Re: How to compare research impact of toll- vs. open-access research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 22:18:01 +0000

On Tue, 3 Feb 2004, Michael Kurtz wrote:

> While the ApJ is a subscription based journal,
> for practical purposes it can represent an open access journal, as nearly
> every astronomer has access to it...

I just want to remind American Scientist Open Access Forum readers
about how and why astronomy is a special case (lest they misinterpret
Michael Kurtz's data and observations as making a case for licensed
access rather than open access!):

        [T]he benefits of fee-based access (over
        non-access) are precisely what the Kurtz study
        shows in the very special case of astrophysics:
        For the astrophysics community is perhaps unique in being:

        (1) a relatively circumscribed community worldwide, mostly
        located only at the well-funded universities (perhaps because
        of the resource-intensiveness of the research?),

        (2) having a relatively small, "closed" literature, involving a
        small specific set of journals in which all the relevant papers
        and citations appear. As a consequence

        (3) virtually all astrophysicists have institutional site-licensed
        access (i.e., for-fee) to the entire astrophysics literature,
        as confirmed by Tim Brody's finding that (unlike all other fields
        of physics, and unlike all other disciplines)

        (4) astrophyicists self-archive only their unrefereed preprints,
       to get them out early (like other physicists); they do not bother
       to self-archive their postprints, knowing that they will all be
        available to everyone for-fee (as Peter Boyce of ASA has been
        telling me for years).

> The results of the experiment are that 87% of those who accessed ApJ
> articles obtained the full text, but only 39% and 40% of the readers of
> the other two journals did so.
> If one takes 87% as the fraction of users who wanted to obtain the full
> text, and assumes that readers of the other two journals share those
> desires to actually read the articles, then more than half of the
> potential reads of articles in the two journals are prevented by the
> restrictive licensing.

And if you want to see how those "reads" (downloads) translate into
citation impact sevral months or years later, you can calculate it
yourself with Tim Brody's remarkable download/citation correlator (for
the "astro" subset):

> The bottom line is that the cost of the restrictive access policies, in
> terms of access prevented, is larger than the access allowed.

And the real question is: How long will it take the other disciplines to
*realize* this, at last, and to do the simple easy thing that will put
an end, at last, to all this needless, cumulating, preventable research
impact loss!

At the moment, most are still sitting "Waiting for Gold" instead of
immediately going for the green in the meanwhile!

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 Tue Feb 03 2004 - 22:18:01 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:47:19 GMT