Guardian September 13 Editorial on PLoS Biology Launch

From: Barbara Kirsop <>
Date: Mon, 13 Oct 2003 13:13:34 +0100


Dear All, the Guardian has now used access to science journals for its
second editorial column (see, so they are truly
taking note. However they, and some more letter-writers, are still not
understanding that the PLoS journal is not the first ground-breaking OA
journal, nor the benefits and progress of self/institutional archiving.

Stevan, you may need to join in at this point.....


Stevan Harnad wrote:

>On Fri, 10 Oct 2003, Barbara Kirsop wrote:
>>bk> they DID print the letter - today (Oct 9th)....
>>sh> Bravo Stephen Pinfield, and Barbara Kirsop, and Bravo Guardian!
>>sh> Now back to the hard work of informing and activating the research
>>sh> community.
>>bk> I am sure you didn't mean to imply that promoting the needs of the
>>bk> developing country research community is less important than persuading
>>bk> the 'developed' researchers to understand about OA,
>Hi Barbara!
>If you mean my comment about the letter about developing-world subsidies
>for toll-access journals, I didn't mean it was less important than OA
>but that it is independent of OA (just as food subsidies are independent
>of the development of self-sustaining food-production).
>But perhaps you mean another, subtler point, though a profound one: Of
>course the needs of developing countries -- both for research access and
>for research impact, and for many other things as well -- are greater,
>and hence, like developing world hunger, more important.
>But I am 100% convinced that in the special case of research access/impact
>in particular, the needs of developing countries will be far better and
>faster met if we can persuade *developed* countries to make their own
>research open-access (thereby meeting their *own* reciprocal needs too).
>The causal chain is not obvious, but it becomes very clear once you
>reflect on it:
>What developing countries need is (1) greater visibility and impact for
>their own research output and (2) greater access to the research output of
>others -- especially the research output of the developed world. (We
>have discussed in the past which of these two was more important and
>urgent, but let's leave that aside and simply accept that they are
>*both* important and urgent, and their fate is coupled, causally.)
>Successfully persuading developing countries' researchers to
>self-archive their research output -- I will not discuss here the
>parallel path of persuading them to publish in open-access journals
>whenever suitable ones are available: it is obvious that this is
>desirable, but equally obvious that it is so far available for only a
>tiny fraction of research output -- would be a great step forward for
>open-access. I agree. And it would set a good example for developed
>countries. Let's do it!
>But -- apart from the example-setting and demo from the developing world
>self-archiving, which I agree would be extremely beneficial to all --
>don't imagine that developed countries will be persuaded to self-archive
>*on account of the needs of developing countries*! They will only be
>persuaded to self-archive when they see how greatly it will benefit their
>*own* needs. And then the developing world can be a co-beneficiary.
>>but I say again (and Arun keeps saying)
>>that (1) the needs of the developing world are greatest,
>For both access and impact. They can increase their access somewhat with
>subsidies, but impact they can increase can only via OA.
>>2) the need for their research experience is crucial TO US ALL
>>(think malaria or think biodiversity),
>This is a decisive argument for certain forms of niche research, like
>malaria and biodiversity, and the argument should be used. But let us
>not deceive ourselves: It is certainly not a *general* argument, about
>all or even most of developing world research output, across all fields
>of research.
>There are 24,000 research journals, covering all specialties, at a variety
>of quality-levels. How many of them do you think cover the niche research
>in which the developing world research is pre-eminent? My guess is that the
>proportion is about equal to the proportion of total annual research
>output for which there already exists an OA journal (i.e., less than 5%
>in both cases). (I obviously don't mean these are the *same* 5%!)
>What this means is that neither the developing-world niche-research
>argument nor the OA-journal strategy *scales*. It fails to apply to 95%
>of research output today, and it is *that* research output for which we
>need an argument and a solution, not just for DW-niche research or for
>OA-journal research.
>And there *is* a more general argument and strategy, applicable
>universally, to all fields of research, and in both the developed and
>developing world: Self-archive your own research in order to maximize
>its impact. That is the *only* argument that immediately scales to all
>of the planet's researchers needs and all the planet's research output.
>>and 3) the likelihood of this section of the scientific
>>research community being the most ready to 'fill the archives' is very
>I have heard that said many times across the years, but I will believe
>that developing country researchers are more likely to fill their
>archives when I see it! For now, I am sadly aware that the cupboards are
>bare, both in the developing and the developed world. Moreover, I think
>that the power to maximize one's own research impact should be sufficient
>to make the likelihood that the entire planetary research community is
>ready to 'fill the archives' very high!
>Yet here we are, even having awakened to the desirability of OA at last,
>but still creeping along, with 5% solutions, and neglecting the 95%
>solution (although it continues to grow, despite the neglect, slowly,
>yet at a faster rate than the 5% solution!)
>>Therefore, in my view, it seems well worth expending energy in
>>getting this vital constituency on board. You may find it's an easier nut
>>to crack while you persevere with your unending energy on the harder nut.
>>Don't you agree?
>I agree 100%. But *how* should the energy be expended to get this vital
>constituency on board? I had proposed that the BOAI fund the promotion of
>self-archiving to the BOAI (in both the developing and the developed
>world), but so far BOAI's only interest has been in subsidizing toll-access
>for the developing world and in promoting Open Access Publishing!
>Cheers, Stevan
Received on Mon Oct 13 2003 - 13:13:34 BST

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