Re: ALPSP statement on BOAI

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002 18:58:39 +0100

On Tue, 23 Apr 2002, Barry Mahon wrote:

> From: Sally Morris <sec-gen_at_ALPSP.ORG>
> >How does that translate to 'almost total nonuse'? I am getting increasingly
> >baffled here
> Me too, I accept that "paper" literature is read less than it used to
> be; but to use a pejorative phrase such this is to exaggerate the issue.

Pejorative is rather an exaggeration too, but I agree that David Goodman
was guilty of hyperbole when he said "almost total nonuse." As Arthur
Smith has subsequently corrected him, and I believe David has agreed, the
use of the for-free and for-fee versions is approximately at par, and the
larger for-free figures were probably browsing figures rather than
full-text download and reading.

Now we have to interpret what this means: What it means is that in
those areas of physics (still only a tiny minority among the
disciplines) that have had the foresight to make their research openly
accessible to all would-be users through self-archiving, those users
who can afford toll-access, and hence continue to use it, are
approximately equal in number right now to those users who cannot or do
not, and use open-access instead. Moreover, the freely accessible
literature is also more freely navigated and browsed.

> The other part of the discussion, between David and Stevan on whether
> tenure/publication/administration etc., are relevant issues, is also
> confusing. While accepting that this list is dedicated to "open access
> initiative" (not to be confused with OAI?) and nothing else is it not
> focussing to narrowly to say that nothing apart from toll free access is
> relevant?

First, yes, as already indicated in a prior reply to a posting from
Barry Mahon the
Self-Archiving Initiative
(which has since that posting been incorporated as BOAI Strategy 1 into
the Budapest Open Access Initiative, is not to be confused with
the Open Archives Initiative which is a
metadata-tagging protocol for the harvesting and interoperability of
the digital literature, regardless of whether the full-text is
open-access or toll-access.

Second, although the American Scientist Forum is explicitly dedicated
to the goal of hastening and facilitating free online access (i.e.,
open access) to the peer-reviewed literature, it is not the case that
"nothing else" is relevant -- to this goal. Some things are and some
things are not; and some, wrongly thought to be relevant, have in fact
been holding back progress towards this goal for some time now. It is
hence completely consonant with the goal of this Forum to discuss
whatever is relevant, as well as what is not relevant, and why.

Since this Forum began in 1998, cloture (i.e., ending discussion on a topic)
has been invoked by the moderator (me) on four topics:

(1) University-administration conspiracy theory:

(2) University-library underfunding theory:

(3) The public-domain solution

(4) Peer-review reform:

Those who are interested in why cloture was invoked in those four
cases can find the discussion threads above. In brief, each topic had
been fully aired, and the postings had become repetitive and
uninformative. If someone who has reviewed the prior discussion feels
they have something new and substantive to add, the discussions can be
re-opened. (Alas, topic 2 was re-opened several times, only to go back
into the same pattern of repetition, and closed again each time. On
topic 4, cloture was not formally invoked: discussion ended on an unspoken
gentlemen's agreement.)

> What is clear, at least to me, is that learned publishing is in a
> process of change. As Sally and others have said there is need of a
> model to replace the traditional one of submission> review>
> (revision)> publication> purchase> use> citation.....using the
> available technologies.

This may all be true. But the subject matter of this Forum is not
changes in learned publishing in general, but only whatever is relevant
to the goal of hastening and facilitating open access to the
peer-reviewed research literature. This goal is already attainable, and
long overdue. General changes in learned publishing can be discussed in
other venues at their own pace; here they are pertinent only insofar as
they are pertinent to the Forum's goal of open access to the
peer-reviewed literature.

> Various new methods are now in the arena, none have
> replaced the original. We are in a transition period. In such a
> situation we should - even on a list with the objective of dealing
> primarily with one new method - keep our discussion open. That way we
> can all participate. If we limit it too much then we risk speaking only
> amongst the converted.
> Barry Mahon, Executive Director, ICSTI

The trouble is that "method" here is a weasel-word: Method for what?
All methods for hastening and facilitating open access are welcome for
discussion in this Forum. University conspiracy theory is not such a
method; library underfunding theory is not such a method; urging
authors to put their papers into the public domain is not such a
method; and changing either peer review or tenure review is not such a
method either, since the goal is to free the peer-reviewed literature
(such as it is) from access-tolls, not from peer review (such as it is).

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 Tue Apr 23 2002 - 18:59:11 BST

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