Cameo Replies to Beall’s List of Howlers

Beall, Jeffrey (2013) The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access. TripleC Communication, Capitalism & Critique Journal. 11(2): 589-597

This wacky article is easy to debunk, though I still think Jeff Beall is doing something useful with his list naming and shaming junk journals. It reveals, however, that Jeff is driven by some sort of fanciful conspiracy theory! ‘OA is all an anti-capitalist plot.’ (Even on a quick skim it is evident that his article is rife with half-truths, errors and downright nonsense. Pity. It will diminish the credibility of his valid exposés. Maybe this is a good thing, if the judgment and motivation behind Beall’s list is as kooky as this article, but it will now also give the genuine “predatory” junk-journals some specious arguments for discrediting Jeff’s work altogether. It will also furnish the publishing lobby with some good sound-bites — but they use them at their peril, because of all the patent nonsense in which they are inseparably embedded!)

Now a few deadpan rejoinders to just the most egregious howlers:

“ABSTRACT: While the open-access (OA) movement purports to be about making scholarly content open-access, its true motives are much different. The OA movement is an anti-corporatist movement that wants to deny the freedom of the press to companies it disagrees with. The movement is also actively imposing onerous mandates on researchers, mandates that restrict individual freedom. To boost the open-access movement, its leaders sacrifice the academic futures of young scholars and those from developing countries, pressuring them to publish in lower-quality open-access journals. The open-access movement has fostered the creation of numerous predatory publishers and standalone journals, increasing the amount of research misconduct in scholarly publications and the amount of pseudo-science that is published as if it were authentic science.”

There are two ways to provide OA: Publish your article in an OA journal (Gold OA) – or –
Publish in any journal you freely choose, and self-archive your final peer-reviewed draft in your institution’s OA repository (Green OA).

“The open-access movement isn’t really about open access. Instead, it is about collectivizing production and denying the freedom of the press from those who prefer the subscription model of scholarly publishing. It is an anti-corporatist, oppressive and negative movement, one that uses young researchers and researchers from developing countries as pawns to artificially force the make-believe gold and green open-access models to work. The movement relies on unnatural mandates that take free choice away from individual researchers, mandates set and enforced by an onerous cadre of Soros-funded European autocrats?”

Green OA provides online access to peer-reviewed research for all potential users, not just those at subscribing institutions.

With Green OA mandated, those who wish to continue paying subscriptions (and can afford to) are free to keep on paying them for as long as they like.

Publish in any journal you freely choose, and self-archive your final peer-reviewed draft in your institution’s OA repository (Green OA).

“The open-access movement is a failed social movement and a false messiah, but its promoters refuse to admit this. The emergence of numerous predatory publishers ? a product of the open-access movement ? has poisoned scholarly communication, fostering research misconduct and the publishing of pseudo-science, but OA advocates refuse to recognize the growing problem. By instituting a policy of exchanging funds between researchers and publishers, the movement has fostered corruption on a grand scale. Instead of arguing for openaccess, we must determine and settle on the best model for the distribution of scholarly research, and it’s clear that neither green nor gold open-access is that model?”

There are two ways to provide OA: Publish your article in an OA journal (Gold OA) – or –
Publish in any journal you freely choose, and self-archive your final peer-reviewed draft in your institution’s OA repository (Green OA).

“Open access advocates think they know better than everyone else and want to impose their policies on others. Thus, the open access movement has the serious side-effect of taking away other’s freedom from them. We observe this tendency in institutional mandates. Harnad (2013) goes so far as to propose [an]?Orwellian system of mandates? documented [in a] table of mandate strength, with the most restrictive pegged at level 12, with the designation “immediate deposit + performance evaluation (no waiver option)”.

Publish in any journal you freely choose, and self-archive your final peer-reviewed draft in your institution’s OA repository (Green OA).

“A social movement that needs mandates to work is doomed to fail. A social movement that uses mandates is abusive and tantamount to academic slavery. Researchers need more freedom in their decisions not less. How can we expect and demand academic freedom from our universities when we impose oppressive mandates upon ourselves??”

Publish in any journal you freely choose, and self-archive your final peer-reviewed draft in your institution’s OA repository (Green OA).

(Perhaps a publish-or-perish mandate, too, is academic slavery? Or a “show-up-for-your-lectures-or-you’re-fired” mandate? Or a mandate to submit CVs digitally instead of in print? Or not smoke on the premises?)

“[F]rom their high-salaried comfortable positions?OA advocates… demand that for-profit, scholarly journal publishers not be involved in scholarly publishing and devise ways (such as green open-access) to defeat and eliminate them?”

Green OA provides online access to peer-reviewed research for all potential users, not just those at subscribing institutions.

With Green OA mandated, those who wish to continue paying subscriptions (and can afford to) are free to keep on paying them for as long as they like.

If and when globally mandated Green OA makes subscriptions unsustainable, journals will cut out inessential products and services (such as print edition, online edition, access-provision and archiving) and their costs, and downsize to providing peer review alone, paid for, per outgoing institutional article, out of the institution’s incoming journal subscription cancellation savings.

“OA advocates use specious arguments to lobby for mandates, focusing only on the supposed economic benefits of open access and ignoring the value additions provided by professional publishers. The arguments imply that publishers are not really needed; all researchers need to do is upload their work, an action that constitutes publishing, and that this act results in a product that is somehow similar to the products that professional publishers produce?.”

Green OA is the peer-reviewed draft. Subscriptions pay for peer review today. If cancelled, the savings will pay for peer review (and any other publisher product or service for which there is still a demand left, once Green OA repositories are doing all the access-provision and archiving).

Stevan Harnad

Is the Library Community Friend or Foe of OA?

Rick Anderson (University of Utah Librarian) has posted the following on multiple lists:

Rick Anderson: if I know that a publisher allows green deposit of all articles without embargo, then the likelihood that we’ll maintain a paid subscription drops dramatically

Rick Anderson has made a public announcement that he may think serves the interests of University of Utah’s Library and its users:

It does not, because it is both arbitrary and absurd to cancel a journal because it is Green rather than because their users no longer need it. About 60% of subscription journals are Green and there are no data whatsoever to show that the percentage of the contents of Green journals made OA by their authors is higher than the percentage for non-Green journals — and, more important, the percentage of articles that are made OA today from either Green or non-Green journals is still low, and the sample is likewise arbitrary.

But more important than any of that is the gross disservice that gratuitous public librarian announcements like this do to the OA movement: We have been objecting vehemently to the perverse incentive Finch/RCUK have given publishers to adopt or lengthen Green OA embargoes and offer hybrid Gold in order to get the money the UK has foolishly elected to throw at Fool’s Gold unilaterally, and preferentially.

Now is it going to be the library community putting publishers on public notice that unless they adopt or lengthen Green OA embargoes, libraries plan to cancel their journals?

With friends like these, the OA movement hardly needs enemies.

May I suggest, though, that such postings should not go to the GOAL, BOAI or SPARC lists? Please keep such brilliant ideas to the library lists.

And please don’t reply that “it’s just one factor in our cancelation equation.” There’s no need for the OA community to hear about librarians’ struggles with their serials budgets when it’s at the expense of OA.

Stevan Harnad



If the topic is Open Access to refereed research journal articles, this is the wrong question to ask.

The right license, providing the right re-use rights, will depend on the field of research, the specific research findings, and the researchers.

But we are nowhere near ready to consider such questions yet, for the simple reason that there is no basic Open Access yet.

We cannot remind ourselves often enough that Open Access is — first and foremost — about access: What made Open Access possible was the advent of the online medium (the Internet and Web): It made it possible to make refereed research journal articles accessible to all users, not just to those whose institutions could afford subscription access.

That possibility has been there for at least a quarter century now, and yet three quarters of research published yearly today is still accessible only to users whose institutions can afford subscription access.

So why are we talking about CC-BY vs. CC-NC, while still not having provided basic Open Access?

Institutions and funders should first and foremost mandate making refereed research journal articles accessible to all users, not just those whose institutions can afford subscription access.

The ideal mandate would require the author’s refereed final draft to be deposited in an OA repository immediately upon acceptance for publication, and also made OA immediately upon deposit.

A compromise that is much easier for everyone to adopt as a first step is to require the author’s refereed final draft to be deposited in an OA repository immediately upon acceptance for publication, and strongly encourage (but not require) that it be made OA immediately upon deposit (and to put a cap on how long it is allowed to embargo OA).

Once immediate deposit has become universal, the first and biggest hurdle of OA — still not surmounted after 25 years now — will at last be surmounted.

And once that has at last happened, all the rest will follow:

— the death of embargoes,
— the growth of subscription cancellations, making subscriptions no longer sustainable to cover the costs of publishing,
— the downsizing of publishing and its costs to just the peer review service alone
(all access-provision and archiving now being done via the worldwide network of OA repositories),
— the conversion of journals to Gold OA at a fair, affordable, sustainable price, paid for out of a fraction of the subscription cancellation savings
(instead of double-paid, double-dipped and grotesquely over-priced, as now, when subscriptions cannot be cancelled because the Green OA version is not yet universal)
— the licensing of as many re-use rights as users need and researchers want to provide.

Instead focusing prematurely and needlessly on CC-BY vs CC-NC today is putting the cart before the horse — and getting us next to nowhere.

RCUK & HEFCE CEOs Misinterpret Economist John Houghton’s Findings on Open Access Cost/Benefits

In viewing their testimony before the House of Lords Select Committee on UK Open Access Policy, one is rather astonished to see just how misinformed are the three witnesses — Professor Rick Rylance, Chair of RCUK; Professor Douglas Kell, RCUK Information Champion; David Sweeney, Director (Research, Innovation and Skills), Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) — on a number of key points.

Professor Kell’s impression seems to be along the lines that “all the worldwide OA policies are like ours [the UK’s] regarding Gold, and the rest of the world is taking its lead from us.”

Unfortunately this is no longer the case at all.

And although the three witnesses extol the economist John Houghton‘s work as authoritative, they rather startlingly misunderstand his findings:

The witnesses cite Houghton’s work as (1) evidence that Green OA is more expensive than Gold and as (2) support for the UK’s new policy of paying for Gold OA in preference to providing Green OA.

Houghton’s findings support neither of these conclusions, as stated rather explicitly and unambiguously in Houghton & Swan’s most recent publication:

“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… [our] 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 yet anywhere near having reached 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 unilaterally adopting 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.”

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

What Houghton and coworkers said and meant about Green as the transitional policy concerned an eventual transition from (1) today’s paid subscription access to (2) paid subscription access + Green OA to (3) post-Green Gold (with subscriptions no longer being paid).

Houghton was not at all referring to or supporting a transition from (I) the current RCUK policy in which Green is “allowed” (though grudgingly and non-preferentially) to (II) an RCUK policy where only Gold is allowed (but subscriptions still need to be paid)!

Quite the contrary. It is the added cost of subscriptions that makes pre-Green Gold so gratuitously expensive.

In the background, it’s clear exactly what subscription publishers are attempting to persuade the UK to do: Publishers know, better than anyone, now, that OA is absolutely inevitable. Hence they are quite aware that their only option is to try to delay the inevitable for as long as possible, on the pretext that it would destroy their business and hurt the UK economy to rush into OA without subsidizing subscription publishers by paying extra for Gold. And this self-interested alarmism is succeeding — in the UK.

Meanwhile, the policy-makers in the UK remain under the misapprehension that they are still the leaders, setting the direction and pace for worldwide OA — whereas in reality they are being rather successfully taken in by the publishing lobby (both subscription and Gold).

But it’s not just the publishing lobby: There are two other sources of misdirection:

(1) The Wellcome Trust, a private biomedical research-funding charity that believes it has understood it all with its slogan “Publishing is just another research cost, and a small one, 1.5%, so we simply have to be prepared to pay it, and in exchange we will have OA”:

What Wellcome does not reckon is that, unlike Wellcome, the UK government is not a private charity, with only two decisions to make: “What research shall I fund, and to whom shall I pay the 1.5% of it which is publication fees?”

The UK, unlike Wellcome, also has to pay for university journal subscriptions, university infrastructure, and a lot else. And the UK is already paying for 100% of all that today — which means 100% of UK publication costs. Any money to pay for Gold OA is over and above that.

Nor does Wellcome — a private funder who can dictate whatever it likes as a condition for receiving its research grants — seem to appreciate that the UK and RCUK are not in the same position as Wellcome: They cannot dictate UK researchers’ journal choice, nor can they tell UK researchers to spend money on Gold other than whatever money they give them.

Nor does Wellcome give a second thought to the fact that its ineffective OA mandate owes what little success it has had in nearly 10 years to publishers being paid to provide OA, not to fundees being mandated to do it.

Yet in almost every respect, the new RCUK policy is now simply a clone of the old Wellcome policy.

(2) The minority of fields and individuals that strongly advocate CC-BY licenses for all refereed research today have managed to give the impression that it is not free online access to refereed research that matters most, but the kinds of re-mix, text-mining, re-use, and re-publication that they need in their own small minority of fields.

To repeat, it is incontrovertibly true and highly relevant: CC-BY is only needed in a minority of fields — and in no field is CC-BY needed more, or more urgently, than free online access is needed in all fields.

Yet here too, it is this CC-BY minority that has managed to persuade Finch/RCUK (and themselves) that CC-BY is to the advantage of — indeed urgently needed by — all research and researchers, in all fields, as well as UK industry. Hence that it is preferable to use 1.5% of UK’s dwindling research funds to pay publishers still more for Gold CC-BY to UK research output (and pressure authors to choose journals that offer it) rather than just to mandate cost-free Green (and let authors choose journals on the basis of their quality standards and track-records, as before, rather on the basis of their licenses and cost-recovery models).

The obvious Achilles Heel in all this is unilaterality, as Houghton & Swan point out, clearly.

None of the benefits on which the UK OA policy is predicated will materialize if the UK does what it proposes to do unilaterally:

The Finch/RCUK policy will just purchase Gold CC-BY to the UK’s own 6% of worldwide research output by double-paying publishers (subscriptions + Gold OA fees).

In addition, the UK must continue paying the subscriptions to access the rest of the world’s 94%, while at the same time UK OA policy — by incentivizing publishers to offer hybrid Gold and increase their Green embargo lengths beyond RCUK’s allowable 6-12 in order to collect the UK Gold CC-BY bonus revenue — makes it needlessly harder for the rest of the world to mandate Green OA .

As long as the UK keeps imagining that it’s still leading on OA, and that the rest of the world will follow suit — funding and preferring Gold OA — the UK will remain confident in the illusion that what it is doing makes sense and things must get better.

But the reality will begin to catch up when the UK realizes that it is doing what it is doing unilaterally: It has chosen the losing strategy in a global Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Let us hope that UK policy-makers can still be made to see the light by inquiries like the Lords’ and BIS‘s, and will then promptly do the simple policy tweaks that it would take to put the UK back in the lead, and in the right.

(Some of the Lords in the above video seem to have been a good deal more sensible and better informed than the three witnesses were!)

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

Much Ado About Gold Compliance: What About Green Compliance?

Comment on: UK research funders announce grants for open-access publishing (Richard Van Noorden, Nature)

First, a correction: Gold vs. Green does not mean immediate Gold OA from the publisher vs. delayed Green OA from the author?s institutional repository. Most Green OA (60%) is immediate OA too. And for the 40% that is embargoed by publishers, repositories have the ?Almost OA? Button.

Second, that 60% vs 40% refers to Green OA, whose worldwide UNmandated annual average is about 25% today. So that?s 60%/40% of 25% or about 16% immediate Green OA and 8% Almost-OA globally today.

Now to RCUK: As Richard notes, even the old, weak RCUK mandate, with no compliance assurance mechanism, did better than the worldwide average.

Evidence has since shown that strong mandates provide much higher Green OA rates (over 70% within two years).

Hence the RCUK, in wasting scarce research money on Gold instead of strengthening its compliance assurance mechanism for cost-free Green OA, would be designing a self-fulfilling prophecy. This would fail, because most UK researchers would rightly refuse to comply with Gold and the rest of the world (funders as well as universities) is meanwhile mandating Green.

A European Green OA Mandate may help restore RCUK to its senses and put it back on a realistic path to 100% OA, focused on research interests instead of publishing interests.

Stevan Harnad

Against Raising Green OA Goalpost From Gratis To CC-BY

This is a response to a proposal (by some individuals in the researcher community) to raise the goalposts of Green OA self-archiving and Green OA mandates from where they are now (free online access) to CC-BY (free online access plus unlimited re-use and re-publication rights):

1. For the reasons I will try to describe here, raising the goal-posts for Green OA self-archiving and Green OA mandates to CC-BY (free online access PLUS unlimited re-use and re-publication rights) would be very deleterious to Green OA growth, Green OA mandate growth, and hence global OA growth (and would thereby provide yet another triumph for the publisher lobby and double-paid hybrid-Gold CC-BY).

2. The fundamental practical reason why global Green Gratis OA (free online access) is readily reachable is precisely because it requires only free online access and not more.

3. That is also why 60% of journals endorse immediate, un-embargoed Green OA today.

4. That is also why repositories’ Almost-OA Button can tide over user needs during any embargo for the remaining 40% of journals.

5. “Upgrading” Green OA and Green OA mandates to requiring CC-BY would mean that most journals would immediately adopt Green OA embargoes, and their length would be years, not months.

6. It would also mean that emailing (or mailing) eprints would become legally actionable, if the eprint was tagged and treated as CC-BY, thereby doing in a half-century’s worth of established scholarly practice.

7. And all because impatient ideology got the better of patient pragmatics and realism, a few fields’ urgent need for CC-BY was put ahead of all fields’ urgent need for free online access — and another publisher lobby victory was scored for double-paid hybrid Gold-CC-BY (hence simply prolonging the worldwide status quo of mostly subscription publishing and little OA).

8. If Green OA self-archiving meant CC-BY then any rival publisher would immediately be licensed to free-ride on any subscription journal’s content, offering it at cut-rate price in any form, thereby undercutting all chances of the original publisher recouping his costs: Hence for all journal publishers that would amount to either ruin or a forced immediate conversion to Gold CC-BY…

9. …If publishers allowed Green CC-BY self-archiving by authors, and Green CC-BY mandates by their institutions, without legal action.

10. But of course publishers would not allow the assertion of CC-BY by its authors without legal action (and it is the fear of legal action that motivates the quest for CC-BY!):

11. And the very real threat of legal action facing Green CC-BY self-archiving by authors and Green CC-BY mandates by institutions (unlike the bogus threat of legal action against Gratis Green self-archiving and Gratis Green mandates) would of course put an end to authors’ providing Green OA and institutions’ mandating Green OA.

12. In theory, funders, unlike institutions, can mandate whatever they like, since they are paying for the research: But if a funder Gold OA mandate like Finch/RCUK’s — that denies fundees the right to publish in any journal that does not offer either Gold CC-BY or Gratis-Green with at most a 6-12 month embargo, and that only allows authors to pick Green if the journal does not offer Gold — is already doomed to author resentment, resistance and non-compliance, then adding the constraint that any Green must be CC-BY would be to court outright researcher rebellion.

In short, the pre-emptive insistence upon CC-BY OA, if recklessly and irrationally heeded, would bring the (already slow) progress toward OA, and the promise of progress, to a grinding halt.

Finch/RCUK’s bias toward paid Gold over cost-free Green was clearly a result of self-interested publisher lobbying. But if it were compounded by a premature and counterproductive insistence on CC-BY for all by a small segment of the researcher community, then the prospects of OA (both Gratis and CC-BY), so fertile if we at last take the realistic, pragmatic course of mandating Gratis Green OA globally first, would become as fallow as they have been for the past two decades, for decades to come.

Some quote/comments follow below:

Jan Velterop: We’ve always heard, from Stevan Harnad, that the author was the one who intrinsically had copyright on the manuscript version, so could deposit it, as an open access article, in an open repository irrespective of the publisher’s views.

I said — because it’s true, and two decades’ objective evidence shows it — that authors can deposit the refereed, final draft with no realistic threat of copyright action from the publisher.

JV: If that is correct, then the author could also attach a CC-BY licence to the manuscript version.

Nothing of the sort. Author self-archiving to provide free online access (Gratis Green OA) is one thing — claiming and dispensing re-use and republication rights (CC-BY) is quite another.

JV: If it is incorrect, the author can’t deposit the manuscript with open access without the explicit permission of the publisher of his final, published version, and the argument advanced for more than a decade by Stevan Harnad is invalid.

Incorrect. Authors can make their refereed final drafts free for all online without the prospect of legal action from the publisher, but not with a CC-BY license to re-use and re-publish.

Moreover, for authors who elect to comply with publisher embargoes on Green Gratis OA, there is the option of depositing in Closed Access and relying on the Almost-OA Button to provide eprint-requesters with individual eprints during the embargo. This likewise does not come with CC-BY rights.

JV: Which is it? I think Stevan was right, and a manuscript can be deposited with open access whether or not the publisher likes it. Whence his U-turn, I don’t know

.No U-turn whatsoever. Just never the slightest implication from me that anything more than free online access was intended.

JV: But if he was right at first, and I believe that’s the case, that also means that it can be covered by a CC-BY licence. Repositories can’t attach the licence, but ‘gold’ OA publishers can’t either. It’s always the author, as copyright holder by default. All repositories and OA publishers can do is require it as a condition of acceptance (to be included in the repository or to be published). What the publisher can do if he doesn’t like the author making available the manuscript with open access, is apply the Ingelfinger rule or simply refuse to publish the article.

The above is extremely unrealistic and counterproductive policy advice to institutions and funders.

If an OA mandate is gratuitously upgraded to CC-BY it just means that most authors will be unable to get their papers published in their journal of choice if they comply with the mandate. So authors will not comply with the mandate, and the mandate will fail.

Peter Murray-Rust: If we can establish the idea of Green-CC-BY as the norm for deposition in repositories then I would embrace it enthusiastically. I can see no downside other than that some publishers will fight it. But they fight anyway

The downside is that authors won’t fight, and hence OA itself will lose the global Gratis Green OA that is fully within its reach, and stay in the non-OA limbo (neither Gratis nor CC-BY, neither Green nor Gold) in which most research still is today — and has been for two decades.

And the irony is that — speaking practically rather than ideologically — the fastest and surest prospect for both CC-BY and Gold is to first quickly reach global Gratis Green OA. Needlessly over-reaching can undermine all of OA’s objectives.

PMR: It would resolve all the apparent problems of the Finch reoprt etc. It is only because Green licences are undefined that we have this problem at all.

On the contrary: raising the Gratis Green 6-12 goalposts to immediate Green CC-BY would make the Finch/RCUK a pure hybrid-Gold mandate and nothing else. And its failure would be a resounding one.

PMR: And if we all agreed it could be launched for Open Access Week

That would certainly be a prominent historic epitaph for OA. I hope, on the contrary, that pragmatic voices will be raised during OA week, so that we can get on with reaching for the reachable instead of gratuitously raising the goalposts to unrealistic heights.

Stevan Harnad