Re: How to compare research impact of toll- vs. open-access research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 11 Dec 2004 23:21:17 +0000

On Sat, 11 Dec 2004, Rick Anderson wrote:

> Stevan, I don't disagree with your points about post-publication
> self-archiving and OA publishing. What I was disagreeing with was the
> argument to which I was actually responding -- your assertion that
> "authors want to maximize users... and don't want any users lost because
> they cannot afford to pay for access." Instead of defending that
> dubious assertion, you've changed the subject.

Oh but I *do* fully defend that dubious assertion! Authors *do* want to
maximise the users and usage of their research articles, and thereby
the impact of their research. They want to lose no potential user's
potential impact.

(Of course, as I said, that doesn't particularly mean the general public!
Researchers' specific target is fellow-researchers at universities
and research institutions worldwide. The general public is more than
welcome to access their research articles too, but the *reason* for which
researchers need and want open access to their research is not that they
need and want it to be accessible to the general reader: it is because
they need and want it to be accessible to researchers who can use, apply,
build-upon and cite it. It is *those* would-be users they do not wish
to lose. It just happens to be the case that free webwide access means
free webwide access to all users, researchers and laymen alike.)

> The fact is, scholarly authors don't necessarily mind losing users if by
> doing so they can gain prestige.

I am not sure what you mean by losing users to gain prestige, and I'm not
entirely sure what "prestige" means here. But it is irrelevant in any case,
because in order to self-archive their articles in prestigious journals they
need not renounce prestige, they need only self-archive.

I think what you mean (as usual), is renouncing a high-prestige, high-impact
non-OA journal to publish in a low-prestige, low-impact OA journal. I agree that
that would be foolish. Authors should publish in the highest-quality,
highest-prestige journal they can -- be it OA or non-OA -- and if the
journal is non-OA, they should maximise their impact by self-archiving
their article to make it OA. That way neither any prestige nor any users
are lost.

I also added that inasmuch as prestige is correlated with the journal's
impact factor, the ISI study I cited showed that OA and non-OA journals
that have been equated for field do not differ in impact factor.
But I also noted that this kind of study is comparing apples
with oranges, because two different journals cannot be equated
to control for all factors other than OA vs. non-OA (field,
age, authorship, readership, submission rate, acceptance rate,
refereeship, editorship, peer-review-standards, online, on-paper,
hybrid). The only way to control all those factors is to compare
OA vs. non-OA articles *within* the same journal and year, as we
have done (and found that OA self-archiving enhances citation impact

    Harnad, S. & Brody, T. (2004) Comparing the Impact of Open Access
    (OA) vs. Non-OA Articles in the Same Journals, D-Lib Magazine 10
    (6) June

> Again, this is something for OA providers to keep in mind. No, it's
> not so much an issue for authors when they have the option of publishing
> in a non-OA forum and then self-archiving later. But as I said before,
> it's a big issue for OA publishers.

This is rather garbled:

(1) What is the something that needs to be kept in mind?

That researchers *do* want to maximise their articles' usage and impact,
hence do not want to lose any would-be (researcher) users? Indeed,
that should be kept in mind, and all authors should self-archive (even
those who publish in OA journals, just to keep practices uniform and

That some new journals (whether OA or otherwise) will have lower prestige and
impact than more established journals? Indeed that needs to be kept in mind,
and authors should always publish in the most suitable journal and then
self-archive (even those who publish in OA journals, just to keep
practices uniform and orderly).

(2) What do you mean by "OA providers"? The authors who self-archive? The authors
who publish in OA journals? Or the publishers of OA journals?

(3) The "option of publishing in a non-OA forum"? Why not call a spade a spade and
say "non-OA *journal*"? That means 95% of authors, because only 5% of
journals are OA journals today. That means that 95% of authors today
have no option *but* to publish in a non-OA journal.

(4) At least 87% of those non-OA journals, however, are already green: i.e.,
they have given their authors the green light to make their articles OA
by self-archiving them (not "later," but immediately).

(5) What is the "big issue" for publishers? I assume you mean the decision
as to whether or not to go gold -- i.e., to make your online version free,
perhaps converting to the OA journal author-end cost-recovery model? That
is indeed a big issue, so the prudent thing for a publisher to do at
this time is to go green rather than gold, and wait for further testing
of the OA publishing model before taking the risk of adopting it. By
going green they meantime ensure that they are in no way attempting to
block OA or its benefits to those authors who wish to partake of them.

Stevan Harnad

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Received on Sat Dec 11 2004 - 23:21:17 GMT

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