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Critique of Criteria for "Full Membership" in OASPA

Hyperlinked version of this posting: 

>From the bylaws of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers 
Association (OASPA): http://www.oaspa.org/bylaws.php

'To be considered an OA scholarly publisher and eligible for full 
membership... the Publisher must... Publish at least one OA 
journal that regularly publishes original research or 
scholarship, all of which is OA... [which] includes... Copyright 
holders allow users to 'copy, use, distribute, transmit and 
display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative 
works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject 
to proper attribution of authorship...' [i.e., 'libre' OA]

Now let us look at what these criteria imply:

Full OASPA membership for BMJ, for example, is perhaps arguable, 
because all refereed research articles in the flagship BMJ are OA 
and hybrid OA is available as an option for all 27 BMJ journals, 
but all BMJ authors are also free to provide immediate Green OA 
by self-archiving. In contrast, Oxford University Press (OUP) 
publishes 246 journals, only 6 of them full Gold OA; the rest of 
the OUP journals embargo Green OA self-archiving by authors for a 
year (90 of them offering authors the generous 'option' of paying 
to do it immediately, if they pay OUP's hybrid Gold OA fee). (In 
contrast, Cambridge University Press (CUP) offers paid hybrid 
Gold OA for 15 journals, but endorses immediate Green OA 
self-archiving for every single one of its 283 journals. In other 
words, CUP hybrid Gold is a noncoercive OA option for authors who 
want to pay for hybrid Gold OA; OUP's is not. All CUP authors are 
free to provide immediate Green OA to their articles by 
self-archiving them; OUP authors are not. Yet OUP is a 'full 
member' of OASPA and CUP is not.)

It is exceedingly difficult to see the value to OA itself of the 

(1) OASTP officially includes, as 'full members' of its 'OA 
Scholarly Publishers Association,' publishers that oppose 
immediate OA Self-Archiving by their authors. (Such publishers 
can now even proudly advertise themselves as 'full OA' journal 
publishers in good standing if they publish one single libre Gold 
OA journal while forbidding Green OA self-archiving for their 
other 999 journals.)

(2) OASTP officially excludes from full membership in its 'OA 
Scholarly Publishers Association' publishers every one of whose 
999 journals are 'gratis' Gold OA, perhaps not even charging a 
penny for it, as not being 'full OA' journal publishers in good 
standing, because they are not 'libre' Gold OA.

Richard Poynder seems to have been right (again): 'officially' 
sanctioning this perverse play on words will not only:

(a) allow being an 'OA publisher,' 'Gold OA publisher' and 'full 
OA' publisher in good standing to be touted and promoted in a 
self-interested, word-bending way by publishers that are just 
about as far from being OA as a publisher can be,

(b) prevent publishers that are genuinely 'full OA' publishers -- 
fully gratis OA, hence fully Gold, and hence fully Green, for all 
their journals, hence fully OA on any rational construal of 'full 
OA publisher' -- from calling themselves 'full OA publishers' in 
good standing, and

(c) add yet another unwelcome layer to the confusion about the 
meaning of 'OA' as well as of being an 'OA publisher' that we owe 
to the premature, persistent and counterproductive profusion of 
gold dust and publishing-economics in place of OA.

Full members should only be publishers all or most of whose 
journals are Gold OA (and all of whose journals are Green OA); 
otherwise just 'Associate' members. (And gratis OA journal 
publishers should either be full OASPA members or we should stop 
repeating the slogan that 'most OA journals do not charge for 

Of course it is the publisher that represents the journal.  But 
reserving full OASPA membership for publishers all or most of 
whose journals are Gold OA would rule out the obvious abuse of 
'full OA' status by a publisher that publishes a fleet of 1000 
journals, only one of them OA, yet is currently entitled to call 
itself an official 'OA publisher' in virtue of full membership in 
good standing in OASPA. Such a publisher would then simply be an 
Associate Member of OASPA. (An independent journal, by the way, 
not associated with a 'publishing house,'  is simply its own 
publisher.) That would remedy abuse of full membership status by 
non-OA and anti-OA publishers.

But to remedy the very meaning of OA and OA journal, it would be 
just as important to admit as full members the publishers of (all 
or mostly) gratis OA journals (including gratis OA journals that 
do not charge either authors or their institutions/funders for 
publication, but make ends meet from subscriptions or subsidy). 
Yes, fee-free gratis OA journals represent a different 'business 
model,' but nevertheless they are 'fully' OA in every OA-relevant 

(It also seems fine to accept hybrid Gold OA publishers as 
Associate Members, given that the Association's interest seems to 
be primarily in OA publishing business models rather than OA 

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum