Saturday, April 28. 2007
Four basic kinds of OA-related events keep being arranged periodically by various official organisations (librarians, universities, publishers, funders, government committees):
(1) Librarians and universities who think OA is all about journal affordability, preservation, digital curation (IRs) and interoperability (OAI);There is no recognized topic of (Green) OA self-archiving, no Green OA-specific interest group recognized or invited to any of these OA events.
So only two recourses are left to Green OA advocates: One is to do as we are doing, which is to keep on raising our voices on behalf of Green OA in writings and petitions and at the meetings we happen to be invited to.
The other possibility is the one Richard Poynder and Napoleon Miradon and others have mooted, which is a Green OA lobby.
Creating such an official Green OA lobby would be very timely and important (but it would have to be carefully protected against dilution by well-meaning but blinkered proponents of (1), (2) and (3), which would defeat both its focus and its purpose).
One good thing, though: The fact (sub specie aeternitatis) is that (1) - (X), are, respectively, (1) irrelevant, (2) premature, (3) premature, and (X) obsolete, and it is indeed Green OA and Green OA mandates that will win the day and usher in 100% OA, sooner or later.
Let us work to make it sooner, rather than later.
Open Access (OA) means free online access to the articles in the c. 24,000 peer-reviewed scholarly journals published annually across all disciplines, countries and languages.
The purpose of OA is to maximise research usage and impact, and thereby maximise research productivity and progress, by making all research findings accessible to all their potential users webwide, rather than just to those whose institutions can afford subscription access to the journal in which they happen to be published.
There are two roads to 100% OA:
(1) The "Golden" Road to OA is to convert all journals from recovering their publishing costs, as they do now, out of user-institution subscription charges, per journal, to recovering their publishing costs instead out of author-institution publication charges, per article. (Gold OA is also called "BOAI-2" -- the second of the two roads to OA proposed by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), which first adopted the term "Open Access" in 2002 for the new movement it launched.)Gold OA and Green OA are clearly complementary, but there is considerable disagreement over which one should be given priority. The current level of OA worldwide is about 25%, of which about 10% is Gold and 15% is Green. This is because about 10% of journals are Gold (though mostly not the top journals), and because only about 15% of authors self-archive spontaneously.
So what is needed is either to increase the proportion of Gold OA journals (and their uptake) to 100%, or to increase the promotion of Green OA self-archiving by authors to 100% (or both).
The critical difference in the probability of increasing OA to 100% via Gold versus Green is that Gold OA depends on two further factors: (i) converting journals to Gold and (ii) finding the money to pay authors' Gold OA publication fees (particularly while most journals are subscription-based, and hence most potential publication funds are still tied up in subscriptions).
Publishers are reluctant to convert to Gold, and authors are reluctant to pay for Gold OA charges at this time.
The situation with Green OA is very different, because it does not depend on converting publishers, and it is virtually cost-free. Most institutions already have Institutional Repositories (IRs). The only problem is that they are largely empty because, as noted, only about 15% of researchers self-archive spontaneously -- even though a series of recent studies have demonstrated OA's dramatic benefits for all fields of scientific and scholarly research (doubled usage and citations).
There are, however, the two fundamental advantages of Green OA over Gold OA that were just noted: Gold OA requires (i) converting publishers to Gold OA publishing and it also requires (ii) finding the funds for authors to pay for it. Green OA merely requires authors' own institutions and funders to mandate that they self-archive their own postprints. And Green OA mandates have been repeatedly demonstrated to work.
Swan, A. (2006) The culture of Open Access: researchers' views and responses, in Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects, chapter 7. Chandos.Moreover, if and when mandated 100% OA from Green self-archiving should ever go on to cause journal subscriptions to be cancelled, thereby forcing journals to convert to Gold OA publishing, the cancellations themselves will release the institutional subscription funds that can then be used to pay for institutional authors' Gold OA publication charges.
So the pragmatics of the status quo and the goal would seem to indicate that mandating Green OA (by research funders and institutions) should be given priority, rather than focussing on trying to (i) convert journals to Gold OA and trying to (ii) find the funds to pay for it. Journal publishing is in the hands of publishers, but Green OA self-archiving is in the hands of authors and their institutions and funders.
Green OA self-archiving mandates are beginning to be adopted by funders and institutions, but not nearly quickly enough, even though they could easily be extended to 100% adoption worldwide. There are two reasons for the delay: (1) lobbying against Green OA mandates by the publishing industry and (2) distraction from mandating Green OA arising from the parallel efforts to promote Gold OA.
The pragmatics are clear, however: The research community (researchers, their employers and their funders) have no leverage over the publishing industry and its policies, only over their own employees, fundees and policies. OA is overwhelmingly in the best interests of the research community (as well as students, the vast R&D industry, the developing world, and the tax-paying public worldwide), and the research community itself is in a position to mandate 100% OA by mandating Green OA self-archiving. One cannot mandate Gold OA.
The only leverage that publishers have against Green OA mandates is (1) copyright, which they can try to invoke in order to embargo the provision of OA by their authors and (2) their claim that 100% Green OA would make subscriptions unsustainable.
As we have seen, (2) is not a valid deterrent to the research community, because if subscriptions did become unsustainable, this would merely mean a conversion to Gold OA publishing, which would be welcome.
As to (1) -- the use of copyright and embargoes by publishers to try to prevent Green OA self-archiving and Green OA self-archiving mandates -- there is a very simple compromise that provides 100% almost-OA immediately (a vast immediate benefit to research usage, impact, productivity and progress) and that will also usher in 100% Green OA very soon thereafter: The Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access (ID/OA) Mandate plus the "Fair Use" Button in Institutional Repositories.
Instead of trying to mandate both immediate deposit and immediate OA, funders and universities need merely mandate immediate deposit (of the postprint, immediately upon acceptance for publication). Sixty-two percent of journals already endorse immediate Green OA self-archiving, so access to at least 62% of these deposits can immediately be set to OA. For the remaining 38% of journals that have access embargoes, access to the deposit can be set as "Closed Access": The metadata (author, title, journal, date, abstract, etc.) are all openly accessible immediately, webwide, but the full-text of the article (postprint) is not.
Instead, for the 38% of deposited postprints that are published in an embargoed access journal (embargoes range from 6 months to 3 years or more!), the would-be user, who has reached the link to the deposited article, based on its visible metadata, reaches a "Fair Use" Button, provided by the software of each Institutional Repository: The user need merely cut-paste his email address in a box and click on the button. This automatically emails an immediate EMAIL EPRINT REQUEST to the article's author; the email conveys the request and provides a URL on which the author need merely click in order to authorize the automatic emailing of a single copy of the deposited postprint to the eprint-requester.
The difference between this compromise "almost-OA" and the current status quo is already the difference between night and day for all those would-be users worldwide who cannot afford access to the subscription version. It systematises and automatises email access to the author and the postprint, and it provides the required document almost immediately.
And it will very rapidly lead to 100% Green OA, as the universal benefits of OA became palpable to the entire research community.
So the research community's optimal strategy is to give priority to the adoption of Green OA mandates by universities and funders. An immediate-deposit, immediate-OA mandate is obviously optimal. But if that cannot be agreed upon immediately, adopting an ID/OA mandate is infinitely preferable to any further delay in adopting a mandate at all. To keep holding out instead for the successful adoption of a stronger Green OA mandate or to wait for a universal transition to Gold OA is merely to continue prolonging the loss in research access, usage and impact, needlessly and avoidably, to the detriment of research productivity and progress.
American Scientist Open Access Forum