Pre-Green Fool’s-Gold and Post-Green Fair-Gold OA

I would be surprised if there weren’t subscription journals that would have accepted the Bohannon bogus paper for publication too.

But I would be even more surprised if as high a proportion of subscription journals — matched for field, age, size and impact-factor — would have accepted Bohannon’s bogus paper as did the pay-to-publish OA journals (“Gold OA”).

Subscription journals have to maintain enough of an appearance of peer review to sustain their subscriptions. Pay-to-publish Gold OA journals just have to maintain enough of an appearance of peer review to attract authors (and maybe the lure of pay-to-publish is enough to attract many authors in our publish-or-perish world without even the appearance of peer review, especially when the journal choice is justified by the fashionable allure — or excuse — of the journal’s being an OA journal).

This problem would not be remedied by just lowering Gold OA journal publication fees.

Nor is it a systemic problem of peer review.

It is a problem of peer review for pay-to-publish Gold OA journals at a time when there is still far too little OA and most journals are still subscription journals, most authors are still confused about OA, many think that OA is synonymous with Gold OA journals, and, most important, there are not yet enough effective mandates from research funders and institutions that require authors to make all their papers OA by depositing them in their institutional OA repositories (“Green OA”), regardless of where they were published.

If it were mandatory to make all papers Green OA, authors would simply deposit their peer-reviewed final drafts in their institutional OA repositories, free for all, immediately upon acceptance for publication. They would not have to pay to publish in Gold OA journals unless they especially wished to. Once all journal articles were being made Green OA in this way, institutions would be able to cancel all their journal subscriptions, which would in turn force all journals to cut costs and convert to Gold OA publishing at a much lower fee than is being charged now by OA journals: post-Green Fair Gold instead of today’s pre-Green Fool’s Gold.

But, most important, the reason the Fair Gold fee would be much lower is that the only remaining service that journals (all of them having become Gold OA) would be performing then, post-Green, would be peer review. All access-provision and archiving would be done by the global network of Green OA institutional repositories (so no more print or PDF editions or their costs). And for just peer review, journals would no longer be charging for publishing (which would then just amount to a tag certifying that the article had been accepted by journal J): they would be charging only for the peer review.

And each round of peer review (which peers do for free, by the way, so the only real cost is the qualified editor who evaluates the submission, picks the referees, and adjudicates the referee reports — plus the referee tracking and communication software) would be paid for on a “no-fault” basis, per round of peer review, whether the outcome was acceptance, rejection, or revision and resubmission for another (paid) round of peer review.

Unlike with today’s Fool’s Gold junk journals that were caught by Bohannon’s sting, not only will no-fault post-Green, Fair-Gold peer-review remove any incentive to accept lower quality papers (and thereby reduce the reputation of the journal) — because the journal is paid for the peer review service in any case — but it will help make Fair-Gold OA costs even lower, per round of peer review, because it will not wrap the costs of the rejected or multiply revised and re-refereed papers into the cost of each accepted paper, as they do now.

So post-Green Fair Gold will not only reduce costs but it will raise peer-review standards.

None of this is possible, however, unless Green OA is effectively mandated by all institutions and funders first.

Harnad, S. (2013) The Science Peer-Review “Sting”: Where the Fault Lies. Open Access Archivangelism 1059

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

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

______ (1998) The invisible hand of peer review. Nature [online] (5 Nov. 1998), Exploit Interactive 5 (2000): and in Shatz, B. (2004) (ed.) Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry. Rowland & Littlefield. Pp. 235-242.