May 29 article in The Australian

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 12:26:28 +0100

Colin Steele wrote:

> The Australian newspaper featured a 2 page spread in its May 29 edition
> on "Serial Killers", with the sub-header, 'Faced with rising costs for
> journals, some universities are encouraging academics to publish in
> electronic repositories'. Unfortunately the text is not available on
> their website and only part of it seems to be available through Factiva,
> which is attached below but you might find it of interest in the continual
> global struggle.

Many thanks to Colin Steele for drawing attention to this material
(and for his splendid ongoing work in Australia).

The unfortunate title of this newspaper article (which is as much as
most people will read and take home as a message) perpetuates two of
the most common misunderstandings holding back open access:
It is not a matter of "killing serials" but of freeing their contents.
Nor is it a matter of "publishing in electronic repositories" but of
openly archiving already-published articles in them:

    "1.4. Distinguish self-publishing (vanity press) from self-archiving
    (of published, refereed research)"

In the article itself Colin Steele, makes all the requisite distinctions,
but the journalist's title manages to conflate them anyway! (It never
ceases to amaze me how interviewers can keep getting something so
fundamentally simple so systematically wrong!)

There are also a few minor points on which I would disagree with my
comrade-at-arms, Colin:

(1) I don't think access will be freed by author/university motivation
to lower journal prices. It will be freed by author/university
motivation to maximize research impact (hence also grant income).

(2) The emphasis is best placed on the author give-away literature
(peer-reviewed journal articles) rather than royalty-based literature
such as books, which authors are far less likely to want to make freely

(3) The two BOAI strategies for hastening the transition to open access
should be kept distinct in the minds of researchers and their
universities: BOAI Strategy 1, author/university self-archiving, is
for immediately opening access to the contents of the world's 20,000
peer-reviewed journals, both before publication (preprints) and after
(postprints). BOAI Strategy 2, open-access journals, is to create new
open-access journals and to convert established journals to the
open-access model.

(4) It might perhaps be better to say that the goal is to adapt academic
culture so as to take advantage of the new possibilities opened up by
the online era -- rather than to "break" it!

(5) No changes in the academic reward structure are needed. Peer review
and research impact will continue to be the performance indicators under
open access just as they were before.

Stevan Harnad

> The Australian (c) 2002 Nationwide News Proprietary Ltd
> `It does take a long time to break the academic culture' Colin Steele
> Director of scholarly information strategies, ANU Thus the incentive to
> publish electronically - either bypassing the commercial publishing
> houses entirely or by preceding hard-copy publication - is being
> spurred at least as much by spiralling costs as by any altruistic
> desire to provide widespread and free access to intellectual thought
> and scientific endeavour.
> Colin Steele, formerly chief of the Australian National University
> library, is passionate about the possibilities that a university-based
> approach to electronic publishing affords. His new job at ANU is director
> of scholarly information strategies, and he is a pioneer of the eprint
> strategy.
> In September last year ANU launched the first academic electronic archive
> in Australia. It encourages authors to store their books, monographs
> and conference papers as well as journal-style articles on its server,
> which can be located on the internet by search engines using powerful
> metadata harvesting techniques.
> Queensland and Melbourne universities have followed ANU in using this
> approach and before long the remaining Go8 members are expected to
> join them.
> But the service is still in its early days and at the ANU, take-up has
> been patchy, with many disciplines still not represented. Steele puts this
> down to uncertainty and inexperience on the part of some in the academy.
> "It does take a long time to break the academic culture," he says. "They
> take a while to be convinced - Am I going to lose my copyright? What
> does it mean if I put it in the subject repository, do I have to put it
> in the institution? It will take about a year for us to get there."
> In some disciplines, where the process is more familiar because of its
> success overseas, notably physics, chemistry, economics and commerce,
> there has been a more enthusiastic response.
> In the ANU system copyright is held by the author unless it is assigned
> to a future publisher, and all types of material, refereed and unrefereed,
> is accepted. This institution repository model is the kind being advocated
> by one of the great champions of academic epublishing, Stephen Harnad
> of Southampton University in the UK, but there are many others.
> Vice-chancellor of the University of Western Australia Deryck Schreuder
> has identified three further broad strategies.
> The first is encouraging learned societies to create new, affordable
> high-quality journals. The North American Scholarly Publishing and
> Academic Resource Coalition, better known by its acronym SPARC, is a
> leader in this field.
> Epublisher BioMed Central took a different approach. It charges the
> author or the author's institution for publication and makes the work
> available free to readers.
> In a recent paper, Schreuder asserts that it will be social factors,
> not technology, that determine the success of these initiatives.
> These include: "the determination of individual academics, the support
> and encouragement of individual universities as they change their internal
> recognition and reward structures; the role of educational administrators,
> as they promote more flexible forms of recognising high-quality research
> ... and, perhaps above all, of the learned societies that embody and
> promote the collective will and values of their research communities".
> Whatever path is chosen it is clear that academics will no longer have
> unlimited access to hard-copy journals unless they wait to receive them
> via inter-library loans or document delivery services.
> As Steele sees it, the strength of the big publishing houses will not
> be eroded easily, but institution-based respositories offer a strong
> alternative.
> "In five years' time there will probably be a small group of publishers
> who will charge very high prices for the top rank of scientific knowledge
> - the Elseviers of the world," he says.
> "Then, hopefully, there will be 80 per cent of scientific and social
> science material that will be available through eprint repositories
> where peer reviewing has been retained."
> This two-tier system would have decided advantages: it would be cheaper
> and would greatly increase the available material and the number of
> readers who have access to it.
> "The universities will be the winners because their research will be
> largely their own."
> Another initiative that has been widely publicised is the Public Library
> of Science, set up to encourage publishers to allow work in their journals
> to be made freely available six months or so after publication. But its
> success has been limited. The US Chronicle of Higher Education reported
> recently that the group's proposed boycott of unco-operative journals has
> run into trouble and the group is now also considering publishing its own.
> --------------------------------------------------------------
> Colin Steele
> Director Scholarly Information Strategies
> Division of Information
> W.K. Hancock Building (043)
> The Australian National University
> Canberra ACT 0200
> Australia
> Tel +61 (0)2 612 58983
> Fax +61 (0)2 612 53215
> Email:
> Library Web:
Received on Tue Jun 18 2002 - 12:26:28 BST

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