[Journal-notes] Re: Green Party Green on Gold but not on Green

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Sun Sep 11 06:38:57 EST 2005


Most of Jean-Claude Guedon's last posting consisted of long and
interesting (but irrelevant) reflections on the sociology and philosophy
of science (no science is involved or at issue here) along with some
hermeneutics on the long, rambling (and mostly irrelevant) full-texts
that accompanied the the three short and almost-identical versions
(UK Select Committee, Berlin 3, RCUK) of the two very specific OA policy
recommendations, each of which, despite J-CG's strained hermeneutics,
still state, simply and concretely: 

    (1) mandate OA self-archiving 
    and
    (2) encourage/support OA publishing.

J-CG makes no new points, merely repeating the point on which we have
already agreed: that apart from being able to mandate self-archiving,
an institution or funder *could* also mandate OA publishing under one
exceptional condition (only): when it is that funder itself that is
funding that journal (as Canada's SSHRC does for 150 journals). 

I agree fully, and point out only that this is not what the UK Select
Committee, Berlin 3, or RCUK have actually recommended mandating --
possibly because such a small proportion of the world's 24,000
peer-reviewed journals are thus subsidised that it did not seem worth the
bother. Funders could, however, certainly add this minor clause to their
mandates, as long as they specified the journals in question, to make it
clear that they were merely attaching conditions to subsidies that they
are already providing (just as in the case of fundee self-archiving) --
rather than taking the incoherent and untenable step of mandating OA
publishing in general, for the vast majority of journals that neither
they nor any other funder or institution subsidises. (Please don't reply that
to subscribe or submit papers to is to subsidise.)

I now delete the philosophical, ideological and speculative passages and reply
only to the few points that remain, because some of them have concrete
implications:

> when Research councils call for mandating depositing in an IR, the
> actual IR used may... [be] within the research institution itself
> (or... research Council...)...  therefore... calling for mandating by
> the authorities of... a given university cannot be done without some
> discussion with the same authorities. In the course of discussing,
> the need to provide the resources to create an IR will necessarily
> emerge and will be part of the negotiation.

(1) IRs are cheap to create and maintain:
    http://www.arl.org/sparc/pubs/enews/aug01.html#6 
Creating and maintaining them has never been the problem: *filling* them
has been. The self-archiving mandate is meant to be the remedy for that.

(2) For those (fewer and fewer) UK institutions that do not yet have an
IR, there are several back-up OAI-compliant central archives available
to comply with the self-archiving mandate. Again, the archive is not
the problem, the filling is.

(3) RCUK *should* offer some per-paper support for IR costs, rather
than just offering support for per-paper OA publishing costs. Not only
would the cost per-paper be incomparably lower, and the paper-yield
be incomparably greater, but it would plug up a gaping and gratuitous
loop-hole for opting out of the mandate (on the grounds of not yet having
an IR to self-archive in).

> Reading Stevan, it looks like a foregone conclusion: the opposition
> between "mandating" and "encouraging" is cleverly set up to project the
> impression that one is essential, the other, at best, ancillary. This
> would be true if:
> 
>              1. The IR's were filling pretty fast on the simple basis
>                 that the impact advantages are convincing a strong
>                 minority of scientists or even a majority to
>                 self-archive spontaneously. We all know this is not
>                 happening: we have only a minority of some significance
>                 which seems to be located at about the 15% level if we
>                 simply use the figures Stevan generally quotes.

Here Jean-Claude is so completely misunderstanding the purpose of the
self-archiving mandate that it takes one's breath away: If the objective
evidence of the impact advantage had been enough to generate self-archiving, 
    http://opcit.eprints.org/oacitation-biblio.html
the self-archiving mandate would not have been *needed,* and we would already be at
100% OA today. 

Rather, just as the JISC international survey evidence had indicated
    http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/11006/
and the two implemented mandates to date have confirmed
    http://archives.eprints.org/eprints.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Feprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk%2F
    http://archives.eprints.org/eprints.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fcdsweb.cern.ch%2F
without a mandate: about 15% OA self-archiving; with a mandate: over 90% OA
self-archiving.

And it is not that OA self-archiving is essential and OA publishing
is ancillary; it is that (1) OA self-archiving can be mandated,
whereas OA publishing can only be encouraged/supported (except by the
subsiders of subsidised journals, which are few) and hence that (2)
mandating OA self-archiving can generate immediate 100% OA whereas
encouraging/supporting OA publishing cannot.

> we know indeed that journals that are subsidized by public money can 
> be mandated to provide OA. Stevan's only objection there is that he
> wants to see how significant these journals are, but he had to admit
> that it could be done. From that point the debate is about estimates of
> relative efficiency.

Agreed. And that is why we need to know not only where the
subsidised journals rank in the journal quality/impact hierarchy,
but, more important, what their true proportion is, among all 24,000
journals. Otherwise we are making a mandate out of a mole-hill.

> Stevan himself... used to expound... his "house of cards" metaphor.

That was *paper* house of cards, and concerned mostly when electronic publication
would prevail over paper publication. 
    http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue8/harnad/

But never mind. I admit past mistakes: I wrongly believed for a while
that publishers were the obstacle to OA. I now realise they are not,
and never were: *Researchers themselves* are the only obstacle, for they
are the only ones who can actually *provide* OA -- whether by choosing to
publish in OA journals (where possible) or by choosing to self-archive
their articles (always possible). Over ninety percent of journals have
even given author self-archiving their blessing (although it was not
really needed), the evidence of the 50%-250% OA impact advantage is
on the table, researchers are signing petitions for OA in the tens of
thousands -- but only 15% of them are as yet self-archiving.

(Actually, the above-cited JISC survey reports that 49% of authors have
dipped their toes in by self-archiving at least one article, but one is
reminded of the old saying [please don't take this metaphor too seriously
either!]: "once, a philosopher; twice, a pederast." The stubborn fact
remains that only about 15% of annual article output is currently being
self-archived spontaneously, and that rate is still not growing fast enough
either. [OA publishing, of course, is growing still more slowly, but it
cannot be accelerated by mandate -- apart from the subsidised subset.])

Which is why the self-archiving mandate was needed: Like "publish or
perish," it is meant to require/reward researchers to do what is in
their own self-interest (and that of their institutions and funders).

> publishers are far from convinced by Stevan's assertions and, moreover,
> his argumentative style is not terribly helpful in this regard.

Publishers are not the ones that need the convincing: researchers (and
their institutions and funders) are. I find myself arguing more these
days with those (like Jean-Claude) who are recommending the (in my view)
wrong policies rather than with publishers, who are largely irrelevant to
research policy (though their 90% green author self-archiving policies
were a welcome help). (And make no mistake about it: OA provision is
first and foremost a matter of research policy.)

Publishers are worried that self-archiving will reduce their revenues. I
am not arguing with them, but merely pointing out that there exists
no evidence of that, and that all existing evidence is of peaceful
co-existence between self-archiving and journal publishing. I am also
not arguing with publishers when I point out that the RCUK mandate is
not an OA publishing mandate, as publishers wrongly suggest, but merely
an OA self-archiving mandate. I am pointing out a fact.

Jean-Claude's suggestion that funder-subsidised journals could be mandated
to become OA journals is fine, but then it has to be made crystal clear
that this is a very special (and almost certainly very minute) case that
does not affect the vast majority of publishers, who are not subsidised
by the funding bodies that are mandating the self-archiving.

As to argumentative style: I plead guilty to sometimes losing my patience
with (what I see as) foolishness, especially oft-repeated foolishness that
is not attentive or responsive to repeated, detailed and painstaking
critical replies. But, unless I am mistaken, for a number of years
now it is no longer I who delight in picking fights with publishers,
but rather Jean-Claude! A case in point:

> As for the "publishing lobby", we can expect that they will grab any
> handle language provides. That is what lawyers are trained to do... [No]
> formulation, however precise, will stop a lawyer from building a case
> that may sound convincing to a judge

The case for the RCUK policy proposal is not a legal matter; hence it is
being argued before the research community, not a court of law. If there
is a conflict of interest between what is best for research and what is
best for publishers, it is clear in which way this conflict of interest
will have to resolved, for it is publishing that is being done in the
service of publicly funded research, and not vice versa. I trust that that
point at least is one on which Jean-Claude and I are still in agreement.

Stevan Harnad




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