Re: Bethesda statement on open access publishing

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 15:57:25 +0100

On Fri, 6 Jun 2003, Peter Suber wrote:

> ]
> Bethesda statement on open access publishing

The Bethesda statement is very useful and timely, but
it would be far more valuable

    (1) if the support for open access were generalized beyond the
    biomedical research community (where open-access publishing is already
    more advanced than in other disciplines, because of BMC and PLoS)
    to all the other disciplines and

    (2) if the support were not just sought or offered for open-access
    publishing but for self-archiving -- a solution that already applies
    to all disciplines, is in researchers' own hands, and will pave the
    way for universal open access.

Some comments on the various statements from the Bethesda meeting

> [I'm forwarding an important statement on open access publishing from an
> April meeting of foundations, scientists, editors, publishers, and open
> access proponents. It was released on June 20. I will make sure that
> comments to the FOS Forum are known to the conference organizers. I
> participated in the conference and signed the document. I wish it
> went further on a few points, but it makes significant headway e.g. in
> asking foundations to pay the processing fees charged by open-access
> journals. The public and private funding agencies in the room agreed
> that this was something they could and should do to promote open access.
> --Peter Suber.]

Paying processing fees for existing open access journals is very helpful
and welcome, but there are still very few open access journals. What is
needed is immediate open access, even where there are no open access
journals. Funding the existing open-access journals is not a general
solution to the problem of open access. Promoting self-archiving is.

    (a) The same research-funding agencies that are prepared to subsidize
    publications in open-access journals can also encourage or mandate
    immediate institutional self-archiving

    (b) Although support for self-archiving by journal publishers is
    growing dramatically, the Bethesda statement would benefit from
    having this too a formal part of its platform, not just open-access

> Summary of the April 11, 2003, Meeting on Open Access Publishing
> The following statements of principle were drafted during a one-day
> meeting held on April 11, 2003 at the headquarters of the Howard Hughes
> Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The purpose of this document
> is to stimulate discussion within the biomedical research community on how
> to proceed, as rapidly as possible, to the widely held goal of providing
> open access to the primary scientific literature. Our goal was to agree on
> significant, concrete steps that all relevant parties --the organizations
> that foster and support scientific research, the scientists that generate
> the research results, the publishers who facilitate the peer-review and
> distribution of results of the research, and the scientists, librarians
> and other who depend on access to this knowledge-- can take to promote
> the rapid and efficient transition to open access publishing.

Focussing solely on open-access publishing, and not on research
self-archiving, means that the Bethesda statement omits one of the most
"significant concrete steps that all relevant parties... can take to
promote the rapid and efficient transition to open access..."

> A list of the attendees is given following the statements of principle;
> they participated as individuals and not necessarily as representatives
> of their institutions. Thus, this statement, while reflecting the
> group consensus, should not be interpreted as carrying the unqualified
> endorsement of each participant or any position by their institutions.
> Our intention is to reconvene an expanded group in a few months to draft a
> final set of principles that we will then seek to have formally endorsed
> by funding agencies, scientific societies, publishers, librarians,
> research institutions and individual scientists as the accepted standard
> for publication of peer-reviewed reports of original research in the
> biomedical sciences.

It is to be hoped that (i) these principles will apply not only to the
biomedical sciences and that (ii) research self-archiving will also be
represented among them.

> The document is divided into four sections: The first is a working
> definition of open access publication. This is followed by the reports
> of three working groups.
> Definition of Open Access Publication

It would be useful and informative to define "open access" and
the reason it is so important, desirable, and urgent, first. Then "open
access publication" can be defined as one of the ways of attaining
open access -- and self-archiving another.

What is missing in the present statement is that self-archiving is (i)
an immediate means of attaining open access, it is (ii) a means open to the
authors of all published articles, and it is also (iii) an eventual means
of making the transition to universal open-access publishing. This has
to be made clear, because open-access publishing is a means of attaining
open access that is open only to those authors whose specialty already
has a suitable open access journal in which to publish their research,
whereas self-archiving is open to all fields.

Even if one makes the most conservative estimate, 55% of
the articles currently appearing in the main 7000 journals
in all fields could already be openly accessible today:
This percentage is vastly greater than the percentage of papers for
which there already exists a suitable open-access journal today. If,
along with encouraging publishers to create or convert to open-access
journals, the Bethesda statement equally encourages publishers to
support self-archiving, its contribution to the goal of open access
will be far more substantial.

> An Open Access Publication[1] is one that meets the following two
> conditions:
> 1. The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s) to all users a free,
> irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to
> copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make
> and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible
> purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship[2], as well as the
> right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.

But an extremely useful first step would be simply to make the author's
right to self-archive it on the web, openly accessible to all, a formal
part of the copyright agreement with the publisher.

> 2. A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials,
> including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable
> standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial
> publication in at least one online repository that is supported by
> an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or
> other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access,
> unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving
> (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central is such a repository).

This seems redundant (and it also seems to be confusing open-access
with self-archiving).

> Notes:
> 1. Open access is a property of individual works, not necessarily journals
> or publishers.

This is confusing (and seems unnecessary). The text is the work. Access
to the text is what is at issue. Where the publisher provides the open
access, we have open-access publishing. Where the author provides the
open access, we have self-archiving.

> 2. Community standards, rather than copyright law, will continue
> to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper attribution and
> responsible use of the published work, as they do now.

Again confusing (and seems unnecessary). How works are cited by scholars
is independent of how they access them (for-free or for-fee). And there
is and always has been no connection whatsoever between copyright
protection from theft-of-text (piracy) and copyright protection from
theft-of-authorship (plagiarism).

> Statement of the Institutions and Funding Agencies working group
> Our organizations sponsor and nurture scientific research to promote
> the creation and dissemination of new ideas and knowledge for the public
> benefit. We recognize that publication of results is an essential part
> of scientific research and the costs of publication are part of the
> cost of doing research. We already expect that our faculty and grantees
> share their ideas and discoveries through publication. This mission is
> only half-completed if the work is not made as widely available and as
> useful to society as possible. The Internet has fundamentally changed
> the practical and economic realities of distributing published scientific
> knowledge and makes possible substantially increased access.

This is all correct. But what follows from it is that all this research
should be openly accessible. Open access publishing is not the only means
of attaining open access. It is not even the most widely available or
widely use means.

> To realize the benefits of this change requires a corresponding
> fundamental change in our policies regarding publication by our grantees
> and faculty:
> 1. We encourage our faculty/grant recipients to publish their work
> according to the principles of the open access model, to maximize the
> access and benefit to scientists, scholars and the public throughout
> the world.

Again, this gives the incorrect impression that open-access publishing
is the only means of providing open access. It is open access to
their work that researchers and their institutions should be encouraged
to provide, whether by open-access publishing or self-archiving.

> 2. We realize that moving to open and free access, though probably
> decreasing total costs, may displace some costs to the individual
> researcher through page charges, or to publishers through decreased
> revenues, and we pledge to help defray these costs. To this end we
> agree to help fund the necessary expenses of publication under the open
> access model of individual papers in peer-reviewed journals (subject to
> reasonable limits based on market conditions and services provided).

This is fine by way of support for existing open-access journals
(and encouraging the creation or conversion of new ones) but it
completely overlooks everything else. Something is also needed to
encourage self-archiving where there are as yet no suitable open-access
journals. The numbers are critical here, for even just in biomedical
research, the number of articles for which there is not yet a suitable
open-access journal is an order of magnitude greater than the number for
which there is. If open access is the goal, and an urgent and immediate
one, then there should not be this one-sided and disproportionate emphasis
on what is right now a minoritarian solution (open-access publishing)
to the exclusion of the other solution (self-archiving) despite its
greater immediacy and scope.

> 3. We reaffirm the principle that only the intrinsic merit of the work,
> and not the title of the journal in which a candidate?s work is published,
> will be considered in appointments, promotions, merit awards or grants.

This is all very worthy, but completely irrelevant. Research impact and
rewards are not determined by whether or not a journal is open-access
but by the journal's track record for quality. A track record requires
time, and objective indicators of quality include rejection rates and
citation counts.

> 4. We will regard a record of open access publication as evidence of
> service to the community, in evaluation of applications for faculty
> appointments, promotions and grants.

This seems to directly contradict 3, preceding it. According to 3 it is the
work, not the journal-title that counts, in evaluation. Now whether or
not the journal is open-access is to count, in evaluation.

I suggest dropping both 3 and 4 and replacing them with the suggestion
that a natural extension of the existing evaluative criteria
(publish-or-perish and citation-impact) would be to encourage or
mandate maximizing impact by maximizing access (through open access).
The *two* ways to accomplish this are through publishing in open-access
journals or self-archiving.

> We adopt these policies in the expectation that the publishers of
> scientific works share our desire to maximize public benefit from
> scientific knowledge and will view these new policies as they are intended
> --an opportunity to work together for the benefit of the scientific
> community and the public.

Publishers should certainly be encouraged to support open access,
because of its great benefits to research and researchers. But there
are *two* ways they can support open access. One is to convert to
open-access publishing and the other is to support self-archiving. It
does not serves the interests of open access to suggest that there is
only one way a publisher can support open access.

> Statement of the Libraries & Publishers Working Group
> We believe that open access will be an essential component of scientific
> publishing in the future and that works reporting the results of current
> scientific research should be as openly accessible and freely useable as
> possible. Libraries and publishers should make every effort to hasten this
> transition in a fashion that does not disrupt the orderly dissemination
> of scientific information.

Here too, the suggestion seems to be that the only way libraries can
hasten open access is by supporting open-access publishing. Yet there is
a great deal they can do for open access -- far more, in fact -- by
supporting institutional self-archiving too:

> Libraries propose to:
> 1. Develop and support mechanisms to make the transition to open access
> publishing and to provide examples of these mechanisms to the community.

There are good reasons to suggest that to support self-archiving is
not only to hasten open access but to hasten the transition to
open-access publishing.

> 2. In our education and outreach activities, give high priority to
> teaching our users about the benefits of open access publishing and open
> access journals.

But what about teaching users the benefits of the most direct means of
securing open access for their own research output, namely, by
self-archiving? Most users cannot create journals; and for those for
whose research output no suitable open-access journal yet exists (i.e.,
the vast majority of users, in biomedical sciences as in all other
disciplines), self-archiving is the immediate option, and the only one.

> 3. List and highlight open access journals in our catalogs and other
> relevant databases.

How about listing and accessing institutional eprint archives containing
their research output?

> Journal publishers propose to:
> 1. Commit to providing an open access option for any research article
> published in any of the journals they publish.

How about including, among the ways to commit to providing an open
access option, the formal support of self-archiving?

> 2. Declare a specific timetable for transition of journals to open
> access models.

This seems a worthy desideratum, but is it realistic at this time? Is an
interim period of self-archiving, in which the research community can
then make its desire for open access felt directly, through their own
actions, not a reasonable complement, at least, for this call for a
transition timetable?

(This is not to say that those journals who do wish to commit to
transition timetables should not be given every possible support. Just
that this should not be the only option considered. )

> 3. Work with other publishers of open access works and interested parties
> to develop tools for authors and publishers to facilitate publication of
> manuscripts in standard electronic formats suitable for archival storage
> and efficient searching.

This too is desirable and feasible in a broader strategy for open
access, including both open-access publishing and self-archiving.

> 4. Ensure that open access models requiring author fees lower barriers
> to researchers at demonstrated financial disadvantage, particularly
> those from developing countries.

Also provide self-archiving facilities for researchers at institutions
that cannot afford their own.

> Statement of Scientists and Scientific Societies Working Group
> Scientific research is an interdependent process whereby each experiment
> is informed by the results of others. The scientists who perform research
> and the professional societies that represent them have a great interest
> in ensuring that research results are disseminated as immediately, broadly
> and effectively as possible. Electronic publication of research results
> offers the opportunity and the obligation to share research results,
> ideas and discoveries freely with the scientific community and the public.
> Therefore:
> 1. We endorse the principles of the open access model.
> 2. We recognize that publishing is a fundamental part of the research
> process, and the costs of publishing are a fundamental cost of doing
> research.
> 3. Scientific societies agree to affirm their strong support for the open
> access model and their commitment to ultimately achieve open access for
> all the works they publish. They will share information on the steps
> they are taking to achieve open access with the community they serve
> and with others who might benefit from their experience.
> 4. Scientists agree to manifest their support for open access by
> selectively publishing in, reviewing for and editing for open access
> journals and journals that are effectively making the transition to
> open access.

How about self-archiving their own research publications, in their own
institutional research archives?

> 5. Scientists agree to advocate changes in promotion and tenure evaluation
> in order to recognize the community contribution of open access publishing
> and to recognize the intrinsic merit of individual articles without
> regard to the titles of the journals in which they appear.

Please see comments on the same point made as 3 and 4 in an earlier
section. This point weakens the case for open access by focusing on a
red herring.

> 6. Scientists and societies agree that education is an indispensable
> part of achieving open access, and commit to educate their colleagues,
> members and the public about the importance of open access and why they
> support it.

But the most direct educational message for researchers is left out,
namely, that they should all self-archive their own research
publications, in their own institutional eprint archives. Otherwise this
is an extremely one-sided message to the research community, and does
not the cause of open access the full service it might.

Stevan Harnad

> Dr. Patrick O. Brown
> Howard Hughes Medical Institute
> Stanford University School of Medicine, and
> Public Library of Science
> Ms. Diane Cabell
> Associate Director
> The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School
> Dr. Aravinda Chakravarti
> Director, McKusick-Nathans Institute of
> Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins
> University, and
> Editor, Genome Research
> Ms. Barbara Cohen
> Executive Editor
> Journal of Clinical Investigation
> Dr. Tony Delamothe
> BMJ Publishing Group
> United Kingdom
> Dr. Michael Eisen
> Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
> University of California Berkeley, and
> Public Library of Science
> Dr. Les Grivell
> Programme Manager
> European Molecular Biology Organization
> Germany
> Prof. Jean-Claude Guédon
> Professor of Comparative Literature,
> University of Montreal, and
> Member of the Information Sub-Board,
> Open Society Institute
> Dr. R. Scott Hawley
> Genetics Society of America
> Mr. Richard K. Johnson
> Enterprise Director
> SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)
> Dr. Marc W. Kirschner
> Harvard Medical School
> Dr. David Lipman
> Director, NCBI
> National Library of Medicine
> National Institutes of Health
> Mr. Arnold P. Lutzker
> Lutzker & Lutzker, LLP
> Outside Counsel for Open Society Institute
> Ms. Elizabeth Marincola
> Executive Director
> The American Society for Cell Biology
> Dr. Richard J. Roberts
> New England Biolabs
> Dr. Gerald M. Rubin
> Vice President and Director, Janelia Farm
> Research Campus
> Howard Hughes Medical Institute
> Prof. Robert Schloegl
> Chair, Task Force on Electronic Publishing
> Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Germany
> Dr. Vivian Siegel
> Executive Editor
> Public Library of Science
> Dr. Anthony D. So
> Health Equity Division
> The Rockefeller Foundation
> Dr. Peter Suber
> Professor of Philosophy, Earlham College
> Open Access Project Director, Public
> Knowledge
> Senior Researcher, SPARC
> Dr. Harold E. Varmus
> President, Memorial Sloan-Kettering
> Cancer Center
> Chair, Board of Directors, Public
> Library of Science
> Mr. Jan Velterop
> Publisher
> BioMed Central
> United Kingdom
> Dr. Mark J. Walport
> Director Designate
> The Wellcome Trust
> United Kingdom
> Ms. Linda Watson
> Director
> Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
> University of Virginia Health System

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):

Discussion can be posted to:
Received on Mon Jun 23 2003 - 15:57:25 BST

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