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Re: No, Mandating Self-Archiving Is Not Like Invading Iraq!

On Wed, 27 Dec 2006, Sandy Thatcher wrote:

> ...I'm supporting your point that universities should be doing 
> everything they can now to put into place a system (whether 
> based on self-archiving or something else--but who pays for 
> CrossRef?)

Dear Sandy, I am just proposing (mandated) self-archiving, not 
CrossRef, particularly...

> [a system] that will actually be able to function if the 
> hypothesized withdrawal of large STM publishers were to happen 
> suddenly

The ones who need to prepare for and adapt to any hypothetical or 
actual subscription collapse and/or title migration are 
publishers, old and new, not universities; auniversities are the 
research providers, not the publishers. Universities need to 
mandate self-archiving to maximize the usage and impact of their 
own research output, not to plan the future course of publishing.

The only thing universities can and should do is plan ways to 
redirect their windfall subscription savings toward OA publishing 
charges for their research output, if and when subscriptions 
should ever be cancelled, if publishing should then convert to 

> I don't question that many people will see that funds will need 
> to be reallocated from one purpose (subscriptions) to another 
> (author fees). But I have lived in a university environment 
> long enough (40 years) to realize how difficult change is to 
> effect.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and this one is a 
no-brainer once it is actual: It is only a brain-twister while 
it's hypothetical.

> It will be especially difficult to make the transition work 
> smoothly if we have for an extended period of time a mixed 
> system with subscriptions continuing for some journals while OA 
> takes over others.

That is irrelevant, and up to the market: gradual change (H2). 
The question you raised was about H3 (sudden change): 
subscriptions collapse and titles migrate: Will there be enough 
OA publishers ready and willing to take them over? Answer is: 

> Librarians may not so readily want to give up their funding for 
> subscriptions when there are still many to pay for;

Sudden subscription collapse (H3) is not a journal by journal 
matter but a global one: Sudden change means all subscriptions 
collapse. There is no empirical or logical reason why 
self-archiving should cause some subscriptions and not others to 
collapse. Self-archiving is gradual, distributed and anarchic: It 
does not happen selectively, journal by journal. Journal by 
journal change would be gradual change (H2).

> or they may want to take advantage of having more funds to 
> allocate to buying monographs, where their collections have 
> suffered because of the burden of STM journal costs.

This only appears to make sense in speculative mode. If all 
journals suddenly collapse and many or most titles migrate, 
institutions will not be thinking about buying more monographs 
but about covering their OA publishing costs.

> Will it again come down to a struggle between scientists 
> asking, this time, for libraries to pay their author fees 
> instead of buying more books for the humanists? Will the 
> outcome necessarily be the same? It's not a simple matter, I 
> think.

It's a simple matter: If 100% of institutional journal budgets 
suddenly become windfall savings at the same time that 100% of 
institutional output suddenly faces OA publishing costs (H3), the 
obvious and natural solution will suddenly be found.

> I'm worrying, too, not just about what will happen with 
> journals but what the effects on monograph publishing will be. 
> In humanities, at least, it can't continue to happen that more 
> and more journal literature is more widely accessible because 
> available online, while the monograph literature is ever more 
> segregated and confined to a small number of printed books. 
> This goes against the grain of the interconnected web that 
> knowledge wants to be. But, then, how does OA come to 
> monographs?

The primary target of OA is the research journal literature. 
Monographs are more complicated because they are not all author 
give-aways: Some authors want (and some -- fewer -- actually get) 
royalties, so they may not want to make their monographs OA.

For monographs that are author give-aways, like journal articles, 
written only for research impact, not royalties or fees, a 
solution very similar to OA publishing will be available.

> There I see the issue of author fees being a lot more difficult 
> to resolve because the level of magnitude of cost ($20,000 to 
> $25,000 for an average monograph exclusive of all costs 
> associated with its physical format) is much higher.

I profoundly doubt those cost estimates for an online-only OA 
monograph. My guess is that peer-review plus editing will cost a 
great deal less than that. But I don't wish to speculate about 
monographs when we still have the clearcut case of journal 
articles to attend to. When OA for journal articles has reached 
100%, we can talk about monographs.

> This [OA monograph system] system would have the advantage--as, 
> indeed, OA does in journal publishing--of putting the burden 
> for any purchase of a print form of the publication on the end 
> user as an optional cost. That's the beauty of print-on-demand. 
> technology for books.

Indeed it is. But first things first: Time to mandate the 
self-archiving of all journal articles.

Stevan Harnad