Re: Exponential growth

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 2004 13:51:37 +0100

   This is a cross-posted reply to a posting in liblicense:

Heather Morrison <> wrote:

> I would like to submit a prediction that there will be an exponential
> increase in citations to open access articles... Of course, there would
> be no way to measure this prediction at the present time. It might be
> interesting to have a look at some numbers around 2011 or so

That providing Open Access to an article dramatically increases its citations has
already been tested, and it begins immediately (with downloads, which correlate
with and predict downloads 6-24 months later: ).

For this already dramatic increase in citations to become "exponential" what is
needed is not just more time for these articles (citations fall off with time for
most articles, as research moves on), but an exponential increase in the number of
articles for which Open Access is provided. Alas, however, the expectation
that the number of articles for which Open Access is provided will
increase exponentially of its own accord has already been falsified:

(1) One of the oldest open-access archives, Arxiv, has been growing with
self-archived articles since 1991. The increase has been unrelentinlyg linear,
not exponential, and this has now been going on for over 12 years:

Heather is right that what is *needed* is exponential (actually,
sigmoidal) growth, but the mere fact that more authors are self-archiving,
even coupled with the growing evidence of the dramatic increase in
citation impact that self-archiving generates

    Brody, T., Stamerjohanns, H., Vallieres, F., Harnad, S. Gingras,
    Y., & Oppenheim, C. (2004) The effect of Open Access on Citation
    Impact. Presented at: National Policies on Open Access (OA) Provision
    for University Research Output: an International meeting, Southampton,
    19 February 2004.

is not in itself enough to generate the requisite sigmoidal growth. Moreover,
the critical ingredient that is still missing is already known too.
Swan & Brown (2004), for example, put their finger on it when they

    "asked authors to say how they would feel if their employer or funding
    body required them to deposit copies of their published articles in
    one or more... repositories. The vast majority... said they would do
    so willingly."

    Swan, A. & Brown, S.N. (2004) JISC/OSI Journal Authors Survey

So there you have it. No point sitting waiting for Godot. That wait
would take till Doomsday. Universities (and research-funders) need to
extend their existing publish-or-perish policies to include Open Access
provision for those published-but-perishable journal-articles!

The following call for an Institutional Commitment to implementing the
Budapest Open Access Initiative and the Berlin Declaration on open-access
provision is soon to be formally launched (universities can already

The above item
is on the agenda for the Berlin-2 conference on May 12 at CERN
but there is some risk that that conference will merely generate
a one-sided call for institutions to commit themselves to funding
open-access ["gold"] journal publication costs, which would be a great
missed-opportunity for open access.

It is to be hoped that the adoption of the above unified open-access
provision policy rather than merely a call to fund open-access
journals will be the outcome of that meeting (which was unfortunately
convened far too hastily to allow many of the invitees, including myself,
to attend: notification was only one month in advance!).

Gold journals represent only about 1000/24000 journals (<5%) whereas the evidence is that the percentage of
Green Journals -- those that have already given their official "green
light" to author self-archiving -- rose from 55% to 83% between 2003
and 2004! (The exact figures are still being checked, but four different
estimates have so far confirmed their correctness.)

I don't know whether this growth spurt in the proportion of Green journals
is exponential, but it does make it quite clear that publishers are
*not* (and never have been) the barrier to Open Access! The Green ones
have now even demonstrated formally their support for the Open Access that
authors purport to want and need so much. It is now up to universities and
research-funders to ensure that their authors take all these well-meaning
publishers up on their self-archiving-friendliness -- to the lasting
benefit of themselves, their institutions, and of research itself.

> "Is there a clickable link for that article?" and even "Why isn't
> there a clickable link- grrr!"

The fact that access is a necessary (though not a sufficient) condition
for impact was the motivation behind the Opcit citation-linking
the citebase "citation google"
and the download/citation correlator/predictor
as well as the GNU Eprints software itself:

But none of these is enough.

    "Exponential growth"

    "Central vs. Distributed Archives"

    "Central versus institutional self-archiving"

The critical ingredient is institutional/departmental open-access
provision policies:

> From: Elena Fraboschi <>
> No doubt, readers prefer clickable links to full-text docs.

Reader/user preference helps, but this is an author/institution matter --
a matter of research, research funding, and research impact. (Of course users are
mostly authors wearing other hats, so the token will drop.)

> From:
> While convenience and accessibility are important, one would think the
> most important thing in judging an article is its content, not whether all
> of the citations are "clickable." As for the citations, they should cover
> relevant literature based on its value and importance for the article, not
> its format. Sloth is always with us, but it should not be allowed to pass
> for good scholarship.

Access is not a sufficient condition for citation and impact,
but it is certainly a *necessary* condition for it! Would-be users
at institutions that cannot afford the access-tolls to any given
article in any given journal cannot judge its content; hence each
such lost would-be user represents lost research impact potential
for that article and author. It remains only to note that it is a
fact-of-life for *every single one* of the 2.5 million articles published
annually in the world's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals that *most* of
its potential users cannot access it. To deduce this fact, one need
only consult (1) Ulrichs
for the number of journals and (2) the ARL institutional statistics
for the small and shrinking fraction of them that even the wealthiest
institutions can afford.

Sloth indeed! That idea is worthy of Marie Antoinette on the subject
of Brioche!

The "sloth" in other words, is not on the part of the users, but on the part of
the authors! Their own institutions and research funders need to rouse them from
this sloth -- just as they roused them to publish-or-perish in the first place!

Quo usque tandem patientia nostra...?

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 Apr 30 2004 - 13:51:37 BST

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