Bill & Daniel's Excellent Open Publishing Manifesto

A few weeks ago Bill Gasarch published his Journal Manifesto 2.0 on the Computational Complexity blog.

Basically, his idea was to start a scholarly publishing revolution from the inside:

Keep in mind: I am NOT talking to the NSF or to Journal publishes or to Conference organizers. I am NOT going to say what any of these people should do. I am talking to US, the authors of papers. If WE all follow this manifesto then the problems of high priced journals and limited access may partially go away on their own. To be briefer: To the extend that WE are the problem, WE can be the solution.

It's a great manifesto and it's generated quite a bit of conversation on throughout the blogosphere. I would say I'm 90% on board with what it proposes.

However, it's a little long and perhaps a bit convoluted. It also talks about things that are a bit peripheral to scholarly discourse in the sciences, such as book publishing. It also encourages people to post online copies of articles that they don't hold copyright to.

But still, an amazing start -- a bunch of words to kick off the revolution.

Fellow Canuck Daniel Lemire went one further. He basically took Gasarch's manifesto and pared it down to the bare essentials.

This is the version I'll quote here and completely and totally endorse:

  1. Whenever you publish a paper in a conference or journal, post it on your website or on some appropriate archive (such as arXiv). In particular, as soon as you submit the final version to a conference it should go on online.
  2. Post improvements and revisions to your work. Should you spot a mistake in one of your older research paper, revise it and post the result online!
  3. If you give a talk, then post the slides online.
  4. Make it easy for other researchers to get automatic updates when you post new content. (If you use arXiv, it comes for free if you claim an arXiv user ID.)

I prefer Lemire's simplified version for a couple of reasons:

It seems less intrusive and less prescriptive and more in line with the main goals of OA, to get scholar's research production out in the open.

It also removes the point about books. In my opinion, in the scientific fields it's much more important to focus on the scholarly rather than on professional contributions. And since science mostly does not use monographs for original scholarship, it perhaps distracts from the main goal to include books.

In these areas, books are mostly professional contributions. In the humanities, for example, books are more likely to be scholarly contributions, so focusing on OA for monographs in those fields will be more important. Of course, there are a lot of very good reasons to make books open access (it even increases sales), but that's a secondary concern and a different discussion.

Lemire's manifesto also removes Gasarch's point about creating "portal" sites for particular fields and posting other people's papers to that site. The violation of copyright here makes me a little squeamish. Just because most publishers don't strictly enforce their agreements doesn't mean that we can or should just blatantly ignore those agreements. Also, I do definitely believe that authors should respect the agreements they sign. We expect publishers to respect their part of our agreements, so we should respect ours.

The key, as the manifesto states, is to get permission to post the material when we are negotiating our agreements or to chose to publish in Gold OA journal or in those that allow Green OA archiving.

A couple of relevant tools for those tasks are the SHERPA/RoMEO database of publisher copyright and self-archiving policies and the SPARC Author Rights Addendum.

Most of all, I'd like to give a huge thanks to both Bill and Daniel on their excellent contributions to the conversation about the present and future of scholarly communications.

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