125 Provosts For, 10 Against FRPAA Self-Archiving Mandate.
The actual impact of Open Access (OA) self-archiving on research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public (which has all already been shown to be highly positive) must be clearly separated from any hypothetical impact it might have on publishers (whether commercial or scholarly-society publishers). Researchers do not conduct research -- nor does the tax-paying public fund research -- for the benefit of publishers. The sole point at issue concerning the FRPAA is whether or not self-archiving should be mandated. The two concrete questions that researchers, their institutions and funders need to put to themselves regarding any "special relationship" with scholarly society publishers are therefore: (a) Would (or should) researchers, their institutions and their funders knowingly choose to subsidise their scholarly societies with their own actual lost research impact in order to immunise those scholarly societies from any hypothetical risk of lost subscription revenue? (b) If, contrary to all evidence to date, self-archiving were indeed destined one day to cause publisher revenue losses -- or even to force a shift to the open-access publishing cost-recovery model (with author-institutions paying the publication costs for their own institution's research output out of their own windfall savings from the cancellation of their former costs as user-institutions, buying in the published output of other institutions) -- is the prevention of that hypothetical outcome something that researchers, their institutions and their funders would (or should) knowingly choose to subsidise with their own actual lost research impact? A dissenting minority of 10 US provosts opposes the FRPAA Self-Archiving Mandate (vs. 125 in favor) on the grounds of risk to scholarly society subscription revenue. There is obviously a biomedical publisher lobby behind some or all of the 10 dissenting voices; the arguments are old ones, already rebutted many times: (1) The hypothesis that mandated self-archiving will force a shift to the OA publishing cost-recovery model is pure speculation at this time, with no evidence in its support, and evidence from both the American Physical Society and IOPP contradicting it. (2) But even if the hypothesis were ever to come to pass, it would not mean "diminishing funds available for research to benefit the public good". (3) To force a shift to the OA publishing cost-recovery model, there would first have to be substantial revenue losses for publishers, from institutional subscription cancellations. (4) But for every penny of revenue lost by publishers in the form of institutional subscription cancellations, there has to be a penny saved by institutions, in the form of windfall savings. (5) Hence if publisher revenue losses were ever to force a shift to the OA cost-recovery model, the institutions would have a large annual pot of windfall savings on which to draw to pay for their own outgoing publication costs. (6) Hence there would be nothing at all "requiring authors to pay for their publications through their Federal grants, diminishing funds available for research to benefit the public good." (7) It is only now -- when there are neither any institutional subscription cancellation pressures, nor any institutional subscription windfall savings -- that it looks as if paying OA publishing costs would require diverting money from research. (8) Hence it is both self-serving and self-contradictory to invoke both the "damage" hypothesis and the "research fund diversion" hypothesis against the FRPAA in the same breath: If the hypothetical "damage" is the hypothetical subscription revenue loss, then that is also the diversion: no need to poach hypothetical research funds. (9) The rationale for the FRPAA self-archiving mandate, however, has nothing to do with speculative hypothesizing about journal economics but with demonstrable facts about maximizing research usage and impact.
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