Re: What is the threshold for open access Nirvana?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 21:41:32 +0000

On Wed, 14 Jan 2004, Garfield, Eugene wrote:

> You have avoided my main point by regurgitating to me what you have stated
> before. However, I appreciate your prompt response. Don't you ever sleep?
> When responding, please attach my original message

Gene, sorry I passed over your main point! (I am usually accused of not
letting anything pass! Maybe it *is* lack of sleep!)

Here again is the whole of your original message (to which I replied
at: ).

To this first paragraph:

> I have generally avoided discussion in this listserv but I think you have
> introduced a significant distortion to the discussion by quoting the figure
> of 24,000 scientific journals which allegedly produce 2,500,000 articles per
> year. I presume someone has estimated the average of 100 articles per year.
> A more realistic figure for journals would be ten to fifteen thousand
> scientific journals putting aside the crucial question of definition.

I replied that the 24K figure comes from ulrichs and that it is not for
*scientific* journals, but for *peer-reviewed* journals, both scientific
and scholarly. (But this was not your main point, apparently.)

Your second paragraph, to which I did not reply first time, was:

> If open access is to become viable it seems to me the key factor is the
> group of 500 to 1000 highest impact journals which account for a substantial
> portion of the significant articles which are published and most cited.
> Unless these journals make it possible for authors to self-archive or to be
> freely accessible you cannot achieve open access nirvana. One might argue
> that once e.g. 50% or more of these most important journals are in the fold
> the breakthrough threshold has been reached.

Please look at the Romeo Journals Table:

It shows that 55% of the journals sampled (the Romeo sample was of
the top 7000 of the 24,000) are already either OA ("gold") journals (about 5%)
or "green" journals (50%) (TA journals that support author self-archiving).

An undetermined portion of the remaining 45% will also agree
to author self-archiving if asked. (I expect that the rising
tide of OA consciousness in the research community today
will raise the 55% figure considerably.)

I leave it to you to tell us whether the top 500-1000 journals
are among the 55% listed as green or gold.

But as you see, we are already past 55% overall, which proves only one
thing: That the problem is not the publishing community! For although
at least 55% of journals are already gold or green/blue, far from 55%
of articles are as yet OA!

What that means is (1) far from all authors who have a suitable gold
journal to publish in are publishing in gold journals, and (2) far from
all authors who publish in a green journal are self-archiving their
articles. (The shortfall is far more striking and ironic in the case of
self-archiving, because its immediate ceiling is so much higher.)

So what does this say about your suggestion of a 50% "breakthrough

That the 50% breakthrough point may need to be the percentage of the
research community actually grasping the OA that is within their reach,
rather than just the percentage of the publishing community that puts it
within their reach (in response to the ostensible demand, to publishers,
by the research community, for the benefits of open access!)

    "Petitions, Boycotts, and Liberating the Refereed Literature Online"

This is why I have been beating the drums about the need for
a systematic policy of open-access provision by institutions
and research funders. This natural extension of the "publish or
perish" rule is needed to induce the research community to reach
for what is in their own best interest, and within its grasp, now:

To your third paragraph:

> Since it has been demonstrated that on line access improves both readership
> and citation impact we can certainly expect that the vast majority of the
> low impact journals would be well advised to make their journals open
> access. Whether this increases their impact remains to be seen, but
> increased readership or attention seems inevitable.

I replied with a list of references on the empirical evidence for the
fact that increasing access increases impact -- both download (reading)
impact and citation impact (the former coming before the latter, and
strongly correlated with it, hence predictive of it).

I should have added, though, that as far as I know, no one has
reported any evidence suggesting that the impact-enhancing effects of
open-access are limited to articles in low-impact journals! *All*
articles and *all* authors stand to benefit from open access:

There *might* be some ceiling effects there, but I doubt it. There are
just too many would-be users at Have-Not institutions worldwide who
would read, use and cite your article if only they could access it!

Best 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 Wed Jan 14 2004 - 21:41:32 GMT

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