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Re: Open Choice is a Trojan Horse for Open Access Mandates

On Sat, 10 Mar 2007, Jan Velterop wrote:

> The Howard Hughes deal is *not* a setback for open access, even 
> if it is not the greatest imaginable step forwards perhaps.

It is not a setback for the minuscule number of articles for 
which HHMI will finance paid (Gold) OA. It is a setback for all 
the other articles that could be made (Green) OA through mandated 
author self-archiving, for free, while subscriptions are still 
continuing to pay the publication costs.

It is not only a waste of money, but it plays into the hands of 
those who are trying to delay or derail Green self-archiving 
mandates at all costs.

> To knock the HHMI for getting into this deal is short-sighted.

It is HHMI that is being short-sighted (and gullible). HHMI ought 
instead simply to mandate Green OA self-archiving, and leave it 
at that.

> And subject lines like 'Trojan Horse' with their insidious 
> negativity raise the suspicion that the agenda of some list 
> participants is not really 'open access', but a desire to get 
> rid of publishers or of the notion that publishing, including 
> open access publishing, actually costs money.

Nonsense. Open Choice is a Trojan Horse if it is taken as a 
pretext for paying for Gold OA instead of mandating Green OA. No 
one is trying to get rid of publishers. We are trying to get rid 
of access-barriers. Green OA does that. And while subscriptions 
are still being (amply) paid for, no one is unaware of the fact 
that publishing costs money. What is urgently needed today is not 
money to pay for Gold OA, but mandates to provide Green OA.

> It's a delusion that one can get open access by self-archiving 
> mandates that imply having to rely on librarians to keep paying 
> for subscriptions to keep journals alive.

Institutions are paying for subscriptions today. That is no 

There is little OA today. That is no delusion.

Green self-archiving mandates will generate 100% OA. That is no 

What happens to subscriptions after that is speculation, not 

> Or is the idea that librarians keep paying for journals of 
> which the articles are available with open access part of the 
> proposed mandates?

Institutions are paying for librarians today. That is not 
proposed; that is already going on.

What is not already going on is OA self-archiving.

That is what the Green mandates are for.

Whether and when institutions will cancel subscriptions because 
of mandated Green OA is a purely speculative matter, today. What 
is not speculative is that if and when institutions ever *do* 
cancel subscriptions, that money will then be freed to pay for 
Gold OA costs; not before. Nor is it speculation that Green OA 
will already have provided 100% OA by then.

> Authors can self-publish easily these days and provide open 
> access to their articles to their hearts' content.

Why is Jan telling us this? OA is not about self-publishing and 
it is not about unpublished articles. It is about providing Open 
Access to peer-reviewed, published articles.

> Once they involve a publisher, though, they don't do that out 
> of altruistic motives.

No. Nor does the publisher. But publishers are being paid in 
full, today, by subscriptions, whereas Open Access is not being 
provided, today. And research impact is needlessly being lost 

It would not just be altruism but profligacy to double-pay for 
Gold OA today. And it would be (and is) not altruistic but 
foolhardy in the extreme to continue doing without OA, and with 
the attendant daily loss in research impact and progress, for 
failure to mandate Green OA.

(Foolhardy for the research community, and the public that funds 
it, I mean: Not necessarily foolhardy for the publishing 

> They don't 'give' their articles to publishers. They come to 
> ask for a 'label', a 'mark', an official journal reference that 
> makes their article from a piece of text, perhaps interesting, 
> but not recognised by the academic community, into a formally 
> peer-reviewed and published article. It's not the publishers 
> that compel them to do that.

I don't know why we are treated to all this rhetorical 
complexity: Researchers submit their papers to journals for two 
reasons: (1) to get them peer-reviewed and (2) to provide access 
to them. That is what subscriptions are already paying for. OA is 
for those would-be users who cannot afford access to the 
subscription version.

It is not authors who seek or get the revenues from 
subscriptions, it is publishers. No altruism on either side. And 
the only thing missing, in the online age, is OA. And Green OA 
mandates will provide that.

> And publishers cannot provide those services, on the scale they 
> are needed, on a philanthropic basis.

No one is asking them to: Subscriptions are paying, amply. OA is 
about those users who cannot afford access to the subscription 

> This may be possible for a number of small journals, and where 
> it is possible it deserves to be done that way and probably is 
> already.

Jan (and the publishing community) keep talking about journals 
and journal cost-recovery models. Fine.

The research community is talking about OA, and 
impact-loss-recovery methods.

The only tried, tested, successful method of impact-loss-recovery 
within immediate reach is mandating OA self-archiving. That has 
nothing to do with journal cost-recovery models. Jan is talking 
at cross-purposes with OA, with his fixation on payment models 
(when there is no non-payment problem today, whereas there *is* a 
no-access problem today).

In thus talking at cross-purposes, Jan (and those of the same 
persuasion) are standing in the way of a tried, tested, 
successful, and immediately reachable means of solving the access 
problem. They are instead promoting a Trojan Horse.


Stevan Harnad