On COPE Commitments and Double Dripping

In “How much does a COPE-compliant openaccess fund cost?“, Stuart Shieber, the architect of Harvard‘s historic faculty consensus on mandating Green Open Access Self-Archiving, has explained that the purpose of the “Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity” (COPE) commitment of funds to pay Gold OA publishing costs is (1) to provide a “safety net” for publishers, that (2) COPE does not fund hybrid Gold or (3) double-dipping, and that (4) the amount of money involved is trivial. Stuart accordingly asks that “harangues [in particular from me!] about openaccess funds amounting to throwing away large quantities of valuable dollars [should] please stop now.”


For what it?s worth, my objections to COPE are not based on double-dipping, nor on the amount committed; they are not even based on COPE per se. They are based on committing to COPE without first committing to mandating Green OA.

It is good that COPE does not propose to fund hybrid Gold (where the journal continues to get paid for subscriptions, and also gets paid for those articles that pay extra to be made OA). That?s double-dipping ? though the publishers can (and some do) reply (in words to the effect) that:

?No, it?s not double-dipping, it?s just a safety net, in case the market ever swings toward Gold: For now, we will reduce our subscriptions proportionately, to reflect any Gold OA revenues. If and when the transition is complete, it?s complete: all revenues come from Gold OA fees, zero from subscriptions. Never any double-dipping.? [not a real quote]

A safety net to preserve current revenue streams, regardless of their source.

No, the ones who are double-dripping (sic) are the institutions, who are spending money on buying in subscriptions, and — whether they pay for hybrid Gold or pure-gold COPE journals (e.g., in the Springer/BMC ?Membership” Deal) — also spending money on Gold (scarce money, reputedly, given the years of agonizing over the serials crisis and journal price inflation).

But even that would not matter, if the institutions were just to mandate Green OA first.

But committing to paying for Gold OA of any description without first mandating Green OA strikes me as a real head-shaker. (Of the eight universities Stuart lists as having committed to pay [something] for Gold OA, only two — Harvard and MIT — have mandated Green OA.)

What we need today is OA, not safety nets for publishers. Green OA mandates will bring us OA: 100% OA. Instead fiddling pre-emptively with the future of publishing will not.

Stuart has made such a brilliant, unique contribution to OA in orchestrating Harvard?s historic Green OA mandate. I continue to feel perplexed as to to why he is squandering any of his considerable expertise and influence at this critical juncture on persuading universities to squander their scarce resources (no matter how minimally) on pre-emptive Gold (as a publishers? safety net) without first persuading them to follow his own gloriously Green example first (which was to mandate Green OA first, and then commit to spending some money on Gold OA).

Upon reflection, I remember that Stuart has actually given a hint of why he has become so preoccupied with Gold: Because one of the obstacles he had encountered in convincing faculty to vote-in a Green OA mandate by consensus, as Harvard FAS did, was (some) authors? worries about publishers? future.

So maybe the preoccupation with creating a safety net for publishers is really for the (sense of) safety of authors, so they are more likely to vote-in a Green OA mandate by consensus?

But the Harvard FAS?s historic consensus on Green OA came before any commitment to a Gold safety net. And the same is true of the over 150 other Green OA mandates worldwide to date (though most were adopted by presidential or provostial wisdom, rather than waiting for faculty to come to any consensus).

Wouldn?t a less costly and circuitous way of calming individuals? concerns about the safety of publishers under Green OA mandates be to point out that if subscription publishing were ever caused to become unsustainable because of the availability of Green OA, the vast sums of money that institutions are now spending on subscriptions would then by the very same token be released as the ?safety net? to pay for the conversion to Gold OA?

Does the first step really have to be pre-emptive payment, even token payment, rather than just going ahead and mandating the Green and letting the future of publishing take care of itself — while the research community takes care of getting its research into the hands of all its intended users at long last, instead of just those whose institutions can afford a subscription?

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

MELIBEA: validating OA policies

MELIBEA provides a searchable directory of open access (OA) policies. It describes the existing policies of each mandate listed and provides a clear list of criteria (e.g. length of possible embargo). 
It also describes itself as a validator as it assesses each policy against a fixed set of qualitative and quantitative criteria. These are used to provide each mandate with a score that indicates how ‘open’ it is. For example the Wellcome mandate scores c.72% open, whereas the European Research Council (ERC) scores 60% openness.

OA articles: situation 2009

A recent article in PLoS One presents an analysis of the percentage of articles available open access in 2009.
Entitled ‘Open Access to the Scientific Journal Literature: Situation 2009‘ the paper used a random sample of 1837 articles to determine the percentage that are available OA either on the journal site or within a repository.
The findings show that the greatest percentage of OA articles on journal sites are from the biomedical areas (c.13% of articles) and the lowest percentage in physics and astronomy (c.3%).
However the percentage available in repositories showed a quite different spread. The lowest number available in repositories was in the biomedical subjects (ranging from 4.6-7.8%) and the highest was in the earth sciences area (25.9%).
Chemistry showed the lowest total OA availability (13% total).
Of articles published in 2008, they found an average 8.5% freely available at the publishers’ sites plus an additional 11.9% that could be found using search engines, making the average overall OA percentage 20.4%.
It should be noted that since they looked at articles published prior to 2009 the results will not reflect the mandate enforced by the NIH at the start of 2008 – it is likely that a similar study of articles published in 2009 and 2010 (including those for whom 12-month embargoes will have expired) will be far larger in the biomedical arena.

FRPAA Self-Archiving Mandate’s Benefits 8 Times Their Cost: New Houghton Study

Houghton, John (with Bruce Rasmussen and Peter Sheehan) (2010) Economic and Social Returns on Investment in Open Archiving Publicly Funded Research Outputs. SPARC study.

Preliminary modeling suggests that over a transitional period of 30 years from implementation, the potential incremental benefits of the proposed FRPAA archiving mandate might be worth around 8 times the costs. Perhaps two-thirds of these benefits would accrue within the US, with the remainder spilling over to other countries. Hence, the US national benefits arising from the proposed FRPAA archiving mandate might be of the order of 5 times the costs.”


This new Houghton Report from SPARC is especially timely, counterbalancing its cautious empirical evidence against the data-free rhetoric of those publishers who are trying to kill the FRPAA and end President Obama’s Request for Information on Public Access Policy by arguing that the purpose of funding, conducting and publishing research is to maximize publishers’ revenues rather than to maximize the benefits of research to the tax-paying public that funded it:


Drawing by Judith Economos
Feel free to re-use to promote FRPAA and OA.

Nature Publishing Group Keeps Misdescribing Itself As "Liberal" On Open Access


Apart from offering to sell its authors immediate (gold) Open Access publishing for an extra fee, Nature Publishing Group (NPG) continues to embargo (green) Open Access self-archiving by its authors until 6 months after publication.

Yet in its promotional press release, NPG writes of itself:

Our liberal self-archiving policy and free manuscript deposition service remain an important part of our open access offering and service to authors.”

From NPG’s License to Publish [emphasis added]:

When a manuscript is accepted for publication in an NPG journal, authors are encouraged to submit the author’s version of the accepted paper (the unedited manuscript) to PubMedCentral or other appropriate funding body’s archive, for public release six months after publication. In addition, authors are encouraged to archive this version of the manuscript in their institution’s repositories and, if they wish, on their personal websites, also six months after the original publication.

NPG recognizes the balance of rights held by publishers, authors, their institutions and their funders (Zwolle principles, 2002), and has been a progressive and active participant in debates about access to the literature. In 2002, NPG was one of the first publishers to allow authors to post their contributions on their personal websites, by requesting an exclusive licence to publish, rather than requiring authors to transfer copyright. NPG actively supports the self-archiving process, and continues to work with authors, readers, subscribers and site-license holders to develop its policy.”

Yes, NPG was indeed in 2002 among the first publishers to request an exclusive license to publish instead of requiring a copyright transfer from its authors.

But what did that mean?

That new policy was at first clouded in uncertainty as to whether or not it meant that NPG was endorsing immediate, unembargoed author self-archiving of the author’s final, refereed, accepted draft (green OA).

Then in January 2003 NPG indicated that it did indeed endorse immediate, unembargoed author self-archiving of the author’s final draft (green OA), as over 60% of journals (including almost all the top journals — including, notably — Nature’s rival, Science) have likewise done since.

But then in January 2005 NPG back-slid, imposing a 6-month embargo on self-archiving (and instead liberally offered to help ensure that the self-archiving was not done by NPG authors any earlier than 6 months after publication, by offering its authors a free “Manuscript Deposition Service” to take the self-archiving entirely out of the hands of its authors, with NPG doing the self-archiving in their place, for free — after the embargo!). For authors who nevertheless desired immediate OA for their papers, some NPG journals went on to offer the option of paying NPG about $3000-$5000 (over and above all the subscriptions already generously paying OA for publication) for immediate (hybrid gold) OA.

That means NPG is today among the minority of journals (and the even tinier minority of the top journals) not to endorse immediate OA self-archiving.

If NPG wishes to promote itself as “liberal on OA,” it needs to drop its embargo on green OA, like the rest of the majority of journal publishers that are genuinely on the side of the angels in their policy on green OA (such as APS, IOP, APA, ACS, the Royal Society, Springer and Elsevier).

If not, then NPG’s embargo on green OA, its paid gold OA option, and its “liberal” willingness to take the chore of self-archiving out of the author’s hands is more accurately construed as a marketing strategy to restrict green OA and increase extra revenues from selling gold OA in its place.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

Open Access for Canada – for Canadian impact

As librarians across the country know, it is not easy for searchers to find information about Canada. Recently, in a discussion about the Canadian Census, someone pointed out how much more open and useful the U.S. Census data is. Have a look – it is impressive indeed. The point was, that this Canadian admitted to doing research using U.S. Census data rather than Canadian data for their grad thesis, just because it was too hard to find Canadian data. A story that reference librarians are all too familiar with. Update August 7: Allison Martell explains why she used American census data rather than Canadian for her undergraduate project, because the Canadian data were not usable.

When American information is easy to find, and Canadian information almost impossible to find, what ends up happening is that Canadian researchers end up helping Americans with their problems, even if they want to help us with ours. If Americans thought about this and wanted to reciprocate, they’d have a hard time finding our information and probably give up.

The U.S. already has a strong mandatory open access law with the National Institutes of Health, and discussions are well underway to extend this to all U.S. federal funding agencies. Canada had better get going on our own OA mandates and make our work visible, quick, or we’ll end up becoming even more marginalized from a knowledge standpoint. This anecdotal view is a good fit with the author impact advantage illustrated in Steve Hitchcock’s excellent bibliography of studies on this topic.

Canadians who are advocating for the return of the mandatory long form of the census: why not add to the list of the demands that the data be made just as open and usable as the U.S. Census data is?

Is University of Florida Joining the Gold Rush Without First Mandating Green OA?

Let me precede this one-line comment by first asking a question (to which I fervently hope the answer will prove to be Yes rather than No):

Question: Before adopting its University of Florida Open Access Publishing (UFOAP) Fund Pilot Project in July 2010, did UF adopt the open access self-archiving mandate proposed by UF’s long-time OA advocate, Tom Walker, way back in April 2009?

Comment: For if not, then UF is making a substantial strategic error, squandering scarce funds to pay for a little more OA for some of UF’s research output, instead of first providing OA, at no extra cost, to all of UF’s research output.


April 2009: Minutes of University of Florida Infrastructure Council (283 JWRU @ 1-2pm)

Presentation & discussion: Open Access (Dr. Tom Walker)

 Dr. Walker provided a Powerpoint presentation on the value and benefits of open access. Guests provided additional background on how the libraries are using, creating and promoting open access. This presentation is a great start for opening discussions on Open Access at UF.

 Dr. Walker will be talking to the University Libraries Committee on Friday (4/17/09). IC is not prepared at this time to write/accept a resolution but Jane will meet with Rae (ULC) and together they will go to the Steering Committee to move the discussion of OA forward.


July 2010: UF Open Access Publishing Fund

Beginning July 1, 2010 the University of Florida Open Access Publishing (UFOAP) Fund Pilot Project will help with processing fees to publish open access articles. Any UF faculty, post-doctoral researcher, staff or student author may request up to $3,000 per year to pay for article-processing fees. Articles must be peer-reviewed.


Never Pay Pre-Emptively For Gold OA Before First Mandating Green OA

On Not Putting The Gold OA-Payment Cart Before The Green OA-Provision Horse

Why It Is Not Enough Just To Give Green OA Higher Weight Than Gold OA

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum