The Science "Sting" and Pre-Green Fee-Based Fool's Gold vs. Post-Green No-Fault Fair-Gold

Stevan Harnad amsciforum at GMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 4 08:14:45 EDT 2013

Comment on: Bohannon, John (2013) Who's Afraid of Peer
*Science* 342 (6154) 60-65

To show that the bogus-standards effect is specific to Open Access (OA)
journals would of course require submitting also to subscription journals
(perhaps equated for age and impact factor) to see what happens.

But it is likely that the outcome would still be a higher proportion of
acceptances by the OA journals. The reason in simple: Fee-based OA
publishing (fee-based "Gold OA") is premature, as are plans by universities
and research funders to pay its costs:

Funds are short and 80% of journals (including virtually all the top,
"must-have" journals) are still subscription-based, thereby tying up the
potential funds to pay for fee-based Gold OA. The asking price for Gold OA
is still arbitrary and high. And there is very, very legitimate concern
that paying to publish may inflate acceptance rates and lower quality
standards (as the Science sting shows).

What is needed now is for universities and funders to mandate OA
self-archiving (of authors' final peer-reviewed drafts, immediately upon
acceptance for publication)  in their institutional OA repositories, free
for all online ("Green OA").

That will provide immediate OA. And if and when universal Green OA should
go on to make subscriptions unsustainable (because users are satisfied with
just the Green OA versions), that will in turn induce journals to cut costs
(print edition, online edition), offload access-provision and archiving
onto the global network of Green OA , downsize to just providing the
service of peer review alone, and convert to the Gold OA cost-recovery
model. Meanwhile, the subscription cancellations will have released the
funds to pay these residual service costs.

The natural way to charge for the service of peer review then will be on a
"no-fault basis," with the author's institution or funder paying for each
round of refereeing, *regardless of outcome (acceptance,
revision/re-refereeing, or rejection)*. This will minimize cost while
protecting against inflated acceptance rates and decline in quality

That post-Green, no-fault Gold will be Fair Gold. Today's pre-Green
(fee-based) Gold is Fool's Gold.

None of this applies to no-fee Gold.

Obviously, as Peter Suber and others have correctly pointed out, none of
this applies to the many Gold OA journals that are not fee-based (i.e., do
not charge the author for publication, but continue to rely instead of
subscriptions, subsidies, or voluntarism). Hence it is not fair to tar all
Gold OA with that brush. Nor is it fair to assume -- without testing it --
that non-OA journals would have come out unscathed, if they had been
included in the sting.

But the basic outcome is probably still solid: Fee-based Gold OA has
provided an irresistible opportunity to create junk journals and dupe
authors into feeding their publish-or-perish needs via pay-to-publish under
the guise of fulfilling the growing clamour for OA:

Publishing in a reputable, established journal and self-archiving the
refereed draft would have accomplished the very same purpose, while
continuing to meet the peer-review quality standards for which the journal
has a track record -- and without paying an extra penny.

But the most important message is that OA is not identical with Gold OA
(fee-based or not), and hence conclusions about peer-review standards of
fee-based Gold OA journals and not conclusions about the peer-review
standards of OA -- which, with Green OA, are identical to those of non-OA.

For some peer-review stings of non-OA journals, see below:

Peters, D. P., & Ceci, S. J. (1982). Peer-review practices of psychological
journals: The fate of published articles, submitted again. Behavioral and
Brain Sciences, 5(2), 187-195.

Harnad, S. R. (Ed.). (1982). Peer commentary on peer review: A case study
in scientific quality control (Vol. 5, No. 2). Cambridge University Press

Harnad, S. (1998/2000/2004) The invisible hand of peer
Nature [online] (5 Nov. 1998), Exploit Interactive 5 (2000): and in Shatz,
B. (2004) (ed.) Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry. Rowland & Littlefield. Pp.
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