Re: Copyright, Embargo, and the Ingelfinger Rule

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 00:10:49 +0100

On Sat, 14 Jun 2003, Richard Stallman wrote:

>> From: Daniel Wolf
>> Subject: Closing the 'Digital Divide'
>> Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 00:14:53 +0200
>> The most effective way to alter this situation may be
>> through organizing the scholars who contribute voluntarily
>> to peer-review. The prestige of most such journals rests
>> upon an unpaid peer-review system, so these scholars have the
>> potential to exercise considerable leverage over journal policy.
>> Reviewers should be encouraged _not_ to participate unless the
>> journal expressly allows individual writers to archive their
>> own work electronically or otherwise.
> What do you think of signing up reviewers to put pressure on journals?

I think it's a fine idea; it will no doubt help hasten open access; it is
already implicit in the open-access movement (since the author population
is exactly the same as the referee population!) -- but there is a far
simpler and more direct way to achieve the same result far more quickly
and probably!

There are two routes to open access to the refereed literature.
One is to try to persuade the 20,000 refereed journals to convert to
open access, and to create rival open access journals to replace those
that don't.

That is the Budapest Open Access Initiative's Strategy 2, BOAI-2, and
I support it:
but it is a *very* slow and uncertain route to open access, relying as
it does on either persuading the publishers of the 20,000 journals to
convert or founding 20,000 rival journals. There is progress, but if
you quantify and extrapolate the BOAI-2 growth curve, you will find that
this route is going to take an awfully long time (there are about 500
open-access journals so far -- --) if it ever gets
us there at all. (We've learned that circulating and signing petitions
and threats to boycott is easy, but actual actions are not, and few...)

The second route to open access is not just to try to persuade authors
(or referees) to try to persuade their publishers to do it (or to
found alternative journals if they don't, and then persuade authors to
submit to those instead). The far more direct route is to get authors
to self-archive their *own* refereed papers, thereby making them openly
accessible to all would-be users whose institutions cannot afford the
access-tolls for the publishers' version.

The growth of open access by this route (BOAI-1)
is already a good deal faster currently than via BOAI-2, but still far
from fast enough. (There are 2,000,000 papers published a year, and *all*
need to be self-archived, yesterday!) But BOAI-1 has the advantage of
being far more direct. In principle, it could be done overnight. The
only ones who need to be persuaded are the authors. For BOAI-2, it is not
enough to convince the authors; then the publishers need to be convinced;
and rival journals need to be founded for those journals that are not
convinced; and then authors need to be re-convinced to submit to those
journals instead of their established journals.

There are many, many links in that chain. I am investing all my own
efforts and energy instead into convincing authors, directly,
that self-archiving, right now, will maximize their own research
impact (usage, citation), on which both their salaries and their
research funding (not to mention their contributions to knowledge)

The effect will be the same: Open access to the refereed literature --
and perhaps eventually providing a much stronger incentive to publishers
(to cut obsolete costs and products, and downsize to the essentials,
offloading everything but refereeing onto institutional self-archiving,
and converting to open-access publishing) than appeals from authors and
referees who do not even feel strongly enough about open access to make
their *own* work openly accessible, by self-archiving it! That sounds like
a pretty hollow appeal, and unconvincing "leverage" to me! Let us first
show that we have the strength of our convictions about open access for
the the portion of the refereed literature that is within our own direct
control. It seems rather presumptuous to be asking publishers to take
risks and make sacrifices for our sake, until we show that we ourselves
are prepared to take this small, simple self-help step ourselves.

I am convinced self-archiving is the fastest and surest path to universal
open access. I just have to persuade authors too, that it is

"Self-Archive Unto Others as Ye Would Have them Self-Archive Unto


Stevan Harnad
Received on Sun Jun 15 2003 - 00:10:49 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:46:59 GMT