Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Where are we, what still needs to be done? Stevan Harnad on the state of Open Access

The interview below is the second in a series exploring the current state of Open Access (OA) and what the priorities ought to be going forward. It is with self-styled archivangelist Stevan Harnad, who is currently Canada Research Chair in cognitive science at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and professor of web science at the University of Southampton.

In 1994 Harnad posted an online message calling on all researchers to archive their papers on the Internet in order to make them freely accessible to their peers — a strategy that later became known as Green Open Access, or self-archiving. The message — which Harnad headed “The Subversive Proposal” — initiated a series of online exchanges, many of which were subsequently collected and published as a book in 1995.

Harnad was also one of the small group of people who attended the 2001 Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI). It was in Budapest that the term Open Access was coined, and a definition first agreed upon.

The first interview in this series was with palaeontologist and computer programmer Mike Taylor, and can be read here.
 
Stevan Harnad
Q: What in your view have been the major achievements of the OA movement since you posted the Subversive Proposal on a mailing list in 1994?

A: The creation of institutional OA repositories and the adoption of mandates by institutions and funders to deposit in them — the Liège model mandate especially, and, if it is adopted, the proposed HEFCE/REF mandate.

Q: What have been the main disappointments?

A: Growth of mandates is still too slow, and it is still too often not the most effective mandate (Liège/HEFCE) that is adopted. (The Finch Committee recommendation to downgrade Green OA self-archiving and finance Gold OA fee payment also set things back, in the UK at least. Disappointing because the UK had been in the worldwide lead previously, on OA.)

Repeated setbacks have also come — and are still coming — from “Gold Fever” (the mistaken notion that OA means Gold OA publishing, and that the goal of OA is not OA, but OA publishing, because Green OA is not “real” OA, or not OA enough) and from “Rights Rapture” (the mistaken impression that “Gratis OA” — free online access — is not important enough to focus on getting OA first: we must have “Libre OA” — free online access plus various re-use/re-mix-re-publication rights — at all costs, even if the cost is not having Gratis OA till we can get Libre OA). 

Gold Fever and Rights Rapture have both been holding us back from OA in exactly the same way: They have held us back from grasping the Gratis, Green OA that is already fully within reach of mandates, and kept us over-reaching instead for still more, which is still beyond our grasp. Worst of all: (1) Neither Gold OA nor Libre OA are urgently needed today (the latter perhaps only by a few specialty fields) whereas Gratis OA has been urgently needed by all for decades. (2) And if only the Gold OA and Libre OA enthusiasts could set aside their impatience long enough to let 100% Green Gratis OA prevail thanks to mandates, they would have their Gold and Libre OA more quickly and surely that way then if they keep on over-reaching for it pre-emptively now, at the expense of Green Gratis OA.

Q: There has always been a great deal of discussion (and disagreement) about Green and Gold OA. In light of recent developments (e.g. the OSTP memorandum, the RCUK OA policy, and the European Research Council guidelines on OA) what would you say are the respective roles that Green and Gold OA should be playing today?

A: Green OA should be effectively and globally mandated by institutions and funders worldwide first, rather than pre-emptively double-paying (essential subscription journals + Gold OA fees) for today’s vastly over-priced Gold (and even allowing hybrid Gold publishers to double-dip). In my view, all that pre-emptive Gold today is Fools Gold.

Only after Green OA has prevailed worldwide and thus made it possible for institutions to cancel subscriptions should (a fraction of) the institutional subscription savings be used to pay (not double-pay) for the much lower-priced, affordable, sustainable Fair Gold that universally mandating Green will have made possible:

Universal Green makes all articles OA, thereby making subscriptions unsustainable, forcing publishers to cut needless costs and downsize to managing peer review alone. No more demand for a print edition. No more demand for an online edition. All access-provision and archiving offloaded onto the global network of institutional OA repositories.

Q: What about Hybrid OA?

A: A waste of money (and time). Subscription journals price their hybrid OA in such a way as to keep their total subscription + Gold OA revenue constant (or increasing, if they double-dip). If we bought into this, it would protect them from ever having to do the downsizing that would be by far the cheapest and best for research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the public that funds the research.

Hybrid Gold is double-paid, over-priced, unnecessary and potentially also double-dipped Fools-Gold. It delays reaching 100% OA by holding it hostage to publishers’ current revenue streams.

You didn’t ask about publishers’ embargoes on Green OA, but it’s time that everyone understood that those embargoes (now gratuitously given new gravitas by Finch/RCUK’s folly) — far from being natural or necessary in order to prevent catastrophic collapse of journal publishing and peer review, as publishers keep pretending, in performances worthy of Chicken Little — are in reality publishers’ ploy to keep holding research-access hostage to publishers’ prevailing revenue streams for as long as possible, and to prevent online publishing from evolving naturally to the post-Green Fair Gold, that the online medium itself has made possible.

Q: How would you characterise the current state of OA, both in the UK and internationally?

A: Compared to where it might have reached since the early 1990’s, OA’s current state is needlessly, shamefully retarded, worldwide. But the transition to the optimal and inevitable seems to be accelerating, at long last.

The UK, which has led with both institutional and funder mandates since the early 2000’s, was soon joined by the EU and the US (especially the Harvard and OSTP mandates). Last year, the UK lost its lead with the Finch fiasco and the RCUK ruckus, but HEFCE/REF may now be remedying that. Australia and Canada have been coming along too. Asia has been slow to awaken, despite some hopeful signs from India, Indonesia and China.

Once the funder mandates are adopted, optimized and effectively implemented worldwide, the next really big wave will come from the slumbering giant of OA, the institutions (universities and research institutes worldwide), for they are the universal providers of all research output, funded and unfunded, across all disciplines. Once they are up to speed too, we will have the 100% OA we could (and should) have had two decades ago.

Q: What still needs to be done, and by whom?

A: Research funders all need to mandate (require) that the final, refereed, accepted draft of every journal article must be deposited in the fundee’s institutional repository immediately upon acceptance for publication (whether or not access to the article is made immediately OA) as a condition for research funding. Publisher embargoes on making access to the deposit OA, if allowed at all, should not be allowed to be longer than six months — and during any OA embargo, the repository’s eprint request Button should be implemented to provide individual copies to users who request them.

Funder mandates should on no account require institution-external deposit. Metadata (or full-text) can be automatically harvested, imported or exported where needed. Institutional deposit engages institutions in monitoring and ensuring timely compliance with funder mandates, and it also gives institutions a strong incentive to adopt complementary institutional mandates of their own, for all their research output not covered by funder mandates. Institutions and funders should also designate repository deposit as the sole mechanism for submitting publications for institutional performance review or national research assessment, as in the Liège model and the proposed HEFCE/REF model.

Q: What in your view is the single most important task that the OA movement should focus on today?

A: The creation of institutional OA repositories and the adoption of mandates by institutions and funders to deposit in them – the Liège model and HEFCE/REF models.

Q: What does OA have to offer the developing world?

A: Exactly the same thing it offers the developed world — maximal research access, uptake, usage, applications, impact, productivity and progress — except that the Have-Not nations need it all the more desperately.

Let us not forget, though, that there are plenty of Have-Not institutions in the developed world too — and that even the Harvards cannot afford access to all the journals their users mi      ght need; nor does the research output of Harvard authors reach all of its potential users, in either the developing or the developed world.

OA is win-win for the entire global research community.

Q: What are your expectations for OA in 2013?

A: I’ve long exhausted my expectations across the past two and a half decades; all I have left is the hope that the worldwide research community will at long last come to its senses and realize that 100% OA is (and has been) fully within their reach, so all they need do is grasp it.

Q: Will OA in your view be any less expensive than subscription publishing? If so, why/how? Does cost matter anyway?

A: Yes, I do think it will be much cheaper, because it will just be the cost of managing peer review. Researchers do all the rest for free already. Journals will continue to manage the peer review, but the costs of print and PDF will be gone, and the costs of access-provision and archiving will have been offloaded onto the distributed network of institutional OA repositories. (And peer review, being a service, not a product, will be provided and paid for per round of review, regardless of outcome — acceptance, revision or rejection — instead of wrapping the cost of rejected articles into the price of accepted articles.)

But I have to remind everyone that OA means Open Access. It is about refereed research access, not about journal affordability. The accessibility problem and the affordability problem, though not entirely unconnected, are not the same problem. So once we reach 100% Green OA, my OA work is done. I am confident it will soon lead to a transition to Fair-Gold OA, copyright reform, publishing reform, Libre OA and all the re-use rights users need and authors wish to provide. But OA is OA, even if universal Green does not make subscriptions unsustainable — it will just make affordability no longer a life or death issue for institutions and their researchers.

But first the research community needs to grasp what is already within its reach: The creation of institutional OA repositories and the adoption of mandates by institutions and funders to deposit in them — the Liège model and HEFCE/REF models.

———

A longer 2007 interview with Stevan Harnad can be read here.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

This and the Mike Taylor piece yesterday aren't 'interviews', they're puff pieces free of the critical analysis of your other (real) interviews. Balance please.

Open & Shut said...

Thanks for the comment. I am hoping that I can get other people with different views to contribute as well, including publishers.

As it happens, this anonymous message appears to have been posted by someone who works for a large scholarly publisher. Why not step into the limelight and answer 10 questions yourself?

After all, some would argue that a complete picture of the current situation can only be properly arrived at if everyone joins the debate and diversity of opinion is achieved. Let everyone have their own puff piece I say.

Open & Shut said...

I should add that publishers often ask me why most of my interviews are with OA advocates and not publishers. The answer is that when I invite publishers to do interviews they are generally reluctant. When they do agree, they usually want to talk about their products, not about the issues, which makes for a far less interesting interview.

Mike Taylor said...

Dear anonymous large-publisher employee,

It's strange that you would complain about lack of balance when the two interviews in this series so far seem to disagree on virtually every detail of how to proceed towards OA.

Unless by "balance" you mean you want to hear an anti-OA voice. But it would take courage for anyone who was anti-OA to step forward and make his or her opinions public.

Unknown said...

+1 for @MikeTaylor. In these interviews Richard asked for opinions - e.g. "what have been the majr disappointments"? This can only be subjective.

Stevan Harnad says "(1) Neither Gold OA nor Libre OA are urgently needed today (the latter perhaps only by a few specialty fields)". For me as a practising scientist full rights of re-use are critical. Stevan regards this as marginal and that I should sacrifice this for the greater good of 100% Green OA - and only then should we address rights.

This are sociopolitical views - we differ strongly and absolutely. Stevan has promoted Green-over rights for at least 5 years. I am equally strongly insisting on rights as fundamental. Given Stevan's consistent adherence to his views (after he diverged from full BOAI compliance) I don't expect to convert him - I and associates am aiming to influence others that rights (such as CC-BY/0) really matter.

I shall be blogging on Mike's points (which I think are completely compatible with my own views) but which need expanding at http://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2013/07/02/mike-taylors-brilliant-analysis-of-openaccess/ and following.

Peter Murray-Rust said...

"Unknown" in last comment is Peter Murray-Rust - the wordpress login dropped my credentials

Stevan Harnad said...

Practical Priorities

(Actually I've been archivangelizing for Gratis Green OA (free online access) for over 20 years. But Peter and I go back about 8.)

@Peter Murray-Rust: "For me as a practising scientist full rights of re-use are critical. Stevan regards this as marginal and that I should sacrifice this for the greater good of 100% Green OA - and only then should we address rights… I and associates am [sic] aiming to influence others that rights (such as CC-BY/0) really matter."

Peter is of course entitled and welcome to try to influence others that Libre OA (i.e., free online access + re-use rights) really matters. But I think he is rather overstating the case when he says "as a practising scientist" that re-use rights are "critical":

I don't doubt that in Peter's field (crystallography) they are critical.

But in all fields of science and scholarship?

And more critical or urgent than online access to research for all users, rather than just subscribers?

Because the fact is that Libre OA is a good deal harder to get than Gratis OA; and that Gratis OA is part of Libre OA. And athat fter 20 years we don't yet have Gratis OA.

Gratis OA can be mandated (by institutions and funders), because all authors want to provide it (even if they daren't do so unless mandated) and all users need it.

Libre OA cannot be mandated, because not all authors want to provide it; nor do all users need it.

But since Gratis OA is a necessary component of Libre OA, it is likely that the surest and fastest way to get all the Libre OA that users need and that authors want to provide is by mandating Gratis OA first.

Peter is free to find a surer and faster way, if he knows one. I don't.

Anonymous said...

Stevan Harnad - "Because the fact is that Libre OA is a good deal harder to get than Gratis OA; and that Gratis OA is part of Libre OA. And athat fter 20 years we don't yet have Gratis OA."

Hardly. It is easier to get [Libre] OA, than public [free] access - providing you are prepared to pay for it.

"Gratis OA can be mandated (by institutions and funders), because all authors want to provide it (even if they daren't do so unless mandated) and all users need it."

Technically, you can issue any mandate you like. But mandates can not supersede the law - so self-archiving can only exist to the extent that copyright holders are willing to accept, regardless of what mandates may be in place.

"Libre OA cannot be mandated, because not all authors want to provide it; nor do all users need it."

Anybody willing to pay the APCs - and certainly any funder willing to pay the APCs can certainly mandate [libre] OA. Whoever is paying for the research has the right to set the terms, including how the outputs should be delivered.

It doesn't matter whether all users need open rights. They all benefit from having free, immediate access. And it only takes one person to add value to the content from having open rights, for everyone to benefit - even if they aren't making use of the open rights themselves.

Mike Taylor said...

Anonymous says:

"Technically, you can issue any mandate you like. But mandates can not supersede the law - so self-archiving can only exist to the extent that copyright holders are willing to accept, regardless of what mandates may be in place."

This is true. But remember that authors are the copyright holders until they gift the copyright to a publisher. So a mandate can certainly say "authors, do not give your copyright to publishers who don't allow immediate CC By-licenced posting on institutional repositories".

Under such conditions, publishers would either have to accept donated manuscripts on the funders' prescribed terms; or, in a fit of pique, decline these donations altogether. That outcome would hurt no-one but the publisher in question, who would be getting exactly what they deserve.

The bottom line is the funders hold the purse-strings, and therefore the power. I want to see them wielding it more strongly. http://svpow.com/2013/06/19/funders-have-all-the-power-in-oa-negotiations-so-why-arent-they-using-it/

Stevan Harnad said...

Immediate-Deposit Mandates

Reply to Anonymous:

1. Yes, anybody can pay APCs for Libre Gold OA. But not everybody has the money, and not everybody wants to spend it on paying to publish, especially while research money is so scarce and so much already has to be spent on paying publishers for subscriptions to Must-Have journals. (Nor do all authors wish to choose a journal for its business model rather than its track-record for peer-review standards.)

2. Yes, some copyright agreements are designed to prevent or embargo Green Gratis OA, but all authors can comply with immediate-deposit mandates, at least 60% can provide immediate OA even if they elect to comply with a publisher embargo, and the remaining 40% can provide Almost-OA during any embargo via their institutional repository's email eprint request Button. (And around 100% of high-energy physicists and astrophysicists have been providing immediate Green Gratis OA irrespective of copyright agreements for nearly a quarter century, uncontested.)

3. Mandates requiring authors (a) to pay APCs for Gold OA, (b) to give up their freedom to choose journals, or (c) to provide re-use rights they don't want to provide all invite author resistance, as the sorry saga of the Finch/RCUK policy is showing. In contrast, there is no author resistance to cost-free immediate-deposit plus the optional use of the eprint-request Button, while retaining both journal choice and the prerogative to comply or not comply with publisher embargoes as well as the prerogative to provide or not provide further re-use rights. (And this compromise immediate-deposit mandate is also the surest and fastest way to reach 100% Green Gratis OA, which in turn makes possible a transition to Fair-Gold OA and as much Libre OA as authors wish to provide, and users need, instead of double-paying for pre-Green Fool's Gold pre-emptively today.)

Anonymous said...

"(And around 100% of high-energy physicists and astrophysicists have been providing immediate Green Gratis OA irrespective of copyright agreements for nearly a quarter century, uncontested.)"

High energy physics are rather an outlier here. Plus, the vast majority is pre-print, and NOT updated to even include the publication's citation details, let alone the post-print.

It's completely wrong equate pre- and post- prints. They often have very different ownership.

http://www.councilscienceeditors.org/files/presentations/2009/Ingoldsby.pdf

"retaining both journal choice and the prerogative to comply or not comply with publisher embargoes as well as the prerogative to provide or not provide further re-use rights."

1. There is no prerogative here. You might choose to not comply with an embargo, but you do not have any right to do so.

2. You can not grant any re-use rights beyond the rights that you have retained.

Mike Taylor said...

Anonymous writes:

"It's completely wrong equate pre- and post- prints. They often have very different ownership."

Only after we give away postprints. That's why it's important to deposit them under a specific irrevocable licence before signing all rights over to the publisher.

"2. You can not grant any re-use rights beyond the rights that you have retained."

Right. Which is why it's important not to give all your right away to barrier-merchants.

Stevan Harnad said...

Ad Anonymous (Publisher, Obviously)

1. Arxiv depositors deposit both unrefereed preprints and refereed, revised postprints, and have been doing so all along (since 1991). (Not the publisher's PDF, but who cares?)

Authors in other disciplines (varying from 5% to 35%+) do likewise, in their own institutional repositories and websites (Gargouri et al 2012).

2. Yes, authors may choose not to comply with publisher OA embargoes or rights restrictions. But if they choose to comply, that's what the immediate-deposit mandates and the eprint-request Button are for.

Gargouri, Yassine, Lariviere, Vincent, Gingras, Yves, Carr, Les and Harnad, Stevan (2012) Green and Gold Open Access Percentages and Growth, by Discipline. In: 17th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (STI), 5-8 September, 2012, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Montréal. http://arxiv.org/abs/1206.3664

Harnad, Stevan (2013) Comments on HEFCE/REF Open Access Mandate Proposal. Open access and submissions to the REF post-2014 http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/349893/

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2012) Open Access Mandates and the "Fair Dealing" Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.) http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/18511/