Re: Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI)

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2002 19:58:43 +0000

> You are obviously a keen advocate of open access yourself - why is it so
> important?


For 350 years, because of the real expenses of the Gutenberg era
(print-on-paper), the authors of peer-reviewed research papers have had
to allow their writing to be treated exactly the same way as most other
writing, even though other writing (like that of journalists!) was and
is always done for royalties or fees, whereas peer-reviewed research
papers were and are always given away by their authors for free. All
they ever wanted in exchange was research IMPACT, that is, to have
their research read, cited, used, applied, built-upon. That is how they
advanced both their own careers (salaries, promotions, tenure, prizes,
research-funding) and research itself.

In order to maximize research impact, you have to maximize research
access. If would-be users cannot afford access to your research, they
cannot contribute to the impact of your research. There are 20,000
peer-reviewed journals, publishing 2 million papers annually. Most
researchers' institutions (universities) cannot afford the subscriptions
and licenses for access to most of those 20,000 journals and 2 million
articles. Hence all that potential impact is currently lost.

The publisher's cost for implementing peer review is $200-$500 per
paper (peers review for free). But the cost the planet pays per paper
in collective institutional subscriptions and licenses is $2000-$5000 per
paper. There was no way around this in the Gutenberg (on-paper) era, but
now, in the PostGutenber (on-line) era there is a way, at last:

The solution is obvious. Let online access be free; let the
institutions have their 100% annual subscription/license expenditures
back; let them pay the $500 for the peer review for each OUTGOING paper
their researchers publish, instead of for every INCOMING paper from all
the other researchers in the world; they can pay that out of a small
portion (10%-30%) of their annual windfall savings from the
subscription/license cancellations. The result will cover all essential
expenses and make access free.

Of their own accord, journal publishers cannot be expected to downsize
(phasing out their unnecessary on-paper and on-line versions and
enhancements, along with their associated costs) and make the
transition to becoming purely peer-review service providers to the
author-institutions. So authors and their institutions need to take
matters into their own hands, by immediately making their outgoing
peer-reviewed papers freely accessible by self-archiving them in
institutional Eprint Archives.

This will produce immediate open access and will at last maximize
potential impact. Next, IF the free version makes subscription/license
revenue decline (it might or might not: no one knows yet for sure),
THEN this will either induce publishers to downsize and convert to
open-access publishing, or it will induce their editorial boards,
referees, authors and titles to migrate to new, alternative,
open-access publishers.

The Budapest Open Access Initiative supports two Open Access Strategies:

(1) the promotion of self-archiving and
(2) the promotion of alternative, open-access journals.

> Does the Budapest initiative take the issue forward and does it offer a
> feasible alternative model?

Yes, see above.

> What about other open access models such as that offered by BiomedCentral?

BiomedCentral is part of BOAI and its model is Strategy 2, above.

(Have you done any homework on this? Have you looked at the
BOAI itself? )

Strategy 2 promotes open-access publishers like BioMedCentral.

> Could you also briefly say a little about self archiving/e-prints?

Authors write their papers and then submit them to journals for peer review
and publication. The self-archiving strategy is to depoist, in the
author's institution's Eprint Archive, both the pre-peer-review preprints
and the post-peer-review postprints, thereby making them openly accessible
to everyone.

Eprints = preprints + postprints.

Eprint Archives are OAI-compliant online repositories for preprints and

The OAI -- Open Archives Initiative -- is a technical standard for making
all OAI-compliant Archives "interoperable" with one another (so their
contents can be searched and harvested seamlessly as if they were all in
one global virtual acrhive).

Our Intelligence/Agents/Multimedia Group in Electronics and Computer
Science at Southampton University has created free software for
institutions to create their own OAI-compliant Eprint Archives:

> Should the OSI be putting money into something not yet fully thought
> through?

Should you be putting words into your interviewees' mouths?

What you should ask first is:

(a) Is this something that has been sufficiently thought through to go
ahead and support and implement it? The answer is, Yes. Both Strategy 1 and
Strategy 2 are not only sufficiently thought through to be implemented,
they are both already being implemented, and need only to be accelerated.

(b) Is this something that has been thought through "fully"? No. We will
not have the full picture until Strategy 1 and Strategy 2 are more
advanced, and we see their effect on subscriptions/license expenditures
and publishers' responses to those effects. But we know the
alternatives, and what to do whichever of them actually ensues.

> The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers seems to be
> quite dismissive of the initiative do they have any valid points?

I have replied to the ALPSP's points, both concerning the BOAI and
concerning their earlier survey. See:

The ALPSP are trying to protect their current revenue-streams and the
way they do things now, quite understandably. Researchers are trying to
protect the interests of research. If the ALPSP Gutenberg model for
publishing no longer serves the interests of research, and it can be
changed so it does, it will have to be changed. That is all there is to

> It would be great if we could fit in a chat before next week, but if the
> time differences make it difficult (I also work shifts, which makes it even
> harder!) then perhaps you could give me a few thoughts on the following.

You're free to call in the time-windows I indicated.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Mar 06 2002 - 19:59:58 GMT

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