Re: ALPSP statement on BOAI

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 8 Apr 2002 20:40:43 +0100

On Mon, 8 Apr 2002, Sally Morris wrote:

> There have been various comments on our Association's reaction to the
> Budapest Open Access Initiative. Our response seems to have been
> somewhat misunderstood: we do not oppose initiatives which advocate the
> widest possible access to information - far from it, since dissemination
> is part of the mission of most of our member societies. However, we
> believe that it is essential that a business model is first found which
> will pay for all the elements which researchers value.

I have twice tried to state the question that it would be very helpful
if Sally would answer. I shall state again here:

ALPSP says it is for the widest possible access to information.

Open access (i.e., free online access to all) is the widest possible
access. Open access can be achieved immediately by self-archiving.
ALPSP's recommended copyright transfer statements seem to explicitly
allow self-archiving.

So what does Sally mean by:"it is essential that a business model is
first found"?

Does she mean it has to be found BEFORE authors exercise the prerogative
to self-archive that ALPSP specifically allows?

(This is the ambivalence or ambiguity I was asking Sally to resolve.)

> Contrary to
> Stevan's view, researchers - as authors and as readers - do value very
> highly the whole spectrum of functions which publishers traditionally
> perform, and not just peer review itself.

That is, as I have likewise stated, not the way to put it. The way to put
it is to make the possibilities clear, and let authors then weigh them
relative to one another.

Not "Do you value feature X?" but "Do you value feature X more than
open access" (possibly without feature X, or possibly with feature X
payable as an option)?

In other words, the ALPSP questionnaires are, as stated several times
before, self-serving, if not biassed. They do not present the options and
their respective trade-offs. They are merely product-satisfaction
questionnaires: "Do you like feature X?"

The old Maine joke is the relevant one here:

Jake: "How's yir woife?"
Clem: "C'mpayured ti whot?"

See: "ALPSP Research study on academic journal authors"

To put it yet another way: peer-review is, by definition, an essential,
if we are talking about open access to the peer-reviewed literature
(and not something else). But all other features are options, and the
right way to put the question is to ask whether they should be offered
as options or continue to be bundled in obligately, at the expense of
open access, as they are now.

> Our latest, recently
> completed, research study established very high ratings for all of the
> following (listed in order of importance): management (as distinct from
> execution) of the peer review process;

What on earth does that mean? The peers review for free, so
management/implementation IS the process we are talking about paying for,
as peer review.

And what do "high ratings" mean, if the trade-offs (c'mpayured ti whot?)
are not made explicit?

> selection of relevant and quality-controlled content;

Again, sounds like 100% redundancy with peer review: Those are the quality
labels. What further "selection" is meant here?

(Sounds like asking about how high people rate having cops on the beat,
and then further asking them how high they rate cops doing their work,
and how high they rate the results of having cops do their work...)

If some other form of selection is meant here, other than the selection
inherent in peer review itself, please say so explicitly, and ask
respondents to rate it relative to open access (from both the reader's
point of view, i.e., your own potential access to everything, and from
the author's point of view, i.e., the potential impact of your work when
there are no more toll-barriers).

"Would you rather (as author and reader) do without open access in
exchange for X, or would you rather have open access, with X sold as an
option for those who want it (and their institutions can afford it)?"

It is hard to set up an unbiassed questionnaire like this, and even
then the results are of limited value, because often respondents cannot
weigh how they would actually value options that they have never
actually had a chance to try. (We will return to this below, with the

> gathering articles together to enable
> browsing of relevant and quality-controlled content;

Same as above.

> content editing and improvement of articles; language or copy-editing;

Editing and copy-editing need to be considered in their own right, apart
from peer review, to see how much value they add, as weighed against open
access. To the extent that it is judged an essential, editing can be
added into the peer-review price, but this will vary greatly from field
to field, and again is hard for a respondent to judge hypothetically.

> checking of citations/adding citation links;

This is becoming a separable module if ever there was one (and an
increasingly automatable one). Again, needs to be weighed, alone or in
combination, against open access, rather than in isolation. See wording
for feature "X" above.

> and (even) marketing (maximising visibility of journal).

I'd love to see how much of their research impact authors think
actually comes from journal marketing! and how highly they would weight
that, relative to open online access, in today's online age. -- But it
wouldn't hurt if the respondents supplemented their intuitions with
some actual data on this too...:

    "Online or Invisible"

> Respondents predominantly believe that
> libraries should continue to pay for these processes in some way,

And they would rather themselves (and their would-be readers) have no
access at all to whatever their libraries cannot afford, then? For the
sake of the citation-checking, perhaps, or the citation-checking plus
the "marketing"?

You see what I mean?

> and
> clearly more thinking and experimentation is urgently needed both on
> viable alternative business models, and on the potential migration path
> towards these.

Indeed, but in the meanwhile, while all this urgent thinking and
experimentation is going on, should they or should they not generate
immediate open access by self-archiving (or publishing in open-access
journals)? (In other words, how urgent is open access? to authors? to
readers? how important is lost potential impact? and lost actual

Open-ended positive ratings, not weighted or informed by the trade-offs,
are merely recipes for reaffirming the status quo.

> Interestingly, other than in physics, respondents mostly
> had little or no idea what we meant by preprint or eprint archives.

And was there perhaps a difference between the pattern of preferences
expressed by the physicists, who have direct experience with open
access, and the rest of your respondents? Objectivity would make one
curious to examine this more informed sub-population separately, and

> The full results of the study, Authors and Electronic Publishing, will
> be available for sale very shortly and details will appear on our
> website,

Here's another survey, on users and nonusers of archives. And the full
results are available free...:

> One small clarification - Bernard Lang was under the impression that
> members only permitted free archival access to authors. This is not
> what I meant; a growing number of our member publishers make their
> online archival volumes freely accessible to all after a certain period.

Research is not conducted and published in order to be embargoed for "a
certain period" so as to keep paying for features that are no longer
needed. Open access to peer-reviewed research means open access from the
moment of acceptance (and indeed before it, for the pre-peer-review

    Harnad, S. (2001) AAAS's Response: Too Little, Too Late. Science dEbates
    [online] 2 April 2001.
    Fuller version:

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):

Discussion can be posted to:

See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:

and the Free Online Scholarship Movement:
Received on Mon Apr 08 2002 - 20:41:57 BST

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