Re: Open Access in Europe

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2005 00:10:24 +0000 (GMT)

On Thu, 17 Feb 2005, Ann Okerson wrote:

> about why OA seems a particularly strong topic in Europe...
> Dale Askey, our German & Scandinavian Studies library specialist
> [writes]:
> o Universities in some countries may have different publication
> requirements for tenure than do American ones, so they may not have as
> strong a concern for publishing in refereed journals as we do, hence some
> possible additional enthusiasm for self-archiving.

(1) Europe does not have different publishing/tenure requirements.

(2) There is equally strong concern for publishing in international,
high-quality, refereed journals.

(3) Most important, (1) and (2) have absolutely *nothing* to do with
enthusiasm for self-archiving, one way or the other, because OA
self-archiving is the self-archiving of articles published in *refereed journals*
(not something else, or something instead).

> o Another big element is that the populace generally doesn't have the same
> access to scholarly resources that we have in the US.

It makes as little sense to talk of Europe generically as it does to talk
of the US generically. Both Europe and the US have some rich universities
that can afford access to more of the journals, and both Europe and the
US have far more medium and poorer universities that can afford access
to fewer of the journals. No university, anywhere, can afford access to
most or all journals.

Apart from that, the main motivation for OA is author research *impact*,
for which user access is a necessary condition. Self-archiving is about
*providing* access to a researcher's *own* articles for all its would-be users
-- not just those whose institutions happen to be able to afford access
to the journal it happens to be published in -- thereby maximizing
their research impact by maximising worldwide access to them. In that
respect, we are all in exactly the same boat.

> He goes on, "It struck me during someone's talk the other day that
> "reasonable access," i.e.- after six or twelve months, is a worthwhile
> goal

And immediate access is a still more worthwhile goal, for the sake of research
progress and impact. Moreover OA is defined as immediate permanent access.

> and moreso, those in the US with a grain of initiative can have the
> same access as a researcher if they head to their nearest academic
> library. If the local private university bars them at the door [note:
> Yale does not!] they can head to the nearest state school's library."

I find it rather astonishing that Dale Askey is making such
recommendations in the online age. Does he really want to dispatch
researchers with their feet to try to find each paper somewhere (if they
can) in place of each keystroke their finger could could do to get them
every full text immediately on their desktop?

> The tradition of widest public access in libraries does serve us well here
> in the US and Canada, whereas we hear from many traveling researchers and
> students that access in/to European libraries is often very difficult or
> not generally permitted. Is there a way in which such libraries could
> open up access to library premisesmore broadly, to provide more access to
> content in both print and "walk-in" electronic? At Yale Library, we have
> been fortunate to host European library interns and fellows from time to
> time and send them home resolutely determined to change library access
> conditions in their home countries. Opening up our libraries in this way
> would get us away from what seems the unhappy position of not wanting to
> pay for research funded by taxpayers, while those same taxpayers also fund
> the libraries they can't easily use.

First, Yale, though one of the richer ones, is far from affording
access to all journals.

Second, not even *Yale* researchers want to have to walk to their library
instead of accessing everything on their desktops with a keystroke
any more, let alone researchers in more far-flung places.

No, none of this is even the faintest substitute for the full, optimal,
and inevitable solution: the immediate self-archiving of all research
article output in the researcher's own (OAI-compliant) institutional
archive. *That* is the way institutions can provide open access for
researchers at other institutions, not by inviting peripatetic scholars
to shuffle over to Yale's library whenever they happen to be in the
neighborhood and need access to an article!

> Or is this unrealistic?

I'm afraid so! In fact, it seems to miss the point of OA almost completely!

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Feb 18 2005 - 00:10:24 GMT

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