Re: Online Self-Archiving: Distinguishing the Optimal from the Optional

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2002 04:33:35 +0000

On Wed, 4 Dec 2002, Arthur P. Smith wrote:

> On the "Faustian Grip" article
> ...on average, overall total
> cost to (all) readers per published article for commercial journals is
> not that much more than for non-profit publishers, and eliminating the
> commercial publishers would do little more than the one-time benefit
> from switching to entirely electronic publishing.

I agree. But even if all 20,000 of the planet's peer-reviewed journals
were offered at cost, the basic problem -- which is *not* the serials
crisis, but needless research impact-loss because of access-tolls --
would remain, because most institutions still couldn't afford access to
most research, even at cost, yet the research is an author give-away,
written purely for research impact. The access-blockage is needless
because it can be completely bypassed by self-archiving. Even if the
parallel toll-based market continued to be viable, alongside open access,
the access/impact problem would still be at an end; and if the serials
"crisis" continued, it would be far less consequential, for research
and researchers in any event.

> If this is generally true, then the reason for the library serials
> crisis is a historically unique situation: the rise last century in
> the level of total science funding in the US, and the continuing rise
> in research activity levels around the rest of the world. Given that the
> publication costs should also start to be better compensated by world-wide
> subscriptions (or whatever other funding model pays for it) the cost
> for publishing world-wide research which has fallen disproportionately
> on US libraries, should start being shared more equitably, and the
> crisis should come to an end. Electronic distribution helps a lot here
> by allowing more research to be disseminated to more institutions at a
> cost that rises linearly, rather than as the square (as it had to be in
> the past) of total world-wide research activity.

Nope. Even if this ended the serials budget crisis -- though it's hard
to see how having the poorer parts of the world take over more of the
burden is a remedy! -- it would not solve the far more fundamental
problem of needless impact-loss (unless you imagine that distributing
the toll costs more widely would somehow make anywhere near all
20K peer-reviewed journals affordable to all the world's research
institutions!). Only open access will do that, and the planet-wide
self-archiving of all peer-reviewed research output is an immediate route
to that: "Self-archive Unto Others as You Would Have Them Self-Archive
Unto You." Not market economics, but reciprocal altruism is the solution
to the problem of maximizing research access and impact.

For some rather blinkered past views on this subject, see the anonymous
postings by the editor of a prestigious journal at a distinguished
U.S. university on the following two threads:

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Dec 04 2002 - 04:33:35 GMT

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