Overlay Journals

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2005 13:41:14 -0500

On Mon, 24 Jan 2005 Brian Simboli wrote:

> 1. With Annals of Math we have a working example of an overlay journal with
> links to Davis and to arxiv.org.

No problem whatsoever with new journals that wish to start up (for
efficiency and economy) (1) as online-only, (2) as providing only
peer-review and
certification, (3) off-loading all access-provision and archiving onto
OAI-compliant Archives (central, like arxiv.org, or institutional).

And of course this is completely independent of the journal's cost-recovery
so it has nothing to do with Open Access (OA).

But there are 24,000 existing journals, 95% of them toll-access, and the
of the OA movement is to open up access to them for all would-be users, not
those whose institutions can afford the tolls.

> 2. Imho far too much ink is being spilled on disputes about publishing
> alternatives when really one part of the infrastructure (arxiv.org) is
> in place, presuming that this repository would be willing to generalize the
> base of subjects it deals with.

In fact, there is much more in place. Not just central OAI Archives like
Arxiv.org, but a growing number of local institutional OAI Archives, all
linked by the glue of OAI-interoperability into a distributed network on which
journals that are minded to be or become overlay journals can overlay,
if they are so minded:


> I think open access, while certainly one model worth pursuing, has
become very
> unfortunately an exclusive focus and even a kind of ideological fixation...
> Generous ILL and licensing provisions can obviate the problem that
people see
> with toll-access being a barrier to dissemination of knowledge.

Yes, if someone generous could and would pay all the tolls so all would-be
users could access all 2.5 million annual articles in all 24,000 of the
planet's peer-reviewed journals then there would be no need at all for
the focus and fixation on OA.

But there isn't (someone generous) so there is (the need for OA).

> 5. While working vendor side, I did training at a few service centers for
> library network or consortial kinds of places. Such places, with
suitable seed
> funding as well as low-cost subscriptions, could be a starting place for
> initiatives. None of this is rocket science. It just requires a lean and
> operation run by someone with lots of business savvy, to get some working
> models off the ground. In fact at least one or two are off the ground

Good luck. Let us know when you have the 2.5M/24K covered for all would-be
users worldwide...

> 7. The affordability issue is intimately tied to the access issue. The
> because lack of affordability simply translates into lack of access. The
> on OA may actually, in the end, compromise the ability to beat the
> at their own game, and therefore compromise the ability for people to have
> affordable and therefore greatly expanded access.

The affordability *problem* is tied to the access *problem*. But the access
problem is the OA problem. And the solution to the access problem (100%
self-archiving of the 2.5M/24K) need not wait for a solution to the
problem (or the magnanimity of a generous soul).

> 8. In sum, if open access compromises affordability, as I think it will
> witness Springer's high charge for OA publishing), then we need to look at
> modest toll access to overlays as an alternative to OA.

OA does not compromise affordability; it simply solves the problem of
accessibility. And if all author/institutions could afford and were willing
to pay
Springer prices per article they publish then we would, by definition, have
affordable OA. But they can't, so we don't. So we need to self-archive instead.

> And again, any such toll access is only for the table of contents and other
> paraphernalia of a journal. Open access is still ensured to those
> who, knowing an author or paper they want to look up, want to go
straight to
> the likes of arxiv.org using a suitable search engine.

You seem to have skipped a step: You have specified neither the generous
benefactor who would bankroll making the full-texts of all those 2.5
million articles in all those 24,000 journals accessible online for free
to all the would-be users who cannot now afford access to them today --
nor, alternatively, how you propose to convert the 95% of journals that
are neither overlay journals (on Arxiv or any other archive) today,
nor OA journals, nor inclined to be.

Pertinent past discussion threads on "overlay journals" and "deconstructed

     "Re: Alternative publishing models
     - was: Scholar's Forum: A New Model..." (1999)

     "Critique of J-C Guedon's Serials Review article" (2005)

Stevan Harnad

A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at:
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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 Sat Jan 29 2005 - 18:41:14 GMT

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