Jubilatio Praecox

Eric Van de Velde: “Green Open Access delivers the immediate benefit of access. Proponents argue it will also, over time, fundamentally change the scholarly-communication market. The twenty-year HEP record lends support to the belief that Green Open Access has a moderating influence: HEP journals are priced at more reasonable levels than other disciplines. However, the HEP record thus far does not support the notion that Green Open Access creates significant change?”

Twenty years of Open Access in HEP is not a significant change?

Eric Van de Velde: “If SCOAPĀ³ proves sustainable, it will become the de-facto sponsor and manager of all HEP publishing world-wide. It will create a barrier-free open-access system of refereed articles produced by professional publishers. This is an improvement over arXiv, which contains mostly author-formatted material.”

Committing a worldwide institutional consortium into paying roughly the same as what it’s paying now, in exchange for OA to publisher PDF instead of author versions?

“Those who observe with scientific detachment merely note that, after twenty years of 100% Green Open Access, the HEP establishment really wants Gold Open Access.”

With still more detachment, it sounds as if HEP researchers really wanted — and gave themselves– a barrier-free open-access system of refereed articles 20 years ago.

The ones that seems to “really want” Gold OA are a consortium of institutional libraries?

Have patience. HEP researchers provided Green OA unmandated. Once the rest of the world’s researchers provide Green OA in response to mandates from their institutions and funders, the “market” changes many desire will follow:

What the research community needs, urgently, is free online access (Open Access, OA) to its own peer-reviewed research output. Researchers can provide that in two ways: by publishing their articles in OA journals (Gold OA) or by continuing to publish in non-OA journals and self-archiving their final peer-reviewed drafts in their own OA Institutional Repositories (Green OA). OA self-archiving, once it is mandated by research institutions and funders, can reliably generate 100% Green OA. Gold OA requires journals to convert to OA publishing (which is not in the hands of the research community) and it also requires the funds to cover the Gold OA publication costs. With 100% Green OA, the research community’s access and impact problems are already solved. If and when 100% Green OA should cause significant cancellation pressure (no one knows whether or when that will happen, because OA Green grows anarchically, article by article, not journal by journal) then the cancellation pressure will cause cost-cutting, downsizing and eventually a leveraged transition to OA (Gold) publishing on the part of journals. As subscription revenues shrink, institutional windfall savings from cancellations grow. If and when journal subscriptions become unsustainable, per-article publishing costs will be low enough, and institutional savings will be high enough to cover them, because publishing will have downsized to just peer-review service provision alone, offloading text-generation onto authors and access-provision and archiving onto the global network of OA Institutional Repositories. Green OA will have leveraged a transition to Gold OA.

And, yes, SCOAP3 is indeed pointless pre-emptive lock-in of the status quo (engineered by some academics and some libraries — certainly not by “academia”) in a field (HEP) that already has Green OA, unmandated, and could instead be doing so much more to support and promote mandated Green OA in all other disciplines.

But it’s still far from over. Green OA mandates are imminent in the EU, Australia, and perhaps at long last in the US. And RCUK may still fix its policy into a workable one, despite the Finch Fiasco.

Green OA does not change the market, directly — and certainly not until it’s universal. But universal Green OA will certainly make journal affordability no longer the life-or-death matter it is now. (Think about it.)