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[BOAI] Re: Wrong Advice On Open Access: History Repeating Itself

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad AT>
Date: Sun, 15 Nov 2009 20:31:11 -0500

Threading: [BOAI] Re: Wrong Advice On Open Access: History Repeating Itself from t.d.wilson AT
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On 15-Nov-09, at 4:14 PM, Prof. Tom Wilson wrote:

> I think the crux of our disagreement is not about the speed with  
> which OA can be
> accomplished or the probability of success, but about the  
> possibility of
> pursuing more than one goal simultaneously.  I see nothing wrong in  
> this and,
> in fact, this is what is happening: repositories are being  
> established and
> mandated, free OA journals are being established and surviving and  
> new modes of
> university press publishing, involving OA plus print-on-demand, are  
> being
> created.  This all seems very healthy to me.  Given a number of  
> things, such as
> any individual's right to pursue whatever course seems appropriate  
> with regard
> to scholarly communication and, on the other hand, the inertia that  
> limits the
> success of repositories, no one method is going to answer the OA  
> problem
> completely.

What limits the success of repositories is the failure of (85% of)   
researchers to deposit unless deposit is mandated by their  
institutions and/or funders. So Green OA self-archiving mandates are  
needed, from all institutions and funders. What slows the adoption of  
Green OA self-archiving mandates is distraction and confusion from the  
premature promotion of Gold OA (or copyright reform, or publishing  
reform, or publisher boycott threats), often as if OA were synonymous  
with Gold OA.

So the disagreement *is* about speed and probability: If we agree that  
(mandated) Green OA self-archiving is the fastest and surest way to  
reach 100% OA, then the speed/probability factor comes down to the  
distraction and confusion from the promotion of Gold OA that are  
slowing the promotion and adoption of Green OA mandates. It would just  
be harmless Green/Gold parallelism if there weren't this persistent  
cross-talk, but there is. Institutions wrongly imagine that they are  
doing their bit for OA if they sign COPE and pledge some of their  
scarce resources to pay for Gold OA -- without first mandating Green  
OA (because they're already doing their bit for OA....)

(Individuals of course have the right to pursue any course they like.  
No one is talking about depriving anyone of rights. I am simply giving  
the reasons it is counterproductive -- if 100% OA, as quickly and  
surely as possible is the goal -- to promote Gold OA without first  
mandating Green OA. [My goodness, if I had that sort of magical power  
that could determine what people had a right to do, I would use it to  
conjure up universal Green OA mandates on the part of the planet's  
researchers institutions and funders: I certainly wouldn't waste it on  
hexing those who insist on chasing after iron pyrite today...]

(Pursuing and paying Gold OA today also locks in the current costs of  
doing journal publishing the way it is being done today. Green OA will  
eventually lower those costs substantially, but I do not invoke this  
as a reason against pursuing and promoting Gold OA today -- *if* Green  
OA has first been mandated. Otherwise, however, it is not only  
dysfunctional but downright foolish.)

Stevan Harnad

> Professor T.D. Wilson, PhD, Hon.PhD
> Publisher/Editor in Chief
> Information Research
> e-mail: t.d.wilson AT
> Web site:
> ___________________________________________________
> Quoting Stevan Harnad <harnad AT>:
>> On Sun, 8 Nov 2009, Prof. Tom Wilson wrote:
>>> TW: Self-archiving is one approach, free, subsidised OA journals
>> are another.
>>> My position is not against the former, it is simply that one  
>>> approach
>>> alone is not likely to be successful and, on top of that,
>> subsidised OA
>>> journals bring the maximum social benefit.
>> The crux of our disagreement concerns speed, probability, and the
>> limited attention (and action) span of the scholarly community.
>> Subsidized OA journals would definitely bring "the maximum social
>> benefit" --  if only they were within practical reach (i.e., if 
>> subsidy funds were available, and the 25,000 peer reviewed journals  
>> --
>> i.e., the titles, editorial boards, referees and authors -- to whose
>> annual 2.5 million articles the OA movement is seeking OA were ready
>> and willing to migrate to subsidized OA).
>> But there are only about 4000 Gold OA journals today (and mostly not
>> the top journals overall.) And among the OA journals, the top ones
>> tend to be paid Gold OA; the rest are either subsidized or
>> subscription-based (or both).
>> It is not within the hands of the content-provider community --
>> authors, their institutions and their funders -- to make all, most or
>> many of the 25,000 peer reviewed journals either paid Gold OA
>> (publication fees) or free Gold OA (subsidized) today. That option is
>> a very slow and extremely uncertain one, because it is mostly in the
>> hands of publishers today. Meanwhile, research access and impact
>> continue to be lost, day after day, week after week, month after
>> month, for year upon year upon year.
>> In contrast, it is, today, entirely within the hands of the content-
>> provider community -- authors, their institutions and their funders  
>> --
>> to make every single one of the 2.5 million articles they publish
>> annually in those 25,000 journals either immediately Green OA (63%)  
>> or
>> Almost-OA (37% -- through the use of the Institutional Repository's
>> "email eprint request" button) by mandating the 
self-archiving of all
>> refereed final drafts in the author's Institutional Repository (IR)
>> immediately upon acceptance for publication.
>> Until those mandates -- which will provide at least 63% immediate OA
>> plus 37% Almost-OA -- are adopted, it continues to be a waste of time
>> and energy to focus on Gold OA (free or paid) -- or on peer review
>> reform or social networking -- in the interests of OA, today. (There
>> may be other reasons for pursuing those matters, but let us be clear
>> that the immediate interests of OA today definitely are not among
>> them, until and unless the Green OA self-archiving mandates are
>> adopted. Till then, all time, attention and energy diverted toward
>> these other pursuits *in the name of OA* is simply delaying and
>> diverting from the progress of OA.)
>>> TW: [social networking and direct unrefereed posting] is an
>> approach that
>>> may evolve within specific sub-disciplines, if the researchers
>> concerned
>>> find that it is a mode of communication that suits them.
>> Yes, that may (or may not) all happen. But right now, what is already
>> fully within reach, indeed already long overdue, yet still not yet
>> being grasped, is Green OA self-archiving and self-archiving  
>> mandates.
>> Continuing to divert attention to hypothetical options
>> (in the name of OA) while failing to implement the tried, tested and
>> proven option is simply continuing to delay OA.
>> Let me stress again: this exclusivism is exclusively because of the
>> slowness with which the scholarly community has been getting around  
>> to
>> doing the doable for over a decade. Continuing to split time,
>> attention and energy with the far less doable just slows down the
>> doable even longer; and it has already been slowed long enough.
>>>> SH: irrelevant preoccupations with peer review reform, 
>>>> reform, and publishing reform... whilst we keep fiddling, 
>>>> and impact keep burning...
>>> TW: ?
>> (What I meant was that whilst speculations, long-shots and
>> irrelevancies keep distracting and diverting us from doing and
>> mandating self-archiving, access and impact just keep being lost,
>> daily, weekly, monthly, year upon year upon year.)
>>> TW:  What we have been waiting for is not for publishers to
>>> do something in our stead, but, to date, waiting for publishers to
>>> agree to self-archiving. Pretending that we are not dependent upon
>>> the agreement of publishers seems rather unrealistic.
>> We are not dependent on the agreement of publishers. But for those of
>> us who mistakenly think we are: We already have publishers' agreement
>> for 63% of journals (including the top ones) yet we are only self-
>> archiving 15% (and mandating
>> 0.0001%). Mandates will immediately deliver at least 63% immediate OA
>> (and for those who wrongly think self-archiving is dependent on
>> publisher agreement, 37% Almost-OA, with the help of immediate  
>> deposit
>> and the IR's "email eprint request" button).
>> So what makes more sense: to mandate the moving our fingers for 100%
>> deposit (and *then* head off to "take control of the scholarly
>> communication process... by publishing, editing and refereeing for
>> free OA journals") or heading off to "take control of the 
>> communication process... by publishing, editing and refereeing for
>> free OA journals" (and 1001 other long-shots and irrelevancies)
>> *without even first mandating the moving of our fingers, at long  
>> last*?
>> That's what I'm banging on about. I'm not criticizing the pursuit of
>> other options *in addition* to mandating self-archiving, I'm
>> criticizing pursuing them *instead*, i.e. without first doing the
>> doable, and already long overdue.
>>> TW: author charging is not 'free OA' - 'free OA' is free of
>>> author charging and free of subscription.
>> I stand corrected: Some people are not moving or mandating their
>> fingers because they prefer paid Gold OA, and others because they
>> prefer subsidized Gold OA journals.
>> Meanwhile, the fingers are not getting moved or mandated, and the
>> access and impact are continuing to be lost, needlessly -- and all
>> this in the interest of pluralism and "maximum social 
beneft" at the
>> continuing expense of immediate, obvious (and tried and tested)
>> practical action.
>>>> SH: And as for the tired, 10-year-old "Poisoned 
Apple" canard...
>>> TW: Ten years old it may be, but the problem remains - regardless
>>> of how much self-referencing you make.
>> The purpose of the referencing is to get the relevant FAQ read and
>> understood.
>> The canard is the prophecy that if researchers self-archive in
>> sufficient numbers, publishers will rescind their endorsement of  
>> self-
>> archiving.
>> It is a canard because:
>> It is not true that researchers need their publishers' a-priori
>> agreement to self-archive their final drafts. Twenty years of
>> uncontested self-archiving by physicists is ample evidence of that:
>> Far from rescinding a-priori agreements that they never gave in the
>> first place, publishers in the heavily self-archiving areas of  
>> physics
>> have given their official agreements a-posteriori -- well after the
>> irreversible fact of self-archiving was unstoppably in motion.
>> That -- and not the endless repetition of the poisoned apple canard  
>> --
>> is the objective evidence on whether or not the canard (a
>> self-fulfilling prophecy, if ever there was one) has the slightest
>> truth to it: It is false, but it keeps holding us back, by dint of
>> unreflective, unchallenged and (as usual) attention-diverting
>> repetition.
>> Recall again the more important datum: 63% of journals (including  
>> most
>> of the top journals) have already given their official agreement for
>> the OA self-archiving of the author's final draft immediately upon
>> acceptance for publication -- yet only 15% of authors self-archive.
>> Evidence (if more was needed) that the locus of the 
"problem" is in
>> authors' heads (and fingers), and not in their publishers' policies.
>> Moreover, there is the option of immediate "Almost OA" even 
for the
>> articles in the remaining 37% of journals that have not yet given
>> their official agreement (and whose authors, unlike the physicists  
>> and
>> the rest of the sensible 15%, elect to honor publisher OA embargoes).
>> So, in fact, all refereed publications can be self-archived in some
>> form, tiding over immediate user needs, and what on all sense and
>> evidence will follow is not the "poisoned apple" fantasy -- 
>> publishers rescinding a-priori agreements -- but the fall of the rest
>> of the dominoes with the natural and well-deserved death of OA
>> embargoes under pressure from the growing OA, OA mandates, and
>> researcher reliance on OA, hence the granting of official publisher
>> agreement a-posteriori by the remaining 37% of journals.
>> This is evidence and reality speaking. The reply is merely the self-
>> fulfilling doomsday prophecy (the "poisoned apple" canard), 
>> reiterated, despite being contradicted by both sense and evidence, as
>> it has been all along.
>>> TW: Simply because the publishers at present see it as in their 
>>> self-interest to go along with self-archiving does not mean that
>>> they will see it so indefinitely.
>> Ritual reiteration of the poisoned-apple canard...
>>> TW: Things change, and you appear to deny the possibility of 
>>> in the status quo. Curious. Will the world remain forever the same
>> as it is
>>> now?
>> On the contrary, it's change I am seeking: I am hoping that a rising
>> tide of self-archiving mandates by institutions and funders will soon
>> cure the (at least) 34 etiologies of "Zeno's Paralysis" that 
>> been
>> deterring our digits (the "poisoned apple" canard being one 
of them),
>> holding back change toward the optimal and inevitable outcome.
>>> TW: I am invoking nothing other than the will of the scholarly
>>> community to take the communication process into its own hands -
>>> I keep repeating this, but you appear to ignore it: one way is
>>> through self-archiving, another way is through the creation of 
>>> OA journals.  There is no reason why the two cannot go together -
>> There is in fact a very simple reason: because self-archiving is
>> tried, tested, demonstrated effective, free, and fully within the
>> reach of the research communities fingertips, through only a few
>> keystrokes per paper -- keystrokes that are mostly *not being
>> performed*, for well over a decade now -- because of self-imposed,
>> self-fulfilling fanstasies. One of those fantasies is that what we
>> need to do (for OA, now) is to scrap the subscription-based refereed-
>> journal publishing system right now, and instead create a 
"free" one,
>> funded by subsidy and voluntarism, and supplemented by unrefereed
>> posting and feedback.
>> In other words, it has been amply demonstrated (since at least 1994)
>> that insofar as OA is concerned, "the will of the scholarly 
>> to take the communication process into its own hands" is woefully 
>> weak
>> and glacially slow, even when it comes to doing just a few keystrokes
>> per article, let alone "taking control of the scholarly 
>> process... by publishing, editing and refereeing for free OA  
>> journals."
>> The virtue of the few keystrokes it takes to self-archive, however,  
>> is
>> that where the will is weak (as it clearly is, for 85%), the
>> keystrokes can be mandated. Not so for "taking control of the
>> scholarly communication process... by publishing, editing and
>> refereeing for free OA journals."
>> So the (OA) problem is no more nor less than to set those fingers  
>> into
>> motion. And the way to do that is through institutional and funder
>> keystroke mandates. But the keystrokes and mandates, long overdue
>> already, are simply being further delayed by diversions and
>> distractions from continuing to foster fantasies about creating free
>> journals -- free not only of subscriptions, but even free of Gold OA
>> fees, because they are funded by (unspecified) subsidies and
>> (unspecified) subsidizers. Compare the sole hurdle to Green OA --
>> namely, a few author keystrokes per paper -- to the hurdle for 
>> journals" (namely, creating and funding those journals, and 
>> authors from their established journals).
>> It's rather like suggesting (to people who are only recycling waste  
>> at
>> 15%) that there is an alternative: Make everything bio-degradable: A
>> welcome long-term challenge to take on once recycling is safely
>> mandated and in motion, but hardly one to tout while recycling
>> mandates are still few on the ground, nor one to raise before a
>> committee that is trying to decide whether and why recycling needs to
>> be mandated immediately.
>>> TW: I agree that self-archiving is desirable, it is one way of
>> achieving
>>> OA - I am simply saying that it is not the only way.  And more 
>> one
>>> approach can be pursued at the same time.
>> I will immediately stop criticizing other approaches, no matter how
>> far-fetched, once the obvious, immediate one -- mandated self-
>> archiving -- already tried, tested and proved effective, is safely  
>> and
>> irreversibly in motion worldwide. But with only 15% self-archiving,
>> and only 100 out of 10,000 institutions as yet mandating it after  
>> over
>> a decade of contemplating all kinds of fanciful and untested options
>> -- even though self-archiving is simple, cheap, tested, works and  
>> scales -- I will continue to try (so far unsuccessfully) to convey  
>> the
>> pragmatic fact that it is a waste of time (and access and impact) to
>> keep diverting our attention and energy to contemplating untested and
>> unlikely speculations (today) instead of first applying simple,
>> practical methods that have already been tested and shown to work
>> (like recycling), and that are already fully within reach, but we are
>> still failing to grasp them.
>>> TW: Impossible to achieve because it is a Utopian ideal - and I
>> have never
>>> yet met a Utopian ideal that was capable of being realised.
>> What is Utopian about self-archiving your final drafts, or
>> institutions/funders mandating it? And isn't the ideal of getting the
>> scholarly community to "take control of the scholarly 
>> process... by publishing, editing and refereeing for free OA  
>> journals"
>> -- when we can't even get them to do a few keystrokes -- rather  
>> more  
>> Utopian? Especially since there exists a simple, practical way to get
>> them to do the one, but not the other?
>>> TW:  if researchers find that posting to a social network is an
>> appropriate way to communicate
>>> with their colleagues they will do so.
>> Indeed they can and will and do. There is nothing to stop them,
>> But that has nothing to do with OA. OA is about the barriers, today,
>> that stop researchers from accessing the articles published in peer-
>> reviewed journals, today, that their institutions can't afford to
>> subscribe to.
>> The hypothetical future of the (unopposed) practice of publicly
>> posting unrefereed content today does not provide us with actual
>> access to actual refereed content, today.
>>> TW:  In fact they already do it - within certain
>>> sub-fields of science researchers already communicate with their
>> colleagues in
>>> this way - making working papers available, receiving comments,
>> even taking the
>>> commentators into the authorship of a paper. E-science almost
>> depends upon this
>>> happening.  I do not argue that this is a desirable change - I
>> simply say that
>>> to ignore the way science is changing and the way scientific
>> communication is
>>> changing is not sensible.
>> I hope you don't think that I have been ignoring the developments in
>> -- and the potential of -- the self-archiving of pre-refereeing  
>> preprints! That's what got me into this OA time-warp when I was still
>> but a naive and trusting lad:
>> The relevant point here is that the self-archiving of pre-refereeing
>> preprints (in some fields) is not the same as the self-archiving of
>> refereed postprints (in all fields). Few fields (so far) wish to make
>> their unrefereed drafts public. But all fields want to make their
>> refereed postprints public: that's why they publish them. The token
>> that has not dropped for them, however, is that (in the online era)
>> publishing them is no longer enough: They need to self-archive their
>> postprints too. And apparently that needs to be mandated, because  
>> over
>> a decade has now gone idly by to show that we wait in vain if we  
>> await
>> the exercise of "the will of the scholarly community to take 
>> archiving] into its own hands."
>>> TW: This debate seems to boil down to two opposite propositions:
>>> Yours: self-archiving is the only way to achieve OA
>>> Mine: self-archiving is one way of achieving OA, but given the
>> changes taking
>>> place in the scientific communication world, not the only way and
>> not the final
>>> way.
>> I'll tell you what: once the momentum in exercising "the will of 
>> scholarly community to take the communication process into its own
>> hands" actually overtakes the momentum to do (and mandate) the 
>> keystrokes that it takes to provide OA, I will happily switch to your
>> fast track. Until then, singing the praises of making waste
>> biodegradable to a community that is not yet even recycling, nor
>> mandating it, is simply slowing progress toward immediate OA. All it
>> does is draw their eyes off the ball that is within reach, yet  
>> again...
>> Stevan Harnad
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