Journal Publisher Click-Through Monopoly: A Trojan Horse

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 17:08:14 +0000

     Journal Publisher Click-Through Monopoly: A Trojan Horse

Libraries, with their hard-strapped serials budgets, should beware of
the Trojan Horse described in the Reuters article below. It is designed
to further entrench the status quo for research journals. That status
quo is that authors GIVE AWAY their papers, asking only that they be
made as accessible as possible to one and all, only to have access
denied to users unless publisher access fees are PAID (via
Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View S/P/V, mostly by university

The online medium can free this anomalous, give-away research
literature from financial firewalls through Open Archives; and the
entire corpus can be citation-linked exactly as will be described in the
Click-Through Monopoly proposal, but with no access-fee barriers
to cross in navigating it.


The Click-Through Monopoly described in the Reuters piece below is a
Trojan Horse. It is founded on the perpetuation of S/L/P access
barriers. If the appeal of immediate citation-linking distracts authors
and readers and their institutions from the importance and urgency of
freeing the give-away research literature through self-archiving
then it will delay the inevitable transition to what will be the
optimal solution for this anomalous literature, and the only just
and stable solution, for research and the researchers who both create,
give away, and use this literature.

Some comments follow below:

> Story Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
> WASHINGTON--Twelve publishers of scientific and scholarly journals
> yesterday said they were linking up on the Internet to make it easier
> for scientists to do research.
> The agreement allies some of the biggest rivals in the highly lucrative
> arena of scientific publishing, including Oxford University Press,
> Macmillan Magazines and Elsevier Science.
> They said the agreement would link 3 million articles at first and more
> later.
> "This is extremely good news for the active scientists and researchers
> all over the world," Johannes Velterop, publishing director of the
> science journal Nature, said in a statement.
> "The interest of the users of scientific information is put at the
> center of the stage again, and publishers clearly recognize the
> imperative of serving the research community in the very best way the
> new technology allows."

The interest of the users of scientific information is to have FREE
access to this literature at last, not to keep it held hostage to S/L/P
through a click-through citation monopoly.

> Scientific publishers wield a huge amount of clout in the research
> world. Generally, a piece of research is not recognized until it is
> accepted by a scholarly journal for publication and subjected to review
> by "peers"--usually other scientists in the field who can say whether
> the basis of the study is sound.

And who all review the papers for free, just as their authors give them
away for free.

> Scientists also cite the work of other researchers in their studies.
> This appears as a series of footnotes at the end of their reports, and
> the citations can refer to a large number of reports published in other
> journals.
> Unless scientists have a subscription to all the journals, or access to
> a library or Internet resource that carries them, they cannot read the
> cited articles, which may provide crucial background.
> The new agreement will allow them to link automatically from an
> Internet version of one journal to the article cited in another.

But what this leaves out is that the only way to get TO and FROM any of
this literature is through the financial firewalls of S/L/P: the
click-through monopoly.

> "More researchers today are using the Internet in their work, and this
> service will allow them to do so more quickly and efficiently," said
> Richard Nicholson, executive officer of the American Association for
> the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which publishes the journal
> Science.

Not more quickly and efficiently than the optimal solution, which is to
SELF-ARCHIVE all their papers publicly on the Web, accessible to
everyone, everywhere for free, in interoperable Open Archives, which
can then be completely citation-linked without any financial

> The agreement links Academic Press, a Harcourt Science and Technology
> company; the AAAS; the American Institute of Physics; the Association
> for Computing Machinery; Blackwell Science; Elsevier Science; the
> Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; Kluwer Academic
> Publishers; Nature, which is published by Macmillan; Oxford University
> Press; Springer-Verlag; and John Wiley & Sons.
> They said they expect to launch the site in the first quarter of 2000.
> Story Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Let us hope that the Open Archives Initiative gathers enough momentum to
head this retrogressive development off at the pass.

If these publishers wish to be progressive, let them remove all
barriers, purported and real, to author self-archiving (in the form of
restrictive, unjustifiable, and unenforceable copyright agreements).

Publishers can then make their proprietary click-through archives
available as an option, rather than the ONLY option. Users can then
decide for themselves whether they wish to pay for the Closed Archives
or use the Open Archives for free.

Refereed journals will then scale down to their true and permanent
niche, which is quality-control and certification. This service can be
paid for by each author-institution out of only a small portion of
the annual savings from cancelling the S/L/P expenditures that are
currently overwhelming its libraries.

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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