You ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

As ever, I recommend you read Martin Weller’s latest. It offers a convincing overview of the odious effects of Gold Open Access, a model that may well lock in elitism, and that “reinforces the power of commercial publishers, simply maintains a status quo, and keeps the peer-reviewed 5000 word article as the primary focus of research that must be attained.” And it offers a pointer to Stevan Harnad’s argument in favour of Green OA, “Open Access Is a Research Community Matter, Not a Publishing Community Matter” (PDF link).

But my favorite part is a passage toward the end which elegantly and succinctly sums up our tragic state of affairs — or is it farcical? Should have paid more attention during those Shakespeare courses…

Academics (paid by the taxpayer or students) provide free content, and then the same academics provide free services (editorship and peer-review) and then hand over rights and ownership to a commercial company, who provide a separate set of services, and then sell back the content to the same group of academics.

All in a context in which acquisition budgets decline, while serial prices continue to grow.

2 thoughts on “You ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?


    Making peer-reviewed research freely accessible online to all users, not just those whose institutions can afford subscriptions, is not a swindle. It is a great benefit to research, researchers, and the public that funds the research.

    “Green” Open Access can be provided cost-free by authors self-archiving their peer-reviewed final drafts, free for all online, in their Open Access (OA) institutional repositories. Research institutions and funders worldwide accordingly need to mandate (require) Green OA.

    “Gold” OA can be provided by journals making their articles accessible online, free for all, but many charge the author a fee for this.

    It is not Gold OA nor the author fee for Gold OA that is a swindle either. It is “hybrid Gold OA,” which is when a subscription publisher continues to collect subscriptions, forbids or embargoes Green OA, but offers Gold OA for an extra author fee. This is double-paying for OA (via multi-institutional subscriptions plus an individual author fee), for individual articles only.

    And the worst of it is that in the UK the publisher lobby has recently managed to persuade the government, and hence the government research funders, to mandate Gold OA instead of Green OA (which is what the UK’s funders and institutions had formerly led the world in mandating since 2005). Although the wording of the new policy is unclear, it seems to state that researchers may only choose a journal that allows cost-free Green OA if the journal does not offer Gold OA; if it does offer Gold OA, UK researchers must pick and pay for Gold OA, out of scarce research funds.

    That is not just a swindle but a boondoggle by publishers and a colossal bungle by UK policy makers. It will fail in the UK, but it will take another 5 years to realize that. Meanwhile, even in failure, because it will encourage subscription publishers the world over to offer hybrid Gold OA at the same time as lengthening their Green OA embargoes to make sure UK authors need to pick and pay for the hybrid Gold option, it will impede the progress of Green OA mandates worldwide.

    The only antidote is a global hue and cry from researchers and the tax-paying public, and the adoption of Green OA mandates by funders and institutions worldwide.

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