Re: Access-Denial, Impact-Denial and the Developing and Developed World

From: Barbara Kirsop <Brian_at_BIOSTRAT.DEMON.CO.UK>
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2002 10:37:01 +0100

I think that regarding access-denial and impact-denial, it is best to
ask those that know. I have therefore asked EPT Trustees who live and
work in the developing world to send comments on this. My view is that
both are patently essential for scientific development so that it is not
worth trying to asign values. Let's just get on with making both possible.


Stevan Harnad wrote:

> On Mon, 22 Jul 2002, Barbara Kirsop wrote:
>>Our concern
>>is solely about the possible development of a two-tier eprint software
>>system that would emerge as a result of a commercial development in
>>parallel with the free-of-cost software. It seems to us that where this
>>scenario exists, the non-commercial system will likely be of a less
>>well-developed standard.
> I greatly admire the work of Barbara Kirsop and her colleague
> and BOAI co-founder, Leslie Chan, as well as their respective
> organizations, the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development
> and Bioline International
> on behalf of the developing world.
> Although I don't think that what Barbara fears could come to pass will
> actually come to pass, for the reasons I have already given earlier in
> this thread, I entirely understand why she is so concerned.
>>Filling the archives is essential, but filled
>>archives without the eprint software to provide global access to them
>>must be as useless as empty archives.
> I can't quite follow this scenario: The free software is
> for CREATING the OAI-compliant Eprint Archives, not for
> accessing and using them. The archives (all interoperable)
> are accessed and used by searching them and retrieving their
> open-access contents. For this there are (among other ways of
> searching them, such as google) the OAI-compliant Service Providers
> which have nothing
> directly to do with the archive-creating software, whether the free GNU
> version or the Ingenta version. They
> are indifferent to how the archives were created, as long as they are
> OAI-compliant (and filled!).
> So on Barbara's premise that the Eprint Archives are filled, it is not
> at all clear what further worry one ought to have. (My own worry is
> rather about speeding up the rate at which that premise is fulfilled!)
>>It is very true that scientists in developing countries are highly
>>enthusiastic about the potential for free access to the world's
>>scientific literature that institutional archives present. The EPT is
>>active in raising awareness about the OAI and associated services
>>( But scientists in the developing countries
>>have important research information to contribute to the global
>>knowledge base, and raising visibility of this through their own
>>institutional archives is also seen to be a very important opportunity.
>>Closing the S to N knowledge gap, making visible the 'missing' science,
>>are real challenges that archives in developing countries can help to
> I agree completely, and said so in my prior reply. Maximizing access to
> research output by self-archiving it in Open Access Eprint Archives
> maximizes the visibility, usage and impact of research:
> Lawrence, S. (2001a) Online or Invisible? Nature 411 (6837): 521.
> Lawrence, S. (2001b) Free online availability substantially increases a
> paper's impact. Nature Web Debates.
> However, I also noted in my prior reply (and others can correct me if I
> am wrong about this), that the visibility of their own research to the
> developed world is not the primary problem of developing world research
> and researchers.
> "The real boon to the developing world that the eprints software is
> meant to provide will not come from the adoption of the software
> and the creation of Eprints Archives in the developing world,
> providing open access to the developing world's research output. As
> welcome and beneficial as that will be to the visibility and impact
> of developing-world research, that is NOT the developing world's
> primary problem! Their [primary] problem is ACCESS to the research
> output of the DEVELOPED world!"
> Perhaps this is a good occasion to make more explicit a general point
> about the causal connection between accessibility and visibility/impact,
> and hence about the logic and motivation of the open access movement
> (BOAI):
> (1) Toll-based access-barriers to research output prevent those researchers
> whose institutions cannot afford the tolls from accessing and hence
> using the research.
> (2) This has two effects:
> (2a) access-denial to research output diminishes the quality of the
> research output of its would-be USERS, because their own research
> fails to be informed by and built upon the research they cannot
> access, and
> (2b) access-denial to research output diminishes the impact of the
> research itself, denying its AUTHORS and their institutions the full
> benefits of their findings (in the form of visibility, usage,
> citations, and the resulting rewards such as research funding,
> career advancement, honors, and potential influence on the further
> course of knowledge).
> (3) Both 2a and 2b apply to research and researchers worldwide, in both
> the developing and developed world. Access-denial results in lost access to
> one another's research (2a), and lost impact for one's own research (2b).
> (4) There is nothing that researchers can do directly to remedy their
> own access denial to the research of others (2a).
> (5) But there is something that researchers can do to remedy the access
> denial of others to their own research, and hence also to remedy their own
> impact-denial (2b): They can make their own research open-access, by
> self-archiving it in their institutional Eprint Archives.
> (6) By symmetry and the Golden Rule, maximizing access to one's own
> research (2b), if it is done by everyone, maximizes one's own access to
> everyone else's research (2a).
> (7) Open access solves both 2a and 2b, but the logical and causal
> (and motivational) order is: 2b first, then 2a.
> (8) All of the above are true for both developing and developed
> countries: The (indirect) way to maximize one's access to the research
> output of others is by maximizing access to one's own research output.
> If there is any difference between developing and developed countries
> then, it is only in the absolute and relative weight of 2a
> (access-denial) and 2b (impact-denial).
> I am not an expert, and defer to Barbara and Leslie in this, but my own
> guess would be that:
> (i) Researchers in the developing world suffer relatively more
> than researchers in the developed world from both access-denial (2a)
> and impact-denial (2b).
> (ii) For developed-world researchers, particularly at the more
> prosperous universities with bigger access-toll budgets, the problem
> of impact-denial (2b) is relatively more pressing than the problem
> of access-denial (2a).
> (iii) For developing-world researchers, the lower impact of their
> research is only in part because of the impact-denial problem
> (2b); it is partly also because their research output is handicapped
> by the developing world's own greater access-denial problem (2a):
> their research suffers from being less informed by what even the
> poorer institutions in the developed world can afford to access.
> It was for this reason that I suggested that the developing world's
> primary problem was access-denial rather than visibility/impact denial.
> But in any case, the solution, for both the developing and the developed
> world, is exactly the same: it is to immediately maximize access to their
> own research output by self-archiving it. The rest of the cause-effect
> sequence will then take care of itself.
> To self-archive their research output and solve their impact-denial
> problem (2b), all the developing world need do is create OAI-compliant
> archives and fill them, like everyone else. The software is
> available, free, and works. The (unaffordable) deluxe Ingenta option is
> not a threat to the developing world, it is simply irrelevant for their
> own research output. On the other hand, inasmuch as it helps hasten
> the self-archiving of some of the more prosperous universities in the
> developed world, the Ingenta option will also hasten the solution to
> the developing world's access-denial problem (2a).
> By way of an added incentive for developing-world self-archiving:
> (iv) Just as the developing world is losing relatively more than
> the developed world because of access-denial to the research of the
> developed world, the developing world probably also has relatively
> more to gain from remedying its own impact-denial as soon as possible,
> by hastening to make its own research output open-access.
>>It is difficult for academic authors in the developed world to relate to
>>the feeling of isolation and impotence that scientists feel if their
>>research remains largely unknown and unacknowledged, as is too often the
>>case at present in the developing world. Moreover, the importance of the
>>research generated in these regions is of huge relevance to the
>>development of international research programmes - particularly in such
>>areas as AIDS, malaria, TB, ecology and conservation, where local
>>conditions and local knowledge are significant factors. Therefore, the
>>OAI movement was increasingly regarded as a light at the end of the
>>tunnel and one-for-all software the ideal tool.
> I could not agree more. All the more reason that those who are helping
> the developing world to maximize the visibility/impact of its research
> should focus their efforts on helping them create and fill Eprint
> Archives rather than worrying needlessly about the deluxe Ingenta
> option!
>>We remain concerned that as the commercial system develops, the
>>scientists in the poorer countries will have no choice but to use the
>>non-commercial software.
> In doing so, they will simply be doing what an increasing number of
> universities in the developed world (e.g., Cal Tech, University of
> California, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Southampton) are already doing
> by choice!
>>If the development of this will indeed forge
>>ahead at the same rate as that developed by Ingenta, this will be
> That is certainly what is intended. Besides, why are we worrying about
> hypothetical future rates of forging ahead? All the forging to date has
> been done by, on the free version, and it is working, and
> ready, and has been for some time! Why not focus on using it to create
> and fill Eprint archives, now, rather than worrying about some
> hypothetical 2nd derivative in the future?
>>But the new commercial arrangement suggests that the current
>>software has need of improved user support, so perhaps the BOAI
>>initiative could be encouraged to focus on supporting archives in the
>>developing world by funding the development of installation or
>>self-archiving manuals. Archives in the developing regions would be
>>quickly filled, since the global recognition they provide would be
>>greatly encouraging to scientific development, both personally and
> I agree completely. The BOAI should work to promote self-archiving in the
> developing world (2b); but it wouldn't hurt to promote it in the
> developed world either, and that just might help to solve the developing
> world's other pressing problem (2a).
> 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):
> or
> Discussion can be posted to:
> See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:
> and the Free Online Scholarship Movement:
Received on Fri Jul 26 2002 - 10:37:01 BST

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