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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 19:17:51 +0000

On Fri, 31 Oct 2003, Dr.Vinod Scaria wrote:

> It is... counterproductive to ignore the authors from the developing
> world who have been always kept away from the mainstream.
> I am not against the "author pays" model, but just against the lack of
> flexibility in operation. Majority of researchers in developing countries
> have never had the luxury of being funded.
> There could be other viable models- like paying a fixed percentage of
> funds for publishing. This would sound more aesthetic to researchers too.
> This would also mean publishers could easily subsidize for research from
> developing countries as well as researchers from Developed countries who
> are not funded.

Agreed. And I am sure that both PLoS and BMC will do that. (And let us
not forget the only option for the 95% of papers for which there is not
yet a suitable open-access jouranl: Authors from developing countries too
have and should use the self-archiving option.)

But publishing an article in a journal is not the same as subscribing to
a journal. Subscribing can be done as an institutional pre-commitment,
annually. Publishing in a given journal cannot. An institution cannot
commit itself to a certain quantity of articles in a given journal in
advance (that must be each individual researcher's chboice, for each
paper); nor can a journal guarantee their acceptance in advance.

But a slush fund for unaffiliated authors or authors at universities
that cannot afford the submission costs is definitely a good idea.

    "Access-Denial, Impact-Denial and the Developing and Developed World"

> The heavy start up support gives them a clear edge over new
> and existing publishers... If it was
> really interested in supporting open Access, it should have supported
> Journal of Biology, an Open Access Journal from BMC.

This seems to me a bit too prescriptive about the best way for PLoS to
spend its money! (After all, no one really knows what's the best way to
accelerate open access: all we know is that it's feasible and well
overdue!) It is not clear that promoting existing open-access journals
rather than creating more new ones is best for open access. And don't
forget that BMC has money backing it too (and that BMC is commercial
whereas PLoS is non-profit).

Besides, from a strictly quantitative and probabilistic point of view,
one could argue that money would be far better spent on promoting
self-archiving rather than open-access publishing at this time! At
least that judgment has an empirical basis, rather than merely being a
hunch. But I am in no better a position to say how PLoS or OSI should
spend their money than you are!

>sh> And the same can be said about volunteer-service-based journals:
>sh> It is too early to say whether they can last on volunteerism alone,
>sh> let alone whether volunteerism can scale up to all 24,000 refereed
>sh> journals!
> Just imagine the scalability if the Internet was monopolised by
> come company! The whole spectrum of resources we access with a
> click was created by volunteerism, donations and public money.

But journals, whether on-paper or on-line, were not. We are free to try
to create and maintain 24,000 refereed journals on a volunteer basis,
but the principle remains to be proved.

> Does PubMed/PubMedCentral make any profit?

No, nor does it seek to. BioMedDebtral does not yet make a profit
either. But is there anything wrong with their hoping to, if/when open
access prevails?

>sh> Perhaps a far better choice would have been to require all your authors
>sh> to (1) try to self-archive their articles at their own institutions, and
>sh> only in those cases where that failed, (2) to self-archive them in
>sh> CogPrints or another suitable OAI-compliant archive. Offloading the
>sh> self-archiving task onto the distributed authorship instead of the
>sh> journal staff would take some of the load off the volunteer efforts
>sh> (hence costs) involved!
>sh> That policy would also have the benefit of spreading the practise of
>sh> self-archiving by authors, as well as archive-provision by their
>sh> institutions.
> And yes! we actually plan to provide the authors with PDF reprints which
> they could archive on their own. We did it ourselves just because we
> need to see the whole thing gets started. We are also encouraging authors
> to republish them on their institutional websites/repositories or their
> own websites in addition to our existing archive at Cogprints.

Bravo! But please don't call it "publishing" or "republishing" if you
don't wish to invite more misunderstanding! The *journal* publishes, the
author merely self-archives:

    "Garfield: 'Acknowledged Self-Archiving is Not Prior Publication'"

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: 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):
    Posted discussion to:

Dual Open-Access Strategy:
    BOAI-2: Publish your article in a suitable open-access journal
            whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1: Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable toll-access
            journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Fri Oct 31 2003 - 19:17:51 GMT

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