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Bean Counting

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Thu Mar 10 08:27:52 EST 2005

On Thu, 10 Mar 2005, Matthew Cockerill wrote:

> the fact that only, perhaps, 5% of journals are
> 'Gold' (i.e. offer immediate full Open Access) does not by any means imply
> that there is only a 5% chance of finding an appropriate Open Access journal
> for one's research. 

We have been through this issue many times now in this Forum: In
principle, one could publish the 2.5 million articles that are currently
published in the world's 24,000 journals all in *one* journal instead
too (and I don't doubt that there are many publishers who would like
to be the publisher of that one mega-journal!). But that's not how
it works. Journals differ (and compete) in subject matter, contents,
quality, track-record, refereeing standards, impact factor. I think it
is extremely unrealistic (and wishful thinking) to imagine that we could
squeeze much or most of today's 100% literature into 5% of its journals
(and recent journals, to boot).  More important, authors (who don't yet
even know enough about OA and its benefits to self-archive the articles
they already publish in their journals of choice to make them OA without
giving up their current journals of choice) are unlikely to want to take
the more radical step of giving up their current journals of choice in
favor of the new 5%, *just because they are OA*!

That is not to say that *some* authors will not be ready to do that: Just that
most will not, and hence it is the institutional self-archiving route (with 92%
of journals already green) that has the real immediate growth potential -- and all
it needs now is the adoption of institutional OA self-archiving policies.

> The range of 'Gold' open access journals, at least in
> the biomedical field, is now so large that for pretty much any conceivable
> paper, there are several potentially suitable 'Gold' Open Access journals
> for an author to choose from. 

Out of a much wider range of potentially suitable Green journals they already
publish in (92%). The weasel-word here is "suitable." I (as publisher) may think
that my new journal is perfectly suitable for many, many authors. But the authors
may not think so. They may prefer their established journals. Also relevant:
they clearly do not yet value OA enough to reach for it via *either* Gold or Green
(even though they are reaching for it via Green at least three times as much).

Moreover, OA Green self-archiving can be made an institutional policy (i.e., 
a requirement to deposit all articles in the institutional repository, for
record-keeping and performance evaluation purposes).

But an institution cannot require its authors to publish in journals other than
the ones they *choose* to publish in (though they can encourage it, and help fund it).

> So I'm unclear why you continue to suggest
> that this 5% figure in itself a major obstacle to publishing in a 'Gold' OA
> journal.  The 5% figure is simply a reflection of the fact that currently,
> only a subset of researchers publish in OA titles, just as currently only a
> minority self-archive.

But (even without mentioning, again, the 5%/100% camel/pin problem
discussed above), every institution is about 3 days of sysad time and
a $2000 server away from having a repository for all of its research
output to be deposited in for years to come, without any author having
to switch journals, whereas increasing the number of Gold journals or
persuading authors to give up their preferred journals in favor of the
ones that exist is a rather more improbable task (and even illogical, since
there is in fact no *need* to persuade authors to give up their current journals
in order to achieve 100% OA!).

That said, I quite agree that there is room for a lot more articles in BMJ
journals (in some cases a *lot* more room!). In my view, BMJ is more likely
to be able to expand dramatically only *after* 100% OA has been reached via
green self-archiving and even then only *if and when* 100% OA should ever generate
cancellation pressure on the 95% non-OA journals (which may never happen, or only
after a long time), forcing them either to convert to the OA cost-recovery model
or risk having their titles migrate to publishers (like BMC) who are ready to do
so. By that time, of course (if it ever came ), the cancellations
themselves would be generating the institutional windfall savings
(nonexistent now) out of which they could pay the OA publishing costs.

But this is all just abstract armchair speculation: Today's concrete reality
is that there is already a way to reach 100% OA immediately via green -- and
all that is now needed is systematic institutional self-archiving policies to
ensure that it is reached!

> But the 5% figure is no more of an absolute obstacle
> to the growth of 'Gold' OA publication, than the current (fairly low) rate
> of self-archiving is an absolute block to more self-archiving in the future.

The adoption of institutional self-archiving policies -- as will (one hopes!)
now be officially recommended by the Berlin Declaration -- will remedy that
promptly. There is no corresponding expedient for Gold, except to encourage and
fund it (which will also be part of the Berlin Declaration's recommendation).

Stevan Harnad

A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at:
        To join or leave the Forum or change your subscription address:
        Post discussion to:
        american-scientist-open-access-forum at amsci.org

UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
policy of providing Open Access to your own research article output,
please describe your policy at:

    BOAI-1 ("green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access journal
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a open-access journal if/when 
            a suitable one exists.
    in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
            in your institutional repository.

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