Re: What Provosts Need to Mandate

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2004 21:55:19 +0000

On Sun, 14 Mar 2004, Deborah Freund (Provost, Syracuse University) wrote:

> I am a provost and I fear that is unrealistic. Mandating something,
> at least in the American system, is a sure way not to get what you
> want. I would guess strong suggestions and incentives might be better.

Perhaps "mandate" is too controversial a word! I meant whatever the
verb is that already describes existing American "publish-or-perish"
policy. I suppose that's not exactly "mandating" publishing either,
in the sense of "publish or you're fired!"

Publish-or-perish policy is, as you put it, a matter of strong suggestions
and incentives: The carrot is that publishing will get you hired, promoted,
tenured, funded, honored, etc., and the stick is that if you don't do
research and publish, you will have to do other kinds of duties.

But even this is no longer the up-to-date description of publish-or-perish
policy either, for of course research *impact* has already also entered
the equation too: It is not enough to simply publish. If what you publish
is not found to be useful by your peer research community, it is less valued
and rewarded than research that is found to be useful by your research
community. And citations are a strong measure of the degree to which
your contribution has been found to be useful by your research community.

So far there is nothing new in this so far. Here comes the new part: The
degree to which your articles can be used and cited by your research community
is *strongly* dependent on the degree to which they can be *accessed*. And
the fact today for every single one of the 2,500,000 articles that appear
annually in the planet's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals is that most --
not some, or many, but most -- of its potential users worldwide cannot
access (hence use or cite) it, because their institutions cannot afford
to pay the access-tolls for the journal in which it happens to appear.

(Nor is this is just a matter of the Harvards vs. the Have-Nots, because
no university can afford access to anywhere near all of the 24,000
journals, and most universities can only afford access to a smaller and
smaller minority of them. Hence although the few Harvards can indeed
afford more access to the research output of the many Have-Nots, they
still suffer the impact-loss for their own research output, because the
journals in which it appears are unaffordable to their would-be users
at the far more numerous Have-Nots!)

This impact-loss is an invariant fact for all those articles *except*
the small percentage of them that have been made open-access by
their authors -- either by publishing them in an Open Access (OA) Journal
(5% of journals are OA) or by publishing them in a conventional Toll
Access (TA) journal (95%), but also self-archiving them in (a central
or institutional OA Eprint Archive), as shown by the data below:

Now one might respond:

        "But our existing publish-or-perish policies already implicitly
        have that covered! We *already* reward publication in proportion
        to impact, rather than merely a bean-count: Why does OA provision
        need a special policy of its own?"

The answer is very simple: The research community does not yet *realize*
how much OA enhances research usage and impact, nor do they yet realize
that it is possible to provide OA for all their articles, nor how
to go about doing it. The institutional policy that is needed is one
that informs researchers about the benefits of OA, provides them with
the means of providing OA (institutional OA Eprint Archives), and
encourages and helps them to use them (until OA provision becomes as
natural a part of academic culture as publication itself).

To this end, some examples of the kind of OA provision policy that universities
and research funders might (if not mandate then) strongly encourage with
incentives would be the following:

Stevan Harnad

> >>> 03/14/04 12:57 PM >>>
> Review of: JISC/OAI Journal Authors Survey
> Stevan Harnad
> I was expecting to be disappointed by this JISC/OSI survey because it
> was commissioned as a study primarily on Open Access Publishing
> instead of on Open Access Provision.
> What a wonderful surprise, then, that not only did the authors (Alma
> Swan and Sheridan Brown) manage to gather some new and valuable evidence
> despite the narrow confines of their mandate, but they managed to make
> useful sense of it too, following through its implications in a way that
> shows a rare grasp of what is really going on in the Open Access (OA)
> world today -- and what is still needed.
> The cynics will say my admiration is merely because I agree with their
> conclusions (and I do!), but I could not have invented their data! And
> although most of their questions were obligatorily focussed on how
> authors liked publishing in OA journals and whether they would like to
> do it again (yes, they would, and that's peachy, but it's not news!),
> some of the questions they included in the survey generated extremely
> useful information on the other road to OA:
> Based in part on methodological details and data breakdowns kindly
> provided for me by Alma Swan that were not explicitly reported in
> the published version, it turns out that whereas (i) about 2% of the
> conventional-journal author sample (3/140) had made at least one
> article OA by publishing it in an OA journal (20/160 weren't sure!) and
> (ii) about 36% (50/140) had made at least one article OA by publishing
> it in a conventional journal and also self-archiving it, (iii) 69% of
> the full sample of 160 (and an even higher percentage of the second,
> targeted sample of 154 OA Journal authors: 83%) stated that they would
> willingly self-archive all of their articles if required to do so by
> their funders or their employers.
> Now stop right there and think: Much of the research community has
> realized that OA would be a good thing, both for authors (in terms of
> impact) and for users (in terms of access). According to this JISC/OSI
> sample, only 36% of authors are currently self-archiving their TA (Toll
> Access) journal articles and only 2% are publishing their articles
> in OA journals (I will return to this). But that current total of
> 36% + 2% = 38% OA by the two means could immediately be raised --
> willingly! -- to at least 69%, so the survey shows, if authors' employers
> and funders were simply to require it!
> If this survey's take-home message for university provosts and
> pro-vice-chancellors as well as for research funders is just this --
> that the fastest and surest way to generate OA right now is to require
> your authors to provide it (by whichever of the two means is suitable
> for each article) -- it will have done a great service, and may just
> get OA provision up to speed at long last.
> Another initiative is ready to be launched to help out: A Declaration
> of Institutional Commitment (to implementing an official institutional
> policy of requiring open access provision for all institutional research
> article output): Not another declaration of support for the principle of
> OA provision, but a commitment to an institutional policy of requiring OA
> to be provided.
> Now a little more on the JISC/OSI findings: Because of the survey's
> primary focus on OA publishing, half of the data were not from a random
> sample of journal authors but from a specifically targeted population of
> known OA Journal authors (154 of them responded). Then an approximately
> matching number of authors (160) was collected from among authors in
> conventional journals.
> Let us call the first population OAJ authors and the second population
> TAJ (Toll Access Journal) authors. It is important to understand that
> the TAJ authors actually constitute a much larger population (because
> over 95% of journals are TA Journals today and fewer than 5% are OA
> Journals). In fact, the TAJ population could have included any author who
> had ever published an article, i.e., it subsumed the OAJ population too,
> for there are as yet vanishingly few authors who have published *only*
> in OA Journals. This was borne out by the fact that 3 of the TAJ sample
> of authors did in fact turn out to have published in an OA Journal. (Those
> 3 were accordingly eliminated from the analysis and report -- because the
> two questionnaires were for various reasons different -- and the remaining
> 157 TAJ authors were then dubbed "NOAJ" authors: i.e., not-OA-Journal
> authors).
> But meanwhile, there was still that (not explicitly reported) finding that
> about 2% of TAJ authors (3/160, or 3 out of the 140 who were sure!) were OAJ
> authors. Add that to the finding that 36% (50/140) of the TAJ authors had
> provided OA through self-archiving), and you not only have a population
> estimate that about 36% of articles are OA today, but also that about
> 17 times as many articles are made OA via self-archiving than via OA
> journal publishing today.
> (The true figure may be closer to 10 times as many: Alma Swan informed
> me that because the TAJ sample kept growing after the study deadline
> was reached, its size has since risen from 160 to 245. Eliminating 27 of
> these because the authors had stated that they did not know whether or
> not they had ever published in an OAJ [!], 8/223 reported that they had
> published in an OAJ, which raises the OAJ estimate to about 4%, which
> is close to the approximate OA proportion (5%) among OA + TA journals:
> 1000/20,000. In the extended sample, the self-archiving estimate --
> excluding OA journal authors, lest they were merely self-archiving
> their OA journal articles -- was 88/218 or 40%.)
> Given that about 95% of journals are TA and about 5% are OA, this confirms
> that OA journal publishing is far closer to its current 5% ceiling than
> OA self-archiving is to its 95% ceiling (even though there is 10 times as
> much OA self-archiving as OA journal publishing, and even though 55% of
> journals have already given their official green light to self-archiving).
> But the study also shows how easily this can be remedied: for 69% of
> TAJ authors (and 83% of OAJ authors) report that they would willingly
> self-archive if they were required by their employers to do so. So what
> is needed now is obvious: an official policy on the part of universities
> and research funders that Open Access must be provided for all journal
> article output. OA can be provided in either of the two ways -- by
> publishing the article in a suitable OA journal, if one exists, or
> otherwise by publishing it in a suitable TA journal and self-archiving
> it. But OA must be provided.
> Requiring OA provision is not at all shocking -- or no more shocking
> than requiring publication at all. The "publish or perish" policies
> of universities and research funders already require that research be
> published, rather than just put into a desk-drawer where no one can use
> it (in which case the research might as well not have been done at
> all). Mandated OA provision is merely a natural online-age extension
> of existing publish-or-perish policy, to the effect that toll-gated
> publication is no longer enough: it is merely a bigger desk-drawer,
> insofar as all would-be users whose institutions cannot afford the
> access-tolls are concerned. The growing evidence for the dramatic increase
> in research impact that results from making our research OA shows just how
> counterproductive that larger desk-drawer really has been for research
> progress all along.
> Now that we are in the online age, it is time for the research community
> to make up its mind to come out of the desk-drawer, and provide open
> access to all of its peer-reviewed journal article output.
> Many thanks to JISC/OSI and to Alma Swan and Sheridan Brown for providing this
> valuable study that clearly points the way.
> Stevan Harnad
> Prior threads:
> "On the Need to Take Both Roads to Open Access"
> "The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access"
> "What Provosts Need to Mandate"
> "Open Access Provision Policy"
> "University policy mandating self-archiving of research output"
> "Meeting: National Policies on Open Access Provision for University Research Output"
> 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 Sun Mar 14 2004 - 21:55:19 GMT

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