Potential CHORUS catastrophe for OA: How to fend it off

Richard Poynder has elicited a splendid summary of OA by the person who has done more to bring about OA than anyone else on the planet: Peter Suber

Here are a few supplements that I know Peter will agree with:

1. Potential CHORUS Catastrophe for OA: Peter’s summary of OA setbacks mentions only Finch. Finch was indeed a fiasco, with the publishing lobby convincing the UK to mandate, pay for, and prefer Gold OA (including hybrid Gold OA), and to downgrade and ignore Green OA.

Peter notes the damage that the publisher lobby has successully inflicted on worldwide (but especially UK) OA progress with the Finch/RCUK policy, but I’m sure he will agree that if the Trojan Horse of CHORUS were to be accepted by the US federal government and its funding agencies, the damage would be even greater and longer lasting:

CHORUS is an attempt by the publishing lobby to take compliance with Green OA mandates out of the hands of the fundees whom OA mandates are designed to require to provide OA, and instead transfer control over the execution, the locus and the timetable for mandate compliance into the hands of publishers.

Adopting CHORUS would mean that President Obama’s OSTP directive — requiring that federally funded research must be made freely accessible online within 12 months of publication — would instead ensure that it was made freely accessible after 12 months, and not one minute earlier;.

And CHORUS would ensure also that the authors whom all Green OA mandates worldwide are designed to require to provide OA — because they want OA yet dare not provide it without a mandate from their institutions or funders, for fear of their publishers — would no longer be affected by any mandate:

With CHORUS, publishers would have succeeded in locking in 12-month-embargoed Delayed Access instead of immediate Green OA for years to come, in the US and, inevitably, also worldwide.

So, as I am sure Peter will agree, CHORUS must be rejected at all costs, just as the previous Trojan Horses of the publishing lobby — PRISM and the Research Works Act — were rejected. It’s bad enough that Finch slipped through.

2. Hybrid Gold OA has a few additional negative features, apart from the ones Peter already mentions:

Even if the publiser gives subscribing institutions a rebate to offset double-dipping, Hybrid Gold locks in current total publisher revenue — from institutional subscription fees plus author hybrid Gold OA fees — come what may. Hybrid Gold immunizes publishers from any pressure to cut costs by phasing out obsolete products and services in the online era.

Only globally mandated Green OA self-archiving in repositories by authors can force publishers to downsize to the post-Green essentials alone.

And if a hybrid Gold journal also imposes an embargo on Green, that is tantamount to legally sanctioned extortion, even without double-dipping: “If you want to provide immediate OA, you must pay me even more than I am already being paid by your institution for subscriptions — and your institution only gets back a tiny fraction of the rebate from your surcharge.”

(This is also the option to which CHORUS, in tandem with Finch, would hold immediate OA hostage for many years more. Since immediate OA is optimal for research, hence inevitable, publishers, if funders take in their Trojan Horse, will have succeeded in delaying OA for as long as they possibly could, in defence of their current revenue streams. This is also the publishers’ self-serving scenario in which COPE institutions would unwittingly collude, if they funded Gold OA without first mandating immediate-deposit Green OA.)

3. Pre-Green Fools Gold vs. Post-Green Fair Gold: The only thing that can bring the cost of peer-reviewed journal publishing down to a fair, affordable, sustainable price is globally mandated Green OA. Only Green OA will allow institutions to cancel their journal subscriptions, thereby forcing journals to adapt naturally to the online era by cutting obsolete costs, downsizing and converting to Fair Gold. Once Green OA mandates fill them, it is the global network of Green OA repositories that will allow publishers to phase out all the products and services associated with access-provision and archiving. CHORUS and Finch are designed to allow publishers to keep co-bundling (and charging) for their obsolete products and services as long as possible.

Stevan Harnad