SUMMARY: A publisher that has a Green policy on OA self-archiving (by the author) is removing the single biggest obstacle to Green OA (hence to OA), as well as to Green OA Mandates by authors’ institutions and funders, namely, the author’s worry that to self-archive would be to violate copyright and/or to risk not being published by his journal of choice. No one is asking non-OA publishers to support OA — just not to oppose it. What will ensure that not only a small fraction of authors but all authors provide Green OA is Green OA mandates. Green OA mandates are facilitated by publishers with Green policies on OA self-archiving. That does not, however, require that publishers agree to allow 3rd parties to download their proprietary files automatically (simply because authors themselves cannot be bothered to do the requisite keystrokes), for that would be tantamount to asking publishers to become Gold OA publishers.
On 26 November 2008, Colin Smith [CS], Research Repository Manager of the Open University’s Open Research Online (ORO), sent the following posting to UKCORR-DISCUSSION (which I reposted on the American Scientist Open Access Forum):
CS: “A short while ago I mentioned on this list that Elsevier are producing PDFs of the final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript and publishing them online as part of their ‘Articles in Press’ system (see attached example). The ‘Accepted Manuscript’ will stay online until the ‘Uncorrected Proof’ replaces it.
“Everyone knows that Elsevier‘s [author self-archiving] policy (like [that of] most other publishers) allows the use of the final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript in repositories, but I wondered whether they would be happy about us making us of the ‘Accepted Manuscript’ version they are producing and publishing online.
“The answer (officially ? from Daviess Menefee, Director of Library Relations at Elsevier) is ‘yes’.
“This is really good news because it gives us (Repository Managers and Administrators) a window of opportunity to always get hold of the final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript for Elsevier items (assuming your institution subscribes to the journal in question). The ‘window of
opportunity’ is that time between which the ‘Accepted Manuscript’ appears online and is replaced by the ‘Uncorrected Proof’.”
Elsevier’s Senior Vice President Karen Hunter [KH] followed up with this clarification:
KH: “As much as Elsevier appreciates praise for its policies, we also want to prevent misunderstanding.
“We are grateful that Colin Smith, Research Repository Manager of the Open University, approached us with a question on our author posting policy. Mr. Smith had noticed that for some journals an early “accepted manuscript” version of an author’s paper was available on ScienceDirect and he wanted to know if authors could download it and deposit it to their institutional repositories. As our longstanding policy permits authors to voluntarily post their own author manuscripts to their personal website or institutional repository, we responded that we would not object to an author downloading this version.
“However, our broader policy prohibits systematic downloading or posting. Therefore, it is not permitted for IR managers or any other third party to download articles or any other version such as articles-in-press or accepted manuscripts from ScienceDirect and post them. To the extent that Colin Smith’s message could be read as encouraging IR managers to download, it is a misinterpretation of our position.”
I [SH] , in turn, followed up with this AmSci posting:
SH: Karen Hunter’s response is very fair, and Elsevier’s policy on author self-archiving is both very fair and very progressive — indeed a model for all Publishers that wish to adopt a Green OA policy.
I know there will be extremists who will jump on me for having said this, and I am sure nothing I say will be able to make them realize how unreasonable they are being — and how their extremism works against OA.
Green OA self-archiving provides the opportunity for achieving universal OA precisely because it is author self-archiving. Thus is it is perfectly reasonable for Green publishers to endorse only self-archiving, not 3rd-party archiving; to endorse self-archiving in the author’s own institutional repository, but not in a 3rd-party repository; and to endorse depositing the author’s own final draft, not the publisher’s draft.
The fact that we do not yet have universal Green OA is not publishers’ fault, and certainly not Green publishers’ fault. The only thing standing between us and universal Green OA is keystrokes — authors’ keystrokes. And the way to persuade authors to perform those keystrokes — for their own benefit, as well as for the benefit of the institutions that pay their salaries, the agencies that fund their research, and the tax-paying public that funds their institutions and their funders — is for their institutions and funders to mandate that those keystrokes are performed.
It would not only be unjust, but it would border on the grotesque, if the punishment for publishers who had been progressive enough to give their official green light to their authors to perform those keystrokes — yet their authors couldn’t be bothered to perform the keystrokes, and their institutions and funders could not be bothered to mandate the keystrokes — were that their green light was construed as permission to automatically harvest from the publisher’s website the drafts that their own authors could not be bothered or persuaded to deposit in their own institutional repository.
No. Open Access is a benefit that the research community needs to provide for itself. The only reasonable thing to ask of publishers is that they should not try to prevent the keystrokes from being performed. It would be both unreasonable and unfair to demand that publishers also perform the keystrokes on the authors’ behalf, through automated downloads, for that would be tantamount to demanding that they become Gold OA publishers, rather than just endorsing Green OA.
What is needed is more keystroke mandates from institutions and funders, not more pressure on Green publishers who have already done for Green OA all that can be reasonable asked of them.
MBE: “…I will proudly claim the mantle of an OA extremist if it means calling [them] on Elsevier’s policy. I am very happy to see Karen Hunter’s message, because it confirms what I and many others have been saying for years – that Elsevier only supports Green OA publishing because they know it will be adopted by a small fraction of their authors.”
SH: (1) There is no Green OA publishing, there is only Green OA self-archiving (by the author).
(2) A publisher that is Green on OA self-archiving (by the author) is removing the single biggest obstacle to Green OA (hence to OA), as well as to Green OA Mandates by authors’ institutions and funders: The author’s concern that to self-archive would be to violate copyright and to risk not being published by his journal of choice.
(3) No one is asking non-OA publishers to support OA — just not to oppose it.
(4) What will ensure that not only a small fraction of authors but all authors provide Green OA is Green OA mandates.
(5) Green OA mandates are facilitated by publishers with Green policies on OA self-archiving.
(6) None of this requires that publishers agree to allow 3rd parties to download their proprietary files automatically.
MBE: “What more evidence do you need that Elsevier is not actually committed to OA than this explicit statement that they prohibit the clearest and easiest path towards achieving Green OA to their published articles?”
SH: The clearest and easiest path to achieving Green OA to all published articles is for their authors to deposit them in their institutional repositories and for their institutions and funders to mandate that they deposit them in their institutional repositories. It is not Elsevier that is holding up that process. It is authors, in failing to self-archive of their own accord, and their institutions and funders, in failing to mandate that they self-archive.
The only relevant evidence from Elsevier here is that Elsevier has removed the obstacles to immediate author self-archiving, as well as to institutional and funder immediate self-archiving mandates. There is nothing more that needs to be asked of Elsevier on this score, nor anything more that Elsevier need do.
(I make no mention here about something else on which Elsevier can indeed be faulted, namely, that they are an active part of the publisher lobbying against Green OA mandates! But I think that on balance their Green policy and example on immediate OA self-archiving is far more of a help to progress on Green OA and Green OA mandates than the publisher lobbying against Green OA mandates is a hindrance; indeed the lobbying is failing, globally, and especially failing against individual institutional mandates, which are far less vulnerable to industry lobbying than governmental funding agencies, although those too are successfully resisting the industry lobbying.)
MBE: “Why should Elsevier care whether authors download the articles themselves or if someone else does it for them other than the expectation that in the former case, the practical obstacles will prevent most authors from doing so.”
SH: Because construing a Green Light for authors to self-archive as a Green Light for 3rd-party “self”-archiving, and 3rd-party archives would be a carte blanche to 3rd-party rival publishers to free-ride on Elsevier content.
(Again, the distinction is completely mooted, in practical terms, by the nature of the Web and of Open Access: Once content is free for all in one place, it is free for all in any place, and there is scarcely any scope for “free-riding” on free content. But these are alas still early days, and while authors and their institutions and funders are still dragging their feet on self-archiving and self-archiving mandates, there is plenty of scope for free-riders to have a little field day with an Elsevier policy that allows anyone to download and re-use their proprietary files today.)
MBE: “Unless and until Elsevier radically restructures its business model for scientific publishing, they will only permit Green OA so long as it is largely unsuccessful – the moment it becomes possible to get most Elsevier articles in IRs they will have to end this practice, as their current policy against IR downloads makes abundantly clear.”
SH: On this point, Mike, I am afraid we will have to continue to disagree, profoundly. You are an advocate of a direct transition to Gold OA publishing; I am not, because I see so clearly that universal Green OA is within reach, awaiting only universal Green OA mandates by authors’ institutions and funders. Those universal Green OA mandates by authors’ institutions and funders (which Elsevier’s Green policy greatly facilitates) — along with time itself — make it increasingly difficult for publishers even to contemplate back-tracking on their Green policies.
You continue to be impatient for Gold OA, whereas my overtaxed patience is just for OA itself — which, unlike Gold OA, is already within sight and reach. All it takes is universal Green OA self-archiving mandates by institutions and funders. Elsevier’s Green policy is such a great help in that (even though even that help is not essential) that I think it far outweighs their lobbying against Green OA mandates. And it certainly outweighs their unwillingness to allow 3rd-party downloading of their proprietary files.
The discussion reached closure with Colin Smith’s reply to Karen Hunter:
CS: “Karen, I very much appreciate you pointing out that my posting could have been interpreted as a rallying call to IR Managers and Administrators to systematically download Elsevier items on behalf of authors. This is not what I meant – my apologies.
“Where I originally said:
‘This is really good news because it gives us (Repository Managers and Administrators) a window of opportunity to always get hold of the final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript for Elsevier items (assuming your institution subscribes to the journal in question).’
“I should have said:
‘This is really good news because it gives us (Repository Managers and Administrators) the opportunity to inform our academics that there may well be an online version of their accepted manuscript that they can retrieve, should they have failed to retain it themselves.’
“I have to say that, while I am not averse to occasional third-party depositing, on the whole I believe Green OA can only be sustainable if the academics themselves are choosing to do it. If IR Managers and Administrators are busying around in the background, mass-uploading items without the knowledge of authors, yes your repository may grow substantially in size and it may look to the outside world that Green OA is taking off, but have you actually embedded OA into the culture of your institution? I suspect not. We have to encourage self-archiving because only by doing it themselves, engaging with their IR on a regular basis, will our academics become aware of how much there is to gain for what is actually very little pain.
“On that note, just to reiterate (and again I thank Karen for pulling me up on this), I am certainly not advocating that we in any way trawl Science Direct for accepted manuscripts. That would, in my opinion, be a non-sustainable approach and detrimental to the coexistence of IRs and academic publishing.”