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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2005 16:03:55 +0100

On Fri, 8 Jul 2005, Sally Morris (ALPSP) wrote:

> Stevan, I don't know what planet you live on (;-) but on Planet Earth the
> problem librarians are trying to address - and the reason for any
> enthusiasm for repositories or any other means of OA - is a shortage of funds

Sally, that might be the reason for librarians' (and library funders') enthusiasm
for OA, but it is not the main reason for OA. The reason for OA is to maximise
research impact, hence research progress and productivity. And the *providers*
of OA are not and cannot be librarians (be they ever so enthusiastic): The
only providers of OA are the researchers themselves. And the only reason that
will persuade them (and their funders) to provide it is that it manximises their
research impact.

So whereas both the publishing community and the library community
are marginally implicated in OA (each can either help or hinder it)
OA-provision itself is 100% in the hands of the OA-providers: the research
community. It can and will be done only by and for them.

It is to the research community that the RCUK mandate is addressed.


> Sally
> Sally Morris, Chief Executive
> Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
> South House, The Street, Clapham, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3UU, UK
> Tel: +44 (0)1903 871 686
> Fax: +44 (0)1903 871 457
> Email:
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Stevan Harnad" <>
> To: "Liblicense" <>
> Sent: Tuesday, July 05, 2005 10:58 PM
> Subject: A Prophylactic Against the Edentation of the RCUK Policy Proposal
> >On Mon, 4 Jul 2005, Sally Morris (ALPSP) wrote:
> >
> >>It beats me how people can argue on the one hand that
> >>repositories are necessary to solve libraries' financial problems
> >
> >If anyone is arguing for OA self-archiving in order to solve libraries'
> >financial problems, they are certainly barking up the wrong tree. As we
> >have argued over and over:
> >
> > "the journal-affordability problem and the article-access/impact
> > problem are not the same"
> >
> > Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S.,
> > Gingras, Y, Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E. (2004) The
> > Access/Impact Problem and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access.
> > Serials Review 30 (4) 2004
> >
> >
> >
> >Institutional repositories (and institutional self-archiving mandates) are
> >necessary in order to maximise research access and impact, *not* in order
> >to solve libraries' financial problems. Conflating the two has always been
> >a fundamental mistake, both practical and conceptual, and one that has
> >done nothing but lose us time (and research progress and impact),
> >needlessly delaying the optimal and inevitable outcome (for research,
> >researchers, their users and their funders): An OA self-archiving mandate
> >has nothing to do with library financial problems. It is adopted by
> >researchers' employers and funders in order to maximise their (joint)
> >research impact.
> >
> >(But I agree that if others had not repeatedly made this unfortunate and
> >common conflation, Sally could not have made her own specious argument by
> >way of reply!)
> >
> >>and on the other [hand, how can people argue that self-archiving]... will not
> >>lead to increased subscription/licence cancellations and thus, ultimately,
> >>to the collapse of journals
> >
> >The argument that self-archiving can and will increase research impact
> >substantially is based on objective *fact*, tested and demonstrated by (a)
> >years of self-archiving and (b) repeatedly replicated objective
> >comparisons of citation impact for self-archived versus non-self-archived
> >articles in the same journals and issues, across all fields:
> >
> >
> >
> >The argument that self-archiving will lead to journal cancellations and
> >collapse, in contrast, is not based on objective fact but on *hypothesis*.
> >There are of course also counter-arguments, based on counter-hypotheses
> >
> >
> >but it is also a fact that all objective evidence to date is *contrary*
> >to the hypothesis that self-archiving leads to journal cancellation
> >and collapse:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >When in reply to Sally's statement:
> >
> > SM: "Although in some areas of physics, journals have so far coexisted
> > with the ArXiv subject repository, some of our members in other
> > disciplines already have first-hand evidence that immediate free
> > access can cause significant damage to sales."
> >
> >I asked Sally for that evidence, she has now replied:
> >
> > SM: "the evidence I've been given so far was in confidence"
> >
> >So apparently the world research community is to contemplate continuing to
> >refrain from maximising its research impact -- despite the many-times
> >replicated objective evidence that self-archiving can and will maximise
> >its research impact -- on the strength of a hypothesis about eventual
> >journal wrack and ruin, based on confidential evidence, unavailable for
> >objective evaluation.
> >
> >(This kind of empty -- but ominous-looking -- hand-waving, by the way, is
> >*precisely* the grounds on which the NIH self-archiving mandate was
> >reduced to the toothless dictum it has become, sans requirement, sans
> >immediacy, sans everything.)
> >
> >>Incidentally, the NIH embargoes are slightly more complex than Stevan
> >>suggests - authors are encouraged to deposit papers immediately on
> >>acceptance; the embargo relates to the date when they are made publicly
> >>available; I chose my words with care! Wellcome on the other hand is, as
> >>I understand it, talking about the date of deposit.
> >
> >Promptly "depositing" papers in NIH's PubMed Central (PMC) so that they
> >can sit there, inaccessible, for 12 months, sounds exactly as useless as
> >it ought to sound to anyone who remembers, if ever so faintly, that what
> >this was all about was maximising research access and impact (immediately)
> >-- and not a symbolic central-depositing ritual followed by a useless,
> >needless, and research-wasting gestation period, in which the document
> >simply lies fallow, for absolutely no justifiable reason, at the
> >continuing loss of daily, weekly, and monthly research impact and
> >progress, *exactly* as it had been before the online/OA era!
> >
> >Sally is right, however, that the NIH policy is more complicated than
> >merely being the empty "request" to deposit papers ("immediately"), only
> >to wait 12 months for them to become accessible to their intended users (6
> >months for the marginally less unwelcome Wellcome Policy). It is also only
> >a *request* to deposit them in PMC, rather than what it could have been
> >and should have been, namely, a *requirement* to deposit them
> >*immediately* in each researcher's own *institutional repository* (with
> >NIH/PMC harvesting them centrally if/when they see fit).
> >
> >*That* would have been a policy that actually maximised research access
> >and impact, rather than locking in a gratuitous year of access/impact loss
> >(with the whole thing merely optional rather than obligatory to boot --
> >and almost *inviting* publishers to back-pedal on their existing
> >immediate-self-archiving policies... in the name of NIH-compliance !)
> >
> >And now here is RCUK, proposing precisely the optimal policy for
> >maximising research access and impact, and here's Sally hoping to pull its
> >teeth much the way NIH's were pulled!
> >
> >Fortunately, there is a way the RCUK policy can be protected from unneeded
> >and unwanted NIH-style dental work! The key would be that the RCUK
> >mandates distributed, institutional self-archiving rather than NIH-style
> >central archiving. Hence each author can decide for himself whether and
> >when to set access to his own full-text as "Open Access" (OA) rather than
> >just "Institution-internal Access" (IA). Both the full text and the
> >metadata, however, must be deposited immediately in the fundee's own
> >institional repository. Those *keystrokes* *must* be performed. The
> >metadata of course always immediately become openly accessible to all,
> >webwide. (There is not even the semblance of a juridical issue about the
> >author's metadata!) But the single keystroke that determines whether
> >access to the full-text is institutional or worldwide can be left to the
> >author (with strong encouragement to make it OA as soon as possible).
> >
> >With such a policy, there is no point in anyone's lobbying RCUK about
> >embargoes: RCUK has simply mandated the immediate keystrokes and strongly
> >encouraged the Nth one ("OA"). And research is still leaps and bounds
> >ahead as a result. For not only do over 90% of articles already have their
> >journal's green light for the Nth keystroke, but for the less than 10%
> >that don't, the author can, for the time being, simply respond to email
> >eprint-requests for the full-text (based on the openly accessible
> >metadata) by doing the keystrokes to email out the postprint.
> >
> >Eventually, of course, nature will take its course, the author will tire
> >of the needless keystroke, and simply do the Nth keystroke to make his
> >postprint OA (as the sensible authors will all do in the first place).
> >(The long overdue transit to the optimal and inevitable has -- it is now
> >patently obvious -- always been just a *keystroke* problem all along. Once
> >the keystrokes are mandated, nature can be safely trusted to pursue its
> >optimal course forthwith, guided by the incentive impact -- and prodded by
> >the nuisance of eprint-requests!)
> >
> >But the point is that in the meanwhile, it will not be possible to
> >edentate (q.v.) the RCUK policy in the same way that the NIH policy
> >managed to get itself so sadly disfigured.
> >
> >(Sally is characteristically coy about coming out and saying whether she
> >is for or against giving the publisher's green light to the immediate
> >institutional self-archiving of the author's own "inadequate" [Sally's
> >word] final revised draft: She is eloquent about its inadequacies, but
> >rather evasive about whether she would be for authors [immediately]
> >setting that Nth keystroke -- for that self-same inadequate full-text --
> >as OA or merely IA!)
> >
> >I close by re-quoting in full the call for evidence in support of Sally's
> >rather alarmist hypothesis of doom and gloom:
> >
> >>sh> It would be helpful to see precisely what this "other" evidence is, and
> >>sh> precisely what it is evidence *of*. As physics and computer science are
> >>sh> the fields that have self-archived the most and the longest, and all of
> >>sh> their evidence is for peaceful co-existence between the author's drafts
> >>sh> and the publisher's value-added version, it would be very interesting
> >>sh> to see what evidence, if any, exists to the contrary. But please do make
> >>sh> sure that the putative evidence does address the issue:
> >>sh>
> >>sh> How much (if at all) does author self-archiving reduce subscriptions?
> >>sh>
> >>sh> The evidence has to be specific to author self-archiving, anarchically,
> >>sh> article by article. It cannot be based on experiments in which journals
> >>sh> systematically make all of their own value-added contents free for all
> >>sh> online, for that is not the proposition that is being tested, nor the
> >>sh> policy being recommended by RCUK!
> >
> >And, to repeat Sally's reply:
> >
> > SM: "the evidence I've been given so far was in confidence"
> >
> >Amen.
> >
> >Stevan Harnad
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Received on Fri Jul 08 2005 - 16:03:55 BST

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