Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Open Access in 2009: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As 2009 draws to a close advocates of Open Access (OA) will doubtless be looking back and weighing up the year's events. So what has been achieved, and what have been the main OA developments in 2009? Has it been a good year or a bad year for OA? Let's consider these questions.

Green OA/Self-archiving

First, what has 2009 been like for Green OA?

There are now 137 self-archiving mandates. OA advocate Stevan Harnad has estimated that 10,000 will be needed before OA is achieved. (Although he later added that a tipping point would be reached if the top 750 to 1,500 institutions introduced mandates).

The good news

So what's the good news? Mandates are currently accelerating at a fast rate (See Alma Swan's graph). They are also beginning to arrive in bunches: during the second week of December, for instance, 26 Finnish mandates were announced in one go.

Meanwhile, in the US legislators appear to be coming around to the idea that they have a responsibility to ensure that federally-funded researchers are compelled to make their scholarly papers freely available on the Internet. In June, for instance, the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) was reintroduced to the US Senate with this end in mind.

And then in December the Obama Administration announced that it was launching a public consultation process preparatory to requiring US federal science and technology funding agencies to introduce "public access" policies.

What about repositories? OpenDOAR currently lists over 1,500 repositories, and Scientific Commons — the repository aggregator service — has over 32 million items listed in its database.

Importantly, more and more researchers are now aware of the OA movement and increasingly inclined to embrace it. (Although many remain confused as to what exactly they should be doing, and fearful that OA could damage their careers).

The bad news

And the bad news? There remains some doubt as to the efficacy of the mandates being introduced. Indeed, it is not even clear that many of the claimed mandates amount to much more than pious declarations.

Certainly many mandates appear not to be what it says on the packet. Even the much lauded Harvard mandate has not borne close scrutiny, and in the wake of criticism its architect Stuart Shieber conceded on his blog: "[T]he Harvard open-access policy could not be, should not be, and is not a mandate. I've tried to be very careful never to refer to it as a mandate (though I can’t promise I've never slipped up)."

This clearly has implications for compliance, and indeed another area of concern relates to the failure of both researchers and publishers to abide by mandates. Canadian OA advocate Heather Morrison, for instance, recently published some figures on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandate. Compliance levels for some Springer and Elsevier journals, she reports, are as low as 9% to 37%.

Overall, says Morrison, "NIH-funded research that is freely available after 2 years is 41% for external researchers and 50% for internal researchers. This is definitely growing; but the figure should be 100% at 1 year."

There are also worries about the nature and quality of some of the content being deposited in repositories, much of which appears not to be OA's target content (peer-reviewed papers). Certainly a search on Scientific Commons reveals broken links, non-target content, abstracts rather than full text, and some links merely point to items locked behind toll walls.

Finally, there are signs that increasing take-up of Gold OA could be being achieved at the expense of Green OA. This could slow down adoption of self-archiving mandates, and thus of OA progress overall. (Assuming, like Harnad, one believes that Green OA offers a faster route to OA than Gold OA does).

Gold OA/Publishing

What about Gold OA?

There are now over 4,500 Gold journals. As there are estimated to be roughly around 25,000 peer-reviewed journals in total, this suggests that one fifth of all scholarly journals are now OA.

The good news

What has been the good news for Gold OA? Again, the rate of progress of Gold OA is clearly accelerating. The Directory of Open Access Journals added 700 journals to its database in 2009. This, points out Morrison, is equivalent to two journals a day.

In addition, most subscription journals now offer a Hybrid OA option for some or all their journals, enabling authors to pay to have individual papers made OA even when publishing in a subscription journal. And a growing number of funders and research institutions are creating Gold OA funds to support authors who wish to pay the article processing charges (APCs) needed to make their papers OA.

Finally, in January the Houghton Report (Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models: Exploring the costs and benefits) concluded that the research community could make considerable cost savings if all scholarly journals converted to OA.

The bad news

The bad news? Today's 4,500 Gold OA journals are not the best fifth. Harnad explains: "A high proportion of Gold OA journals are lesser journals. I don't want to make it sound elitist, but they are not the journals that contain the research that everybody wants and needs the most. If you look at the top journals, the ones that are likely to capture 80% of citations, most of those are not Gold OA. (I'm not talking about the hybrid Gold option, which is a cheap option for publishers, but a pricey one for authors.) So if you are talking about a tipping point for Gold OA, it will be necessary to capture the top journals."

The problem, however, may be that high-impact subscription journals are the least likely to convert to Gold OA.

What has clearly not helped Gold OA is the fact that a growing number of start-up OA publishers have attracted criticism from the research community for their poor business practices — including bombarding researchers with spam invitations to submit papers, and providing an inadequate peer review process. This, it seems, is the ugly side of OA — a product perhaps of what Harnad calls "gold fever".

But perhaps the most serious long-term problem is that it is looking increasingly possible that OA publishing may fail to solve the affordability problem — as many had hoped, particularly those librarians suffering the pain of the serials crisis.

In other words, despite the predictions made in the Houghton Report, the research community may discover that OA delivers no cost savings, and simply replaces the serials crisis with an author crisis. (We should note that the APC rates levied by some OA publishers — and most Hybrid publishers — are already higher than the Houghton estimates, and rising).

The growing trend for publishers to offer institutional membership schemes to allow institutions to convert from a subscription model to an OA model has also raised concerns about pricing. (See, for instance, the experience of the Health Sciences Library at Columbia University, and criticism of the SCOAP3 and Springer experiments).

OA broadens

There was, however, some unexpected good news in 2009: where OA has historically been seen as something of relevance only to scientific and medical (STM) journals this year has seen growing interest in OA for the humanities, and for books.

"I think there will be an increasing movement to scholarly open access monographs," says Australian OA advocate Colin Steele. "In Australia we have recently seen the establishment of the Adelaide University E-Press (with a stirring speech on their website from John Coetzee, the Nobel Prize winner). A worldwide movement in this context, reflected in developments in the US (see for example the upcoming SPARC-ACRL conference) and Bloomsbury Academic in the UK, seems likely for the transformation of the scholarly monograph situation. We must remember books and that OA is not simply STM articles."

Publishing consultant Alma Swan agrees. "OA monographs are finding their feet now, with experiments by presses (even commercial ones), establishment of viable business propositions (e.g. Open Humanities Press) and a number of formal studies going on including OAPEN, which I think may produce some useful pointers as it works through to its conclusion. It's never been nice to have to keep waving humanities to one side for another day, but now the day is here, it seems, and that is a real step forward."

Whether overall 2009 will turn out to have been good or bad for the OA movement doubtless rests on what happens in 2010 and beyond. Will current momentum be maintained for instance? Will the Obama Administration come up with the right formula for the public access policies it wants to see, or will those that emerge simply ape the NIH mandate (which has its detractors). Will more governments realise what needs to be done, and do it? Will OA continue to spread behind STM journals? Will OA find a way of resolving the affordability problem? For now these are necessarily matters for speculation alone.

Key developments

Below is a list of 17 notable developments that took place during 2009 (in date order). Thanks to Leo Waaijers, Gavin Baker, Alma Swan, Colin Steele, David Prosser, Peter Suber, and Heather Joseph for their input to the list:

January 21st: University of California libraries join the Springer experiment to support open access publishing. As the press release put it, "Under the terms of the agreement, articles by UC-affiliated authors accepted for publication in a Springer journal beginning in 2009 will be published using Springer Open Choice with full and immediate open access. There will be no separate per-article charges, since costs have been factored into the overall license."

Essentially this is an agreement designed to convert UC from a subscription to an OA world. Whether it will prove successful will depend not just on how it develops, but how one judges success.

January 27th: The Houghton Report — Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models: Exploring the costs and benefits — is published. This concludes that the UK higher education sector could save around £80 million a year by shifting from toll access to open access publishing. It also estimates that £115 million could be saved by moving from toll access to open access self-archiving. If one projects these figures internationally it would appear that, in theory at least, OA offers the research community significant savings.

February 25th: SciELO South Africa is launched, with the objective of providing free and open access to a range of top South African science journals in order to boost the international profile of South African scientific research.

In other words, South Africa has joined the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO) initiative, which was pioneered in 1997 by the São Paulo Science Foundation (FAPESP) and the Latin America and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (BIREME) in Brazil.

SciELO provides "a common methodology for the preparation, storage, dissemination and evaluation of scientific literature in electronic format" and it does so on an entirely OA basis. Currently SciELO hosts over 600 journals published in the developing world.

April 1st: The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and e-Depot of KB Netherlands sign an agreement to ensure the long term preservation of DOAJ journals. The press release explains: "[L]ong term archiving of the journals listed in the DOAJ at KB’s e-Depot will become an integral part of the service provided by the DOAJ."

June 10th: Cornell postgraduate student Phil Davis reports on The Scholarly Kitchen blog that The Open Information Science Journal (published by Bentham Open) accepted a nonsense paper he had generated using a computer program. Davis had submitted the paper after being bombarded with spam messages from Bentham inviting him to publish a paper, at a cost of $800. The editor-in-chief of TOISJ Bambang Parmanto resigns as a result — announcing that he had not even seen the paper before it was accepted.

June 10th: US National student organisations call for Open Access to research, and release a statement on OA. Comments Open Access News' Gavin Baker: "This is the first broad-scale support for OA from student organisations."

June 12th: The Open Access Source Book (OASIS) is launched. OASIS is a new portal for educational materials on the "concept, principles, advantages, approaches and means to achieving Open Access". In particular, OASIS hopes to provide valuable information on OA to those in the developing world.

June 25th: The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA, S.1373) is reintroduced in the US Senate. Commenting on the news de facto leader of the OA movement Peter Suber said: "This is an important development. FRPAA would essentially extend the NIH open-access policy across the federal government. Most federally-funded researchers would be required to deposit their peer reviewed manuscripts in a suitable open access repository at the time of acceptance for publication, and the repositories would be required to release the open access copies no later than six months after publication."

August 7th: The Open Humanities Press announces that it is partnering with the University of Michigan Library's Scholarly Publishing Office to produce Open Access books. Coupled with last year's launch of Bloomsbury Academic, many view this as a clear sign that OA is broadening beyond STM journals to encompass books, and the humanities too.

August 21st: PLoS Currents is launched. The goal of PLoS Currents is to provide a service where researchers can submit raw preprints, datasets and preliminary analyses. These are then made freely available online without first being subjected to in-depth peer review, allowing for the much more rapid dissemination of research.

Introducing the service PLoS co-founder and chairman Harold Varmus commented: "The successful development of open access publishing by organisations including the Public Library of Science (PLoS) in recent years is a dramatic illustration of how the Internet is revolutionising scientific communication. Today, after several months of work, I'm delighted to announce that PLoS is launching PLoS Currents (Beta) – a new and experimental website for the rapid communication of research results and ideas. In response to the recent worldwide H1N1 influenza outbreak, the first PLoS Currents research theme is influenza."

In many ways, it is suggested, this is the realisation of a dream Varmus first had when he was NIH director: In 1999 Varmus attempted to create a biomedical preprint server modelled on the physics preprint server arXiv. (Following intense criticism from publishers the project was significantly scaled back, the preprint component jettisoned, and the service launched in 2000 as PubMed Central).

September 15th: The Compact for Open Access Publishing (COPE) is launched. The brainchild of Harvard's Stuart Shieber, COPE founder members include Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley, who jointly make a commitment to a "compact for open-access publication". Subsequently The University of Ottawa and Columbia University join COPE.

Commenting on the launch of COPE Shieber said: "Universities and funding agencies ought to provide equitable support for open-access publishing by subsidising the processing fees that faculty incur when contributing to open-access publications. Right now, these fees are relatively rare. But if the research community supports open-access publishing and it gains in importance as we believe that it will, those fees could aggregate substantially over time. The compact ensures that support is available to eliminate these processing fees as a disincentive to open-access publishing."

Essentially COPE members are asked to commit to create a Gold OA fund for their researchers in order to help pay APCs to publish in OA journals.

September 23rd: Enabling Open Scholarship (EOS) is launched. Headed up by Bernard Rentier, the Rector of the University of Liège in Belgium, EOS is an information service and a forum committed to the "opening up of scholarship and research" in line with "the growing open access, open education, open science and open innovation movements."

Commented EOS Chairman Professor Rentier: "The world of research is changing and universities and other research-based institutions must drive the change, not sit back and let it happen. Having embarked upon implementing changes in thinking and practice at my own university, I want to encourage others in my position to join the discussion and help lead the way to a better future. We will be reaching out to universities and research institutes across the world to invite them to play an active role in building better systems of scholarship for the future. EOS will provide the forum and the voice for the research community on open scholarship issues and represents a very valuable resource for those who want to join in this endeavour."

EOS appears primarily focused on Green rather than Gold OA. As such, it may offer a valuable counterweight to the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), which has been criticised for being more interested in promoting the interests of publishers than OA.

October 19th: The Wellcome Trust announces that it is committing an additional £2 million to its Gold OA fund. The announcement is made during Open Access Week.

October 21st: The Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) is launched. Emerging from the European project DRIVER (Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research), which was funded by the EU Commission, the objective of COAR is to network "over 1,000 global scientific repositories comprising peer reviewed publications under the principle of Open Access."

November 9th: A petition is launched in Germany calling on the German National Parliament (Bundestag) to mandate OA for publicly-funded research. The initiative of a former chemist and now science journalist from Heidelberg called Lars Fischer, the petition catches the OA movement by surprise, and Fischer is criticised for the vague wording of the petition.

Speaking to me in November Fischer responded by saying that he had had difficulty obtaining help from OA advocates. He added that he had launched the petition "to demonstrate that there is broad public support for Open Access and to promote open debate about intellectual property laws in science. As far as I see it, Open Access has always been treated — even by its supporters — as a niche topic for experts. But that is wrong. It is an issue that in the long run concerns everyone, and many people understand that."

November 17th: It is reported that the Dutch science foundation has created a €5 million Gold OA fund.

December 9th: Last but far from least, as part of its Open Government Directive the Obama Administration launches a public consultation process preparatory to developing public access policies for science and technology funding agencies across the US Federal Government. Comments can be posted on the OSTP Blog, and must be received by 7th January.

This is undeniably potentially very big. But where does it fit with FRPAA? Does it perhaps make the FRPAA moot?

No, says Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). "If the Obama Administration takes action on the executive level, FRPAA would play an important role in codifying that action into law. FRPAA would be complementary to any executive order or letter that the Administration might issue."

Suber agrees: "The Obama policies could cover much the same territory as FRPAA, depending on what the public comments recommend and how the administration decides to interpret them and act. The policies could fall short of FRPAA or surpass it. But at best they still won't make FRPAA moot. The main reason is that Obama could only implement OA mandates by executive order, which could be reversed by the next president. We'd still want legislation to make the policies permanent. But whether the Obama policies exceed or fall short of FRPAA, they can be implemented immediately, while FRPAA waits its turn for legislative attention behind healthcare reform, financial regulation, and climate change."

The above list is in date order, but I wonder what OA advocates might feel to be the top five in order of importance? Have any important events been omitted? All comments welcomed.


Stevan Harnad said...

XMAS 2009 OA Wish List [Part 1 of 2]

Some tinies, and not-so-tinies:

(1) The current ROAR total for registered repositories is 1552.

(2) The compliance rate for the (unfortunately hybrid) NIH mandate is not to be reckoned solely or primarily in terms of journal compliance but in terms of fundee compliance. The criterion for success here is not reaching 100% at the end of the first year, but approaching 100% after 2 years, as Arthur Sale has reported (with institutional mandates). And by that criterion, NIH is not doing too badly -- but complementary institutional mandates would provide a welcome ally in monitoring and ensuring compliance. (But that, in turn, will require NIH to change its tune on locus of deposit).

(3) The UC Springer pre-emptive Gold payment deal is not good news because it is (literally) impossible to morph institutional subscriptions into institutional memberships for 10,000 (or even 1000) institutions and 25,000 (or even 2500) journals. Think about it. Submitting to (and getting accepted by) the peer-reviewed journal of an author's choosing is not quite like joining a consortial medical insurance scheme or meal plan:

"University of California: Throwing Money At Gold OA Without Mandating Green OA"

(4) Ditto for COPE and the Wellcome, UC, and Dutch Gold OA slush funds:

"On Not Putting The Gold OA-Payment Cart Before The Green OA-Provision Horse"

(5) On the Houghton Report: It overestimates journal costs and underestimates research benefits (because it does not reckon the potential of Green OA mandates to induce cost-cutting and downsizing by publishers)


Stevan Harnad said...

XMAS 2009 OA Wish List [Part 2 of 2]

(6) Phil Davis's clever and welcome Bentham "sting" is a two-edged sword, since Phil is interested in discrediting OA, not just in discrediting disreputable Gold OA publishers.

(7) Harold Varmus's dream is indeed closer to fulfillment and history will have a great deal to be grateful to him for, including the NIH mandate, PubMed Central, PLoS, and probably a large portion of the momentum of OA itself. But the fulfillment of his dream is still haunted by its original flaw, which, in a word (or two) was green/gold conflation: E-biomed's main legacy today is the problem of locus of (mandated) deposit (institutional or central) as well the problem of who deposits (the author or the publisher). And to this day Harold persists in the belief that only libre gold OA -- not gratis green OA -- is OA.

(8) By the same token, history owes an enormous debt to Stuart Shieber for the Harvard mandate -- the first unanimous faculty mandate (and from Harvard, as a role model). But we will be haunted for some time by its flaws too ([1] mandating an author addendum, with opt-out, without first mandating immediate deposit, without opt-out -- which rightly casts some doubt on whether Harvard's is a "mandate" at all -- and [2] COPE, which inspires pre-emptive payment for Gold even without first mandating Green).

(9) (Statements, Declarations, and Petitions in favour of the principle of OA are soothing, but ineffectual. What are needed are mandates to provide OA in practise.)

(10) Milestones are marvelous, but as always, the devil's in the details. My hope is that EOS will help set those details straight and that, and that both President Obama's OSTP initiative and FRPAA will result in optimal gratis Green OA funder mandates in the US, reciprocated by funders globally, and complemented by an EUA-inspired and EOS- and OASIS-optimized gratis Green OA institutional mandates globally.

That, by the way, is also the planet's best hope for an eventual transition to libre Gold OA.

Best holiday wishes,

Your Yuletide Archivangelist

Gavin Baker said...

You say, "there are signs that increasing take-up of Gold OA could be being achieved at the expense of Green OA". But you don't say what the signs are. What are they?

Gavin Baker said...

Also, you say, "the rate of progress of Gold OA is clearly accelerating", pointing to DOAJ additions as proof. In fact, fewer journals were added to DOAJ in 2009 than in 2008 -- about 100 fewer, it looks to be. (I'll post about this in a few weeks once the year is officially over to have final numbers.)

Stevan Harnad said...

(1) "[S]igns that increasing take-up of Gold OA could be being achieved at the expense of Green OA"?

Start with universities joining COPE (i.e., committing funds to pay pre-emptively for Gold) but -- unlike Harvard and MIT -- not bothering to first mandate Green. ("I've done my bit for OA now.")

See, for example, U. Ottawa's press release, describing itself as "among North American leaders as it launches open access program" -- which consists of funding Gold OA but only hoping for Green OA...

(2) "[F]ewer journals were added to DOAJ in 2009 than in 2008 -- about 100 fewer."

Perhaps another indication that costly funding of Gold without cost-free mandating of Green first may not be the way to lead the way to OA...

Annemiek van der Kuil (SURF) said...

I’d like to add:

October 20th: the launch of the Dutch National website on Open Access: Greater Reach for Research: . This website (in English) includes a lot of interesting interviews with prominent scholars.

November 26th: The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (HBO-raad) has signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access. The signature set by chairman Doekle Terpstra means that all of the Netherlands’ universities of applied sciences support the aim of making the research output of these institutions available to all. Dutch universities of applied sciences have always had strong links to trade and industry. Their research is therefore practice-oriented, deals with current issues of relevance to society, and makes a clear contribution to professional development.

leo waaijers said...

For those who are not disencouraged by Stevan’s (standard) criticism of everything that deviates from his Message (an Archevangelical message after all), I give some factual information about the Springer deal that was settled with UKB in the Netherlands (2007), Max Planck Gesellschaft and University of Goettingen (both 2008) and University of California (2009). In an almost hidden corner of the web one may find the core terms of the deal with UKB. See: It means that up to 1250 articles per year of Dutch authors can be published in Open Access for free in Springer jounals. After reaching this quota, a publication fee of $1500 per article will have to be paid. This is half the list price.
The Springer web site gives an impression of the results. A comparison of the number of Open Access articles in Springer journals from 01/01/2009 till 12/17/2009 for a couple of countries produces the following figures: Denmark 70, Sweden 90, Belgium 126, Switzerland 152, The Netherlands 1140.
My suggestion is that other consortiums join the caravan of Springer deals and take some barking dogs for granted.

Stevan Harnad said...

The Standard Criticism

If my criticism is so standard then one would have expected it to be understood and answered by Leo. Instead we have non sequiturs.

It's really quite simple: I said that institutional and funder money spent on Gold OA, Gold OA "compacts" and Gold OA "memberships" is both a waste of cash and counterproductive if the objective is to provide OA, because OA can be provided cost-free through Green OA self-archiving, and through Green OA self-archiving mandates.

Leo replies by relating what a good price the various Gold OA deals he described got.

How does that answer my criticism that Green OA can be had cost-free, and that all the institutions Leo describes have failed to mandate Green OA?

(Please don't reply with IR costs: IRs are cheap, they're there anyway and they're near-empty. And the costs per paper deposited are negligible, even more negligible when the deposit rate is high, and downright risible when compared to the costs per paper of Gold OA, no matter how good a deal you get.)

(Note that although I would still consider it a waste of money to buy into Gold OA deals even after an institution has adopted a Green OA mandate [as Harvard and MIT have done], that is not my criticism; I consider that just a personal view, of no interest to anyone.)

But my (standard) criticism of squandering scarce funds (and precious time) on pre-emptive GOLD OA payment deals (at any non-zero price) without first having mandated Green OA -- as being a foolish, myopic and counterproductive waste of money and time, a deterrent to OA growth, and an extremely bad example to promote for other institutions (though that might get you a slightly better deal) -- stands, and stands unanswered.

I'll try appending the references again. Perhaps this time Leo will trouble to read, reflect on, and perhaps even reply to them, rather than just dismissing them as evangelizing against deviant views and then reporting what a good price is being paid for what can be had (and in far greater abundance) for free.

"University of California: Throwing Money At Gold OA Without Mandating Green OA"" 

"On Not Putting The Gold OA-Payment Cart Before The Green OA-Provision Horse"

leo waaijers said...

OK, let’s compare the costs of Green OA and the Springer route that I mentioned above. Both approaches are extras on top of the subscription based licences. For Green you then need a repository plus extra workflows (depositing of post print, metadata production, harvesting, embargo administration, document supply, citation processing). For the Springer route you need nothing extra. The publisher circulates the published version of the article in Open Access for free. In the Dutch case up to a limit of 1250 articles which was about 10% above the national production at the time.

Since the deal with Springer Dutch authors who published in a Springer journal could choose between two OA options, both free to them. They could follow the Green route or the Springer route. They massively chose the second option. My conclusion is that they like OA, but that they – or their institutes - neither like to pay for it (then they could have chosen Springer’s Open Choice option which they didn’t) nor want the Green hassle (copyright questions, multiple versions circulating, citation uncertainties).

So, instead of working on Green mandates funders could better negotiate more ‘Springer’ routes, both with Springer and with other non-OA publishers. An extra interesting point of the Springer route is the following psychological aspect. Today the Springer route is seen as an extra on top the licences. In an alternative view the OA component becomes the core of the deal and access to the Springer database of non OA articles is an extra. The more institutes join the Springer route the greater the OA component becomes. The non OA component will gradually fade away thus enabling a seamless transfer from subscription to OA. This is all speculation of course. But I claim that this speculation about the transfer from subscription to OA is more transparant than the Green ones. (More and more mandates will bring libraries to cancel their subscriptions. Publishers will remain passive untill they have no further option than giving in and accept OA. Something like that.)

Stevan Harnad said...

"Great Offer: 50% Off List Price!"

I had said to Leo Waaijers:

SH: "Please don't reply with IR costs: IRs are cheap, they're there anyway and they're near-empty. And the costs per paper deposited are negligible, even more negligible when the deposit rate is high, and downright risible when compared to the costs per paper of Gold OA, no matter how good a deal you get."

But Leo just goes ahead and replies with IR costs anyway:

LW: "OK, let’s compare the costs of Green OA and the Springer route that I mentioned above. Both approaches are extras on top of the subscription based licences."

This gives a clue as to what underlies this systematic incomprehension, because Leo, like many librarians, sees the OA as a library subscription budget issue ("extras on top of subscriptions"), not a research access and impact issue.

Most institutions have IRs already (for multiple reasons). So that's money already spent. But that money is little: IRs are cheap. A linux server, free software, a few one-time sysad days for start-up time, plus a few annual sysad days for maintenance.

But those already-paid-up IRs are mostly empty. So that's money ill-spent. That's already very little money per paper deposited even now, when only about 25% of annual institutional papers are deposited (Leo's figures). Yet it's even less if it's 100% (but you need mandates for that). (Keep those costs per paper in mind, as we go on.)

Even if we pretend there's only Springer journal articles, and even if we gullibly buy into Springer's intro offer deal ("first 1250 articles free," then "50% discount on the list price"), and even if the annual Dutch Springer output is only 10% above that (Leo's figures), that's 125 x $1500 = $156,000 more payout than if the Dutch institutions simply mandated deposit in their existing, paid-up, 75%-empty IRs.

So much for "extras on top of subscriptions" for Springer journals.

Note that Dutch libraries can't cancel their Springer subscription payouts either, because only Dutch Springer content (plus a few other gullible clients') is OA today. That's why Leo is encouraging others to buy in too -- whereas with just a little bit of reflection he would realize that it is (cost-free) Green OA mandates that he ought to be encouraging others to buy into. That message would sound a bit hollow, though, since charity begins at home, and the Netherlands are being advised to throw more money at pre-emptive Gold deals instead of just mandating preventive Green.

And last, the author: Leo has already once cited a "survey" which, he suggested, demonstrated that Dutch authors will not self-archive their refereed final drafts because what they want is publishers' PDFs. The evidence? That a survey asked authors whether they would rather give/get free access to authors' refereed final drafts or to publishers' proprietary PDFs! (It did not ask whether they would rather have access to nothing rather than the author's refereed final draft, since most publishers don't let authors provide free access to the publisher's proprietary PDF!)

By exactly the same token, Leo now tells as that authors prefer to have someone else do their self-archiving and pay for free access to their articles, rather than doing either the keying or the paying themselves. Well what a surprise!

But what if authors were instead asked whether they would do the keying if it were Green OA were mandated by their institution or funder? (Alma Swan has already done the survey, and 95% respond that they would do it, 81% of them willingly; and Arthur Sale has since confirmed that they actually do as they say, when actually mandated.)


Stevan Harnad said...

And what if authors were asked whether they would rather see $1500 per article paid to Springer by their institutions or their funders, to spare them the keying? Would they rather have that, or more free access to/for more than just Springer-paid Gold OA articles? Would they perhaps rather see that extra money left to fund more research? or even to pay for more subscriptions so they could access more articles until everyone gets around to mandating Green OA?

The devil is in the real details, and the real contingencies. And Leo Waaijers' library-budget-centred view of what constitutes a good "deal" ("half the list price!") unfortunately obscures the reality, and especially the real needs of research and researchers.

leo waaijers said...

Hopefully it is possible to agree on at least one thing: third parties do have enough information by now to decide on their own between the Green route and the Springer route.

Stevan Harnad said...


"Third parties" to the Green route and the "Springer" route?

The "route" is to OA.

The Green route to OA is self-archiving, by authors, of their own peer-reviewed articles.

The Gold route to OA is publishing, by authors, in Gold OA journals.

Springer is a publisher that offers authors the option of taking the Gold route by paying for hybrid Gold OA.

An author can decide to take the Green route or the Gold route to make his article OA.

An author's institution or funder can mandate that the author take the Green route (by mandating self-archiving).

An author's institution or funder can subsidize (but not mandate!) the author's taking the Gold route (by offering funds to pay for Gold OA, if the author decides to publish in a Gold OA journal).

But who are the "third parties... decid(ing) on their own between the Green route and the 'Springer' route"?

Is this just another way of saying that those in charge of the institutional library budget (or the funder's research budget) decide to subsidise Springer's Hybrid Gold OA (or, as the Chinese Academy of Sciences has just decided, equally foolishly: to subsidise BMC "membership")? And that the institution (or funder) decides not to (or does not decide to) mandate Green OA?

In other words, "third party decision" is merely a complicated (and somewhat misleading) way of renaming the issue that is under discussion here, not analyzing it!

Meanwhile, the substantive point that Leo has still neither answered nor even touched upon (in invoking "third party" decisional prerogatives) is:

Institutions that decide to subsidise Gold OA without mandating Green OA are making a very bad, short-sighted decision -- IF the goal is (1) OA for the institution's own total research output and/or (2) global OA (rather than what might look superficially like a library subscription deal at "half of list price," but has next to nothing to do with OA, local or global -- and wastes a lot of money (and time!) in the bargain).

Richard Poynder said...


Thanks very much for challenging my statement about the growth of OA journals, which has given me cause to reflect.

It seems that counting journals in DOAJ is not as helpful as it might seem when trying to gauge the growth of Gold OA (so knowing that there are 100 more, or 100 less, journals in DOAJ is not that helpful).

What is key is to count OA articles, not journals. But how accurately can that be done? And who is doing it?

Stuart Shieber said...

A minor clarification: To concede is to "admit that something is true or valid after first denying or resisting it." (Oxford American Dictionaries) Richard Poynder says that I "conceded on [my] blog: '[T]he Harvard open-access policy could not be, should not be, and is not a mandate. I've tried to be very careful never to refer to it as a mandate (though I can’t promise I've never slipped up).'" Since I have never to my knowledge denied or resisted the proposition that the Harvard open-access policy is not a mandate, and in fact "tried to be very careful never to refer to it as a mandate", my statement was not a concession, but rather a simple assertion.

Richard Poynder said...

I thank Stuart Shieber for his clarification. I note on his blog Professor Shieber also says that "true open-access mandates" must come "from outside academia"; specifically, from funders and governments. "They have a stick. All a university, school, or dean has, in the end, is a carrot."

Some might argue that the mandate introduced at Liège University is a true mandate. If correct, perhaps the difference is that the mandate at Liège was imposed from above, by Rector Bernard Rentier. Could top-down mandates provide a better solution?

The test, of course, will be in the respective levels of compliance.

Richard Poynder said...

I've had a request to add a link to the Liège University mandate.
Here it is.

Unknown said...

Bentham Science Publishers has always been a serious STM publisher operating in the industry for the last 25 years. We have a collection of 122 subscription-based journals, 240 Open Access titles and over 300 eBooks, 260 of which are Scopus indexed.

37 Bentham Science journals have impact factors, some of which are the leading titles in their respective fields. Our flagship
publications include “Current Gene Therapy” (I.F. 5.318), Current Drug Metabolism (I.F.:4.405), “Current Molecular Medicine” (I.F. 4.197), “Current Medicinal Chemistry” (I.F. 4.07), “Current Cancer Drug Targets” (I.F. 4.00) and “Current Drug Targets” (I.F. 3.848).

A stringent, standardized review process is followed for all our publications. The Editors of our journals enjoy complete freedom to exercise their authority subject to our standard quality control procedures. We use the Ithenticate System to detect Plagiarism of any kind and have a clear policy on any interests being publicly declared by all authors.

The article in question in our Open Physics Chemistry Journal was published many years ago and went through the standard review process and was approved by the neutral reviewers. The authors stand by their article and research work and have responded promptly to any queries about it.

Bentham Science processes about 20,000 articles for publication each year, which is proof of our quality control system’s credibility that this article as well as several other attempts were caught. There are always some people who have axe to grind or who want to extort money from organization like us. Large number of authors, editors and board members have endorsed the quality of our publications and our organization. Please view

Richard Poynder said...

Thank you for your comment Faizan ul haq. You don’t say exactly who you are, but I think you work for Bentham Science Publishers, in advertising and marketing?

I am puzzled at your reference to the paper cited in the above post. You say that the authors “stand by their article and research work” but, as I understand it, there were no authors, since it was a computer-generated paper, and accepted not by Bentham’s Open Physics Chemistry Journal, but by The Open Information Science Journal. In fact, I cannot find an Open Physics Chemistry Journal. Perhaps you could clarify?

I also cannot find Bentham listed as a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association ( Can you say whether Bentham has applied to join? If not, does it intend to?

Finally, I would be grateful if you could provide some information about the ownership of Bentham. Is it a private company? If so, who owns it, and where is it registered. I cannot find this information on the web site.

By the way, the link in your post does not seem to exist. Can you clarify that too?