Splitting the Difference on Open Access: Brainlessness Masquerading as "Balance"

New York Times, February 27, 2012: Gulf on Open Access to Federally Financed Research by Guy Gugliotta

The debate between these two extremes has been remarkably vitriolic, in part, perhaps, because neither side has been completely honest. Mr. Adler would not discuss publishers? profit margins, and openaccess advocates frequently say that the journals are low-overhead cash cows that are gouging the public. Open-access scientists, on the other hand, are less than candid about how important it is to their careers to be published in prominent traditional journals. If scientists truly wished to kill the system, all they would have to do is withhold submissions.

Utter nonsense, of course.

(1) Researchers’ need (and reasons) for publishing in journals with high peer review standards are no secret (and nothing to hide or apologize for!)

(2) The objective of OA is not to “kill the system” but to provide OA.

(3) As usual, the false assumption is that OA = Gold OA publishing.

(4) OA has nothing to do with “withholding submissions” or boycotting.

(5) Both bills (FRPAA and RWA) are about mandating Green OA self-archiving.

What’s worth writing an article (or book) about is how this relentless misunderstanding of something so stunningly simple just keeps propagating itself, year after year after year.

And it looks like Congress will yet again wimp out this year on FRPAA, splitting the difference with RWA in much the same clueless spirit as the above sterling example of “balanced” journalism…

So it’s back to yet another year of trying to talk sense into universities about mandating Green OA…

One thing the journalist got right: There is indeed something that researchers are less than candid about: not withholding submissions but about withholding keystrokes

Harnad, S. (2006) Opening Access by Overcoming Zeno’s Paralysis, in Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects. Chandos.

Stevan Harnad