Comments: What's holding Open Access publishing back?


Yes, it is an indisputable fact that open access (OA) is not growing nearly as quickly as it can and should, despite (1) OA's equally indisputable benefits to research, researchers, research institutions, research funders, the R&D industry, and the tax-paying public that supports the research, and despite (2) the likewise indisputable fact that 100% OA is fully and easily within the reach of the worldwide research community at no extra cost and only a extra few keystrokes' worth of effort.

But one of the big things holding back OA progress is calling it, thinking of it and treating it as "OA publishing." It is not. OA means providing free online access to research journal articles, but trying to reform publishing by converting the journals into OA journals ("Gold OA") is just one of the ways to provide OA, and certainly neither the simplest, the easiest, the surest, the fastest nor the most direct way.

The simplest, easiest, surest, fastest and most direct way of making journal articles OA is for their authors to make them freely accessible online by self-archiving them on the web, free for all, immediately upon acceptance for publication by whatever journal they publish them in ("Green OA").

Yes, it still remains a puzzle -- indeed a koan -- why authors have not been doing this spontaneously, ever since the advent of the web, of their own accord. (Only about 20% of them have been doing so.) The persistent misconception and misrepresentation of OA as being synonymous with just Gold OA publishing is one of the reasons ("gold fever").

And yes, providing more information, and more accurate information, rather than misinformation to the researcher-authors and the research community certainly helps. But neither information-gathering (through researcher surveys) nor information dissemination (through researcher alerting) will solve the problem of the glacially slow growth of OA. Nor will further brain-storming among "stake-holders" -- (1) researchers, (2) their institutional management, (3) their institutional libraries, (4) their research funders, (5) the tax-payers who support the research and, least of all, (6) publishers (who are not really stake-holders in OA and its benefits at all, but just service-providers trying to preserve their current, ample revenue streams while trying to avoid conflict with their authors' expressed and perceived interests).

The solution to the problem of authors' slowness in providing OA spontaneously is already known, and has already been tried, tested, and proven to work: institutions (2) and funders (4) need to mandate (i.e., require) Green OA self-archiving by their researchers (1) for their own good, as well as for the good of research impact and progress:

After 20 years of needless, cumulative loss in research impact and progress, there's no need for still more surveys and soul-searching. The hand-writing is on the wall (not in the anecdotal musings of an individual surveyed chemist or classicist):

Green OA self-archiving simply has to be made into official policy by the only two stake-holders in a position to do so: institutions (2) and funders (4). Librarians (3) already know this; researchers (1) are clearly waiting for an official policy from their institutions and funders, making Green OA self-archiving mandatory in the online era, otherwise they will not bother (or dare) to do it for yet another 20 years; tax-payers (5) can do nothing directly; and publishers (6) are just reluctantly along for the ride: Mandating Green OA is in the hands of the research community alone.


Stevan Harnad
EnablingOpenScholarship (EOS)

Posted by Stevan Harnad at October 5, 2011 1:50 PM

Thanks for this, Stevan. It reminds me of the fairly extended exchange we had a few months ago in the comments of the blog post you link to (which indeed I had in mind when writing the post above). Believe me, I do hear and feel your frustration, though I'm not sure I can ease it.

Posted by David Jennings at October 5, 2011 4:40 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?