IEEE Still Onside With Angels on Immediate, Unembargoed Green OA

If we cut through all the IEEE spin about “sustainability” in the interview of IEEE’s Anthony Durniak by Richard Poynder, IEEE is still on the side of the angels insofar as the future — and the future growth of OA, Green OA, and Green OA mandates — are concerned, because IEEE still endorses immediate, unembargoed Green OA self-archiving of the author’s refereed, accepted final draft (not the publisher’s Version of Record).

That endorsement from Green publishers like IEEE is the only thing — repeat, the only thing — the researchers, institutions and funders of the world need in order to mandate immediate, unembargoed Green OA.

The trouble is that a certain number of publishers, unlike IEEE, try to embargo Green OA, for two reasons — one of them a perverse effect of the UK’s Finch/RCUK Folly, which virtually invited publishers to adopt a Green OA embargo and crank up its length beyond the allowable Finch/RCUK maximum limit while at the same time offering a fee-based hybrid Gold option. That way publishers could try to (1) force UK authors to pick and pay for the latter option, allowing publishers to cash in on the UK’s Fools-Gold-Fund subsidy and preference. And in that same fell swoop publishers could also try to (2) fend off the other OA mandates that are being adopted worldwide, the ones that just mandate Green OA without subsidizing or preferring Fools Gold.

Fortunately, there is a simple, cost-free remedy against all this tom-foolery: The only thing funders and institutions need do is to mandate immediate-deposit in institutional repositories (irrespective of whether access to the deposit is set immediately as Open Access or as Closed Access to comply with a publisher OA embargo). As long as the deposit itself is immediate, the institutional repository’s email-eprint-request Button can then tide over worldwide research access and usage needs with one click from the requestor and one click from the author during any publisher embargo.

This allows all funders and all institutions to mandate immediate-deposit, for all papers, without exception, regardless of OA embargoes and embargo limits. The crucial thing to understand is that the sole barrier to 100% Green OA for the past 25 years has been keystrokes. Authors were afraid to do the keystrokes, because they were afraid of their publishers. Mandates were needed in order to embolden authors to do the keystrokes. The immediate-deposit mandate ensures that N-1 of the N requisite keystrokes get done for 100% of the articles published on the planet. The Button allows authors to do an Nth keystroke for each individual paper and each individual request whenever they wish, until either the embargo expires, or embargoes die their inevitable, natural and well-deserved deaths, or the author tires of having to keep re-doing the Nth keystroke in order to comply with publishers’ mandates and sets repository access to immediate-OA — whichever comes first.

The point is that with publishers that are already on the side of the angels, like IEEE, the author can already do one Nth keystroke, once and for all, today.

And history will look favorably on such publishers, for not trying to hold research access, impact and progress hostage to sustaining their current revenue streams and modus operandi, at all costs, come what may, for as long as they possibly could, by trying to embargo OA.

We cannot remind ourselves often enough that the publishing tail must not be allowed to keep wagging the research dog.

For life after universal Green OA (the transition from pre-Green subscriptions and Fools-Gold to post-Green Fair-Gold) see the references below.

Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: Anna Gacs (Ed). The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L’Harmattan. 99-106.

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)