Re: Central vs. Distributed Archives

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 17:08:17 +0000

On Mon, 20 Oct 2003, Dr. Vinod Scaria wrote:

> As we all know, Open Access Publishing is not gaining the momentum as
> far as Journals published from Developing Countries are concerned [with
> reference to western Journals]. Many reasons can be attributed like:
> 1. Monopolistic nature of Open Access Publishers like BioMedCentral
> http://www. which pursues the "author pays" and
> would drive away any author from Developing countries. Thus obviously
> publishers from Developing countries would have second thoughts before
> starting one at BMC.

BMC is an open-access publisher publishing a number of open-access
journals among few other open-access publishers, but that does not make
them a monopoly.

Yes, author-pays is a deterrent, but that is not the only way to have
open-access today; there is also subsidy as well as self-archiving
(and if/when toll-cancellations generate institutional savings, there
is already enough cash in the system to pay the essential costs three
times over).

Just as it was counterproductive to villify toll-access publishers
(instead of either founding open-access journals or self-archiving),
so it is counterproductive to villify open-access publishers (instead
of either founding competing open-acecss journals or self-archiving).

> By meaning monopolistic, I refer to the almost complete control over open
> access publishing- say about >75% of open Access Journals in Medicine.and
> Mega organisations like PLOS are crunching the small publishers, as they
> can easily override the smaller ones with the mega funding they have.
> see:

BMC and PLoS do not *control* open-access publishing, they are simply
the first big entrants into this still-small form of publishing. Their
start-up is well-funded, it is true, but is that a bad thing? The model
is still far from proved, and if it grew only on the basis of
volunteerism, it would grow even more slowly.

Crunching and overriding smaller open-access publishers and
journals? How? There are two main challenges for open-access publishing:

(i) The first challenge is making ends meet. BMC and PLoS are doing
this with subsidies plus submission charges; others are doing it with
subsidies plus volunteerism. It is not clear yet whether any of these
cost-recovery means will be stable and lead to long-term survival.

(ii) The second challenge is filling journal pages with high quality
content. Here, as with all new journals, the main factor is whether
the journal has a niche to fill (i.e., is there enough of a manuscript
flow of papers to be published in its area?) and whether the journal can
provide the requisite peer-review standards. This is as always a matter
of competition between journals for authors, but here whereas the BMC
and PLoS start-up subsidies may give them some advantage in promotion,
their submission charges would seem to offset or at least balance that
out. Fully subsidized or volunteer journals do not have the deterrent
effect of "author pays."

So is the "monopolistic" objection that BMC and PLoS have more start-up
support, giving them an advantage over journals without that support,
or is the objection that they have an "author pays" model, unaffordable
for some authors?

> 2. As I previously stated in my Editorial in Internet Health-
> , the
> fear of losing revenue, which are the sole source of sustenance of many
> Journals [though some make a meagre profit].

The fear of losing revenue is the understandable reason that toll-access
journals don't convert to becoming open-access ("gold") journals
today. However, there is a less radical step they can take, for the
sake of open access, entailing far less immediate sacrifice or risk:
toll-access publishers can become "green" (official supporters of
self-archiving) rather than "gold."

> 3. Lack of sufficient expertise and exposure to Open Access Publishing.

No one has much expertise or experience with open-access publishing,
and it can be stated that those open-access journals (including my own,
Psycoloquy ) that rely on subsidies
and volunteerism rather than submission charges have not yet found a
stable cost-recovery model. Nor is the cost-recovery model of those
open-access journals that *do* rely on submission charges yet stable or
proven. It is far too early to say.

But it is not only, or primarily, with open-access publishing and its
economics that there is insufficient experience and knowledge: there is
insufficient experience and knowledge with open-access self-archiving
too, and that does not depend on subsidy or a cost-recovery model.

> But recent developments are worth mentioning - at least from India. Online
> Journal of Health and Allied Sciences , India's first
> Online BioMedical journal declared a couple of months back that they
> would go Open.
> [I am in the Editorial board of OJHAS from Sept 2003]. OJHAS is
> edited and published by a small group of scholars with no external
> support. Everything from Web Design to Editing and Review are done by
> voluntarily by the Editorial team. It also stands as a fine example of
> the fact that Open Access Journals can indeed be successfully organised
> and can indeed survive without an "author pays" model.

There exists no firm evidence at all at the moment as to whether or
not Open Access journals can survive, with or without an "author pays"
model. Subsidized journals are subsidized journals, and depend on the
survival of the subsidy, not the journal. "Author pays" journals have
been around for far too short a time for us to know whether they can
survive. And the same can be said about volunteer-service-based journals:
It is too early to say whether they can last on volunteerism alone,
let alone whether volunteerism can scale up to all 24,000 refereed

> Now coming to the Archival, Cogprints was our first choice for many reasons
> 1] It offers interoperability [as mentioned by Harnad]
> 2] It offers unmatched popularity
> 3] It has been there for years and we can be sure of the permanence
> 4] It is of course FREE.

Perhaps a far better choice would have been to require all your authors
to (1) try to self-archive their articles at their own institutions, and
only in those cases where that failed, (2) to self-archive them in
CogPrints or another suitable OAI-compliant archive. Offloading the
self-archiving task onto the distributed authorship instead of the
journal staff would take some of the load off the volunteer efforts
(hence costs) involved!

That policy would also have the benefit of spreading the practise of
self-archiving by authors, as well as archive-provision by their

> And as Harnad suggested, there is no reason why Journals should not
> be archived at Open Archives, be it self maintained repositories or
> Centralised ones. In fact Open Archiving of electronic journals is
> the need of the hour because our own studies [unpublished] show that
> Electronic journals are just as ephemeral as websites. Scholarly
> communication should never be lost at the cost of copyright
> restrictions. Many of these journals have perhaps done more harm than
> good by locking the access by copyright restrictions.

This is too vague: For toll-access journals, the preservation burden for
their contents (both the paper version and the online version) is
squarely on the shoulders of the journals that sell them and the
libraries that buy them. The self-archived versions of toll-access
journal articles are merely *duplicates,* provided for access, and it is
a strategic mistake to make an issue of concerns about their long-term
preservation. Those duplicates have lasted over 12 years already and
they will continue to last long enough to be retrofitted with whatever
solution the open-access era may eventually generate, if/when it prevails.

But the fact that new journals (whether paper or online) come and go is
a different problem. Journals should be archival in the sense that they
continue to exist. If they just make an appearance for a few months or
years and then vanish, then they are merely scattered collections of
items, and the preservation of such orphan items is a problem independent
of the problem of open access.

> Moreover, electronic journals are equally vulnerable to the vagaries
> of the Internet. For example, JMIR www. jmir. org went suddenly offline
> some time back [i think it was an year or so] making the whole content
> inaccessible. [But it reappeared later and now is an Open Access Journal].

These are the vulnerabilities of new journals; they have nothing to do
with open-access.

> Thus in short, OPen Archiving of Journals as a whole is perhaps to be
> discussed in a wider perspective than just making it OPEN. The major
> emphasis should be the PERMANENCE of Open Archiving. I hope this post will
> surely trigger a debate on the topic.

Preservation and access are -- for the time being -- very different
matters. The pressing problem for authors of the toll-access literature
today is access-denial and impact-loss, not preservation. It is a
mistake to conflate the open access problem with the digital preservation
problem, and it helps neither open access nor digital preservation.

Stevan Harnad

> Kind regards
> Dr. Vinod Scaria
> Executive Editor: Calicut Medical Journal
> Assoc Editor: Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences
> Editor in Chief: Internet He_at_ lth
> WEB: www. drvinod. netfirms. com
> MAIL: vinodscaria_at_yahoo. co. in
> Mobile: +91 98474 65452
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Stevan Harnad
> Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 3:38 AM
> Subject: Re: Central vs. Distributed Archives
> The two items that follow below are by Vinod Scario from Peter Suber's
> Open Access News http://www. earlham. edu/~peters/fos/fosblog. html
> It provides an interesting and inspiring example of the power
> and value of OAI-interoperability http://www. openarchives. org/
> and the interdependence of the two open-access strategies (open-access
> self-archiving and open-access journal publishing) that this new online
> open-access journal, produced in India, is being made accessible
> by archiving it http://calicutmedicaljournal. org/archives. html
> in a specially created sector of CogPrints in the UK,
> http://cogprints. ecs. soton. ac. uk/view/subjects/JOURNALS. html
> a multidisciplinary central archive created in 1997 for author
> self-archiving (which is now being done more via distributed institutional
> eprint archives -- to which the CogPrints software was adapted by Rob
> Tansley, creator of eprints http://software. eprints. org/#ep2 and then
> of dspace http://www. dspace. org/ -- rather than via central ones like
> CogPrints). Yet there is no reason a central archive like CogPrints (or,
> for that matter, any of the distributed institutional archives) cannot
> provide a locus for open-access journals too! OAI-interoperability
> means that they will all be picked up and integrated by cross-archive
> harvesters like OOAster! http://oaister. umdl. umich. edu/o/oaister/
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
Received on Thu Oct 30 2003 - 17:08:17 GMT

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