ALPSP Workshop on Open Access Journals, 13 September

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2002 14:47:25 +0100

On Tue, 10 Sep 2002, Leslie Carr wrote:

> I'm speaking at an ALPSP workshop on Thursday about "Open Access Journals"
> ie why OA is good for scholars. I can recount the usual blurb on OA, but
> I'm probably a little inexperienced on talking about OA journals. Do you
> have some slides/articles from which I can steal some erudite and pertinent
> points?

Hi Les,

There are two open-access strategies, BOAI-1 (self-archiving) and BOAI-2
(open-access journals).

For BOAI-1, I suggest you take your material from:

(1) the self-archiving FAQ
(2) The transition scenario
(3) some of Tim's talks about ways to accelerate self-archiving
(e.g., citebase) and STeve Hitchcock's

For BOAI-2, I suggest you take your material from:

(1) Peter's BOAI Faq
(2) BioMed Central (I hope Jan Velertrop will send you links)
(3) PLoS (I hope Mike Eisen will send you some links).
(4) Mike Jewell's and Chris's work on PsycPrints

The relation between BOAI-1 and BOAI-2 (in my view) is this:

a. Open access is extremely important and desirable for researchers
and research because it maximizes visibility, accessibility, usage,
impact, and hence the productivity of researchers and research itself.

b. Open access is already greatly overdue, so the question -- for
research and researchers -- is not "whether" but "when" (or rather,
how to make it happen as soon as possible).

c. Open access is already accessible immediately through BOAI-1
(self-archiving), so all researchers need to be encouraged to do that
( and citebase are among the resources we have created to
help encourage them) and will be. (Get some previews of citebase
evaluation results from Tim & Steve?)

d. Open access can also be had via BOAI-2, and the two strategies work
in concert, with BOAI-1 preparing the ground for BOAI-2.

e. BOAI-2 is initially more indirect than BOAI-1, because it first
requires either the founding of new open-access journals or the conversion
of existing toll-access journals to open-access. However, it is without
a doubt the final state toward which the open-access movement is heading,
with all toll-access journals ultimately converted to open-access.

f. It would be good for ALPSP publishers already to study the economic
model and modus operandi of OA journals such as those of BioMed Central,
to prepare and plan for the future.

g. The future is meanwhile being ushered in by both the existing OA
journals (BOAI-2) and by BOAI-1 (self-archiving), which is opening
access to the literature in advance of any conversions by publishers
from toll-access to open-access.

h. BOAI-2 startups and conversions are being subsidized by BOAI grants
and other funding initiatives (like Pat Brown's )

i. BOAI-1 institutional archives are being fostered by consortia such as
SPARC and the various JISC
institutional archiving projects. (Mention the Eprints/Ingenta

j. Momentum is increasing:

> background to the audience:
> >The audience will consist of about 20 publishers, predominantly but not
> >entirely not-for-profit (societies, university presses etc). I think there
> >will, indeed, be considerable anxiety about the potential impact on their
> >business of an Open Access publishing model;

The best (and only) advice that can be given them is

(1) to prepare for it

(2) not to try to block it (it will only rebound against them in the end,
for it is futile in the face of the overwhelming and undeniable benefits
to research and researchers made possible by open access)

(3) to be assured that there will always be a permanent niche (though
a transformed, downsized one) for open-access journal publishers.
BioMed Central journals are examples.

> I am sure this will surface
> >volubly during the plentiful discussion periods; even the not-for-profit
> >publishers are often heavily dependent on publishing 'surpluses' (polite
> >name for profits!) to fund their other activities - conferences,
> >scholarships, etc.

Be quite frank with them: Ask them quite directly and explicitly whether
they imagine that researchers will knowingly CHOOSE to give up their
research impact in order to fund conferences and schilarships, once
they are made aware of the cause/effect contingencies (and they WILL be
made aware).

Tell them it is the reality of the potential that the online medium has
now made available about which you are coming to talk to them, and that
the solution for ALPSP publishers is not to hope that researchers will
somehow fail to notice or to take advantage of this new and real
potential, now that it's there, in order to preserve either publishers'
revenue streams, publishers' old (toll-access) modus operandi, or to
subsidize "other activities" (like conferences and scholarships).

It's always better to face and prepare for reality with open eyes rather
than to wait be overtaken by events.

(Researchers have been sluggish in realizing and taking advantage of the
new online possibilities, but time is on their side, not the publishers',
and it would be foolhardy to count on researchers' sluggishness to last

> However, what I think they will really want to hear from
> >you is a balanced (and non-fanatical!) presentation of why the OA model is
> >such a good thing for scholarship - Jan Velterop from BioMed Central is
> >charged with explaining why it's not necessarily bad for publishers! We
> >will want to focus on Open Access journals - i.e. journals which operate
> >more or less conventionally, but which are funded, one way or another, at
> >the input end rather than paid for by the library or reader - and not Open
> >Archives/Institutional Repositories (whereby hangs a whole different
> >discussion, I suspect).

The last sentence above is not good advice to you, because these
components are all causally connected:

I. Author/Institution self-archiving provides and demonstrates the
benefits of open access

II. This increases the desire and expectation of open access (thereby
increasing the self-archiving and also encouraging the founding and
migration to open-access journals).

III. The funding model for open-access journals is up-front: Costs
are paid by the author/institution, as peer-review service costs per
OUTGOING paper for institutional research OUTPUT instead of by the
reader/institution, as subscription access-toll costs per INCOMING paper
(for accessing the institutional research output of OTHER institutions).

IV. At the moment, there is no institutional pot out of which those
service costs per outgoing paper can be paid, so they are being paid out
of subsidies (e.g., the BOAI).

V. But once self-archiving has generated enough open-access to lead to
institutional toll-access cancellations, the annual windfall savings
will build up a pot that is more than enough to cover the much lower
costs of open-access journals.

This is better planned for in advance, rather than being allowed to take
toll-access publishers by surprise. The way to plan is already to make
ready to cut costs by phasing out any "value-added" services other than
peer review (which is essential) that are unlikely to find a market on
their own, once the vanilla peer-reviewed draft is openly accessible
for free for all.

Add-on services and products should be modularized already now, so they
can be sold as separates as long as there is a market for them. But
publishers should be ready to downsize to the essentials should the
market shrink, and the demand be for the only remaining essential that
they will always provide, namely, the implementation of peer review.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Sep 10 2002 - 14:47:25 BST

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