Re: The July 6-7 NYAM "Freedom of Information" Meeting

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 8 Jul 2000 19:42:44 +0100

On Sat, 8 Jul 2000, Barry Markovitz wrote:

> "Freedom of Information The Impact of Open Access on Biomedical
> Science"
> Although [the meeting] was put on by BioMed Central, it had
> almost nothing about BioMed Central on the agenda...
> You could claim that they set the agenda, literally, and could have
> or should have invited known proponents of other models...
> I must say though that the issue of author self-archiving was not
> discussed in great length...
> Pat Brown said the reason authors are not flocking
> to the open access alternatives currently available is because it is
> like a rat who has always lived in a cage. Just because the cage door
> is open does not mean the rat will immediately want to escape the
> only world they've known. Peter Singer (U Toronto) said the reason
> the rat will stay in the cage is that is where their food and water
> are and have always been. Until we ensure that scientists and
> scholars will receive the same level of recognition for publishing in
> open access worlds, e.g., BioMed Central, then they will stay in
> their proverbial cages. Despite the incredibly narrow view on this
> issue from the New England Journal of Medicine, few medical authors
> would turn down the chance to publish there, even with its
> restrictive attitude, compared to the unknown recognition associated
> with something like BioMed Central. We are all self-serving creatures
> in our own way.

This is precisely why I am advocating self-archiving rather than
switching to new, unknown publishers in order to free the literature.

Why should researchers give up their established, high-quality,
high-impact journals when there is absolutely no need to?

They can have their cake (publishing in the established journals) and
eat it too (free the literature) by simply self-archiving their
refereed papers. (This is why the self-archiving proposal is

    Ann Okerson & James O'Donnell (Eds.) Scholarly Journals at the
    Crossroads; A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing.
    Washington, DC., Association of Research Libraries, June 1995.

The academic rats are slow to free themselves from their cages even
when the door is open (my preferred metaphor had been horses led to
water, slow to drink) because enforced confinement was what they had
been used to -- but certainly not because they would be leaving any of
their rewards behind. On the contrary, self-archiving can only ADD to
the impact of a high-impact refereed-journal article, not take away
from it.

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

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

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Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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