable" Gold OA they can afford today instead of committing to make all their research output OA by mandating Green OA self-archiving today, then COPE is a highly counterproductive red herring, giving universities the false illusion of having adopted a "key initiative in the transition to open access" while in reality diverting and dissipating the initiative for the transition to open access from a substantive step (mandating Green OA) toward a superficial and superfluous step (funding Gold OA).
(Heather Morrison seems to be missing this substantive strategic point completely.)
HM: "One of the reasons COPE is key is simply the recognition that universities (largely through libraries) are the support system for scholarly communication."It is hard to see the substance or purpose of this formal statement of the obvious. Everyone who already knows that it is university library subscriptions that both pay the publication costs of and provide access to most journals already "recognizes" that "universities (largely through their library budgets) are the support system for scholarly communication."
Did universities have to go on to commit whatever spare cash they had, over and above what they are already spending for journal subscriptions, in order to earn "recognition" for this obvious fact?
And what has all this formal recognition of the obvious to do with providing OA?
No, the incoherent, Escherian notion behind all of this formalism is obvious: COPE is about the hope that instead of paying to subscribe to their incoming non-OA journals, as they do now, universities will one day be able instead to pay "equitable" fees to publish their outgoing articles in Gold OA journals. (The COPE initiative has even been called HOPE.)
But hope alone cannot resolve a geometrically self-contradictory Escher Drawing: Universities subscribe by the incoming journal but they publish by the individual outgoing article. There are 25,000 journals, most of them not Gold OA, let alone equitably priced Gold OA, publishing 2.5 million articles a year from 10,000 universities worldwide. The tacit hope of COPE is to persuade all journals to abandon subscriptions and convert to equitably priced Gold OA by committing to pay them pre-emptively for equitably priced Gold OA publication today.
Now here is the crux of it: There is no incentive for journals to renounce subscription fees and convert to equitably priced Gold OA today just because some universities offer a commitment to pay for it. To induce publishers to abandon subscriptions, we would not only have to wait until most or all universities committed to pay for Gold OA, but until they also backed up that commitment by collectively committing to cancel their subscriptions (in order to release the subscription funds that each can then redirect to pay instead for Gold OA).
Without that cancellation pressure, the inelastic market for university subscriptions remains, so the best that can be hoped for is the publishers' hedged option of "Hybrid Gold OA" -- the option either to leave an individual article in a subscription-based journal non-OA or to pay that same journal a Gold-OA fee to make that individual article Gold OA.
This Trojan Horse (which really amounts to publishers being double-paid for publication) is (some) publishers' "hope" -- their counterpart for universities' COPE/HOPE -- to the effect that universities will buy into this double-pay/Hybrid Gold model in exchange for the promise that publishers will faithfully reduce their subscription and Gold OA fees in such a way as to keep their revenues constant, as and when the demand for the paid Gold-OA option grows.
Such an equitable deal between 10,000 universities and 25,000 journals for 2.5 million individual articles -- each university subscribing to different subsets of the journals annually, and publishing in a still different subset of journals, depending on author, and varying from year to year -- is just the publishers' self-serving variant of the incoherent Escherian transition scenario that the signatories of COPE (and SCOAP) are likewise hoping for.
What is clear is that this imaginary transition is not only speculative, untested, remote and far-fetched, but it does not depend on the university community: It is a transition that depends on the publishing community, journal by journal.
In contrast, open access to all of OA's target content -- the 2.5 million articles published annually in the 25,000 journals, virtually all of them originating from the planet's 10,000 universities -- is already within immediate reach: The only thing universities have to do to grasp it is to mandate Green OA self-archiving, as Harvard and MIT have already done, before signing COPE. (Then the availability of universal Green OA itself may eventually generate the subscription cancellation pressure that frees the funds that will pay for a transition to Gold OA.)
Hence my only point -- but the crucial one, if our goal is OA, now, and not something else -- is that universities should on no account commit to funding Gold OA before or instead of mandating Green OA. Mandate Green OA now.
HM: "Scholarly publishing is not a straightforward business transaction where one side produces goods and the other purchases them. -- Rather, it is university faculty who do the research, writing, reviewing, and often the editing, often on time and in space provided by the universities. -- Scholarly publishing is a service, rather than a good."This is again stating the obvious in a formalistic way that sheds no light at all on what makes peer-reviewed research publication such a special case, let alone how to resolve the Escher drawing:
"Scholarly publishing is a service, rather than a good": What does this actually mean? What is the service? And who is performing it for whom? And who is charging whom for what?
Assuming we are talking about journals (and not books), is the publisher's printed copy of a journal not a good? Is that good not to be bought and sold? Individually and by subscription?
Same question about the publisher's digital edition: Is that not a good, bought and sold, individually and by subscription?
Should publishers be giving away print journals and online PDFs, as a public service?
To be sure, scholars do research as a profession, and because they are funded to do so. Perhaps we can call this a "service." They also write up their research, submit it for peer review, revise it, and finally allow it to be published, without asking for any revenue in exchange, because that too is part of their profession and what they are employed and funded to do; and because the impact of their publications -- how much they are used and cited -- is beneficial both to research progress and to their careers. So let's say that's a service too.
It is also a fact that scholars do peer review for publishers for free. So let's say that's a service too.
But how is this complicated, intertwined and interdependent picture of what researchers -- as authors and referees -- their institutions and funders, and their publishers, do, jointly, captured by saying that "scholarly publishing is a service, rather than a good"?
Is the devil not in the details of who is doing what for whom, why, and how?
HM: "Once we understand that academic library budgets are the support for scholarly communication, it is much easier to see that we should be prioritizing supports that make sense for scholarly communication into the future, and equity for open access publishing is a great beginning."OA is not about academic library budgets. It is about access to research articles. Universities are the research providers. They now need to also become the access providers for their own (peer-reviewed) research output (through their OA repositories). That leaves only the peer review itself to be implemented by independent honest brokers (journals), the results certified by each journal's name and track-record for quality standards.
But these vague generalities about scholarly publishing being a "service rather than a good" do not give even a hint about how to get there from here -- i.e., how to generate a coherent transition that resolves the Escher drawing.
And neither does COPE.
Yet the answer is ever so simple, and has nothing to do with COPE, nor with academic library budgets: Universities need to provide OA for their own research output by mandating Green OA self-archiving, today.
That done, universities can, if they wish, commit to whatever they like if they think it will speed a transition to a publication funding model that they find more congenial.
But committing to a more congenial funding model without first committing to providing OA itself is certainly not "a key initiative in the transition to open access."
HM: "Best wishes to COPE. =A0I encourage every library and university to join. =A0There is no immediate financial commitment required, rather a commitment to develop models for equity."Would it not be more timely and useful (for OA) to encourage every university to provide OA for its own research output, by mandating Green OA self-archiving, rather than making formal or financial commitments before or instead of doing so?
HM: "Supporting transition to gold OA, in my opinion, in no way diminishes the importance of green OA. =A0There are good reasons for pursuing both strategies, both in the short and the long term."This again blurs the point at issue completely, and turns priorities upside down: The issue is not short- or long-term pursuits but immediate and urgent priorities. Mandate Green OA today, and go ahead and pursue Gold OA in any way you think will help. But pursue Gold OA only if you have first mandated Green OA.
(Stuart Shieber, by the way, has proposed another rationale for COPE, based on his experience with having successfully forged a consensus on adopting Green OA mandates at Harvard: COPE assuages authors' prima facie worries about the viability of peer-reviewed journal publication should subscriptions eventually be made unsustainable by Green OA mandates. But this rationale for COPE is only justifiable if committing to COPE is indeed coupled with mandating Green OA. The actual evidence to date includes not only COPE, which has more non-mandating signatories than mandating ones, but also the very similar SCOAP3 commitment in physics, which includes incomparably more non-mandating universities than mandating ones. To support Stuart's hypothesis, universities committing to COPE or SCOAP3 should also be committing to Green OA mandates. The effect instead looks more like the reverse.)
Thursday, September 17. 2009
Phil Davis, in Scholarly Kitchen, raises the right questions regarding the “Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity”:
"If the creation of a funding line to support a particular form of publishing is designed as a hypothesis, what result are they expecting? What constitutes a successful or failed experiment?... If this is about access, let’s talk about whether this type of publishing results in disseminating scientific results to more readers. If this debate is about economics, let’s talk about whether Cornell and the four other signatory institutions will save money under this model."Underlying the proposed “Compact” is the usual conflation of the access problem with the affordability problem, as well as the conflation of their respective solutions: Green OA self-archiving and Gold OA publishing.
Open Access (OA) is about access, not about journal economics. The journal affordability problem is only relevant (to OA) inasmuch as it reduces access; and Gold OA publishing is only relevant (to OA) inasmuch as it increases access -- which for a given university, is not much (today): Authors must remain free to publish in their journal of choice. Most refereed journals are not Gold OA journals today. Nor could universities afford to pay Gold OA fees for the publication of all or most of their authors' research output today, because universities are already paying for publication via their subscription fees today.
Hence the only measure of the success of a university's OA policy (for OA) is the degree to which it provides OA to the university's own research article output. By that measure, a Gold OA funding compact provides OA to the fraction of a university's total research output for which there exist Gold OA journals today that are suitable to the author and affordable to the university today. That fraction will vary with the institution, but it will always be small (today).
In contrast, a Green OA self-archiving mandate provides OA to most or all of a university's research article output within two years of adoption.
There are 5 signatories to the Gold OA "Compact" so far. Two of them (Harvard and MIT) have already mandated Green OA, so what they go on to do with their available funds does not matter here, one way or the other.
The other three signatories (Cornell, Dartmouth and Berkeley), however, have not yet mandated Green OA. As such, their "success" in providing OA to their own research article output will not only be minimal, but they will be setting an extremely bad example for other universities, who may likewise decide that they are doing their part for OA by signing this compact for Gold OA (in exchange for next to no OA, at a high cost) instead of mandating Green OA (in exchange for OA to most or all their research articles output, at next to no extra cost).
What universities, funders, researchers and research itself need, urgently, is Green OA mandates, not Gold OA Compacts. Mandate Green OA first, and then compact to do whatever you like with your spare cash. But on no account commit to spending it pre-emptively on funding Gold OA instead of mandating Green OA -- not if OA is your goal, rather than something else.
American Scientist Open Access Forum
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The American Scientist Open Access Forum has been chronicling and often directing the course of progress in providing Open Access to Universities' Peer-Reviewed Research Articles since its inception in the US in 1998 by the American Scientist, published by the Sigma Xi Society.
The Forum is largely for policy-makers at universities, research institutions and research funding agencies worldwide who are interested in institutional Open Acess Provision policy. (It is not a general discussion group for serials, pricing or publishing issues: it is specifically focussed on institutional Open Acess policy.)
You can sign on to the Forum here.