No Need to Wait for Universal Gold OA: Green OA Can Be Universally Mandated Today

Re:Research intelligence – ‘We all aspire to universal access‘” Times Higher Education 11 August 2011

The publishing community can afford to be leisurely about how long it takes for open access (OA) to reach 100% (it’s 10% now for Gold OA publishing, plus another 20% for Green OA self-archiving). But the research community need not be so leisurely about it. Research articles no longer need to be accessible only to those researchers whose institution can afford to subscribe to the journal in which it was published, rather than to all researchers who want to use, apply and build upon it. Lost research access means lost research progress. Research is funded, conducted and published for the sake of research progress and its public benefits, not in order to provide revenue to the publishing industry, nor to sustain the subscription model of cost-recovery.

The publishing community is understandably “wary” about Green OA self-archiving, mindful of its subscription revenue streams. But the transition to Green OA self-archiving, unlike the transition to Gold OA publishing, is entirely in the hands of the research community, which need not wait passively for the “market” to shift to Gold OA publishing: Springer publishers’ projections suggest that at its current growth rate Gold OA will not reach 100% till the year 2029.

The research community need not wait, because it is itself the universal provider of all the published research, and its institutions and funders can mandate (i.e., require) that their authors self-archive their peer-reviewed final drafts (not the publishers’ version of record) in their institutional Green OA repositories immediately upon acceptance for publication. And a growing number of funders and institutions (including all the UK funding councils, the ERC, EU and NIH in the US, as well as University College London, Harvard and MIT) are doing just that.

Green OA self-archiving mandates generate 60% OA within two years of adoption, and climb toward 100% within a few years thereafter. The earliest mandates (U. Southampton School of Electrons and Computer Science, 2003, and CERN, 2004 are already at or near 100% Green OA.

Stevan Harnad

Harnad, S. (2011) Gold Open Access Publishing Must Not Be Allowed to Retard the Progress of Green Open Access Self-Archiving. Logos 21(3-4): 86-93 /
ABSTRACT: Universal Open Access (OA) is fully within the reach of the global research community: Research institutions and funders need merely mandate (green) OA self-archiving of the final, refereed drafts of all journal articles immediately upon acceptance for publication. The money to pay for gold OA publishing will only become available if universal green OA eventually makes subscriptions unsustainable. Paying for gold OA pre-emptively today, without first having mandated green OA not only squanders scarce money, but it delays the attainment of universal OA.

Harnad, S. (2011) Open Access to Research: Changing Researcher Behavior Through University and Funder Mandates. JEDEM Journal of Democracy and Open Government 3 (1): 33-41.
ABSTRACT: The primary target of the worldwide Open Access initiative is the 2.5 million articles published every year in the planet’s 25,000 peer-reviewed research journals across all scholarly and scientific fields. Without exception, every one of these articles is an author give-away, written, not for royalty income, but solely to be used, applied and built upon by other researchers. The optimal and inevitable solution for this give-away research is that it should be made freely accessible to all its would-be users online and not only to those whose institutions can afford subscription access to the journal in which it happens to be published. Yet this optimal and inevitable solution, already fully within the reach of the global research community for at least two decades now, has been taking a remarkably long time to be grasped. The problem is not particularly an instance of “eDemocracy” one way or the other; it is an instance of inaction because of widespread misconceptions (reminiscent of Zeno’s Paradox). The solution is for the world’s research institutions and funders to (1) extend their existing “publish or perish” mandates so as to (2) require their employees and fundees to maximize the usage and impact of the research they are employed and funded to conduct and publish by (3) depositing their final drafts in their Open Access (OA) Institutional Repositories immediately upon acceptance for publication in order to (4) make their findings freely accessible to all their potential users webwide. OA metrics can then be used to measure and reward research progress and impact; and multiple layers of links, tags, commentary and discussion can be built upon and integrated with the primary research.

Harnad, S. (2010) The Immediate Practical Implication of the Houghton Report: Provide Green Open Access Now. Prometheus 28 (1): 55-59.
ABSTRACT: Among the many important implications of Houghton et al?s (2009) timely and illuminating JISC analysis of the costs and benefits of providing free online access (?Open Access,? OA) to peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific journal articles one stands out as particularly compelling: It would yield a forty-fold benefit/cost ratio if the world?s peer-reviewed research were all self-archived by its authors so as to make it OA. There are many assumptions and estimates underlying Houghton et al?s modelling and analyses, but they are for the most part very reasonable and even conservative. This makes their strongest practical implication particularly striking: The 40-fold benefit/cost ratio of providing Green OA is an order of magnitude greater than all the other potential combinations of alternatives to the status quo analyzed and compared by Houghton et al. This outcome is all the more significant in light of the fact that self-archiving already rests entirely in the hands of the research community (researchers, their institutions and their funders), whereas OA publishing depends on the publishing community. Perhaps most remarkable is the fact that this outcome emerged from studies that approached the problem primarily from the standpoint of the economics of publication rather than the economics of research.