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Re: Elsevier and IOP Still Fully Green and Onside With the Angels: Just Ignore Incoherent Distinctions Stevan Harnad 24 Jun 2011 15:41 UTC

On 2011-06-24, at 6:52 AM, Wise, Alicia (Elsevier) wrote:

> Our journal authors... can...  post voluntarily the accepted manuscript version on a personal or institutional web site or server for scholarly purposes...

As noted, Elsevier is still fully green and on the side of the angels regarding author self-archiving. This endorsement of immediate (unembargoed) posting is all this means.

> We believe the voluntary posting of manuscripts is an acceptable practice for authors, and that both institutions and publishers should respect their choices.

And I'm confident that Elsevier also believes that publishers should and will respect institutions' voluntary policy choices -- for example, if institutions mandate posting by their employees. (In any case, publishers have no choice but to respect institutional policy.)

Elsevier authors are free to post, and their institutions are free to mandate that their employees post. That's all there is to it.

A contractual agreement cannot be contingent on whether a right that is retained by the author is exercised "voluntarily": Everything an author chooses to do is voluntary, including complying with his employer's policies.


ASIDE: There is, however, a possible basis for genuine misunderstanding here, and, on one construal, Elsevier would definitely have a valid point (but that point has nothing to do with Green OA self-archiving):

Most institutional mandates are simply mandates to post, i.e., to make the author's final draft freely accessible to all users on the web immediately upon acceptance for publication.

But there are a few other kinds of institutional mandates, needlessly demanding ones, that would require authors to retain further rights, over and above the right to post the author's final draft free for all on the web immediately upon acceptance for publication (in other words, over and above Green OA), for example, the right to post the publisher's version of record, or the right to allow users to re-use or republish the posted article (e.g., by adopting various Creative Commons licenses that may not be compatible with the copyright agreement with the publisher): in general, the right to provide not just "gratis" OA (free online access) but also "libre" OA (gratis OA plus various other permissions).

This kind of needless over-reaching by some institutions and funders is not only extremely unfortunate and counterproductive, because it predictably induces even angelic Green publishers like Elsevier and IOP to balk at going that far, but it also weakens mandates, because such strong demands in turn require allowing authors to opt out of the mandate if they cannot get their publisher to agree. That's as bad as the pseudo-mandates that say "you are required to self-archive -- if your publisher agrees." (There is a far better mandate and strategy -- Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access  (IDOA) & the eprint-request Button -- for dealing with articles published in non-Green journals.)


But we are not talking here about such gratuitously over-demanding mandates, but only about Green Gratis OA self-archiving mandates that merely require authors to do what Green publishers have already endorsed: immediate posting of the author's final draft, free for all.

> The systematic posting of manuscripts, for example because of a mandate to post, is only agreeable if done in ways that are sustainable for the underlying journal.

Authors post individually, and publisher copyright agreements are agreements with authors.

It is not clear what "systematic posting" means, but if it means that an institution systematically requires its employees to post, then, with all due respect, this is absolutely none of the business of the publisher!

The publisher sets policy for its authors; the institution sets policy for its employees.

The author's (retained) rights agreement with the publisher has nothing whatsoever to do with what the author's institution's policy might or might not be.

To put it another way: Retained rights are not contingent on the author's reasons for exercising them. If you have a license to drive, it cannot state: "You only have the right to drive voluntarily; you may not drive if driving is a condition of your employment"...

> Our first systematic posting agreements have been with funding bodies and date back to 2005.  Authors funded by organizations such as Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and NIH could not have complied with the systematic posting policies of these funding bodies under the terms of our voluntary posting policy, so we created agreements or arrangements with those funders to enable authors to comply in ways that we believed would be sustainable.

I think it is perfectly fair that funders that needlessly demand more than Green Gratis OA should have to pay for it, or have it embargoed, or both.

But (most) institutions and funders are only mandating Green Gratis OA, not asking for more; hence no further arrangements are necessary (with Green publishers -- and IDOA & the Button takes care of non-Green publishers).

> Embargo periods are a feature of these agreements or arrangements.  The embargo periods are journal specific and differ according to the varied usage patterns that exist across science and social science areas. A high percentage of these are for a 12 month period, predominantly in life and health sciences, but in other areas such as mathematics and social sciences longer embargo periods of typically 24 or 36 months are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the underlying journals.

Green publishers, by definition, have no embargo on Green Gratis OA.

For Libre OA my own feeling is that the fees and embargoes are a fair punishment for those institutions and funders that were to short-sighted to see that they were needlessly over-reaching and hence gratuitously inviting publisher opposition -- especially because the confusion it is causing to disentangle publisher reactions to that over-reaching from their acceptance of Green Gratis OA is causing confusion even for those institutions and funders that are only mandating Green Gratis OA, or contemplating doing so.

But fortunately, a clear-headed reading of the new clauses in the Green publishers' self-archiving policies shows that nothing has changed: authors may provide immediate Green Gratis OA (and institutional or funder mandates to do so have absolutely no bearing on the matter).

> During the period when the embargo period would apply to posted manuscripts there is wide availability of articles.  93% of researchers surveyed in academic institutions reported that they are satisfied with access to research information in journal articles (Access vs. Importance, A global study assessing the importance of and ease of access to professional and academic information Phase I Results, Publishing Research Consortium, October 2010 – 4,109 respondents).  However we are not complacent with even this great result, and systematically identify and close access gaps in sustainable ways through programmes such as Research4Life which provides free and very low cost access to researchers in the world’s poorest countries.  We also have an extremely active program of pilots to provide innovative access services to members of the public, patients and their families, people working in small and medium sized businesses, students, etc.

Yes, yes, that's all well and good. To the extent that there is enough access already, supplementary access to the author's final draft well not make a bit of difference.

But to the extent that there are would-be users who lack subscription access, it will make a world of difference.

> Please note that as our early systematic posting agreements have been with funding bodies, we are still in test-and-learn mode for institutional agreements.

With institutional Green Gratis OA self-archiving mandates there is nothing further to be said or done. All is in order.

With institutional Green Libre OA mandates, all bets are off. Green Publishers do not become one bit less green of angelic if they elect to charge for and/or embargo Libre OA.

(Note that I have nothing at all against Libre OA or CC licenses. They are simply premature, at a time when we do not yet even have Green Gratis OA, and they are clearly getting in the way of it. Perhaps publisher constraints on anything over and above immediate Green Gratis OA self-archiving will help to clear the air so we can move forward toward universal Green Gratis OA mandates from all the planet's institutions and funders -- and thereby to universal OA, at long last.)