Re: Self-Archiving vs. Self-Publishing

From: John Unsworth <>
Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2003 15:07:27 +0000

On Dec 5, 2003, at 7:27 AM, Stevan Harnad wrote:

> I am answering in some detail because it looks as if there are some
> points on which our differences are substantive, though perhaps exchanging
> a little more information may resolve them. I'd like permission to post
> the discussion (having taken the time to reply in detail); otherwise I'd
> like to post just my replies, compressing and anonymizing your portions,
> if you prefer. These issues are too important -- and the questions arise
> too often -- to just discuss offline.

That's fine--post away.

> (1) The open-access movement is about journal-articles, not books.

Why isn't that an arbitrary distinction?

> (2) Peer-reviewed journals that happen to be published by university
> presses (e.g., Behavioral and Brain Sciences [published by Cambridge
> University Press], which I edited for 25 years) are simply journals
> (and mostly toll-access journals!). Nothing special to do with open
> access. And especially not with open-access provision for that
> university's journal-article output, with which it is orthogonal.

I thought the topic was peer-review, and whether university presses
should or could supervise it. They do, in some cases, and they clearly
can, and it's not self-review. If the topic is, instead, tolls for
access, then sure, journals published by university presses (or books,
for that matter) are just like other journals (or books).

> (3) New journals -- whether toll-access or open-access, and whether
> published by university presses, learned societies, nonprofit publishers,
> or for-profit publishers -- are merely new journals: competitors to
> existing journals. The online era and its economies have opened up a
> few new journal niches, but not many. Universities presses (and others)
> can try to fill these niches, but again, they have nothing to do with
> open access.

I'm not arguing for new journals in the CIC summit paper -- maybe new
publishers, but not new journals.

> (4) The open-access journal cost-recovery model is still under trial.
> It is not yet clear whether it will prove viable and stable. (I for,
> one, believe it is the optimal and inevitable cost-recovery model --
> but only *after* open access has prevailed through self-archiving,
> which will at the same time force journal cost-cutting and downsizing
> *and* generate the university windfall toll-savings out of which to pay the
> open-access journal publication costs.)
> So it's just as risky a business for university presses to launch new
> open-access journals as it is for all other publishers.

Societies who own their journals could move them from publishers who
are less likely to behave in ways friendly to the system of scholarly
communication, to publishers who are more likely to do so. Societies
that don't own their journals can abandon them and move to journals that
are more friendly. The Association for Computers and the Humanities,
of which I'm currently president, falls (unfortunately) into the latter
category, and we are in the process of doing exactly what I'm suggesting:
we've severed ties with Computers and the Humanities, our society journal
since the '80s, but owned and published by Kluwer, and we're consolidating
our publishing activity with the Association for Literary and Linguistic
Computing, which owns their own journal, which is published by Oxford UP
(which, as you know, is engaged in an open-access experiment with the
Oxford library services).

No new journals in that picture, but a shift from commercial to
university press publishing.

> And again, it has nothing to do with providing open access to their *own*
> university research output (hence should not be conflated with it).

I'm not conflating it--but you keep doing so, which makes me wonder why.

>h> That interpretation needs to be blocked. There is also slight crossing
>h> here of another pair of wires: *All* publishers need to lower (and
>h> most of them are lowering) peer-review costs with online processing
>h> software. Singling out university presses here again sounds like
>h> take-over plans for what are currently independent journals.
>U> No, I mean that university presses should compete for some of the
>U> business currently owned by commercial publishers, and universities
>U> should look favorably on them, if they compete by lowering costs for
>U> the university. Of course, if that encourages commercial publishers
>U> to compete on the same terms, all to the good.
> I couldn't follow: How does *my* university launching a new open access
> journal (in these still-uncertain times for the open-access journal
> cost-recovery model) lower costs for my university (or provide open
> access for my university's research output -- or even reduce library
> serial costs)?

See above: no new journals, but a shift of societies and authors toward
university press-based *existing* journals.

>h> The number of new-journal niches is small (this has not changed),
>h> so the prospect of achieving open access solely by creating new,
>h> competing open-access journals (PLOS- and BMC-style) and trying
>h> to win away authors of the established toll-access journals
>h> (23,400 of them!) extremely uncertain and certainly extremely slow.
>U> I'm more optimistic, actually--but the point I'm making doesn't rest
>U> on creating new open-access journals.
>h> But what is the point, then? Is it about creating university-based
>h> lower-toll-access journals, as competitors for the existing ones? (Nothing
>h> to do with open access then, and both a risky and an a circuitous route
>h> to trying to cut university costs or increase university revenue.)

It's puzzling to me that you are so determined to keep university
presses (and libraries) out of the picture.

>h> The self-archiving road needs to be clearly differentiated
>h> from the open-access journal road. Subsuming them both under
>h> a university function only encourages their conflation (while
>h> again evoking the spectre of vanity press publication).
>U> Fine--I understand.
>h> It's a bit subtler than that, because I am afraid that there continue
>h> to be lots of indications in this exchange that that conflation
>h> continues to be made, implicitly.

Well, as I say, I don't think I'm conflating them.

>U> "we should conduct peer review independent of a decision to
>U> publish."
>h> Who are "we" (the university? the author?).
>U> journals, societies, presses.
>h> I still don't understand. What does it mean to peer-review a paper and
>h> not publish it (if it passes peer review)? Who/what peer-reviewed it,
>h> and what for?

The phrase you're worrying here ('conduct peer review independent of
a decision to publish') is quoted, in the CIC essay, from another talk
given at ACLS. In that talk, I was suggesting that the problem university
presses have--of very small print runs--might be mitigated by allowing
freely available scholarship to find its audience first, and then be
selected for print on the basis of the size of the audience. At the
risk of incurring a blizzard of citations, I'd argue that my argument on
that point is essentially the same as yours on the subject of "esoteric

>h> And here is an important one: What needs to be separated is (1)
>h> peer-review provision and certification from (2) access-provision
>h> and archiving, *not* peer-review from publication.
>U> That's splitting a hair, seems to me. Isn't peer-review provision =
>U> peer review, and access-provision = publication?
>h> No, and this is actually a central, substantive point that couldn't be
>h> further from hair-splitting:
>h> (1) What is meant by academic "publish or perish" policy is "publish in
>h> a peer reviewed journal" (let us leave aside books in this discussion).

Well, in the humanities we don't leave aside books in that context, but
we can bracket them, if you wish.

> (2) Hence neither writing a research paper and putting it in a
> desk-drawer nor publishing it with a vanity press counts as
> "publication" on an academic CV, and before an academic promotion
> committee.
> (3) In the on-paper (Gutenberg) era, authors provided (paper)
> offprints of their peer-reviewed publications [articles] (by mail)
> to would-be users who asked.
> (4) In today's online (PostGutenberg) era, authors can provide limitless
> "eprints" of their peer-reviewed publications to all would-be
> users by self-archiving them online (in their own institutional OAI
> archives).
> (5) It follows (with considerable force, both logically and empirically)
> that in the online era, the (PostGutenberg) journal reduces to the sole
> remaining essential component of academic publish-or-perish publication,
> which is peer-review service-provision and certification.
> (6) Access-provision will eventually be off-loaded completely onto
> the network of institutional OAI archives in which the authors have
> self-archived the eprints of their peer-reviewed publications (sic).
> (But NB: Today, the OAI archives are merely an open-access supplement,
> and cover only a small fraction of annual refereed research output.)
> Hence it is peer-review/certification service-provision (=
> publication) that is unbundled from archiving/access-provision in the
> online/open-access age, and *not* peer-review that is unbundled from
> publication! Peer review is the invariant essential component of
> academic publish-or-perish publication.

Well, I understand the distinction you're making, but I think it is
perverse to use the term "publication" for a concept that explicitly
excludes distribution. My guess is that doing so has led to much

> Garfield: "Acknowledged Self-Archiving is Not Prior Publication"
>h> Hence journals are and will remain (autonomous) peer-review
>h> providers/certifiers, and to be certified as having successfully
>h> met a particular established set of peer-review quality standards *is*
>h> to be published.
>U> Well, that's silly, isn't it? If I peer review something and then
>U> stick it in a drawer, have I published it?
>h> Not only would it be silly to stick a peer-reviewed publication in a
>h> desk-drawer without making it openly accessible by self-archiving the
>h> eprint, but it would be silly for any "entity" to provide a peer-review
>h> service for desk-drawer papers! So it is not a coincidence that no such
>h> silly service or practice exists: Journals peer review articles; they
>h> are also still providing access to them, on paper and online, for the
>h> time being. But now that the author can provide open access, the
>h> access-provision by the journal is no longer an *essential* function of
>h> publish-or-perish publishing. But the peer-review/certification is.
>h> Indeed, that is exactly what publish-or-perish (journal) publishing in
>h> the open-access era amounts to!

I follow the argument, but here we would have to go into the economics
of the journal itself, and how it underwrites that activity. I'm aware
of the recommendations of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (and the
SPARC business plans) on that point--it's a separate discussion,

>h> Hence there is no dissociating publishing from peer review!
>U> Well, sure there is.
>h> Could you please map that out for me? Who provides peer review for
>h> papers (we are not speaking of grant proposals), other than the
>h> journals that publish them?

The societies or editorial boards who run them. And those are not
generally the same business entity as the publisher that's producing
the journal.

> And why on earth would they provide peer
> review for any other purpose, or in any other sense?
> What *can* be dissociated form peer-review/publication is
> access-provision/archiving.
> See these AmSci threads:
> "Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons"
> "The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)"
> "Re: The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review -
> NOT!)"
> "Re: Scientific publishing is not just about administering
> peer-review"
> There is only dissociation of *access-provision* from peer review.
>U> Sophistry, or else muddle.
>h> With all due respect, it is you who appear not to have thought this one
>h> through!

Well, see above: I think the argument that access-provision is
something other than publishing is tendentious, at best.

>h> And even that cannot be done now, when 23,400 journals are
>h> toll-based access-providers. All an author can do is *supplement*
>h> the toll access to his own work by self-archiving it, thereby making it
>h> open-access. This too is not a case of making peer review independent
>h> of a decision to publish, but merely (merely!) making access-provision
>h> independent of peer-reviewed publication!
>U> "peer-reviewed information would be freely available *soon after*
>h> This "soon after" also occurs repeatedly in your proposal, and I
>h> would suggest removing it, because it is quite easily misconstrued
>h> as not being about open-access at all, but only the journal's
>h> willingness to allow free access after an interval (from 6 months
>h> to 2 years or more) has elapsed after which toll-revenues become
>h> negligible anyway.
>U> Nope, I just mean that there shouldn't be a great lag time in between
>U> creation and publication. I'll stand by that as a desideratum for an
>U> ideal system of scholarly communication.
>h> We're all for minimizing publication lag (both the time taken to
>h> perform the peer review and the time taken for the journal to
>h> go to press). But that has nothing to do with open access, which is
>h> about when *access* should be provided.

We're stuck on the publishing/access-provision distinction here too, so
I have nothing new to add.

> Access to the unrefereed preprint is the author's business (though many
> have found self-archiving preprints to be useful, both as authors and
> as users).
> But all authors want maximal access to the refereed (hence published)
> postprint, immediately. If only the publisher is relied on to provide
> this access, not only is there the temporary publication lag to
> worry about, but permanent access-denial (to all would-be users whose
> institutions cannot afford the access-tolls). And the latter is what
> open-access-provision is intended to remedy.

I'm all for that--but I am more inclined than you are to think that an
open-access system might include university-based publishers.

>h> This is not how research progresses, and not what open access is
>h> for or about! Open access means *immediate* open access. It in fact
>h> starts *before* refereeing, with the preprint (optional), and continues,
>h> unbroken, to the moment when the accepted, peer-reviewed final draft
>h> (the "postprint") exists, which is immediately self-archived too.
>U> Sure--we don't disagree on that.
>h> Surely with this "soon after" you don't want to reduce open access to
>h> the Dave Shulenburger old and inadequate "NEAR" proposal of free
>h> online access only after an agreed embargo period!
>U> It's much simpler than that: not a prescription for a particular
>U> publishing model, just a desirable characteristic for a system of
>U> communication.
>h> If I understand correctly then, all you were talking about here was
>h> the importance of trying to minimize publication lag, irrespective of
>h> open-access matters?

Yes, at that point in the talk. Got to go do my day job--if possible,
I'll respond to the rest at a later point. The bottom line, I think,
is that you believe the toll-access journal world is going to continue
as it is, and I doubt that.

John Unsworth


>U> "self-archiving and open-access journals, by themselves, do not
>U> guarantee 'permanent open access'."
>h> This raises the red herring of preservation in a place where it
>h> harms rather than helps: Of course digital contents need to be
>h> preserved permanantly. But in the special case of the peer-reviewed
>h> journals, the preservation problem is squarely on the shoulders of
>h> the 23,400 journals and the libraries that subscribe to them at this
>h> time.
>U> Well, journals don't do preservation. Libraries do. So, at least on
>U> half of that point we agree.
> We fully agree on half the point: There is a definite preservation
> problem for the toll-access journal literature: Who will ensure that
> the online versions of the contents of the 24,000 journals with their
> annual 2,500,000 articles remain accessible and usable permanently?
> This is a problem between the toll-access publishers and the libraries
> that pay the tolls to purchase these contents.
> But open-access-provision concerns something else: the self-archived
> open-access *duplicates* of (or approximations to) those toll-access
> articles. These duplicates are merely supplements to, not substitutes
> for the literature in question, provided for the sake of immediate ongoing
> access to those who cannot afford the canonical version.
> Until and unless publishing does downsize to peer-review/certification
> service-provision alone, and offloads all access provision into the
> institutional network of self-archived versions (which are currently
> merely access-supplements to the canonical versions), it is not the
> self-archived supplementary system that has the preservation burden but
> the primary toll-based system.
>h> That is all toll access.
>U> Libraries don't charge for access. They do limit access when the
>U> publishers they rent from require them to do so.
> We are talking here only about restricted toll-access articles:
> articles that are licensed by the library to be made accessible only
> to their own institutional users and no one else.
>U> A library-based
>U> open-access model is much more powerful than one based on individual
>U> self-archiving, because preservation is an important characteristic of
>U> a system of scholarly communication, and individuals can't guarantee
>U> it (nor can publishers).
> What is "a library-based open-access model"? Where do the open-access
> articles come from? Whose articles are they?
> (1) We are presumably not talking here about the small number of
> open-access journals that exist today (600, versus 23,400 toll-access
> journals).
> (2) Nor, as we have just confirmed, are we talking about the restricted
> local access journals the library pays license-tolls to access.
> So exactly what form of open-access do you have in mind here, if not
> institutional self-archiving?
> The university-press new-journals we spoke about earlier? Are
> they open-access journals? Then that is just (1) again. Are they
> toll-access? Then that is just (2) again.
> So where's the open access?
>h> the physics corpus, doing this since 1991, is all with us
>h> today
>U> all of 12 years later.
> Yes, all of 12 years, and 250,000 open-access articles being actively
> accessed and used across those years, and all the research impact
> and progress that has generated. Compared to those of us who during
> those 12 years, and still today, are not self-archiving but instead fretting
> about preservation of the contents of our empty cupboards, worrying
> that, if we self-archive, those open-access versions may not be
> accessible in 12 years! Meanwhile, the years keep going by, and the
> cumulating research impact loss keeps growing...
Received on Mon Dec 08 2003 - 15:07:27 GMT

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