Re: Who Needs Open Access, and Why?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2004 15:24:07 +0100

Prior Amsci Topic Threads:

    "The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access"

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

On Sun, 24 Oct 2004, Martin Frank wrote:

> While it is appropriate to survey scientists to get their opinions,
> it is also important to survey them in a way that clearly defines what
> the potential impact of open access might be for them.

And to separate the empirical facts about the potential impact, based on
all evidence to date, from speculations about hypothetical impact, for which
there is no empirical evidence to date, indeed, all existing evidence is to
the contrary.

The empirical facts are that:

    (E1) author self-archiving of published journal articles enhances
    their citation impact significantly

    (E2) author self-archiving is feasible, already practised by about 20%
    of authors, can be increased to 100% Open Access virtually over night,
    already has the blessing of over 90% of journals, and a number
    of countries and institutions are recommending that it be mandated.

The speculation is that:

    (S1) 100% Open Access could jeopardise journals' capacity to recover
    their costs.

There is as yet no evidence whatsoever for S1, and only empirically
testing it by increasing self-archiving toward 100% will reveal whether
there is any truth at all to S1 (and if so, what can be done to cover
costs). All actual evidence to date is to the contrary.

> While they all want free and unfettered access to the scientific
> literature, something many of them have through their institutional
> subscriptions

First, no user has access to all or even most of the annual 2,500,000 articles
published in the world's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals.

Second, OA is not about the articles that users *do* have access to,
but about the articles they *don't* have access to.

Third, OA is not just needed from the user's perspective, but the author's
perspective: And for every author, every would-be user who cannot access his
article because that user's institution cannot afford the access-tolls
(subscription, license or pay-per-view) mean a loss in potential research impact.
(See impact data above.)

> they must recognize that obtaining free access might result in
> significant cost to their grants and institutions, and in the case
> of not-for-profit publishers, significant changes in the scientific
> societies that support the production of the journals, changes that
> might result in the elimination of the support that societies provide
> for the next generation of scientists.

This observation refers to the "golden" road to OA, which is the creation
or conversion of the 24,000 journals to the OA cost-recovery model. (So
far, 5% of journals are gold.) The observation is irrelevant to the
"green" road of OA self-archiving -- except on the strength of the
speculative hypothesis already discussed above (that 100% self-archiving
would jeopardize journal cost-recovery, q.v.).

On the subject of Learned Societies' good works -- and whether or not they
should continue to be subsidised by authors' lost research impact -- see:

> If the survey truly provides information that allows for reasoned
> decisions by the respondents, then a survey is worthwhile, otherwise it
> will not help any of us in our efforts to provide access as freely as
> possible within the framework of our existing business and publications
> models.

Surveys only survey opinions and self-reports of practice. They do not test
the validity of untested hypotheses.

The green road of self-archiving is already able to provide OA "within the
framework of our existing business and publications models."

It would be a great help -- both to clarity and to OA -- if opponents
and proponents (see reply to Matthew Cockerill of Biomed Central below)
alike would stop conflating the green and gold roads of OA self-archiving
and OA publishing (BOAI-1 and BOAI-2, respectively):

    Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L.,
    Hitchcock, S., Gingras, Y, Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns,
    H., & Hilf, E. (2004) The Access/Impact Problem and the
    Green and Gold Roads to Open Access. Serials Review 30.
    Shorter version:
    The green and the gold roads to Open Access. Nature Web Focus.

On Sun, 24 Oct 2004, Matthew Cockerill wrote:

> Open Access proponents (including, to judge from their public statement,
> major funders such Wellcome, HHMI and Max Planck) would say that X, Y and Z
> [where X, Y and Z are issues raised by critics as
> being risks associated with a movement to Open Access]
> amount only to a sensible change in the way in which the costs of original
> research publishing are paid for, with (most likely) a progressive move away
> from library budgets, towards research funding budgets as the prime source.

A perfect example of a proponent of OA once again conflating OA itself with
OA publishing (gold) alone. The green road to OA is self-archiving, which
is not (until further notice) "a progressive move away from library budgets,
towards research funding budgets as the prime source."

It is a progressive move to 100% OA, from 20% OA, through author self-archiving.
The rest is all speculation and/or confusion.

Stevan Harnad

A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
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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 Sun Oct 24 2004 - 15:24:07 BST

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