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

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Thu Jul 29 17:33:05 EST 2004

On Wed, 28 Jul 2004, David Goodman wrote:

> It is unexpected to be told that "The mark is Open Access (OA). How we get
> to that mark is of primary importance..."

Whether we take a road that will actually get us to that mark is of
primary importance (and before the universe expires of heat death).

OA Self-Archiving (the green road) will get us there, OA
Journal-Publishing alone (the golden road) will not.

And it was OA self-Archiving (green) that the UK and US Committees
recommended mandating, not OA Publishing (gold).

> The following discussion then explains that, if the press, or the
> government, or other OA workers, or other scientists, suggest any method
> of getting there other than his own, they must be confused or mistaken.

No, my point was not at all about what *I* think ought to be done, but
about what the UK and US Committees actually recommended mandating. It was
about reporting what they actually recommended. Almost every press report
I have read to date has been mistaken or confused about those *facts*.

> Indeed,the statement concludes: "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."

Because that is precisely what the two Committees said! Instead the press
keeps going on and on only about OA publishing (gold).

> I take this to mean that the author of the these statements is not in fact
> interested in OA, but only in OA done his way, If, for example, a
> government were prepared to fund OA journals instead, he would not
> approve. If existing journals were to find that they could do better as OA
> journals, he would not approve. If scientists became convinced to start
> self-archiving without a mandate, he would not approve.

Insofar as this particular critique of the press coverage of the UK
and US Committee outcome was concerned, if X was the Committee outcome,
and the journalists reported that X was the Committee outcome, I could
hardly complain about that (though I could certainly express disagreement
with X -- and would, if I had evidence or reasons indicating that X was
the wrong outcome).

But the outcome was (primarily) Y (green), yet the press kept going on
and on about X (gold).

One of the UK secondary recommendations (i.e., not what they recommended
mandating), by the way, *was* to fund OA journals (gold) -- but that wasn't
instead of mandating self-archiving, their primary recommendation (green); it
was in addition, which got the priorities exactly right.

If all 24,000 journals in which all 2.5 million articles are published
annually were suddenly to decide to convert to gold (OA publishing), of
course I would be delighted! But that is about as likely as Microsoft
suddenly deciding to go OS. Besides, we are not here to contemplate
counterfactual conditionals. And the press is here to report what actually
happened, not just to echo the ambient background chatter and fantasies
that were already filling the air.

Of course I would also be delighted if the authors of the 2.5 million
annual articles suddenly decided to self-archive them all without a
mandate -- in fact, I have considered that the optimal and inevitable
strategy for a decade now. But 10 years of evidence have since suggested
that although it might not take till the heat death of the universe,
that voluntary road of rational self-interest is proving far too slow.

So it was wise of the UK and US to recommend mandating it instead, just
as publishing itself is already mandated ("publish or perish"). Now we
just need to implement that mandate. But first the press has to report
what it is that has actually been mandated, and why!

> I accept anything workable. Even "mandated self-archiving." "But first get
> the facts straight."  -- Stevan Harnad

Correct, David. And your point is?

Stevan Harnad

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