Re: Priorities: OA Content Provision vs. OA Content Preservation

From: Brian Simboli <brs4_at_Lehigh.EDU>
Date: Wed, 6 Oct 2004 15:00:12 +0100


A few points in response. I'm a busy librarian and don't have the luxury
of dwelling much on these debates, but here are some considerations.
They are an invitation for others to pitch in and clarify or correct
It is hardly the case that I wish to reduce preservation to access. My
view is that preservation is a necessary condition for long-term, stable
access, access that is not (as in the green approach) beholden to the
contingent and unreliable "good graces" of the big commercials.
You take "research impact" considerations quite seriously, as anyone
should. However, my argument is that research impact is enhanced, over
the long haul, by a stable infrastructure, not one (again) whose very
existence depends on the good graces of big commercials. Why invest so
much money in a strategy that relies on the "good graces" of
commercials, whose unreliability we already have a strong evidential
base for?
You misunderstand the "librarian instinct". I, for one, do not think
that 100 per cent gold will necessarily resolve all problems, nor has
anything I've said suggested that I do. I'd like to see a combination of
low-cost gold and low-cost toll-access. Commercial gold is not going to
cut it; commercial gold, in the long run, is just going to replicate the
unjust pricing practices already prevalent in commercial publishing. So
let us strive for academic gold, and academic (low-cost) toll-access,
and go from there.
You speak of the needs of researchers. Researchers are interested in
access, as well as impact. Both research impact and access are
intertwined with affordability and preservation.

Pending 100 % green access, which in my judgment will never occur, for
reasons I have already elaborated in other venues, the issues of access
will remain intertwined with the issue of affordability (a point which I
believe has already been explored on the listservs). That is, high
journal costs have an opportunity cost: diminished immediate access to
other literature. Which may well translate into diminished research
impact, though it's not clear by how much.

So it is reasonable to consider that access, research impact,
affordability, preservation are all intertwined. My view is that
academic gold, and academic low-cost toll access, in any case holds out
far greater promise of meeting the long term needs of researchers for
enhancing research impact as well as access. We share the same goal, but
I think that the strategy you suggest actually does not serve the
long-term interests of researchers in meeting this goal. On the other
hand, a stable system that attends to preservation and affordability
issues does imho hold out that promise.
"OA promotion can be done with any available staff time rather than with
acquisitions budgets". Who pays for that "available" staff time? When it
exists, isn't it better spent developing ejournal alternative solutions?
6. "Researchers are already sluggish enough about OA". Sufficient
/evidence/ that they cannot be relied upon.
7. "Brian is not only coupling the problems of preservation and OA (when
they are in fact different problems) but he is conflating them,
suggesting that what researchers really lack, and need is permanence,
not OA". OA is related to preservation: no preservation, no stable and
abiding OA. See also (1) above.
8. "Nor is it a matter of bucks: It's a matter of policy". Well, bucks
(staff time, infrastructure) are a necessary condition for implementing

May I suggest that you hear out the concerns of librarians, who daily
with researchers at their point of need, and who are, incidentally or
not so incidentally, the ones who have to pick up the pieces when the
marketing strategy du jour of big commercials hits the fan.

Brian Simboli

Stevan Harnad wrote:

>The evolution of the OA movement is revealing some interesting (and slightly
>complicated) interactions among the roles of the various "stake-holder" communities
>involved in Open Access (OA): These include:
> (1) the research community (the authors of the journal articles in
> question, as well as their readers and users)
> (2) the research library community (the purchasers and curators of
> access to those journal articles for the research community)
> (3) the research journal publishing community (the administrators of
> the peer review, the certifiers of its outcome, and the providers of
> access to those journal articles, formerly on paper, now also online)
> (4) the employers of the researchers (universities and research
> institutions that co-benefit from and reward the productivity
> and impact of their researchers)
> (5) the funders of research (who are answerable to the tax-payer
> for the use of research funds and hence for the productivity and
> impact of the research and researchers they fund)
>There is no doubt that although it was the research community that first
>discovered the power of the online medium to enhance the usage and impact of their
>research articles, it was the library community that first drew wide attention
>to the scope and urgency of the problem of research access, owing to the journal
>affordability/pricing problem (which came to be known as the "serials crisis").
>It is also becoming clear now, however, that the only ones who are really in a
>position to solve the research access/impact problem are the researchers
>themselves, and that their employers and funders are the only ones in a position
>to mandate that their researchers do so (in their own interests, as well as in the
>interests of research itself), just as they have mandated that their researchers
>publish (or perish) in their own interests.
>The library community was very fast to see that there was a problem, and that it
>needed to be solved. They are rather slower at seeing what their own role in the
>solution is, and especially in seeing that the journal affordability/problem is
>in fact not the same as the research access/impact problem. As a result, the
>library community sometimes inadvertently risks becoming a part of the
>access/impact problem rather than the solution, questioning, instead
>of affirming, the desirability of providing immediate open access to
>research output.
>Yet this slight extra layer of complexity is not really that
>complicated. Hence there is every hope of sorting it out, so that the
>library community can help hasten 100% OA rather than delaying it,
>thereby helping to solve the access/impact problem directly, as well as
>providing some indirect relief for their own affordability/access problem.
>What has to be resisted is librarians' instinct to go all and only for
>gold (OA Publishing), even though 100% gold would of course solve 100%
>of their serials crisis! Yes, the golden road of OA Publishing is to
>be encouraged and supported, but it is an extremely slow, indirect and
>uncertain road to 100% OA, whereas the green road of OA self-archiving is
>a fast, direct and certain one, already fully within immediate reach.
>The library community needs to understand this, and to understand also
>that OA is not a content acquisition matter at all, as most ordinary
>library holdings are, but a content *provision* matter; and it is their
>own institutional authors that are the content-providers -- whether they
>publish in OA journals or they publish in non-OA journals but self-archive
>their own articles to make them OA.
>If librarians keep on thinking of OA only in acquisition terms, they will miss an
>opportunity to help -- to help not only their research community, but themselves,
>and their budgets, too.
>Brian Simboli's posting exhibits clearly the standard misunderstandings
>about roles and about actual and potential causality in OA that still
>prevail in the library community:
Received on Wed Oct 06 2004 - 15:00:12 BST

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