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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 9 Oct 2003 02:57:29 +0100

On Wed, 8 Oct 2003, Richard Durbin wrote:

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

Unfortunately, I was unable to discern from your message *what* it is
that open-access publishing is needed for that open-access
self-archiving does not provide identically. (I assume that by "open
archiving" you mean open-access self-archiving, for otherwise "open
archives" just means archives with OAI-compliant metadata.)

The capabilities you think one provides that the other does not seem to
be connected with data-archiving, and your argument seems to be based
on (1) an analogy with the data-sharing in genomics as well as the
increasing amount of (2) data that are now included in some journal

Both cases have been discussed in this Forum already. See the discussion

    "Free Access vs. Open Access"

To take the second case first: If data are included in the journal article
(2), then they are included in the open-access version of the article,
whether that version is made open access through open-access publishing
or through open-access self-archiving. Either way, whatever is in the
published article is freely accessible online. Data that are *not*
included in the published article (1) can and should be self-archived
too -- -- but
this has nothing to do with the problem of open access to journal

> 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.

Whether the digital text (including data) of an article is made openly
accessible by being published in an open-access journal or by being
published in a toll-access journal but being self-archived in an
open-access archive is irrelevant: Either way, the data reported in it
are available to be used computationally. Don't confuse the use and
re-use of data with the use of the *text* to generate other text (other
than by quoting it): Any other re-use of text is plagiarism (i.e., if it
is not quotation). Text, unlike data and software code, cannot be
reprocessed and made one's own: It can only be cited and quoted.

> 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.

Any genome data that is included in an article that is openly accessible
online can be used and built upon in exactly the same way, regardless of
whether it has been made openly accessible by being published in an
open-access journal or by being published in a toll-access journal and

> 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.

How much more-open access do you need than open access (i.e., free,
full-text, online access)? And how does open-access publishing provide
it and open-access self-archiving not?

(We agree about the obsolescence of toll-costs, but that's neither here
nor there. Both open-access publishing and open-access self-archiving
free the online text from those toll-barriers.)

> 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).

Unfortunately I cannot discern the point you are making here: We agree
that toll-barriers are bad and obsolescent, that research is written to
be used and built upon ("research impact"), that online publication is
preferable to paper, and that open-access online publication is
preferable to toll-access online publication. But what has this to do
with open-access via open-access publication vs. open access via
open-access self-archiving? The Wellcome Trust report, as far as I can
discern, supports both:

         Specifically, the Trust:
         (1) welcomes the establishment of free-access, high-quality
             scientific journals available via the Internet;
         (2) will encourage and support the formation of such journals
             *and/or free-access repositories for research papers*...
         (3) will meet the cost of [open-access] publication charges
         (4) encourages researchers to *maximize the opportunities to
             make their results available for free*...

> 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

Open-Access Self-Archiving is a tactical move for one goal, and one goal
only: open access to the peer-reviewed research literature (as soon
as possible). It *might* also help move journal publishing eventually
from the toll-access to the open-access model
but that is not only speculation, but unnecessary speculation, on which
nothing else depends, and for which open access certainly need not and
should not wait.

What is needed, now, is open access, and it is attainable, now,
through self-archiving. Whether it does or does not also eventually
lead to a transition from toll-access to open-access publishing is not
the main issue, but if you wish to see self-archiving as a strategy
for moving journal publishing to a better and more natural model, you
are certainly free to see it that way: Either way, what is needed is
universal self-archiving, now. The optimal dual open-access strategy is:

    (1) for all articles for which a suitable open-access journal
        exists (about 500 exist so far), publish them in an open-access
    (2) for all other articles, publish them in a suitable toll-access
        journal (there are about 23,500) but also self-archive them in
        your institution's open-access archive.

Stevan Harnad

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 Thu Oct 09 2003 - 02:57:29 BST

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