Re: Excerpts from FOS Newsletter

From: Peter Suber <>
Date: Sun, 15 Sep 2002 21:42:36 +0100

      Excerpts from Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Newsletter
      September 15, 2002

Measuring FOS progress [excerpts]

Let's say that the "adequacy" of FOS is the percentage of the peer-reviewed
literature from a given time period for which there is open access. We can
talk about the adequacy of FOS in a given field, in a given language, in a
given year (or other period), or we can speak of the adequacy of FOS
overall. Our goal is to increase the adequacy of FOS every month in every
field in every language until we reach 100% across the board. We can also
set more provisional goals, such as 75% adequacy for geology in English by
2005. To the extent that FOS is still inadequate, scholars must still
search priced or printed literature, and cannot assume (or let their
students assume) that "if it's not free online, then it's not worth finding".

Unfortunately, we're very far from being able to measure adequacy. In a
recent discussion I put the problem this way:

>[W]e have no good way of measuring the percentage of a discipline's
>published literature that is available online free of charge. An army of
>volunteers could take the measurement, but so far no army of volunteers
>has been mobilized to do so for any discipline. Software cannot do the job
>unless supplemented by human labor to tally the print-only literature
>inaccessible to software. Moreover, the measurement would have to be
>repeated every month to capture this very dynamic moment in history when
>publishers of all kinds are experimenting with ways to take advantage of
>the Internet.

Here's an open call for volunteers --not necessarily an army. Let's start
at the beginning. Before we try an actual count of the peer-reviewed
articles published in a given field in a given language in a given period,
let's see if we can come up with an efficient and accurate way to conduct
such a count. This is a call for library virtuosos to share their wisdom.

Lists of peer-reviewed journals will be easier to come by than timely
updates to those lists or non-controversial decisions about whether to
count a given journal in a given field or even whether to count a given
article in the "open access" column. Once we've made some of these
preliminary decisions, running a count on open-access journals can be
automated, although writing the program would be non-trivial. Running a
count on priced online journals could also be automated, but would face new
hurdles. Running a count on print-only journals could not be automated,
but some subsets of these journals are indexed in digital references,
making them susceptible to an automated count.

If the most efficient method were expensive, then we could apply for grants
to carry it out periodically (at least for major disciplines and major
languages). If it were less expensive, then we could expect scholars to
make periodic counts, at least in the fields or languages that interested
them, and publish their results. An online clearinghouse could collect the
results, support comparisons and tracking, and prevent duplicated labor.

Anyone game?

The quotation is from James Morrison, "The Free Online Scholarship
Movement: An Interview with Peter Suber" (September-October issue of _The
Technology Source_)

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Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2002, Peter Suber

Received on Sun Sep 15 2002 - 21:42:36 BST

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