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?