Re: STM Talk: Open Access by Peaceful Evolution

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 15:24:23 +0000

On Fri, 21 Feb 2003, Jean-Claude Guédon wrote:

> 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.

My dear friend, Jean-Claude,

The lament is: "We are buying back what we give away." I said this was
incorrect. For books it is moot, because they are not given away by
authors but written for royalty. Refereed research is indeed given away,
but it is not the refereed research output of their own institution that
a library is buying in, but the refereed research output of all *other*
institutions. The lament cannot be read as a collective macro-statement
by all libraries, because "we" and "our" completely lose their sense if
construed collectively. Yes, there is a collective resolution to this
anomaly, but it is the institutional self-archiving of each institution's
own refereed research output:

> 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.

Dear Jean-Claude, we are longstanding comrades-at-arms, but we do not
always understand one another fully: I am not arguing that researchers
must stop giving away their refereed research! I am arguing that
they must give it away *more* -- not just to their publishers, for
free, but to all their would-be users, for free, by self-archiving
it. This does not require any kind of ideal world. It can be and
is being done in the real world, by more and more researchers, and
I am merely trying to accelerate that very sensible intellectual

(I think what you meant was that researchers must stop giving away the
*copyright* to their refereed research, but even that is not necessary for
self-archiving. Only self-archiving is necessary for self-archiving.
More and more copyright agreements are supporting it, but it can still
be done even under the most restrictive of copyright agreements. )

> 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...

We are alas talking at cross purposes. You are correctly pointing out
that researchers must continue to publish in the refereed journals, but I
agree completely! Self-archiving is merely a small further step that
researchers need to take, in addition to publishing in the refereed journals,
as always.

> In effect, young scientists need to acquiesce to survive... It is no
> surprise that the resistance among researchers is limited to a minority of
> largely senior people.

But Jean-Claude, this simply is not true! The authors of the 200,000
papers self-archived since 1991 in are not only or mainly
senior! Nor are the authors of the increasing number of papers
self-archived in the growing number of institutional refereed-research

> Your problem, therefore, is to find a way to convince
> the young to act with temerity and possible destruction of a budding career,

To self-archive is to jeopardize one's career? How? Why? (I think
that, again, you are imagining that I am talking about something else
-- about giving up publishing in one's preferred refereed journals,
about publishing instead in some other way -- but I am not! I am merely
talking about self-archiving so as to make one's own refereed research
publications openly accessible, thereby maximizing their potential
impact. That is rather a way of *advancing* one's career, is it not,
rather than jeopardizing it? And it is a *supplement* to what we are
doing already, not a *substitute* for it.)

> 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.

I am afraid I have to repeat that this is not at all relevant to what
it is that we are talking about. Let editors/gatekeepers keep doing
whatever they are doing; we are not talking about that. We are talking
about providing open access to the outcome of their gate-keeping system
by self-archiving. (We must not confuse gate-keeping with the toll-gating!)

> 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;

What do tenure/promoting mechanisms etc. have to do with the virtue of
self-archiving one's own refereed research output -- apart from the fact
that they will certainly reward the additional research impact that
self-archiving brings?

> 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
> actions.

Jean-Claude, we are fighting different battles. Our goal is the same --
open access -- but our means differ. Yours requires confrontations with
publishers; mine does not. I wish your efforts every success, as they
too are aimed at the same goal. But you have to forgive me for wanting
to dissociate my own efforts from unnecessary and distracting battles with
publishers. For self-archiving, these serve no useful purpose; they waste
time; they dissipate efforts; and they cloud the vision of what we are
doing, how, and why (through self-archiving).

As you see from our own exchanges, some of the lines are still mixed up
and crossed. I am trying to uncross them, underlining that open access
through self-archiving involves no battle against publishers, and no
risk, sacrifice or change of career strategy for researchers, young
or old. It involves only providing immediate open access to their own
refereed research output by self-archiving it.

>s> Let the research (and library) community exercise the self-help that is
>s> within their reach, and their goal of OA will be attained, virtually
>s> overnight. Let them keep shadow-boxing irrelevantly and ineffectually
>s> with publishers, and OA will remain far off.
> Let us forget about your "overnight" dream. No one but you believes that.

You will have to forgive me, dear comrade, for not accepting your advice
on that...

That it has not happened overnight is indisputable. That it *can* happen
overnight (through universal self-archiving) is likewise indisputable.
That it will literally happen overnight is unlikely. That it is optimal
whether it happens overnight, or after several nights, is indisputable.
I also think it's inevitable; how soon it will actually happen I have
always sensibly declined to say, as I cannot second-guess human nature!

> 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.

Far from forgetting the critical role of librarians in setting the stage
for open access, I freely admit that it was a librarian, Ann Okerson,
who first gave me the idea of open (which I at first rejected as an
impossible, indeed unrealistic dream) at a time access when I was still
obsessed merely with online access! But it has since become clear that
whereas the librarians were in a position to bring the *problem* to the
research community's attention, they were not in a position to *solve*
it. That depends entirely on the research community (insofar as the
self-archiving solution is concerned, BOAI-1; for BOAI-2 -- open-access
journals, new and converted -- it also depends on publishers).

>s> (But of course let their libraries keep trying to strike the best
>s> day-to-day LTA deal with publishers in the meanwhile.)
> How dismissive, Stevan!

It is not dismissive at all. Libraries have to keep dealing with ongoing
day-to-day reality and needs, and these concern short-term LTA licensing
negotiations and solutions, not long-term OA, which is completely in the
hands of researchers (BOAI-1), and researchers+plus+publishers (BOAI-2).

> in your own words, only peer-reviewed articles count as publication.
> [Hence editors] 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.

But self-archiving does not depend on changing the publishers, or the
journals, or the editors, or the authors' submitting policies and
choices! It depends only on authors' going ahead and self-archiving!

>s> And then there is BOAI-1, which is entirely within our own hands, and
>s> could bring everyone OA virtually overnight (and requires only that we
>s> 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?

OAIster reports "1,089,937 records from 142 institutions" but that is an
overestimate, because some of their records are not full-text and many
are not refereed research. But there is at least Arxiv (200,000),
plus CogPrints and the other Eprints Archives (19,000).
Then there is ResearchIndex, not yet OAI-compliant, and not all refereed
research either, but 500,000 and the "gray
iceberg" consisting of the hundreds of thousands of refereed papers that
have been self-archived on authors' own websites (but not yet countable
and searchable because not yet OAI-compliant).

Some minority (to paraphrase Churchill), some seniors!

> What you might ask yourself is why you were invited there (to STM). Put
> yourself in Pieter Bolman's shoes and imagine why you might find it useful
> to invite Stevan Harnad. I believe the exercise has potential value.

I believe I was invited to talk at STM (not for the first time) because
STM publishers are interested in learning about the new developments in
STM communication made possible by the online medium, among them, open
access to refereed research through author/institution self-archiving.

Best wishes, Stevan
Received on Fri Feb 21 2003 - 15:24:23 GMT

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