Re: Draft Policy for Self-Archiving University Research Output

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 11 Jan 2003 00:26:34 +0000

Replies to Jan Velterop, Sol Picciotto, and Mark Doyle

> Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 10:20:53 -0000
> From: Jan Velterop <jan_at_BIOMEDCENTRAL.COM>
> Institutions, and funding bodies, asserting their right to compel open
> access publication (be it in open access journals or on institutional
> archives or ideally both, for maximum impact) of any research supported by
> them would be the single most effective step towards the success of open
> access, to the benefit of science, the researchers themselves, the
> institutions and funding agencies, and society as a whole.

I couldn't agree more (if I had said it myself -- as I have, for
a number of years years now!)

> Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 15:18:01 -0000
> From: "Picciotto, Sol" <s.picciotto_at_LANCASTER.AC.UK>
> My proposal is meant to supplement and support rather than divert
> energies away from open archiving. The tremendous effort Stevan and
> others have put into making open archiving technically possible is much
> appreciated. However, we should not under-estimate the difficulties of
> changing the established academic and commercial practices which hinder
> its widespread adoption. That is why we need to push on several fronts
> at the same time. Assertion by universities of their right to authorise
> free publication regardless of any copyright transfer an author might
> make would only be one facilitative step, though I think an important one.

Agreed, as long as it is done in parallel, rather than being proposed
or represented as a precondition for self-archiving.

> Stevan is right to fear that it could be distracting if it gets tangled
> up with broader issues of ownership of copyright as between academics
> and their employers. That is why I have formulated it as a minimalist
> position that I think everyone in academia can support, i.e. the right
> to authorise non-commercial publication.

It is not at all clear to me how or why the self-archiving of one's own
published (sic) work is clarified by characterizing it as "non-commercial
publication." The publisher publishes. The author self-archives his own
published work. Calling self-archiving publication invites (justified)
opposition from those who are not interested in self-publication (vanity
press), and who want to retain the distinction between the essential
function a peer-reviewed journal performs for a researchers -- namely,
to implement peer review, and certify its outcome -- and an entirely
different function, new with the online era, namely, providing access,
distribution, and archiving -- for published work!

It does not help, for example, to try to understand what it is that
google is doing, in harvesting and caching the entire contents of the
Web, as a form of "publication." Surely there are less procrustean (and
papyrocentric) ways of characterizing and conceptualizing what is really
going on in this new medium.

> I am less convinced by Stevan's frequent assertion that there is a clear line
> between give-away research output and income-generating research-based
> publications - the latter are more common in some fields, I think.

But there *is* a very clear line, and it is a matter of logic: I,
the author, either wish to give away access to my writing, or I wish
to be paid (royalties, fees) for access to it. The first is give-away
writing (G), the second is non-give-away writing (NG). (If you insist,
put writing for which the answer is "both" into the NG bin too.)

Now from logic to empirical facts: Virtually all of the contents of
the 20,000 peer-reviewed journals on the planet are G, and most of
the contents of the books sold on the planet are NG. The open-access
initiative, and self-archiving, are concerned only with G writing.
And that is why it is important to make and keep in focus the G/NG
distinction, the first and most important PostGutenberg distinction:

The price for not doing so is a prolongation of the over-a-decade of
confusion and inaction we have had on self-archiving and open access.

> That is why
> I also stress that the right to authorise free publication leaves the author
> free to retain royalties.

Here we are! Needlessly admixing the non-royalty-bearing G literature
willy-nilly with its NG opposite number!

Once you say the word "royalties," you *guarantee* that we are not talking
about the same literature, the same author-desires, the same reward system
-- and the essential point, the raison d'etre of open access, is simply

> Publishers will undoubtedly threaten to refuse to
> accept, or pay less for, works that are only available on a non-exclusive
> basis, but we will have to call their bluff.

There we go again! Peer-reviewed researchers are not paid a penny by
their publishers, never were, never wanted to be. So why try to force
them into the same Procrustean bed with completely different authors
that do?

(As long as these legal consultations transpire safely in parallel with
self-archiving efforts by G authors, and without any implication of a
contingency or dependency, they will do no harm. But let the
self-archiving wagon not be hitched to anything along these lines

> Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 10:36:39 -0500
> From: Mark Doyle <doyle_at_APS.ORG>
> I want institutions to recognize that scholarly communication is a shared
> responsibility among authors, their institutions, grant providers,
> peer-reviewers, and archivers (the latter role is provided by
> "publishers" today, but that doesn't have to be the case). I want
> institutions to recognize the costs in carrying out peer-review and in
> creating high quality archives and I want them to be willing to pay for
> those costs (that is, I want them to be willing to pay for such things
> up front so that a subscription model is no longer needed to cover
> these costs).

Agreed. But be prepared to split the peer-review function from the
archiving function. Co-bundling is no longer necessary online, and the
economics may be quite different once the two are disentangled.

> And I want them to become (paying) partners in providing
> redundancy in archiving and distribution of peer-reviewed material.

There is no question that some cost per paper will be involved for
institutional archiving too. I think we're talking about $500 per paper
for peer review and about $10 per paper for archiving. How much do you
think markup will add to that -- and don't you think it will be
off-loadable onto the author, the way document-preparation
(word-processing) has been?

> In my view, any institution that is willing to pay the costs associated
> with the publication of the an article up front should have the right
> to distribute the formatted article and make it freely available as
> well as incorporate any archival version (say an XML file) into their
> institutional repository.

For the time being, all those costs (and more) are paid by the
access-tolls. If and when institutions get back the sums they spend
annually on toll-access -- about $2000 per incoming article, paid
collectively by those institutions that can afford toll access to that
particular journal -- each will have more than enough savings out of
which to pay the ~$510 dollars per outgoing article for peer review and
archiving, don't you think?

> The problem is mostly one of transition though -
> enough institutions would need to move to such a model at one time to
> ensure that APS is able to mitigate the financial risk that would come
> with undermining the subscription model in a piecemeal way.

The transitional problem is not merely one of collective action: the
transition is between an incoming toll-access model for buying in a
product (other institutions' research output) and an outgoing service
model (peer-review for their own research output): not the same product
or consumer at both ends. This transition cannot be managed on either
a university-consortium, nor a single-publisher basis.

My own guess is that it can only be forced into existence by
author/institution self-archiving, generating the sequence: (1) open
access, (2) shrinking demand for and revenue from the toll-access
version, (3) growing institutional windfall toll-savings, (4) publisher
cost-cutting and downsizing to the essentials (this is where we'll find
out what things really cost), and then (5) a transition once the windfall
institutional savings are in place to pay for it the new way.

But maybe a brilliant economist could design it all in advance, and get
both parties -- institutions and publishers -- to agree on the
orchestrated transition pre-emptively?

Stevan Harnad
Received on Sat Jan 11 2003 - 00:26:34 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:46:49 GMT