The “Pay-Twice” Misunderstanding, Again

David Wiley’s version of the double-payment objection is only partly correct. To the extent that both research funding and research library funding are paid by the tax-payer, there is indeed some double-paying ? but the one who gets the free ride is the publisher, who gets to charge for access to material most of which was funded by the tax-payer.

(But not so for peer review, which the publisher manages, though the reviewing is again actually being done for free by the peers. Nevertheless, an honest broker is needed to manage the peer review, or else it?s vanity press. The cost of managing peer review is much less than the cost of publishing, but it will be an invariant expense that needs to be paid no matter what.)

The double-pay objection is incorrect, however, when it is made from the standpoint of the subscriber institution. (Private universities? journal budgets are not paid by tax-payers; and even public universities cover it partly out of student fees or other sources.) The institutional librarians who say ?Our institution takes the trouble and expense to provide the research, gives it to publishers for free, only to have to buy it back for subscrption fees? are mistaken: An institution has its own research output: It?s buying in the research output of other institutions with its journal subscriptions. (So unless one thinks the same argument ought to be applied to books, there?s no valid double-pay objection here.)

But, last, the real rationale for Open Access is not the fact that tax-payers feel a burning wish or need to read the peer-reviewed reports of the often highly specialized research they fund. It is that if the research they have funded is to provide the maximal benefits to the tax-payers who funded it, it should be accessible to all of its intended users: the researchers who are in the position to use, apply and build upon the scholarly or scientific findings, and not just those whose institutions can afford a subscription to the journal in which they happen to be punished.

But the moral is the same: Both research funders and universities should mandate that all their peer-reviewed research articles are made freely accessible to all their potential users online (?Green OA?). If and when making all this peer-reviewed research freely available online makes journal subscriptions unsustainable as the way of recovering the costs of peer review, institutions can pay those true costs, by the outgoing article, out of just a fraction of their annual windfall savings from their subscription cancellations.

Harnad, S. (2007) The ?Double-Pay?/?Buy-Back? Argument for Open Access is Invalid. Open Access Archivangelism. Sep 9 2007

Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: Anna Gacs (Ed.). The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L?Harmattan. 99-106.

Harnad, S. (2009) The PostGutenberg Open Access Journal. In: Cope, B. & Phillips, A (Eds.) The Future of the Academic Journal. Chandos.

Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S., Gingras, Y, Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E. (2004) The green and the gold roads to Open Access. Nature Web Focus.

In response to the above comments, DW wrote that “we?re both on the same team,” and we are! So readers should see the follwing exchange as fine-tuning the strategic details:

DW: “[SH] seems to think publisher free riding is a bigger problem than asking taxpayers to pay multiple times for access to research”

The access problem is the problem of publisher access-tolls (subscriptions, licenses) preventing research from being accessible to all of its intended users. Hence publisher free-riding (apart from peer review) is the problem.

What I said was that in those cases where there really is double payment by the tax-payer — funding both the research itself and the subscription to the resulting published articles — that subscription cost (apart from the peer review) is largely based on publisher free riding. The remedy for that is indeed to mandate that fundees make their articles free for all online. (We agree on all of this.)

But I also said that (a) not all or most journal subscriptions are paid with taxpayer funding and that the real problem is (b) neither double-payment nor (c) taxpayer access to the research but (d) researcher access to the research (so the research can be used and applied, to the benefit of the taxpayer).

DW: “My post doesn?t bring up the notion of institutions as objectors on the twice pay grounds. The objections [SH] raises above must be baggage… from previous conversations. My post is focused very clearly on taxpayers…”

The twice-pay argument is most frequently used by university librarians (that’s why it’s prior baggage to the twice-pay issue; see the references I cited).

But not all (perhaps not even most) research is taxpayer-funded, whereas virtually all research is university-produced (or research-institute-produced). Hence for global research access across all fields of research, funded and unfunded, OA mandates from the universal research-providers — universities and research institutes — are by far the biggest factor.

The rationale for university OA mandates is not based on twice-pay arguments at all; and the rationale for funder OA mandates is only partially based on the twice-pay argument. the rationale for both funder and university mandates is based on the need for research to be accessible to all of its intended users, in order to maximize the progress and benefits of research.

About this conclusion — the primary rationale for providing OA is for the sake of uptake and usage by its intended users, namely, researchers — you wrote that this was as if I had said:

DW: ?Normal taxpayers aren?t capable of understanding research so it?s ok if only qualified, PhD-holding people have access… [This] smacks of Pre-Reformation ideas about restricting access to the scriptures…”

But that was neither what I said nor what I meant: In order to get researchers to make their research OA — and in order to get their institutions and their funders to mandate that they make their research OA — you have to find a rationale that is valid, and that applies to all research. The twice-pay argument applies only to a subset of funded research, and the taxpayer-access argument is hardly an argument at all, since most research isn’t of the slightest interest to taxpayers, whereas researcher access to research is in the interest of all taxpayers (if funding the research in the first place was in their interest!).

Besides, making research OA makes it freely accessible to everyone anyway, researchers and taxpayers alike: That comes with the territory. (OA provides free access to all, even if the primary rationale for providing OA is to ensure that research is accessible to all the users for which it is primarily written.)

DW: ?It’s unclear to me why universities are acceptable actors here [mandating Green OA self-archiving] when they weren?t two paragraphs above.”

Two paragraphs above I pointed out that the universities’ version of the pay-twice argument was incorrect, that the taxpayer version of it was only partially correct (for a minority of funded research) and that the fundamental rationale for both funder and university OA mandates is the same: To ensure that all research, funded and unfunded, is made accessible to all of its intended users.

DW:taxpayers (the research funders) should implement measures (legislatively, through their representatives) that guarantee them access to research findings”

Agreed! And universities should also implement measures (administratively, through their research auditing and performance evaluation procedures) that guarantee open access to their research findings.

And the primary rationale for both these mandates is so that all research should be accessible to all of its intended users, not just to those who can afford subscriptions to the journals in which it was published. Open access is optimal for all research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the taxpaying public that funds the funders (and institutions).

Harnad, S. (2008) Waking OA?s’ Slumbering Giant’: The University’s Mandate To Mandate Open Access New Review of Information Networking 14(1): 51 – 68

Harnad, S. (2008) How to Integrate University and Funder Open Access Mandates Open Access Archivangelism. March 2 2008.