From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 9 Jan 2004 03:13:00 +0000

In a letter to the Times Higher Education Supplement today
Iain Stevenson of City University, London, wrote:

> Despite the evangelism of Stevan Harnad and other enthusiasts for
> "publisher-free" journals, the open-access model simply shifts the costs
> of publication from the subscribing institution to authors. Both forms
> of delivery can and do provide "free at the point of use" access for
> individual readers.

Wrong on both counts. (1) I am an archivangelist, not an evangelist for
"publisher-free" journals (whatever that means!). (2) Toll-access journals
are only "free at the point of use" to users at institutions that can
afford to pay the tolls, and that's the point. (Most can't.)

> Open access is fine if the article authors have grant funds to pay the
> publication charge

There are two ways to provide open access: One is for the author to (1)
publish in an open-access journal that recovers its costs by charging
the author-institution per article they publish. The other is for the
author to (2a) publish in a toll-access journals that recovers its costs
by charging the user-institution for access but to (2b) also self-archive
the article in his own institutional open-access eprint archive. Whenever
(1) is not suitable, do (2).

> The effect of the spread of open access will be the further concentration
> of research output in well-funded specialities from the Anglo-American
> realm with the consequent impoverishment of scholarship and scientific
> debate and the exclusion of papers from non-mainstream disciplines
> and researchers.

Both methods of providing open access are open to authors. Over 95%
of journals are toll-access, making self-archiving the method of choice
for most authors, wherever they are. The purpose of open access is to
remedy the current concentration of research access on users at the
well-funded mainstream institutions.

> To ensure diversity and equality of publishing opportunity both models
> of journal publishing need to co-exist.

Both models of cost-recovery can and will co-exist. What needs to be ensured
is equality of access.

> Many learned societies are themselves publishers that depend on journal
> subscription revenues to support their scholarly activities and keep
> membership subscriptions lower than they would otherwise need to be.

It is not clear that researchers, once made aware of the causality
involved, will consciously choose to subsidise their learned societies
with their own research impact lost because of access-denial to would-be
users whose institutions cannot afford the tolls. But in any case,
self-archiving is an alternative compatible with the co-existence of
both cost-recovery models.

> Open access is in danger of applying the most invidious and insidious
> form of academic censorship: the rich get published and the poor
> don't.

No, it eliminates access-denial and its resultant impact loss, and does
so without requiring any author to give up publishing wherever he wishes.

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at the American Scientist Open Access Forum:
        To join the Forum:
        Post discussion to:
        Hypermail Archive:

Unified Dual Open-Access-Provision Policy:
    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 Fri Jan 09 2004 - 03:13:00 GMT

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