On Trying to Hold Green OA and Fair-Gold OA Hostage to Subscriptions and Fools-Gold

The cynical, self-serving spin of Springer’s replies to Richard Poynder is breathtaking: Is it a sign of Springer’s new ownership?

Despite the double-talk, applying a 12-month embargo where the policy has been to endorse unembargoed immediate-Green for 10 years could hardly be described (or justified) as “simplifying” things for the author, or anyone. It would be a pure and simple bid to maintain and maximize revenue streams from both subscriptions and Gold OA. (Note that I say “would” because in fact Springer is still Green and hence still on the Side of the Angels: read on.)

Green OA means free, immediate, permanent online access; hence a 12-month embargo hardly makes Green OA sustainable, as Springer suggests! It’s not OA at all.

As stated previously, the distinction between an author’s institutional repository and an author’s “personal website” (which is of course likewise institutional) is a distinction between different sectors of an institutional disk. The rest is a matter of tagging.

The purpose of research, and of tax-payer funding of research, and of the online medium itself, is certainly not to make the subscription model sustainable for publishers.

The only service from publishers that needs to be sustained is the management of peer review. Researchers already do all the rest for free (write the papers and peer-review the papers); if they can now also archive their peer-reviewed papers and provide online access to them for all users, what justification is there for saying that the subscription model needs to be sustained?

Paying for Gold OA today, at its current arbitrarily inflated price for a bundle of no longer necessary products and services (print, PDF, archiving, access-provision), is paying for Fools-Gold.

And paying for it while subscriptions continue to be sustainable — hence while paying for them continues to be essential for institutions — is double-payment: Subscription fees plus Fools-Gold OA fees.

If, in addition. the payment is to the very same hybrid-Gold publisher, then it’s not just double-paid Fools-Gold: it also allows double-dipping by the publisher.

Nor is double-dipping corrected if (mirabile dictu) a publisher really does faithfully lower annual subscription fees by every penny of its total annual hybrid Gold revenues, because if an institution (as one subscriber out of, say, 2000 subscribing institutions) pays $XXX in Fools-Gold OA fees, over and above its subscription fees, then its own share of the subscription rebate is just 1/2000th of the $XXX that it has double-paid the hybrid Gold publisher. The rest of the rebate goes to the other 1999 beneficieries of that institution’s hybrid-Gold Fools-Gold double-payment.

And this disparity for the hybrid double-payer would perist until (as Springer hopes), all institutions are paying today’s Fools-Gold instead of subscriptions. That would be a perfect way for publishers to sustain today’s revenue streams, come what may — and that’s exactly what Springer hopes to do, by holding Green OA hostage to embargoes, and thereby holding institutions hostage to subscriptions untill they are all coughing up the same amount for Fools Gold instead, its price determined by whatever sustains today’s subscription revenues rather than what institutions and researchers actually need — and what it actually costs.

This is why Green OA is anathema to publishers, even as they purport to be “all for OA.” For Green OA is the only thing that would force publishers to downsize to the true essentials of peer-reviewed research publishing in the online era, instead of continuing to exact vastly inflated prices for mostly obsolete products and services, just in order to sustain their current revenue streams and their current M.O..

(Of course Springer changed its policy in part because of Finch/RCUK: Green OA and Green OA mandates were already anathema, but Green publishers back-pedalling on that alone would have looked very bad: all stick and no carrot. Finch/RCUK provided the perfect carrot: UK government funds to pay for Fools-Gold, including hybrid Fools-Gold — with the UK government not only funding the Fools-Gold option, but explicitly preferring it over cost-free Green. An offer no publisher could refuse, and a perfect cover for taking it, under the pretext of complying with government mandates, simplifying things for authors, and facilitating OA — in the form of lucrative Fools-Gold OA.)

But it’s not that easy to keep holding the entire worldwide research community hostage to an obsolete technology and outrageous, unnecessary prices, simply by embargoing Green OA.

First, as noted, the distinction between an author’s institutional repository and the author’s institutional website won’t wash: The difference is just in what we name them. Springer authors can go ahead and provide immediate, unembargoed Green OA based on Springer’s current policy.

But even if Springer were then to go on to bite the bullet, embargo all OA self-archiving, and admit that it has stopped being a Green publisher (iin order to protect its current revenue streams come what may), authors could still deposit immediately; and if they wished to comply with Springer’s embargo, they could set access to the immediate-deposit as Closed Access. The institutional repository’s facilitated reprint request Button can then allow any would-be user to request — and the author to provide — an eprint with just one click each, almost-immediately.

This “Almost-OA” will not only serve research needs almost as well as OA itself during the embargo, but it will also have the same effect, almost as quickly, as immediate Green OA, in forcing publishers to cut costs, downsize, and convert to Fair-Gold, at an afforable, sustainable price, precisely because it make the subscription model unsustainable.

This is why it is so important that all institutional and funder mandates should be immediate-deposit mandates (regardless of whether the deposit is immediately-OA or embargoed).

Springer: “there is widespread, if not universal, acceptance that systematic and widespread author manuscript deposit (?green? open access) of subscription-based journal articles in repositories requires an embargo period in order to ensure the sustainability of the journals”

The sustainability at issue for Springer is not the sustainability of journals but the sustainability of the subscription model (or an equal-sized revenue stream for publishers).

And the only ones convinced that the subscription model or an equal-sized revenue stream needs to be sustained at all costs are publishers.

Springer: “Springer, which has been committed to open access in deeds, not just words, for almost 10 years, is focused on offering two models which we believe to be stable and sustainable: embargoed green open access, and immediate gold open access.”

That’s two models that are designed to sustain Springer’s current revenue streams: charging for Fools Gold and embargoing cost-free Green, so that Green cannot provide immediate OA and force down the price of pre-Green Fools Gold to post-Green Fair Gold.

Springer: “We modified the [former Springer unembargoed Green] policy to make it simple and consistent for our authors, for funders and for our employees, as all forms of open access continue to grow.”

Translation: We embargoed Green in order to hold OA hostage to our current revenue streams.

Springer: “In order to ensure that green open access deposit remains sustainable on a large scale, we are standardizing the embargo period for all repository archiving to 12 months.”

Translation: We embargoed Green in order to hold OA hostage to our current revenue streams.

Springer: “this means that Springer authors can deposit into a funder repository after a 12-month embargo period even if the funder does not require the author to do so.”

Whereas formerly Springer authors could deposit immediately upon publication.

Springer:www.eprints.org describes institutional repositories, e.g. hosted by Eprint, as “a collection of digital documents [? which] share the same metadata, making their contents interoperable with one another.” Author websites on the other hand serve various purposes and are not specifically created for document collection.”

All websites have metadata. Interoperability allows the metadata to be harvested by service-providers. Interoperability is a matter of degree. All websites are harvestable (e.g., by google). What is Springer’s point? That there is a threshold on degree of interoperability that distinguishes an “institutional website” from an “institutional repository”? There is no such threshold point. And if there were, it would be arbitrary and irrelevant to the justification of a Green OA embargo, which would, as always, rest purely on the publisher’s attempt to hold OA hostage to its current revenue streams.

Springer: “We have eliminated from our policy the distinction between institutional repositories and others, such as subject and funder repositories, and created one simple rule that applies across the board — authors may deposit in any repository they like, and regardless of whether they are required by a mandate or not, as long as the embargo period is observed.”

Translation: Formerly we endorsed immediate, unembargoed Green OA self-archiving, now we are embargoing it in order to hold OA hostage to our current revenue streams.

Springer: “This supports green OA by making it sustainable, and therefore making it possible for Springer as a publisher to actively encourage and facilitate it. It also helps to clarify the respective benefits of the Green and Gold models, each of which is likely to have a place going forward.”

Translation: We embargoed Green in order to hold OA hostage to our current revenue streams.

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

Harnad, S. (2008) Waking OA?s ?Slumbering Giant?: The University’s Mandate To Mandate Open Access. New Review of Information Networking 14(1): 51 – 68

Harnad, S. (2009) The PostGutenberg Open Access Journal. In: Cope, B. & Phillips, A (Eds.) The Future of the Academic Journal. Chandos.

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. (2011) Gold Open Access Publishing Must Not Be Allowed to Retard the Progress of Green Open Access Self-Archiving. Logos: The Journal of the World Book Community. 21(3-4): 86-93

Harnad, S. (2011) Open Access to Research: Changing Researcher Behavior Through University and Funder Mandates. JEDEM Journal of Democracy and Open Government 3 (1): 33-41.

Harnad, S (2012) The Optimal and Inevitable outcome for Research in the Online Age. CILIP Update September 2012

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)

Fools Gold From Emerald

Rebecca Marsh, Director of External Relations and Services, Emerald Group Publishing Limited & Tony Roche, Publishing Director of Emerald Group Publishing Limited have posted their defence of the Emerald policy changes reported by Richard Poynder: “Open Access: Emerald’s Green Starts to Fade“.

First, a paraphrase of what Marsh & Roche wrote:

(1) All Emerald authors may do immediate, unembargoed Open Access self-archiving if they wish, but (2) not if they must. If they must self-archive, they must wait 24 months or ask individually for permission.

The sensible Emerald author will self-archive immediately, and ignore clause (2) completely. It is empty, unverifiable, unenforceable, pseudo-legal FUD that has been added as a perverse effect of the folly of the UK Finch Committee recommendations.

The Emerald policy tweak is obviously to cash in on the money that the UK has decided to squander on pre-emptive “Fools Gold” OA, as well as to try to fend off universal Green OA as long as is humanly possible.

Below I reproduce the Emerald representatives’ posting’s text, cutting out the empty verbiage, to make the double-talk clearly visible and comprehensible.

“…Emerald has had a Green Open Access [OA] policy for over a decade. [All Emerald] authors who personally wish to self-archive the pre- or post-print version of their article on their own website or in a repository… can do this immediately upon official publication of their paper. This principle continues to underpin our Green OA policy and remains unchanged….

“…[Emerald] has provided an alternative route to OA for researchers who are mandated to make their papers Open Access immediately, or after a specified period. We also set the Article Processing Charge (APC) at a relatively low level to assist authors…

“Emerald has… requested that authors wait 24 months before depositing their post-prints if a mandate is in place. Where a mandate exists for deposit immediately on publication or with a shorter mandate but no APC fund is provided, we invite all authors to contact us…”

Plans by universities and research funders to pay the costs of Gold OA pre-emptively 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. Hence, for institutions, paying pre-emptively for Gold OA today means double-paying — subscriptions for their incoming articles plus APCs for their outgoing articles– and in the case of “hybrid Gold,” when both sums are paid to the very same journal, it also means double-dipping by publishers.

Even apart from double-paying and double-dipping, the asking APC price per article for Gold OA today (whether “pure” or “hybrid”) is still inflated; and there is concern that paying to publish may also inflate acceptance rates as well as lower quality standards to maximize revenue in the case of “pure Gold” OA.

What is needed now is for all universities and funders worldwide to mandate OA self-archiving (of authors’ final peer-reviewed drafts, immediately upon acceptance for publication) (“Green OA”).

That will provide immediate OA; and if and when universal Green OA goes on to make subscriptions unsustainable (because users are satisfied with just the Green OA versions) that will in turn induce journals to cut costs (phasing out the print edition and online edition, offloading access-provision and archiving onto the worldwide network of Green OA Institutional Repositories), 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 this residual service cost.

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.

This is the difference between today’s pre-emptive pre-Green double-paid, double-dipped over-priced pre-Green “Fools Gold” and tomorrow’s affordable, sustainable, post-Green Fair Gold.

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)

Publisher Double Dealing on OA

This is a comment on Richard Poynder’s interview on Emerald’s “fading” Green OA policy.

Both the perverse effects of the UK’s Finch/RCUK policy and their antidote are as simple to describe and understand as they were to predict:

The Perverse Effects of the Finch/RCUK Policy: Besides being eager to cash in on the double-paid (subscription fees + Gold OA fees), double-dipped over-priced hybrid Gold bonanza that Finch/RCUK has foolishly dangled before their eyes, publishers like Emerald are also trying to hedge their bets and clinch the deal by adopting or extending Green OA embargoes to try to force authors to pick and pay for the hybrid Gold option instead of picking cost-free Green.

The Antidote to the Perverse Effects of the Finch/RCUK Policy: To remedy this, both funders and institutions need merely (1) distinguish deposit-date from the date that access to the deposit is made OA, (2) mandate immediate-deposit, and (3) implement the repository’s facilitated eprint request Button to tide over user needs during any OA embargo.

All funders and institutions can and should adopt the immediate-deposit mandate immediately. Together with the Button it moots embargoes (and once widely adopted, will ensure emargoes’ inevitable and deserved demise).

And as an insurance policy (and a fitting one, to counterbalance publishers’ insurance policy of prolonging Green embargoes to try to force authors to pay for hybrid Gold) funders and institutions should (4) designate date-stamped immediate-deposit as the sole mechanism for submitting published papers for annual performance review (e.g., the Liège policy) or for national research assessment (as HEFCE has proposed for REF).

As to the page that Emerald has borrowed from Elsevier, consisting of pseudo-legal double-talk implying that

you may deposit immediately if you needn’t, but not if you must

That is pure FUD and can and should be completely ignored. (Any author foolish enough to be taken in by such double-talk deserves all the needless usage and impact losses they will get!)

UK Gold Open Access Infrastructure

What UK institutions (and RCUK) need far more urgently than an RCUK compliance mechanism to collect, monitor and disburse the UK funds for Gold double-payments (sic) is an RCUK compliance monitoring mechanism for cost-free Green OA — and HEFCE/REF have proposed a natural way to accomplish this:

1. HEFCE proposes to make immediate deposit of the final draft of peer reviewed articles in the institutional repository, immediately upon acceptance for publication, a requirement for eligibility for submission to REF 2020.

2. Immediate deposit is required (a) irrespective of whether the deposited draft is made immediately OA or embargoed for an allowable interval, (b) irespective of whether it is published in a subscription journal or a Gold OA journal, (c) irrespective of whether further re-use rights are licensed (e.g., CC-BY).

3. The immediate-deposit would apply immediately, since researchers cannot foresee which 4 articles will prove to be their best (and hence submitted to REF) 6 years hence, and delayed deposit would make the articles ineligible.

4. Hence the natural procedure for each institution is to systematically collect and store the calendar date of the acceptance letter as well as the date of deposit for all articles published. (The former can be made a repository meta-data field; the latter already is.)

That done, institutions can go back to counting the gold chicks allotted them by RCUK’s golden hen, knowing that their RCUK mandate requirements are already fulfilled via Green. No worries about running out of money to pay for publication. 

And the added bonus is that if the Gold is not spent on paying publishers even more money than is being spent already for subscriptions, any leftover can now be spent on facilitating and implementing Green OA and monitoring compliance (see replies of Doug Kell to the BIS Parliamentary Select Committee about what can be done with the RCUK Gold OA funds if there is no need to spend them on Gold OA). 

The natural next step toward global OA will be to integrate institutional and funder mandates worldwide to make them convergent and mutually reinforcing. HEFCE/REF have shown the way to do so. 

This will also put the UK back into the worldwide OA leadership role it had from 2004-2012 and then lost with the Finch Committee’s egregious proposal to mandate paid Gold (by restricting UK authors’ right to choose their journals for their quality standards alone, rather than their cost-recovery model, and by redirecting scarce research funds to double-pay publishers for Gold OA instead of just providing cost-free Green OA).

What Open Access Needs Today Is Mandates, Not Money

European Union requires Open Access: “Money is essential in OA, and only governments are able to provide sufficient funds on a major scale.

This conflates author-pays publishing in “Gold” OA journals with cost-free author self-archiving of articles published in subscription journals (“Green” OA).

No extra money is needed for Green OA self-archiving. It just requires a clear mandate (requirement) to self-archive, by depositing the author’s final, peer-reviewed draft in the author’s institutional repository immediately upon acceptance for publication. The deposit should be made OA immediately (or after an embargo period whose allowable length should be as short as possible).

Research Councils UK, under the influence of the publisher lobby, has adopted a mandate that prefers to pay for Gold OA, though it also (reluctantly) allows Green OA. Fortunately, however, HEFCE (Higher Education Founding Council of England) has proposed to mandate immediate deposit of all articles as a precondition for eligibility for evaluation in the Research Excellence Framework (REF), an important source of top-sliced research funding for UK universities.

The EU OA mandate should be for Green OA only, with immediate deposit required (and no embargoes allowed to exceed 6 months). No extra money should be provided for Gold OA. Publication costs today are still being covered in full by worldwide institutional journal subscriptions. So paying for Gold OA today entails double-paying: subscriptions plus Gold OA fees (poached from scarce research funds).

Journal subscriptions cannot be canceled until all journal articles are available by some other means. Globally mandating Green OA will provide that other means. Then subscriptions can be cancelled, releasing the institutional funds to pay for Gold OA without having to double pay — and also driving down the price of Gold OA (currently vastly inflated) to fair, affordable, sustainable levels, by offloading all access-provision and archiving onto the worldwide distributed network of Green OA institutional repositories (phasing out the publisher’s print and online edition and their costs):

Post-Green Gold OA will be “Fair Gold.” Today’s pre-emptive, Pre-Green Gold OA is profligate “Fool’s Gold.”

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.

____ (2008) Waking OA?s ?Slumbering Giant?: The University’s Mandate To Mandate Open Access. New Review of Information Networking 14(1): 51 – 68

____ (2009) The PostGutenberg Open Access Journal. In: Cope, B. & Phillips, A (Eds.) The Future of the Academic Journal. Chandos.

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

____ (2011) Open Access to Research: Changing Researcher Behavior Through University and Funder Mandates. JEDEM Journal of Democracy and Open Government 3 (1): 33-41.

____ (2012) United Kingdom’s Open Access Policy Urgently Needs a Tweak. D-Lib Magazine 18: 9/10

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

The Golden Road and the Green Driver

Quote/commentary on the replies of Johannes Fournier [JF] to Richard Poynder in
The Open Access Interviews: Johannes Fournier, speaking for the Global Research Council.”

JF: “Personally, I see one definite advantage of the Golden Road: it brings with it clear regulations as regards re-use. Contrastingly, self-archiving will often not provide the legal basis that allows for specific forms of re-use like text-and data-mining.”

This is the classic example of “letting the ‘best’ become the enemy of the ‘better'”.

Free-access (“Gratis OA“) is within reach (via universal Green OA mandates), free-access-plus-re-use-rights (“Libre OA”) is not.

Re-use is use-less without access, and we are nowhere near having free-access to all, most, or much of the journal-article corpus.

Or, to put it another way, the first and foremost “use” is access. So losing more of the precious time (and use) that has already been lost by continuing to over-reach for re-use rights when users don’t even grasp the use that is already within reach, is, for want of a better word, a persistent head-shaker in the slow, sad saga of OA.

JF: “My views on self-archiving mandates are grounded in the philosophy of the organisation that employs me. The DFG is self-governed by researchers? And researchers don?t like to be forced to do things, they like to be supported and encouraged. For that reason, the DFG encourages open access by funding opportunities that facilitate providing research results in open access.”

If one thing has been learnt from the slow, sad saga of OA (now at least two decades old) it is that mandating OA works, but encouraging it doesn’t.

And neither the DFG nor DFG researchers are any different in this regard. The notion that mandating OA would be an illegal constraint on academic freedom in the DFG remains just as wrong-headed today as it has been since the first day it began to be endlessly parroted — as wrong-headed as the notion that mandating “publish or perish” (which is, of course, mandated in the DFG, just as it is everywhere else in the research world) would be an illegal constraint on academic freedom in the DFG.

JF: “a dichotomy between Green and Gold tends to obscure the question we really need to ask ourselves: what kind of mechanisms could be designed in order to shift money from acquisition budgets into publication funds? Because the transition to open access will only succeed if we find ways to reinvest those funds which are already used to pay for information provision.”

The goal of Open Access to research is Open Access to research. If we had universal OA to research, the “serials crisis” would instantly become a minor matter rather than the life/death issue it is now (Think about it.)

But, yes, universal, sustainable OA will indeed entail a “shift [of] money from acquisition budgets into publication funds.” The missing causal component in this irreproachable reasoning, however, is: “what will drive that shift?”.

And that missing causal component (again: think about it) is universal mandatory Green OA self-archiving. (I will not, yet again, spell out the causal contingencies. See here and here.)

JF: “the need to buy the subscription content remains. Yet although the transition requires additional money, it might not be necessary to really pay twice: one could operate more economically if the subscription prices for a local library or for a consortium were adjusted to the growth of publication fees. That?s how to avoid so-called double-dipping? I know this sounds very simple and might be rather complex in its implementation, especially because the implementation is likely to require that the funding streams are readjusted.”

The “implementation” might be rather complex indeed, without mandatory Green OA to drive down costs and force the shift. About as complex as alleviating world hunger, disease or poverty by likewise “readjusting funding streams”…

On "Platinum OA," "Titanium OA," and "Overlay-Journal OA," Again

1. Green/Subscription Co-Existence. Subscriptions might co-exist peacefully with Green OA for some time, even after the world has reached 100% Green.

(As long as mandatory Green OA generates 100% Green OA, this is no problem for OA, and it certainly does ease the hardship of the serials crisis, since with 100% Green, subscriptions become a luxury rather than a painful necessity, as they are now.)

2. The Green/Gold Distinction.The definition of Green and Gold OA is that Green OA is provided by the author and Gold OA is provided by the journal. This makes no reference to journal cost-recovery model. Although most of the top Gold OA journals charge APCs and are not subscription based, the majority of Gold OA journals do not charge APCs (as Peter Suber and others frequently point out).

These Gold OA journals may cover their costs in one of several ways:

(i) Gold OA journals may simply be subscription journals that make their online version OA
(ii) Gold OA journals may be subsidized journals
(iii) Gold OA journals may be volunteer journals where all parties contribute their resources and services gratis
(iv) Gold OA journals may be hybrid subscription/Gold journals that continue to charge subscriptions for non-OA articles but offer the Gold option for an APC by the individual OA article.

All of these are Gold OA (or hybrid) journals.

It would perhaps be feasible to estimate the costs of each kind. But I think it would be a big mistake, and a source of great confusion, if one of these kinds (say, ii, or iii) were dubbed “Platinum.”

That would either mean that it was both Gold and Platinum, or it would restrict the meaning of Gold to (i) and (iv), which would redefine terms in wide use for almost a decade now in terms of publication economics rather than in terms of the way they provide OA, as they had been.

(And in that case we would need many more “colours,” one for each of (i)(iv) and any other future cost-recovery model someone proposes (advertising?) — and then perhaps also different colors for Green (institutional repository deposit, central deposit, home-page deposit, immediate deposit, delayed deposit, OAI-compliant, author-deposited, librarian-deposited, provost-deposited, 3rd-party-deposited, crowd-sourced, e.g. via Mendeley, which some have proposed calling this “Titanium OA”).

I don’t think this particoloured nomenclature would serve any purpose other than confusion. Green and Gold designate the means by which the OA is provided — by the author or by the journal. The journal’s cost-recovery model is another matter, and should not be colour-coded lest it obscure this fundamental distinction. Ditto for the deposit’s locus and manner.

3. “Overlay Journals.” I have a longstanding problem with the term “overlay journal” that I have rehearsed before. Overlay of what on what?

The notion of an “overlay journal” was first floated by Ginsparg for Arxiv. Arxiv contains authors’ unrefereed, unpublished preprints and then their refereed, published postprints. Ginsparg said that eventually journals could turn into “overlays” on the Arxiv deposits, corresponding roughly to the transition from preprint to postprint. The “overlay” would consist of the peer review, revision, and then the journal title as the “tag” certifying the officially accepted version.

But in that sense, all Gold OA journals are “overlay journals” once they have phased out their print edition:

The “overlay” of the peer review service and then the tagging of the officially accepted version could be over a central repository, over distributed institutional repositories, or over the publsher’s (OA) website.

Even a non-OA subscription journal would be an “overlay” journal if it had phased out its print edition: The peer review and certification tag would simply be an “overlay” on an online version, regardless of where it was located, and even regardless of whether it was OA or non-OA. (Once we get this far, we see that even for print journals the peer review and certification is just an “overlay”).

What I think this reveals is that in the online era (and especially the OA era) the notion of “overlay” is completely redundant: Once we note that the print edition was just a technical detail of the Gutenberg era, we realize that journal publishing consists (and always implicitly consisted) of two components: access-provision and quality-control/certification (peer-review/editing). The latter is always an “overlay” on the former. And once the print edition is gone, it’s an overlay on a digital template that can be here, there or everywhere. It is simply a tagged digital file.

Now my own oft-repeated scenario is that universally mandated Green OA self-archiving will eventually lead to journals abandoning their print versions, then abandoning their digital versions and offloading all access-provision and archiving of the digital version onto the global network of Green OA repositories.

This is, in a sense, an “overlay” scenario. But a much simpler and more natural way of looking at it is that from the multiple functions that journals formerly performed, and the multiple co-bundled products and services they formerly sold via subscription — print edition, online edition, distribution, storage and peer review/editing — Green OA will induce a down-sizing to the sole remaining essential function for a peer-reviewed journal in the networked online medium: peer review.

Peer review is hence an unbundled service provided by a post-Green Gold OA journal. I don’t think it is realistic to try to assess its costs independently, as a form of journal publication “overlaid” on something or other — independent of what that something or other is, and how it gets there!

So although it is likely that 100% Green will eventually make subscriptions unsustainable and force a transition to Gold, there may be a long co-existence interregnum in between. (And the main unpredicatable factor determining that will be author/reader habits, including how long they will want to keep paying for print, and how much and how long they value the publisher’s version-of-record.)

That’s why it is far less important how long 100% Green will co-exist with subscriptions than how long it will take to get to 100% Green (and what’s the fastest and surest way to get us there?)!

Berners-Lee, Tim, De Roure, Dave, Harnad, Stevan and Shadbolt, Nigel (2005) Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence and Fruitful Collaboration.

Universal Green is the Path From Fool’s Gold to Fair Gold

The price of Gold OA today is absurdly, arbitrarily high.

Most journals (and almost all the top journals) today are subscription journals. That means that whether you pay for hybrid Gold to a subscription journal or for “pure Gold” to a pure-Gold journal, double-payment is going on: subscriptions plus Gold. Institutions have to keep subscribing to the subscription journals their users need over and above whatever is spent for Gold.

In contrast, Green OA self-archiving costs nothing. The publication is already paid for by subscriptions.

So it is foolish and counterproductive to pay for Gold pre-emptively, without first having (effectively) mandated and provided Green.

(That done, people are free to spend their spare cash as they see fit!)

So what RCUK should have done (and I hope still will) is to require that all articles, wherever published, be immediately deposited in their authors’ institutional repository — no exceptions. (If it were up to me, I’d allow no OA embargo; but I can live with embargoes for now — as long as deposit itself is immediate and the email-eprint-request Button is there, working, during any embargo: Universal immediate-deposit mandates will soon usher in the natural and well-deserved demise of OA embargoes.)

(That done, whether or not authors choose to publish or pay for Gold is left entirely to their free choice.)

Paying instead for Gold, pre-emptively, for the sake of CC-BY re-use rights , today, is worth neither the product paid for (Gold CC-BY) nor, far more importantly, all the Green OA thereby foregone (for the UK as well as for the rest of the world) whilst the UK’s ill-fated Gold preference policy marches through the next few years to its inevitable failure.

So it’s not about the price of the Gold. It’s about the price of failing to grasp the Green that’s within immediate reach today — the Green that will not only pave the way to Gold (and as much CC-BY as users need and authors want to provide), but the same Green whose competitive pressure will — (here comes my unheeded mantra again) — drive the price of Gold down to a fair, affordable, sustainable one, by making subscriptions unsustainable, forcing publishers to cut costs by downsizing, jettisoning the print and online editions, offloading all access-provision and archiving onto the Green OA institutional repositories, and converting to Fair-Gold in exchange for the peer review service alone, paid for out of a fraction of the institutional subscription cancelation savings windfall.

The difference between paying for Gold then, post-Green OA — and hence post-subscriptions and double-payment — and double-paying for it now, pre-emptively, is the difference between Fair Gold and Fool’s-Gold.

Publishers Offering Hybrid Gold Without Allowing Immediate, Unembargoed Green Is Extortion

RCUK allowing hybrid Gold payment only if the publisher allows the Green option within the RCUK 6-12-24+ embargo limits is no solution for the perverse effects of the new RCUK policy.

The only solution is for RCUK to allow hybrid Gold payment only if the publisher allows an immediate un-embargoed Green option — and RCUK must leave the choice between Green or Gold options completely up to the author (no “preference,” no “decision tree”).

A subscription publisher that pits paid hybrid Gold against embargoed Green is practicing extortion, with or without the help of RCUK’s perverse policy.

Embargoes are a complicated story that will soon have to be told forthrightly.

Publishers embargo green under the pretext that it’s the only way to protect themselves from sure ruin.

That is utter nonsense, of course.

What embargoes really do is to delay (i.e. embargo) the natural, inevitable evolution from subscription publishing to Fair-Gold OA publishing at a fair, affordable, sustainable price by “protecting” double-payment at today’s grotesquely inflated Fool’s-Gold price.

Embargoes embargo both OA and Fair Gold, in order to lock in current subscription revenues and Fool’s Gold.

Think about it?.

But the compromise of an immediate-deposit/optional-access (ID/OA) mandate (in which deposit must be immediate but access to the deposit may be embargoed), once globally adopted, will ensure that publishers will be unable to keep embargoing the optimal and inevitable outcome for research, researchers and the tax-paying public much longer.

Whatever else it does, RCUK should immediately and unambiguously adopt (and ensure compliance with) an ID/OA mandate.

Sustainable Post-Green Gold OA

It is definitely a canard that all, most or even the majority of OA is Gold OA.

It is also definitely untrue that all, most or even the majority of Gold OA is APC-based.

But I think it is also true that the majority of non-APC-based Gold OA are not among the top journals in most fields — the ones most institutions need to subscribe to, and the ones that also tend to be the journals indexed by ISI (and that doesn’t just mean preoccupation with journal impact factors: those are also the journals that have established a track-record for high quality peer review standards).

I may be wrong, but think it is misleading to equate the canard about OA being Gold OA with the misimpression that most Gold OA is APC-based: It’s not, but there’s more to it than that.

And I also think that although it’s true that today’s limited and patchy Green OA has not caused journal cancelations, once OA becomes universally mandatory, Green OA will make subscriptions unsustainable, and journals will have to cut costs, downsize, and find another source of revenue to cover the remaining costs — and that other source of revenue will be Gold OA APCs, per paper submitted for peer review, at a fair, affordable, sustainable price, paid out of portion of each institution’s annual windfall savings from the subscription-cancellations induced by universal Green OA.

That will be affordable, sustainable Fair-Gold OA (as compared to today’s Fool’s Gold OA, double-paid alongside subscriptions at an absurdly inflated price). But I do not believe that either parallel subscription income, alongside universal Green, or subsidies, or (as some imagine) pure voluntarism and thin air will be sustainable ways of paying for the much-reduced but still non-zero cost, per paper submitted, of post-Green peer-reviewed journal publishing.

RCUK & Gold OA: Counting the Needless Doubled Costs

In Gold Open Access: Counting the Costs, Ariadne 70 (2012), Theo Andrew points out some of the prominent problems with Gold OA costs and RCUK policy, but he misses some of the most important ones:

RCUK stated that Gold OA is the preferred mechanism of choice to realise open access for outputs that they have funded and have announced the award of block grants to eligible institutions to achieve this aim. Where a Gold OA option is unavailable, Green OA is also acceptable; however, RCUK have indicated that the decision will be ultimately left up to institutions as to which route to take.

Theo states the policy correctly but fails to point out that as it stands, the policy is self-contradictory:

1. RCUK prefers Gold.

2. Choosing Green is acceptable where Gold is unavailable.

3. Institutions are free to choose Green or Gold.

So is or isn’t the choice of Green unacceptable where Gold is available? Is or isn’t the fundee free to choose Green?

RCUK has since grudgingly conceded, in supplementary statements, that the institution and author are still free to choose Green or Gold even when a journal offers both; but RCUK have still stubbornly refused to fix the official policy wording, which continues to state that Green can only be chosen if the journal does not offer Gold, rather than simply: Fundees may choose Green of Gold. Perhaps this incoherence and ambiguity is left in so as to bias confused authors and institutions toward RCUK’s preferred choice…

There is a general expectation that over time APCs will settle to a reasonable rate and similarly journal subscriptions will lower to reflect the gradual change in business model from subscription fees to APCs.

General expectations, and speculations. (Whose? and on what evidence are they based?) But meanwhile, if the expectations and speculations are wrong then RCUK authors are being pushed toward an unreasonable APC rate and subscriptions will not lower.

APCs and subscriptions are worldwide matters and the UK only produces 6% of worldwide research.

And if the goal of the RCUK policy is Open Access to UK research, rather than to test expectations and speculations with UK research funds, then RCUK need only have mandated Green.

But in any case, UK researchers, if they can see through the RCUK policy’s formal double-talk, can comply by choosing to provide Green OA without paying any APCs. Moreover, the PCs (sic) (publishing costs) are already being paid, in full — by (worldwide) subscriptions.

Much of this transition period to full open access will have to be navigated through uncharted territory, where no one has a clear handle on the costs involved.

Yes, the transition to Gold OA is indeed uncharted; moreover, the destination is a global one. It is not at all evident that the UK is in a position to steer the world on this uncharted course by unilaterally conducting its expensive and heavy-handed experiment — or it is merely needlessly wasting a lot of scarce UK research money to double-pay publishers.

The most likely outcome of the experiment, however, will be that the vast majority of UK researchers choose Green rather than Gold.

And if RCUK does not implement a mechanism for monitoring and ensuring compliance with the Green OA option, the RCUK mandate will not even generate Green OA.

(All compliance considerations are so far focused on how to spend the Gold funds, and what to do when they run out; not a word yet on how to ensure that Green is actually provided, when chosen.)

[E]ven with guaranteed funding from HEFCE, and other funders of research, large research-intensive universities will not be able to pay for all of their research to be published under Gold OA.

And here is an instance of this blinkered focus on how to spend HEFCE Gold: If researchers and their institutions manage to read through the RCUK double-talk, they will see that what they can do if the HEFCE Gold subsidy runs — or even while the HEFCE funds are still available to double-pay publishers — is to choose to provide Green OA, at no extra cost in APCs.

(Please recall that the UK and the rest of the world are still paying for publication costs, in full, via subscriptions; and that those subscriptions cannot be cancelled until and unless that journal content is accessible by another means: That other means is Green OA.)

“[There is] a positive correlation between APCs and impact factor

And a moment’s reflection will show that the causality underlying that correlation cannot possibly be that paying more money for APCs raises articles’ citation counts! Obviously the journals with the higher impact factors are charging higher APCs.

[P]ublication in hybrid journals (n=185) was significantly more popular than publishing in full OA journals (n=75). This may be due to the fact that there are more hybrid journals to publish in?. the average APC cost for hybrid journals was £1,989.79 compared to £1,128.02 for full OA journals ? a difference of £861.77.

Of course there are more established journals that have offered hybrid Gold OA as an option (cost-free double-earners for them, super-easy to offer) than there are new start-up Gold OA journals. And of course it is the established journals that have the track-record for quality, rather than new start-ups.

And obviously a track-record for quality is more “popular” with authors than a pig-in-a-poke.

What’s not obvious is why any author would prefer to pay their journal-of-choice for hybrid Gold OA, when they can provide Green OA at no cost.

But that is precisely the practice that the RCUK OA policy was meant to have remedied, by mandating Green (with effective compliance ensurance) rather than throwing money needlessly and pre-emptively at Gold while PCs (sic) are still being paid, in full — by (worldwide) subscriptions.

Research-intensive institutions are likely to be hit twice; since they publish more articles and more frequently in higher-impact journals, their share of Gold OA bills is likely to be disproportionally larger.

This is Theo’s biggest oversight: Productive institutions are being hit thrice, not twice!

Not only do they (1) publish more articles, (2) in higher-quality (hence higher-APC journals) but, by far the most important of all, they are still (3) paying in full for PCs, via subscriptions, over and above any APCs they are paying for Gold (whether hybrid or “pure”). Indeed all institutions that produce any research at all are double-paying for whatever OA they buy via Gold APCs, high or low.

In a nut-shell: paying pre-emptively for Gold OA today is unnecessary, premature, and a waste of scarce research funds, while subscriptions are still paying (in full) for publication costs.

It is only if and when mandatory Green OA becomes universal worldwide, and makes it possible to cancel subscriptions by offering an alternative way of accessing all published research, that journals will need to convert to Gold OA — and institutions can then use their annual windfall subscriptions savings to pay the APCs.

And those post-Green APCs will be far lower than today’s Gold APCs; hence they will be affordable and sustainable (rather than bloated, arbitrary double-payments, as now). Why? Because the cancelation pressure from global Green OA will force publishers to cut obsolete goods and services and their costs (like the print edition and the publisher PDF) and to offload all access-provision and archiving functions onto the global network of Green OA institutional repositories, leaving nothing to charge APCs for but the management of the peer review (which the peers do, as always, pro bono).

Moreover, the APCs for the post-Green Gold OA peer-review management will be “no-fault“, which means this it will be charged uniformly for each actual round of refereeing, for all submitted articles — regardless of whether the outcome is acceptance, revision/resubmission or acceptance — rather than bundling the APCs for refereeing the rejected articles into the APC of each accepted article.

Journals will not earn more by trying to charge a higher APC for refereeing: they will earn more by establishing higher quality standards for evaluation (and those may indeed be worth a higher refereeing price). But in any case, refereeing prices will be so low, compared to the windfall subscription cancelation savings, that affordability will no longer be the life/death matter that it is for journal subscription PCs today.

This is all hypothetical, of course (just like RCUK’s “general expectations and speculations”). But the fact that Green OA is already paid for in full by subscriptions today — and hence can provide OA cost-free — is not.

The causes of significantly higher APC costs for high impact factor and hybrid journals are hard to identify and the suggestions made here are purely speculative…

The principal reason higher quality journals (which are often, but not always, higher-impact-factor journals) can and do charge higher APCs is obviously that they are the journals that are more in demand, and hence can name their price.

As to the other potential factors:

“[Possible causes of higher APC coats:] Higher rejection rates

Yes, higher-quality journals reject more articles. Hence, in a pre-Green Gold APC system, they bundle the costs of the costs of rejected articles into the costs of accepted ones.

Post-Green this will no longer be necessary; and meanwhile, pre-Green, it is not necessary to pay Gold APCs for OA: Green OA will provide OA at no extra cost.

“[Possible causes of higher APC coats:] Reprints: various publishers have commented that they maximise their income streams by selling commercial reprints. A fully open licence (for example Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY) would remove this as users are free to distribute and reuse without further payment.

These days most authors respond to reprint requests with eprints, not hard-copy.

But just as pre-emptive Gold is neither urgent nor necessary, CC-BY is neither urgent nor necessary — in most fields. Some fields may indeed need CC-BY more than others, but all fields need free online access, it’s much easier and cheaper to provide (and mandate), yet we do not have even that yet.

And most uses already come with the territory, with Green (Gratis) OA.

“[Possible causes of higher APC coats:] Value: Related to the issue of brand, there is a commonly held view that having high costs for publishing articles in high impact journals is justified as this is a valued service for which researchers are willing to pay a premium.

The value of a journal comes from its track-record for quality, which in turn comes from its peer review standards. Higher quality journals are in higher demand, by both authors and users, so when they double-charge for hybrid Gold, pre-Green, they can ask for higher APCs.

Gold OA APCs post-Green for peer review alone will be so much lower that any price differences will be negligible.

(I also think it will be the lower-quality journals that will charge more, for faster, lower-standard refereeing.)

“[Possible causes of higher APC coats:] Commercial publishers may seek to set the APCs at a price point which they think the market can bear.

But pubishers would have more trouble doing this if it were not for RCUK’s double-talk about author choice: It would certainly keep pre-Green Gold prices down if RCUK fundees had a clear idea that if they did not wish to pay (or could not), they could always provide Green,

In theory, researchers can choose exactly where to publish and are free to publish elsewhere if they don’t like the prices.

Better still, they can provide Green and not pay any price at all (if they can see their way through the RCUK red tape obscuring this fact.)

[W]ith an inelastic market – researchers are unlikely to shop around – and where the costs are sheltered – central funds mean that researchers are not exposed directly to costs – the APCs would remain high because normal market forces would not drive costs down.

If RCUK authors have sense, they will not waste scarce research money on double-paying publishers for Gold OA at all while subscriptions are still being paid: They will simply provide Green.

Hybrid journals seem to be more popular venues for Open Access publication

This was already explained earlier: Established journals are likely to be hybrid Gold rather than pure-Gold start-ups, and they are also likely to be (rightly) in greater demand. — But there’s also need to double-pay them for hybrid Gold. RCUK fundees can simply choose Green.

Hybrid journals generally charge more than full OA journals independent of journal impact factor

That’s probably because unlike pure-Gold OA journals, hybrids still provide a print edition, and if they publish N articles per year, they probably charge somewhere around 1/Nth of their total annual subscription revenue for each hybrid Gold double-payment.

There is a positive correlation between APC cost and impact factor for both hybrid and full OA journals.

Supply and demand. High quality/impact journals are in greater demand, allowing them to get away with a higher price.

Open Access policies require rigorous compliance monitoring to be successful, and seem to be more effective when punitive sanctions are imposed.

“Punitive” is overstating it. Mandate effectiveness needs both carrots and sticks, but RCUK has so far only specified how it will monitor Gold compliance. For Green, RCUK would do well to look to the Belgian model.

Research-intensive institutions are likely to be hit by a cost ?double whammy?; they not only publish more articles, but they also publish them more frequently in high-impact-factor journals.

Triple whammy: They also have to keep paying subscriptions.

Stevan Harnad

Houghton Report on OA Cost/Benefits in Germany

General cost analysis for scholarly communication in Germany: results of the ‘Houghton Report’ for Germany by John W. Houghton, Berndt Dugall, Steffen Bernius, Julia Krönung, Wolfgang König

Management Summary: Conducted within the project ?Economic Implications of New Models for Information Supply for Science and Research in Germany?, the Houghton Report for Germany provides a general cost and benefit analysis for scientific communication in Germany comparing different scenarios according to their specific costs and explicitly including the German National License Program (NLP).
Basing on the scholarly lifecycle process model outlined by Björk (2007), the study compared the following scenarios according to their accounted costs:
– Traditional subscription publishing,
– Open access publishing (Gold Open Access; refers primarily to journal publishing where access is free of charge to readers, while the authors or funding organisations pay for publication)
– Open Access self-archiving (authors deposit their work in online open access institutional or subject-based repositories, making it freely available to anyone with Internet access; further divided into (i) CGreen Open Access? self-archiving operating in parallel with subscription publishing; and (ii) the ?overlay services? model in which self-archiving provides the foundation for overlay services (e.g. peer review, branding and quality control services))
– the NLP.
Within all scenarios, five core activity elements (Fund research and research communication; perform research and communicate the results; publish scientific and scholarly works; facilitate dissemination, retrieval and preservation; study publications and apply the knowledge) were modeled and priced with all their including activities.
Modelling the impacts of an increase in accessibility and efficiency resulting from more open access on returns to R&D over a 20 year period and then comparing costs and benefits, we find that the benefits of open access publishing models are likely to substantially outweigh the costs and, while smaller, the benefits of the German NLP also exceed the costs.
This analysis of the potential benefits of more open access to research findings suggests that different publishing models can make a material difference to the benefits realised, as well as the costs faced. It seems likely that more Open Access would have substantial net benefits in the longer term and, while net benefits may be lower during a transitional period, they are likely to be positive for both ?author-pays? Open Access publishing and the ?over-lay journals? alternatives (?Gold Open Access?), and for parallel subscription publishing and self-archiving (?Green Open Access?). The NLP returns substantial benefits and savings at a modest cost, returning one of the highest benefit/cost ratios available from unilateral national policies during a transitional period (second to that of ?Green Open Access? self-archiving). Whether ?Green Open Access? self-archiving in parallel with subscriptions is a sustainable model over the longer term is debateable, and what impact the NLP may have on the take up of Open Access alternatives is also an important consideration. So too is the potential for developments in Open Access or other scholarly publishing business models to significantly change the relative cost-benefit of the NLP over time.
The results are comparable to those of previous studies from the UK and Netherlands. Green Open Access in parallel with the traditional model yields the best benefits/cost ratio. Beside its benefits/cost ratio, the meaningfulness of the NLP is given by its enforceability. The true costs of toll access publishing (beside the buyback? of information) is the prohibition of access to research and knowledge for society.

Some Comments:

Like previous Houghton Reports, this one has carefully compared unilateral and global cost/benefits for Gold Open Access Publishing and Green Open Access Self-Archiving. In this case, the options also included the German National License Program (NLP), a negotiated national site license providingGerman researchers with access to most of the journals they need.

As it found in other countries, the Report finds that Green OA self-archiving provides the best benefit/cost ratio in Germany too.

It needs to be noted, however, that among the scenarios compared, only subscription publishing (including licensed subscriptions) and Gold OA publishing are publishing models. Green OA self-archiving is not a substitute publishing model but a system of providing OA under the subscription/licensing model — by supplementing it with author self-archiving (and with self-archiving mandates adopted by authors’ institutions and funders).

“Open Access self-archiving? [is] further divided into (i) Green Open Access? self-archiving operating in parallel with subscription publishing; and (ii) the ?overlay services? model in which self-archiving provides the foundation for overlay services (e.g. peer review, branding and quality control services))”

Strictly speaking, the “overlay services model” is just another hypothetical Gold OA publishing model, but one in which the Gold OA fee is only paying for the service of peer-review, branding and quality control rather than for the all the rest of the products and services journals that are currently still being co-bundled in journal subscriptions and their costs (print edition, online edition, access-provision, hosting, archiving).

This hypothetical Gold OA model is predicated, however, on the assumption that there is universal Green OA self-archiving too, in order to perform the access-provision, hosting and archiving functions of what was formerly co-bundled under the subscription model.

Hence for existing journals the “overlay” Gold OA model is really just the second stage of a 2-stage transition that begins with the Green OA self-archiving access-provision system. In such a transition scenario, although Green OA would begin as a supplement to the subscription model, it would become an essential contributor to the sustainability of the overlay Gold OA model.

“comparing costs and benefits? [of] open access on returns to R&D over a 20 year period? we find that the benefits of open access publishing models are likely to substantially outweigh the costs and, while smaller, the benefits of the German NLP also exceed the costs.”

Again, it needs to be kept in mind that what are being compared are not just independent alternative publishing models, but also supplementary means of providing OA; so in some cases there are some very specific sequential contingencies and interdependencies among these models and scenarios.

“The NLP returns substantial benefits and savings at a modest cost, returning one of the highest benefit/cost ratios available from unilateral national policies during a transitional period (second to that of ?Green Open Access? self-archiving).”

I presume that in considering the costs and benefits of German national licensing the Houghton Report considered both the unilateral German national licensing scenario and the scenario if reciprocated globally. In this regard, it should be noted that OA has both user-end benefits [maximized access] and author-end benefits [maximized impact]: Unilateral national licenses provide only the former, not the latter. Both unilateral Green and unilateral Gold, in contrast, provide only the latter but not the former. So what needs to be taken into account is global scalability and sustainability: How likely are other nations (and institutions) to wish — and afford – to reciprocate under the various scenarios?

“Whether ?Green Open Access? self-archiving in parallel with subscriptions is a sustainable model over the longer term is debatable”

First of all, if subscription publishing itself is not a sustainable model, then of course Green OA self-archiving is not a sustainable supplement either.

But in the hypothetical “overlay” Gold OA model it is being assumed that Green OA self-archiving is indeed sustainable — as a practice, not as a substitute form of publishing. (It is naive to think of spawning 28,000 brand-new Gold OA peer-reviewed journals in place of the circa 28,000 journals that exist today: A conversion scenario is much more realistic.)

And probably the most relevant sustainability question is not about the sustainability of the practice of Green OA self-archiving (keystrokes and institutional repositories), nor the sustainability of subscription publishing, but the sustainability of subscription publishing in parallel with universal Green OA self-archiving. One natural possibility is that globally mandated Green OA self-archiving will make journal subscriptions unsustainable, inducing a transition in publishing models, with journals, under cancelation pressure, cutting inessential products and services and their costs, and downsizing to what is being here called the “overlay” Gold OA model (though that’s probably not the aptest term to describe the outcome), while at the same time releasing the subscription cancelation funds to pay the much lower peer review service fees it entails.

“The results are comparable to those of previous studies from the UK and Netherlands. Green Open Access in parallel with the traditional model yields the best benefits/cost ratio.”

And what also need to be taken into account are sequential contingencies and priorities: Green OA self-archiving is not only the cheapest, fastest and surest way to provide OA, but it is also the natural way to induce a subsequent transition to affordable, sustainable Gold OA. But in order to be able to do that, it has to come first.

“Beside its benefits/cost ratio, the meaningfulness of the NLP is given by its enforceability.|

Green OA self-archiving mandates are enforceable too. And global scaleability and sustainability has to be taken into account too, not just local access-provision.

“The true cost of toll access publishing (beside[s] the [cost of the] “buyback? of information) is the prohibition of access to research and knowledge for society.”

But when toll access publishing is globally supplemented by mandatory Green OA self-archiving, the “prohibition” is pre-empted, at next to no extra cost.

Gold OA Costs: Pre-Green vs. Post-Green

Claudio Aspesi, BernsteinResearch: ?We estimate that a full transition to OA could lead to savings in the region of 10-12% of the cost base of a subscription publisher.?

Richard Poynder, on the Global Open Access List (GOAL): “The key question: if that estimate is accurate, will those savings be passed on to the research community?”

I think that what Richard is worrying about here is whether the cost-cutting that a transition from subscription publishing to Gold OA publishing would make possible (e.g., curtailing the print edition) would be reflected in lower Gold OA charges to the author/institution or they would simply be absorbed by the publisher (Aspesi’s (2012) test case being Elsevier), leaving Gold OA charges higher than they need to be.

I join this speculation and counter-speculation only reluctantly, for two reasons:

(1) I think there are significant transition factors that none of the economic analyses has yet fully taken into account, and hence that the potential savings are still being considerably underestimated.

(2) I also think this focus on predicting the costs of Gold OA just reinforces the excessive preoccupation with estimating the costs and benefits of pre-emptive Gold OA rather than the costs and benefits of OA itself, and what is needed, practically, for facilitating a transition to OA itself, rather than just a direct transition to Gold OA in particular.

Post-Green Gold will cost far less than the pre-emptive pre-Green Gold that the economic analyses keep estimating.

We keep counting the “savings” from generic Gold OA publishing without reckoning how to get there, and whether the transition itself might not be a major determinant in the potential for savings (from OA as well as from Gold OA).

I am not an economist, so I will not try to do anything more than to point out the main factor that I believe the economic analyses are failing to take into account:

If Green OA self-archiving in institutional repositories is mandated globally by institutions and funders, this will have two major consequences:

I. First, not only will globally mandated Green OA provide universal OA (and all of its benefits, scientific and economic) alongside subscription publishing, at minimal additional cost (because (a) repositories are relatively cheap to create and maintain, (b) most research-active institutions have created repositories already, and (c) have done so for multiple purposes, OA being only one of them).

II. Second, mandating Green OA globally (unlike pre-emptive Gold OA) also puts competitive pressure on subscription publishers to cut obsolete costs, because the universal availability of the Green OA version makes it much easier for cash-strapped institutions to cancel their journal subscriptions.

Not only can the print edition and its costs be phased out under cancelation pressure from global Green OA, but so can the publisher’s online edition and version of record: The worldwide network of Green OA repositories and their many central harvesters are perfectly capable of generating, hosting, archiving and providing access to the version-of-record. No more PDF or XML needed from the publisher; nor archiving; nor access provision; nor marketing; nor fulfillment. Nor any of their associated expenses.

All that’s needed from the publisher is the service of managing the peer review (peers review for free) and the certification of its outcome with the journal’s title and track-record.

That’s post-Green Gold OA publishing. Compared to that, all the economical estimates of savings are under-estimates.

Nor will there be any need — with post-Green Gold OA — for mega-publishers (like Elsevier), publishing vast fleets of unrelated journals; nor for mega-journals (like PLoS ONE), publishing vast flocks of unrelated articles. There are many narrow research specialities, a few wider ones, and a few even wider, multidisciplinary ones. They each have their own peers, and they each need their own peer-reviewed journals; depending on the size of the field, some fields will several journals, forming a pyramid of quality standards, the most selective (hence smallest) at the top.

There may have been economies of scale for multiple journal production, in the Gutenberg days. But in the PostGutenberg era, with post-Green Gold OA journals, providing only the service of peer review, there will be no need for generic refereeing being mass-marketed by generic editorial assistants for mega-publishers or mega-journals, where no one other than the referee (if competently selected!) knows anything about the subject matter.

So besides scaling down to the post-Green OA essentials, post-Green Gold OA journals will also revert to being the independent, peer-based titles that they were before being jointly bought up for by the post-Maxwellian publisher megalopolies. The online-era economies will come from restoring journals’ own natural speciality scale rather than from agglomerating them into generic multiple money-makers.

Aspesi, C (2012) Reed Elsevier: Transitioning to Open Access – Are the Cost Savings Sufficient to Protect Margins? BernsteinResearch November 26

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. (2009) The PostGutenberg Open Access Journal. In: Cope, B. & Phillips, A (Eds.) The Future of the Academic Journal. Chandos.

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

Harnad, S. (2010b) The Immediate Practical Implication of the Houghton Report: Provide Green Open Access Now. Prometheus, 28 (1). pp. 55-59.

Houghton, John W. & Swan, Alma (2012) Planting the green seeds for a golden harvest. Comments and clarifications on ?Going for Gold?

Open Access and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

Unilateral Gold OA instead of Green
is the losing choice
in a non-forced-choice Prisoner’s Dilemma
(think about it!)

UniGreen (World): UniGold (World):
UniGreen (UK): win/win win/lose
UniGold (UK): lose/win win/win

Houghton & Swan 2012:

“If OA were adopted worldwide, the net benefits of Gold OA would exceed those of Green OA.

However, we are not in an OA world…

“At the institutional level, during a transitional period when subscriptions are maintained, the cost of unilaterally adopting Green OA is much lower than the cost of Gold OA ? with Green OA self-archiving costing average institutions sampled around one-fifth the amount that Gold OA might cost, and as little as one-tenth as much for the most research intensive university.

“Hence, we conclude that the most affordable and cost-effective means of moving towards OA is through Green OA, which can be adopted unilaterally at the funder, institutional, sectoral and national levels at relatively little cost.” [emphasis added]

Houghton, John W. & Swan, Alma (2012) Planting the green seeds for a golden harvest: Comments and clarifications on ?Going for Gold?

Economic Evidence against Finch Hypothesis on Gold & Green OA Priorities

John Houghton and Alma Swan have published several important and influential economic analyses of the costs and benefits of Open Access (OA), Gold OA publishing and Green OA self-archiving worldwide and for the UK.

The specific implications of their findings for the UK Finch Committee recommendations and RCUK OA Policy as well as for worldwide OA policy are very clearly and explicitly stated in their latest paper (Houghton & Swan 2012):

Houghton, John W. & Swan, Alma (2012)
Planting the green seeds for a golden harvest
Comments and clarifications on ?Going for Gold?


      ”The economic modelling work we have carried out over the past few years has been referred to and cited a number of times in the discussions of the Finch report and subsequent policy developments in the UK. We are concerned that there may be some misinterpretation of this work.

      ”This short paper sets out the main conclusions of our work, which was designed to explore the overall costs and benefits of Open Access (OA), as well as identify the most cost-effective policy basis for transitioning to OA at national and institutional levels.

      ”The main findings are that disseminating research results via OA would be more cost-effective than subscription publishing. If OA were adopted worldwide, the net benefits of Gold OA would exceed those of Green OA. However, we are not in an OA world, nor are we likely to be in such a world in the foreseeable future.

      ”At the institutional level, during a transitional period when subscriptions are maintained, the cost of unilaterally adopting Green OA is much lower than the cost of Gold OA ? with Green OA self-archiving costing average institutions sampled around one-fifth the amount that Gold OA might cost, and as little as one-tenth as much for the most research intensive university.

      ”Hence, we conclude that the most affordable and cost-effective means of moving towards OA is through Green OA, which can be adopted unilaterally at the funder, institutional, sectoral and national levels at relatively little cost.” [emphasis added]

Further References:

Finch, Dame Janet et al (2012) Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications. Report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings.

Harnad, S. (2012) Why the UK Should Not Heed the Finch Report. LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog, Summer Issue

Harnad, S (2012) United Kingdom’s Open Access Policy Urgently Needs a Tweak. D-Lib Magazine Volume 18, Number 9/10 September/October 2012

Harnad, S. (2010) The Immediate Practical Implication of the Houghton Report: Provide Green Open Access Now. Prometheus, 28 (1) 55-59.

Houghton, J.W. & Oppenheim, C. (2010) The Economic Implications of Alternative Publishing Models. Prometheus 28 (1) 41-54

Houghton, J.W., Rasmussen, B., Sheehan, P.J., Oppenheim, C., Morris, A., Creaser, C., Greenwood, H., Summers, M. and Gourlay, A. (2009) Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models: Exploring the Costs and Benefits, Report to The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) by Victoria University & Loughborough University.
See also the related addendum

RCUK (2012) Policy on Access to Research Outputs RCUK Research Councils UK

Swan, A. and Houghton, J.W. (2012) Going for Gold? The costs and benefits of Gold Open Access for UK research institutions: Further economic modelling, Report to the UK Open Access Implementation Group (July 2012).