Sunday, January 31. 2010
SANDY THATCHER: "it's the peer review that is the most expensive part of the whole process, and arXiv is not in the business of peer reviewing."What Sandy Thatcher said is perfectly correct:DAVID PROSSER:: "Is that true, Sandy? Can we have a reference please? Tenopir and King back in 2004 suggested that 'manuscript receipt processing, disposition decision-making, identifying reviewers or referees and review processing' constituted 26% of the direct costs of producing an article (which they estimated at $1700 on average). Of course, costs may have shifted in the years since then. Which is why a reference would be welcome."
(1) The cost of providing peer review (c. $500 per article -- though more efficient online procedures could lower that) is indeed the most expensive part of the process of providing a peer-reviewed article for free (OA) by depositing it in a central repository like Arxiv (or in the author's own Institutional Repository, IR).
(2) And Arxiv does not provide the peer review. (Nor does any other repository.)
(3) Low as it is, $7 per article just for deposit and archiving is probably an overestimate, because Arxiv needs to do far too much work to process and store all the world's institutions' physics deposits centrally: It would cost even less per article for an Institutional Repository (IR) that archives only its own annual research output (and knows all its own researchers, hence need not do the extra generic precautionary controls). (Be careful not to jig the estimate by factoring in the costs of online infrastructure that the institution already has, regardless of whether it has an IR: just the one-time IR set-up cost, the extra server and disk-space, etc., plus the cost per deposit and annual maintenance of the IR only.)
It would be useful to have IRs' estimates of their annual cost per article deposited -- but only from mature mandated IRs that are already well on the way to capturing 100% of their annual institutional output of refereed journal articles. (Obviously the IR price per article will be somewhat higher for IRs that are still only capturing only 15% or less of their annual refereed research output, as most IRs today still are, because they have not yet mandated deposit.)
Another useful comparison would be the cost -- in money and time -- of doing the unnecessary IR "quality controls" and preprocessing that many IRs think, superstitiously and superfluously, that they need to do. (In this case, estimates from all the immature, near-empty IRs are relevant too.)
At Southampton ECS, the first mandated IR of all (since 2002), we realized within the first year of the mandate that the "quality control" (for the content and metadata of the deposit) was based on a completely unnecessary and dysfunctional misanalogy with library collections and cataloguing, that all it did was create needless work and backlogs for the "quality-controllers" and needless resistance and counterproductive resentment from depositing authors who, having taken the trouble to deposit their refereed final drafts, as mandated, were then denied the immediate satisfaction of seeing their deposits go immediately online and start getting downloaded: instead, they had to go into a quality-control queue, sometimes for days or weeks, as the volume of mandated deposits to "process" grew. We quickly jettisoned the gratuitous process and have seen the IR's deposits growing happily ever since.
Leave any "quality control" for your institutional authors' peer-reviewed final drafts in the background. If something is wrong, users will let the author know; if users don't squawk (or there are no users!), the slip-up probably isn't even worth correcting. Focus on solving the real problem, which is not "quality control" but capturing the IR's target content: the institution's full annual output of refereed research.
And remember that -- whilst journals still exist and subscriptions are still paying for their quality control -- your IR is not hosting the all-important version-of-record, but merely an OA supplement.
A word to the wise...
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Saturday, January 30. 2010
Colin G. Scanes Editor-in-Chief Poultry Science (Poultry Science Association) wrote:-- There are also the interests of research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public that supports the research and for whose benefit it is conducted and published. That interest is in making the research accessible, immediately upon acceptance for publication, to all would-be users, not just those whose institutions can afford subscription access.
Hitchcock, S. (2010) The effect of open access and downloads ('hits') on citation impact: a bibliography of studies
1. Who is to pay the very real costs of producing journals with this move to open access? Should it be the researcher, and, if so, where is the additional funding to come from? Is it realistic to consider that journals should absorb the costs-- Open Access means free online access to published journal articles, not necessarily Open Access publishing. Authors can provide Open Access to their conventionally published articles by self-archiving their final refereed drafts free for all online.
2. At what point do libraries cease to purchase subscriptions for journals if their contents are available by open access?-- No one knows whether and when libraries will cancel journals. Till they do, institutional subscriptions pay the cost of peer review and authors make their final drafts free for all online. If and when journal cancellations make subscriptions unsustainable because users prefer to use the free online drafts, journals will cut costs and downsize to providing peer review alone, paid for, per article, by authors' institutions, out of their windfall subscription cancellation savings.
Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age, pp. 99-105, L'Harmattan.
3. If library subscriptions to journals are an essential part of the business plan of a journal or a professional society, how many journals will disappear if we go to a completely open access approach?-- No journals will disappear as a result of Open Access. Open Access is provided by author self-archiving (now being increasingly mandated by their institutions and funders) and if and when subscriptions fail, journals will downsize to peer-review service provision alone, paid for on the open access publishing service-fee model.
4. As a journal editor with, at present, a positive cash flow, we can and do waive page charges from papers from institutions in developing countries that cannot afford to pay these. We will not be able to continue this if there is a major reduction in revenue. Forcing journals to adopt an author-pays model would have a stifling effect on the publication of work from authors in developing countries.-- No need to change anything (except to make sure the journal endorses rather than obstructs author self-archiving). Universal self-archiving and self-archiving mandates will provide universal Open Access, and the rest depends on how long subscriptions remain sustainable, and on whether and when the downsizing and transition to the Open Access cost-recovery model occurs.
5. What is a reasonable embargo period between publication and the paper being available by free open access?-- What is optimal for research -- and for researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public that supports the research and for whose benefit it is conducted and published -- is no embargo at all. What is helpful from publishers is if they endorse Open Access self-archiving by authors. The rest will all come as a natural matter of course either way (i.e., with or without publisher endorsement), as a result of Open Access mandates by institutions and funders. The Green publishers will simply have the historic satisfaction of having been on the side of the angels all along.
Poultry Science's self-archiving policy is not in Romeo and does not appear to be among the 63% of journals that endorse immediate Open Access self-archiving by its authors. It would be helpful if this were remedied:
Poultry Science Copyright Release: Copyright laws make it necessary for the Association to obtain a release from authors for all materials published. To this end we ask you to grant us all rights, including subsidiary rights, for your article. You will hereby be relinquishing to the Poultry Science Association all control over this material such as rights to make or authorize reprints, to reproduce the material in other Association publications, and to grant the material to others without charge in any book of which you are the author or editor after it has appeared in the journal.
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Nat Gustafson-Sundell wrote:
NGS: "I don't expect local repositories to ever offer quality control."Of course not. They are merely offering a locus for authors to provide free access to their preprint drafts before submitting them to journals for peer review, and to their final drafts (postprints) after they have been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication by a journal.
Individual institutions cannot peer-review their own research output (that would be in-house vanity-publishing).
And global repositories like arxiv or pubmedcentral or citeseerx or google scholar cannot assume the peer-review functions of the thousands and thousands of journals that are actually doing the peer- review today. That would add billions to their costs (making each into one monstrous (generic?) megajournal: near impossible, practically, if it weren't also totally unnecessary -- and irrelevant to OA and its costs).
NGS: "Also, users have said again and again that they prefer discovery by subject, which will be possible for semantic docs in local repositories or better indexes (probably built through better collaborations), but not now."Search should of course be central and subject-tagged, over a harvested central collection from the distributed local IRs, not local, IR by IR.
(My point was that central deposit is no longer necessary nor desirable, either for content-provision or for search. The optimal system is institutional deposit (mandated by institutions as well as funders) and then central harvesting for search.
NGS: "I agree that it would be great if local repositories were more used, and eventually, the systems will be in place to make it possible, but every study I've seen still shows local repository use to remain disappointingly low, although some universities are doing better than others.""Use" is ambiguous, as it can refer both to author use (for deposit) and user use (for search and retrieval). We agree that the latter makes no sense: users search at the harvester level, not the IR level.
But for the former (low author "use," i.e., low levels of deposit), the solution is already known: Unmandated IRs (i.e., most of the existing c. 1500 IRs) are near empty (of OA's target content, which is preprints and postprints of peer-reviewed journal articles) whereas mandated IRs (c. 150, i.e.m 1%!) are capturing (or on the way to capturing) their full annual postprint output.
So the solution is mandates. And the locus of deposit for both institutional and funder mandates should be institutional, not central, so the two kinds of mandates converge rather than compete (requiring multiple deposit of the same paper).
For the special case of arxiv, with its long history of unmandated deposit, a university's IR could import its own remote arxiv deposits (or export its local deposits to arxiv) with software like SWORD, but eventually it is clear that institution-external deposit makes no sense:
Institutions are the universal providers of all peer-reviewed research, funded and unfunded, across all fields. One-stop/one-step local deposit (followed by automatic import. export. and harvesting to/ from whatever central services are needed) is the only sensible, scaleable and sustainable system, and also the one that is most conducive to the growth of universal OA deposit mandates from institutions, reinforced by funder mandates likewise requiring institutional deposit, rather than discouraged by gratuitously requiring institution-external deposit.
NGS: "Inter-institutional repositories by subject area (however broadly defined) simply work better, such as arXiv or even the Princeton-Stanford repository for working papers in the classics.""Work better" for what? Deposit or search? You are conflating the locus of search (which should, of course, be cross-institutional) with the locus of deposit, which should be institutional, in order to accelerate institutional deposit mandates and in order to prevent discouraging adoption and compliance because of the prospect of having to deposit the same paper in more than one place.
(Yes, automatic import/export/harvesting software is indifferent to whether it is transferring from local IRs to central CRs or from central CRs to local IRs, but the logistics and pragmatics of deposit and deposit mandates -- since the institution is always the source of the content -- make it obvious that one-time deposit institutionally fits all output, systematically and tractably, whereas willy-nilly IR/CR deposit, depending on fields' prior deposit habits or funder preferences is a recipe for many more years of the confusion, inaction, absence of mandates, and near-absence of OA content that we have now.)
NGS: "Currently, universities are paying external middlemen an outsized fee for validation and packaging services. These services can and should be brought "in-house" (at least as an ideal/ goal to develop toward whenever the opportunities can be seized) except in cases where prices align with value, which occurs still with some society and commercial publications."I completely agree that along with hosting their own peer-reviewed research output, and mandating its deposit in their own IRs, institutions can also use their IRs (along with specially developed software for this purpose) to showcase, manage, monitor, and measure their own research output. That is what OA metrics (local and global) will make possible.
But not till the problem of getting the content into OA IRs is solved. And the solution is institutional and funder mandates -- for institutional (not institution-external) deposit.
NGS: "To the extent that an arXiv or the inter-institutional repository for humanities research which will be showing up in 3-7 years moves toward offering these services, they are clearly preferable to old fashioned subscription models (since the financial support is for actual services) and current local repositories which do not offer everything needed in the value chain (as listed in Van de Sompel et al. 2004)."(1) The reason 99% of IRs offer no value is that 99% of IRs are at least 85% empty. Only the 1% that are mandated are providing the full institutional OA content -- funded and unfunded, across all disciplines -- that all this depends on.
(2) The central collections, as noted, are indispensable for the services they provide, but that does not include locus of deposit and hosting: There, central deposit is counterproductive, a disservice.
(3) With local hosting of all their research output, plus central harvesting services, institutions can get all they need by way of search and metrics, partly through local statistics, partly from central ones.
NGS: " I remember when I first read an article quoting a researcher in an arXiv covered field who essentially said that journals in his field were just for vanity and advancement, since all the "action" was in arXiv (Ober et al. 2007 quoting Manuel 2001 quoting McGinty 1999) -- now think about the value of a repository that doesn't just store content and offer access."This familiar slogan, often voiced by longstanding arxiv users, that "Journals are obsolete: They're only for tenure committees. We [researchers] only use the arxiv" is as false, empirically, as it is incoherent, logically: It is just another instance of the "Simon Says" phenomenon: (Pay attention to what Simon actually does, not to what he says.)
Although it is perfectly true that most arxiv users don't bother to consult journals any more -- using the OA version in arxiv only, and referring to the journal's canonical version-of-record only in citing -- it is equally (and far more relevantly) true that they all continue to submit all those papers to peer-reviewed journals, and to revise them according to the feedback from the referees, until they are accepted and published.
That is precisely the same thing that all other researchers are doing, including the vast majority that do not self-archive their peer-reviewed postprints (or, even more rarely, their unrefereed preprints) at all.
So journals are not just for vanity and advancement; they are for peer review. And arxiv users are just as dependent on that as all other researchers. (No one has ever done the experiment of trying to base all research usage on nothing but unrefereed preprints and spontaneous user feedback.)
So the only thing that is true in what "Simon says" is that when all papers are available, OA, as peer-reviewed final drafts (and sometimes also supplemented earlier by the prerefereeing drafts) there is no longer any need for users or authors to consult the journal's proprietary version of record. (They can just cite it, sight unseen.)
But what follows from that is that journals will eventually have to scale down to becoming just peer-review service-providers and certifiers (rather than continuing also to be access-providers or document producers, either on-paper or online).
Nothing follows from that about the value of repositories, except that they are useless if they do not contain the target content (at least after peer review, and, where possible and desired by authors, also before peer review).
Harnad, S. (1998/2000/2004) The invisible hand of peer review. Nature [online] (5 Nov. 1998), Exploit Interactive 5 (2000): and in Shatz, B. (2004) (ed.) Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry. Rowland & Littlefield. Pp. 235-242.
NGS: "Do I think the financial backing will remain in place? It depends on the services actually offered and to what extent subject repositories could replace a patchwork system of single titles offered by a patchwork of publishers."At the moment the issue is whether arxiv, such as it is (a central locus for institution-external deposit of institutional research content in some fields, mostly physics, plus a search and alerting service), can be sustained by voluntary sub-sidy/scription -- not whether, if arxiv also somehow "took over" the function of journals (peer review), that too could be paid for by voluntary sub-sidy/ scription...
NGS: "Universities could save a great deal by refusing to pay the same overhead over and over again to maintain complete collections in single subject areas (not to mention paying for other people's profits)."I can't quite follow this: You mean universities can cancel journal subscriptions? How do those universities' users then get access to those cancelled journals' contents, unless they are all being systematically made OA? Apart from those areas of physics where it has already been happening since 1991, that isn't going to happen in most other fields till OA is mandated by the universal providers of that content, the universities (reinforced by mandates from their funders).
Then (but only then) can universities cancel their journal subscriptions and use (part of) their windfall saving to pay (journals!) for the peer-review of their own research output, article by article (instead of buying in other universities' output, journal by journal).
NGS: "More importantly, more could be done to make articles useful and discoverable in a collaborative environment, from metadata to preservation, so that the value chain is extended and improved (my sci-fi includes semantic docs, not just cataloged texts, and improved, or multi-stage, peer review, or peer review on top of a working papers repository)."All fine, and desirable -- but not until all the OA content is being provided, and (outside of physics), it isn't being provided -- except when mandated...
So let's not build castles in Spain before we have their contents safely in hand.
NGS: "I think there's been plenty of 'chatter' to indicate that the basic assumptions in conversations between universities are changing (see recent conference agendas), so that we can expect to see more and more practical plans to collaborate on metadata, preservation, and , yes, publications."I'll believe the "chatter" when it has been cashed into action (deposit mandates). Till then it's just distraction and time-wasting.
NGS: "My head spins to think of the amount of money to be saved on the development of more shared platforms, although, the money will only be saved if other expenditures are slowly turned off."All this talk about money, while the target content -- which could be provided at no cost -- is still not being provided (or mandated)...
NGS: "Sandy mentioned in another post that she [he] would hope for arXiv like support for university monographs..."Monographs (not even a clearcut case, like peer-reviewed articles, which are all, already, author give-aways, written only for usage and impact) are moot, while not even peer-reviewed articles are being deposited, or mandated...
NGS: "Open access and NFP publications which do offer the full value chain have been proven to have much lower production costs per page than FP publishers and they do not suffer any impact disadvantages -- and these are still operated on a largely stand-alone basis, without the advantages that can be gained by sharing overhead."Cash castles in Spain again, while the free content is not yet being provided or mandated...
NGS: "Maybe local repositories really are the way to go, since then each institution has more control over its own contribution, but the collaboration and the support will still need to occur to support discovery (implying metadata, both in production and development of standards and tools) and preservation."No, search and preservation are not the problem: content is.
NGS: "I suppose another problem with local repositories, however, is that a consensus is far less likely to unite around local repositories as a practical option at this juncture -- the case can't just be made with words, you need the numbers and arXiv has them -- and while I am interested to see strong local repositories emerge, there is greater sense in supporting what can be achieved, since we need more steps in the right direction.""The numbers" say the following:
Physicists have been depositing their preprints and postprints spontaneously (unmandated) in arxiv since 1991, but in the ensuing 20 years this commendable practice has not been taken up by other disciplines. The numbers, in other words, are static, and stagnant. The only cases in which they have grown are those where deposit was mandated (by institutions and funders).
And for that, it no longer makes sense (indeed it goes contrary to sense) to deposit them institutional-externally, instead of mandating institutional deposit and then harvesting centrally.
And the virtue of that is that it distributes the costs of managing deposits sustainably, by offloading them onto each institution, for its own output, instead of depending on voluntary institutional sub-sidy/scription for obsolete and unnecessary central deposit.
(See also the "denominator fallacy," which arises when you compare the size of size of central repositories with the size of institutional repositories: The world's 25,000 peer-reviewed journals publish about 2.5 million articles annually, across all fields. A repository's success rate is the proportion of its annual target contents that are being deposited annually. For an institution, the denominator is its own total annual peer-reviewed journal article output across all fields. For a central repository, it is the total annual article output -- in the field(s) it covers -- from all the institutions in the world. Of course the central repository's numerator is greater than any single institutional repository's numerator. But its denominator is far greater still. Arxiv has famously been doing extremely well for certain areas of physics, unmandated, for two decades. But in other areas arxiv is not not doing so well, relative to the field's true denominator; and most other central repositories are likewise not doing well, In fact, it is pretty certain that -- apart from physics, with its 2-decade tradition of deposit, plus a few other fields such as economics (preprints) and computer science -- unmandated central repositories are doing exactly as badly unmandated institutional repositories are doing, namely, about 15%.)
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Please register your own university's mandate in ROARMAP too, to track progress and to encourage other universities to adopt mandates of their own.
Congratulations to MIT for this extremely helpful streamlining of the deposit process:
"MIT Libraries began to investigate how SWORD and SWAP could facilitate external contributions by publishers... Entering long and complex information about articles is avoided with the MIT Libraries’ customized submission interface. Only two pieces of metadata are required for already published papers: the name of the authorizing MIT author and a DOI or URL. If the paper is unpublished, four fields are requested."Although entering metadata is not really that complicated and time-consuming at all, we know it is difficult to persuade those who have never deposited a paper in an institutional repository of this fact.
So reducing deposit to just entering a name and URL would be a huge step forward in facilitating mandate compliance -- and of course also in encouraging unmandated deposit.
I hope we will implement this quickly for EPrints repositories too.
I am, however, far less sanguine about the second -- publisher-deposit -- option, especially for mandated deposit:
'the use of SWORD and SWAP with the DSpace repository at MIT is part of a larger strategy to improve collaboration with publishers, facilitating a “push” of large amounts of content into a repository without necessitating a platform-specific solution. Ultimately this “publisher template” could be used with other repository platforms such as Fedora and EPrints. Richard Rodgers, Head of Software Development at MIT Libraries, says, “If we do this right there will be no code to share. SWORD and SWAP are already open and accessible. We have localized their use to accommodate MIT-specific metadata.”It might be alright to quietly provide a way for publishers to facilitate IR deposit, but it would be a huge strategic error to give them an active or essential hand in it.
All the power of self-archiving (and of self-archiving mandates from institutions and funders) comes from the fact that it is the author and the author's institution (and funder) that does it, mandates it, and monitors compliance.
Self-archiving -- its doing and its timing -- is all in the research community's own hands. Publisher deposit is not.
The little extra content that publisher-deposit or publisher-facilitated deposit might add does not counterbalance the additional author confusion, deposit delay, diffusion of responsibility and difficulty in compliance-monitoring that it is likely to introduce into institutional mandates, as it has already done with those funder mandates that allow fundees to offload their mandate fulfillment obligations onto publishers. The problem is especially with specifying and monitoring the fulfillment conditions for deposit mandate compliance. (We always have to remember that publishers are neither employees nor fundees, and hence they are not the ones subject to the deposit mandates).
(What kind of mandate is it if it says "You must deposit -- unless your publisher does it for you..." How is it even to be monitored whether and when the mandate has been complied with?)
So if repositories implement some sort of back door for publisher-facilitated deposit, it is important to keep a low profile on it and to stress that on no account should it be stipulated or relied on as one of the ways to fulfill a deposit mandate: Complying with the mandate must be entirely the responsibility of the author, and the monitoring and verification of compliance must be based entirely on steps taken by the author, not steps the authors leave to a publisher to (possibly) take (sometime) on their behalf...
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Tuesday, January 26. 2010
Professor Steven Hyman, Provost of Harvard, the first US University to mandate Open Access, has submitted such a spot-on, point for point response to President Obama’s Request for Information on Public Access Policy that if his words are heeded, the beneficiaries will not only be US research progress and the US tax-paying public, by whom US research is funded and for whose benefit it is conducted, but research progress and its public benefits planet-wide, as US policy is globally reciprocated.
Reproduced below are just a few of the highlights of Professor Hyman’s response. Every one of the highlights has a special salience, and attests to the minute attention and keen insight into the subtle details of Open Access that went into the preparation of this invaluable set of recommendations.
[Hash-marks (#) indicate three extremely minor points on which the response could be ever so slightly clarified -- see end.]
“The public access policy should (1) be mandatory, not voluntary, (2) use the shortest practical embargo period, no longer than six months, (3) apply to the final version of the author’s peer-reviewed manuscript, as opposed to the published version, unless the publisher consents to provide public access to the published version, (4) [# require deposit of the manuscript in a suitable open repository #] immediately upon acceptance for publication, where it would remain “dark” until the embargo period expired, and (5) avoid copyright problems by [## requiring federal grantees, when publishing articles based on federally funded research, to retain the right to give the relevant agency a non-exclusive license to distribute a public-access copy of his or her peer-reviewed manuscript ##]…
Three suggestions for clarifying the minor points indicated by the hash-marks (#):
[#”require deposit of the manuscript in a suitable open repository” #](add: “preferably the fundee’s own institutional repository”)
[##”requiring federal grantees, when publishing articles based on federally funded research, to retain the right to give the relevant agency a non-exclusive license to distribute a public-access copy of his or her peer-reviewed manuscript” ##](add: “the rights retention and license are desirable and welcome, but not necessary if the publisher already endorses making the deposit publicly accessible immediately, or after the allowable embargo period”)
[### "we will never have an adequate control group [for measuring the mandate's success]: a set of articles on similar topics, of similar quality, for which there is no public access" ###](add: “but closed-access articles published in the same journal and year as mandatorily open-access articles do provide an approximate matched control baseline for comparison”)
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Saturday, January 23. 2010
Cornell University Library has proposed a "Collaborative Business Model" for funding the worldwide Physics ArXiv that it hosts (see white paper).
"arXiv will remain free for readers and submitters, but the Library has established a voluntary, collaborative business model to engage institutions that benefit most from arXiv."Here's an alternative to this voluntary institutional sub-sidy/scription model whose sustainablity -- through all economic times, tough and tender -- is less founded on blind faith:
Institutions have many self-interested reasons for wanting to host, archive, manage, monitor, measure and showcase their own research article outputs. The annual scale of their own local article output is also manageable and sustainable at the institutional level, within each institution's existing infrastructure:
Carr, L. The Value that Repositories AddHence what will happen is that instead of trying to sustain a central repository like Arxiv -- most of whose costliness derives from the fact that it is a single direct locus of deposit and archiving from all institutions, worldwide -- direct deposit and hosting (and its costs) will instead be offloaded and distributed across the network of institutional repositories, with Arxiv becoming merely another central harvester, providing global search services (sustainable if it provides functionality that can compete with other OAI services or Google Scholar).
But voluntary sub-sidy/scription will no doubt sustain things for a while. (Things do seem to catch on rather slowly in this domain...)
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Friday, January 22. 2010
Sixteen new Green Open Access Thesis Deposit Mandates adopted by Italian Universities have just been registered in ROARMAP:
Felicitazioni alle sedici!
Please register your own university's mandate too, to track progress and to encourage other institutions to adopt mandates of their own.
Thursday, January 21. 2010
Matthew Cockerill [MC] (BioMedCentral) wrote:
MC: "Agreement on terminology can really only ever be pragmatic"Agreed.
MC: "Many of us use "open access" to mean what Stevan refers to as 'libre open access', and have distinguished this from "free access" which Stevan refers to as 'Gratis open access'."This is alas all true too.
It is also true that "many of us" (not me!) use "open access" to mean "gold open access" (publishing) only.
And the progress of open access is likewise much the worse off -- pragmatically-- because of this other widespread conflation (sometimes willful, mostly just ignorant) too.
It is also true that what Stevan (and Peter, let's not forget) -- co-coiners of the original (nonbinding, nonlegal) BOAI definition of "open access" -- refer to as "libre open access" was coined specifically to distinguish it from "gratis open access," which means free online access (whereas libre OA means free online access plus some re-use rights, not all yet specified).
But from the very outset, there has been some (understandable) motivation on the part of gold open access publishers to co-opt the term "open access" to fit their product, and only their product. See the long, sad, "Free Access vs. Open Access" debate, started by BioMedCental's first editorial "Free Access is not Open Access" in "Open Access Now" on 28 July 2003).
What is one to say, except that some of it sounds a lot like a battle over a trademark -- which you need, if you are conducting a trade...
But not just a battle over trademark. Also ideology vs. pragmatics. (I don't, by the way, think Matt's motivation, in particular, is primarily commercial: I am certain that he believes, very sincerely, in (libre) OA.)
My own motivation is exclusively to get all of the refereed literature freely accessible online, at long last, as soon as possible (it's already more than a decade and a half overdue), in whatever way works, is within reach, works surely, and works fast.
Hence the only thing at stake for me when it comes to the trademark "OA" is the fate of free online access itself, which will certainly come much later if -- now that the term "OA" and the "OA Movement" are launched in public consciousness -- it is now declared, for either commercial or ideological reasons, that OA mandates are no longer OA mandates but "FA" mandates, the OA impact advantage is no longer the OA advantage but the FA advantage, and those who have been fighting for OA since long before it got a name have not, in fact, been fighting for OA but "FA." Moreover, it means that precious little of the (already precious little) OA we have to date (about 15% green plus about 15% gold) is in reality OA at all: It's just "FA."
I find all this doubly foolish, not only because (1) gratis OA (free online access) is a necessary condition, though not a sufficient condition, for libre OA (free online access plus some re-use rights, not all yet specified) and will (as is evident to anyone who gives it a few minutes of serious thought) almost certainly lead to libre OA soon after it becomes universal (if and when we do what we need to do to make gratis OA universal) but also because (2) over-reaching and insisting on libre OA first, and deprecating gratis OA as not really being OA at all, merely FA, is merely serving to delay the onset of libre OA too (just as insisting that only Gold OA publishing is OA is delaying the era of Gold OA publishing).
So, yes, as Matt says, use of the terminology is just a matter of pragmatics, but not linguistic pragmatics: strategic pragmatics. And needlessly, counterproductively over-reaching for libre OA (or Gold OA) now, when Green gratis OA is fully within our grasp is just about as unpragmatic and short-sighted as one can possibly be, in the short (but already far too long) history of OA. And the attempt to co-opt the term exclusively is simply making the "best" the enemy of the better.
(I can already sense that there are those who are straining to chime in that their insistence on libre OA, too, is driven neither by commercial considerations nor ideology but pragmatics: they need the re-use rights, now, and their research progress is hurting for the lack of them. Let me suggest that if you look more closely at this "pragmatic" case for libre OA it almost always turns out to be about open data, not OA (which is about journal articles). Yet those who are in a hurry for open data are apparently happy to conflate their case with OA's, even if it's at the expense of again gratuitously handicapping our reach -- for the green gratis OA to journal articles that is within our grasp -- with the independent extra burden of data re-use rights. And what is invariably forgotten in all this special-case over-reaching is the completely correctable general case that has been staring us in the face, uncorrected, lo these 15+ years, which is that every day countless would-be users are being denied access and usage for the 85% of journal articles that are accessible only to those with subscription access. That is the paramount problem that the online era has empowered us to solve, and instead we are fussing about extra perks that will surely come soon after we solve it, but not if we continue to make those extra perks a precondition for a solution -- or even for naming the problem!)
MC: "I believe the reason that many, including BioMed Central, reserve the term open access for the 'libre' sense is not simply the historical precedent of BOAI and Bethesda, but also the wider related usage of the term open (as in open source, open courseware, open wetware, open government). In all cases, these imply the availability, reusability and redistributability of the material, not the fact that it doesn't cost anything."And in all cases, as soon as one takes the trouble of looking closely at the apparent similarities, the profound differences reveal that this conflation of senses is specious and superficial: article texts are not program code that needs to be re-used and re-written; article texts are to be read and then the ideas and findings in them are to be re-used in new research and writings. Same for the disanalogy with open data, which of course includes "open wetware." Inasmuch as open courseware is just text, free online access for all is all that's needed. (Put the URL in the coursepack instead of the text.) Inasmuch as courseware is programs, it's the same disanalogy between text code and software code. Ditto for "open multimedia" and rip/remix/mashup: not for scholarly/scientific text -- though fine for the scholarly/scientific ideas and findings described in the text (modulo plagiarism). And "open government" is about combatting secrecy, which is moot for published scientific research (whether or not access carries a price tag).
In other words, I don't know about Peter, but it's certainly true that for my own part it was not because of all of these superficial and in the end specious commonalities supposedly shared by this panoply of "open" X's that I favored the term "open access" as the descriptor for what the online era had made possible for refereed scholarly/scientific journal articles.
On the contrary. If I had known in 2002 what confusion and conflation it would make "OA" heir to, I would have avoided the term "open" like the plague. (There was one commonality, though, that both Peter and I did intentionally try to capitalize on in our choice of that term: the "open" in the "open archives initiative" protocol for metadata harvesting. That harks back to an even earlier decision point, this time in an email exchange with Herb van de Sompel in 1999 about what how to rename the "Universal Preprint Service" and its "Santa Fe Convention," which had been the original names for the OAI and OAI protocol. It was Herb who opted for "open" rather than "free" (which I seem to recall that I preferred), so OAI became OAI, and OA/BOAI followed soon afterward (though OAI's "archive" was soon jettisoned -- again for no good reason whatsoever, just arbitrariness and pedantry -- in favor of"repository"... Lexicalization is notoriously capricious, and unintended metaphors and other affinities can come back to haunt you...)
MC: "On which basis, one might refer to Gratis open access, as being 'non-open open access'. Which is why it seems to me a problematic form of terminology, however well-intentioned."On the contrary, Matt. You are being so seduced by your incoming biases here that you don't realize that you are making them into self-fulfilling prophecies: Gratis OA is only "non-OA OA" to those who wish to argue that free online access is not open access!
Let me close with an abstract of the keynote I will be giving at the e-Democracy Conference in Austria in May.
In that talk I also will be discussing the commonalities and differences among the various "open" movements, but note only that "The problem [of Green Gratis OA] is not particularly an instance of "eDemocracy" one way or the other...":
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Tuesday, January 19. 2010
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