Re: A Prophylactic Against the Edentation of the RCUK Policy Proposal

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 5 Jul 2005 13:29:30 +0100

On Tue, 5 Jul 2005, J.F.B.Rowland wrote:

> While in general I agree with Stevan's comments about Sally Morris's
> comments, it is important to remember that Sally is spokesperson for an
> organisation of not-for-profit scholarly publishers, many of them small. I
> strongly support the institutional repository movement, and I am pleased at
> the RCUK statement. Big publishers - for-profit or not-for-profit - will no
> doubt look after their own interests robustly. However, I think there is a
> non-trivial problem for the medium- to long-term viability of the smaller
> learned society publishers. I approve of those organisations too, and I
> don't want to see them driven to the wall - their disappearance would be
> damaging to the scholarly community. A business model, or preferably a
> range of possible business models, needs to be found that will enable these
> organisations to prosper in a future environment dominated by OA
> repositories. I don't think that problem is near solution yet.

The point is that the problem is not only not near solution, but it is a
hypothetical problem that is also not near being a problem yet, nor even being
clear whether (and if so when) it will ever be a problem.

The *real* problem, and the pressing one, is the one we keep forgetting
about, because it has nothing whatsoever to do either with libraries
budget problems or learned-society publisher (LSP) problem (small,
medium or large), and that is: the research-impact-loss problem. This
is a *huge* loss of resource *potential*, hence of potential research
progress. (It also, if one wants to be crass, translates into lost
potential research-based revenue.)

There is nothing hypothetical at all about this loss. It is actual. All
one need do to visualise it is to compare the research impact of the
15% of journal articles that have been self-archived with the 85% that
have not:

If one absolutely insists on weighing the hypothetical
small-learned-society-publisher problem against the actual
potential-research-impact-loss problem, the right way to do it is this:

    If there is indeed a contingency between LSPs and research impact,
    would researchers indeed be prepared to consider knowingly subsidising
    LSPs (or anyone) with their lost research impact?

I think that, when made explicit like that, and faced squarely, the answer
is obvious.

As to "possible business models": they are dead-obvious too, but at this point
they amount to hypothetical contingency piled upon hypothetical contingency:

Let us wait till that hypothetical bridge is at least within
Hubble-telescopic sight, before mustering our contingency plans for
crossing it. There are far, far more pressing immediate priorities,
namely, stanching the endless flow of needless daily, weekly, monthly
research impact loss -- needless effectively since the onset of the
online era (1980's), but undeniably heedless since the onset of the
OAI-interoperable IR (1999) era and the demonstration of both the
feasibility of self-archiving and its effects on research impact across
all disciplines.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Jul 05 2005 - 13:29:30 BST

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