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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2002 18:02:23 +0000 (GMT)

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

> The spending on publications need only catch up to the spending on
> research - which is what you've been proposing all along anyway (under
> the author/institution-pays scheme).

What needs catching up is self-archiving! That's the *guaranteed*
provider of open access to the peer-reviewed research literature.
The economic and operational after-effects of this are merely
hypotheses. No one knows what there will still be a market for, and
for how long, once there is open access. I have speculated that -- if and
when there is no longer enough of a market for the peer-reviewed-journal
publisher's traditional toll-access product (the peer-reviewed articles)
because of the availability of open access -- peer-reviewed journal
publication will have to downsize into becoming just peer-review service
provision, paid for by the author/institution out of a small part of
its own annual windfall access-toll savings.

That isn't quite the same as saying that more has to be spent by the
author/institution than it already pays now, in access-tolls. But in any
case, mine, like everyone else's, is just speculation. The benefits of
self-archiving for research impact, and the access/impact causal
connection itself, however, are certainties. Nor does the slowness of
the research community in realizing this make them into any lesser
certainties! It just means we have to work harder to demonstrate the
causal connection to the research community (and we will!).

> China has, historically, had a
> much higher ratio of research activity to publication spending than the
> rest of the world, but that is starting to change. If that ratio can be
> normalized around the world (as would be required under any free
> archive/author-pays scheme as well), I believe it really will solve the
> problem.
>sh> -- it would not solve the far more fundamental
>sh>problem of needless impact-loss (unless you imagine that distributing
>sh>the toll costs more widely would somehow make anywhere near all
>sh>20K peer-reviewed journals affordable to all the world's research
> Actually, yes it would, or should. I believe it will actually happen, as
> prices adjust to institution size (the other thing that wasn't possible
> in the print world).

I don't see that at all! As I said, even if the tolls shrank to just
cost, that still would not come anywhere near making access affordable
for all would-be user/researchers and their institutions. Only shrinking
to peer-review service provision for outgoing research, with everything
self-archived, would do the trick. Continuing to try to pay for access
to what the author means to be openly accessible is just a contradiction
in terms.

(Otherwise put, "affordability" is just a marketing notion. Nothing
with a price-tag is affordable to everyone. Open access does not and
cannot mean just "affordable access." Research output is a give-away;
give-aways need to be given away, not just made more affordable.)

>sh> Only open access will do that, and the planet-wide
>sh>self-archiving of all peer-reviewed research output is an immediate route
>sh>to that: "Self-archive Unto Others as You Would Have Them Self-Archive
>sh>Unto You."
> >
> Well, I'm not sure what your definition of "immediate" is there...
> Hasn't happened yet anyway.

The "immediate" is a fact, in the same sense that, if a diabetic is
having a hypoglycemic attack, a taste of sugar will bring immediate
relief. But as to whether the diabetic will actually lick the sugar --
that is a question about the contingencies of human nature, much harder
to second-guess.

But I am fully confident that once the direct cause-effect
connection between research access and research impact is
empirically demonstrated and publicized to the research community,
along with hands-on ways of actually sampling and experiencing it
(with scientometric search engines and impact-quantifiers like
citebase and citeseer ) it will add up to an offer
they won't be able to refuse! (Especially if the same token drops for
their research funders and assessors even earlier!)

Stevan Harnad

PS On the question of "immediacy," see:
Received on Wed Dec 04 2002 - 18:02:23 GMT

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