Re: Ingenta to offer OAI eprint service

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 2002 16:12:04 +0100 (BST)

On Tue, 2 Jul 2002, Peter Suber wrote:

> I'm puzzled by Ingenta and want to explain why...

Ingenta no doubt has its own agenda, but I think there is nothing at all
there for advocates of open access to worry about.

> ...Ingenta does not offer open-access. Publishers pay Ingenta to produce
> electronic versions of their print journals, which both parties want to
> keep behind a toll gate. Readers pay Ingenta to download articles....

Correct, and in this respect Ingenta is rather like HighWire Press (and
possibly also Berkeley Electronic Press, and MIT's DSpace):

> ...On April 5, Ingenta named the U.S.
> contingent to its Advisory Board. The new members are Mary Case
> (Association of Research Libraries), Clifford Lynch (Coalition for
> Networked Information), Andrew Odlyzko (University of Minnesota), Carol
> Tenopir (University of Tennessee), and Mary Waltham (Nature)....
> I asked Andrew Odlyzko... He can't speak for
> Ingenta, but he can explain why he accepted its invitation to join the
> board. He's given me permission to quote this reply.
> >My main interest is in the general improvement of scholarly communication,
> >not just in promoting free online scholarship (FOS). I am a strong
> >supporter of FOS, but do not expect that this will fill all the needs of
> >the scholarly community and the wider world this community has to engage
> >with. All the historical precedents suggest that total spending on
> >scholarly communication will continue to increase, as intermediaries
> >(whether libraries, professional societies, or commercial entities)
> >develop services that scholars are not able or willing to provide for
> >free. Therefore I am willing to provide my advice to all such
> >intermediaries as they adjust to the new environment of electronic
> >communication in which FOS will play a major role, but will not be
> >everything.

Let me just add two points. One is a variant of what Andrew has already
pointed out: Not all scholarly writing (online or off) has been, is, or
will be free. Books, for example, have very rarely been author
give-aways. Hence those, like Andrew, who are interested in the general
improvement of scholarly communication, will continue to be interested
in improving it for both give-away and non-give-away scholarship.

The peer-reviewed journal literature, however (at least 20,000 journals),
is NOT non-give-away scholarship!

I am not part of the Ingenta Advisory Board; however, I have recently
agreed to allow Ingenta to fund and market a commercially supported
version of the Eprints OAI-compliant software. I have nothing to do with
this commercial venture, and certainly don't ask or expect any kind
of revenue from it, but I would like to explain why I did not oppose
it. The explanation will also clarify why I see no incompatibility at all
between the Open Access Initiative and the work of Ingenta (or Elsevier,
for that matter!).

I am entirely convinced that open access (i.e., free online full-text
access) to the entire peer-reviewed journal corpus is not only optimal
for research and researchers, but inevitable. I have even taken the
risk, and the flack, of repeating this optimal/inevitable refrain for
nearly a decade in the face of the undeniable sluggishness with which this
alleged optimum is being approached! I have done so because I am certain
that it is indeed optimal and inevitable, and that the embarrassment of
continuing to say it is so (and how, and why), despite the inertia of
the status quo, is well worth it, if it is helping to speed the day.

I am also arriving at a theory of why we are not yet at this inevitable
optimum: It is because it is a PRACTICAL optimum, and researchers and
their institutions will only find their way there under the guidance
of direct practical experience, not from preaching or teaching or
theorizing (just as in the case of the "Monty Hall" paradox). Researchers
must taste for themselves, directly, the benefits of open access, along
with the frustrations, costs and losses of access-denial: That is
what services like Ingenta and Ideal and ScienceDirect demonstrate
(inadvertently!), as users sample directly the contrast between what they
can access online for free and what they cannot.

But this practical learning experience does not stop with access and
access-denial: Researchers must also taste for themselves the practical
effects of access and access-denial on research impact: the impact of
their own work! Theorizing about the connection is not enough: They must
taste what it is like to be a user of open-access and toll-access articles
(and, increasingly, open-access and toll-access versions of exactly
the SAME articles) in order to see and taste the causal connection
between access, usage and impact. And impact-ranking search-engines
like citebase must quantify the results before their very eyes, like a

Every time a user hits an article for which his institution must pay
toll-access, and especially when it is an article in a journal to which
the user's institution cannot afford toll-access, will contrast, in
the user's practical mind, with the times when an article (sometimes
the same article) is available for free, because its author has had
the good sense to self-archive it in his institutional Eprint Archive
(or to publish it in an open-access journal) -- all this will eventually
register in researchers' minds, until the optimal/inevitable token drops!

This is why it is a waste of time ranting and raving against toll-access
publishers, overpriced or not: They (including Ingenta) are simply doing
what they can and should be doing: Providing toll-access as long as
there is a demand for it. If we want something else, we have to realize
it, and do something about it. To realize it, the options, and their
consequences, have to be clearly before us, so we can sample and compare
them directly. Hence getting them all onto the same online palate --
whether in the toll-access or open-access sector of it -- is essential,
so we can then go ahead and sample the two modes directly and draw our own

By exactly the same token, I am convinced that the free version of the
Eprints archive-creating software
is quite sufficient to get enough universities' peer-reviewed research
output into the open-access sector to make the rest of the dominoes
fall. But if there are institutions whose adoption of the software,
and hence their self-archiving, is currently being held back by the fact
that they fear they need more commercial support in their start-up and
maintenance: Let them have that too! And if (ironically), it is again
Ingenta that provides the commercial service that emboldens them to make
their research output freely accessible, more power to them!

And more power to Elsevier's search-engine, Scirus, which will draw
together the for-free and for-fee sectors onto the same search-palate!

All of these commercial companies may have their own agendas, but I have
no doubt whatsoever about what the practical outcome of it all will be!

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 Jul 02 2002 - 16:12:04 BST

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