Re: "Disaggregated Journals" Proposal

From: Steve Hitchcock <>
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2005 17:45:29 EDT

Raym Crow's was an article of its time. It reflected a debate that had
been going on for some years previously that was about the functions of
journal publishing and how these might be effectively accommodated in an
online model. So this focussed on peer review, production, marketing,
dissemination, etc., and various new models were postulated, but the
debate was always principally concerned with improving access.

Informed by that debate, issues concerning access have crystallised.
Improving access is now framed as 'open access'. This has built on the
Budapest Open Access Initiative of February 2002. This is effectively what
the RCUK has endorsed, but with the emphasis clearly on author
self-archiving in IRs. This is the fastest route to OA and allows it to
co-exist with traditional journal publishing, as well as emerging OA
publishing, because it is wholly concerned with access while leaving the
value-adding role to the publisher. Journals are not 'disaggregated'.

Disaggregation did not and does not need to happen because most publishers
have given the green light for authors to provide immediate open access by
self-archiving *their* versions of papers in IRs. Nothing else is needed
from publishers.

Separately, and in addition, some publishers began providing free back
access to the *journal* versions of papers some time after publication.
Then in the midst of the NIH proposal this apparent concession to back
access became a bargaining ploy, and no doubt will again in the ongoing
RCUK consultation. Why? Because for some publishers that's all there is
left to argue over. They haven't been able to keep up even with their own
industry. The principle of OA, and the green light, is established.
Neither of these positions - green, or back access - were forced on
publishers, by NIH, RCUK, or other bodies. The publishers did it
themselves after, presumably, careful assessment of the market.

So I'm not sure why Anthony, a publisher insider, is going back to dated
work, from which both the academic community and most publishers have
since moved on, to argue against something that hasn't happened as a
pretext for the case against the RCUK policy. The RCUK has evolved a clear
policy based on what is already there.

Are publishers going to return exclusively to print journals? Of course
not. But when in the mid-1990s publishers began making the move from
experiment to production of online journals the myopic few comforted
themselves that they could return to the old ways if things didn't work
out. Then, as now, the clearest thinking prevailed.

We are beyond that stage with OA. There is no turning back. OA and green
are good. The academic community is waking up to the good news, proclaimed
by RCUK, and that's a starting point with plenty of scope for publishers
to take their work on from there. Despite Anthony's and others'
forthcoming protestations, I think they already know that.

Steve Hitchcock
IAM Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3256 Fax: +44 (0)23 8059 2865
Received on Fri Jul 15 2005 - 22:50:09 BST

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