Monday, March 9, 2009

Financial viability of open access

I am responding here to a comment just posted on an old post of mine ("You should self-archive your publications, July, 2008). The author of the comment asks about the financial viability of open access journal publishing if the costs are transferred from authors to subscribers. This is a complex issue that is much discussed in the Open Access literature; see Peter Suber's blog and publications or Stevan Harnad's listserv and publications. For now, all I will venture is to say that it would be very difficult to switch from the reader-pay model to the author-pay model in archaeology without a lot of other activities. For example, if university libraries stopped paying journal subscriptions and instead paid authors fees, this might work, but this will not happen soon or easily. Or if professional societies wanted to subsidize OA journals, they could move subscription revenues to publication costs. But the wholesale switch would be difficult and complex, and I don't pretent to understand the economics of journal publishing and its possible changes in the future.


the above only talks about one kind of OA - "Gold OA" (open access journals). There is another route, "Greeen OA" (self-archiving). If authors would simply deposit their reprints (or pre-prints) into an institutional repository, we can achieve the goals of OA much more quickly. And this is something that AUTHORS and the institutions can do, it does not require large commercial enterprises to change what they are doing. WE can do it, and we can do it NOW.

Now it is currently difficult to find an institutional repository for archaeology. My university, Arizona STate University, does not have a repository (certainly not becuase of any silence on my part....). The Society for American Archaeology does not have a repository, and I have not heard any talk in the SAA about this (same for the AMerican Anthropological Association). So here are three possibilities; I am pursuing two of them:

(1) Make your own quick and dirty repository. Post your pdfs, include a page that lists the citations with links, and get that page indexed in Google etc. This is NOT HARD TO DO. Ask your institutional IT people how to make a quick web page. It is not difficult. Here is my example.

(2) Try Selected Works, at the Berkeley Electronic Press. Their main model is to sell subscriptions to institutions and then host all of their publicaitons, but they also host individuals gratis by application. I have no idea how restrictive they are; I applied and was accepted. Here is my Selected Works site.

(3) Try another genreal archive. The University of Hawai'i has started an experimental anthropology repository, the Mana'o Project. I am waiting to see where this goes before participating, partly because its hard to find time when I'm already posting things in 2 other places, and partly because of my uneasiness right now about how my own research relates (or does not relate) to the discpline of anthropology.

In sum, the question of author-pay vs. reader-pay is difficult and complex. But the question of self-archiving is about as simple as you can get. Build it (your own repository) and they will come. And in the process, the flow of information within archaeology will be greatly enhanced and the discipline improved tremendously.


Stevan Harnad said...

Most universities already have at least one repository. ASU has the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Faculty Scholarship Repository .

Those universities that don't yet have one are just one linux server and a free piece of software -- plus a few hours' sysad set-up time and a few hours maintenance a year -- away from having one.

The problem is not repositories; they are easy and cheap. The problem is getting institutions to mandate deposit. That too is cheap, but with still only 67 mandates worldwide to date, it could still use a little work...

Jason Ur said...

I'm hoping that Harvard is blazing the trail here. Last year we voted to grant the University non-exclusive copyright to all scholarly works produced by its faculty, for distribution in just such a repository (for the details, which I still don't fully understand, see Harvard's Office for Scholarly Communication). The repository (the Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard, or DASH) is just now coming online. It's in a beta mode and I think it might only be available to on-campus IP addresses. It is opt-out, so you have to go out of your way to not have your articles included. Mike, you will be happy to know that I've dumped practically everything I've ever written on the poor undergrad that the OSC has assigned to help me.

Michael E. Smith said...

Stevan Harnad is correct, as usual. My goal at ASU is incremental: (1) get some kind of depository set up; (2) get my academic unit (School of Human Evolution & Social Change) to start filling it; (3) make deposit mandatory for our unit; (4) serve as a model for other units in the university.

Many of us have high hopes for the Harvard initiative, and there is much discussion of it in the OA world which I occasionally skim through.

Michael E. Smith said...

This from Stevan Harnad's American Scientist Open Access Forum:
" The three main reasons researchers
are not self-archiving spontaneously are (1) worries that it might be
illegal, (2) worries that it might put acceptance by their preferred journal
at risk, and (3) worries that it might take a lot of time. They need Green
OA mandates from their institutions and funders not in order to *coerce* them to self-archive but in order to *embolden* them to self-archive, making it official policy that it is not only okay for them to self-archive, but that it is expected of them, and well worth the few minutes worth of extra keystrokes per paper."

The first link leads to:
Swan, Alma, 2005, Open Access self-archiving: An Introduction. Technical Report.