Re: Who Needs Open Access, and Why?

From: Heather Morrison <>
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2004 21:18:30 +0100
('binary' encoding is not supported, stored as-is) greetings - a few thoughts on this thread:

Is an opinion survey to find out whether researchers want open access
truly needed at this time? In my opinion, not really - the open letter
calling for an establishment of a public library of science, signed by
34,000 researchers worldwide,,
followed by the very great many open access initiatives that have taken
place in the very near past, are more than sufficient evidence. This is
not to say there is no point in another survey - it's just to say that
anyone who says that there is no evidence that researchers want open
access is simply ignoring the facts.

Congratulations to Martin Frank for having the courage to present his
anti-OA views on this forum! Communications, IMHO, work better when the
opposing sides actually talk to each other - I would encourage others with
these viewpoints to share them. I'd also warmly encourage them to change
sides and wholeheartedly embrace OA, too, but that's another matter :)

Martin makes the point that faculty may not be fully informed about
the potential impact of OA, which would limit the usefulness of an
opinion survey at this point. I would agree, but from the opposite
perspective. As Stevan Harnad points out, the enhanced impact of open
access has been demonstrated, an obvious benefit to researchers. However,
from my point of view, the electronic medium combined with the world
wide web and open access allows for new, and greatly expanded, uses and
benefits of scientific knowledge, which are not yet fully understood,
and will not be fully realized for some time.

For example, in the recent U.N. sponsored forum on Open Access, Rolf
Neth, a German scientist who has worked in the area of medical research
in Cherynobyl and Siberia, shares his view that "In our cooperation
with Russian colleagues in the field of Leukaemia access - or rather
the lack of access - to current research results was always a crucial
factor." id=98584#98584. This
led to a commitment to OA, and development of the Wilsede Portal to free
scientific information.

Many researchers will not have thought about the potential of OA to
instantaneously provide access to our collective scholarly knowledge to
fellow researchers and/or professionals working in the field who are
attempting to cope with a humanitarian and/or environmental disaster
such as Chernobyl. Raising awareness of this potential, to me, logically
comes before asking people whether they think OA is important or not.

Which is why, with all due respect to Alma and her need for hard
data, I believe it is important to approach OA from a theoretical
point of view, and also that qualititave research is needed, not just
quantitative. Anecdotal evidence can help.

With regards to Barbara's assessment of the need for OA in developing
countries, I agree but would like to point out that the analogy of whether
a hungry child would like a loaf for $2 or for free, greatly understates
the cost of scholarly information as provided by subscription or on a
pay-per- use basis. Even on a pay-per-use basis, costs per article tend
to be range from around $10 U.S. per article and up. Since scholarly
knowledge is not built on the reading of single articles, the price
for the hungry child might be best expressed as rather more than the
family's total annual income. The HINARI and AGORA programs do mitigate
against these extremely high prices for some information, for some of
the world's poorest peoples, of course. OA, however, has the potential
to work this way with all of our scholarly information, for everyone,
not just some people.


Heather Morrison
Project Coordinator
BC Electronic Library Network
Fax: 604-291-3023
WAC Bennett Library
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6
Received on Sun Oct 24 2004 - 21:18:30 BST

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