UC's Richard Atkinson in Chronicle of Higher Education

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 29 Nov 2003 18:21:07 +0000

These are comments on:

    A New World of Scholarly Communication By RICHARD C. ATKINSON
    The Chronicle Review Volume 50, Issue 11, Page B16

> University librarians are now being forced to work with faculty members to
> choose more of the publications they can do without.

Not publications in general: research journals in particular. (The two
are mixed up here and there in this article.)

> Developing and supporting new models of scholarly publishing that
> cut the costs of distributing and retrieving information.

Lower-toll-access journals help remedy the university's library
journal-budget problem but not the university's research access/impact
problem, which is not the same as the journal budget problem (and would
still be there if all journal access-tolls were at-cost, zero-profit).

> We can demonstrate...support... [for] new models of scholarly publishing
> that cut the costs of distributing and retrieving information... [1]
> financially and [2] by explicitly encouraging faculty members to make
> use of those models.

Financial support for lower-toll journals is a good idea, but has nothing
to do with open access. In contrast, financial support for open-access
journals is indeed support for open access, but -- given that there exist
only 600 open-access journals but 23,400 toll-access journals -- it is
only a drop in the bucket insofar as open access is concerned. Support
for university open-access self-archiving of its own toll-access-journal
research publications would do incomparably more for open access, right
now, and would also help hasten the day for open-access journals.

Explicitly encouraging faculty to submit to lower-toll journals is
probably an unrealistic and unreasonable goal. Encouraging them to submit
to open-access journals is a good idea, but a very limited one, given the
limited number of open-access journals there are. Explicitly encouraging --
better, mandating -- open-access provision for their toll-access research
output, on the other hand -- will go a very long way toward immediate
creating open access as well as an eventual easing of the institutional
journal budget and the transition to open-access journal publishing.

> At the same time, we must not jeopardize the health or well-being of
> the scholarly societies and university presses that play so critical
> a role in academic life.

The scholarly-society/university-press vs. commercial-publisher dichotomy
is a false one. There are many overpriced society and university journals,
and there do exist reasonably priced commercial journals. Moreover, as
noted, even if all journals were offered at-cost, this would not solve
the access problem, as no university could afford toll-access to all
24,000 and most could still only afford a fraction of them.

The only pertinent question to ask members of scholarly societies (or
university faculty about their presses) is: Are you happy to continue
subsidizing your society's good works (meetings, scholarships, lobbying,
publishing) or your university's publishing enterprises with your own
lost research impact?

Put that way (and supported with quantitative data on the
actual size of the impact loss), I think researchers will
agree that their publishers should find ways to make ends
meet other than at the expense of researchers' impact:

This does not require jeapardizing their health or well-being (by
requiring them either to lower their tolls or to become open-access
journals). It only encourages them to join the 55% of journals that
support self-archiving:

> Faculty members should... determine whether to assign
> the publisher copyright and whether to seek a nonexclusive right to
> disseminate their work freely in an electronic form.

Publishing in journals with "green" self-archiving policy is desirable
but even that is not necessary in order to self-archive all refereed
research output:

> faculty members should recognize and reward
> colleagues who choose alternative ways to disseminate their research. The
> rapid emergence of scholarly electronic publishing challenges our
> traditional methods of assessing professors' work for tenure and promotion
> purposes.

There is absolutely no relation between a journal's cost-recovery model and
the value of a candidate's publications, hence it would be foolish and
arbitrary to give the journal's cost-recovery model any weight whatsoever
in the evaluation of the quality of a candidate's work. What is relevant
is the journal's quality (i.e., the rigour and selectivity of its peer review
standards) and the article's (not the journal's!) citation impact.

The way to enhance an article's citation impact is not to publish it
in a journal with a different cost-recovery model, but to provide open
access to it -- by either publishing it in a high-quality open-access
journal (if one exists) or by publishing it in a high-quality
toll-access journal and also self-archiving it.

Hence the rational way to take advantage of the emergence of the new
possibilities opened up by the online age is to provide open access to
all research output -- while continuing to evaluate it according to the
existing indicators of quality (journal quality and citation impact),
supplementing them also with the new quality-indicators generated by the
online medium itself, such as usage impact, usage/citation correlations,
co-citations and co-text, etc.: http://citebase.eprints.org/cgi-bin/search

> We should take steps to guarantee that our evaluation practices
> keep pace with the adoption of new communication technologies. At the
> University of California, for instance, the Academic Senate supports
> consideration of electronic publications in academic peer review.

Most refereed journals are already hybrid (with both an on-paper
and an on-line version) and many universities subscribe only to the
online version. So this recommendation for "consideration of electronic
publications in academic peer review" seems to be knocking down wide-open

Again, the only relevant criteria are journal quality-standards and
article citation-impacts. No need for extra weights in any direction
based on the journal's medium (on-paper or on-line or both) -- any more
than on the journal's cost-recovery model (or cost!).

> Giving faculty members the necessary tools to make their publications
> more accessible. Universities should shoulder the costs of developing,
> managing, and publicizing research -- including peer review of scholarly
> papers -- and build the online capacity to distribute those works
> worldwide. The costs, though not insignificant, pale in comparison to
> those that libraries must bear to buy access to our faculty members'
> publications.

This is an instance of the all-too-common conflation of (1) the
university's journal budget problem, and possible solutions to it
with (2) the university's open-access-provision problem for its own
research output. It is not a solution to *either* of these problems
for universities to extend their journal-publishing activities, either
to their own university research output or to the research output of
other universities.

There are already 24,000 journals. There are few new niches to
fill. We don't need university vanity-press publication for their own
research output (peer review has to be implemented by an independent,
reputable 3rd party). And universities will do far more -- for their
own research impact, for open access, and even for an eventual solution
to their journal-toll budget crisis -- by seeing to it that their own
refereed-research output is self-archived than by trying to compete with
the established journals in which that research currently appears.

Perhaps it would be helpful to think of PostGutenberg journals as
peer-review service-providers. A university cannot provide this service
for its own research output. But it *can* provide open access to the
outcome. *That* is where the university's efforts -- it doesn't really
call for much money -- should be directed, not toward the incoherent
goal of becoming its own peer-reviewer!

    "Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons"

    "The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)"

> For example, the University of California, through the California
> Digital Library's eScholarship program, promotes the wide availability
> of scholarly works in the arts and humanities, as well as in the
> social, biomedical, and physical sciences.

The only form of "self-promotion" that the university's refereed research
output needs is open-access-provision -- through self-archiving.

> The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's DSpace initiative has similar
> cross-disciplinary aims.

DSpace is one of several (equivalent) pieces of OAI-compliant
archive-creating software. What no university yet has is a clear goal for
what to do with such sofware (providing open-access to its own refereed
research output) and a policy for achieving it (i.e., a systematic
self-archiving policy).

    "EPrints, DSpace or ESpace?"
    "Departmental Research Self-Archiving Policy"

> Cornell University, meanwhile, has taken a subject-based
> approach through ArXiv.org, an e-print server that supports open-access
> distribution of scholarship in high-energy physics, mathematics, and
> related disciplines.

Cornell University is the current worldwide host-site for a central,
discipline-based archive for self-archived research in physics,
mathematics and related disciplines (formerly hosted by Los Alamos
National Laboratory). Central discipline-based archives were historically
the first successes of self-archiving, but they are not growing
(within disciplines) and spreading (across disciplines) fast enough:

The reason is that the discipline is not the entity that
shares the individual researchers' interests in and benefits
from research impact. The researcher's *institution* is:

Nor is the discipline the entity that can mandate
open-access-provision. Only a researcher's institution
(and research-funder) can do that, through a natural
extension of its existing publish-or-perish policy:

    "Central vs. Distributed Archives"

    "Central versus institutional self-archiving"

Cornell is hence providing a valuable service by hosting the Physics Arxiv,
but this is not a service for Cornell's *own* research output.

> Helping our libraries pool their collection efforts. The alternative
> -- many parallel, redundant research collections -- is outmoded and
> no longer affordable.

Here is another conflation. There is a big difference between (1) the old
(paper-age) concept of institutional "Buy-IN Collections" (bought in from
elsewhere) and (2) the new (online-age) concept of Open-Access-Provision
for institutional research OUTput. Subscribed/licensed toll-access journal
content is in the first category, whereas self-archived research output
is in the second.

The only way institutions need to "pool efforts" with their own research
output is to make sure they are all OAI-interoperable, by self-archiving
it in (their own) OAI-compliant university open-access research archives.

Otherwise, "collection" thinking is probably on the way to becoming
obsolete in the digital age -- at least for refereed research.

    "Rethinking 'Collections' and Selection in the PostGutenberg Age"

> Our research libraries already collaborate to
> stretch their dollars. When they bargain collectively with publishers
> and distributors, they achieve significant savings.

Back to the lower-toll-access problem (journals budget crisis); nothing to
do with the research access/impact (open-access) problem.

> When they share
> print holdings through fast and reliable interlibrary-loan services,
> they ensure scholars' access to a universe of printed materials larger
> than any single university library can afford.

Libraries must make do from year to year under the crunch of unaffordable
toll-access costs. But, appealing as it is, we must resist the temptation
to mix this up with, or mistake this for, the research access/impact
problem, lest we manage to fail to solve either problem by conflating

> When they come together
> to operate cost-effective offsite facilities to store infrequently used
> materials, they provide affordable access to a richer collection than
> any one institution can house locally.

Now we have left the domain of both toll-access journal budget-problems
and the access/impact problem for university research output, and moved
on to the costs of digital archiving for *other* kinds of digital
content. It would be a good idea to keep these things apart -- as far
apart as possible -- if any clarity and progress is to be hoped for.

> Clarifying with faculty members the economic and educational advantages
> of alternate forms of scholarly publishing. We should make sure that they
> understand how their tens of thousands of individual decisions to produce
> and use scholarly information ultimately affect our ability to support
> their research.

Researchers will not be persuaded to provide open access to their
research output in order to solve their university's journal budget
problems. They will be persuaded to do so if it can be demonstrated
that it enhances their research impact, and hence their *own* (salary
and research) budgets!

> Libraries need to demonstrate that local maintenance of
> infrequently consulted print materials undermines, rather than enhances,
> faculty members' access to research; money that could be used to add
> to the breadth of shared collections flows instead toward acquiring and
> managing duplicative local holdings.

Ceterum censeo: Pooling the hosting and preservation of buy-in contents
-- whether print or digital -- with other universities is a completely
different agenda from maximizing access to a university's *own* research
output. Neither benefits from being spoken of in the same breath.

> Meanwhile, we should inform faculty members about publishers' pricing
> structures.

Better forget about that and inform them instead about their own lost
research impact

and how to remedy it by providing open access:

> We also can disclose information about the very different
> negotiating stances that publishers take with university libraries over
> interlibrary loan, preservation, and other conditions that affect how,
> and at what cost, research information will be available for scholarly
> use. The systemwide library leadership at the University of California,
> for instance, has been working with the Academic Senate leadership to
> mount such an informational campaign for faculty members.

How much better-motivated and more likely to succeed would be a campaign
to inform faculty about what matters to them -- their own research impact
-- rather than about their libraries' budgetary problems!

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):
    Post discussion to: american-scientist-open-access-forum_at_amsci.org

Dual Open-Access Strategy:
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Sat Nov 29 2003 - 18:21:07 GMT

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