Re: STM Talk: Open Access by Peaceful Evolution

From: Jean-Claude Guédon <>
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 13:44:29 +0000


Thank you for taking the time to respond to my objections.

Let me respond below.

Le 19 Février 2003 10:32, Stevan Harnad a écrit :
> On Wed, 19 Feb 2003, Jean-Claude Guédon wrote:
> >s> The [Open Access] movement's efforts and motivation were at
> >s> first led by the library community and directed against the publisher
> >s> community. The motivation was right, but the target was wrong, and
> > indeed s> unfair, and little progress was made. (Prices would probably
> > have come s> down anyway, with global licensing developments.)
> >
> > The target was anything but wrong given 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.
> I think we have to separate the very different goals of (shall we call
> it) the (LTA) "Lower-Toll-Access Movement" and (OA) The Open Access
> Movement.

You can distinguish the two issues intellectually, but the point is not as
clear in the real world. Most probably, open access will have to coexist for
a fairly long time with toll-access so that open access will necessarily be
part of the LTA strategies. Now, pure OA type might think they can proceed
without the benefit of LTA, but the converse is not true and, for this
reason, the two streams will remain tangled up for quite some time.
> The pressing needs of the LTA were institutional library budgets and
> the serials crisis. What was urgently needed was lower tolls, otherwise
> institutions would be getting fewer and fewer journals for a higher and
> higher price. The solution for this was consortial licensing
> negotiations and the exercise of every effort and collective consumer
> power to get lower tolls.

This is correct, and the open access movement is also seen as a very good way
to apply pressure on the publishers and thus limit their ability to toll-gate
without ends.
> I do not for one moment question that the right target for those LTA
> negotiations was publishers! (Who else could one negotiate prices
> with?) Those were and are pressing day-to-day concerns for the library
> community. But those are short-term solutions, and they are short-term
> solutions to LTA, not to OA.

Again, I agree that consortia and licensing negotiations are reactive,
defensive, temporary move aiming at limiting damage to libraries.
> Open Access (OA) has a very different motivation. It is not to solve the
> day-to-day budgetary problems of libraries, nor to lower the access-tolls
> of journals (as important and necessary and welcome as that continues to
> be). It is to *free* access to an anomalous form of writing, different
> from all others, namely, refereed research papers -- an author give-away,
> written not for royalty-tolls, like other forms of writing, but written
> solely for research-impact, which is blocked by *any access-tolls at all*.

Again, I agree.
> (Note that LTA negotiations would have proceeded exactly as they did even
> if this were *not* an anomalous corpus: even if it had been like books
> or newspapers and magazines, written for fees and royalties. There was
> only the slightest hint of the fact that there was something different
> here after all, in the much repeated -- but almost 100% erroneous --
> library lament that "We have to *buy back* the research we *give*
> them!" But that is and never was it at all! The library does not
> spend its money buying back its *own* institutional research output:
> It has that already! It buys in the research output of all *other*
> institutions. There, with a little reflection, one might have begun
> to see the real logic of the situation. For so far exactly the same would
> have been true of books! So the next token that would need to drop is
> that refereed research, unlike books, is *given away* by institutional
> researchers royalty-free, purely for the sake of research impact. That
> would have shown that it is not in the publishers' hands -- or interest
> -- to remedy this, but in the researchers', and their institutions. And
> the obvious next step would have been institutional self-archiving of
> refereed research output -- not lamenting about or scolding publishers!)

LTA negotiations would *not* have proceeded exactly as they did with
non-refereed materials for one simple reason: the pricing escalation could
not proceed at the same, wild pace as was the case with scientific
periodicals, and it did not.

The second point you make about the "lament" is not quite right. Libraries do
not own local intellectual production, once the copyright is given away to a
publisher. Moreover, the "lament" must be read as a macro-statement, not as a
lament stemming from any given individual library.

Finally, it is true that researchers must stop giving away their refereed
research, but you argue as if these researchers were in some ideal world
where the choice is purely intellectual. Brought back to earth, where young
researchers have to face their departmental chairs, their tenure committees,
the juries of the granting agencies, etc., the issue becomes much more
complex: the urgency of institutional survival and the needs of career
building bring about a series of urgent presssures best dealt with, in most
cases, by acquiescing to the system. In effect, young scientists need to
acquiesce to survive; senior scientists keep within the system either because
they (most) are used to conforming, or because the system provides the
advantage of super-promotions, as I like to call this operation, to
gatekeeper status (adorned with financial inducements, trips, etc.). It is no
surprise that the resistance among researchers is limited to a minority of
largely senior people. Your problem, therefore, is to find a way to convince
the young to act with temerity and possible destruction of a budding career,
and convince the mature to give up trying to reach a powerful, probably
lucrative, position as a gatekeeper for a journal owned by a large commercial
publisher. Now, in the earlier case, the responsibility, IMHO, rests with the
tenure and promotion mechanisms of research centres and administrators have
to become aware of this, as well as granting agencies; in the latter case, we
are witnessing publisher tactics aiming at influencing the mechanisms of the
"super-promotion" reaching all the way to the (at least partial) buying off
of senior faculty. It is because publishers are involved in those mechanisms
that affect scientists' behaviour, that I claim that in the real world, one
cannot avoid placing at least some of them in the line of sight of our
> It is in connection with OA -- open access -- that I say (and must
> repeat) that it is wrong and unfair to blame journal publishers for not
> giving away their own contents for free at this time. There is indeed a
> way to do that now, with the advent of the online era, and to still make
> ends meet in a much downsized new form of refereed-journal publishing
> (namely, open-access [OA] journals). But I think that the 20,000 existing
> toll-access journals and their publishers can be understood and forgiven
> for not jumping at the opportunity to downsize and convert to open-access
> publication right now, of their own accord, under the urging of the
> library and research community, when the research community, in whose
> interests OA would be ushered in, have not yet done their own part to
> show they really need and want this benefit!

Personally, I completely accept the fact that the mercantile position of the
big scientific publishers is a fact of life and that their actions are indeed
motivated by profit making and not by trying to improve communication among
scientists. From their position, it would indeed be foolish to give their
store away. But I am not in their position and I am not particularly
interested in understanding their position, except to gauge possible
weaknesses and flaws that could direct effective strategies against their
stranglehold on scientific communication.

Building open-acces journals and doing the self-archiving, we agree as
original signatories of BOAIU, are the ways to go. And the bulk of our
efforts should go there; however, whenever I will see that colleagues are
resisting to change because of advantages or inducements, explicit or latent,
from their position as gatekeepers in the commercial publishers' system, I
will do all I can to denounce that because it demonstrates that publishers do
not simply sit there and collect their rent off world science; on the
contrary they wage active war against anything that could, now or later,
threaten their existing and future business plans. Publishers, Elsevier in
particular, closely monitors our activities; they are present at almost every
conference I attend, and I attend a large number of them. They listen to our
arguments and respond to them blow by blow and they bring arguments of their,
including below the belt arguments as when Pieter Bolman flatly stated to a
publishers conference in Boston last May, in front of me, that I hated all
publishers; or when the same Pieter Bolman, behind my my back this time, in
Ottawa, referred to me as el Che... Good fun, indeed, and I find Pieter
sillier than effective when he resorts to such tactics, but they are
indicative of the aggressiveness of the general stance. Make no mistake about
> Libraries have struggled for lower tolls, to be sure, but that is part
> of their natural function, as the consumer-representatives of their
> institutional researchers, trying to buy in the most and best journals
> at the lowest price. But if researchers, who would be the real
> beneficiaries of OA, really want OA, it is for *them* to do what is within
> their own power to do now for immediate OA, and not merely to keep
> demonizing publishers for not doing it! That futile game could go on
> for another decade at least.

You are right in saying that we, or anyone else, should not demonize
publishers for not providing open access. I do not think I have ever said
that. What I would gladly do, however, is demonize some publishers for
pursuing profits levels that are scandalously high and, ultimately,
unsustainable. In acting in such a way as to destroy the market ultimately,
they truly reveal themselves not as demons, but as locusts.
> What researchers can and should do right now for OA is to self-archive
> their own refereed research output ("Self-Archive Unto Others As Ye
> Would Have Them Self-Archive Unto You") in their own institutional
> Eprint Archives, rather than to keel scolding publishers for not doing
> it for them -- *especially* as publishers (e.g., Elsevier) are
> now coming round to recognizing their own responsible role in all
> this, by formally supporting author/institution self-archiving:

Again, my bone of contention with these publishers is not that they do not do
something obviously contrary to their commercial role; it is that they, as
commercial entities, behave in an abusive, monopolistic fashion, to the point
that they are interefering with the very intelelctual life of science through
the "super-promotion" mechanisms.
> Let the research (and library) community exercise the self-help that is
> within their reach, and their goal of OA will be attained, virtually
> overnight. Let them keep shadow-boxing irrelevantly and ineffectually
> with publishers, and OA will remain far off.

Let us forget about your "overnight" dream. No one but you believes that. Let
us work indeed on open access on all front, but let us not forget the work to
do with administrators, the work to do against some publishers, and the work
to do with our colleagues. And let us not forget these gallant fighters that
librarians have been all along. Unlike researchers - docile, vulnerable or
even venal as many are or cannot avoid being - they have shown a fairly
united, strong attitude guided by values that we, researchers would do well
to meditate in our own ethos, and they have done so while placed in a
"service-rendering" status that has made so many of us, researchers, so very
arrogant with them. This is terribly wrong. Librarians at their best, by
organising the material forms of knowledge, slice reality in ways that have
deep epistemological imports. This means they are not at our service; they
actually are our full colleagues. And the digital world is going to push that
reality much further.
> (But of course let their libraries keep trying to strike the best
> day-to-day LTA deal with publishers in the meanwhile.)

How dismissive, Stevan!
> > 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.
> Peer-reviewed journal editors are us, the researchers, wearing other
> hats. But they are almost as irrelevant as publishers to what the
> research community needs to do for OA, namely, to self-archive their
> own refereed research output in their own institutional Eprint Archives.

Except that, in your own words, only peer-reviewed articles count as
publication. They are not irrelevant to self-archiving since your own
suggestions for self-archiving rest on the prior existence of some
peer-reviewed version of a given article.
> > 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.
> Dear Jean-Claude. I have a little difficulty following your logic:
> Self-archiving is the means, not the end. OA is the end. Of course
> it is the end (OA) that researchers want, and not merely the means
> (self-archiving). But what is your point? That there is another means? And
> what is that? To persuade the publishers of 20,000 toll-access journals
> to become OA? And what is the *means* for persuading them to do that? Why
> is it in *their* interest to do so now, especially when OA is not only in
> our own interests, but we have the means to achieve it (self-archiving),
> while rather than using the means, we choose instead to hector journals
> to do it for us?

Indeed, self-archiving is a means, not an end. OA is the end, we both agree on
that. But self-archiving is not the only way and trying to persuade
commercial publishers to give away their store is silly. Creating OA journals
is another means. Reforming the whole scientific communication structure is a
more distant, yet intellectually conceivable, means.
> Founding new OA journals and converting toll-access journals to OA is
> indeed an additional, complementary means of achieving OA (indeed it is
> BOAI Strategy 2, self-archiving being BOAI Strategy 1). But whereas we
> know how to create new OA journals, and we know how toll-access journals
> could convert to OA if they choose to, we have no idea how to persuade
> toll-access journals to convert to OA, for the simple reason that it is
> not in *their* best interests to do so, but in *ours*.

Again, I have never argued, unlike Varmus, that commercial journals should
give away their store. They simply won't and it would be futile to insist.
Varmus doe not insist any longer. Let us get off this point that does not
pertain to me.
> Here is the arithmetic, mapped out quite graphically: There are
> 20,000 toll-access journals, publishing 2,000,000 toll-access articles
> annually. Open access to *those* is the target. The path toward the target
> by means of BOAI-2 is to create new OA journals that will attract the
> authors and contents of the toll-access journals, and to convert those
> of the toll-access journals that are willing to convert. That is fine,
> and it is taking place, but it is slow, and it involves persuading a lot
> of journals to do something that will not make them financially better
> off, no matter how much better off it would make us researchers.

Only questionable point is the slowness. It is still slow, from my own
perspective and hopes, but I see it accelerating and, therefore, I believe in
this strategy.
> And then there is BOAI-1, which is entirely within our own hands, and
> could bring everyone OA virtually overnight (and requires only that we
> persuade *ourselves* to do what is fully within our power to do!).

"Our" hands is that of a minority of, largely seniors, neither too venal nor
too conformist, not too power hungry, that may, out of a fine sense of
idealism that I fully respect and admire, self-archive. How many
self-archived articles are there in the world today?
> Are you suggesting that our time is better spent trying to persuade
> toll-access publishers to convert to OA than to persuade ourselves to do
> what is already within our own direct reach and power?

See above.
> > 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.

Actually, this argument is perfectly true. The only problem with it is that
the underlying financial arrangement amounts to an immense syphoning away of
(largely) public money into private interests that do not bring comparable
added value to their product.
> Jean-Claude, have you converted into an advocate of LTA licensing now,
> instead of OA?

See above.
> >s> The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) is promoting both
> >s> self-archiving (BOAI-1) and open-access journal publishing (BOAI-2),
> > and s> SPARC is promoting business models for both. The only thing
> > publishers s> must avoid at all costs is to appear to be trying to
> > deliberately s> block the evolution of self-archiving through restrictive
> > copyright s> policies! That would would be very bad public relations with
> > the research s> community, creating and highlighting a dramatic conflict
> > between what s> is obviously in the best interests of research and
> > researchers, their s> institutions and funders, and the society
> > benefitting from the research, s> on the one hand, versus what is in the
> > best interests of journal s> publishers' current revenue streams and
> > business models on the other s> -- a conflict of interest that could
> > indeed precipitate a revolution, s> now that necessity is so obviously no
> > longer a justification, as it was s> in paper days! Far better to allow
> > evolution to take its natural course s> peacefully, and adapt to it
> > accordingly.
> >s>
> >
> >%2 s>0Policies.htm
> >
> > 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.
> I think I am saying everything openly: OA is optimal for research and
> researchers, feasible but not optimal for publishers. If it is to come
> to pass, it will be at the behest of the research community, for whom it
> is optimal. The way for them to make its optimality for them felt is by
> *doing* it, through self-archiving, right now. That will be a certain
> message that OA is what they need, want, and insist on having. But not
> bothering to do that, and instead continuing to nag publishers to do it
> for them is merely prolonging lost time, lost access and lost impact.

I agree with the first two sentences above. I partially agree with the third,
where I would add BOA-1 as another present alternative, and reforming the
whole system on the medium terms as a second alternative. No problem with
sentence four. As for the last, once again, it does not apply to me.
> > Best of luck at STM... :-) The composition of their governing board is
> > quite instructive, as is the focus of their committees... :-)
> The STM is irrelevant. OA does not depend on STM but on us.

That is not what I meant. What you might ask yourself is why you were invited
there. Put yourself in Pieter Bolma's shoes and imagine why you might find it
useful to invite Stevan Harnad. I believe the exercise has potential value.

Warm regards all the same,


> Stevan Harnad

Jean-Claude Guédon
Littérature comparée, Université de Montréal
Tél. : 1-514-343-6208
Fax : 1-514-343-2211
Received on Fri Feb 21 2003 - 13:44:29 GMT

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