Re: ALPSP statement on BOAI

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 10:42:48 +0000

On Tue, 19 Feb 2002, Arthur P. Smith wrote:

> On Sun, 17 Feb 2002, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> > This is an empirical question, and one that the ALPSP opinion survey of
> > a few years ago could not possibly answer. Only the market can answer
> > it, by testing whether scholars (actually, the institutions who pay for
> > their subscriptions) value the part of formal publication that goes
> > above and beyond peer review to pay for it EVEN IF IT IS NOT FORCIBLY
> > CO-BUNDLED WITH PEER REVIEW: If given a choice between paying for peer
> > review alone, and paying for the rest, of which peer review is only a
> > part, will institutions (on behalf of their scholars) want to keep
> > paying for the rest?
> Huh? How is that the question? Why exactly are institutions the only
> ones who can legitimately represent their scholars?

That's not what I meant! What I meant was that (for most journals) it is
institutional subscriptions and licenses that pay the bills, not
individual ones.

So, of course it is the individual researchers whose needs and wishes
matter, but it is the university subscription/license that
represents and implements them.

> And why is
> it that the only consideration here at all is what the "scholars"
> want anyway? Don't we have a very broad consituency to consider?
> Researchers, certainly, but also students,

Yes, of course, researchers in the making.

> researchers in distant disciplines,

Not sure what you mean. I suppose university libraries looking to
optimize a finite serials budget consult other disciplines than than
the core one when it comes to cancellation decisions, but I'm not sure
what your point is: Unaffiliated researchers? Field workers far from
the Internet? Rather peripheral questions, I should think, with obvious

> historians,

Historians? As a constraint on how on whether to purchase peer-review
only, or the add-ons (paper, PDF)?

> and yes, perhaps, scholarly societies and their long
> historical association with disciplines,

Ditto: Would individual researchers and their institutions KNOWINGLY
agree to subsidize their societies' other "good works" (meetings,
fellowships, prizes , membership costs, lobbying) at the cost of
their own research's impact, if the trade-off, and the alternatives,
were actually made clear to them, and dissociable, through unbudling, so
they can actually vote, with their eyes open?

Continuing the Gutenberg-era co-bundling of peer review and all the
rest, now that it is no longer necessary, simply conceals these
contingencies, and possibilities.

> and the fundamental
> needs of "science" itself, for the health of each discipline?

Yes, let there be full disclosure, full unbundling, and let scientists
and their institutions make an informed choice among the true options,
discipline by discipline.

Prediction: The benefits or maximizing impact and access will far, far
outweigh all other factors.

> So who should decide whose priorities matter? Well, I have no
> problem with empirical evidence and the wishes of the market; aside
> from Stevan's pipe dreams about peer review not "forcibly co-bundled"
> with other add-ons (there used to be a LOT of journals that published
> camera-ready articles and only did peer review - were they evidence
> for a market for this?) one could take a detailed look at the current
> market for research publications and, I believe, learn quite a lot...

I'm not sure what Arthur means. Peer review is not a red/green light
decision on camera-ready fodder. It is a dynamic, interactive
quality-control process, sometimes involving several rounds of revision
and re-refereeing, for which the online medium is optimally suited.

Right now, as a legacy of the Gutenberg era, the peer-review SERVICE
(to the author-institution) is forcibly co-bundled with add-ons (paper
edition, publisher's PDF) that are sold exclusively as a PRODUCT (to
the reader-institution).

This is what must be unbundled, so the market can take an informed
decision on whether it wants, needs, and wishes to continue to pay for
all of them, or just the peer review. While they are forcibly co-bundled,
the market's informed decision can never be tested or made;
self-archiving forcible unbundles them so it can.

> But at least ALPSP is doing some real research on some of the issues,
> rather than just dealing in anecdotes, speculation and wishful
> thinking... give them some suggestions for new studies and I'm sure
> they'd be willing to give them careful consideration.

I have indeed given ALPSP some very specific suggestions for how they
might phrase their questions in a less biassed way, so as to get a
better idea of what authors WOULD want, if it were available:

ALPSP Research study on academic journal authors

We also have some newer and fuller data of our own:

But, in the end, opinion surveys, with hypothetical options, are no
substitute for actually sampling the options in practice. (What Simon
says is often not Simon does, or would do.) Self-archiving, and
sampling the rewards it confers (in impact and access) will allow
authors and readers to make an informed choice by unbundling the

As I've said many times before, though, the empirical data so far are

(1) Self-archiving is increasing (physics, 200K, computer
science 500K, other disciplines ???).

(2) Users make heavy use of the self-archived research.

(3) Self-archiving is correlated with impact (for high impact
authors and papers).


(4) So far, self-archiving has not led to any significant
cancellation pressure, even in the disciplines where it is most

So it is quite possible that there will continue to be a demand for the
add-ons even when all refereed drafts are available online for free, in

But that's just fine! Then we don't have to worry about a new
business model to pay the essential costs of peer review: they
will continue to be fully covered by the steady market for the
add-ons as they were in Gutenberg days. But access to the vanilla
peer-reviewed draft will be free; and everyone will be happy.

If that happens, I will be the first to happily concede that the
add-ons were worth continuing to pay for after all. The goal was never
to ruin or needlessly restructure journals, but merely to make sure no
would-be user is ever unable to access any refereed research because he
or his institution cannot afford the access tolls.

But to confirm that that's true, we must push on with getting
all refereed research self-archived!

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Feb 20 2002 - 10:43:15 GMT

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