20 Apr 2007

Archivangelism - has the means become the end?

Stevan Harnad has always been insistent on the need for immediate, free access to academic research, and he sees self-archiving as the means to this end.

Now that he recognises that self-archiving may only be compatible with some publishers if there is a delay in access, Stevan (who is normally uncompromising, e.g. "OA itself is non-negotiable") seems to have accepted this fudge, which is not immediate free access: "Access to the immediate deposit can then either be set as Open Access immediately, or (in case of a publisher embargo), as Closed Access, provisionally". This is the "Immediate-Deposit & Optional-Access" (IDOS) policy. Even with a fancy name, and as Jan Velterop has noted, it's not open access.

Stevan has been adamantly against the crystal-ball-gazing that predicts a loss in subscriptions resulting from self-archiving, but his own crystal ball predicts that following a universal adoption of 'IDOS' repositories, "Embargoes will disappear very soon thereafter" [my emphasis].

Stevan has criticised advocates of open access journals who claim that open access journals will reduce costs, as he insists that it is access that is paramount and not costs, which is a fair point. Yet he now criticises open access journals and hybrid journals for the extra costs he says they impose, for example criticising CERN's decision to put up funds to pay for article processing charges as "diverting scarce research funds from research to paying publishers". It seems that if open access journals might save costs, that's a side issue; if they might cost more, we should take heed.

While there might be issues with double-payment in hybrid journals, that can be corrected by adjusting subscription costs - it isn't an insurmountable issue. Further, open access journals don't have this problem, but Stevan's criticisms of Springer Open Choice don't often allow for this distinction. How open access can be paid for is open to debate - the debate has usually focussed on the article processing charge, but as Peter Suber has noted not all open access journals charge author fees. Costs can also be met using advertising (though hardly an uncontroversial way for a medical journal to recover costs), grants from societies (this is how the Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry is funded), charitable and philanthropic donations, or even by cutting costs. An interesting aspect of article processing charges is that they can result in price competition on an article-by-article basis.

Rather than being a system with no barriers to access (the definition of open access as I understand it), under self-archiving each author (having signed over copyright to the publisher) needs to deposit their articles in their local repository (if one exists), then each reader needs to realise that the repository exists, find the article, and then possibly have to contact the author to get a copy, and then have the author respond and send it to them. Sadly, this seems to be laborious, incomplete and prone to failure. I had thought that the launch of Google Scholar opened up the possibility of self-archiving really being viable, but their practice of linking to all copies of an article that could be found on the web only lasted a few short months and links to free versions are now intermittent - possibly (probably), Google were sat on by publishers.

Libraries will apparently continue to subscribe to journals that their users can access at no cost, despite evidence that libraries are acutely attuned to cost, and an existing trend of university actions against high journal prices. Publishers will apparently be happy to have a business model that depends on their customers paying for a product that can be obtained for free. This business model is actually seen in shareware, though shareware is much rarer now than 10 to 20 years ago, and certainly the music industry isn't too keen on this business model. If self-archiving doesn't cause a collapse in subscriptions to closed access journals, I'd suggest that it will implicitly have failed to achieve its goal. Surely the aim is to provide immediate free access to peer reviewed academic research - if libraries and readers are unaware that they could get what they are still paying for at no cost, might that not imply that self-archiving doesn't provide universal access? Might there be those who aren't paying and who don't realise that the research is accessible, and therefore never read the article? We need to end this farcical situation of researchers not reading articles, and although I like the idea of self-archiving I don't believe that if offers a complete enough solution, or is sustainable.

Stevan's insistence on self-archiving has even extended to criticising central deposit in PubMed Central, arguing that articles must only be deposited in institutional repositories. What is BioMed Central to do; stop depositing in PubMed Central? It's hardly as though we block our authors depositing in their own local repositories.

Stevan lays claim to being the true voice of open access. In responding to an article by Ben Goldacre he argued that "It is not "two [Gold] OA publishing organisations" that have led the fight for OA, but one (Green and Gold) organisation -- the same one that first coined the term OA in 2002: the
Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI)". Actually, it's not true that BOAI coined 'open access'.

Stevan at times appears to be entirely opposed to the idea of open access journals (despite apparently supporting the idea a decade ago), for example raising criticisms against BioMed Central as a publisher from the outset.

I can't agree with Stevan's insistence upon local institutional self-archiving to the apparent exclusion of other approaches to open access.
It appears to me that with archivangelism the means has become the end.


Bill Hooker said...

A couple of small points:

under self-archiving each author (having signed over copyright to the publisher) needs to deposit their articles in their local repository (if one exists)

If I understand the issue, this is not the case for self-archiving in general but only for ID/OA, which as I understand it is a kind of last-resort way to deal with holdout publishers (more than 90% of commercial journals allow at least the author's final version to be deposited) and embargoes of varying lengths.

then each reader needs to realise that the repository exists, find the article, and then possibly have to contact the author to get a copy, and then have the author respond and send it to them.

Readers should be able to use high-level search services like OAIster, and never need know about any particular repository. As for contacting the author, e-prints (and maybe other repository software) offers a "send me a print" button which automates contact between reader and author down to one click each.

nielsseh said...

Treat Gold Fever With Green Deposits

by Stevan Harnad

Bill Hooker has already corrected the two main misunderstandings in Matt Hodgkinson's posting:

(1) The Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access (ID/OA) mandate is a compromise deliberately designed to end deadlocks that have been delaying the adoption of self-archiving mandates for several years now, by mooting the issue of publisher copyright policies or embargoes. Green OA is still Green OA (immediate, direct, full access) but ID/OA mandates are infinitely preferable to no self-archiving mandate at all. And together with the "Fair-Use" Button, they provide almost-immediate, almost-OA during any embargo period. (And, yes, I add the speculation that ID/OA, once universally adopted, will very soon lead to the welcome death of embargoes, and hence to 100% Green OA; but nothing hangs on this speculation: It is an ID/OA mandate that should be adopted if there is deadlock or delay in agreeing on the adoption of a Green OA mandate.)

(2) All articles deposited in OAI-compliant Institutional Repositories (IRs) will be harvested and indexed by OAIster, Google Scholar, and many other harvesters and search engines. There is no discovery problem with articles that have been deposited. The discovery problem is with the articles that have not been deposited (i.e., 85% of the annual peer-reviewed journal literature) and the solution is to mandate Green OA -- or, failing that, to mandate ID/OA. Hence 100% Green OA will indeed have delivered OA's goal, irrespective of whether and when it goes on to lead to Gold OA.

A few other points:

(3) I don't criticise those who say Gold OA will lower publication costs. (I think it will too, eventually.) I criticise those who keep fussing about Gold OA and costs while daily, weekly, monthly, yearly usage and impact continues to be lost and Green OA mandates (or ID/OA) can put an end to it. My objection to Gold fever is a matter of immediate priorities. It is not only putting the Golden cart before the Green horse (or counting the Golden chickens before the Green eggs are laid), but it is leaving us year in and year out at a near-standstill, whereas self-archiving mandates have been demonstrated to fast-forward universities toward 100% OA for their output within two years. (See Arthur Sale's splendid studies.)

(4) I criticise the CERN Gold OA initiative for much the same reason: CERN could have done so much more. CERN has a successful Green OA mandate (not even the ID/OA compromise) and CERN could have done a far greater service for other disciplines and for the growth of OA if it had put its weight and energy behind promoting its own own Green OA policy as a model worldwide, instead of diverting attention and energy to the needless and premature endgame of Gold OA within its own subfields. (Saving subscription costs is utterly irrelevant once you have 100% Green OA: Journal subscriptions then become optional luxury items instead of basic necessities, as now.)

(5) Paying for Gold OA in a hybrid-Gold journal like Springer's Open Choice is indeed double-payment while subscriptions are still paying all publication costs, and hence doubly foolish. (Rationalizing that it can be corrected by "adjustments" in the subscription price is not only credulous in the extreme, but it blithely countenances lockiing in current asking-prices in a way that makes the "Big Deal" look like chump change.) Paying for Gold OA in a pure-Gold journal (like the BMC and PLoS journals) -- when one can simply publish in any journal and self-archive to provide OA -- is merely foolish (except for those with a lot of spare change). (At this time: not if and when 100% Green OA causes unsustainable institutional subscription cancellations, thereby releasing the funds to pay for institutional Gold OA publishing costs. (But -- speculation again -- it is likely that journals will have to cut costs and downsize in converting to Gold OA, so the asking price for Gold OA will not be what it is now.)

(6) I do not criticise depositing in Central Repositories (CRs) per se (though I do think it is foolish): I criticise depositing in CRs instead of depositing in Institutional Repositories (IRs), and I especially criticise mandating deposit in CRs instead of in IRs. Institutions are the primary research providers. IRs tile all of OA output space. Institutions and their researchers have a shared interest in maximising the visibility, usage and impact of their own research output. Institutions can mandate, monitor (and even monetarize) self-archiving in their own IRs (and funders can reinforce those mandates); CRs cannot. And CRs can harvest from IRs if they wish. Mandating self-archiving in researchers' own IRs is the systematic and scaleable -- hence optimal -- solution for generating 100% OA, not a panoply of arbitrary CRs criss-crossing research space.

(7) I have no interest in vying for priority for the term "open access". I used "free online access" for years without feeling any pressing need for a more formal term of art. I don't doubt that the descriptor "open access" can be googled before the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) decided (quite consciously, after surveying several alternatives) to adopt OA for the movement to which it subsequently gave rise. Before the BOAI, there was no OA movement, just a lot of notions in the air, among them: free online access, self-archiving, and journals funded by means other than the subscription model.

(8) Yes I (and no doubt others too, independently) mooted the notion of journals funded by means other than the subscription model (later to become Gold OA) in 1997 and even earlier (1994); but I never for a microsecond thought Gold OA would come before Green OA. And it hasn't; nor will it, at the current rate. Green OA, in contrast, can be accelerated to reach 100% within two years, if we just go ahead and mandate it, instead of continuing to fuss about Gold OA!

Bill Hooker said...

I should add that (much as it makes me feel odd to disagree with Stevan Harnad about what constitutes Open Access!), I have my own disagreements with the Harnadian hard line on IRs.

The thing that worries me about IRs is their inability to deliver OA as I understand it. (My take is here, and there's a response from Prof Harnad in comments.) I am all in favour of many copies, and have nothing against filling IRs, but my idea of Open Access goes beyond simple free online availability to human eyeballs. I certainly will never publish my own research anywhere but a Gold OA journal again. Why would I? The argument that I might want to publish in a given journal because of its impact factor assumes I buy into that miserable metric, which I don't -- I can't wait for OA metrics to kill it off!

Now, that doesn't stop me *also* depositing in an IR -- if I can find one. I'm going to try to get some of my older papers into the University of Qld IR, but anything I publish in my current job has nowhere to go. It won't be suitable for arXiv or Cogprints, according to their own guidelines, and my institution has no IR (yet; I'm working on that, but a lowly postdoc carries only so much weight).

Matt Hodgkinson said...

David Goodman's comments on the balance between self-archiving and open access journals are worth repeating:
"I agree with Stevan Harnad, that we cannot ignore the practical needs of the next few years while we are developing OA journals, and must immediately establish self archiving, even if only as institutional repositories. Where I differ, is I think we must use those years for the rapid development of financing for OA journals. It will take long enough to develop this that we cannot defer planning until journals lose most of their subscribers. We must make provision for the papers from the former commercial subscription journals".
His full post is at:

Matt Hodgkinson said...

Peter Suber said...

A quick response on just one point: "I had thought that the launch of Google Scholar opened up the possibility of self-archiving really being viable, but their practice of linking to all copies of an article that could be found on the web only lasted a few short months and links to free versions are now intermittent - possibly (probably), Google were sat on by publishers."

Google Scholar tries continuously to crawl all the world's OA repositories. The problem is not publisher lobbying or lack of trying. The problem is that a large number of repositories are (innocently) configured to thwart rather than facilitate Google crawling. The problems are easily fixed, but the must be implemented at the separate repositories (http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/googlecrawling.htm). It's important to get this word out to repository managers.

Stevan Harnad said...

Bill Hooker is welcome to deposit his articles in CogPrints. There will be plenty of IRs and CRs that accept deposits from unaffiliated authors. There is no deterrent to self-archiving even for the minority of authors of peer-revewed journal articles who are institutionally unaffiliated or whose institutions don't yet have an IR.

Bill Hooker said...

That's great, I'm really pleased (and now I have one less excuse not to get on and deposit my stuff).

Not to seem ungrateful, but I do wish it had been clearer that I could deposit in CogPrints. I just had another look at the guidelines, and my papers don't really fall under any of the bio headings listed (behaviour, ecology, sociobiology, etc). All my work is molecular/cell biology, which is why I assumed it would not be acceptable for CogPrints.

I imagine there are are a lot of authors in my situation, actually. I'm not sure why Prof Harnad thinks that authors whose institutions do not have an IR are a minority, since I know hardly any institutions that *do* have IRs. Also, it's great that there "will be" IRs and CRs that accept subs from unaffiliated authors, but right now there don't seem to be many.

Perhaps CogPrints (and any other repository with a similar policy) could make that policy clearer and more public -- I think this might increase uptake among willing authors who feel their articles have nowhere to go.