The UK report, press coverage, and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Tue Jul 27 08:41:28 EST 2004

On Tue, 27 Jul 2004, Jan Velterop wrote:

>     Stevan Harnad wrote: The press just keeps on missing the mark!
> The mark is Open Access... The press is not missing that mark...
> Which tactical or strategic method is being used to get to Open Access
> is perhaps a secondary mark, not of interest to the press. 

The mark is Open Access (OA). How we get to that mark is of primary
importance, whether or not of secondary interest to the press. When the
press misses or misrepresents the historically important recommendations
of the recent UK (and US) Committees, they miss and misrepresent how and
why it is recommended that we get where. To miss that is to miss the mark,
primary, secondary, or otherwise.

To be more specific: When the specific recommendation of both UK and US
Committees is to mandate OA self-archiving of authors' published journal
articles, it is a misrepresentation to call that a recommendation to
publish in OA journals, or a recommendation for OA publishing.

The correct summary of the UK recommendations is this:

    (UK-1) Mandate author-institution OA self-archiving of all UK-funded
    research output (and fund and support the practise, as needed)

    (UK-2) Fund author-institution costs of publishing in OA journals

    (UK-3) Fund and support further experimentation with the OA journal
    publishing cost-recovery model

The correct summary of the US recommendation is this:

    (US-1) Mandate author OA self-archiving of all NIH-funded research

The reason it matters what the press reports is that press reports
influence what the public learns and understands and does about OA. The
public includes the tax-payers who are meant to be behind this mandate
and, even more important, the university administrators and grant-funding
officers who are meant to implement it, and, more important still,
the researchers who are meant to comply with it.

Dwelling instead -- irrelevantly and misleadingly -- on what the reports
did *not* recommend mandating -- namely OA publishing -- not only
fails to convey what they actually did recommend, but it propagates and
prolongs the prevailing and persisting misunderstanding about OA and
how to reach it that has so long delayed OA itself.

OA is the target, and that target will not be reached by waiting for OA
publishing (gold). It will be reached, immediately, by OA self-archiving
(green), which is what both reports recommended mandating. Implementing
that mandate depends on authors, their universities, and their funders,
not on publishers or publishing.

If journal publishers are to be pressured to do anything at all,
it is to go green, not gold -- i.e., to give their official
green light to author-institution self-archiving, as they have
already done for 84% of their journals:
Mandated self-archiving will help raise that green percentage to 100%:

> The target is Open Access, whichever arrows we use, even if the press is
> confused about the colour of the arrows' vanes. What's important is that
> they do not lose sight of the target. 

It's not about color confusion, it's about concept-confusion,
strategy-confusion, target-confusion -- and the failure to convey
the essence of both recommendations. OA is the end, and mandated
self-archiving is the means. That's what needs to be understood by
journalists, and that is the understanding that needs to be conveyed to
their readers. *Then* the opinions can be solicited, and that chat-show
panorama so favoured by today's journalists and readers can be duly

But first get the facts straight.

Stevan Harnad

> Stevan Harnad wrote:
> > The press just keeps on missing the mark!
> > 
> > "American and British Lawmakers Endorse Open-Access Publishing" 
> > Andrea Foster and Lila Guterman 
> > Chronicle of Higher Education, July 30, 2004
> >
> > 
> > > "In a double coup for the open-access movement this month,
> > > committees of the U.S. Congress and British Parliament recommended
> > > that papers resulting from government-financed research be made
> > > available free. The committees recommended that the U.S. and British
> > > governments require researchers to deposit in free, online archives
> > > any articles that arise from research sponsored, respectively,
> > > by the National Institutes of Health and any British agency. 
> > 
> > So far, so good. That part was correct. But then:
> > 
> > >    The British committee further recommended that journal publishers
> > >    adopt an open-access model in which authors would pay to publish
> > >    and subscription fees would be eliminated. Both governments are
> > >    expected to act on the committees' recommendations this year."
> > 
> > No, the British committee did not recommend that; on the contrary, they
> > explicitly refrained from recommending it and recommended only further
> > experimentation with it, along with funding to help pay
> > author-institutions costs for OA Publishing.
> > 
> >
> ctech/399/39903.htm
> Nor is the title of the story correct:
> "American and British Lawmakers Endorse Open-Access Publishing"
> "Endorsement" is ambiguous. What, if anything, both the Americans and the
> British endorsed was Open Access (OA), not OA Publishing. They recommended
> mandating OA *Provision* through author/institution self-archiving of
> published articles (the "green" road to OA), not OA Publishing (the golden
> road to OA).
> Stevan Harnad

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