Re: Momentum for Eprint Archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2002 16:13:19 +0000

On Tue, 26 Nov 2002 [identity removed] worte:

> Yes, the double-dipping argument is library-speak.
> But it is also accountant-speak.
> NIH funds Dr. X to do work. In a bookkeeping sense, the
> "system" is paying twice, as it pays for subscriptions. If it is public
> money that is being used...well, I do think the money trail is always an
> important one. Not that I would phrase it that way. Of course I am not just
> buying Dr. X's work but I am also buying it in the bag with all
> the other research.

The library's frequent lament that "Our researchers do their research,
give it to the publishers, and then WE have to buy it back!" is not quite
accurate, because it's not the same "we," nor the same work! My
own library does not have to buy back my own research. Anyone at my
institution can get it from me, but why would they want it anyway? They're
busy reading everyone else's research, and THAT's what we have to keep
buying in, with the tolls, not our own research output.

But if you put the emphasis on the system as a whole -- say, U.S. publicly
funded research and U.S. publicly funded (i.e., state) universities,
you might have a causal system where the double-payment wastage-argument

But it is not publishers who are double-dipping: They are simply doing
what they have always done, and must do, if they are to cover expenses
and make a fair profit, namely, sell their product. And remember that
the real problem is NOT merely that the access-tolls for the product
(peer-reviewed research papers) are too high. It is that there are
any access-tolls AT ALL, blocking the access of those potential users
(the vast majority, by the way!) for any given paper (of the 2,000,000
published annually) whose institutions happen to be unable to subscribe
to the journal in which that particular paper appeared. No institution,
not even Harvard, can afford toll-access to more than a small proportion
of the planet's 20,000 peer-reviewed journals, and they wouldn't be able
to do so even if the journals were sold at cost!

So even though global "double-dipping" seems like a tempting metaphor
for the anomaly, and certainly describes the money wastage, it doesn't
really capture the basic problem, nor its solution, which has nothing to
do with libraries, publishers, or journal prices. The solution is that
the PostGutenberg era of online digital networks (i.e., email and the
web) has opened up a brand new possibility for this very special subset of
the written word -- peer-reviewed research -- that is so fundamentally
yet subtly different from the rest (and this subtle difference is partly
why so few have noticed the possibility, or availed themselves of it,
even when told): The possibility is that of ensuring open, toll-free
access to one's own peer-reviewed research output, by publicly
self-archiving it.

The familiar spectre of copyright and peer-review bugaboos (yet
again) arises. You already know the story about copyright (the
preprint&corrigenda strategy effectively lays it to rest, legally). What
about peer-review? Well probably that's the one everyone has the toughest
time getting their heads around, being all accustomed to thinking of it
as a quality-control "value-added" service provided by the publisher,
to enhance the sales of a product, the published article!

But that is not what peer-reviewed journal publication will end up being,
in the open access age. "Publication" will be virtual. A journal
will certify a digital text as having been published by that journal
(with its track-record, peer-review standards, level in the journal
quality hierarchy, and impact factor) if and when it had successfully
passed its peer review. In other words, journals will no longer be
providing a product, the text, but a service, the peer-review. And,
at less than $500 per paper, that service will be paid for up-front,
out of the researcher's institution's annual windfall savings from the
cancallation of all the annual access-tolls (for the small proportion of
the 20,000 that it could afford to buy in). And every institution will
have open access to all 20,000 for free -- or rather, just for the price,
minuscule, of self-archiving its own annual peer-reviewed research output
("Self-archive unto others as you would have them self-archive unto you":
The Golden Rule of Reciprocal Altruism inherent in Self-Archiving for
Open Access).

But all of this (about publisher downsizing) is merely speculation. The
part that is not speculation (but requires action right now) is the
self-archiving itself, before any of this downsizing and restructuring
of peer-reviewed journal publication takes place. Ignore it. Journal
restructuring is not the problem or the goal. The goal is open access,
now, reachable immediately through self-archiving, now. The rest will take
care of itself, if and when it has to. (It will be a long time yet till
librarians actually dare to start cancelling journals, confident that the
whole literature is available and being used be everyone via open access.)

But there is absolutely nothing about the double-dipping formula that
points in this direction! Double-dipping is about journal prices,
whereas the solution is about online access to give-away work (with
the funding of peer review an esoteric matter in between!)

The one direct connection there is, and that should be made, is the one
about research funding and open access: Because of the direct causal
connection between maximizing access through self-archiving one's own
research and maximizing its impact (by removing all access-barriers
barring would-be users everywhere), it is far more cost-effective to
fund research under condition that its results must be made openly
accessible through self-archiving! Otherwise the research funding money
really is being needlessly wasted, with untold amounts of potential
research impact needlessly lost.

That's the gist of:

and it has nothing directly to do with double-dipping, the serials
crisis, or even the downsizing of journals!

> But when I think of readers, try my stories out, I realize there is a
> populist sentiment that is quite anti-science. "Medical stuff is ok, but
> science is basically a waste of money" That kind of silliness.

True. But this is about getting more bang for the research buck in all
areas. Let cancer research be people's model, and let it grade all the
way downward from there, to the social sciences and historical
scholarship. It is all stuff that scientists and scholars do in order to
contribute to knowledge. Who knows what might prove useful one day. But
it's sure that that day is less likely to come if access to this stuff
-- which scholars and scientists want to give away for free -- is
needlessly blocked by access-tolls inherited from another era (the
Gutenberg era) and its costs, and also from another mind-set: that of
the majority of the written word, whether on-paper or online (i.e.,
Gutenberg or PostGutenberg), which, like your own writing as a journalist,
is NOT an author give-away. Open access through self-archiving is for
this small but all-important give-away sector, peer-reviewed research
in all the fields of science and scholarship from cancer to Cicero.

> I do think
> about that when I write. What good for the public is this work doing and how
> do I communicate that. If research is public, then it should not be
> toll-access. Uh-huh. Then why pay a toll on a real highway with cars, my
> theoretical reader might ask....

But there is a simple answer: Because most goods and services (including
most written goods!) are not give-aways! Producers and service providers
need to be paid for
their efforts. But researchers are not paid to sell their words. They
are paid to do research, and give away their findings, so that other
researchers can access, use, and apply them in order to produce more
research, some portion of which may actually benefit all the rest of us
too! Researchers are not rewarded through income from selling their
texts, as highway-workers or suppliers are rewarded for selling
their goods or services. They are rewarded for the impact of their
research. And it is that impact that needless toll-barriers are
blocking. The highways are essential to public transport, and their
essential costs need to be paid (by our taxes): they are no one's
give-aways. But the costs of buying in a text-product are no longer
essential to peer-reviewed research publication. Only the peer review
service is. The rest can be done by self-archiving.

That's the complicated answer to the access-toll analogy for the
peer-reviewed literature vs the people's highways. But watch out for
the "information highway" metaphor, because not all information is
give-away, the way peer-reviewed research is!

> and all of a sudden the metaphor which works
> well with the information-highway-literate does not work so well with others
> and becomes confusing. (Exactly who needs tolls on a real highway, anyway!)

The ones whose non-give-away products and services really need to be
paid for in order to keep the physical highways going. But with the
special subset of the information highway that consists of peer-reviewed
research, the product, the peer-reviewed paper, is an author give-away,
so now only the service is essential -- and can and will be paid for out
of a small portion of the annual toll-savings, if and when the demand
for the product, and the corresponding tolls, disappears. But that
is not in our hands. What is in our hands right now is to make access
to those our own give-away products free -- through author/institution

It as if the physical highway all consisted of private, self-maintained
bits of private property, and the owners, for some reason, wanted to make
access to their own bits free for all! That's why the analogy breaks down,
because the motivation to do that with physical highways is pure fantasy,
whereas with research access it is real, because of the impact factor.

Here's another analogy I've used before is useful: [Do this google search: harnad (advertising OR advertisers OR ads
    OR adverts OR advertisements)

Publishing one's research findings is rather like (peer-reviewed)
advertising: What advertiser would want there to be tolls blocking access
to his give-away ads! So maybe we should imagine these private bits
of physical highway as containing huge billboard ads. But as you see,
the metaphor becomes rather strained...

> But perhaps the road metaphor does work....self-archiving is a parallel road
> to the path of publishing in peer-review journals, or something like that.
> Who knows, might be fantasy on my part.

Well, I've tried to mend the metaphor as well as I could above!

> It is a phenomenon, don't you think, that people are not hearing what you
> are saying. And have been saying. The Genome Project started about 10 years
> ago and you have been speaking on this for 10 years...hmm. What is the
> difference between Walter Gilbert, Craig Venter, Francis Collins and Stevan
> Harnad? Only kidding.

It's a puzzle I'm too busy pushing to ponder!

> But I do encounter untenured scientists who say " I need that impact factor
> that Cell or Nature or XX gives." These are smart people. The barrier must
> be something else then just not listening. Odd.

How can it be other than not listening when you reply: "So why not
self-archive your Cell or Nature or XX papers, and have your (high impact
journal) cake and eat it (maximize its access hence impact) too?"
That's such a no-brainer that failing to get it reminds one of
CL Dodgson's (Lewis Carroll's) dialogue between Achilles
and the Tortoise:

> Yes, libraries. Because they are a place, one that is changing. A place
> where the digital and print worlds are visible....that will hopefully offer
> a narrative arc for the story.

Libraries have a role to play, but it is not with their traditional
role of purchasing and curating the INCOMING collection; instead, it
is a counterintuitive role with an OUTGOING collection (on the
"self-archive unto others..." model):

Librarians won't twig on this if they keep focussed on their traditional
role (and worries about the serials crisis, preservation,
classification, etc

> Hmm. We shall see. I like your motto
> 'self-archive unto others as you would have them self-archive unto you'. I
> shall try that out on some scientists and see how that settles.

Anything that gets the message from Achilles to the tortoise...

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Nov 26 2002 - 16:13:19 GMT

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