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

From: Leslie Chan <chan_at_UTSC.UTORONTO.CA>
Date: Tue, 5 Jul 2005 11:34:12 -0400

The viability of smaller society publishers is indeed important for the
health and diversity of scholarly communication as a whole, and I strongly
endorse Fytton's view of finding ways to integrate OA with existing
publishing programs. It is worth noting that the many problems small society
publishers face (shrinking subscription, low submissions, low impact etc.)
predate the internet and open access. The fear that open access is
detrimental to small society publishers need to be better substantiated and
the benefits of OA for the same publishers should also be better documented
so that informed decisions could be made. I think that was one of Stevan's

Our experience working with small publishers from developing countries is
that free access online has substantially improved visibility, author
submissions, and citations. A key part of our strategy is to use
OAI-compliant eprints server to maximize exposure and access of journal

We are far from having a long-term business plan and sustainability model
and we are heavily reliant on university and grant subsidy. We do believe
that if small society publishers wish to continue to serve its members and
communities, then they need to find alternative revenue streams, form new
publishing partnerships with universities or like-minded organizations,
instead of trying to delay open access. We should also try to persuade
funding and aids agencies to fund institutional repositories and fund
journals based on readership and citation rather than on circulation or
subscription. But we need to share data and information about subscription
and citation.

Leslie Chan
Bioline International

On 7/5/05 8:46 AM, "J.F.B.Rowland" <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK> wrote:

> This is a problem - the viability of smaller society publishers - that you
> choose to leave aside, Stevan. That's o.k.; you are an academic, and you
> think about academics' problems, like visibility and impact. The Chief
> Executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
> can't ignore it; it's her job to think about it. I choose to think about it
> because, even though I am now an academic, I worked for the first half of my
> career for learned society publishers. I am strongly in favour of OA and
> institutional repositories, but I'm in favour of societies and their
> publication programmes too, and I'd like to find a way of us having both.
> These issues are bundled together. Bodies - like JISC, say - who are trying
> to find a new and practicable way of organising scholarly communication.
> They have to take into account all of the players in the game.
> Fytton.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Stevan Harnad" <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
> Sent: Tuesday, July 05, 2005 1:29 PM
> Subject: Re: A Prophylactic Against the Edentation of the RCUK Policy
> Proposal
>> 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 - 16:34:12 BST

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