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Critique of Criteria for "Full Membership" in OASPA ("Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association") Stevan Harnad 13 Dec 2009 16:05 UTC

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>From the bylaws of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA):

"To be considered an OA scholarly publisher and eligible for full
membership... the Publisher must... Publish at least one OA journal
that regularly publishes original research or scholarship, all of
which is OA... [which] includes... Copyright holders allow users to
"copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to
make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any
responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship..."
[i.e., "libre" OA]

Now let us look at what these criteria imply:

Full OASPA membership for BMJ, for example, is perhaps arguable,
because all refereed research articles in the flagship BMJ are OA and
hybrid OA is available as an option for all 27 BMJ journals, but all
BMJ authors are also free to provide immediate Green OA by
self-archiving. In contrast, Oxford University Press (OUP) publishes
246 journals, only 6 of them full Gold OA; the rest of the OUP
journals embargo Green OA self-archiving by authors for a year (90 of
them offering authors the generous "option" of paying to do it
immediately, if they pay OUP's hybrid Gold OA fee). (In contrast,
Cambridge University Press (CUP) offers paid hybrid Gold OA for 15
journals, but endorses immediate Green OA self-archiving for every
single one of its 283 journals. In other words, CUP hybrid Gold is a
noncoercive OA option for authors who want to pay for hybrid Gold OA;
OUP's is not. All CUP authors are free to provide immediate Green OA
to their articles by self-archiving them; OUP authors are not. Yet OUP
is a "full member" of OASPA and CUP is not.)

It is exceedingly difficult to see the value to OA itself of the following:

(1) OASTP officially includes, as "full members" of its "OA Scholarly
Publishers Association," publishers that oppose immediate OA
Self-Archiving by their authors. (Such publishers can now even proudly
advertise themselves as "full OA" journal publishers in good standing
if they publish one single libre Gold OA journal while forbidding
Green OA self-archiving for their other 999 journals.)

(2) OASTP officially excludes from full membership in its "OA
Scholarly Publishers Association" publishers every one of whose 999
journals are "gratis" Gold OA, perhaps not even charging a penny for
it, as not being "full OA" journal publishers in good standing,
because they are not "libre" Gold OA.

Richard Poynder seems to have been right (again): "officially"
sanctioning this perverse play on words will not only:

(a) allow being an "OA publisher," "Gold OA publisher" and "full OA"
publisher in good standing to be touted and promoted in a
self-interested, word-bending way by publishers that are just about as
far from being OA as a publisher can be,

(b) prevent publishers that are genuinely "full OA" publishers --
fully gratis OA, hence fully Gold, and hence fully Green, for all
their journals, hence fully OA on any rational construal of "full OA
publisher" -- from calling themselves "full OA publishers" in good
standing, and

(c) add yet another unwelcome layer to the confusion about the meaning
of "OA" as well as of being an "OA publisher" that we owe to the
premature, persistent and counterproductive profusion of gold dust and
publishing-economics in place of OA.

Full members should only be publishers all or most of whose journals
are Gold OA (and all of whose journals are Green OA); otherwise just
"Associate" members. (And gratis OA journal publishers should either
be full OASPA members or we should stop repeating the slogan that
"most OA journals do not charge for publication.")

Of course it is the publisher that represents the journal.  But
reserving full OASPA membership for publishers all or most of whose
journals are Gold OA would rule out the obvious abuse of "full OA"
status by a publisher that publishes a fleet of 1000 journals, only
one of them OA, yet is currently entitled to call itself an official
"OA publisher" in virtue of full membership in good standing in OASPA.
Such a publisher would then simply be an Associate Member of OASPA.
(An independent journal, by the way, not associated with a "publishing
house,"  is simply its own publisher.) That would remedy abuse of full
membership status by non-OA and anti-OA publishers.

But to remedy the very meaning of OA and OA journal, it would be just
as important to admit as full members the publishers of (all or
mostly) gratis OA journals (including gratis OA journals that do not
charge either authors or their institutions/funders for publication,
but make ends meet from subscriptions or subsidy). Yes, fee-free
gratis OA journals represent a different "business model," but
nevertheless they are "fully" OA in every OA-relevant respect.

(It also seems fine to accept hybrid Gold OA publishers as Associate
Members, given that the Association's interest seems to be primarily
in OA publishing business models rather than OA itself.)

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum