Sunday, June 11. 2006
The AAP (and PSP and FASEB and STM and DC Principles Coalition) objections to the FRPAA proposal to mandate OA self-archiving (as well as its counterpart proposals in Europe, the UK, Australia and elsewhere worldwide) are all completely predictable, have been aired many times before, and are empirically as well as logically so weak and flawed as to be decisively refutable.
But OA advocates cannot rest idle. Empirically and logically invalid arguments can nevertheless prevail if their proponents are (like the publishing lobby) well-funded and able to lobby widely and vigorously.
There are many more of us than there are in the publishing lobby, but the publishing lobby is fully united under its simple objective: to defeat self-archiving mandates, and if unsuccessful, to make the embargo as long as possible.
OA advocates, in contrast, are not united, and our counter-arguments are likely to go off in dozens of different directions, many of them just as invalid and untenable as the publishers' arguments. So if I were the publisher lobby, I would divide and conquer, citing flawed pro-mandate or pro-OA or anti-publishing arguments as a camouflage, to disguise the weakness of the publishing lobby's own flawed arguments.
We managed to unify behind our Euroscience recommendation. If we could unify in our response to the anti-mandate lobby, making a strong, common front, and if we then recruited our respective research communities behind that common front (again, being very careful not to let anyone get carried away by weak, foolish arguments!) I am absolutely certain we can prevail over the publisher lobby, definitively, and see the self-archiving mandates through to adoption at last.
Our simple but highly rigorous 8-point stance is the following (and we can be confident enough of its validity to lay it bare in advance for any who are inclined to try to invalidate it):
(1) Open access has already been repeatedly and decisively demonstrated, with quantitative empirical evidence, to benefit research, researchers and the public that funds research: It both accelerates and increases usage, citations, and hence research progress substantially in all disciplines so far tested (including physical sciences, biological sciences, social sciences) substantially.This is the key rationale for mandating OA self-archiving, because it is simply not possible for publishers to argue that protecting their current subscription revenue streams from undemonstrated, hypothetical risk outweighs the substantial demonstrated, actual benefits to research. (They know that well. Hence they will not and cannot try to push that argument. They will try to skirt it, by exploiting potential weaknesses in our stance. This is why it is important to make our stance rigorous and unassailable by resolutely excluding as gratuitous and unnecessary all weak or controvertible arguments or rationales.)
(2) There exists zero evidence that self-archiving reduces subscriptions; and for physics, the longest-standing and most advanced in systematic self-archiving, there are actually published testimonials from the principal publishers, APS and IOP, to the effect that self-archiving has not generated any detectable subscription decline in 15 years, even in the subfields where it has long been at or near 100%, and that APS and IOP are actively facilitating author self-archiving rather than opposing it.So although even evidence of subscription decline would not be a reason to deny research the benefits of self-archiving, there is not even any evidence of subscription decline. Hence here too, the publishing lobby will only be able to speculate and hypothesize to the contrary, but not to adduce any empirical data, which is all in the direction opposite to their negative hypotheses.
(3) The publishing lobby's most vulnerable pragmatic point, however -- and this is ever so important -- is precisely on the question of the embargoes they are so anxious to have (if they cannot succeed in blocking the mandate altogether): The dual deposit/release mandate that we have specifically advocated immunises the mandate completely from embargo-haggling, because it is a deposit mandate, not an Open-Access-setting mandate: Deposit must be immediate (upon acceptance for publication), not delayed; only the access-setting (Open Access vs. Closed Access) can be delayed, with immediate OA-setting merely encouraged "where possible," but not mandated. This means that not even copyright arguments can be invoked against the mandate, and embargoes cannot delay deposit: they can only delay OA-setting.But the part we must keep clearly in mind is that an immediate-deposit mandate is enough! There is no need to over-reach (and to either hold out for an immediate-OA mandate or to capitulate and allow delayed deposit). An immediate (no-delay) deposit mandate will generate 100% OA as surely as night follows day. There is and has been only one obstacle to 100% OA all along: getting the deposit keystrokes to be done. Once those are done, the benefits of OA itself will see to it that authors all soon choose to set access as OA. And until then, the bibliographic metadata will be visible immediately webwide, and would-be users can use the semi-automatic email-eprint request feature of the Institutional Repository software to email the author individually to request and receive the eprint by email, just as they used to request reprints by mail in the paper era, but much more quickly. This will tide over research usage needs until nature takes its course.
So what we must insist upon is an immediate -- no embargo, no exception -- deposit mandate (full text plus bibliographic metadata) together with encouragement to set access to the full text immediately as OA, but allowing the option of a Closed-Access delay period if necessary. On no account, however, should the delay be in the deposit itself -- just in the OA-setting.
(4) In addition, 94% of journals already endorse immediate OA-setting. So the email-eprint option will only be needed for 6% of articles, to tide over any embargo interval.This need not be rubbed in the noses of publishers (it is for our own quiet satisfaction); but the fact that 94% of journals already endorse self-archiving can be used strategically to weaken publishers arguments against mandating it. ["You (94%) give authors the green light to go ahead and self-archive, because you recognise that self-archiving is to the benefit of researchers and research, and then you try at the same time to prevent their institutions and funders from ensuring that researchers go ahead and reap those very benefits by mandating the self-archiving that generates them!" Making that contradiction explicit (denying/affirming the benefits of author self-archiving) will go a long way toward invalidating the weak and incoherent arguments publishers will be making against self-archiving and self-archiving mandates.]
(5) I am absolutely certain that (1) - (4), clearly and resolutely put forward, and used to defeat every angle of the publishers' argument ("it will destroy peer review" "it will be expensive to the tax payer" "it will kill subscriptions" "it will destroy learned societies" "it's not needed: we have enough access already," "there will be multiple versions," etc. etc.), can be successful, even triumphant. But I think it is a very bad idea to join in with publishers' speculations about subscription revenue loss, for which there is zero evidence, with counter-speculations of our own, about the way publishing will change, evolve etc. Just stick to the fact that OA is reachable via self-archiving and OA is optimal for research, and everything else can and will adapt, if/when it should ever become necessary: The only sure thing now is that self-archiving is good for research, and hence it should be mandated, just as publishing itself is mandated.All eight of these points are simple, transparent, and cannot be defeated: There are no viable counter-arguments to any of them. So if they are rigorously and systematically deployed, the publisher lobby will fail to block the self-archiving mandate. But if we venture into any shakier areas (publishing reform, copyright reform, public "right to know"), it is we who will fail!
I am certain, from long experience, that no argument at all against a self-archiving mandate can be rationally sustained in the face of (1)-(8), clearly and rigorously invoked. We have no weapon against irrationality, of course, or against arbitrariness or brute force. But inasmuch as reason, evidence and public good are concerned, the case for a self-archiving mandate is extremely strong and I would say irresistible (if we ourselves can resist weakening it, gratuitously, by invoking other, fuzzy or defeasible arguments, or by failing to invoke the eight rigorous points we have, clearly and explicitly!).