Re: The Six Roads to Liberating the Refereed Literature

From: Thomas J. Walker <tjwalker_at_MAIL.IFAS.UFL.EDU>
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2001 16:02:03 -0400

The first-listed of Stevan's six roads can be described as authors paying
publishers to permanently and immediately give toll-free access to at least
the PDF version of their articles.

These are the three "minuses" he notes for that road.

(1) Most journals don't offer it.

Now that ESA has shown that it is popular and profit-making, other
society-published journals should soon offer it. After all, members
(ultimately) govern their scientific societies, and most members will
surely want their societies to offer the service.

(2) There will always be authors who can't afford it.

There will always be researchers who don't have as much money as they need
to do the research they would like to do. The current costs of journal
publication are minor compared to other costs of research. In the all-e
future, the cost of refereed publication will be lower still. Furthermore,
societies sometimes subsidize the publication of articles by members who
have no institutional support, and they may choose to continue this practice.

(3) Self-archiving their own eprints accomplishes the same outcome,
immediately for everyone, at no expense to authors.

NOT the same outcome: Except in physics and some related disciplines,
researchers seldom search e-print archives to keep current with the journal
literature (too few papers are currently archived).

NOT immediately for everyone: The most efficient way to find new
literature is to use current awareness services, such as Current Contents
Connect. These services will soon hotlink to articles on publishers' web
sites. If users of such a service can immediately access, without charge,
the full text of some of the articles they find, the authors of those
articles will benefit more than authors of access-restricted articles who
have posted eprints. Similarly, when PubMed Central starts indexing many
articles, only the authors of articles that publishers have posted will
benefit (according to present plans).

NOT at no expense to authors: Some time and worry is involved. Time,
because making a postprint attractive and the changes easily understood may
require an hour or so that could otherwise be spent on more
research. Worry, because some authors fret about the legality of postprints.

Stevan's first minus is the only one of consequence. When other societies
start to offer the service, the move toward toll-free access will accelerate.

Tom Walker

At 04:15 PM 6/1/2001 +0100, you wrote:
>On Fri, 1 Jun 2001, Thomas J. Walker wrote:
> > I am for any strategy that speeds the transition to free access, but both
> > [1] boycotts to force publishers to change and [2] self-archiving make
> > authors and their publishers adversaries. In offering a service that
> > authors want, at a fair price, ESA is demonstrating that the change
> > to free access can be mutually beneficial and market-driven.
> > I look forward to other societies soon offering this service that their
> > authors/members want.
>Any path that gets us all to our shared goal of free online access to
>the entire refereed corpus for everyone (and as soon as possible) is
>welcome; and multiple paths (if they don't impede one another) are
>welcome too.
>You are right that both boycotts and self-archiving are at odds with
>the preferences of publishers (though I think "adversaries" may be
>overstating it, at least in the case of self-archiving: 150,000 papers
>have already been archived in physics with the cooperation, rather than
>the opposition, of the American Physical Society, the publisher of
>the highest-quality journals in the field).
>Here, as I see it, are the plusses and minusses of the six main
>strategies for freeing the refereed literature:
>(1) Paying the publisher for publisher-supplied online-offprints
>(o-prints, free for all): A good solution where it is available, and
>where the author can afford to pay for it, but (i) most journals don't
>offer it, (ii) there will always be authors who cannot afford to pay
>for it, and (iii) self-archiving their own eprint accomplishes the same
>outcome, immediately, for everyone, at no expense to authors.
>In short, for-fee o-prints require authors to pay for something they
>can already do for free (as the authors of the 150,000 physics papers
>have done).
>(2) Boycotting journals that do not give away their contents online for
>free requires authors to give up their established journals of choice
>and to switch to unestablished journals (if they exist), not on the
>basis of their quality or impact, but on the basis of their
>give-away policy.
>If authors self-archived their papers, they could keep publishing
>in their established journals of choice yet still ensure free access
>for all.
>(3) Library consortial support (e.g. SPARC) for lower-priced journals
>lowers the access barriers, but does not eliminate them (and
>merely entrenches fee-based access blockages further).
>(4) Delayed journal give-aways -- 6-to-12+ months after publication)
>is too little, too late, entrenching the access-blockage of new
>research until it is not new.
>(5) Giving up established journals and peer review altogether, in
>favour of self-archived preprints and post-hoc commentary puts
>research quality standards and navigability at risk.
>(6) Self-archiving all preprints and postprints can be done immediately
>and will free the refereed literature overnight, but authors are
>held back by (groundless) worries about peer review and copyright.
>To summarize, (1) - (5) all require waiting for policy changes and,
>even once these are available, all require a needless sacrifice on the
>part of authors. With (1) the sacrifice is the needless o-print
>expense, with (2) it is the right to submit to one's preferred
>journals, with (3) it is (as ever) the impact on those who cannot
>afford the access tolls, with (4) it is the impact of the all-important
>first 6-12 months after publication, and with (5) the sacrifice is the
>quality of the literature itself.
>Only (6) require no sacrifices at all, and no need to wait for any
>change in journal policy or price. The only downside of (6) is authors'
>relative sluggishness in just going ahead and doing it; nevertheless,
>(6) is well ahead of the other 5 candidates, in terms of the number of
>papers thus freed already, thanks to the lead taken by the physicists
>(having made adversaries of no one).
>I think it's time for all the other disciplines to follow their lead,
>rather than to wait, contemplating needless sacrifices. Interoperable
>archive-creating software is there, free for all. Just go ahead and do
>it, whether at the institutional ( or individual
>( level.
>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

Thomas J. Walker
Department of Entomology & Nematology
PO Box 110620 (or Natural Area Drive)
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0620
E-mail: FAX: (352)392-0190
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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