Wednesday, February 20, 2013

day four: over two hundred signatures and lots of good conversations!

The campaign rolls along! Many many thanks again to everybody who's signed or spread the word.

One immediate result of doing this has been a lot of online conversations: most people seem pretty excited about the project. A few, though, are less enthusiastic: why is the protest necessary? Isn't progress being made? Just wait!

In conversation on Yann LeCun's G+, it was suggested that "Any proposal for ACM to go Open Access should come with a breakdown of how ACM's activities will be paid for and/or which ones will be eliminated." -- and that's a totally valid desideratum for proposals for how -- but this is not a proposal for how. This is a call for the leadership to make it happen; this doesn't seem all that hard, and it seems important (morally so?).

Graydon Hoare had a fantastic comment on an earlier CACM blog post, which I'll reproduce here (with his permission):
As an ACM member, I'm embarrassed that the organization -- representing professionals in the field of computers, the bit-copying devices! -- is not at the forefront of OA advocacy. The notion that the costs of archival are somehow prohibitive is laughable. We all know what storage and bandwidth costs. How many terabytes are we talking about? Why isn't this all edge-cached by now, or living in a torrent / mirror network (the way is)?
That's basically how I feel about the issue. But Graydon thought it was better expressed in this tweet:
Open access:
Yeeaaaahhh. That is what OA looks like.

There was an exchange on Twitter about whether it's acceptable for OA publishers to charge fees to the authors. David Van Horn said that it's ridiculous, and I totally agree that it's to be avoided when possible! But surely scholarly societies gotta get paid, sometimes? Open Access heroes Tim Gowers and Stuart Shieber don't seem to be averse to the idea -- Shieber is discussing ways that switching to Gold-OA-with-author-fees would be healthy for scholarly societies in his post.

And yet, we're starting to see scholarly publishing approaches that require vanishingly small budgets. The math community especially seems to be getting into this: they're calling the idea "epijournals" -- peer-reviewed journals that will require basically no budget at all and do all of their distribution on arXiv. That project is going up at And in CS, there's already at least one journal using the same model: Logical Methods in Computer Science. (the use of arXiv doesn't seem necessary for keeping costs down: the Journal of Computer Graphics Techniques just runs on a server at Williams College...)

@TheOfficialACM hasn't yet tweeted back at us, so I suppose we're just going to have to keep this rolling.


  1. I'm delighted to see movement on this front. However, I'd like to see some more positive options provided for people signing the position. ACM is a membership organization: if enough members want something to happen, it will happen. So why not have options like "I will only vote for candidates for SIG and ACM offices who publicly commit to work for ACM to go Open Access."

  2. @daviddlewis: That is a really excellent point. I should have included an option like that from the beginning! (although I'm a little reluctant to add options now that the campaign is already running...)

    I think, whatever the pledges people make, we'll start to see more motion on the issue: candidates are almost certainly going to make it an issue soon.

    I've got a lot of hope for Vint Cerf as president, personally.