Fools Gold From Emerald

Rebecca Marsh, Director of External Relations and Services, Emerald Group Publishing Limited & Tony Roche, Publishing Director of Emerald Group Publishing Limited have posted their defence of the Emerald policy changes reported by Richard Poynder: “Open Access: Emerald’s Green Starts to Fade“.

First, a paraphrase of what Marsh & Roche wrote:

(1) All Emerald authors may do immediate, unembargoed Open Access self-archiving if they wish, but (2) not if they must. If they must self-archive, they must wait 24 months or ask individually for permission.

The sensible Emerald author will self-archive immediately, and ignore clause (2) completely. It is empty, unverifiable, unenforceable, pseudo-legal FUD that has been added as a perverse effect of the folly of the UK Finch Committee recommendations.

The Emerald policy tweak is obviously to cash in on the money that the UK has decided to squander on pre-emptive “Fools Gold” OA, as well as to try to fend off universal Green OA as long as is humanly possible.

Below I reproduce the Emerald representatives’ posting’s text, cutting out the empty verbiage, to make the double-talk clearly visible and comprehensible.

Emerald:
“…Emerald has had a Green Open Access [OA] policy for over a decade. [All Emerald] authors who personally wish to self-archive the pre- or post-print version of their article on their own website or in a repository… can do this immediately upon official publication of their paper. This principle continues to underpin our Green OA policy and remains unchanged….

“…[Emerald] has provided an alternative route to OA for researchers who are mandated to make their papers Open Access immediately, or after a specified period. We also set the Article Processing Charge (APC) at a relatively low level to assist authors…

“Emerald has… requested that authors wait 24 months before depositing their post-prints if a mandate is in place. Where a mandate exists for deposit immediately on publication or with a shorter mandate but no APC fund is provided, we invite all authors to contact us…”

Plans by universities and research funders to pay the costs of Gold OA pre-emptively today are premature.

Funds are short; 80% of journals (including virtually all the top journals) are still subscription-based, tying up the potential funds to pay for Gold OA. Hence, for institutions, paying pre-emptively for Gold OA today means double-paying — subscriptions for their incoming articles plus APCs for their outgoing articles– and in the case of “hybrid Gold,” when both sums are paid to the very same journal, it also means double-dipping by publishers.

Even apart from double-paying and double-dipping, the asking APC price per article for Gold OA today (whether “pure” or “hybrid”) is still inflated; and there is concern that paying to publish may also inflate acceptance rates as well as lower quality standards to maximize revenue in the case of “pure Gold” OA.

What is needed now is for all universities and funders worldwide to mandate OA self-archiving (of authors’ final peer-reviewed drafts, immediately upon acceptance for publication) (“Green OA”).

That will provide immediate OA; and if and when universal Green OA goes on to make subscriptions unsustainable (because users are satisfied with just the Green OA versions) that will in turn induce journals to cut costs (phasing out the print edition and online edition, offloading access-provision and archiving onto the worldwide network of Green OA Institutional Repositories), downsize to just providing the service of peer review, and convert to the Gold OA cost-recovery model; meanwhile, the subscription cancellations will have released the funds to pay this residual service cost.

The natural way to charge for the service of peer review then will be on a “no-fault basis,” with the author’s institution or funder paying for each round of refereeing, regardless of outcome (acceptance, revision/re-refereeing, or rejection). This will minimize cost while protecting against inflated acceptance rates and decline in quality standards.

This is the difference between today’s pre-emptive pre-Green double-paid, double-dipped over-priced pre-Green “Fools Gold” and tomorrow’s affordable, sustainable, post-Green Fair Gold.

Harnad, S. (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).

Houghton, J. & Swan, A. (2013) Planting the Green Seeds for a Golden Harvest: Comments and Clarifications on “Going for Gold”. D-Lib Magazine 19 (1/2)