Green OA Embargoes: Just a Publisher Tactic for Delaying the Optimal and Inevitable

Bravo to Danny Kingsley for her invaluable antipodean OA advocacy!

I think Danny is spot-on in all the points she makes, so these are just a few supplementary remarks:

1. The publishing industry is using Green OA embargoes and lobbying to try to hold OA hostage to its current inflated revenue streams as long as possible— by forcing the research community to pay for over-priced, double-paid (and double-dipped, if hybrid) Fools Gold if it wants to have OA at all.

It’s time for the research community to stop stating that it will stop mandating and providing Green OA if there’s ever any evidence that it will cause subscription cancelations. Of course Green OA will cause cancelations, eventually; and so it should.

Green OA will not only provide 100% OA but it will also force publishers to phase out obsolete products and services and their costs, by offloading all access-provision and archiving onto the worldwide nework of Green OA repositories.

Once subscriptions are made unsustainable by mandatory Green OA, journals will downsize and convert to post-Green Fair-Gold, in place of today’s over-priced, double-paid (and double-dipped, if hybrid) Fools-Gold.

Green OA embargoes have one purpose, and one purpose only: to delay this optimal, inevitable, natural and obvious outcome for as long as possible.

Research is not funded, conducted, peer-reviewed and made public in order to provide or guarantee revenues for the publishing industry, but to be used, applied and built upon, to the benefit of the public that funds it.

Globally mandated Green OA will not only provide OA, but it will also force publishers to cut obsolete costs and downsize to just managing peer review. All access-provision and archiving will be done by the worldwide network of Green OA Institutional Repositories.

It’s in order to delay that outcome that publishers are using every means at their disposal — embargoing Green OA and lobbying against Green OA mandates with PRISM, the Research Works Act, the Finch Report and CHORUS — to fend off Green OA as long as possible and force the research community instead toward over-priced, double-paid (and, if hybrid, double-dipped) Fools Gold if they want to have any form of OA at all.

2. There is a powerful tactical triad — tried, tested and proven effective — to moot publisher delay tactics (embargoes and lobbying) — and that triad is for both funders and insitutions to

(i) mandate immediate deposit in institutional repositories, whether or not the deposit is made immediately OA,

(ii) implement the institutional repository’s facilitated eprint request Button to tide over research access needs during any embargo, and

(iii) designate repository deposit as the sole mechanism for submitting publictions for institutional performance review (or national research assessment).

3. The research community should resolutely resist publishers’ attempt to imply that “Green OA” means “Delayed (embargoed) OA.” It does not. OA means immediate, unembargoed access. It is publishers who are trying to impose embargoes, in order to delay OA and preserve their current inflated revenue streams for as long as possible, forcing authors to pay for grotesquely overpriced Fools Gold if they want immediate OA.

The immediate-deposit mandate (with the Button) immunizes against those tactics. “Delaying OA” is publishers’ objective, against the interests of research, researchers, their universities, their funders, the vast R&D industry, students, teachers, the developing world, journalists, and especially the general public who is funding the research. Immediate-deposits mandates are the way for the research community to ensure that the interests of research. Otherwise (I have said many times), it is the publishing tail continuing to wag the research dog.

4. OA Metrics will follow, not precede OA. The reason we do not have 100% OA yet is not because of bias against Gold OA journals. It is because of researcher passivity, publisher activism (embargoes and lobbying) and lack of clear information and understanding about OA and how to make it happen.

It is normal and natural that journals’ quality and importance should be based on their prior track-record for quality and importance (rather than their cost-recovery model). New journals (whether OA or non-OA) first need to establish a track record for quality and importance. Besides the journal’s track record and citation impact, however, we also have citation counts for individual authors and articles, and we are slowly also developing download counts and other metrics of research usage and impact. There will be many more OA metrics too — but for that to happen, the articles themselves need to be made OA! And that is why mandating Green OA is the priority.

Stevan Harnad