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Re: Is OA (Gold) really a desirable goal for scientific journal publishing?

On Thu, 11 Jan 2007, Sandy Thatcher wrote:

> Just a real short reply this time! I agree with you about CERN 
> and don't disagree that some "redirection" will occur. However, 
> isn't it also quite possible that, having been constrained for 
> so many years from buying books because of high journal prices, 
> librarians may actually want to spend more on books again and 
> go back to the days when they spent 60-70% of their budgets on 
> books and 30-40% on journals--especially if books do not go 
> digital in the same OA (green) way that you propose for journal 
> articles?

Yes, they can and will do this with the local trickle-down from 
the few cancellations they may be able to make owing to 
CERN-prompted conversions to Gold OA of a few physics journals. 
But that's exactly why I keep pointing out that Gold OA, via 
journal by journal trickles is both premature and far too slow 
and uncertain a way to expect ever to reach 100% OA. What is 
needed right now is 100% Green OA, immediate OA, and that will 
come from Green OA self-archiving mandates.

The issue of redirections is moot in the Gold trickle era. And 
once we reach 100% Green OA, the world research community will 
already have everything it wants and needs. It doesn't want or 
need conversion of its journals to Gold, particularly. It wants 
and needs 100% OA.

If, as a consequence of mandated 100% Green OA there is (as you 
hypothesized) a sudden wholesale series of cancellations and 
conversion to the Gold OA model, then librarians can forget about 
any lottery-like dreams of redirecting sudden 100% windfall 
savings all toward books: Some of it will have to be redirected 
toward paying their own institution's outgoing per-article 
publication fees.

But that is then, after sudden cancellations, sudden windfall 
savings, and a sudden new institutional expense (OA publication 
fees). Now is now, when Gold conversions (and hence 
cancellations) are merely a faint trickle. No comparison.

And I repeat, this kind of a-priori speculation is fun but it 
doesn't get us anywhere and it doesn't generate any OA. Green OA 
mandates do. So let's stop speculating and let's get more of 
those mandates rolling (and fingers, depositing)!

> Let's hear what the librarians have to say about this 
> possibility. (Of course, I'll get depressed if they say we'll 
> never go back to those "good old days"--and I do realize that 
> there will still be lots of electronic materials to purchase, 
> as there was not thirty years ago.)

Librarians love to speculate, like everyone else. But here you 
are asking them to speculate, from the trickle era, about 
something they have never seen before, and that has never 
happened (and that may never happen), namely, cancellation of all 
journals, and transition to article publication fees.. So all you 
will get here is an exercise in free-floating subjectivity.

Most speculative of all is what the true costs of OA Gold fees 
will be if and when all journals (and not just a trickle) go 
Gold. (If, as I suspect, they have downsized to peer review 
alone, there will still be windfall savings left over, even after 
all annual institutional article publishing fees are covered.)

Stevan Harnad

>>[There is an ongoing discussion on the American Scientist Open
>>Access Forum on the question of whether CERN's push for OA
>>(Gold) publishing in its area will divert funds from research.
>>The initial posting
>>          http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/5957.html
>>is not by me, Stevan Harnad, but by my brother, John Harnad,
>>a physicist. Although I followed the posting with a critique
>>          http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/5958.html
>>on some points of detail, I want to stress that I am in basic
>>agreement with the gist of John Harnad's point that a hasty
>>CERN-led forced conversion to OA (Gold) Publishing in (part or
>>all of) physics at this time is likely to cost more, is likely to
>>divert funds from research, and should be deferred in favor of
>>expanding the practice of OA (Green) Self-Archiving and parallel
>>co-existence. -- SH ]