Re: On the Need to Take Both Roads to Open Access

From: Richard Durbin <rd_at_SANGER.AC.UK>
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2003 23:40:57 +0100

I have been watching this mailing list for some time.

Although I applaud open archiving, from my point of view open access
publishing is what is needed in the long run.

This is because the key property is not that everyone can get at a copy
of a publication, but rather that people can use information in it
computationally, producing extracts, syntheses, new indexes etc. This
is now possible.

I come from the community that led open release of data in genomics: the
C.elegans genome mapping then sequencing project, followed by the human
genome project. The real value of the way that genome data such as the
human genome sequence is available is that people can use it and build
on it. Building on publications used to be open, because the only way
to do it was to read and then write something else (e.g. a review or a
new paper with a new idea). And a subscription cost was reasonable
historically because most of the costs were in printing and
distribution. Now, at least in biological science, a lot of valuable
data are published in papers in tables and figures, and people are
developing computational tools that can use this information, and even
the free text. (See for an example of the latter.)
So there are ways to use the information in papers for new science, but
to do this we need much more open access to the literature.

Research funding is provided to generate outputs that others can build
on. Funders, and the rest of the system, want publication to be as
unconstrained as possible, and the only reasons that we haven't yet
taken advantage of electronic publishing to make things less constrained
are historical inertia and the commercial interests of some publishers
(see last week's Wellcome Trust report).

So, for me, Open Archiving is just a tactical move to keep the
publishers moving to the larger goal of changing scientific publishing
to a better and more natural model, which is possible now with the
network and electronic publishing.

Richard Durbin
Head of Informatics, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

Stevan Harnad wrote:
> Scotomata in the Open Access Movement
> A blind spot seems to be growing at the *center* (not the edges)
> of the Open-Access-Publishing (OApub) road to Open Access (OA). OApub is a
> valid and welcome road to OA, but in the minds of many of its proponents
> the idea seems to have grown that OApub *is* OA, and that *only* OApub
> is OA.
> As a result, because OApub also seems to be a much easier concept
> for researchers to understand than Open-Access Self-Archiving (OAarch),
> and because this easier concept has now also trickled through to some
> research funding bodies, legislators, and even the popular press --
> Open Access (OA) itself, despite the superficial signs of its growth
> and progress, is now again at risk of being detoured into yet another
> decade of needless delay.
> Part of the problem is that OApub has at least three substantial hurdles
> to surmount:
> (OApub-1) OA journals have to be created/converted
> (OApub-2) Funding sources must be found for paying the author charges
> for publishing in those OA journals (hence the "Bethesda Statement"
> ), and
> (OApub-3) Authors must be persuaded to publish in those OA journals
> (hence the Sabo Bill
> ).
> This would all be fine and as it should be were it anywhere near the
> truth that OApub was indeed the only, or easiest, or most direct,
> or surest road to OA. But none of that is the case! Not only
> is there another road, but that other road is easier, more direct,
> and surer. It calls for only one step, not three or more, namely:
> (OAarch-1) Authors must be persuaded to self-archive.
> The archives are already there (but near-empty) for the making or
> taking. At least 55% of publishers already support OAarch, and no further
> funding or journal-creation, -conversion, or -renunciation is needed.
> But if one is strongly committed to OApub as the *only* road to achieve
> OA, or the main one, one will not have any inclination to stress the
> *other* road to OA, let alone that it is faster, easier, more direct
> or surer!
> Worse, OAarch may not be just a blind spot for OApub: it may even be
> perceived as an obstacle by some OApub advocates: For unless OAarch can
> somehow be minimized or dismissed as an unstable, anarchic, impractical,
> even *illegal* non-starter, there is a chance that OApub advocates may
> have to face the possibility that putting all or even most of the emphasis
> on OApub would be premature, and that OAarch, apart from being the surer
> road to immediate OA, might even be the surer road to eventual OApub!
> I think the dual OA algorithm
> (1) publish your articles in an open-access journal wherever available
> (<5%)
> and
> (2) self-archive the rest of your articles (>95%)
> captures the true realities and possibilities and probabilities, and in
> their true proportions.
> But OApub leaves OAarch entirely out of its unilateral strategies and
> desiderata -- or, worse, OApub portrays OAarch merely as a way to offload
> the archiving and access burdens of OApub journals!
> I have been on the OA circuit a long time. I have a good sense by now of
> the maddeningly slow and slow-witted pace of progress toward OA, and
> how Zeno's Paralysis, mutating in a Protean way with every apparent
> step forward, keeps conspiring to side-track our progress toward this
> long overdue and long accessible goal.
> It is accordingly important that all open-eyed open-access advocates
> now try to do everything we can to make sure that the 95% solution is
> *understood* to be the 95% solution that it is, and is given 95% of the
> open-access-seeking community's attention and efforts. The money is not
> with us -- I don't have the PLoS's $9 million, nor even the BOAI's 3 --
> but fortunately OAarch does not depend on money but only on understanding,
> and the action flowing naturally from that understanding.
Received on Wed Oct 08 2003 - 23:40:57 BST

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