Elsevier Study Commissioned by UK BIS

Elsevier has just conducted and published a study commissioned by UK BIS: “International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base ? 2013

This study finds twice as much Green OA (11.6%) as Gold OA (5.9%) in the UK (where both Green OA repositories and Green OA mandates began) and about equal levels of Green (5.0%) and Gold (5.5%) in the rest of the world.

There are methodological weaknesses in the Elsevier study, which was based on SCOPUS data (Gold data are direct and based on the whole data set, Green data are partial and based on hand-sampling; timing is not taken into account; categories of OA are often arbitrary and not mutually exclusive, etc). But the overall pattern may have some validity.

What does it mean?

It means the effects of Green OA mandates in the UK — where there are relatively more of them, and they have been there for a half decade or more — are detectable, compared to the rest of the world, where mandates are relatively fewer.

But 11.6% Green is just a pale, partial indicator of how much OA Green OA mandates generate: If instead of looking at the world (where about 1% of institutions and funders have OA mandates) or the UK (where the percentage is somewhat higher, but many of the mandates are still weak and ineffective ones), one looks specifically at the OA percentages for effectively mandated institutions, the Green figure jumps to over 80% (about half of it immediate-OA and half embargoed OA: deposited, and accessible during the embargo via the repository’s automated copy-request Button, with a click from the requestor and a click from the author).

So if the planet’s current level of Green OA is 11.6%, its level will jump to at least 80% as effective Green OA mandates are adopted.

Meanwhile, Gold OA will continue to be unnecessary, over-priced, double-paid (which journal subscriptions still need to be paid) and potentially even double-dipped (if paid to the same hybrid subscription/Gold publisher) out of scarce research funds contributed by UK tax-payers (“Fool’s Gold“).

But once Green OA prevails worldwide, Fair Gold (and all the Libre OA re-use rights that users need and authors want to provide) will not be far behind.

We are currently gathering data to test whether the immediate-deposit (HEFCE/Liege) Green OA mandate model is indeed the most effective mandate (compared, for example, with the Harvard copyright-retention model with opt-out, or the NIH model with a 12 month embargo) in terms of deposit percentage and timing.

Stevan Harnad

P.S. Needless to say, the fact that the UK’s Green OA rate is twice as high as its Gold OA rate is true despite the new Finch/FCUK policy which subsidizes and prefers Gold and tries to downgrade Green — certainly not because of it!