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Re: Challenge to "OA" Publishers Who Oppose OA Self-Archiving Mandates

Fascinating, simply fascinating. Professor Harnad's post is Exhibit A for why we need publishers to select and edit, select and edit.

Joe Esposito

----- Original Message -----
From: "Stevan Harnad" <harnad@ecs.soton.ac.uk>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2007 4:58 PM
Subject: Challenge to "OA" Publishers Who Oppose OA Self-Archiving Mandates

The online age has given birth to a very profound conflict of interest between what is best for (1) the research journal publishing industry, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, what is best for (2) research, researchers, universities, research institutions, research funders, the vast research and development (R&D) industry, and the tax-paying public that funds the research.

It is no one's fault that this conflict of interest has emerged. It was a consequence of the revolutionary new power and potential for research that was opened up by the Web era. What is at stake can also be put in very concrete terms:

(1) hypothetical risk of future losses in publisher revenue
(2) actual daily losses in research usage and impact

The way in which this conflict of interest will need to be resolved is also quite evident: The research publishing industry is a service industry. It will have to adapt to what is best for research, and not vice versa. And what is best for research, researchers, universities, research institutions, research funders, the R&D industry and the tax-paying public in the online age is: Open Access (free online access).

The research publishing industry lobby of course does not quite see it this way. It is understandable that their first commitment is to their own business interests, hence to what is best for their bottom lines, rather than to something else, such as Open Access, and what is best for research and researchers.

But what is especially disappointing, if not deplorable, is when so-called "Open Access" publishers take exactly the same stance against Open Access (OA) itself (sic) that conventional publishers do. Conventional publisher opposition to OA will be viewed, historically, as having been a regrettable, counterproductive (and eventually countermanded) but comprehensible strategy, from a purely business standpoint. OA publisher opposition to OA, however, will be seen as having been self-deluded if not hypocritical.

Let me be very specific: There are two ways to provide OA: Either individual authors make their own (conventionally) published journal article's final draft ("postprint") freely accessible on the Web, or their journals make their published drafts freely accessible on the Web. The first is called "Green OA" (OA self-archiving) and the second is called "Gold OA" (OA publishing).

In other words, one of the forms of OA (OA publishing, Gold OA) is a new form of publishing, whereas the other (Green OA) is not: it is just conventional subscription-based publishing plus author self-help, a supplement. Both forms of OA are equivalent; both maximize research usage and impact. But one depends on the author and the other depends on the publisher.

Now both forms of OA represent some possible risk to publishers' revenue streams:

With Green OA, there is the risk that the authors' free online
versions will make subscription revenue decline, possibly

With Gold OA, there is the risk that either subscription revenue will
decline unsustainably or author/institution publication charges will
not generate enough revenue to cover expenses (or make a profit).

So let us not deny the possibility that OA in either form may represent some risk to publishers' revenues and to their current way of doing business. The real question is whether or not that risk, and the possibility of having to adapt to it by changing the way publishers do business, outweighs the vast and certain benefits of OA to research, researchers, universities, research institutions, research funders, the R&D industry and the tax-paying public.

This question has been addressed by the various interested parties for several years now. And after much (too much) delay and debate with publishers, research funders as well as research institutions have begun to take OA matters into their own hands by mandating Green OA: