Re: The self-archiving sweepstakes

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2003 17:57:47 +0000

On Fri, 7 Feb 2003, Tom Abeles wrote:

> Perhaps one of the issues is that the open archives concept also
> exposes all of these millions of refereed articles to the public at
> large. Academics might find that the "Sokal Affair" was benign compared
> to a potential fire storm in a time of shrinking public support for post
> secondary education.

Open access does provide access to the general public too, but neither
that -- nor the library serials crisis, nor the access-problems of the
developing world, nor teacher/student needs or usage -- are the primary
factors that will persuade researchers to self-archive their work. For
researchers the direct and decisive reason will be maximixing their
own research impact.

> What indeed would happen if the weight of decisions on promotion/tenure
> and pay were shifted towards teaching and measures of student satisfaction
> rather than peer review? Or articles that did not meet standards in
> one or more publications appear vetted by another source- what then?

These (in my view incorrect and irrelevant) speculations have been much
discussed in the pages of the American Scientist Forum:

In brief, the question of the relative weight to give teaching and
research in promotion is irrelevant to the question of open access.
The importance of peer review to research quality is also not at issue: we
are concerned with open access to the current (and currently inaccessible)
peer-reviewed literature, such as it is, not access to some hypothetical
future alternative. And competent peer-reviewers are already a scarce
enough resource today so that speculations about multiple submissions
and multiple publication can only come appeal from those who haven't a
clear idea of what the realistic options are. (The same is true about the
commendable notion that everyone should have a round-the-clock personal
tutor, and physician.)

> In essence, while OAI opens research for sharing, its potential to cause
> restructuring within The Academy is more than idle speculation or an
> intellectual exercise

But speculating about it now risks delaying open access still further. The
facts are enough: Open access to the peer-reviewed research literature,
such as it is, is highly desirable because it increases the potential
research impact of that literature. All other benefits are secondary. And
nothing more is at issue than access to that literature, which is not
contingent, conditional upon, or predictive of, any other speculative
outcome: just open access itself.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Feb 07 2003 - 17:57:47 GMT

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