[Taxacom] FW: [SOAN] SPARC Open Access Newsletter, 9/2/07; anti open access arguments and their rebuttal
agosti at amnh.org
Sun Sep 2 16:06:23 CDT 2007
For all interested in the status of the debate and direction of open access
in scientific publications, here is a very complete rebuttal of the
publishers trade association and lobbying coalition objections against open
access. Peter Suber, the author of the text below, is one of the most
important advocate of open access.
It is well worth reading because of the concise arguments made, but also,
because it shows, in my view the very narrow, business oriented politics of
the publishers only aiming to guarantee their income and profits, and not to
operate even partially in the interest for those whose content they sell.
This includes even the distortion of the argument - in this case peer review
- to influence the politicians and policy makers to make decisions clearly
not in favor of the scientific community and all the tax payers.
This debate is clearly of interest to the taxonomic community and all those
envisioning a Web2.0 environment, where each of the publications is a small,
indispensable part of a growing Web of Knowledge. Publications, especially
if they are properly hyperlinked with the underlying data and databases,
GBIF, Zoobank, etc., play a crucial role in its development.
From: SPARC Open Access Newsletter [mailto:SPARC-OANews at arl.org] On Behalf
Of Peter Suber
Sent: Sunday, September 02, 2007 7:07 PM
To: SPARC Open Access Newsletter
Subject: [SOAN] SPARC Open Access Newsletter, 9/2/07
The SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #113
September 2, 2007
by Peter Suber
Read this issue online
SOAN is published and sponsored by the Scholarly
Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC).
Additional support is provided by Data Conversion
Laboratory (DCL), experts in converting research documents to XML.
Will open access undermine peer review?
As soon as governments started contemplating
policies to ensure open access to publicly-funded
research, publisher trade associations and
lobbying coalitions objected that the policies
would undermine peer review. Here are some recent examples from the US:
From the Association of American Publishers
(AAP) in May 2006, opposing the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA):
>If enacted, S.2695 could well have the
>unintended consequence of compromising or
>destroying the independent system of peer review
>that ensures the integrity of the very research
>the U.S. Government is trying to support and disseminate.
From the DC Principles Coalition in February 2007, opposing FRPAA:
>Subscriptions to journals with a high percentage
>of federally funded research would decline
>rapidly. Subscription revenues support the
>quality control system known as peer review....
From the Brussels Declaration in February 2007,
organized by the Association of Learned and
Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) and
International Association of Scientific,
Technical & Medical Publishers (STM), opposing a
proposed OA mandate for the EU:
>Open deposit of accepted manuscripts risks
>destabilising subscription revenues and undermining peer review.
From the AAP/PSP's new lobbying organization,
PRISM, in August 2007, opposing government OA mandates:
>[OA policies] would jeopardize the financial
>viability of the journals that conduct peer
>review, placing the entire scholarly communication process at risk.
We don't know how many individual publishers
share the objection. Most have been silent,
neither publicly endorsing nor publicly
criticizing this claim by their trade
associations and lobbyists. A recent exception
is Rockefeller University Press, which publicly
dissociated itself from the AAP/PSP's PRISM
campaign, including the claimed threat to peer review.
For convenience, I'll refer to those who raise
this objection as the publisher trade
associations or lobbyists. I can't use the
shorter term "publishers" because so few have
taken a position on it. Publishers are not
monolithic, even if their lobbyists want to
appear to speak for all of them. While some
publishers do support the objection, some reject
it, and a growing number of publishers embrace both OA and peer review.
Whenever I've seen publisher lobbyists raise the
objection in public, I've blogged it along with a
short, blog-length answer. But for once I want
to answer the objection at length. I have three
reasons. First, the brevity of my blog responses
hasn't allowed me to show the answer at full
strength. Second, the launch of PRISM, and its
focus on this objection, suggest that publisher
lobbyists are about to escalate their use of
it. Third, I'm tired of keying new blog
responses to this old canard and don't want to
have to do it every time lobbyists repeat
it. Writing new rebuttals even to old and
unargued objections makes us vulnerable to anyone
who wants to yank our chain. It's much better to
write a thorough rebuttal once and link to it as
needed. It strengthens the response, saves time, and cuts the chain.
(1) First note that the publisher associations
who raise the objection usually have no problem
with *low-volume* OA archiving. They don't think
it undermines subscriptions, revenue, or peer
review, and most publishers have already adopted
policies to permit it. The objection does not
target OA archiving as such, or spontaneous
levels of author self-archiving, but only
policies that would significantly increase the volume of OA archiving.
(2) The objection is not that funder OA policies
ask researchers to bypass peer review. On the
contrary, funder OA policies uniformly support
peer review and encourage publication in
peer-reviewed journals. This fact is well-known
among the friends and foes of OA, but I mention
it for completeness in case newcomers to the debate did not know it.
(3) Just as the funder OA policies do not ask
authors by bypass peer review, they do not ask
referees, editors, journals, or publishers to use
any particular form of peer review, to lower
their standard of peer review, or to change their
methods of peer review. The funder OA policies
leave the methods and standards of peer review
entirely up to the journals where
authors/grantees choose to publish their work.
Again, these facts are well-known to those
familiar with the OA policies. I mention them
not only for newcomers, but because some
statements by the publishing lobby have muddied
the waters. For example, just last week Rachel
Deahl wrote in Publishers Weekly,
>PRISM members are concerned that if government
>becomes involved in the publication of
>scientific and scholarly work, changing the
>standard peer review process that has long been
>in place, the work could lose its integrity. As
>Dr. Brian Crawford, chairman of the [Association
>of American Publishers'] Professional &
>Scholarly Publishing Division explained,
>changing the peer review process could
>ultimately open the gates for "agenda-driven research and bad science."
If Crawford is really talking about government
policies to change the methods of peer review,
then he's fighting without an antagonist. There
are no such policies and no policy-makers or OA
advocates to support them. If he's talking about
policies to encourage or require OA archiving,
then he's changing the subject and leaving a
false impression, much as if an oil company
opposed steps to reduce greenhouse gases on the
ground that reducing automobile safety would
ultimately open the gates for injury and death.
Since the NIH policy was proposed in 2004,
publisher lobbyists have objected that it would
"nationalize science", by which they seemed to
mean that governments would take over the job of
doing or managing peer review --and then corrupt
it under political pressure from elected
officials. Crawford's statement echoes this
older concern. But the concern is easily
answered by reading the policies and recognizing
that nothing in them allows governments to take
over or modify either of these jobs. The
policies regulate grantees, not publishers. They
concern OA repositories, not OA journals. They
focus on archiving work peer-reviewed and
published elsewhere, not changing where or how
work is peer-reviewed and published. They leave
every aspect of peer review up to independent
(i.e. non-government) journals. If peer review
at independent journals is corrupted or
politicized, it will be entirely the fault of the
journals themselves. The real-life examples of
ideological control over government scientists by
the Bush administration are not examples of OA
policies at work and would even be prevented by effective OA policies.
The only plausible form of the publishing lobby's
objection is about defunding peer review, not
corrupting, politicizing, or nationalizing peer
review, and from here I'll focus on that form of the objection.
(4) Publisher lobbyists who object that
high-volume OA archiving will undermine peer
review are never specific in explaining why or
how. But they seem to be thinking about a
three-link chain of causation: high-volume OA
archiving will cause libraries to cancel journal
subscriptions, which will in turn cause journals
to lose revenue, which will in turn cause the
journals to fold up and therefore to cease
providing peer review. At least that's the form
of the objection to which I'll respond here.
(5) The first problem with the imagined chain of
causation lies in the first link, the assumption
that OA will trigger cancellations. Maybe it will; maybe it won't.
The evidence to date is that it won't. Physics
is the field with the highest level and longest
history of OA archiving. Physicists have been
self-archiving in arXiv for 16 years, far longer
than in any other field. In some subfields, like
particle physics, the OA archiving rate
approaches 100%, far higher than in any other
field. If high-volume OA archiving caused
journal cancellations, we should expect to see it
first in physics. But we don't see it at
all. Two leading publishers of physics journals,
the American Physical Society (APS) and Institute
of Physics (IOP), have publicly acknowledged that
they've seen no cancellations attributable to OA
archiving. In fact, the APS and IOP have not
only made peace with arXiv, but they now accept
submissions from it and even host their own mirrors of it.
American Physical Society (APS)
Institute of Physics (IOP)
APS mirror of arXiv (launched December 1999)
IOP mirror of arXiv (launched September 2006)
Alma Swan's interview with the APS in IOP in
which "both societies said they could not
identify any losses of subscriptions" due to OA archiving.
Other fields may have a different experience,
however. For fields that turn out to be like
physics, toll-access (TA) journals will coexist
with high-volume OA archiving and perhaps even
become symbiotic with it. For fields that turn
out to differ from physics, high-volume OA
archiving might threaten some TA journals.
It would definitely help to understand why the
experience in physics has gone as it has and how
far it might predict the experience in other
fields. But, so far, it's fair to say that we
don't know the variables and that publisher
lobbyists are not among those showing a serious
interest in them. When publisher trade
associations argue that high-volume archiving
will undermine subscriptions, they don't
acknowledge the countervailing evidence from
physics, let alone rebut it or qualify their
conclusions in light of it. It would be more
honest and helpful if they would acknowledge the
evidence from physics and then argue, as well as
they could, that they have identified the
variables and can show that their members publish
in fields that are not like physics in the
relevant respects. I'm still waiting to see such an argument.
We don't know how many fields will turn out to be
like physics, but the real-world study that will
give us some answers is already under way. Five
of the seven Research Councils UK have adopted OA
mandates, and most of them took effect in October
2006. Together they go well beyond physics to
astronomy, biology, medicine, environmental
science, economics, and the social
sciences. Answers won't come quickly
though: authors must receive their grants, do
their research, write it up, and get it
published; then we must wait for the OA embargoes
to toll, for the volume of OA literature to grow,
and for the new, larger volume of OA literature
to have its effect, whatever it may be, on
library renewal decisions. But at least the
wheels are already turning and on a large
scale: there are also multi-disciplinary OA
mandates in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada,
France, Germany, Scotland, and Switzerland.
(Note to the EU, US, and other jurisdictions
considering an OA mandate: there are at least
nine national-level, multi-disciplinary OA
mandates and even more softer OA policies that
encourage OA without requiring it. These
constitute a large, ongoing natural
experiment. By all means look at the evidence,
but don't fall for the argument that we must
delay the adoption of new OA policies in order to
launch another, later, smaller study of the
effect of OA archiving on journal subscriptions.)
Although the publishing lobby ignores the
experience in physics, that experience isn't
unambiguously favorable for either friends or
foes of OA. It cuts both ways for both
camps. The good news for OA, and bad news for
publishers, is that the publishing lobby's
favorite argument is very weak. So far, fears
that high-volume OA archiving will kill journal
subscriptions are groundless outside physics and
contradicted inside physics --and physics is by
far the strongest test case. The bad news for
OA, and good news for publishers, is that even
the very high levels of OA archiving inside
physics does nothing to justify libraries in
cancelling TA journal subscriptions. So far, the
money needed to support peer-reviewed OA journals
on a large scale is still tied up in TA journal subscriptions.
Whenever I point out the evidence from physics, I
also argue that even if OA archiving does
threaten TA journals in other fields, OA mandates
are still justified. I'll make some of those
arguments below. But most of them are beyond the
scope of this note, which is limited to the
effect of OA mandates on subscriptions and peer review.
(6) Another reason to think that OA mandates will
not kill subscriptions is that they leave
standing at least four library incentives to subscribe.
First, all OA mandates include an embargo period
to protect publishers. For example, the OA
mandates at the Research Councils UK require OA
within six months after publication. The bill
now before Congress that would strengthen the NIH
policy from a request to a requirement would
allow an embargo period of 12 months. Libraries
that want to provide immediate access will still
have an incentive to subscribe.
Second, OA mandates only apply to the final
version of the author's peer-reviewed manuscript,
not to the published version. If the journal
provides copy editing after peer review, then the
policies do not apply to the copy-edited version,
let alone to the published PDF. Libraries that
want to provide access to published edition, or
the published version of the text, will still have an incentive to
Note what happens when we put the two previous
points together. The OA mandate, and its
associated embargo period, only apply to the
author's peer-reviewed manuscript. Publishers
retain life-of-copyright (virtually permanent)
exclusivity on the published edition. Hence, the
funder-mandated OA copies of the author's
peer-reviewed manuscript won't compete with
subscriptions for 6-12 months, and OA copies of
the more desirable published edition need never
compete with subscriptions. Even if OA archiving
does have harmful effects on subscriptions
outside physics, publishers have longer and
better protection from these effects than their lobbyists ever acknowledge.
Third, OA mandates only apply to research
articles, not to the many other kinds of content
published in scholarly journals, such as letters,
editorials, review articles, book reviews,
announcements, news, conference information, and
so on. Libraries that want to provide access to
these other contents will still have an incentive to subscribe.
Fourth, funder OA mandates only apply to articles
arising from research funded by the mandating
agency. Very few journals publish nothing but
articles from a single funder or even from a set
of funders all of whom have OA
mandates. Libraries that want to provide access
to all the research articles in a journal,
regardless of the source of funding, will still
have an incentive to subscribe. (This incentive
will weaken as more and more funders adopt OA
mandates; but we're very far from universal
funder mandates; unfunded research, which
predominates in many fields, will still fall
outside this category; and the other incentives above will still stand.)
Here's how the Association of College and
Research Libraries put the point in a November
2004 open letter on the NIH policy: "We wish to
emphasize, above all, that academic libraries
will not cancel journal subscriptions as a result
of this plan....Even if libraries wished to
consider the availability of NIH-funded articles
when making journal cancellation decisions, they
would have no reasonable way of determining what
articles in specific journals would become openly
accessible after the embargo period."
These four reasons do not guarantee that
high-volume OA archiving won't cause some
cancellations. They are merely reasons or
incentives for libraries to renew their
subscriptions, and libraries will evaluate them
in light of the reasons or incentives to cancel,
such as eventual OA to a subset of the articles,
rising prices, oppressive licensing terms, and
competition for limited budget dollars from
journals with better terms, higher impact, or
greater local usage. They aren't a decisive "no"
to the publishing lobby's slippery slope, just
cautions against its glib and oversimple "yes".
(7) Some studies bear on the question whether the
growing volume of OA archiving will trigger journal cancellations.
Publisher associations like to cite the
Publishing Research Consortium (PRC) study by
Chris Beckett and Simon Inger, Self-Archiving and
Journal Subscriptions: Co-existence or
Competition? An international Survey of
Librarians Preferences, October 26, 2006.
The PRC asked 400 librarians about the relative
weight of different factors in their decisions to
cancel subscriptions. Other things being equal,
the librarians preferred free content to priced
content, and short embargoes to longer
ones. Publisher lobbyists interpret this to mean
that the rise of OA archiving will cause a
decline in subscriptions. The chief flaw with
the study, however, is its artificiality. The
authors' attempt to eliminate bias also
eliminated realism. For example, they did not
ask about named journals but only about resources
with abstractly stipulated levels of quality and
reliability. They also disregarded faculty input
on cancellation decisions when all librarians
admit that faculty input is decisive. Other
things are never equal, and result was a study of
hypothetical preferences, not actual cancellation decisions.
Also see Steve Hitchcock's collection of other
objections to the PRC study and replies from Beckett and Inger.
A less hypothetical study was commissioned by
ALPSP and conducted by Mark Ware, ALPSP survey of
librarians on factors in journal cancellation, March 2006.
The study is not free, but ALPSP has published a free summary.
Quoting the summary: "The three most important
factors used to determine journals for
cancellation, in declining order of importance,
are that the faculty no longer require it (i.e.
relevance to research or teaching programme),
usage and price. Next, availability of the
content via open access (OA) archives and
availability via aggregators were ranked equal
fourth, but some way behind the first three
factors. The journal's impact factor and
availability via delayed OA were ranked
relatively unimportant....With regard to OA
archives, there was a great deal of support for
the idea that they would not directly impact journal subscriptions."
Bottom line: journals have much more to fear
from their own price increases than from OA
archiving. If raising the risk of cancellations
can be blamed for undermining peer review, then
publishers are far more guilty than funding agencies with OA mandates.
The studies that support the publishing lobby and
the studies that contradict it both show that
there are many factors behind journal
cancellations and many reasons to cancel
subscriptions that are entirely unrelated to the
rise of OA. In fact, most journals were already
suffering 5-10% attrition per year when OA was
new and negligible. If subscriptions continue to
fall as the volume of OA archiving continues to
rise, then it will be very difficult to
disentangle the factors and decide what part of
the attrition is attributable to OA. This
difficulty is aggravated by the fact that,
contrary to supply and demand in a healthy
market, journals respond to cancellations by
raising their prices, and high prices cause many
more cancellations than OA. But publisher
lobbyists are already blaming OA, with mounting
desperation, while systematically diverting
attention from their members' own
hyperinflationary price increases and their
cardinal role in causing journal
cancellations. As the difficult "disentangling
problem" gets more difficult, we should expect to
see even less care with evidence and even more OA scapegoating.
(8) There is evidence that OA archiving decreases
*downloads* from publishers' web sites. For
example, the ALPSP describes this phenomenon in
its April 2006 comments to the UK Gowers Commission.
The effect on downloads is understandable: many
users who know about both the OA and TA editions,
will prefer to click through to the OA edition
(e.g. because they aren't affiliated with a
subscribing institution or, even when they are,
because authentication can be a hassle), and many
users who only know about the OA edition will
stop looking. But it's important not to confuse
decreased downloads with decreased subscriptions.
I haven't seen any evidence that OA leads to
decreased downloads overall, that is, fewer
readers and less reading. On the contrary, the
same evidence that OA leads to more citation
impact shows that it leads to more readers and more reading.
But while shifting readership from the publisher
web site to an OA repository is compatible with
continued subscriptions and revenue, it can cause
other problems for journals. For example, it
could throw off the journal's traffic metrics,
which it uses to set advertising rates.
Insofar as publishers need accurate traffic data,
this problem can be solved if OA repositories
agree to share traffic data with publishers
(indeed, with everyone). Insofar as journals
need eyeballs on their own site to retain
advertisers, and not just data on eyeballs
elsewhere, this problem can be solved, or at
least mitigated, if publishers agree to post OA
copies to their own sites. After all, if there
are OA copies in repositories, publishers have
much to gain and nothing to lose by hosting their
own. If they host OA copies of the published
editions, and not just the final versions of the
authors' peer-reviewed manuscripts, they could
even steal traffic away from the OA repositories.
(9) Some subscription journals have found that OA
after an embargo period, even a very short one
like two months, actually *increases* submissions and subscriptions.
For example, this has been the experience of the
American Society for Cell Biology and its
journal, Molecular Biology of the Cell,
...and the experience of the MedKnow journals
(with TA print editions, full-text OA editions, and no embargoes),
In the face of the publishing lobby's unqualified
prediction of harm, it should be enough to point
out documented counterexamples of harmlessness
(APS, IOP, and physics generally) and benefit
(ASCB and MedKnow) to subscription
journals. When we trouble ourselves to look at
the evidence, we find that different journals in
different research niches will have different
experiences. All the examples I've cited have
been cited many times in the debate and yet the
most common response from the publisher lobbyists
and trade associations (for example, the response
from PRISM last week) is a mindless repetition of
unargued confidence in a self-serving prediction.
(10) There are two strong signs that many
publishers don't believe that OA mandates will
defund peer review. Their trade associations are
either out of touch with their members or deliberately distorting the
First, many publishers have tried to head off an
OA mandate at the NIH by encouraging grantees to
comply with the current, voluntary policy. They
understand that the very low compliance rate,
hovering at about 5%, is one of the strongest
arguments to adopt a mandate, and they have tried
to neutralize that argument by boosting
compliance. But either publishers don't expect
these efforts to succeed or they don't seriously
believe that increased compliance will defund them.
Second, many publishers provide OA to their back
issues, voluntarily, sometimes on the same
timetable as the OA mandates they
oppose. Sometimes they even provide OA to a
superior version (the published edition as
opposed to the peer-reviewed but unedited
author's manuscript) and to a wider scope of
content (all the articles in the journal, not
just the research articles or those funded by a
certain agency). If they seriously thought this
would defund them, they wouldn't do it.
I wish I could point to a comprehensive list of
publishers who provide voluntary OA to their
journals on the same timetable as the OA
mandates. But there isn't one. However,
Highwire gives us good data for Highwire-hosted
journals, mostly from society publishers.
As of August 30, 2007, here are the tallies of
Highwire-hosted subscription-based journals that
provide free online access after an embargo period or moving wall:
--after 2 months = 1 journal
--after 3 months = 6 journals
--after 4 months = 9 journals
--after 6 months = 18 journals
--after 12 months = 197 journals
(Omitting those with longer embargoes.)
Publishers who provide free online access on the
same timetable as the OA mandates, or even
sooner, don't object to OA itself or even
high-volume OA. And they certainly don't object
to the effect of delayed OA on revenue and peer
review. If they don't object to OA mandates
either, then their trade associations should
qualify their message and acknowledge the
dissenting voices. If they do object to OA
mandates, then the trade associations should
still adjust their message, though in a different
way, for the real concern of this group is not OA
threats to revenue and peer review, but OA
threats to publisher control over access.
(11) But even if publishers don't seriously
believe that OA mandates will defund them,
perhaps they will defund them anyway. So let's
continue the analysis and suppose that
high-volume OA archiving will definitely cause
journal cancellations, at least in some fields
outside physics. It just doesn't follow that
defunding TA journals will defund peer review.
The DOAJ lists more than 2,800 peer-reviewed OA
journals. Together they account for a bit more
than 10% of the total number of peer-reviewed
journals in all fields and languages. It's true
that 10% is a small minority, but it's also true
that it's impressive progress after only a decade
of growth, more or less, especially when most of
the money to pay for OA journals is still locked up in subscriptions.
Even if the rapid rise of OA archiving undermines
TA journals, it will not undermine the OA
journals. Even if libraries cancel
subscriptions, peer-reviewed OA journals don't
use subscriptions to pay their bills. Hence even
under the publishers' most catastrophic scenario,
peer-reviewed journals will survive. More
importantly, the new mutant strain of journals is
adapted to an environment of high-volume OA
archiving and is not threatened by the further growth of OA.
Just as the publishing lobby rarely acknowledges
that TA physics journals thrive alongside
high-volume OA archiving, it rarely acknowledges
that OA journals provide peer review, are not
threatened by OA archiving, and often practice OA
archiving themselves. It's much easier to argue
that OA will kill peer review as such (or "to
equate traditional publishing models with peer
review", as Eric Dezenhall allegedly recommended
to the AAP) than to argue that, at worst, OA will
only kill peer-reviewed journals with a print-era business model.
But 10% is not 100%, and not even close. If all
or most TA journals fail, then could OA journals
meet the demand? For this, see the following three points.
(12) Here's where we have to focus on the
weakness in the third link of the publishing
lobby's causal chain: the claim that if rising
OA does cut journal revenue, then the journals
will fold up and stop providing peer
review. It's much more likely that, if they
could no longer sustain themselves on
subscription revenue, they would convert to OA
and continue providing peer review. Survival as
an OA journal would be vastly preferable to
folding up, and most would try it at least
experimentally before turning out the lights and closing the door.
If subscription journals find themselves losing a
critical number of subscriptions, and the growth
of OA archiving seems to be part of the cause,
then they could try to stop the growth of OA or
they could stop betting against the
internet. They could stop using a business model
that makes cost recovery into an access barrier
that limits audience and impact. They could look
for alternatives to the subscription model, and
find that many are already being tested, and some
proved, in the highly diverse world of OA
journals. There's a lot to examine and try out,
and perhaps a lot to reject, before giving up and folding.
At such a dinosaur moment, some will adapt rather
than die, and most will at least try. We know
that adaptation is possible because many are
already adapting. Every year since 2005 the
number of TA journals converting to OA has increased significantly.
Publishers don't like this scenario because OA
journals have lower profit margins and "unproved"
business models. But it's one thing to argue
that TA journals might be forced to adapt to a
changing world and survive in a less profitable
form, and quite another to argue that they will
not survive at all. However, publisher lobbyists
prefer the Chicken Little objection and
invariably fail to draw this distinction.
The objection that business models for OA
journals are not proven should be taken
seriously, and can be seriously
answered. Indeed, taking it seriously puts a
different color on lobbyist predictions that
publishers would fold up their TA journals rather
than convert to OA. Suddenly that kind of
dramatic ending looks less like the result of
inexorable causation than a business judgment made in advance of the facts.
(To answer the "unproven business model"
objection quickly: At least two OA publishers
using two different business models are now
profitable. Hindawi, with 51 OA journals, is the
world's second largest OA publisher, and its OA
journal program is profitable; all of its OA
journals charge publication fees. MedKnow, with
43 OA journals, is probably the third largest OA
publisher, is also profitable, and none of its OA
journals charge publication fees. Apart from the
health of these OA publishers, and the proof of
concept they provide for fee-based and no-fee OA
business models, there is the proven unhealth of
the subscription model itself. Even if OA models
were riskier than they are, they would be worth
exploring if the subscription model, as the
University of California put it, is "incontrovertibly unsustainable".)
University of California, Letter to faculty from
Lawrence Pitts, Chair of the Academic Senate, and
the head librarians of the 11 UC campuses, January 7, 2004
(13) Most importantly, the publishing lobby never
acknowledges that if subscription-based journals
did fail, the money formerly spent on
subscriptions would be freed up to pay for peer-reviewed OA journals.
Peer review could survive, could be funded at the
same levels as today, and could be funded through
a business model immune to the continuing "threat" of OA.
The new generation of peer-reviewed OA journals
needn't be new journals. They could be the
existing TA journals, with their existing brands,
standards, reputations, editors, referees,
readership, and impact. The money now spent on
subscriptions could keep existing TA journals
afloat as OA journals if they couldn't sustain themselves as TA journals.
For the same reason, the new generation of OA
journals could be the equals of their TA
predecessors in quality. There are reasons to
think they could, on average, be even better.
In short, it's false that the subscription model
is the only business model that can support peer
review. It's false that the hypothetical
collapse of subscription journals would mean a
defunding of peer review. On the contrary, it
would mean a windfall replenishing of university
library budgets that could fund any successor to
subscription journals that we chose.
But first a qualification: We don't know what
would happen to the money freed up by TA journal
subscriptions. It will be allocated by human
beings thinking about a complicated range of
opportunities and constraints. The decisions
will be made either by librarians, in spending
the library budget, or by university
administrators, in setting the library
budget. There will be many attractive uses for
the money and many differences in policy and
priority from one institution to another.
I've often argued that the money should go first
to peer-reviewed OA journals, in order to replace
the departing peer-reviewed TA journals, and
second to the book budgets long depressed by
rising TA journal prices. But that's a normative
argument, not a prediction. The money might go
instead to surviving TA journals (who might even
raise their prices to grab some of the new
library bounty) or to needs outside the library
like new faculty, new administrators, higher salaries, and financial aid.
The point is that it will be decision by academic
leaders. If we want to preserve peer-reviewed
journals after the hypothetical failure of TA
journal subscriptions, we could do it without
raising extra money, without curbing OA, and
without propping up TA journals and encouraging
them to make their financial viability depend on
access barriers or artificial scarcity to
published knowledge. The question is not about
the inevitable consequences of OA, but about the
will of the academic community. If we find
ourselves with windfall savings from the
cancellation, conversion, or demise of
peer-reviewed TA journals, and we don't spend it
on peer-reviewed OA alternatives, and if peer
review withers and dies as a result, the fault
will lie with university administrators, not with OA.
When publishers assert that threats to TA journal
subscriptions automatically translate into
threats to peer review, like the collision of
billiard balls, they only insult their present
customers, whose intelligent decisions will determine the outcome.
In a 2005 essay on OA-TA coexistence, I made the
point this way: "[T]his is nothing like
predicting a force of nature. We're talking
about the actions of interested human beings, including ourselves."
The OA debate could be more productive and even
collaborative if it could be regrounded in this
reality: even with OA mandates, human beings
will decide the future of peer review. Even with
OA mandates, we face a policy decision, not a row
of falling dominoes. Even if OA causes mass
cancellations of TA journals, we'll have choices
and money. If OA mandates threaten the current
system of scholarly communication, they do not
threaten the money to support peer review, but
only the business model supporting peer review
from the age of print. If the future of peer
review is uncertain, it's not because OA makes
its existence more difficult or less likely, or
because it reduces funding, but because we don't
know who will spend the money or on
what. However, we don't have to guess the future
when we can make it. If we want OA mandates and
peer reviewed journals, we can have them.
(14) If the money to support peer review will
survive the failure of TA journals, so will the people who provide peer
Scholarly journals don't pay authors for articles
and they don't pay referees for participating in
peer review. Business setbacks at TA journals,
including total failure, will not have the
slightest effect on the willingness of scholars
to write and referee research articles. The same
talent will be available, at the same price,
motivated by the same interests, to any
peer-reviewed OA journals that may arise to take
the place of failed TA journals.
Publishers of TA journals like to present
themselves as peer review providers --indeed, the
only peer review providers-- but they merely
organize unpaid volunteers to provide peer
review. This organization is nontrivial and
costs money, and at TA journals the money is paid
by publishers from subscription revenue. But if
subscription journals fail, the same money will
be available to organize the same people to provide the same service.
The rub for publishers is that the money won't be
in the hands of publishers, but in the hands of
universities and other former subscribers. This
explains publisher resistance, but it doesn't
change the facts about peer review. Peer
reviewers aren't paid by TA journals and will
live on, with unchanged interests and motives, if
TA journals die off. Peer reviewers are paid by
their employers, usually universities, and this
subsidy to peer-reviewed journals will be
available to any journals, TA or OA, that want to make use of it.
If TA journals do fold up rather than convert,
and we do have to redirect the money formerly
spent on them to support peer review at new
journals, will that be turbulent and
messy? Almost surely, and also exciting and
hopeful, like any period of flux in adapting to
fundamentally new technologies and taking
advantages of the opportunities they offer. (A
big topic for another day.) Will it be
impossible or unlikely? I don't see any reason
to think so, not even with the help of the publisher lobbyists.
(15) In conclusion, publishing lobbyists claim
that the growth of OA archiving will undermine
peer review, but they don't connect the
dots. Insofar as they hint at a theory, they
assume a causal chain of events not borne out by
evidence and contradicted by the evidence to date.
The first step in evaluating their objection to
OA mandates is to distinguish the effect on
subscriptions from the effect on peer
review. The publishing lobby's attempt to blur
this distinction is self-serving FUD. Moreover,
both effects are much weaker than they claim.
There's strong evidence that OA archiving has not
caused cancellations in physics and will not
cause cancellations in those fields that turn out
to be like physics in the relevant respects. At
the same, it might eventually cause cancellations
in fields that turn out to differ from physics in
the relevant respects. For now, nobody knows
which fields, or how many, will turn out to be
like physics, and we don't even have a good grasp of the relevant variables.
There are attested cases in which immediate OA
and OA after a short embargo actually increase
subscriptions (and submissions) at TA
journals. Nobody knows how widely this pattern
would hold if other journals adopted the same policies.
OA mandates will increase one library incentive
to cancel subscriptions (eventual OA to a subset
of articles) but won't affect four incentives to
renew subscriptions: to provide immediate
access; to provide access to the published
editions; to provide access to all the research
articles in a journal; and to provide access to
all the contents in a journal beyond research articles.
Publishers themselves have uncovered good
evidence that high journal prices far surpass OA
archiving as a cause of cancellations. At the
same time, many publishers voluntarily provide OA
to back issues on the same timetable as the OA
mandates, and encourage compliance with voluntary
OA policies as a tactic to head off mandates,
without finding that these practices undermine their subscriptions.
The connection to peer review is even more
tenuous than the connection to
subscriptions. One reason is the existence and
viability of peer-reviewed OA journals, which
would survive unharmed if libraries cancelled all their journal
It's true that most peer-reviewed journals today
are TA. But we cannot even say that *to the
extent* OA archiving undermines TA journal
subscriptions, then *to that extent* it will
undermine peer review. That claim makes the two
events appear to be connected by rigid causation,
when in fact they are connected, if at all, by
human decisions. There are at least two
decisions points along the way that can sever the connection.
The first decision point arises for journals
losing a critical number of subscriptions: they
must decide whether to fold up or convert to
OA. The second arises for the academic community
when TA journals do fold up or convert to OA: it
must decide whether to use the money freed up
from peer-reviewed TA journals on peer-reviewed
OA journals. It must decide, in other words,
whether to continue supporting peer review with
the funds that formerly supported peer
review. TA journals could all die and strong
peer review live and thrive, with no greater
overall cost, if we want it to. If peer review
dies, it will not be from the failure of
peer-reviewed TA journals but own our failure to
fund their successors with the same money.
In short, and with some simplification, will the
rise of OA archiving cause cancellations of TA
journals? Either it will or it won't. The
evidence, as opposed to the fears, is that it
won't. But if it will in some fields other than
physics, then we'll lose some peer-reviewed TA
journals. As we do, we'll reap savings that we
can redirect to peer-reviewed OA journals (which
might be the same journals under different
business models). To make this scenario
frightening, the most the publishing lobby can
say is that spending the money to support peer
review will not be automatic. On the other side,
to refute the publishing lobby's current claim,
all we have to say is that spending the money on
something else will also not be automatic.
If we do find that some fields are not like
physics, and the growth of OA archiving causes
journal cancellations, then we will have
discovered an incompatibility between OA to
publicly-funded research and the subscription
business model, at least for those fields. That
would a problem with the subscription business
model, not with OA. It would emphatically not be
an incompatibility between OA and peer
review. If we do discover an incompatibility
between OA mandates and the subscription business
model, then the OA mandates would still be
justified, especially at public funding agencies,
by the principle that puts the public interest
ahead of special interests. If we reach that
point (repeat, if), then it would be perverse and
backwards to compromise the public interest in
accelerating research, sharing knowledge, and
serving taxpayers in order to prop up publishers
who are not able to adapt to good public
policy. And if we reach that point and choose
OA, we would not be limiting ourselves to OA
minus peer review. For we can have universal OA
archiving and adequately funded, independent peer
review, if we want them both. We won't have to
find new money, but we will have spend the money in new ways.
If we take this course and observe that OA
archiving and journal cancellations are rising in
tandem, then the best response for funding
agencies would be to stand fast rather than
retreat to today's dysfunctional system of
artificial scarcity. The best response for
universities would be to redirect the savings
from cancelled subscriptions to peer-reviewed OA
journals (through journal subsidies and/or
publication fees) rather than cut the library
budget. The best response for publishers would
be to convert their journals to OA, or launch new
OA journals, and accept the new revenue.
I am not saying that we should deliberately
defund TA journals in order to fund OA journals,
and I am not saying that TA journals should
die. I'm saying that publishers have not even
come close to making good on either of their
claims, that OA archiving would kill TA journals
or that killing TA journals would kill peer
review. I am saying that funding agencies should
mandate OA archiving without fear. (So should
universities, but I'm omitting that argument
here.) Either peer-reviewed TA journals will
survive the transition, as they have in physics,
or they won't and we'll face the decision whether
to re-fund peer review by spending the savings on
peer-reviewed OA journals or defund it by spending it elsewhere.
Academic publishers defending peer review should
set an example of reasoned argument and
sensitivity to evidence. The AAP/PSP and other
publisher trade associations have not lived up to
this responsibility, and should be called on it
by their members. A good example is the public
statement by Rockefeller University Press,
dissociating itself from the hand-waving of the
PRISM campaign. For another, see the editorial
in The Lancet (an Elsevier journal) from October
16, 2004, in response to AAP lobbying against an OA policy at the NIH:
>[A]s editors of a journal that publishes
>research funded by the NIH, we disagree with
>[AAP President Patricia] Schroeder's central
>claim. Widening access to research is unlikely
>to bring the edifice of scientific publishing
>crashing down. Schroeder provides no evidence
>that it would do so; she merely asserts the
>threat. This style of rebuttal will not
>do. Indeed, the aggressive rhetorical line
>taken by the AAP unnecessarily pits publishers
>against the interests of science and the public....
Here's what happened, or what I noticed, since
the last issue, emphasizing action and policy
over scholarship and opinion. I put the most
important items first, with double asterisks, and
otherwise cluster them loosely by topic. Most of
the time, I link to my blog posts, not to the
sources themselves, because I only want to use
one link per item and my blog posts usually bring many relevant links
** The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)
announced an OA mandate to take effect on September 1.
** The German Research Society (Deutsche
Forschungsgemeinschaft or DFG) announced a
funding program to launch new science journals,
expand existing journals, and help print journals
make the transition to electronic
publication. To be eligible for funding,
journals must meet the DFG guidelines for open access.
** German copyright law will change in late 2007
or early 2008. Electronic rights in works
published in Germany before 1995 will vest in
publishers unless authors expressly tell their
publishers within one year of the new law that
they wish to hold the electronic rights
themselves. If authors regain the electronic
rights to these works, they may authorize OA for them.
** The University of Wisconsin at Madison
launched a Library Fund for Open Access Publishing.
** Google's new program to share data with
researchers includes a rule requiring OA for the research results.
** The AAP/PSP launched PRISM (Partnership for
Research Integrity in Science & Medicine) to
lobby against government OA policies.
* Rockefeller University Press released a public
statement explaining why PRISM does not speak for
it, and asking the Association of American
Publishers to add a disclaimer to the PRISM
website indicating that it does not speak for all AAP members.
* Peter Murray-Rust, who teaches at Cambridge
University, released an open letter to Cambridge
University Press, asking whether it supports
PRISM and whether it was consulted by the AAP before the launch of PRISM.
* Dave Munger discovered that the PRISM web site
was using copyrighted photographs from Getty
Images, still displaying their Getty
watermarks. Paying customers receive copies
without the watermarks. PRISM quickly resolved
the problem and added copyright statements.
* ACRL urged Americans to ask their Senators to
support the OA mandate at the NIH.
* Bentham Science Publishers has created web
sites for 209 forthcoming OA journals. This is
part of its program to become the world's largest
OA publisher by launching over 300 OA journals before the end of 2007.
* H-Net announced 20 "new" peer-reviewed OA
journals from Revues.org. (About a quarter of
them have already been announced in SOAN.)
* Marquette Books announced plans to launch eight
peer-reviewed OA journals in January 2008. All
eight will be in media studies and communications.
* The Leibniz Gemeinschafts Zentrum für
Psychologische Information und Dokumentation
(ZPID) converted its Journal für Psychologie to OA.
* The Indian Association for Medical Informatics
(IAMI) converted its journal, the Indian Journal
of Medical Informatics (IJMI), to OA.
* The editorial board of Springer's journal,
K-Theory, resigned and launched the new Journal
of K-Theory with Cambridge University Press at
less than half the subscription price of the Springer journal.
* Blake Stacey launched Eureka Science Journal
Watch, a wiki to track science journals and their
progress toward OA. Eureka is a more general
version of its predecessor, MathSciJournalWiki.
* For the first time, Google Scholar publicly
disclosed its journal digitization and OA
project, in a Barbara Quint interview of Anurag
Acharya. (I blogged the project in December 2006
but without the benefit of official, public information from Google.)
* AnthroSource, the publishing arm of the
American Anthropological Association, is moving
from the University of California Press to Wiley-Blackwell.
* Eric Lease Morgan launched two demos, Article
Index and Reading List, to show how Notre Dame's
MyLibrary software can make use of journal and article data from the DOAJ.
* Yale dropped its institutional membership in BioMed Central.
* The University of California at Berkeley reaffirmed its BMC membership.
* Washington University reaffirmed its BMC membership.
* The Howard Hughes Medical Institute bought the highest level BMC
* Three journals published special issues on
OA-related topics: Ariadne on digital
repositories, OCLC Systems & Services on
institutional repositories, and
Cyberinfrasctructure Technology Watch (CTWatch)
on The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communication and Cyberinfractructure.
* The Aquatic Commons is a new OA repository for
the aquatic sciences, from International
Association of Aquatic and Marine Science
Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC) and
the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
* Indonesia's University of Muhammadiyah
Surakarta launched an institutional repository.
* The University of Minnesota officially launched
its institutional repository, the University Digital Conservancy.
* Cornell University revamped and renamed its institutional repository.
* The Cornell University Library joined the
Google Library Project, the 27th to do so and the
second (I believe) that was already participating in the Open Content
* Researchers from Washington University, Harvard
University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and
the Howard Hughes Medical Institute announced the
Open Access Series of Imaging Studies (OASIS), OA
MRI datasets of 416 anonymized medical patients.
* After 18 months of copyright bushwhacking,
Australia launched Molecular Medicine Informatics
Mode (MMIM) an OA database of anonymized patient data for medical research.
* Archaeologists excavating Heathrow Airports
Terminal 5 are releasing their raw data under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 License.
* NASA and the Internet Archive teamed up to
digitize a vast collection of NASA images. The
IA will host, curate, and provide OA to the digital results.
* Information World Review joined The Guardian's Free Our Data campaign.
* Ari Schwartz started a list of CRS Reports that
are not yet OA, asked Americans request copies
from their representative in Congress, and send
them to OpenCRS for OA. The reports from the
Congressional Research Service are highly
regarded and publicly funded, but not
automatically OA. They are made available to
members of Congress, but not the public.
* Athabasca University launched the OA-focused Athabasca University Press.
* The University of Cape Town launched
OpeningScholarship to promote open education and
open access within the university.
* The Alexander Technological Educational
Institute of Thessaloniki signed the Berlin
Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge.
* Germanys Technische Fachhochschule Wildau
(University of Applied Sciences Wildau) also signed the Berlin Declaration.
* The Cystinosis Research Network joined the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.
* FreePatentsOnline and Planetree also joined the Alliance for Taxpayer
* The Cystinosis Research Network also joined the Alliance for Taxpayer
* A study by Philipp Mayr and Anne-Kathrin Walter
found "a relatively large gap" in Google Scholar's indexing of OA
* Sweden's OpenAccess.se has launched a study of
Copyright in a New Publishing Environment.
* The German association of specialized
publishers, Deutsche Fachpress, released the
results of a short member survey on OA. Only
7.5% said that OA was already affecting their
business models and 40% admitted they didn't know
how to evaluate it. Nevertheless, 72.5% said
that they could not do their jobs as well as they do now under OA.
* The University of California released a study
of UC faculty, documenting some deep
misunderstandings about OA and ignorance of the
UC's own draft OA policy, which has been the
subject of public discussion on every one of the UC campuses for over a
* Columbia Law School and the University of
Colorado Law School have launched AltLaw.org, an OA portal of US case law.
* Carl Malamud is systematically scanning new US
judicial opinions and posting them in OA form on
the web site of his organization, Public Resource.
* The National Science Foundation, Public Library
of Science and the San Diego Supercomputing
Center launched SciVee ("YouTube for
scientists"), which broadcasts OA videos explaining OA articles.
* JISC and the Wellcome Trust are providing OA to
400+ films important in the history of medicine.
* SPARC and CARL produced a Canadian version of the SPARC Author Addendum.
* UNESCO released the final version of the
Kronberg Declaration on the Future of Knowledge Acquisition and Sharing.
* Fedora, the open-source archiving software
project, launched Fedora Commons, a non-profit
organization and open community to support the
software, thanks to a $4.9 million grant from the Moore Foundation.
* The EU is funding an Assessment of the Economic
and Social impact of the Public Domain in the Information Society.
* The NIH is funding a project on Sharing Data
and Tools: Federation using the BIRN and caBIG Infrastructures.
* Don Waters of the Mellon Foundation is willing
to fund a study of "the feasibility and
desirability of a massive reallocation of
institutional funds [from journal subscriptions] to support open access."
* Germany's DINI (Deutsche Initiative für
Netzwerkinformation) launched OA-Netzwerk to
improve the data quality of the national network of OA repositories.
* Martin Ragg asked Germany's Bundesministerium
für Bildung und Forschung (Federal Ministry of
Education and Research or BMBF) for its position
on OA. The answer is that BMBF neither requires
nor encourages OA, but the final reports for
BMBF-funded research are available to the public, in hardcopy.
* A blogger named Imam launched a blog on the
Indonesian Open Access Initiative.
* The Open Knowledge Foundation created a web
site to finish drafting and collect comments on its Open Service Definition.
* The Scholarly Publishing Office of the
University of Michigan Library has just released
an interactive, CommentPress edition of the July
Ithaka report on university presses, University Publishing In A Digital Age.
* The People's Open Access Education Initiative
is a new open education project focusing on
medical education in developing countries.
* The Creative Commons ccLearn project and the
Hewlett Foundation are building a search engine for open educational
* David Wiley, who developed the first open
content license, drafted a new one for the special purpose of open
* Based on an idea of Heather Ford's, Jimmy Wales
plans to stimulate the self-organization of 50
parties in 50 cities around the world devoted to
"Wikipedians, Creative Commoners, open
access-ers, free software-ers and those
interested in finding out more about free/sharing digital culture."
Coming this month
Here are some important OA-related events coming up in September.
* September 1, 2007. The HHMI-Elsevier agreement takes effect.
* September 1, 2007. The Nereus consortium of
European academic libraries launches NEEO
(Network of European Economists Online).
* September 30, 2007. SURF will close the
application process for funding projects to
enhance knowledge-sharing in higher education.
* Notable conferences this month
Towards a European e-Infrastructure for e-Science
digital repositories workshop (sponsored by e-SciDR)
[looking for a better URL]
Lisbon, September 4, 2007
Open Source Chemistry (a teleconference with
Jean-Claude Bradley) (sponsored by Chemists Without Borders)
September 6, 2007 (a teleconference)
Disclosure and Preservation: Fostering European
Culture in the Digital Landscape (OA is among the topics)
Lisbon, September 7-8, 2007
Doing Digital: Using digital resources in the arts and humanities (DRHA
Dartington, Totnes, South Devon, September 9-12, 2007
Long-lived Collections: the future of Australia's research data
Canberra, September 11, 2007
Discovering eprints: finding needles in the
haystack? (JIBS and JISC Collections Workshop)
Birmingham, September 12, 2007
Value for Money: ROI on Scholarly Journal
Acquisitions (OA is among the topics) (sponsored by Library Journal)
September 13, 2007 (a webcast)
European Conference on Research and Advanced
Technology for Digital Libraries (ECDL 2007)
Budapest, September 16-21, 2007
Berlin 5 Open Access: From Practice to Impact:
Consequences of Knowledge Dissemination
Padua, September 19-21, 2007
Towards an European repository ecology (ECDL2007
Workshop) (OA is among the topics)
Budapest, September 21, 2007
Open Education 2007: Localizing and Learning
Logan, Utah, September 26-28, 2007
* Other OA-related conferences
* I've added 12 new conferences to my conference
page since the last issue. In the next few days
I'll delete the second asterisk marking them and
the new entries will blend into the rest of the collection.
This is the SPARC Open Access Newsletter (ISSN
1546-7821), written by Peter Suber and published
by SPARC. The views I express in this newsletter
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