Not All That Glitter (April Afterthoughts)

On April 1 Mike Eisen did a brilliant spoof on many of the faults of subscription journal publishing, making a host of valid financial as well as technical points.

But the focus was all on on Gold Open Access journals, not on Open Access itself.

Authors don’t have to switch journals or pay extra money to provide and mandate Green OA (self-archiving of articles published in any journal).

And, technically speaking (quality, peer review), there’s no evidence that the Gold OA journals are any better than the non-OA journals. (And the Beall bunch of Gold OA journals have not been getting the greatest report cards either…)

And there are many long-standing, field-specific non-OA journals with track records for high standards rather than Nature/Science glitz and hype. (I’m not sure, either, whether the undeniable public interest in research related to personal health generalizes to the vast portions of biomedical and non-biomedical research that are not related to human health problems.)

And it’s not clear how authors choosing to publish in Gold OA journals while most journals are still non-OA saves money, rather than costing even more money: while most journals are still non-OA, institutions must still pay their must-have subscriptions (so their users retain access to the incoming articles in non-OA journals) on top of whatever is being paid for Gold OA for outgoing articles.

Nor is it clear that the per-article revenue of Gold OA journals, though lower than the average non-OA journal article revenue, is anywhere near the as low as it could be if all articles were Green, so Institutional Repositories could do all the access-provision and archiving, and the only thing journals had to do or charge for was managing the peer review.

This is why I’ve taken to calling post-Green Gold OA “Fair Gold” OA, in contrast to pre-Green “Fool’s Gold” OA.

(But I’ve resisted the temptation — because I really think it would be unfair and misleading — to entitle this posting “April Fool’s Gold.” Mike’s is not a foolish picture, but it’s certainly not the fullish one either…)