The Ghost is out of the Bottle

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002 18:46:11 +0100

The following is from:

  HERO: Higher Education and Research Opportunities in the United Kingdom
  Friday 29 March 2002

        IN LAST MONTH'S Inside HE Features, HERO published "Ideas are
        not for owning" as part of an open-source experiment run by New
        Scientist magazine. Here we report on a new initiative
        promoting worldwide open access to peer-reviewed literature.


        "The ghost is out of the bottle..." (Derk Haank, chairman,

The authors of academic papers, unlike other writers, do not expect
to be paid for publication. Whether this is selfless dedication to
the advancement of knowledge, or resignation to the way things are,
the fact is that only the publishers will benefit financially from
their labours. University libraries, subscribers to the 20,000-plus
research journals currently in circulation, pick up the bill.

Stevan Harnad, Professor of Cognitive Science at Southampton, cast
a sceptical eye on this state of affairs back in 1994. Harnad's
internet essay
A Subversive Proposal, calling for the liberation of
peer-reviewed literature from the law of the market, provided the
impetus for a radical experiment in internet publishing, the
Self-Archiving Initiative (SAI).
Writing in Nature (26 April, 2001),
Harnad describes how academic writers, who seek only wide readership,
can escape the bind of toll-gated access to their findings: With the
online age, it has at last become possible to free the literature
from this unwelcome impediment. Authors need only deposit their
refereed articles in eprint archives at their own institutions; these
interoperable archives can then all be harvested into a global
virtual archive, its full contents freely searchable and accessible
online by everyone.

Harnad and other pioneers of the open-access movement are now
witnessing a new chapter in the development of their ideas. The SAI
has combined operations with key initiatives including the Public
Library of Science, which grew from the call, by Nobel Prizewinner
Harold Varmus in 1999, for free access to biomedical research
literature. The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) was launched
in February 2002 by the Open Society Institute, the foundation
established by the billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

The BOAI declaration runs: An old tradition and a new technology have
converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old
tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish
the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment,
for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the
internet. The public good they make possible is the worldwide
electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and
completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists,
scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing
access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich
education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor
with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay
the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual
conversation and quest for knowledge.

Stevan Harnad said: We hope that this dual action BOAI strategy will
grow quickly, first freeing access to this special literature through
self-archiving. Then, if (and only if!) free-access shrinks or
eliminates the market for toll-access, it will induce the publishers
of the 20,000 toll-based peer-reviewed journals either to cut costs
down to the bare essentials (peer-review) and make the transition to
open-access (with peer review paid for by the authors institution,
per paper, up-front), or risk having their titles migrate to new
open-access publishers who will.

If the journal publishers do capitulate in the face of a tide of
defections, research libraries will be among the beneficiaries:
Harnad estimates a worldwide subscription cost of $2000 per research
paper. Relieving libraries of their serials budget burden will free
up funds, once peer review costs are met, to spend on much-needed
books and digital library resources.

The leading journal publishers including Reed Elsevier, Wolters
Kluwer, and John Wiley & Sons are for the moment reticent about
their intentions. However, in an interview last month for Information
Today, Reed Elsevier's Science chairman Derk Haank remarked: The ghost
is out of the bottle. How will we get it back in?

Haank admitted that the publishers had been slow to respond to the
challenge of open-access. It is clear that not only the librarians
were unhappy with the end stage of the paper publishing game
researchers the end-users were equally unhappy because they did not
get access to the material. It was increasingly difficult to lay your
hands on a copy of a major journal. Thats not right. As publishers we
have been too slow to correct it.

But its up to us to prove that we can create a system more quickly
than [open-access initiatives] can, because we are building on the
existing foundation of money flows, and that we can run it in the
long term more efficiently than they can do it.

The concern for publishers now must be that having failed to act
sooner, the ghost is now grown too big to go back in the bottle.

   Relevant Information

   Budapest Open Access Initiative

   The self-archiving initiative, Nature 26 April 2001

   Public Library of Science

   Southampton University, Department of Electronics and Computer

   Southampton open archives -
Received on Fri Mar 29 2002 - 18:47:25 GMT

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