Never Pay Pre-Emptively For Gold OA Before First Mandating Green OA

In February 2010, University of Hong Kong signed a hybrid Gold OA “Open Choice” agreement with Springer.

In October 2008 in ROARMAP, University of Hong Kong proposed to the University Grants Committee (RGC/UGC) an Open Access Mandate for all RGC/UGC-funded research.

It is not yet clear whether in the meantime this mandate has actually been adopted, by either HKU or RGC/UGC. The proposed mandate itself was an almost-optimal one:

It was an Immediate-Deposit mandate, but it seems to have misunderstood the fact that a postprint can be deposited in the Institutional Repository without having to seek “permission” from the publisher. Permissions are only at issue at all for the date when the deposit can be made Open Access:

ii. [HKU RGC/UGC-funded researchers] should send the journal the Hong Kong author?s addendum (University of Hong Kong, 2008), which adds the right of placing some version (preprint or postprint) of the paper in their university?s institutional repository (IR). If necessary, seek funds from the RGC to pay open access charges up to an agreed limit; perhaps US$3,000…

iv. deposit all published papers in their IR, unless the journal refuses in writing. If the published version is refused, deposit the preprint or postprint, as allowed in number ii above…

The proposed mandate’s language makes it sound as if HKU wrongly believes that it needs to pay the publisher for the right to deposit!

It is to be hoped that this will be clarified and that the deposit mandate will be adopted (both for RGC/HGC-funded research and for unfunded HKU research) before HKU begins to pay any publisher anything at all.

Otherwise, as the Houghton Report shows, HKU is gratuitously paying a lot more money for a lot less OA and its benefits.


On Not Putting The Gold OA-Payment Cart Before The Green OA-Provision Horse
SUMMARY: Universities need to commit to mandating Green OA self-archiving before committing to spend their scarce available funds to pay for Gold OA publishing. Most of the university’s potential funds to pay Gold OA publishing fees are currently committed to paying their annual journal subscription fees, which are thereby covering the costs of publication already. Pre-emptively committing to pay Gold OA publication fees over and above paying subscription fees will only provide OA for a small fraction of a university’s total research article output; Green OA mandates will provide OA for all of it. Journal subscriptions cannot be cancelled unless the journals’ contents are otherwise accessible to a university’s users. (In addition, the very same scarcity of funds that makes pre-emptive Gold OA payment for journal articles today premature and ineffectual also makes Gold OA payment for monographs unaffordable, because the university funds already committed to journal subscriptions today are making even the purchase of a single print copy of incoming monographs for the library prohibitive, let alone making Gold OA publication fees for outgoing monographs affordable.) Universal Green OA mandates will make the final peer-reviewed drafts of all journal articles freely accessible to all would-be users online, thereby not only providing universal OA, but opening the doors to an eventual transition to universal Gold OA if and when universities then go on to cancel subscriptions, releasing those committed funds to pay the publishing costs of Gold OA.

The Immediate Practical Implication of the Houghton Report: Provide Green Open Access Now

ABSTRACT: Among the many important implications of Houghton et al?s (2009) timely and illuminating JISC analysis of the costs and benefits of providing free online access (?Open Access,? OA) to peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific journal articles one stands out as particularly compelling: It would yield a forty-fold benefit/cost ratio if the world?s peer-reviewed research were all self-archived by its authors so as to make it OA. There are many assumptions and estimates underlying Houghton et al?s modelling and analyses, but they are for the most part very reasonable and even conservative. This makes their strongest practical implication particularly striking: The 40-fold benefit/cost ratio of providing Green OA is an order of magnitude greater than all the other potential combinations of alternatives to the status quo analyzed and compared by Houghton et al. This outcome is all the more significant in light of the fact that self-archiving already rests entirely in the hands of the research community (researchers, their institutions and their funders), whereas OA publishing depends on the publishing industry. Perhaps most remarkable is the fact that this outcome emerged from studies that approached the problem primarily from the standpoint of the economics of publication rather than the economics of research.

Springer’s Already on the Side of the Angels: What’s the Big Deal?

SUMMARY: The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has made a deal with Springer that articles by VSNU authors will be made OA. But Springer is already on the side of the angels on OA, being completely Green on immediate, unembargoed author OA self-archiving. Hence all VSNU authors are already free to deposit their refereed final drafts of their Springer articles in their institutional repositories, without requiring any further permission or payment. So what in addition is meant by the VSNU deal with Springer? that the Springer PDF rather than the author’s final draft can be deposited? That Springer does the deposit on VSNU authors’ behalf? Or is this a deal for prepaid hybrid Gold OA? In the case of Springer articles, it seems that what the Netherlands lacked was not the right to make them OA, but the mandate (from the VSNU universities and Netherlands’ research funders like NWO) to make them OA. There are some signs, however, that this too might be on the way…

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


Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum