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No, Mandating Self-Archiving Is Not Like Invading Iraq! Part III

    [Third of three postings, divided into smaller parts, as requested
     by Ann Okerson]

On Sun, 24 Dec 2006, Sandy Thatcher wrote:

> Procedures would no doubt be instituted for evaluating such 
> "external" publishers, similar to procedures that already exist 
> to vet bids from faculty who need publication subventions for 
> their monographs.

Why on earth would you imagine this, Sandy? It is research 
funders and research performance evaluation committees that pass 
judgment on the author's choice of journals, as they always did.

> I should also point out that the subvention system for 
> monograph publishing, despite a clearly understood and 
> documented need, is very fragmented and scattershot. Many large 
> and wealthy universities will not provide such subventions at 
> all, whereas some small colleges do. And at some universities 
> that have no centralized funds, some individual departments 
> will subsidize their faculty whereas others will not.

But we are not talking about monographs; we are talking about 
refereed journals (the very first and most important of the five 
PostGutenberg distinctions underlying OA):

     Distinguish the non-give-away literature from the give-away 
literature http://cogprints.org/1639/01/resolution.htm#1.1

> There is no rhyme or reason to the "system" as it exists today, 
> and I wouldn't expect it to be any different with respect to 
> supporting faculty who need to pay for journal articles to be 
> published. If you want "evidence" of what exists today in order 
> to predict the future, here it is, and it doesn't lend any 
> credence to your scenario!

I'm afraid I can't follow that argument at all. Yes, there's a 
lot of irrationality, always. But there are occasional flashes of 
practicality too. And necessity is the mother of invention. OA, 
and its benefits, are within the research community's immediate, 
practical reach, via self-archiving mandates. I don't think you 
have given the research community any reason at all not to grasp 
what is within its reach.

> So, my message boils down to this: assumptions matter, and they 
> need to be examined carefully, and planning done accordingly to 
> avoid the worst possibilities that could ensue.

By all means. And let the publishing community plan for the 
worst-case scenario (H3) if it deems it probable. But it is not 
for research institutions and research funders to refrain from 
grasping the OA that is within their reach in order to immunise 
the publishing community from the risk of the possibility of H3.

> My observation of efforts by universities to change the 
> tenure-and-promotion system over four decades in the face of 
> obvious dysfunction doesn't make me optimistic that 
> universities can bring about even gradual change very easily, 
> let alone swift and comprehensive change!

This is incomparably simpler. All universities need to do is 
mandate a few extra keystrokes per year, for record-keeping 
purposes; and their mandates will be backed up by the mandates of 
their research funders. Nothing radical or complicated; just some 
simple administrative practices, already quite natural in the 
online era.

     Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2005) Keystroke Economy: A Study of the
     Time and Effort Involved in Self-Archiving.

Best wishes, Stevan