Re: STM Talk: Open Access by Peaceful Evolution

From: Jean-Claude Guédon <>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2003 13:45:07 +0000

Dear Stevan,

Allow me to comment below, in tne body of the text.



Le 17 Fvrier 2003 09:16, Stevan Harnad a crit :
> Abstract of invited talk to be given on Thursday May 15 in Amsterdam
> at the STM Conference "Universal Access: By Evolution or Revolution?".
> Open Access by Peaceful Evolution
> Stevan Harnad
> The open access movement was originally inspired by research-author and
> research-user frustration with the continuing loss of research impact
> because of access-blockage by unaffordable tolls in a new era when
> all peer-reviewed research output is so clearly within universal reach
> thanks to the Internet. The movement's efforts and motivation were at
> first led by the library community and directed against the publisher
> community. The motivation was right, but the target was wrong, and indeed
> unfair, and little progress was made. (Prices would probably have come
> down anyway, with global licensing developments.)

The target was anything but wrong givent the enormous levels of benefits made
by some publishers. Whatever else is at work, this extreme level of
profiteering is part of the issue and must be fought along with other issues.
And this is where I have difficulties in understanding some of your public
interventions recently.

>The research community
> has since realized that its real target should have been *itself* all
> along: Only now are researchers and their institutions grasping
> that the way to maximize their research impact is to self-archive their
> own peer-reviewed research output in their own institutional open-access
> Eprint Archives. The toll-access and open-access versions will co-exist
> and co-evolve, possibly indefinitely, or they may converge on a new
> system, whereby the publisher is paid for the peer review and any
> other essential added value as a service-cost on each institution's
> own *outgoing* research, instead of an access-cost on the *incoming*
> research from all other institutions.

Again, your analysis is sketched with too broad a brush. The scientific
community is no more homogeneous than is the publishers'. Gatekeepers
themselves play various roles. But some of these gatekeepers become
"objective" allies (as Marxists would have said in the past) of big
publishers with huge profit margins.

Second problem, scientists and scholars object, as you rightly point out, to
the restrictions placed on access to their work through tollgating. However,
what they want to achieve is free access for researchers, not self-archiving.
Self-archiving is one method, among several, to achieve this end. Actually,
libraries by paying for the journals and placing them at the free disposal of
their research constituency is offering free access and publishers argue that
libraries should have bigger budgets to extend the freedom of access to
other, presumably less known and less prestigious, journals.

> The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) is promoting both
> self-archiving (BOAI-1) and open-access journal publishing (BOAI-2), and
> SPARC is promoting business models for both. The only thing publishers
> must avoid at all costs is to appear to be trying to deliberately
> block the evolution of self-archiving through restrictive copyright
> policies! That would be very bad public relations with the research
> community, creating and highlighting a dramatic conflict between what
> is obviously in the best interests of research and researchers, their
> institutions and funders, and the society benefitting from the research,
> on the one hand, versus what is in the best interests of journal
> publishers' current revenue streams and business models on the other
> -- a conflict of interest that could indeed precipitate a revolution,
> now that necessity is so obviously no longer a justification, as it was
> in paper days! Far better to allow evolution to take its natural course
> peacefully, and adapt to it accordingly.

That part makes much sense. The question is: do you need to reassure
publishers about your feelings to get where you get? I think your argument is
clever; but, at the same time, it is not mutually exclusive with other,
different, and sometimes more frontal, attacks on publishers.

Best of luck at STM... :-) The composition of their governing board is quite
instructive, as is the focus of their committees... :-)

> Stevan Harnad

Jean-Claude Gudon
Littrature compare, Universit de Montral
Tl. : 1-514-343-6208
Fax : 1-514-343-2211
Received on Wed Feb 19 2003 - 13:45:07 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:46:52 GMT