The Fool’s Gold Rush Plods On…

Comment on: Enserink, Martin (2016) E.U. urged to free all scientific papers by 2020. Science 14 April 2016.

Fool?s Gold is pre-Green Gold (pay-to-publish Gold: I?m not, of course, referring to that tiny minority of journals that are Free Gold today because they are either (i) subsidized or (ii) their subscription publisher makes the online version free for all).

The reasons it is Fool?s Gold are four:

(1) its cost is vastly inflated with the cost of obsolete features with which it is co-bundled, such as the print edition and publisher PDF,

(2) as long as most journals are still subscription journals, the author?s institution is paying for both subscriptions and for Fool?s Gold,

(3) in the case of (the growing number of) hybrid subscription/Gold journals (accessible to subscribers only, but individual Fool?s Gold articles are free for all if they have been paid for by the author) the same publisher is being double-paid for Fool?s Gold articles (subscriptions from subscribing institutions plus Fool?s Gold from individual authors)

and, most important:

(4) OA can be provided at no extra cost to anyone via Green OA self-archiving of the author’s peer-reviewed, accepted final draft (with immediate OA or immediate-deposit plus Button-mediated OA if the author chooses to comply with a publisher OA embargo)

Fair Gold is post-green Gold: That is the greatly reduced price of Gold after Green OA has been globally mandated (along the lines of what the HEFCE REF policy is doing):

(a) Immediate deposit in the institutional repository is mandated by all research institutions and funders
(b) Mandatory Green OA is provided universally
(c) Journal subscriptions can then be cancelled by institutions
(d) Journals are then forced to cut all obsolete costs by phasing out the print edition, the PDF edition (the publisher’s “version of record”), archiving and access-provision and down-sizing to the only remaining essential in the Fair Gold OA era: just providing the service of peer review (the peers all review for free and always have_
(e) The green eprint becomes the version of record

The cost of this Fair Gold, which is just for peer review and, if accepted, certification with the journal name, will thus be affordable and sustainable (hence fair) because it can be paid out of just a fraction of the annual institutional windfall savings from having at last been able to cancel all journal subscriptions because of universal accessibility via Green OA.

The institutionally archived Green OA author final-drafts then become the official version of record. No more publisher?s version.

Harnad, S. (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8)

Harnad, S (2014) The only way to make inflated journal subscriptions unsustainable: Mandate Green Open Access. LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog 4/28

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2014) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.)

Harnad, Stevan (2015) Open Access: What, Where, When, How and Why In: Ethics, Science, Technology, and Engineering: An International Resource eds. J. Britt Holbrook & Carl Mitcham, (2nd edition of Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics, Farmington Hills MI: MacMillan Reference)

Harnad, Stevan (2015) Optimizing Open Access Policy. The Serials Librarian, 69(2), 133-141

Netherlands Boycotting Elsevier To Sustain Bloat

Sander Dekker, Netherlands? State Secretary for the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science wants Open Access and has set some deadlines for how soon he wants it for Netherlands. That?s fine.

But the Netherlands’ Sander Dekker, like the UK’s Finch Committee, wants Gold Open Access.

That means Universities must pay Elsevier?s asking price for Gold OA.

Elsevier?s asking price is a price per article that will maintain Elsevier’s current total net subscription revenue.

Elsevier?s current total net subscription revenue is enormously bloated ? not only by huge profit margins (c. 40%) but by obsolete product and service costs forcibly co-bundled into the price (print edition, online edition, access-provision, archiving).

The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has a consortial Big Deal subscription with Elsevier, and they have said they will continue to pay it if Netherlands authors can have Gold OA for their articles at no extra charge.

This is basically trying to transform a bloated subscription deal into a bloated Gold OA membership deal, rather like SCOAP3.

The reasons this transformation cannot work globally are many, but locally it can be made to work, for a while, by fiat, if VSNU collaborate and Elsevier agrees.

And on the surface it is not obvious why Elsevier would not agree, since it looks as if the deal would give Elsevier exactly what it wants: current revenue levels per Elsevier article will be maintained, but with the Netherlands paying its share not as subscriptions but as memberships, in exchange for Gold OA for Elsevier articles by Netherlands authors.

But what about the rest of the world? They continue paying subscriptions ? not just to Elsevier, but to all other publishers. And VSNU, too, must continue paying subscriptions to all other publishers whose journals Netherlands users need.

Would this local Netherlands solution be stable, sustainable and scalable?

The answer is that it would be none of these — and Elsevier knows that perfectly well. And that explains why they are not eager to make this local Gold membership deal with VSNU (even though Springer has been trying to encourage the consortial Gold membership model for its subscribers) — and why VSNU is contemplating asking Elsevier editors at Netherlands institutions (and eventually all Elsevier authors in Netherlands) to boycott Elsevier unless Elsevier makes this transition to Gold

A Gold consortial membership model is unstable, unsustainable and unscalable because memberships, like subscriptions, are locally cancellable — by an institution or a country — and because there are other (competing) publishers in the world.

And membership would be unstable and unsustainable even if the scalability problem could be magically surmounted by a global ?flip? in which all institutions on the planet and all publishers on the planet solemnly agree jointly to go from their current subscriptions to Gold OA memberships for all their journals with all their publishers at their current subscription price all on the same day.

The very next day the system would destabilize, with cash-strapped institutions cancelling their ?memberships? to journals that their users needed to use but in which their authors published little, preferring instead to pay for publishing by the piece for the few articles they publish in them.

This would in turn destabilize the sustainability of yesterday?s subscription revenue streams via memberships, which would mean that membership fees would have to increase for the non-defecting institutions to sustain all publishers’ net revenue, which would in turn mean that institutions would be paying more for memberships than they had been paying for subscriptions.

And the Global Consortial Gold Membership Deal (which is in reality a global producer oligopoly sustained by a global consumer consortium) would begin unravelling the moment it was ?flipped.?

Trying instead to get there more gradually, institution by institution, publisher by publisher, journal by journal rather than via a miraculous global ?flip? instead destabilizes the scalability of the Gold membership model rather than just its sustainability. Institutions as well as publishers would be participating in a multi-player prisoner’s dilemma, with defection always being the optimal choice.

But this is also the relevant point to recall that there is another way to give and get OA, namely, Green OA self-archiving:

For institutions struggling with bloated, unaffordable journal subscription prices, the far more natural route is to reduce subscriptions to just their users’ must-have journals and to mandate Green OA, in their own institutional repositories, for their own publication output, rather than to lock themselves into increasingly unaffordable subscriptions in the form of membership fees in exchange for Gold OA for their own institutional publication output.

This, of course, is exactly why publishers are trying so hard to embargo Green OA: Not because the survival of refereed journals is at stake but in order to hold publication hostage to either current bloated subscriptions or bloated Gold OA fees that sustain the same net revenue either way they are paid.

That way the bloated asking price price will never go down and the costs of the obsolete products and services can continue to be forcibly co-bundled into the asking price.

But publishers know perfectly well that they are fighting a battle that they will ultimately lose, and that all they are doing now is whatever they can to sustain their current revenue levels as long as possible, with the vague hope that piece-wise Gold OA fees might continue to sustain the bloat as unstable, unscalable and unsustainable consortial “memberships” could not.

So publishers continue conning the likes of Sander Dekker into believing that today’s bloated Fool’s Gold OA is the only way to have OA, and that Green OA would destroy journals altogether, so it must be embargoed.

And VSNU thinks it is fighting the good fight by threatening another boycott against Elsevier unless they agree to Fool’s Gold consortial OA membership for the Netherlands.

A stable, scalable, sustainable solution, of course, is within reach, through a transition to affordable, unbloated Fair Gold induced by first universally mandating and providing Green OA (there is even an antidote for publishers’ embargoes on Green OA) — but neither Sander Dekker nor VSNU are grasping it.

Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: Anna Gacs. The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L’Harmattan. 99-106.

______ (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).

______ (2013) The Postgutenberg Open Access Journal (revised). In, Cope, B and Phillips, A (eds.) The Future of the Academic Journal (2nd edition). 2nd edition of book Chandos.

______ (2014) The only way to make inflated journal subscriptions unsustainable: Mandate Green Open Access. LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog 4/28

Houghton, J. & Swan, A. (2013) Planting the Green Seeds for a Golden Harvest: Comments and Clarifications on “Going for Gold”. D-Lib Magazine 19 (1/2).

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2014) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.)

Swan, Alma; Gargouri, Yassine; Hunt, Megan; & Harnad, Stevan (2015) Open Access Policy: Numbers, Analysis, Effectiveness. Pasteur4OA Workpackage 3 Report.

Vincent-Lamarre, Philippe, Boivin, Jade, Gargouri, Yassine, Larivière, Vincent and Harnad, Stevan (2015) Estimating Open Access Mandate Effectiveness: I. The MELIBEA Score JASIST, in press.

The Implications of the Green Open Access REF Policy

Comments on “What would be the implications of a ?gold? Open Access REF policy? (Ben Johnson, HEFCE)

BJ: ?this post ignores ? the commonly heard prediction that universal green OA will somehow deliver a sustainable gold OA future all on its own?

Let me spell out exactly how and why pre-green gold OA is fool?s gold — unaffordable and unsustainable — and how universal green OA will deliver a sustainable gold OA future in the form of post-green fair-gold:

1. Pre-green gold is arbitrarily and hugely over-priced. (We will see how and why shortly.)

2. Payment for pre-green gold is double payment: (i) subscription fees for incoming papers plus (ii) gold fees for outgoing papers. (Must-have subscription journals cannot be cancelled by an institution until their articles are accessible to users in some other way.)

3. On top of that, paying the same “hybrid gold” journal (both subscription and optional gold) for pre-green hybrid gold also allows publisher double-dipping.

4. Even if the pre-green hybrid gold publisher promises all N of its subscribing institutions a full rebate on all hybrid gold income, that only means that (N-1)N of whatever hybrid gold any institution pays for its outgoing hybrid gold papers becomes a subsidy to all the other N-1 subscribing institutions: The institution only gets back 1/Nth of its hybrid gold outlay. (The UK, for example, would get back a 6% subscription rebate for its hybrid gold outlay; the rest of the UK hybrid gold outlay would become a rebate to the other 94% of subscribing institutions in the countries that were not foolish enough to pay pre-emptively for pre-green gold.)

5. Research funds are scarce, subscriptions are barely affordable, and pre-green gold payment is completely unnecessary, because green OA can be provided at no extra cost. (Institutional repositories already exist anyway, for multiple purposes, so their cost per paper is negligible, particularly compared to the grotesque cost per paper for pre-green gold.)

6. CC-BY is most definitely not worth the extra cost of pre-green gold ? and CC-BY will come soon after universal green prevails. (We will see how and why shortly.)

7. Publisher embargoes on green are ineffectual because of the repositories? copy-request Button (if the paper was mandatorily deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication, exactly as HEFCE requires).

8. So post-green ? i.e., once immediate-deposit green has been mandated and provided universally, by all institutions and funders, as HEFCE has done — institutions can at last cancel their journal subscriptions, because their users can access the content another way..

9. The post-green unsustainability of subscriptions will force publishers to cut publishing costs that have been made obsolete by the post-green OA era: Publishers will be forced to phase out the print edition, the online edition, access-provision and archiving: these functions will now be offloaded onto the distributed global network of green OA institutional repositories.

10. To cover the remaining post-green cost of peer-reviewed journal publishing ? peer review itself ? post-green journals will convert to affordable, sustainable fair gold, which institutions will easily pay, per outgoing paper, out of a fraction of their windfall subscription cancelation savings on incoming papers.

In other words, post-green, subscriptions will be gone, embargoes will be gone, and all OA will be CC-BY (where desired).

BJ: ?Would repositories disappear in a gold OA world? No, they?re still useful for theses etc. Monitoring would continue to be necessary for any OA policy.?

In the Post-green fair-gold OA world there will no longer be any need to monitor OA policy. But there will certainly be a need for the worldwide network of green OA repositories ? to provide access and archving in place of the pre-green subscription journals.

Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: Anna Gacs. The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L’Harmattan. 99-106.

______ (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).

______ (2013) The Postgutenberg Open Access Journal (revised). In, Cope, B and Phillips, A (eds.) The Future of the Academic Journal (2nd edition). 2nd edition of book Chandos.

______ (2014) The only way to make inflated journal subscriptions unsustainable: Mandate Green Open Access. LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog 4/28

Houghton, J. & Swan, A. (2013) Planting the Green Seeds for a Golden Harvest: Comments and Clarifications on “Going for Gold”. D-Lib Magazine 19 (1/2).

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2014) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.)

The Only Way to Make Inflated Subscriptions Unsustainable: Mandate Green OA

The only effective way to make inflated subscriptions unsustainable is for funders and institutions to mandate Green OA self-archiving.

Tim Gowers is quite right that ?the pace of change is slow, and the alternative system that is most strongly promoted ? open access articles paid for by article processing charges [?Gold OA?] ? is one that mathematicians tend to find unpalatable. (And not only mathematicians: they are extremely unpopular in the humanities.)? there is no sign that they will help to bring down costs any time soon and no convincing market mechanism by which one might expect them to.?

This is all true as long as the other form of OA (?Green OA? self-archiving by authors of published articles in OA repsositories, mandated by funders and institutions) has not prevailed. Pre-Green Gold is “Fool’s-Gold.” Only Post-Green Gold is Fair-Gold.

The current Finch/RCUK policy, preferring Gold OA, has had its predictable perverse effects:

1. sustaining arbitrary, bloated Gold OA fees
2. wasting scarce research funds
3. double-paying publishers [subscriptions plus Gold]
4. handing subscription publishers a hybrid-gold-mine
5. enabling hybrid publishers to double-dip
6. abrogating authors’ freedom of journal-choice [based on cost-recovery model, embargo or licence instead of on quality]
7. imposing re-mix licenses that many authors don’t want and most users and fields don’t need
8. inspiring subscription publishers to adopt and lengthen Green OA embargoes [to maxmize hybrid-gold revenues]
9. handicapping Green OA mandates worldwide [by incentivizing embargoes]
10. allowing journal-fleet publishers to confuse and exploit institutions and authors even more

But the solution is also there (as already adopted by University of Liege and FRS-FNRS (the Belgian Francophone research funding council), EC Horizon2020 proposed and now adopted by HEFCE for REF2020.

a. funders and institutions mandate immediate-deposit
b. of the peer-reviewed final draft
c. in the author’s institutional repository
d. immediately upon acceptance for publication
e. whether journal is subscription or Gold
f. whether access to the deposit is immedate-OA or embargoed
g. whether license is transfered, retained or CC-BY;
h. institutions implement repository’s facilitated email eprint request Button;
i. institutions designate immediate-deposit the mechanism for submitting publications for research performance assessment;
j. institutions monitor and ensure immediate-deposit mandate compliance

This policy restores author choice, moots publisher embargoes, makes Gold and CC-BY completely optional, provides the incentive for author compliance and the natural institutional mechanism for verifying it, consolidates funder and institutional mandates; hastens the natural death of OA embargoes, the onset of universal Green OA, and the resultant institutional subscription cancellations, journal downsizing and transition to Fair-Gold OA at an affordable, sustainable price, paid out of institutional subscription cancellation savings instead of over-priced, double-paid, double-dipped Fool’s-Gold. And of course Fair-Gold OA will license all the re-use rights users need and authors want to allow.

In summary, plans by universities and research funders to pay the costs of Gold OA today are premature. Funds are short; 80% of journals (including virtually all the top journals) are still subscription-based, tying up the potential funds to pay for Gold OA; the asking price for Gold OA is still high; and there is concern that paying to publish may inflate acceptance rates and lower quality standards. What is needed now is for universities and funders to mandate Green OA self-archiving (of authors’ final peer-reviewed drafts, immediately upon acceptance for publication). That will provide immediate OA; and if and when universal Green OA should go on to make subscriptions unsustainable (because users are satisfied with just the Green OA versions) that will in turn induce journals to cut costs (print edition, online edition, access-provision, archiving), downsize to just providing the service of peer review, and convert to the Gold OA cost-recovery model; meanwhile, the subscription cancellations will have released the funds to pay these residual service costs. The natural way to charge for the service of peer review then will be on a “no-fault basis,” with the author’s institution or funder paying for each round of refereeing, regardless of outcome (acceptance, revision/re-refereeing, or rejection). This will minimize cost while protecting against inflated acceptance rates and decline in quality standards.

Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: Anna Gacs. The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L?Harmattan. 99-106.

______ (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).

______ (2013) Comments on HEFCE/REF Open Access Mandate Proposal. Open access and submissions to the REF post-2014

______ (2013) Finch Group reviews progress in implementing open access transition amid ongoing criticisms. LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog November 18th 2013

______ (2013) ?Nudging? researchers toward Gold Open Access will delay the shift to wider access of research. LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog December 5th, 2013

Not All That Glitter (April Afterthoughts)

On April 1 Mike Eisen did a brilliant spoof on many of the faults of subscription journal publishing, making a host of valid financial as well as technical points.

But the focus was all on on Gold Open Access journals, not on Open Access itself.

Authors don’t have to switch journals or pay extra money to provide and mandate Green OA (self-archiving of articles published in any journal).

And, technically speaking (quality, peer review), there’s no evidence that the Gold OA journals are any better than the non-OA journals. (And the Beall bunch of Gold OA journals have not been getting the greatest report cards either…)

And there are many long-standing, field-specific non-OA journals with track records for high standards rather than Nature/Science glitz and hype. (I’m not sure, either, whether the undeniable public interest in research related to personal health generalizes to the vast portions of biomedical and non-biomedical research that are not related to human health problems.)

And it’s not clear how authors choosing to publish in Gold OA journals while most journals are still non-OA saves money, rather than costing even more money: while most journals are still non-OA, institutions must still pay their must-have subscriptions (so their users retain access to the incoming articles in non-OA journals) on top of whatever is being paid for Gold OA for outgoing articles.

Nor is it clear that the per-article revenue of Gold OA journals, though lower than the average non-OA journal article revenue, is anywhere near the as low as it could be if all articles were Green, so Institutional Repositories could do all the access-provision and archiving, and the only thing journals had to do or charge for was managing the peer review.

This is why I’ve taken to calling post-Green Gold OA “Fair Gold” OA, in contrast to pre-Green “Fool’s Gold” OA.

(But I’ve resisted the temptation — because I really think it would be unfair and misleading — to entitle this posting “April Fool’s Gold.” Mike’s is not a foolish picture, but it’s certainly not the fullish one either…)

The Wellcome Trust’s Deep Pockets

All this potential research money wasted ? utterly wasted ? on Fools Gold. Some Reflection from Wellcome Would be Welcome.

Falk Reckling: If Green OA would really work (Fools Green?), we would not need such compromises, but some of them could work:

There’s no “Fools Green” just foolish OA policy (or non-policy). Green OA works perfectly well when it is effectively mandated (as it is by FRS in Belgium, U Liège, U Minho and others; see ROARMAP).

FWF, for example, fails to (1) mandate immediate institutional deposit, irrespective of publisher embargo on OA, and fails to (2) make research evaluation and funding contingent on immediate institutional deposit, as the effective Green OA mandates do. This effectively makes compliance with the FWF “mandate” completely contingent on publisher policy. OeAW does much the same.

It may seem more sensible to pay for Fools Gold than to think, pay attention to the empirical evidence, and design an effective policy, but in fact it’s a regrettable and needless waste of time and money.

Optimizing the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) Open Access Mandate: I & II

Gargouri, Y, Lariviere, V, Gingras, Y, Brody, T, Carr, L and Harnad, S (2012) Testing the Finch Hypothesis on Green OA Mandate Ineffectiveness. In, Open Access Week 2012

Gargouri, Y, Larivière, V & Harnad, S (2013) Ten-year Analysis of University of Minho Green OA Self-Archiving Mandate (in E Rodrigues, A Swan & AA Baptista, Eds. Uma Década de Acesso Aberto e na UMinho no Mundo.

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2012) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.)

Falk Reckling: Stevan, I personally appreciate your efforts very much, always inspiring, but how to install a Green OA if most of the institutions in Austria have no repository and if a lot of researchers like to prefer to deposit the version of record ? That is the reason our OA policy offers equal options, see:

Falk, my suggestions:

(1) Mandate (i.e., require) institutional repository deposit of the refereed final draft immediately upon acceptance as a condition for research evaluation or FWF funding. (The FWF mandate will be backed up by a very similar EU Horizon2020 mandate.)

(2) If the fundee’s institution does not yet have a repository, recommend OpenDepot as the provisional locus of deposit until the institution has a repository of its own.

Researchers will deposit, and institutions will create repositories and verify compliance, just as in every other country with an effective Green OA policy.

According to OpenDoar, Austria already has 9 institutional repositories (plus two disciplinary ones).

Falk Reckling: just have a look at that these repositories

Of course those repositories are mostly empty! That’s the point! They will not fill until FWF and OeAW (and then the institutions themselves) adopt effective mandates. It is circular to say that there’s no point to upgrade our Green OA mandates to make them effective because the repositories are empty! The empty repositories are the reason the mandates need to be upgraded. And the upgrade to immediate institutional deposit as a condition of evaluation and funding works. (Try it and you will see.) And I did say that institutional repositories would be created in response to effective Green OA mandates…

Dutch Echoes of Finch: Fool’s Gold vs. Fair Gold

Wouter Gerritsma, wrote in GOAL:

For two working groups of the Dutch University libraries I was asked to make a calculation for the costs of a 100% Gold open access model. It will only costs 10.5 million euro extra was my conclusion. Blogged at

Unless I have misunderstand, this “10.5 million euro extra? for Dutch University Libraries means 10.5 million euro extra over and above what Dutch University Libraries are paying for subscriptions (34 million euros).

In other words, for a surcharge of 10.5 million dollars, Dutch University libraries can purchase gold OA for Dutch research output (assuming that suitable gold OA journals exist for all Dutch research output, and that all Dutch researchers are willing to publish in them).

But, at the same time, Dutch University libraries also have to continue to pay to subscribe to the research input from all other universities and research institutions worldwide, as long as the latter publish in subscription-based journals rather than gold OA journals (or are unwilling or unable to pay for gold OA).

This pre-emptive double-payment for gold OA I have come to call ?Fool?s Gold.”

What is being left out of this calculation, of course, is that the Netherlands, like all countries, can have OA at no extra cost at all by mandating green OA self-archiving of all of its research output in Dutch universities? institutional repositories.

In other words, Wouter’s calculations sound like a response to Sander Dekker’s Dutch echo of the UK Finch Committee recommendations to pay extra for gold OA instead of just mandating green OA.

Such recommendations originate, not coincidentally, from the two countries with the heaviest concentration of the journal publishing industry, and hence the journal publishing industry lobby, as repeatedly voiced in the Netherlands by Sander Dekker, Netherlands State Secretary for the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

All the published objections to the Finch recommendations would apply to Dekker?s Dutch recommendations if they were ever to become a policy (mandate). Fortunately they are not mandatory and can and should be ignored in favor of mandating green OA, as the European Commission has done. The UK mandate will also (it is to be hoped) shortly shored up with an immediate-deposit requirement from HEFCE.

To understand why green OA needs to be mandated first, and how it will first provide OA, and then make subscriptions unsustainable, inducing publishers to cut costs and convert to Fair Gold OA at an affordable, sustainable price by offloading all archiving and access provision onto the worldwide network of mandatory green OA institutional repositories, see:

Harnad, S. (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).

Houghton, J. & Swan, A. (2013) Planting the Green Seeds for a Golden Harvest: Comments and Clarifications on “Going for Gold”. D-Lib Magazine 19 (1/2).

Wouter Gerritsma replied:

Yes we could have green with the current subscription models and repository infrastructure. But still some important players don?t allow green (Wiley, Nature and ACS to mention a few)
But all I wanted to do, and was requested to do, to make a calculation to see what it would cost if our junior minister Sander Dekker would get what he wanted. Complete Gold OA for the Netherlands.
It would cost us 43 instead of 34 million euro.
Currently we are spending already 34 (subscriptions) plus 4 million (OA APC). So we are rapidly falling into a trap of paying twice


Yes, of course I knew that you were only the messenger, and doing the calculation! It is the pressure from Sander Dekker (or, rather, from those who are putting the pressure on Sander Dekker!) that is behind the foolish idea of increasing the already overstretched Dutch research publication budget by 30% from 34M euros for subscriptions to 43M by adding payment for pre-emptive, over-priced, double-paid Fool’s Gold OA!

But there is a solution for green OA embargoes: In the case of Elsevier, they’re no problem, because Elsevier does not have a green OA embargo — just a lot of empty, non-binding pseudo-legalistic double-talk about authors retaining the right to self-archive unembargoed “except if they are required [mandated] to exercise that retained right.” 

That is of course patent nonsense. But for those timid authors who don’t realize it, they can still be mandated to deposit the final refereed draft of their articles in their IR immediately upon acceptance for publication, but to keep it under “Closed Access” if they wish to comply with an embargo. The author can then provide individual access on a case-by-case basis: Users click the IR’s eprint-request Button to request an individual copy, and the author can then comply with the request with one click.

Needless extra clicks for the (timid) author, but extra access too, and extra usage, uptake, and impact. (And a lot better than paying a needless extra 10M!)

And of course the result after a few years of mandatory immediate deposit, providing 60% immediate OA for the unembargoed deposits and 40% Button-mediated access will be that embargoes will quietly dies their inevitable, well-deserved deaths, as more and more authors provide immediate OA.

Green OA embargoes, in other words, are illusory impediments, bits of FUD to confound timid authors. No sensible person on the planet believes they have any chance of actually holding back the Green OA dam (something the citizens of the Netherlands should understand!).

Best wishes,


Not All That Glitters

Paul Jump’s THE report on the Westminster Higher Education Forum on Implementing Open Access Policy is incomplete:

1. Professor Neilson was not arguing against Open Access (OA) mandates; he was arguing against constraints on authors’ choice of journal.

2. The ones that need to comply with funder OA mandates are fundees, not journals.

3. Hence the way for fundees to comply with funder OA mandates is to publish in their journal of choice and to provide OA to the publication.

4. The two ways to provide OA are for the publisher to do it (Gold OA) or for the author to do it (Green OA).

5. Most publishers (of UK authors’ journals of choice) provide Gold OA only if paid to do so.

6. Professor Neilson argued against this Gold OA payment not only as a constraint on author choice, but also as a constraint on the UK research budget: hence his call for a cost/benefit analysis — not of OA or OA mandates, but of Gold OA and Gold OA mandates.

7. That leaves Green OA, which can be provided by authors for any journal they choose — Gold or tolled.

8. Some journals (c. 60%) embargo Green OA; the allowable embargo length is still under debate, but hovers around 12 months; RCUK have already said they will not even try to enforce embargoes for the first five years of the new mandate.

9. The BIS Committee‘s and HEFCE‘s recommendation (not mentioned in Paul Jump’s article, though BIS Committee Chair Adrian Bailey also spoke at the Westminster Forum), is to mandate immediate deposit, whether or not access to the deposit is made OA immediately.

10. Adrian Bailey, like Professor Neilson, recommends further evidence-based analysis before diverging from the original 2004 Select Committee Recommendation to mandate Green but not Gold.

11. It is through the Green course set by the 2004 Select Committee that the UK had been leading the world toward OA till 2012, when the Finch Committee abruptly recommended — without evidence — preferring Gold.

12. BIS and HEFCE have since recommended staying the course until and unless there is evidence to the contrary.

13. What is certain is that the rest of the world (US, EU, Australia) is following the Green Course set by the UK, irrespective of any evidence-free 2nd thoughts the Finch Committee may have since had about it.

Fool’s Gold: Publisher Ransom for Freedom from Publisher Embargo?

Bob Campbell wrote on the Wiley blog:

Stevan accuses me of much conflation yet he himself conflates APCs and subscriptions when commenting on double-dipping. APCs are not paying for the ?same articles? paid for by subscriptions. Publishers have always charged separately for different services/products. For example, a medical journal may charge a pharmaceutical company for reprints, advertising space and subscriptions. These are priced separately and charged separately, and accounted for separately in the publisher?s financial management of the title. The pharmaceutical company does not demand that the cost of buying advertising space is offset against any library subscriptions.

Bob Campbell defends double-dipping by citing journal charges for the purchase of reprints, advertising and subscriptions. That’s all fine.

But what we are discussing here is the cost of publication, not of extra products or services.

Worldwide institutional subscriptions pay the cost of publication (in full, and fulsomely). It is not at all clear what extra product or service is being paid for when an author pays for hybrid Gold OA (for the paper he has given the publisher for free, to sell).

Of course it’s an extra source of revenue to the hybrid Gold publisher to force the author to pay that extra money (for whatever it is that they are paying for). And let there be no doubt that the payment is indeed forced (if the hybrid Gold publisher embargoes Green). Is the extra “service,” then, exemption from the publisher-imposed Green OA embargo?

(Note: If the publisher is among the 60% who endorse immediate Green OA, then none of my objections matter in the least, and I couldn’t care less if the publisher earns the extra revenue from those authors who are silly enough to pay for hybrid Gold OA when they could have had the same, cost-free, by just providing Green OA.)

But the publisher who embargoes Green and then pockets the extra revenue derived from hybrid Gold, over and above subscriptions, without reducing subscription charges proportionately is indeed charging twice for publication, i.e., double-dipping (and offering absolutely nothing in return except freedom from the publisher’s own Green OA embargo).

Subscriptions pay the cost of publication. Print reprints are an extra product. And adverts are an extra service. But hybrid OA is merely fool’s gold, if paid unforced. And if forced by a publish embargo, there is a word to describe the practice, but I will not use it, as a publisher has already once threatened to sue me for libel if I do? So let’s just call it double-dipping, with no extra product or service…

Pre-Green Fool’s-Gold and Post-Green Fair-Gold OA

I would be surprised if there weren’t subscription journals that would have accepted the Bohannon bogus paper for publication too.

But I would be even more surprised if as high a proportion of subscription journals — matched for field, age, size and impact-factor — would have accepted Bohannon’s bogus paper as did the pay-to-publish OA journals (“Gold OA”).

Subscription journals have to maintain enough of an appearance of peer review to sustain their subscriptions. Pay-to-publish Gold OA journals just have to maintain enough of an appearance of peer review to attract authors (and maybe the lure of pay-to-publish is enough to attract many authors in our publish-or-perish world without even the appearance of peer review, especially when the journal choice is justified by the fashionable allure — or excuse — of the journal’s being an OA journal).

This problem would not be remedied by just lowering Gold OA journal publication fees.

Nor is it a systemic problem of peer review.

It is a problem of peer review for pay-to-publish Gold OA journals at a time when there is still far too little OA and most journals are still subscription journals, most authors are still confused about OA, many think that OA is synonymous with Gold OA journals, and, most important, there are not yet enough effective mandates from research funders and institutions that require authors to make all their papers OA by depositing them in their institutional OA repositories (“Green OA”), regardless of where they were published.

If it were mandatory to make all papers Green OA, authors would simply deposit their peer-reviewed final drafts in their institutional OA repositories, free for all, immediately upon acceptance for publication. They would not have to pay to publish in Gold OA journals unless they especially wished to. Once all journal articles were being made Green OA in this way, institutions would be able to cancel all their journal subscriptions, which would in turn force all journals to cut costs and convert to Gold OA publishing at a much lower fee than is being charged now by OA journals: post-Green Fair Gold instead of today’s pre-Green Fool’s Gold.

But, most important, the reason the Fair Gold fee would be much lower is that the only remaining service that journals (all of them having become Gold OA) would be performing then, post-Green, would be peer review. All access-provision and archiving would be done by the global network of Green OA institutional repositories (so no more print or PDF editions or their costs). And for just peer review, journals would no longer be charging for publishing (which would then just amount to a tag certifying that the article had been accepted by journal J): they would be charging only for the peer review.

And each round of peer review (which peers do for free, by the way, so the only real cost is the qualified editor who evaluates the submission, picks the referees, and adjudicates the referee reports — plus the referee tracking and communication software) would be paid for on a “no-fault” basis, per round of peer review, whether the outcome was acceptance, rejection, or revision and resubmission for another (paid) round of peer review.

Unlike with today’s Fool’s Gold junk journals that were caught by Bohannon’s sting, not only will no-fault post-Green, Fair-Gold peer-review remove any incentive to accept lower quality papers (and thereby reduce the reputation of the journal) — because the journal is paid for the peer review service in any case — but it will help make Fair-Gold OA costs even lower, per round of peer review, because it will not wrap the costs of the rejected or multiply revised and re-refereed papers into the cost of each accepted paper, as they do now.

So post-Green Fair Gold will not only reduce costs but it will raise peer-review standards.

None of this is possible, however, unless Green OA is effectively mandated by all institutions and funders first.

Harnad, S. (2013) The Science Peer-Review “Sting”: Where the Fault Lies. Open Access Archivangelism 1059

________ (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).

______ (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: Anna Gacs. The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L’Harmattan. 99-106.

______ (1998) The invisible hand of peer review. Nature [online] (5 Nov. 1998), Exploit Interactive 5 (2000): and in Shatz, B. (2004) (ed.) Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry. Rowland & Littlefield. Pp. 235-242.

Pre-emptive cancellation costs far, far more than it saves

Bjorn Brembs: “What you’re saying here is that cancellations now are premature, because too few articles are actually available in green repositories? That libraries should hold off because otherwise we face access problems? If that is what you are saying here, then it may be worth spelling it out more clearly as for me that was not immediately obvious. Unintended consequences in publisher behavior (as you allude to above) aside, what is your opinion on using the funds of canceled subscriptions to improve repository functionality to improve green acess? This should only mean a brief interruption of service for much improved access shortly thereafter and a speeding up of the transition you envisage?”

1. Cancelling journals because their policies are Green — i.e., because they do not embargo Green OA self-archiving — is both absurd and destructive: It simply encourages journals to adopt embargoes.

2. Cancelling journals because (some of) their articles are Green is premature and self-defeating: Less than 20% of journal articles are unembargoed Green (i.e., immediate) OA today, and they are distributed randomly across all journals. Hence to cancel any particular journal because the proportion of its articles that is available Green today exceeds this global average is, again, just to penalize that journal, perversely (as well as jeopardizing the growth of Green OA itself, gratuitously).

The time to consider cancelling journals is once Green OA mandates and hence Green OA are at or near 100% globally, and hence the proportion of journal articles that are green OA is at or near 100%. At this point all journals will be at or near 100% and the global cancellation pressure will affect all of them, forcing them all to cut inessential costs, downsize, and convert to Fair Gold OA. (Then — and only then — is the time to redirect a fraction of each institution’s annual subscription cancellation windfall savings to pay the much-reduced Fair-Gold publication fees for the institution’s authors’ own annual article output, affordably and sustainably. Trying instead to start doing this now, pre-emptively — while percentage Green is still low, Green growth is still slow and unstable, subscriptions to core journals still have to be paid, and Fool’s Gold is still over-priced and double-paid (and double-dipped, if hybrid Fool’s-Gold) — would be a profound failure to think ahead.

In sum, to cancel journals now based on the percentage of their articles that are accessible as Green OA now would be as as short-sighted and futile as it would be counterproductive: Like the Finch Fiasco and , premature cancellation would only serve to delay the optimal and inevitable for yet another gratuitously lost decade.

(I begin to think that that might even serve as a fair punishment for all this seemingly endless readiness to run off in all directions but the right one, without troubling to think anything through even a few steps ahead!)

The Green Road To OA — And Then On To Fair-Gold

Anonymous: “By the time we reach 100% Green OA, there will be few journals left to cancel and it will be far too late to start charging authors a “fair gold” price for something they feel they have been getting for free up till then.

Until Green OA is at or near 100%, a journal cannot be cancelled because its contents cannot be accessed any other way. And Green OA grows anarchically, not journal by journal but article by article.

So subscriptions will support publication for as long as they are sustainable; when global Green OA is at or near 100%, and at or near the point of making subscriptions unsustainable, journals will be forced to cut costs by phasing out all inessential products and services. That means print edition, online edition, access-provision and archiving. Nothing will be left for them to do except manage the peer review and certify the outcome with their journal name. All access provision and archiving will be offloaded onto the distributed global network of Green OA repositories.

And authors will not have to pay the (Fair Gold) cost of the journal’s peer review service out of pocket: Their institutions will pay for it out of a fraction of their annual windfall savings — from their subscription cancellations.

Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: Anna Gacs. The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L’Harmattan. 99-106.

Harnad, S. (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).

Some Reflection from Wellcome Would be Welcome

It’s time for the Wellcome Trust to think more deeply about its endlessly repeated mantra that the “cost of publication is part of the cost of funding research.”

The statement is true enough, but profoundly incomplete: As a private foundation, Wellcome only funds researchers’ research. It does not have to fund their institutional journal subscriptions, which are currently paying the costs of publication for all non-OA research. And without access to those subscription journals, researchers would lose access to everything that is not yet Open Access (OA) — which means access to most of currently published research worldwide. Moreover, if those subscriptions stopped being paid, no one would be paying the costs of publication.

In the UK, it is the tax-payer who pays the costs of publication (which is “part of the cost of funding research”), by paying the cost of journal access via institutional subscriptions. It is fine to wish that to be otherwise, but it cannot just be wished away, and Wellcome has never had to worry about paying for it.

The Wellcome slogan and solution — the “cost of publication is part of the cost of funding research,” so pay pre-emptively for Gold OA — works well enough for Wellcome, and as a wish list. But it is not a formula for getting us all from here (c. 30% OA, mostly Green) to there (100% OA). It does not scale up from Wellcome to the UK, let alone to the rest of the world.

What scales up is mandating Green OA. Once Green OA reaches 100%, journals can be cancelled, forcing them to downsize and convert to Fair Gold, single-paid at an affordable, sustainable price, instead of double-paid pre-emptively at today’s arbitrarily inflated Fools-Gold price.

Hence it is exceedingly bad advice on Wellcome’s part, to urge the UK, that because the “cost of publication is part of the cost of funding research,” the UK should double-pay (subscriptions + Gold OA) for what Wellcome itself only needs to single-pay. (And this is without even getting into the sticky question of overpricing and double-dipping.)

Wellcome took a bold and pioneering step in 2004 in mandating OA.

But in since cleaving unreflectively and unresponsively to pre-emptive payment for Gold OA as the preferred means of providing OA — because Wellcome does not have to pay for subscriptions — the net effect of the Wellcome pioneering intiative is now beginning to turn negative rather than positive.

I hope the BIS Report will encourage Wellcome to re-think the rigid route that it has been promoting for a decade, culminating in the Finch Fiasco.

Green OA Repository Infrastructure are Permanent, not “Transitional”

In his interview with Richard Poynder, Cameron Neylon, as always, makes many valid and astute points. But there is one thing about which I think he is quite profoundly mistaken:

CN: While we can generate wider access with relatively little transitional costs through repository-mediated OA this won?t help to bring down subscriptions costs.”

Apart from the fact that lowering subscription (or publication) costs and providing open access to publisher research are not the same thing at all (and that the urgent and overwhelming priority of Open Access is Access), I think Cameron underestimates the profound causal connection between them:

No, the primary purpose of repository-mediated OA (Green OA) is not to serve as a transition to Gold OA publishing: it is to provide OA.

But in providing the infrastructure for providing OA, the global network of Green OA repositories also provides the means of downsizing publishing to just the cost of managing peer review (which peers provide for free). All the rest of the costs of pre-Green-OA publishing (access-provision, archiving) are — post-Green — offloaded and distributed across the global network of Green OA repositories (while the print and online editions and their costs can be jettisoned completely).

That is why the small residual cost of post-Green Gold OA will be affordable, sustainable “Fair Gold” OA whereas the current cost of pre-Green Gold OA is arbitrarily inflated “Fools Gold” OA. And that’s not just because the global Green OA infrastructure is not yet in place and absorbing all the costs of access-provision and archiving, but because subscriptions are still in place and have to keep being paid until those articles are made Green OA!

Hence pre-Green Gold means not only inflated prices but double-payment (for (1) subscriptions to all the must-have journals that are non-OA plus (2) Fools-Gold fees for pre-Green Gold OA journals) — not to mention the further possibility of (3) publisher double-dipping in the case of hybrid Fools Gold.

So it is not at all the case that there is “a role for Green OA and institutional repositories, although perhaps only a transitional one“: Green OA repositories can and will provide not only 100% OA, permanently, but they will thereby also make it possible (indeed necessary) for journal publishing to downsize and convert to Fair Gold — and at the same time release the institutonal subscription funds, of which a fraction can then be used to pay (rather than double-pay) for Fair Gold.

Cameron is completely right, however, that “[t]he single most important task today is putting in place robust and transparent mechanisms to report on [Green OA mandatory] policy compliance? and monitor the growth of access.” That done, effectively, the transition to Fair Gold OA will then take care of itself.

(I would close by emphasizing that just as providing OA itself is incomparably more important and urgent than publishing reform, so OA’s provision of access to all users, rather than just to subscribers, is incomparably more important and urgent than providing further re-use rights, over and above online access free for all: Fair Gold and all the re-use rights that users need and authors want to provide will come, as surely as day follows night — but Green OA must come first.)

Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: Anna Gacs. The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L’Harmattan. 99-106.

Harnad, S. (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).