Re: Mandating OA around the corner?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 2004 12:22:57 +0100

    Quo usque tandem abutere... patientia nostra...?

The Science Advisory Board, an international panel of 22,319 life science
and medical professionals formed in 1997, has conducted a survey on "What
makes searching scientific and medical literature online frustrating?":

> Scientists Frustrated with Limited Access to Full-Text Documents
> While scientists often cite staying abreast of developments in their
> field as the most common reason for reading scientific literature,
> it is by far from the only reason. "Scientists perceive their
> ability to access scientific and medical literature almost as an
> unalienable right of their profession," observes Tamara Zemlo,
> Ph.D., MPH, Director of The Science Advisory Board. The Internet
> has reinforced this perception by increasing the speed and ease by
> which these searches can be conducted.
> To find out what is the biggest obstacle to this ubiquitous scientific
> practice, members of The Science Advisory Board participated in a poll
> to address, "What makes searching scientific and medical literature
> online frustrating?: Almost 80% of the 1,400 respondents stated that
> limited access to full-text documents was the most annoying aspect
> of online literature searches. It far exceeded the other complaints
> of broken hypertext links, copyright restrictions and inadequate
> search engines.
> Such sentiments will be sweet music to the ears of Public Library of
> Science (PLoS) founders who espouse the philosophy that unrestricted
> access to scientific and medical literature will accelerate progress
> in these critical fields. Their model of offering full-text and data
> of published research article--available free of charge anywhere
> in the world--is still being tested. Time will tell whether the
> scientists, who in theory embrace the nobility of this idea, will
> choose to publish their own findings in such a venue.

It continues to amaze, how researchers, despite their mounting
frustration, remain blind (or paralyzed) with respect to the obvious! Why
on earth would they want to keep waiting, passively, frustrated, for
the eventual outcome of the test of a new cost-recovery model in order
to gain access at last to one another's full-text articles, when they
can already provide that access themselves, right now, by self-archiving
their own articles?

There is no question but that the research community fervently desires Open
Access: Already back in 2001, for example, 34,000 biologists worldwide
signed the PLoS open letter to that effect, essentially threatening
to stop publishing in and refereeing for journals if they did not
provide Open Access.

But while researchers have proved willing and able to perform the
requisite keystrokes for signing open letters, declarations and surveys
clamouring for Open Access to be provided for them, it looks as if
they are not yet ready to perform the few additional keystrokes it
would take to actually provide that Open Access for themselves -- even
when over 90% of their journals have already given them the green light to
go ahead and do so, with their blessing!

It looks as if nothing less than a self-archiving mandate from their
funders and employers will manage to induce the thirsty research cavalry,
having been duly led to the waters of Open Access Self-Archiving, to
actually stoop to drink, at last!

(Historians will have a jolly time sorting out why this was the case:
why researcher inertia kept itself waiting, thirsty, needlessly, and
despite mounting frustration, for over a decade, before grasping the
optimal and inevitable that had been within their reach all along!)

Prior Amsci Topic Threads:

    "Open Archiving: What are researchers willing to do?" (1999)

    "A Keystroke Koan For Our Open Access Times" (2003)

    "The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access"

    "The UK report, press coverage, and the Green and Gold Roads to
    Open Access" (2004)

Stevan Harnad

A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
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UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
policy of providing Open Access to your own research article output,
please describe your policy at:

    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 Thu Oct 21 2004 - 12:22:57 BST

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