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

This "New-Yorker length" essay begins with a flawed premise: that 
research publishing and research are opposed. This certainly will 
come as news to the many senior researchers who work as editors, 
editorial board members, and reviewers in publishing.

Using similar logic, one might assert that there is very profound 
conflict of interest between what is best for (1) patients in the 
United States, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, what is 
best for (2) the health care industry, including doctors, 
hospitals, health-care insurers, the vast research and 
development (R&D) industry in pharmaceuticals and medical 

The fact is that there are terrible "market dysfunctions" in US 
health care: about 47 million people have no health insurance at 
all, and we tolerate a system in which the young and healthy are 
allowed to opt out, putting the old and infirm at considerable 
medical and financial risk. Meanwhile, healthcare insurers and 
pharmaceutical firms profit handsomely.

Were we to take the approach of open access advocates, the 
solution would be simple: government mandated single payer 
systems. However--although they want universal care are willing 
to pay more in taxes for it--most Americans seemingly do not wish 
to rely solely on the government but would prefer some 
private-public system that preserves the strengths of the current 
system in choice, innovation, and quality and yet extends 
coverage and makes it more fair and equitable.

In other words, the public rejects the kind of simplistic 
patients-vs-the medical industry dichotomy that open access 
advocates put forth with regard to publishing.

The scholarly publishing system IS in need of evolution--and it 
is, in fact, evolving rapidly. The best thing OA advocates could 
do to help guide the evolution is cease this endless and tiresome 
speech-making and declaration-writing and sit down with 
publishers and figure out a better system.

(If only OA proponents would pour as much passion into helping to 
fix the health care system as they do into upending publishing. 
The current US health care system is by an order of magnitude a 
greater threat to health than is, say, lack of public access to 
Brain Research.)

Peter Banks
Banks Publishing
Publications Consulting and Services

On 3/1/07 7:58 PM, "Stevan Harnad" <harnad@ecs.soton.ac.uk> wrote:

> 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
>            versus
>       (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
>       unsustainably.
>       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.