Immediate OA in EU by 2020?

The means are still somewhat vague but the determination to reach the goal of having all scientific articles freely accessible (OA) immediately by 2020 is welcome. The goal is definitely reachable, and well worth reaching ? in fact it?s long overdue.

It would be helpful, however, if the means of reaching the goal were made much more explicit, and with equal determination:

1. The EU can only ensure that its own scientific article output is OA by 2020. The EU cannot ensure that the scientific article output from the rest of the world (which is also the scientific article output to the EU) is OA by 2020 too. But if the EU adopts the right means for providing its own output, there is a good chance that it will be matched by the rest of the world too.

2. The right means for the EU to make all of its own scientific article output OA by 2020 is to require that it be deposited in the institutional repository of the author(s) of the article. This is called ?Green OA.? The deposit should be made immediately upon acceptance for publication (because if the 2019 scientific article output is deposited in 2021, that is certainly not OA in 2020).

3. The deposit need not be the published version of the article; it need only be the final, peer-reviewed, accepted version.

4. The plan mentions Green OA, Gold OA (paying to publish in an OA journal) and hybrid combinations of the two. The EU is welcome to spend whatever funds it finds worthwhile to spend to pay for Gold OA, as long as immediate Green OA is required for all EU scientific article output. The rest of the world will match the EU?s provision of Green OA, but it is much less likely that the rest of the world will match the EU?s expenditure on Gold OA.

Evolutionarily Stable Strategies

[This comment was written before I read Richard Poynder’s Interview of Tim Gowers. Having posted this, I will now go on to read the interview and make my comments in the next posting.]

I don’t know about Richard, but I have not despaired of green, ot green mandates; I’ve just grown tired of waiting.

I don’t see pre-emptive gold (i.e., pre-green “fool’s gold”) as an alternative but as just another delay factor, the principal delay factor being human sluggishness. 

And I think the notion of a “flip” to fool’s gold is incoherent — an “evolutionary unstable strategy,” bound to undo itself: not only because it requires self-sacrificial double-payment locally as well as unrealistic collaboration among nations, institutions, funders, fields and publishers globally, but because the day after it was miraculously (and hypothetically) attained globally it would immediately invite defection (from nations, institutions, funders, and fields) to save money (invasion by the “cheater strategy”). Subscriptions and gold OA “memberships” are simply incommensurable. 

The only evolutionarily stable strategy is offloading all but one of the things that publishers traditionally do onto green OA repositories, leaving only the service of peer review to be paid for as fair-gold OA. 

But that requires universal green OA first, not flipped pre-emptive fool’s gold. 

It will all eventually sort itself out that way after a huge series of false-starts. My loss of patience is not just with the needless loss of time but with the boringly repetitious nature of the recurrent false starts. I’d say my last five years, at the very least, have been spent just repeating myself in the face of the very same naive bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and non-viable non-starters. Locally in space and time, some people sometimes listened to my objections and my alternative strategy, but globally the very same non-starters kept popping up, independently.

So (with an occasional exception like this) I’ve stopped preaching. Time will either show that I was wrong or, like evolution, it will undo the maladaptive strategies and stumble blindly, but inevitably toward the stable strategy (which also happens to be the optimal one): universal green first, then a rapid downsizing and transition to scalable, affordable, sustainable fair-gold. Amen.

On Horses, Water, and Life-Span


“I have a feeling that when Posterity looks back at the last decade of the 2nd A.D. millennium of scholarly and scientific research on our planet, it may chuckle at us… I don’t think there is any doubt in anyone’s mind as to what the optimal and inevitable outcome of all this will be: The [peer-reviewed journal| literature will be free at last online, in one global, interlinked virtual library… and its [peer review] expenses will be paid for up-front, out of the [subscription-cancelation] savings. The only question is: When? This piece is written in the hope of wiping the potential smirk off Posterity’s face by persuading the academic cavalry, now that they have been led to the waters of self-archiving, that they should just go ahead and drink!”Harnad (1999)

I must admit I’ve lost interest in following the Open Access Derby. All the evidence, all the means and all the stakes are by now on the table, and have been for some time. Nothing new to be learned there. It’s just a matter of time till it gets sorted and acted upon; the only lingering uncertainty is about how long that will take, and that is no longer an interesting enough question to keep chewing on, now that all’s been said, if not done.

Comments on: Richard Poynder (2015) Open Access, Almost-OA, OA Policies, and Institutional Repositories. Open And Shut. December 01, 2015

A few little corrections and suggestions on Richard’s paper:

(1) The right measure of repository and policy success is the percentage of an institution’s total yearly peer-reviewed research article output that is deposited as full text immediately upon acceptance for publication. (Whether the deposit is immediately made OA is much less important, as long as the copy-request Button is (properly!) implemented. Much less important too are late deposits, author Button-request compliance rates, or other kinds of deposited content. Once all refereed articles are being deposited immediately, all the rest will take care of itself, sooner or later.)

(2) CRIS/Cerif research-asset-management tools are complements to Institutional Repositories, not competitors.

(3) The Australian ERA policy was a (needless) flop for OA. The UK’s HEFCE/Ref2020 policy, in contrast, looks like it can become a success. (None of this has anything to do with the pro’s or con’s of either research evaluation, citations, or metrics in general.)

(4) No, “IDOA/PEM” (Deposit mandates requiring immediate deposits for research evaluation or funding, with the Button) will not increase “dark deposit,” they will increase deposit — and mandate adoption, mandate compliance, OA, Button-Use, Almost-OA, access and citations. They will also hasten the day when universal IDOA/PEM will make subscriptions cancellable and unsustainable, inducing conversion to fair-Gold OA (instead of today’s over-priced, double-paid and unnecessary Fool’s-Gold OA. But don’t ask me “how long?” I don’t know, and I no longer care!)

(5) The few anecdotes about unrefereed working papers are completely irrelevant. OA is about peer-reviewed journal articles. Unrefereed papers come and go. And eprints and dspace repositories clearly tag papers as refereed/unrefereed and published/unpublished. (The rest is just about scholarly practice and sloppiness, both from authors and from users.)

(6) At some point in the discussion, Richard, you too fall into the usual canard about impact-factor and brand, which concerns only Gold OA, not OA.

RP: “Is the sleight of hand involved in using the Button to promote the IDOA/PEM mandate justified by the end goal ? which is to see a proliferation of such mandates? Or to put it another way, how successful are IDOA/PEM mandates likely to prove?”

No sleight of hand — just sluggishness of hand, on the part of (some) authors (both for Button compliance and mandate compliance) and on the part of (most) institutions and funders (for the design and adoption of successful IDOA/PEM mandates (with Button). And the evidence is all extremely thin, one way or the other. Of course successful IDOA/PEM mandates (with Button) are (by definition!) better than relying on email links at publisher sites. “Successful” means near 100% compliance rate for immediate full-text deposit. And universal adoption of successful IDOA/PEM mandates (with Button) means universal adoption of successful IDOA/PEM mandates (with Button). (Give me that and worries about author Button-compliance will become a joke.)

The rest just depends on the speed of the horses — and I am not a betting man (when it comes to predicting how long it will take to reach the optimal and inevitable). (Not to mention that I am profoundly against horse-racing and the like — for humanitarian reasons that are infinitely more important than OA ever was or will be.)

Why Doesn’t Elsevier State the Truth, Openly?

I will not do yet another detailed, point-by-point rebuttal in response to Alicia/Elsevier’s latest tergiversations (“COAR-recting the record“), just to have it all once again ignored, and instead replied to yet again with nothing but empty jargon and double talk:

“At each stage of the publication process authors can share their research: before submission, from acceptance, upon publication, and post publication.”

This ?share? is a weasel word. It does not mean OA. It means what authors have always been able to do, without need of publisher permission: They can share copies ? electronic or paper ? with other individuals. That?s the 60-year old practice of mailing preprints and reprints individually to requesters. OA means free immediate access online to all would-be users.

“For authors who want free immediate access to their articles, we continue to give all authors a choice to publish gold open access with a wide number of open access journals and over 1600 hybrid titles ?

In other words, now, the only Elsevier-autthorized way authors can provide OA is to pay extra for it (?Gold OA?).

Since 2004 Elsevier had endorsed authors providing free immediate (un-embargoed) access (?Green OA?) by self-archiving in their institutional repositories. The double-talk began in 2012.

Elsevier can?t seem to bring itself to admit quite openly (sic) that they have (after a lot of ambiguous double-talk) back-pedalled and reneged on their prior policy, instead imposing embargoes of various lengths. They desperately want to be perceived as having taken a positive, progressive step forward. Hence all the denial and double-talk.

Elsevier tries to argue that their decision is ?fair? and ?evidence based? ? whereas in fact it is based on asking some biassed and ambiguous questions to some librarians, authors and administrators after having first used a maximum of ever-changing pseudo-legal gibberish to ensure that they can only respond with confusion to the confusion that Elsevier has sown. In reality all Elsevier is doing is trying to make authors and their institutions hostage to either subscriptions or (Fools) Gold OA fees by embargoing Green OA. Anything that will sustain Elsevier’s current revenue streams and M.O.

We cannot get Elsevier to retain a fair, clear policy (along the lines of their original 2004 policy) but we should certainly expose, name and shame them as loudly and widely as possible for the disgraceful and tendentious spin with which they are now trying to sell their unfair, unclear and exploitative back-pedalling.

Stevan Harnad

How to Get Open Access Mandates on the Fast Track

In my own opinion there have been four main reasons for the exceedingly slow growth of OA (far, far slower than it could have been) ? (1) author inertia and needless copyright worries, (2) publisher resistance via lobbying and OA embargoes, (3) premature and needless fixation on Gold OA publishing and (4) premature and needless fixation on Libre OA (re-use rights, CC-BY).

By far the most urgent and yet fully and immediately reachable objective has always been free online access to refereed journal articles (?Gratis OA?), which could long ago have been provided by authors as Green OA (exactly as computer scientists spontaneously began doing in the 1980s with anonymous ftp archiving, and physicists began doing in the 1990s with XXX (then Arxiv).

Instead, authors in most other fields have proved extremely sluggish ? because of (1), and eventually also (2) — and the public campaign for OA became needlessly and counterproductively focussed on Gold OA and Libre OA, which were neither as urgently needed as Gratis OA, nor could they be as easily provided as Gratis OA.

OA mandates by funders and institutions then began to be recommended and adopted, but these too have been exceedingly slow in coming, and needlessly weak, having gotten needlessly wrapped up in Libre and Gold OA, even though Gratis Green OA is the easiest, most effective and most natural thing to mandate.

And the irony is that this premature and needless fixation on Libre and Gold OA (which still persists) has not only helped slow the progress of Gratis Green OA, but it has also slowed its very own progress.

Because the fastest and surest way to Libre, Fair-Gold OA is to first mandate Gratis Green OA — which, once it is being universally provided, will usher in Libre, Fair-Gold quickly and naturally. This is evident to anyone who simply thinks it through.

Instead, we now continue to be bogged down in (1) – (4), with many weak and wishy-washy OA policies, Fools? Gold (as well as predatory junk Gold OA) (3) from publishers clouding the landscape, and an almost superstitious obsession with a Libre OA (2) that most research and researchers don?t need anywhere near as urgently as they need Gratis OA itself.

Meanwhile, hardly noticed, is the fact that mandates could be incomparably stronger and more effective if they simply focussed on requiring Green Gratis OA, in institutional (not institution-external) repositories, where institutions can monitor and ensure compliance by designating immediate-deposit as the sole mechanism for submitting publications for research evaluation (as Liege and HEFCE have done) and implementing the copy-request Button as the antidote against publisher OA embargoes.

In yet another effort to try to get mandates on the fast track ? requiring Gratis Green OA ? we have now analyzed the few existing OA policies? effectiveness to identify which conditions maximize compliance, in the hope that the research community can at last be persuaded to adopt evidence-based policies instead of ideology-driven ones:

Vincent-Lamarre, Philippe, Boivin, Jade, Gargouri, Yassine, Larivière, Vincent and Harnad, Stevan (2015) Estimating Open Access Mandate Effectiveness: I. The MELIBEA Score.

Swan, Alma; Gargouri, Yassine; Hunt, Megan; & Harnad, Stevan (2015) Open Access Policy: Numbers, Analysis, Effectiveness. Pasteur4OA Workpackage 3 Report.

Here is a quick little history of OA, particularly highlighting Southampton?s contribution:

Carr, L., Swan, A. and Harnad, S. (2011) Creating and Curating the Cognitive Commons: Southampton?s Contribution. In: Curating the European University

Estimating Open Access Mandate Effectiveness: I. The MELIBEA Score

Estimating Open Access Mandate Effectiveness: I. The MELIBEA Score

Philippe Vincent-Lamarre, Jade Boivin, Yassine Gargouri, Vincent Lariviere, Stevan Harnad

ABSTRACT: MELIBEA is a Spanish database that uses a composite formula with eight weighted conditions to estimate the effectiveness of Open Access mandates (registered in ROARMAP). We analyzed 68 mandated institutions for publication years 2011-2013 to determine how well the MELIBEA score and its individual conditions predict what percentage of published articles indexed by Web of Knowledge is deposited in each institution’s OA repository, and when. We found a small but significant positive correlation (0.18) between MELIBEA score and deposit percentage. We also found that for three of the eight MELIBEA conditions (deposit timing, internal use, and opt-outs), one value of each was strongly associated with deposit percentage or deposit latency (immediate deposit required, deposit required for performance evaluation, unconditional opt-out allowed for the OA requirement but no opt-out for deposit requirement). When we updated the initial values and weights of the MELIBEA formula for mandate effectiveness to reflect the empirical association we had found, the score’s predictive power doubled (.36). There are not yet enough OA mandates to test further mandate conditions that might contribute to mandate effectiveness, but these findings already suggest that it would be useful for future mandates to adopt these three conditions so as to maximize their effectiveness, and thereby the growth of OA.

The Fruits of Finch/RCUK Profligacy (and Publishing Lobby Success)

Here they are:

Cornée, Nathalie and Madjarevic, Natalia (2014) The London School of Economics and Political Science 2013/2014 RCUK open access compliance report. The London School of Economics and Political Science, Library, London, UK.
Abstract: In September 2014, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) reported to Research Councils UK on the School?s compliance with the recently introduced RCUK Policy on Open Access (OA). This reports provides detail around the article processing charges (APC) data and RCUK Call for Evidence report. Background In April 2013, the revised RCUK Policy on Open Access came into effect. The policy requires journal articles or conference proceedings arising from research funded wholly or partially by a RCUK grant should be made freely available online (or ?Open Access?). There are two main routes to make papers open access: a) the Green route, which is the LSE preferred route, when the full text of papers are deposited into an institutional repository such as LSE Research Online. To select this route, embargo periods must be no longer than the 12 months permitted by RCUK (no charge applies); b) the Gold route, which provides immediate, unrestricted access to the final version of the paper via the publisher’s website, often using a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence – it may involve payment of an APC to the publisher. In 2013, we received the RCUK OA block grant for 2013/14 of £62,862. We set up the LSE Institutional Publication Fund using this grant and this was managed by the Library, allowing eligible RCUK-funded researchers to apply for APC funds. Additionally, the School was awarded a pump-prime funding allocation from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for open access, which was also added to the fund. Of the 141 papers we identified as RCUK-funded for Year 1, 50 papers are open access via the Green route and 73 via the Gold, resulting in an 87% compliance rate.

Seventy-three (73) OA articles, at about £1,000 a shot via Gold — vs. fifty (50) at no cost via Green!

That RCUK £62,862 could have funded 4 doctoral research students or 2 postdoctoral researchers. Instead, it is paying publishers even more than they are already being paid for subscriptions (and for hybrid Gold publishers it’s even double-paying them).

For 73 articles!

And 73 articles that could have been provided for free via Green — if instead of dangling scarce money in front of authors RCUK had simply insisted on immediate deposit, irrespective of embargo length.

One can only hope that the spot-on and timely new HEFCE policy of requiring immediate deposit, now, in order to be eligible for REF2020, will stanch this gratuitous, obdurate Finch/RCUK profligacy.

And that the EU’s similar policy will help reinforce it.

Meanwhile there’s nothing stopping institutions from being more sensible, by requiring immediate deposit and using the RCUK windfall to better purpose (till it is sensibly redirected to research).

DOE: The Importance of Requiring Institutional Repository Deposit Immediately Upon Acceptance for Publication

A peer-reviewed journal article is either accessible to all of its potential users or it is not accessible to all of its potential users (but only to those at subscribing institutions).

Open Access (OA) is intended to make articles accessible (online) to all their potential users, not just to subscribers, sothat all potential users can read, use, apply and build upon the findings, not just subscribers.

OA comes in two forms:

Gratis OA means an article is accessible online to all its potential users.

Libre OA means an article is accessible online to all its potential users and all users also have certain re-use rights, such as text-mining by machine, and re-publication.

For individual researchers and for the general public the most important and urgent form of OA is Gratis OA.

The reason Gratis OA is so important is that otherwise the research is inaccessible except to subscribers: OA maximizes research uptake, usage, applications, impact and progress.

The reason Gratis OA is so urgent is that lost research access means lost research impact and progress. The downloads and citations of papers made OA later never catch up with those of papers made OA immediately:

Gentil-Beccot, A., Mele, S., & Brooks, T. C. (2010). Citing and reading behaviours in high-energy physics: Scientometrics, 84(2), 345-355.

The date when a peer-reviewed paper is ready to be made OA is the date when the final, peer-reviewed draft is accepted for pubication.

Sometimes there can be delays of months between the date of acceptance and the date of publication of the pubisher?s version of record (VOR).

And some (a minority) of publishers have imposed embargoes of up to 12 months from the date of publication before authors can make their articles OA.

The delay from acceptance to publication, and the delay from publication till the end of any OA embargo all add up tp lost research access, uptake, usage, applications and progress.

DOE and OSTI have been directed by OSTP to adopt a policy that ensures that OA is provided to federally funded research ? by 12 months after the date of publication at the very latest.

This is not a mandate to adopt a policy that ensures that OA is provided “at the very latest possible date.”

Yet that is what DOE has done ? no doubt under the influence of the publishing industry lobby.

The interests of research and researchers — and hence of the public that funds the research — are that the research should be made OA as soon as possible.

The interests of (some of) the publishing industry are that it should be made OA as late as possible.

The DOA has adopted a policy that serves the interests of the publishing industry rather than those of research, researchers and the tax-paying public.

The simplest remedy for this is not necessarily that the permissible OA embargo length needs to be reduced (though that would be extremely welcome and beneficial too!).

Even within the constraints of a permissible OA embargo of 12 months at the very latest, there is a simple way to make the DOE policy much more powerful and effective, guaranteeing much more and earlier access.

All that has to be done is to make immediate deposit of the author?s final, peer-reviewed draft, in the author?s institutional repository, mandatory immediately upon acceptance.

Not just the metadata: the full final draft.

If the author wishes to comply with a publisher OA embargo, the deposit need not be made OA immediately.

Institutional repositories have an automated copy-request Button with which a user can request a single copy for research purposes, and the author can comply with the request, with just one click each.

This is not OA, but it is almost-OA, and it is all that is needed to maximize research access, usage and progress during any permissible OA embargo.

And besides maximizing access during any permissible OA embargo, requiring immediate institutional deposit also mobilizes institutions to monitor and ensure timely compliance with the funding agency?s requirement.

The metadata for the deposit can be exported from each institutional repository to the DOE PAGES portal immediately, and then the portal, too (like google and google scholar), can immediately begin referring users back to the Button at the institution so the author can provide almost-OA with a single click until the end of any embargo.

There is no need whatsoever to wait either for the publisher?s VOR, or for the end of the publisher?s embargo, or for Libre OA re-use rights: those can come when they come.

But immediate institutional deposit needs to be mandated immediately.

Otherwise the DOE is needlessly squandering months and months of potential research uptake, usage and progress for federally funded research.

Please harmonize the DOE OA policy with the corresponding EU OA policy, as well as the HEFCE OA policy in the UK, the FRS OA policy in Belgium, and a growing number of institutional OA policies the world over.

Stevan Harnad