Elsevier’s PURE: self-interest and exploitation

Alicia Wise (ELS-OXF) wrote in GOAL:
Hi everyone,
     PURE enables universities and researchers to comply with the HEFCE open access policy. For more information on PURE, please refer to https://www.elsevier.com/solutions/pure.
     Elsevier sharing policies are also consistent with the HEFCE policy. Gold open access articles can of course be shared immediately. Subscription articles are made available via Green open access. In the UK we have lowered embargo periods for authors as part of the balanced package of moves toward OA brokered amongst stakeholders by the Finch Group. This is made perfectly clear on our website, and I invite list readers to read this text for themselves. Go to https://www.elsevier.com/about/open-science/open-access/agreements and select ?United Kingdom? from the pull-down list.

If the British research community, universities, and government heed the siren call of all the disinformation summed up by Elsevier above, what can one say but that we deserve everything that?s coming to us?

Every single talking point above is the exact opposite of the truth, and of what is best for the research community, researchers and the British tax-paying public in the online era.

And it takes only a little critical reflection to see exactly how and why.

I will not repeat here, yet again, all the points to which I?ve tried ? unsuccessfully ? to alert the research community across the years.

It should be enough to just ask ourselves:

?Why on earth is the research journal publishing industry ? the industry that has made a fortune by appropriating our intellectual property during the many years when the costs and constraints of print and its distribution left us no choice ? now to be allowed not only to retain its stranglehold but to strengthen it — and to do so in the online era, the era that would at last have allowed us to free ourselves (and our property, and our actions) from that industry’s gratuitous and greedy grip??

We don?t need Elsevier (or any publisher) and its PURE Trojan Horse to handle the archiving, access-provision, accounting and assessment of our research output! We only need publishers to manage the peer review (which we also provide ourselves, for free, the same way we provide our articles for free).

Why on earth do we want to willingly and knowingly renew and even reinforce this Faustian Bargain?

It is not that I am too exhausted to keep fighting.

It is that the research community?s gormless gullibility (not Elsevier) is starting to look unconquerable, incorrigible.

From: Stevan Harnad
Date: November 11, 2015 at 11:10:47 AM GMT-5
Subject: PURE Nonsense (and Mischief)

PURE is a Trojan Horse from Elsevier that (some) UK institutions have allowed to enter their portals. It is a trick, by Elsevier, to insinuate themselves into and retain control of everything they can: access, timing of access, fulfillment of mandates, research assessment, everything. The ploy was to sneak in via CRIS?s, which are systems for institutions wishing to manage and monitor their metadata on all their functions.

Notice that the following passage from KCL’s OA Policy makes no mention of timing:

In internal evaluation procedures it will be expected that all publications considered as part of appraisal or promotional assessments, will have a metadata record in the Research Information System, PURE, with either the full text article attached and downloadable from the Research Portal, or a link to the Open Access article on the journal?s web site.

What PURE is in reality designed to do is to make sure that the full text is not openly accessible until after the publisher embargo on Open Access has elapsed.

In point of fact, the battle for OA has long shifted to the arena of timing: The 1-year (or longer) embargo is the one to beat. Access after the embargo elapses is a foregone conclusion (publishers have already implicitly conceded on it, without overtly saying so). But access embargoed for 12 months is not OA. Publishers want to make sure (1) that there is no OA before the embargo elapses, (2) that the embargo is as long as possible, and (3) that even after the embargo, access should be via the publisher website, or at least controlled in some way by the publisher.

That?s exactly what PURE + CRIS does.

And (some) UK institutions (under pressure from Finch?s fatal foolishness ? likewise originating from the publisher lobby — have been persuaded that PURE will not only provide all the OA they want, but will take a lot of other asset-management tasks off their shoulders.

It?s a huge scam, masquerading as OA, and its only real function is to strengthen the perverse status quo ? of ceding the control of university research access to publishers ? even more than it had already been ceded before.

It won?t succeed, of course, because HEFCE/REF2020 has nailed down the timing of full-text deposit as having to be made within 3 months of acceptance (not publication) for eligibility for REF2020, which a metadata promissory note from Elsevier will not fullfill. My hope is that universities will be as anxious as they have been for 30 years now not to risk REF ineligibility by failing to comply with this very specific requirement.

(And the institution?s copy-request Button will take care of the rest, as long as all full-texts are deposited within Acceptance + 3.)

(I think it was a mistake on HEFCE/REF?s part to state formally that there is no need to archive the dated acceptance letter that defines the acceptance date, but again I trust in the anxiety of universities to comply with REF2020 eligibility requirements to draw the rational conclusion that it is indeed within 3 months of acceptance that deposit must be done for eligibility, and not 12 months after publication.)

As you will see from the ROARMAP data, KCL?s OA policy alone is not compliant with the requirement for REF2020 eligibility, and the above extract does not change that one bit!

Nor is there any need whatsoever to turn to turn to Elsevier’s PURE for CRIS asset-management functionality: Open source versions of CRIS/CERIF already exist and more are on the way. Elsevier and Thompson/Reuters bought up the first generation (developed, of course, by universities) but the next generation is already being created. Industry is richer in buy-up money but bright doctoral students at universities are an inexhaustible resource of ever more powerful tools — and many of them are not as ready as their university administration is, to sell out to industries that exploit the very hand that feeds them.

Stevan Harnad

The Green Cure for Zeno’s Paralysis

All the author opinions cited by U. Utah librarian Rick Anderson in his recent UKSG squib are familiar ones, based largely on author ignorance. Their rebuttals have been known for years (e.g., the self-archiving FAQ since 2001 and even earlier in the AmSci OA Forum). Most are covered in this:

Harnad, S. (2006) Opening Access by Overcoming Zeno’s Paralysis, in Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects, chapter 8. Chandos.

The very same prima facie author objections would no doubt have been voiced if authors had been polled in advance on the (universal) mandate to publish or perish.

Although it?s unclear what his underlying motivation is, Utah librarian Rick Anderson has consistently sounded like a publisher?s advocate (or subscription agent!) for years and years now, and in his UKSG squib he is simply citing the persistence of author ignorance and the status quo as evidence and justification for the persistence of author ignorance and the status quo!

The remedy, of course, is effective global Green OA mandates.

Green OA and Green OA mandates grow anarchically, article by article and institution/funder by institution/funder, rather than journal by journal. So journals can only be cancelled once all or almost all of their contents are accessible via Green OA ? and that day arrives only when Green OA and effective Green OA mandates have become global and are generating full or almost full compliance.

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

On past postings by Rick Anderson:

More Skulduggery from SSP’s Scholarly Scullery February 15. 2014

The Need to Upgrade All OA Mandates to Add Immediate-Institutional-Deposit Requirement December 14. 2013

Spurning the Better to Keep Burning for the Best October 11. 2013

Openness Probe for the SSP Scholarly Scullery September 27. 2013

Is the Library Community Friend or Foe of OA? September 16. 2013

Librarians Applauding Embargoes on Open Access to Research Findings? May 4. 2007

Peter Suber’s Fair and Gentle But Firm Rejoinders to OA Opponents March 27. 2007

More FUD From the Publishers Association About the HEFCE/REF Deposit Mandate

In response to the HEFCE Open Access Policy for REF2020, the Publishers Association has made the following counter-proposal, which is as predictable as the succession of night upon day:

1. Don’t require deposit upon the date of acceptance, because publisher embargoes are timed to begin on the date of publication, not the date of acceptance.

2. Don’t require deposit of the author’s final draft; wait for the publisher’s version of record.

3. Don’t require deposit at all: let us take care of it, after our embargo has elapsed: then you don’t have to worry about figuring out the date of publication.

4. Please send us a justification for wanting to do otherwise.

Now I find these four points so outrageous and presumptuous — and so transparently self-interested, running roughshod over the interests of research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public — that they don’t need to be answered at all (and of course they need not and should not be heeded in any way).

But past experience has shown that the research community (like Schultz’s Charlie Brown and the annual football that Lucy always manages to pull out from under him every time) somehow always manages to fall for publisher FUD. The FUD is invariably formulated to appear as if the publishers are just trying to help, and make things simpler and easier for the research community. But what keeps being missed by the naive research community is that the complications and difficulties that the publishers’ proposals to “help” with are invariably complications and difficulties that are being imposed by the publishers themselves, in the form of embargoes and restrictions!

In the present case it’s all about ensuring the one thing that is important to publishers about open access and open-access mandates: that publishers’ embargoes on Green OA are faithfully obeyed (unless, even better, the author pays for immediate Gold OA). Nothing to do with ensuring OA, and as soon as possible.

The short answers to these four pieces of publisher FUD are, accordingly:

1. No thank you. We want deposit to be done as soon as the paper is refereed and accepted, because (i) that is when the paper is ready to be used by researchers, (ii) many publishers do not embargo OA, and (iii) even if there is a publisher OA embargo and an author wishes to comply, the author can provide individual copies to individual users with the repository’s request-copy-Button immediately upon deposit during the embargo — as long as the final draft is deposited immediately upon acceptance.

2. No thank you. The acceptance date is clear and certain for all papers, and it is the earliest access point; the date of publication is later, sometimes much, much later, and its timing is variable and indeterminate (cover date often does not correspond to date the issue appears). And besides coming too late, the publisher’s version of record has more (publisher) restrictions on it.

3. No thank you. We would rather retain control of providing Button-access, and then OA, to our own final drafts; and we can track the embargo for ourselves, thank you very much.

4. No thank you. Please send us your justification for asking research institutions and funders to justify to publishers when they require their researchers to deposit their final drafts: We are not talking about OA or embargoes here but about deposit.

That said, here is some tit-for-tat for the Publishers Association’s letter to HEFCE:

PA: “Following the publication of HEFCE?s statement of policy in March 2014 The Publishers Association and its members have been consulting with other stakeholders as to how best we in the publishing community can assist researchers and institutions to comply with the policy, particularly with regards to the deposit requirements.

With regards (and all due respect), the deposit requirements have nothing to do with publishers (or with publisher embargoes on OA).

PA: “In the course of these conversations it has become clear that this aspect of the policy is a source of widespread concern. Therefore I am writing to ask if HEFCE would give serious consideration to reviewing and revising certain elements of it.”

No doubt there is publisher concern about the deposit requirement: That concern is precisely because deposits (unlike OA embargoes) cannot be controlled by publishers.

PA: “For us, the problematic section is Section 18 which states that ?the output must have been deposited as soon after the point of acceptance as possible and no later than three months after this date (as given in the acceptance letter or email from the publications to the author)?.
Section 19 then goes on to require that the output must have been deposited as the author?s accepted and final peer-reviewed text, which may later be updated by the version of record.

Never mind the version of record. It’s another matter. We’re talking here about the author’s final draft, and the time it is to be deposited.

PA: “For the avoidance of doubt, The PA and members are of course in no way opposed to the principle of deposit per se; rather we are concerned with the timing and form of the mandatory deposit.”

Well, it’s good to know that the PA are in no way opposed to something that is none of their business, and over which they have no control. But then why mention it at all?

PA: “In paragraph 29 of the Consultation Document on the Policy (July 2013) HEFCE stated that:
?We also wish to make the process of compliance as simple as possible for authors and HEIs and have received advice that the point of acceptance would be more suitable.? The PA?s response to the Consultation (October 2013) spoke to this point by saying ?it is unclear where this advice has come from and what the justification for it is. To ensure compliance with embargo periods, which commence from the date of publication, it is logical to coincide the deposit or linking of papers with the publication date.?”

Is the PA owed a justification for a deposit policy that is none of its business and out of its control?

And why are publisher embargoes even being mentioned in this context? Yes, publisher OA embargoes are timed from date of publication (which varies wildly from paper to paper). But the issue here is deposit — not publisher OA embargoes or their timing.

There is no link (logical or otherwise) between the deposit date, publication date, and embargo end-date.

PA: “Our subsequent discussions have confirmed us in our view that it would be far preferable for HEIs, researchers and publishers that the timing of the deposit of papers be coincident with the date of the publication of the version of record. This is for two principal reasons:
It would allow for the clearer management of embargo periods. Since these begin at the point of publication, deposit in institutional repository at this point removes the potential for any confusion arising between the availability of the accepted author manuscript and the version of record. Repositories will need to know the date of publication in order to respect the embargo period but they cannot know this from the date of acceptance.”

As stated, OA embargo periods are reckoned from the (variable) publication date, not from deposit date. They have nothing to do with deposit date.

And OA is OA whether it is OA to the author’s final draft or OA to the publisher’s version of record (which has extra usage restrictions).

The HEFCE/REF mandate is to deposit the final draft upon acceptance and to provide OA after the allowable embargo at the latest. No later version is stipulated.

And the only version that is available until publication (and can hence be made OA or can be provided via the Button during an OA embargo) is the author’s version.

PA: “It would reduce the level of costs to HEIs, many of which have expressed concerns about the financial and administrative burden of ingesting author manuscripts in their repositories. We understand that for many institutions this will require a number of operations (for example, subsequent up-dating of data) to be performed manually which could be fulfilled automatically if deposit of the author manuscript is made upon publication. Not all HEIs have repositories capable of dealing with this requirement at present.”

It is terribly good of publishers to worry about institutions’ operating expenses! There is a very useful way in which publishers could help lower these expenses: charge less for journals, or drop OA embargoes.

But no help is needed with deposit, thank you very much. Authors are quite capable of depositing for themselves, as well as reckoning OA embargo intervals.

PA: “Some stakeholders have made proposals for mitigating what we would see as the adverse effects of the proposed policy: for example encouraging publishers to provide author manuscripts and metadata in a standardised format through the Jisc ?Publishers Router?.
However, this would not address the central issue of the clear potential for confusion around the start date of the embargo period, which often will not be known at the point of acceptance. For many publishers, this proposed mitigation would imply an additional cost, which seems somewhat unreasonable to ask publishers to bear when we believe that deposit at the point of publication would eliminate these costs and concerns without compromising the policy?s goals to advance open access.”

To repeat: determining the date of publication and the date of the end of the embargo has nothing whatsoever to do with date of deposit.

It is clear that from the publishers’ point of view, the ideal outcome (if there is to be Green OA at all) is that it should be the publisher (who knows the date of publication, who owns the version of record, and who imposes the OA embargo) who controls the deposit, its timing, and the timing of the embargo.

No, thank you. This is not about depositing as late as possible, and providing OA as late as possible, but about exactly the reverse.

PA: “Ultimately we believe that any of these mitigating or alternative solutions are poor substitutes for amending the underlying policy requirement.
It would greatly help our understanding of the HEFCE stance if you were able to share with us the justification for the policy ? as referred to in last year?s consultation ? and your perspective on the costs.”

Publishers have no right to ask institutions and funders for “justification” of deposit policies if the deposits are not OA.

But if you want a general idea: it is to provide Open Access — or at least Button access — to refereed research as soon as the refereed final draft is ready.

PA: “We would be grateful if you would give consideration to amending this aspect of open access policy. We believe it will act as a hindrance to the widespread take up of open access in the UK research community, whereas a requirement to deposit in an institutional repository on publication would be a policy which would command support from a much wider range of sector stakeholders.”

Good of publishers to be so concerned about compliance with the HEFCE deposit mandate, but, no, ceding control to publishers over deposit timing is not the way to ensure compliance. Making compliance a prerequisite for REF eligibility is.

Happily, HEFCE was unfazed by this FUD. See how they have advised the Publishers Association (rather more diplomatically than I have put it above) that, no thanks, we will stay the course.

Stevan Harnad

The cost of scientific publishing: update and call for action | Open Access Working Group

“Opening knowledge is great. Sharing knowledge is vital. In the past, publishers were the sole mediators for the dissemination of knowledge in printed form. In our, digital age, sharing has become easier thanks to the internet. Yet, although all areas of society have embraced the internet as THE sharing medium, scientific publishing has lagged far behind. Nowhere else are the advantages of sharing knowledge so obvious as in science: but instead of facilitating sharing, scientific publishers desperately try to protect their grip on the access to knowledge. Open access publication systems are a real threat to their lucrative business. That is why finding arguments against open access have become of vital importance. Similarly, countering these arguments is of vital importance for all of us who need [open] access … Tim Gowers’ recently published   blog post on his quest for information on subscription prices for Elsevier journals, using direct approaches (calling, writing publishers and libraries)  and indirect approaches (demanding information based on the FOI),  has caused a major stir. I recommend reading Michelle Brook’s very good overview in her recent blog. Some really astonishing facts have already come to light. It has for instance become apparent that different institutions pay very different prices for almost the ‘same’ deals. Also, universities that did not want to give the information responded often using the argument of commercial interests that had to be protected (full details for all cases in Tim Gowers blog post) The ‘Big deals’ that ELSEVIER and other scientific publishers have made with libraries, form their insurance for long term profits. Making these deals subject to confidentiality actively prevents decrease of prices for publishing which would otherwise occur through market mechanisms. And better still from the publisher’s viewpoint, so-called hybrid journals that allow open-access publishing at a price, only add to the profits. Although publishers say that prices for subscriptions will be lowered when the proportion of paid for open access articles increase, there is as yet no sign of this. APC charges for open access articles in hybrid journals are on the average $900 more expensive than for full open access journals … One of the new items that came to light was the fact that Elsevier and other publishers receive extra fees that allow articles to be re-used for education. One would think that this situation would be covered by fair use policies but this is not the case. Esther Hoorn of Groningen University, NL provided the following link for an overview of worldwide rules on fair use and limitations for educational use: Study for Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Educational Activities in North America, Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia and Israel (by Raquel Xalabarder, Professor of Law, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), Barcelona, Spain) … Three items were heavily discussed on the open access mailing list, apart from the cost of toll access publishing (what customers had to pay), the cost of open access publishing and open access to data which is necessary for text and datamining …”

More Skulduggery from SPP’s Scholarly Scullery

In the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s Scholarly Kitchen, Rick Anderson complains of “errors and misinformation? in the ROARMAP registry of OA mandates and calls for publishers to provide this service instead.

ROARMAP is a registry for institutional and funder OA policies:

X-Other (Non-Mandates) (86)
Proposed Institutional Mandates (6)
Proposed Sub-Institutional Mandate (4)
Proposed Multi-Institutional Mandates (5)
Proposed Funder Mandates (12)
Institutional Mandates (202)
Sub-Institutional Mandates (43)
Multi-Institutional Mandates (9)
Funder Mandates (87)
Thesis Mandates (109)

The distinction between a mandate and a non-mandate is fuzzy, because mandates vary in strength.

For a classification of the ROARMAP policies in terms of WHERE and WHEN to deposit, and whether the deposit is REQUIRED or REQUESTED, see El CSIC?s (la Universitat de Barcelona, la Universitat de València & la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) MELIBEA.

For analyses of mandate strength and effectiveness, see:

Gargouri, Y., Lariviere, V., Gingras, Y., Brody, T., Carr, L., & Harnad, S. (2012). Testing the finch hypothesis on green OA mandate ineffectiveness. arXiv preprint arXiv:1210.8174.

Gargouri, Yassine, Larivière, Vincent & Harnad, Stevan (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).

Further analyses are underway. For those interested in analyzing the growth of OA mandate types and how much OA they generate, ROARMAP and MELIBEA, which index OA policies, can be used in conjunction with ROAR and BASE, which index repository contents.

“Leave providing the OA to us…”

If there is any party whose interests it serves to debate the necessary and sufficient conditions for calling an institutional or funder OA policy an OA ?mandate,? it?s not institutions, funders or OA advocates, whose only concern is with making sure that their policies (whatever they are called) are successful in that they generate as close to 100% OA as possible, as soon as possible.

The boundary between a mandate and a non-mandate is most definitely fuzzy. A REQUEST is certainly not a mandate, nor is it effective, as the history of the NIH policy has shown. (The 2004 NIH policy was unsuccessful until REQUEST was upgraded to REQUIRE in 2007.)

But (as our analyses show), even requirements come in degrees of strength. There can be a requirement with or without the monitoring of compliance, with or without consequences for non-compliance, and with consequences of varying degrees. Also, all of these can come with or without the possibility of exceptions, waivers or opt-outs, which can be granted under conditions varying in their exactingness and specificity.

All these combinations actually occur, and, as I said, they are being analyzed in relation to their success in generating OA. It is in the interests of institutions, funders and OA itself to ascertain which mandates are optimal for generating as much OA as possible, as soon as possible.

I am not sure whose interests it serves to ponder the semantics of the word ?mandate? or to portray as sources of ?errors and misinformation? the databases that are indexing in good faith the actual OA policies being adopted by institutions and funders.

(It is charges of “error and misinformation” that sound a bit more like propaganda to me, especially if they come from parties whose interests are decidedly not in generating as much OA as possible, as soon as possible.)

But whatever those other interests may be, I rather doubt that they are the ones to be entrusted with indexing the actual OA policies being adopted by institutions and funders — any more than they are to be entrusted with providing the OA.

§ § § §

I think it is not only appropriate but essential that services like the University of Southampton’s ROAR, ROARMAP, the Universities of Barcelona, Valencia and Catalunya’s MELIBEA and University of Bielefeld’s BASE are hosted and provided by scholarly institutions rather than by publishers. I also think the reasons for this are obvious.

Don’t (Just) Boycott or Fulminate: Deposit!

Elsevier may have enough clout with take-down notices to 3rd-party service providers like academia.edu, ResearchGate or (its own!) Mendeley (and might be able to weather the fierce backlash blizzard that will now follow) — but not if they try it with authors or institutions self-archiving the refereed final drafts of their own research output.

This latest incident is yet another cue to push worldwide for the adoption of immediate institutional deposit mandates (and the repositories’ automated copy-request Button) by all research institutions and funders.

Since 2004 Elsevier formally recognizes their authors’ right to do immediate, unembargoed OA self-archiving of their refereed final drafts (not the Elsevier PDF version of record) on their institutional websites.

And even if they ever do try to rescind that, closed-access deposit is immune to take-down notices.

(But I don’t think Elsevier will dare arouse that global backlash by rescinding its 9-year-old policy of endorsing unembargoed Green OA by Elsevier authors — they will instead try to hope that they can either bluff authors off with their empty double-talk about “systematicity” and “voluntariness” or buy their institutions off by sweetening their publication big-deal on condition they don’t mandate Green OA?)

Elsevier Study Commissioned by UK BIS

Elsevier has just conducted and published a study commissioned by UK BIS: “International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base ? 2013

This study finds twice as much Green OA (11.6%) as Gold OA (5.9%) in the UK (where both Green OA repositories and Green OA mandates began) and about equal levels of Green (5.0%) and Gold (5.5%) in the rest of the world.

There are methodological weaknesses in the Elsevier study, which was based on SCOPUS data (Gold data are direct and based on the whole data set, Green data are partial and based on hand-sampling; timing is not taken into account; categories of OA are often arbitrary and not mutually exclusive, etc). But the overall pattern may have some validity.

What does it mean?

It means the effects of Green OA mandates in the UK — where there are relatively more of them, and they have been there for a half decade or more — are detectable, compared to the rest of the world, where mandates are relatively fewer.

But 11.6% Green is just a pale, partial indicator of how much OA Green OA mandates generate: If instead of looking at the world (where about 1% of institutions and funders have OA mandates) or the UK (where the percentage is somewhat higher, but many of the mandates are still weak and ineffective ones), one looks specifically at the OA percentages for effectively mandated institutions, the Green figure jumps to over 80% (about half of it immediate-OA and half embargoed OA: deposited, and accessible during the embargo via the repository’s automated copy-request Button, with a click from the requestor and a click from the author).

So if the planet’s current level of Green OA is 11.6%, its level will jump to at least 80% as effective Green OA mandates are adopted.

Meanwhile, Gold OA will continue to be unnecessary, over-priced, double-paid (which journal subscriptions still need to be paid) and potentially even double-dipped (if paid to the same hybrid subscription/Gold publisher) out of scarce research funds contributed by UK tax-payers (“Fool’s Gold“).

But once Green OA prevails worldwide, Fair Gold (and all the Libre OA re-use rights that users need and authors want to provide) will not be far behind.

We are currently gathering data to test whether the immediate-deposit (HEFCE/Liege) Green OA mandate model is indeed the most effective mandate (compared, for example, with the Harvard copyright-retention model with opt-out, or the NIH model with a 12 month embargo) in terms of deposit percentage and timing.

Stevan Harnad

P.S. Needless to say, the fact that the UK’s Green OA rate is twice as high as its Gold OA rate is true despite the new Finch/FCUK policy which subsidizes and prefers Gold and tries to downgrade Green — certainly not because of it!

Critique of UK Government’s Response to BIS Recommendations on UK Open Access Policy

Critique of excerpts from UK Government Response to BIS Committee

Joint “Re-Engineering” Plan
of UK Government and UK Publisher Lobby
for “Nudging” UK Researchers
Toward Gold Open Access

UKGOV: “…in the long term the most effective form of OA will be Gold OA?. there is no distinction to be made between the Government’s and BISCOM’s direction of travel for OA. The envisaged final destination is likely to be what the Finch Group termed a ‘mixed economy’ of Gold and Green OA, the proportions of which the decisions of researchers and behaviour in the market will decide?”

Throughout its response to BIS, it is evident that the UK Government is not perceiving OA primarily as a means of maximizing UK research uptake and impact — for the benefit of the UK tax-payers that fund the research, and for the progress and productivity of research, in the UK and world-wide — but as a means of sustaining the current revenue streams of peer-reviewed journal publishers, come what may.

That is why the Government’s “travel” plans tend to be framed far less in terms of the real needs of UK research and researchers and far more in terms of “business models,” “market,” a “mixed economy,” and how these can be “re-engineered” to keep them congruent with publishers’ terms and timetable.

There seems to be little room in the UK Government’s vision for even considering the following contingencies:

— that 100% OA is not only already fully feasible today, thanks to the online medium, but also urgent for research and researchers, indeed already overdue;

— that the online era has already made a lot of the traditional products and services of journal publishers (and their costs) obsolete;

— that publishers’ current revenue streams are greatly and needlessly inflated;

— and that the embargoes and other retardants that publishers are themselves placing in the path of OA are not, in reality, necessities, to sustain the essential functions of peer-reviewed journal publishing, as publishers claim; they are merely contrived to prop up the expensive and obsolescent functions of publishers in order to sustain publishers’ current highly inflated levels of income at all costs, come what may.

What is keeping the economy “mixed” and slow to provide OA, in other words, is that publishers are holding OA hostage to their current revenue streams, by embargoing Green, and transitioning to Gold only on terms and on a timetable that lock in those revenue streams.

The UK Government’s “re-engineering” plans are designed to make sure any transition stays on that track and timetable.

UKGOV: “…Government’s approach, therefore, amounts to a subtle re-engineering of the present market. By ‘nudging’ the flow of revenue for the publishing industry towards it becoming income from Article Publication Charges (APCs) for Gold OA?”

This “subtle re-engineering of the present market” consists of sustaining current publisher income streams (and modera operandi) by only providing OA on condition that current subscription revenue levels per article are sustained, and continue to be collectable in the form of Gold APCs in place of subscriptions.

There is no thought given to the distinct possibility that with all peer-reviewed final drafts deposited in institutional Green OA repositories, there will no longer be any need or demand for a print edition, online edition, access-provision or archiving (and their associated costs) from the peer-reviewed journal publisher: only the need for peer review (which is only a fraction of the cost of subscription publishing today).

And no thought of the real “market” that could indeed decide whether in a 100% Green OA world there will be any real demand left for anything else that peer-reviewed journal publishers offer, forcibly co-bundled with the peer review.

UK publicly funded research is being conceived by the UK Government as if it were primarily an investment in the journal publishing industry rather than in research productivity, applications and progress.

Some “nudge”! Some notion!

UKGOV: “…96% of journals have an embargo period of 24 months or less; 64% of journals have an embargo period of 12 months or less? This illustrates the extent to which the Government’s policy already is being complied with?”

Hardly. The effect of the UK policy has been precisely the opposite. More and longer embargoes have been adopted by publishers since the new UK policy was announced and began to be implemented.

Yet despite this perverse effect, the percentage of publishers that endorse immediate, unembargoed Green OA remains over 60% according to SHERPA Romeo data (much as it was before the Finch/RCUK policy). (This figure is camouflaged in the Government’s composite category of 64% with “an embargo period of 12 months or less .”)

(And aren’t the ones who are supposed to comply with a funder mandate the fundees, rather than publishers? Are we mixing up our constituencies here — or simply giving a hint of who’s really calling the shots?)

UKGOV: “…The Government, through HEFCE and the Research Councils, will continue to encourage Jisc, the Open Access Implementation Group (OAIG) and others to promote standardisation and compliance across subject and institutional repositories?”

Far more important for the UK Government to promote would be the institutional adoption of a mechanism for verifying compliance with its OA policy — in particular, its Green option (rather than just focusing on how the Gold is spent). HEFCE has provided a potential mechanism, in requiring immediate deposit (whether or not OA to the deposit is embargoed) for REF eligibility.

Institutions (ever eager to ensure compliance with funders’ conditions) will thereby be recruited and strongly motivated to monitor and ensure timely compliance. (Funding that would be a constructive use for unspent RCUK Gold OA funding.)

UKGOV: “…RCUK have balanced the objective of timely OA to all users with the need to respect, through a mutually acceptable embargo period, sustainable business models?”

Translation: RCUK has collaborated with publishers in embargoing OA to make sure that OA is only provided on publishers’ terms and timetable. (This is the UK/publishing-industry “re-engineering” plan.)

Fortunately, there is a remedy for this, and that is the HEFCE immediate-deposit mandate, plus the institutional repositories’ automated request-a-copy Button, which allows users to request and authors to provide (with one click each) a copy for research or educational purposes during any embargo (i.e., the Liege-model mandate, which is the one the UK should adopt.)

UKGOV: “…A re-engineering of the research publications market entails a journey not an event. Necessarily it requires a period of transition for the process of change. Longer embargo periods, as illustrated below, play an important part under some circumstances during the transition process?”

Translation: RCUK has collaborated with publishers in embargoing OA to make sure that OA is only provided on publishers’ terms and timetable.

This “journey” to “re-engineer the research publications market” is actually a government-funded business trip to guarantee publishers’ current income at UK tax-payers’ expense (and at the cost of lost research usage and impact). Not a happy “event” for UK research and researchers — or for global OA.

UKGOV: “…Government believes that the first signs of the impact of its OA policy on embargo periods have been beneficial?”

Beneficial for publishers, perhaps, but certainly not for researchers, nor for OA, since the policy’s perverse effect has been to encourage publishers to adopt and extend embargoes, not to shorten or drop them. (Nevertheless, over 60% of journals still do not embargo Green OA, despite the UK OA policy.)

UKGOV: “…as stated in David Willetts’ letter of 20 June 2013, UK policy already is leading to shorter embargo periods for Green OA?”

It is very hard to imagine what David Willetts is imagining here: The adoption of a Green OA embargo that is within Finch/RCUK’s current allowable limits is hardly a triumph for OA if the publisher formerly did not embargo Green OA at all (or had not yet formulated a policy).

Moreover, an embargo of a year or longer is no boon at all for OA. It is unspoken, but I think it’s fairly clear that most publishers are by now resigned to one-year embargoes on Green, along with a mandated push toward hybrid Gold. They know that most of the revenue in question comes from that first year.

So a “deal” to let publishers hold OA hostage to that one-year embargo (or else pay Gold) is not good news for research and research progress in an era where immediate 100% Green OA is fully within reach, technically and practically speaking, and where the costs of peer-reviewed journal publishing could be radically reduced if freed from the grip of publisher Green OA embargoes.

But again, there is a remedy for this, and that remedy is the HEFCE immediate-deposit mandate, plus the institutional repositories’ automated request-a-copy Button, which allows users to request and authors to provide (with one click each) a copy for research or educational purposes during any embargo. (This is again the Liege-model mandate, which is the one the UK should adopt.)

UKGOV: “…Publication of the results of publicly funded research is an integral part of the research process?”

This re-statement of the Wellcome Trust mantra continues to ignore the fact that the UK (but not Wellcome) also has to pay the costs of journal subscriptions. Hence the Gold APC costs are over and above subscription costs (which are likewise “a legitimate part of the cost of undertaking research”).

That means Gold OA APCs today are needless double-payments, over and above uncancellable subscriptions: “Fool’s Gold.” The only way they can turn into “Fair Gold” is if mandatory Green OA first prevails, eventually allowing subscriptions to be cancelled (and driving down publication costs by offloading access-provision and archiving onto Green OA repositories).

Then the price of Gold will drop to a fair, affordable, sustainable level, single-paid out of the institutional subscription cancellation savings, instead of double-paid, needlessly, as now, out of scarce UK research funds — needless because while subscriptions are still being paid (fully and fulsomely), Green OA can provide the OA.

UKGOV: “…HEFCE and other Funding Councils have agreed that QR funding may be used [to pay for Gold] at the discretion of the HEIs. Hence, HEIs have access to the necessary public funds to cover the cost of implementing the Government’s and RCUK’s OA policy?”

For UK researchers and institutions who deplore wasting scarce research funds to pay publishers even more money, it is hardly solace to tell them that if their UK Gold allotment runs out, they can squander their research money from other sources on fool’s gold too.

(But fortunately, be the Government ever so grudging about it, freedom of author choice between Green and Gold is now restored by RCUK, so the best protection against wasting UK research funds on Gold is to provide Green instead, via immediate-deposit, irrespective of embargo-length.)

UKGOV: “…The Government is aware of the reluctance of some HEIs to promote the Government’s preference for Gold OA, on the grounds that it represents a reduction in funding available for research, but the cost of the Government’s funded OA policy is estimated to be? approximately one per cent of the science budget? This is a marginal cost expected to be outweighed by the benefits to the economy arising from direct innovation and spill over benefits?”

(1) As noted, the UK’s designated funding for outgoing UK Gold is far from being the whole of the UK’s publication funding: The UK continues to pay for essential incoming journal subscriptions. And it is that level of spending that the UK is collaborating with publishers to “re-engineer” so as to sustain it whether it’s paid in the form of subscriptions or in the form of Gold APCs.

(2) So the extra marginal costs of the UK Gold subsidy (a further 1% of the UK’s research spend) are over and above the existing UK publication spend.

(3) Researchers cannot be expected to welcome the loss of yet another 1% of their already sparse research funding — and especially not when it is lost just for the purpose of propping up publishers’ already inflated revenue levels, come what may, in exchange for an OA that researchers could have at no further expense (beyond the existing UK subscription spend) via Green OA — if it were not for the publisher embargo on it — an embargo that the UK government is reinforcing, with its joint “re-engineering” plans to “nudge” researchers toward Gold OA.

Fortunately, there is a remedy for this, and that is the HEFCE immediate-deposit mandate — plus the institutional repositories’ automated request-a-copy Button, which allows users to request and authors to provide (with one click each) a copy for research or educational purposes during any publisher embargo (i.e., the Liege-model mandate, which is the one the UK should adopt.)

Because RCUK has restored authors’ freedom of choice of journal, and because HEFCE proposes requiring immediate-deposit for REF eligibility, UK researchers can choose to publish in any journal and can fulfill the RCUK mandate through immediate deposit in their institutional repository, whether or not OA to the deposit is embargoed. It is this immediate deposit that can — with the help of the repository’s automated request-a-copy Button during any embargo period — “re-engineer” publishing to Fair Gold (after 100% Green OA has prevailed, and made it possible for publishers to downsize to an affordable, sustainable price for peer review alone) instead of the Fool’s Gold toward which the UK government has set the “direction” for the UK’s “journey” toward OA.

BISCOM: “The Government and RCUK should clarify that Gold open access is the ultimate goal of, rather than the primary route to, their open access policies. We recommend that the Government and RCUK reconsider their preference for Gold open access during the five year transition period, and give due regard to the evidence of the vital role that Green open access and repositories have to play as the UK moves towards full open access. (Paragraph 70)”

UKGOV: “…Gold OA, at 12 per cent, is now proving to be the dominant form of OA.

Gold OA the dominant form of OA? Far from the truth.

Spontaneous, unmandated Green OA is already twice that figure, and if effectively mandated (on the HEFCE/Liege model) Green OA is over 10 times that figure, with the majority of deposits being done even before the date of publication.

UKGOV: “…the Government and RCUK would maintain that the merits of Gold OA (immediate, final published version, compatibility with data mining, unrestricted access and re-use, with attribution) mean that it is preferred to Green OA.

Preferred by whom? Finch/RCUK or UK researchers (and the rest of the world)?

(1) Much of today’s Green OA is immediate; some of today’s Gold OA is delayed. The embargoes are a result of publisher preference to sustain their current revenue levels come what may.

(2) To researchers who are denied access to unaffordable publishers’ versions, toll-free online access to the author’s Green OA final draft is the difference between night and day, insofar as research applications and progress are concerned.

(3) While access itself is restricted (both by publishers’ subscription access tolls and by publishers’ OA embargoes) freeing access is incomparably more important and urgent than paying publishers still more for further re-use rights.

(4) The fastest, fairest and surest way to reach Fair Gold OA and all the re-use rights users need and authors want to provide is to first mandate that authors provide Green OA — rather than to require pre-emptive double-payment, over and above uncancellable subscriptions, out of scarce research funds, for Fool’s Gold OA, at arbitrarily inflated prices, on the pretext of needing to sustain publishers’ current revenue streams (otherwise peer-reviewed publishing will perish).

UKGOV: “…The use of repositories is a feature of both Gold and Green OA. In terms of the sustainability of long term access to published research and data?”

Before institutional repositories can preserve access they must first provide it. To provide it they must have effective deposit mandates.

(There are no publisher embargoes holding up data-archiving, so it is a red herring to mention data in this context.)

The remedy is again obvious (to all but the UK Government: the publishing lobby is certainly fully aware of it, because it is fighting it tooth and nail):

Mandate immediate-deposit of all articles, whether published in a subscription journal or a Gold OA journal, whether OA is embargoed or immediate, whether the OA is Gratis (toll-free online access) or Libre (toll-free online access plus various re-use rights such as text-mining, re-mixing and re-publication).

That, with the help of the Button, will ensure that 100% Green Gratis OA — and eventually Fair Libre Gold OA — will come to pass as quickly as possible: affordably, scalably and sustainably.

UKGOV: “…the UK OA Decision Tree sets out clearly the direction of travel. This is not incompatible with researchers having a free choice as to whether or not to follow the preferred path. Government and RCUK hope they will choose to do so. Government welcomes RCUK retaining this decision tree. It has been agreed by all affected parties, and does not simply reflect the publishers’ position, but the consensus position arrived at by members of the Finch Group?”

I suppose it’s enough that the Government agrees that UK researchers and institutions are free not to follow the preferred path, hence can ignore the decision tree.

But it would have been more forthright and sensible to abandon the decision tree altogether, rather than leave it as a misleading sign-post.

It is indeed true that the UK-Government/Publishing-Lobby joint “re-engineering” plan for “nudging” UK researchers toward (Fool’s) Gold Open Access “does not simply reflect the publishers’ position, but the consensus position arrived at by members of the Finch Group.”

But what is patently false is that it has “been agreed by all affected parties.”

UKGOV: “…Government believes that by [funding hybrid Gold] the rate of adoption of Gold OA by publishers and researchers alike will accelerate?”

No doubt it will. But the goal of UK research, researchers, their institutions and the UK tax-payers who are funding the research is not to accelerate the UK rate of adoption of Gold OA but to accelerate the rate of provision of OA — in the UK and worldwide.

UKGOV: “…Evidence quoted above from the Publishers Association suggests that this is already proving to be the case. Researchers would be disappointed to have publication in their favoured journals denied to them if they opt for Gold OA and publishers would not want the inefficiencies, or brand dilution effects, of always putting publication of Gold OA material in to a new and separate journal?”

This ludicrous and embarassing piece of self-promotional spin is so obviously a page borrowed from the publishers’ agenda that it does not deserve a reply. It is shameful that the Government of the United Kingdom is echoing this tendentious sales pitch as its own.

UKGOV: “…Government does not consider it appropriate for publishers to rely on retrospectively amortising their APC revenue to discount global subscription rates, as some now do. This may address ‘double-dipping’ in one sense, (no increase in total revenue to the publisher) but it does nothing to address the concerns of research intensive individual institutions, wherever they are located around the world. Such institutions paying APCs for Gold OA publication in particular journals should see some related and proportional discount in their total subscription fees, with the same publisher, to avoid them disproportionately funding the translation to Gold OA?”

This pious homily is actually masking a piece of uncritical, unreflective and unrealistic nonsense:

If the Government agrees that a UK subscription rebate of only 6% of a UK Gold OA 6% overspend (i.e., 6% of 6%), over and above the UK’s 100% subscription spend, is not an “appropriate” way for publishers to refrain from double-dipping, what on earth does the UK imagine publishers will do instead? Because if publishers simply deduct the fee for UK hybrid Gold OA directly from UK subscription fees, that’s just tantamount to declaring the UK can have all the hybrid Gold OA it wants for free.

That would be just fine (since subscription fees are already paying the costs of publication in full): UK authors would automatically be free of embargoes and would automatically retain all desired re-use rights for the hybrid Gold journals in question.

But free hybrid Gold for subscribers is not at all what publishers have in mind, given how anxious they are to embargo Green (so I suggest that the UK re-discuss their joint “re-engineering” plans in this regard).

Here’s a hint: Publishers are only interested in a transition scenario that guarantees their current income streams, regardless of where they come from. They are just as averse to immediate-Gold OA as to immediate-Green OA, because it is the sustainability of their current revenue levels that is at risk. So unless the hybrid Gold fees are real and sustainable — which they are not, if they are merely funny-money, available to every subscribing institution as a free bonus — publishers will not budge on the UK Government’s plaintive nudge for a “proportional discount in their total subscription fees.”

Stevan Harnad

Finch II: “Our Mind’s Made Up: Don’t Confuse Us With Facts”

Finch II: Accessibility, Sustainability, Excellence: A Review of Progress in Implementing the Recommendations of the Finch Report (October 2013)

Our review is based on a rigorous analysis of evidence from a wide range of sources.”

Hardly. The Finch II review is in fact a very selective re-hash of opinions and opinion-surveys, with nothing faintly resembling the objective evidence called for by the BIS Select Committee.

This exceedingly long, rambling, incoherent new Finch report has very little that is new or substantive; it is mostly vague, self-congratulatory sloganeering. But its thrust is clear: Despite all the objections and counter-evidence to Finch I, and despite the very trenchant and specific critique and recommendations of the BIS Select Committee, Finch II is simply digging in its heels and sticking to what it said in Finch I.

This is clearly the result of remarkably successful lobbying by the UK journal publishing industry (aided and abetted by a small fervent minority of OA advocates who consider free online access insufficient, and insist on paying extra for a CC-BY license that allows re-use, text-mining, re-mixing and re-publication) — plus a good deal of woolly-mindedness (and perhaps some pig-headedness too) in the Finch Committee and its advisors (e.g., the Wellcome Trust).

The most important amendment grudgingly admitted by Finch II is that UK researchers are now free to choose between providing OA via the Green route (of publishing articles in any journal at all, by making the article OA in a repository after any allowable publisher embargo has expired) or via the Gold route (by paying the publisher [pure Gold or hybrid] to make the article OA immediately [with a CC-BY license]).

I will not rehearse again the many reasons why paying for Gold OA is a waste of UK public funds, double-paying arbitrarily inflated “Fool’s Gold” fees to publishers for the UK’s outgoing 6% of worldwide research, over and above paying subscription fees to publishers for all incoming research. The fact is that Finch has now conceded that researchers are free to choose whether or not to pay for Gold, so UK researchers need not waste money on Fool’s Gold unless they wish to. Author choice is restored.

Moreover, Green OA embargo length limits will not be enforced for at least two years (Finch/RCUK are instead focussing all their attention on montoring how the Gold funds are being spent).

And Finch II also seems to have grudgingly conceded that the parallel HEFCE addendum — requiring that in order to be eligible for REF2020, all articles must be deposited in the author’s institutional repository immediately upon publlication (not after an embargo, nor just before REF2020) — is likely to be adopted.

This concession should not have been grudging, because the HEFCE/REF addendum in fact provides the crucial missing component that will make the Finch/RCUK mandate succeed, despite Finch’s preference for Fool’s Gold: It provides the all-important mechanism for monitoring and ensuring timely compliance, by recruiting institutions (ever ready to do anything they possibly can to increase their chances of success in REF) to ensure that deposit is immediate, even if OA is embargoed. (During any embargo the institutonal repositories also have the automated copy-request Button, which enables users to request and authors to provide individual copies for research purposes with just one click each.)

Finch II nevertheless continues to crow about the Finch Policy serving as a beacon for the rest of the world:

It is clear also that our 2012 Report and the subsequent policy developments have proved a catalyst for activity not only in the UK, but internationally.”

In point of fact, apart from the UK, the only other country with a Finch-like preference for Gold is the Netherlands, as has just been announced, almost simultaneously with the release of Finch II. It is no coincidence, of course, that the UK and the Netherlands are the hosts of the world’s largest journal fleet publishers, who have been feverishly lobbying worldwide against mandating Green and for instead funding Gold. The lobbying has had no success anywhere else on the planet, which now has over 80 funder OA mandates and over 200 institutional OA mandates, all of which are Green, except for the UK. (The Netherlands has not mandated OA at all, but threatens to emulate the Finch/RCUK preferential-Gold mandate in 2 years if there is not enough voluntary response.)

So, no news from Finch II, but promising prospects for a HEFCE/REF immediate-deposit requirement that will make the Finch/RCUK Green option succeed.

There are some telling signs, however, of just how fully Finch is in the thrall of the publisher lobby: Open Access is about access to research, yet Finch keeps referring to a “mixed economy” and a “transition,” as if OA were about publishers’ business models, hence about publishing economics, rather than about research access and impact, and as if the goal were Gold OA, rather than OA itself:

We hold to the view that a transition via a mixed economy to Gold OA, where publication costs are met mainly by the payment of [Gold OA fees], is the most effective way of balancing our [sic] objectives of increased access, sustainability and excellence.”

This is also a good point to look more closely at “our” “sustainability” objective: What is it that “we” (who is “we”?) must be be careful to sustain, in the transition to OA: peer-reviewed research? or publishers’ current revenue streams?

And who is to determine the terms and timetable for the transition to OA? The research community? or whatever (and however long) it takes to sustain publishers’ current revenue streams?

Finch seems to have accepted wholesale that publishers are justified in embargoing Green OA in order to sustain their current subscription revenues — and that the UK (double-) paying publishers’ asking-price for Gold OA (as determined by whatever it takes to sustain their current revenue levels) is the fastest and fairest way to make a transition to 100% OA. But what is in reality being sustained here is publishers’ current revenue levels, not peer-reviewed research itself. And publisher embargoes on Green OA are being used to hold back the “transition” timetable for as long as it takes till publishers’ terms are met:

…a transition to open access (OA) over an extended period that would be characterised by a mixed economy“.

To illustrate how fully Finch has identified itself with publishers’ interests and their attempts to hold OA hostage to publishers embargoes and agenda:

We cannot agree? with those who urge policies based solely on Green OA with short or zero embargoes, a position which derives from an exclusive preference for Green OA, rather than a mixed economy. There is a balance to be struck between embargo lengths that provide speedy access on the one hand, and sustainability for subscription-based journals and the business models that underpin them on the other.”

Finch II has internalized without reflection — as if it were a law of nature, rather than merely a publisher-imposed, self-fulfilling prophecy — the canard that Gold OA means immediate OA and Green OA means delayed OA (delayed because publishers embargo it!): The two options are accordingly defined by Finch II as:

immediate free access to publications with the costs met by [Gold OA fees], often referred to as Gold OA?
or free access via repositories after appropriate embargo periods, often referred to as Green OA

In point of fact, over 60% of subscription journals do not embargo Green OA (though Finch certainly seems to be doing its level best to give them the incentive to do so!).

Finch II has also re-affirmed its support for negotiating a Really Big Deal — an extended national license scheme to “sustain” subscription access during the “mixed economy” transition. Translation: Publishers are to be granted their fondest wish of being paid a still bigger UK national license fee for all incoming subscription content, over and above the Finch funds to be paid them for (Fool’s) Gold OA. The UK here will be collaborating in the fulfillment of publishers’ fantasy scenario (see Appendix)…

Finch II also proposes to

monitor the impact of OA policies on learned societies… [because they] start from different positions in engaging with the transition to OA.”

The only relevant question is whether Learned Society publishers are any more justified than commercial publishers in embargoing access to Learned Research in order to “sustain” their current revenue streams. Apart from that, post-Green Fair-Gold publishing will be as open to Learned Society publishers as to commercial publishers, if and when globally mandated Green makes subscriptions unsustainable. In place of whatever Learned Society publishing revenues were supporting “good works” such as meetings and scholarships, these good works can go on to fund themselves (via membership dues and registration fees) instead of being subsidized by lost Learned Research impact.

Finch II closes with:

Our key recommendation is? to develop an interoperable system of repositories and an infrastructure that supports both Gold and Green OA.”

We can all applaud that, thanks to HEFCE/REF. The requisite infrastructure will be the interoperable system of Green OA repositories, with immediate-deposit mandated for all refereed research output, Gold and Green, with or without embargoes, and with or without CC-BY.


Publishers’ Fantasy Scenario

(1) Do whatever it takes to sustain or increase your current revenue streams.

(2) Your current revenue streams come mainly from subscriptions.

(3) Claim far and wide that everything has to be done to sustain publishers’ subscription revenue, otherwise publishing will be destroyed, and with it so will peer review, and research itself.

(4) With (3) as your justification, embargo Green OA self-archiving for as long as possible, and fight against Green OA self-archiving mandates — or make sure allowable embargoes are as long as possible.

(5) Profess a fervent commitment to a transition to full 100% immediate OA — but only Gold OA, and only on your terms, and on your timetable, in such a way as to ensure that you sustain or increase your current revenue streams.

(6) Offer hybrid Gold OA and promise not to “double-dip.” That will ensure that your subscription revenues segue seamlessly into Gold OA revenues while maintaining their current levels.

(7) To hasten the transition, offer even Bigger Big Deals to cover subscriptions at the national level (as you had always dreamt of doing) until all payment is safely converted to (Gold) OA.

(8) Encourage centralized, collective payment of Gold OA fees too, in even Bigger Deals, so Gold OA can continue to be treated as annual institutional — preferably national — payments rather than as piecewise payments per individual article.

(9) Lobby governments to mandate, subsidize and prefer Gold OA (preferably hybrid) rather than mandating Green OA

(10) Make sure Green OA is perceived as delayed OA (because of your embargoes!), so that only Gold OA can be immediate.

(11) Mobilize the minority OA advocates who are in a terrible hurry for re-use rights (CC-BY, text-mining, republication) at all costs, to get them to support you in your promotion of Gold OA and your demotion and embargoing of Green OA.

(12) Cross your fingers and hope that the research community will be gullible enough to buy it all.

There is, however, a compeletely effective prophylactic against this publisher fantasy (but it has to be adopted by the research community, because British and Dutch Ministers are apparently too susceptible to the siren call of the publishing lobby):

(a) Research funders and institutions worldwide all adopt an immediate-deposit mandate, requiring, as a condition of funding, employment and evaluation, that all researchers deposit their final, peer-reviewed drafts in their institutional repositories immediately upon acceptance for publication, regardless of whether they are published in a subscription journal or a Gold OA journal — and regardless of whether access to the deposit is made Green OA immediately or only after a publisher embargo.

(b) Do not mandate or designate any extra money to pay for Gold OA: let that come from the subscription cancellation savings — if and when Green OA actually releases institutions to cancel subscriptions.

(c) To tide over research access needs during any embargo, make sure to implement the institutional repository’s automated copy-request Button so that any user can request — and any author can provide — a single copy for research purposes with just one click each.

The Journal Publisher Lobby in the UK & Netherlands: Part I

The UK and the Netherlands — not coincidentally, the home bases of Big Publishing for refereed research — have issued coordinated statements in support of what cannot be described other than as a publishers’ nocturnal fantasy, in the face of the unstoppable worldwide clamour for Open Access.

Here are the components of the publishers’ nocturnal fantasy:

(1) Do whatever it takes to sustain or increase your current revenue streams.

(2) Your current revenue streams come mainly from subscriptions.

(3) Claim far and wide that everything has to be done to sustain publishers’ subscription revenue, otherwise publishing will be destroyed, and with it so will peer review, and research itself.

(4) With (3) as your justification, embargo Green OA self-archiving for as long as possible, and fight against Green OA self-archiving mandates — or make sure allowable embargoes are as long as possible.

(5) Profess a fervent commitment to a transition to full 100% immediate OA — but Gold OA on your terms, and on your timetable, in such a way as to ensure that you sustain or increase your current revenue streams.

(6) Offer hybrid Gold OA and promise not to “double-dip.” That will ensure that your subscription revenues segue seamlessly into Gold OA revenues while maintaining their current levels.

(7) To hasten the transition, offer even Bigger Big Deals to cover subscriptions at the national level (as you had always dreamt of doing) until all payment is safely converted to (Gold) OA.

(8) Encourage centralized, collective payment of Gold OA fees too, in even Bigger Deals, so Gold OA can continue to be treated as annual institutional — preferably national — payments rather than as piecewise payments per individual article.

(9) Lobby governments to mandate, subsidize and prefer Gold OA (preferably hybrid) rather than mandating Green OA

(10) Make sure Green OA is perceived as delayed OA (because of your embargoes!), so that only Gold OA can be immediate.

(11) Mobilize the minority OA advocates who are in a great hurry for re-use rights (CC-BY, text-mining, republication) to support you in your promotion of Gold OA and demotion and embargoing of Green OA.

(12) Cross your fingers and hope that the research community will be gullible enough to buy it all.

There is, however, a compeletely effective prophylactic against this publisher fantasy (but it has to be adopted by the research community, because British and Dutch Ministers are apparently too susceptible to the publishing lobby):

(a) Research funders and institutions worldwide all adopt an immediate-deposit mandate, requiring, as a condition of funding, employment and evaluation, that all researchers deposit their final, peer-reviewed drafts in their institutional repositories immediately upon acceptance for publication, regardless of whether they are published in a subscription journal or a Gold OA journal — and regardless of whether access to the deposit is made Green OA immediately or only after a publisher embargo.

(b) Do not mandate or designate any extra money to pay for Gold OA: let that come from the subscription cancellation savings — if and when Green OA actually releases institutions to cancel subscriptions.

(c) To tide over research access needs during any embargo, make sure to implement the institutional repository’s automated copy-request Button so that any user can request — and any author can provide — a single copy for research purposes with just one click each.

Now please read how fully the Dutch government fell for the publishing lobby’s nocturnal fantasy. (Tomorrow you will see the same from the UK.)

Here is a quick google translation of excerpts from Sander Dekker, Secretary of Education, Culture and Science, Netherlands on “Commitment to further developments in open access scientific publication

Sander Dekker, Secretary of Education, Culture and Science, Netherlands:

“A clear choice in favour of Open Access publications; the transition process provides the necessary speed and shortens the transition period, thus avoiding unnecessary additional costs… .

“The Green road is the form in which the author publishes an article in a journal. In addition, the author deposits a version of the article in Open Access electronic archive ( repository ). There are both discipline-based and university-based repositories. The system of paid subscriptions to journals continues. Publishers often negotiate embargo periods that can range from several months to several years before an article can be made OA through a repository. During the embargo period, only the paid version of the journal accessible. This constitutes a source of revenue for publishers. Moreover, there are publisher restrictions on the version of an article in the repository. Sometimes this may only be the version that has not yet been peer reviewd…

“Netherlands is in a special position because it has a number of major scientific publishers within its borders. That makes dialogue between science and the Dutch publishing possible…

“In the UK, a national committee chaired by Dame Janet Finch laid the foundation for the Open Access policy of the United Kingdom. The report of the Commission Finch serves as a solid standard . It contains a thorough analysis of developments and progress. The Committee notes that due to the major changes it is imperative that all players act together and she advises to achieve by focusing on Open Access journals. Transition Following this advice, the British government earmarked 10 million pounds for Open Access. The initial signs indicate that this has not led to an accelerated transition , but rather a continuation of the transition…

“The transition to the Golden Road: My preference is for Open Access publishing in journals that make their articles accessible free, the Golden road. My aim is to achieve OA within ten years: a full transition to Open Access Golden Road by 2024. to achieve this, at least 60 percent of the scientific publications Open Access should be available in about five years through the Gold OA journals…

“The real change can only be achieved if we work together at the international level with National cooperation and coordination equally important…

“Open Access in the coming years: Dutch universities, KNAW and NWO should give priority to Open Access Golden road…

“While the publishers have not yet made the transition to Open Access Golden road I prefer hybrid Open Access, where the institution pays for publication in a traditional journal…

“For disciplines where the potential for Gold Open Access journals is still limited, it is possible to provide OA via the Green road…

“1. Consultation with likeminded countries: I will get in touch with a number of like-minded countries to promote and acceleration Open Access. I refer primarily to the United Kingdom and Germany . This is because there are a large number of important commercial and academic publishers in the Netherlands and in these two countries i. In addition, Denmark, Finland, Belgium and France are leading like-minded countries…

“2. Create conditions under which open access possible: An important momentum in the transition to Open Access publications when the scientific organizations and major scientific publishers agree on subscriptions to scientific journals . This ‘big deals’ always apply for some years?.”

“3. reports: If the parties concerned are not sufficiently committed , or developments in insufficient progress , the minister and I imagine that the obligation to publish Gold OA to be included in the Law on Higher Education in 2016 Open Access and Research Act (WHW )?.”

Sander Dekker, Secretary of Education, Culture and Science, Netherlands

Practical Advice for Perplexed Elsevier Authors

For those Elsevier authors who wish to provide OA rather than continuing to agonize over what Elsevier might intend or mean:

Believe Elsevier when they state formally that “Elsevier believes that individual authors should be able to distribute their AAMs for their personal voluntary needs and interests, e.g. posting to their websites or their institution?s repository, e-mailing to colleagues.”

Go ahead and deposit your final draft immediately upon acceptance for publication, set access to the deposit as OA, and ignore all the accompanying Elsevier hedging completely. It means absolutely nothing.

And for those who nevertheless remain tormented by irrational doubts:

Don’t stress: Deposit immediately just the same, but set access to the deposit as restricted access (only you can access it) instead of OA and rely on the repository’s copy-request Button to forward individul eprint requests to you from individual requestors: you can decide on each request on a case by case basis, whether or not you wish to fulfill that request, with one click.

This will tide over potential user needs till either the Elsevier embargo elapses or your irrational doubts subside — whichever comes first.

(The battle-ground for OA has now emerged as the struggle over the 1-year embargo, which publishers try to impose in order to sustain their current revenue streams come what may. Publishers — though so far not Elsevier — have tried to redefine Green OA as access after a 1-year embargo, leaving authors who want to provide immediate access with only one option: pay extra for Gold OA. The immediate-deposit mandate plus the eprint-request Button are the way for the research community to protect the interests of research from the self-interest of publishers.)

All That Glitters

Everything that Bob Campbell writes in his Wiley Exchanges article “Open Access in the UK ? will Gold or Green prevail?” — where he puts the emphasis, and how he spins it — is entirely predictable. As a publisher, Bob’s paramount concern is in ensuring that the cash keeps flowing, whether from subscriptions, hybrid Gold, or pure Gold. This is understandable.

The research community’s paramount concern, in contrast, is with giving and getting Open Access to their refereed research. That means mostly Green OA self-archiving, and Bob has no particular interest in Green (“repositories” — why should he?), except to conflate no-embargo publishers with one-year embargo publishers as both being “one-year-or-less embargo-publishers.”

And to conflate subscription journals that offer hybrid Gold as an option with pure-Gold journals as both being “Gold-or-hybrid-Gold” journals: 70% already! We’re almost there?!

Except that it’s nothing of the sort (and I rather suspect that the 70% refers to publishers that offer hybrid Gold, not journals). And that means that even if only one (or not even one) of the articles in one of a publisher’s fleet of (say) 2000 journals offering the hybrid option is actually paid/made hybrid Gold, then all those 2000 journals are part of the happy 70%…

Bob also slips and slides on double-dipping, saying that if publication costs are paid for via subscriptions, for institutional access, and then some of those same articles are again paid for via hybrid Gold fees, for worldwide access, then that’s not double-dipping: that’s just fair payment for two different products!

To be fair, though, the impatient rights-rhapsodists — who scorn mere Green and insist instead on re-use rights, at all costs (CC-BY-all-means), right now — do provide Bob with the ideal pretext for claiming that hybrid Gold is indeed paying for a further product after all (82%!)…

(The self-serving calculations are somewhat reminiscent of a beleaguered MP seeking re-election in a faltering constituency.)

Openness Probe for the SSP Scholarly Scullery

Joseph Esposito:
“Stevan Harnad engaged Rick?s comment and asserted that such a policy was a very bad thing since it would set back the advance of Green OA. This is an interesting remark, as it reveals Professor Harnad?s conviction that librarians, indeed the whole world, should view the achievement of his idiosyncratic goal as their highest priority. As far as I know, it is not the mission of Rick?s institution or any other to put Green OA at the top of a list of desiderata. Most institutions put service to their own institutions first, as one would expect. Cancelling Green OA journals will indeed set back the advance of Green OA, but that?s beside the point.”

David Crotty (with 11 scholarly thumbs up from his co-cuisiniers):
“I find Dr. Harnad?s response here somewhat appalling. Progress in implementing Open Access will come from open discussion, analysis and experimentation, not from censorship, obfuscation and withholding information. When voices as disparate as Kent Anderson and Cameron Neylon are in agreement about OA reaching a new era of practical implementation, it should be a sign that Harnad is out of step here. It?s always valuable to have someone willing to point out the state of the Emperor?s clothing.”

Compliments to the chefs. Some suggested recipe upgrades:

1. No suggestion made that institutions cannot or should not cancel journals if their articles are all or almost all Green.

(No such journal in sight yet, however, since Green OA is still hovering around 20-30%, apart from some parts of Physics — but there it’s already been at or near 100% for over 20 years, and no cancellations in sight. For the rest, when Green OA — which grows anarchically, article by article, not systematically, journal by journal — prevails universally, because Green OA mandates prevail, all or most journal articles will be Green universally, so Green OA will not be a factor in deciding whether to cancel this journal rather than that one.)

2. The issue with Rick was not about the notion of canceling journals because their articles are all or almost all Green, but about cancelling journals (60%) because they do not have a policy of embargoing Green OA.

3. And such a perverse cancellation policy would not be a setback for Green OA but for OA.

I note in the SSP scullery discussion above that my suggestion that Rick shold post his OA-unfriendly cancellation strategy to library lists rather than to OA lists amounts to a call for censorship over open discussion. I note only that I am not the moderator of any list, hence have no say over their content. It was an open expression, on an open list, of my opinion (together with the reasons for it) that such discussion belongs on another open list. I do post this SK comment with some curiosity, as my own comments to SK have more than once failed to appear?

Stevan Harnad

Finch on BIS on Learned Societies

In response to the BIS Select Committee Report Dame Janet Finch writes:

Dame Janet Finch: “There are some unfortunate gaps in the Select Committee?s consideration. In particular their comments on the publishing industry take no account of a [sic] Learned Societies, whose publishing and other roles have been a major concern of our working group.”

The substantive recommendations of the 2013 BIS Report (I, II) were:

1. that the Green OA deposit in the institutional repository should be immediate rather than delayed, whether or not Open Access to the deposit is embargoed by the publisher (during any OA embargo the repository’s eprint-request Button can then enable the author to fulfill individual user eprint requests automatically with one click each if deposit was immediate),

2. that an effective mechanism for monitoring and ensuring timely mandate compliance should be implemented, and

3. that Gold OA publishing should either no longer be preferred or hybrid Gold should no longer be funded.

It is not at all clear how this amounts to “tak[ing] no account of a [sic] Learned Societies, whose publishing and other roles have been a major concern of our working group.”

The Report does recommend shorter limits on the maximum allowable publisher embargo on OA, but that has no bearing whatsoever on the substantive recommendations above, which refer to the mandatory date of deposit, not to the date on which the deposit is made OA.

Taking Publisher Policy Out of the Loop for HEFCE OA Policy

Lee Jones makes some good points, but underestimates the power and purpose of some of the very HEFCE policy points that he questions.

It is the fact that HEFCE proposes to mandate the immediate, unembargoed deposit of the FAV (Final Author Version) in the author?s institutional repository ? even if access to the deposit is not made immediately OA ? that (1) restores authors? freedom of journal choice, (2) protects authors from having to pay Gold OA fees, (3) takes publishers out of the loop for HEFCE OA Policy, and even (4) equips users to request and authors to provide ?Almost-OA? to embargoed deposits, via the institutional repository?s eprint request Button, with one click each.

In the UK, (a) institutional repository start-up costs are mostly already bespoken, (b) repositories have multiple purposes, with OA only one of them, and they (c) allow archiving costs to be distributed and local, keeping them small, rather than big, like the costs of a national archive like France?s HAL or a global one like Arxiv. Central locus of storage is in any case an obsolete notion in the distributed digital network era.