Re: Re-engineering the Open Access Movement I: Addressing What is Currently Missing

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 5 Aug 2005 19:40:03 +0100

Sherif Masoud wrote in :

> [1] Open Access Trade Page _at_
> [2] Learning Internet Resources _at_
> I suggest that the efforts of the open access (OA) advocates be utilized in a
> different way from the current one so that the open access potential successes are
> expedited. I propose that roughly one third of such efforts be directed towards
> increasing the use of current OA publications.

I am not sure whose efforts are being targeted here (OA advocates, libraries,
publishers, researchers, universities, research-funders) nor how much effort any
of these is actually expending for OA today. But the fact is that about 20% of
research output is being made OA today (5% by publishing it in OA journals, 15%
by self-archiving it).

The objective would seem to be to raise that 20% to 100% as soon as possible,
rather than to try to squeeze more usage and functionality out of the impoverished
20% that exists to date. For this, I would say that 100% of effort should be
expended on inducing researchers to make 100% of their research articles OA.

> Using the OA resources more extensively will result in higher awareness
> and impact for the OA publications. This will lead to readers (users) and
> authors demanding more OA publications and repositories. This increased
> demand will result in higher OA supply in the form of OA journals and
> repositories, which is the end goal of the OA movement.

This is what I too thought 6 years ago, when OAI and OpCit and Citebase
and OAister were launched: Surely as the research community experiences
the power and utility of OA as *users* (consumers) they will translate
their satisfaction into their behaviour as *authors* (providers). But that didn't
happen -- partly because of the limited functional possibilities of such sparse
coverage (20%), no matter how deluxe, and partly because of the (wrong) perception
that much more effort is entailed in being an OA provider rather than just an OA

This perception is wrong, and the number of keystrokes and time involved in a
moderately intensive online search are comparable to the number of keystrokes and
time involved in making one of one's own articles OA by self-archiving it:
    Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2005) Keystroke Economy:
    A Study of the Time and Effort Involved in
Yet not even the repeated demonstration of the dramatic increase in citation impact
for articles made OA by self-archiving has yet proved sufficient to persuade
nearly enough authors to self-archive;
    Brody, T. and Harnad, S. (2004) Comparing the Impact of Open Access
    (OA) vs. Non-OA Articles in the Same Journals. D-Lib Magazine 10(6).

The solution is clear, and has been clearly stated by authors themselves,
in their responses to two international, interdisciplinary JISC surveys
showing that most authors state they will not self-archive until and unless
their employers and/or their research-funders require it -- but if/when
they do require it, over 94% of authors say they will do it (81% of them
willingly, 14% reluctantly, and only 6% say they still will not do it):
    Swan, A. (2005) Open access self-archiving: An Introduction.
    JISC Technical Report.

So what is urgently needed worldwide today is definitely *not* a diversion
of effort toward user functionality for the sparse 20% OA content that
already exists, but a concerted effort to get researchers' employers and
funders to require OA self-archiving. Research Councils UK looks as
if it will adopt a policy of requiring OA self-archiving at the end of
this month, and if they do, it is very likely that other institutions
worldwide will follow suit. The blueprint for the policy requirement is
already there:

    RCUK Proposed Policy Requirement:

    UK Select Committee Proposed Policy Requirement:

    Berlin-3 Proposed Policy Requirement:

    Registry of Institutional OA Self-Archiving Policies

> Reviewing a few Internet publications on open access [1], I found that almost
> every open access (OA) advocate's efforts are in one of two directions: analyzing,
> understanding, and explaining that OA is much more useful than closed access for
> everybody (except maybe for giant publishers) or promoting the foundation of OA
> serials / repositories and publishing in them. While the domination of OA serials
> and repositories form the end goal of the OA movement, I believe the current
> direction of efforts is not the best one to achieve that end goal in the fastest
> way possible. Re-engineering the open access movement to address what is currently
> missing can be very useful in expediting the domination of open access.

The end goal is 100% OA, and the two roads to 100% OA are the "golden"
road of publishing articles in OA journals or the "green" road of
self-archiving in OA archives all articles published in non-OA journals.
Neither informing researchers about the benefits of OA nor showing them
how to derive those benefits is enough: Their employers and funders
also need to *require* it (just as they already require publishing
itself: "publish or perish") for the sake of maximizing individual and
institutional research impact and maximizing the return on research
funders investment in research, in terms of research uptake, usage,
impact and progress.

Diverting efforts toward increasing the functionality of the sparse OA
content that already exists would simply delay still longer the optimal,
inevitable, and already long overdue outcome: 100% OA.

> I propose that only a certain part of the OA advocates' efforts be directed
> towards supporting the extensive use of OA publications. I don't mean a total
> change; I am saying that roughly two thirds of the efforts should stay in the
> current directions, but the rest should be in the direction of promoting the
> extensive use of OA publications.

There is no point promoting the extensive use of sparse content! What is
missing is the content, not the usage or the functionality. The greater usage of
OA content is already fully demonstrated by its already-existing citation
advantage of 50%-250+% as well its usage (download) advantage. Those cows
(20%) cannot be milked more fully! We need more cows (100%).

> Amplifying the use and citations of the OA publications will result in
> higher awareness and impact for the OA literature. As the impact and
> awareness keep amplifying, the readers (users) and authors' demand
> for OA literature (serials and repositories) will intensify. This
> increased demand will result in higher OA supply (in the form of OA
> journals and repositories), which is the end goal of the OA movement.

But the usage and citations of OA articles are already greatly amplified,
this has been happening for years, and has lately been demonstrated
repeatedly, in field after field. These findings are useful, and will
certainly persuade *some* more authors to provide OA to their work, but
not nearly enough. What is needed is an OA-provision requirement from
researchers' employers and funders. The employers and funders, in turn,
are the ones who are being persuaded to adopt the policy of requiring
OA-provision by the already abundant evidence that OA enhances research
usage and impact. Is a 50%-250% advantage not already advantage enough?

> So the question that rises is "how to promote the use of OA publications"?
> Well, the degree of using and citing OA literature is proportional to how easy it
> is to access that literature. Therefore OA advocates, both librarians and academic
> experts, have vital roles to play here. Librarians, the guardians of libraries,
> should be natural OA advocates because OA helps them mitigate the serials crisis.
> Hence, they should mine for OA resources all over the Internet and present it to
> their academic communities in an easy to use way.

But Sherif, the ease-of-access effect and the evidence for it are already
there! (And although librarians are great allies to the OA movement,
it is a great mistake to imagine that the rationale for researchers
providing OA is to mitigate the serials crisis! The rationale is to
maximize research usage, impact and progress.)

> Innovative techniques are expected to achieve good results. I mean that
> the starting point is: the Internet is there containing all the open
> access publications and the search engines are there giving millions
> of page results to searchers. Of course a starting point like that
> --if it is also the final point-- is not very promising. Innovatively,
> the final point, could be a website that integrates all the sources in
> an institution's library and the Internet (e.g. open access journals)
> with a scope encompassing a researcher's specific point of research
> (e.g. gear design in mechanical engineering).

This was the reason the OAI interoperability protocol was designed in
1999. Please have a look at OAister and Citebase and Google Scholar. The
functionality is already there (and being heavily used). What is missing is
80% of the content!

> That's only one innovative example; I am sure there are
> many creative ways in which librarians can catalog Internet OA content to make
> them easy to use. Let's start thinking that not properly guiding the library
> patrons to available OA resources is analogous to having very generous donators
> that donate lots of publications to a library and also pay for storing them to be
> only left in the warehouse without being added to the library catalog (although
> the keys of the warehouse are available for patrons upon request for digging on
> their own).

Sherif, I'm afraid these are rather old-fashioned views on functionality in the
online age. What users need today is not more cataloguing or help from librarians:
They need more OA content (preferably OAI-compliant): 80% more. That's all. The
rest will take care of itself.

> On the other hand, as experts in precise fields of research, academic OA advocates
> are also urged --individually or collaboratively-- to form Internet research
> guides on their fields of studies.

Why? Why produce guides to a sparse 20% of content? And why have
guides at all, when OAI full-text content can be inverted and
searched boole/google-style, with the help of citation-links and
-metrics as well as similarity-metrics. What's missing today, and
urgently needed, is more OA content, not more OA
visibility/classification/navigation resources:

> Another point, the design of such Internet research guides should
> always be user-centered. That means for the user (researcher or reader)
> a closed access database (e.g. only table of contents, abstracts,
> or even pay-per view) could be very useful along with OA publications.

Anyone who wishes to build value-added services on top of OA content is welcome to
do so -- but first we need the OA content, otherwise there is precious little to
add the value *to*.

> I mean finally what will get the impact and awareness is open access, but for the
> research guides to be successful in attracting researchers they have to be hybrid
> in order to fulfil all of the researchers' requirements. Along with that, the
> benefits of open access should always be advertised, so that researchers not only
> know about them practically (when using the OA movement research guides) but also
> understand the theory behind them (how this is happening). Needless to say, the OA
> advertising should never annoy or disturb the users; it should come naturally.
> Moreover, it will be easy to recruit at least some of the users of those research
> guides to the OA movement, to advocate for open access themselves later. To
> illustrate what I am suggesting, [2] represents an attempt of creating an Internet
> research guide that integrates both OA and other forms of learning sources,
> coupling that to non-destructive OA advertising.

There has been a modest flow from OA usage/consumption to OA provision,
indeed that is part of the source of the existing 20% OA content. But
it is clear that nowhere near enough OA content can be expected (within
the visible future) via that slow and indirect route. Something far more
substantive is needed to end the already absurdly long in reaching 100% OA,
and that something is what authors themselves have said they would need
in order to induce them to provide OA: a policy of requiring it by their
employers and/or funders.

> To optimally achieve open access in scholarly publishing, the scope of efforts
> should encompass every possible way of open access (not only scholarly
> publishing).

OA is not OA-in-scholarly-publishing, it is
OA-to-scholarly-publications. OA is no more a reform of scholarly
publishing than it is a remedy for the serials crisis. It is a way
for researchers to maximize the usage and impact of their own research
publications (whether the golden way, by publishing them in OA journals,
or the green way, by publishing them in non-OA journals but also
self-archiving them in OA Archives).

    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

> I propose that the efforts in this direction be at all levels (e.g.
> for students, researchers, and practitioners). There are mutual interactions among
> those groups, so the more open access is appreciated among, for example, college
> students, the more it will be among researchers. One reason is that the students
> of today are the researchers of the near future. Further, creative traditional
> print books on open access are needed. The traditional books still have their
> audience that respect them and see them as almost the only authority in any topic.
> The open access movement needs to address such an audience.

If we wait for students to come of age in order to reach 100% OA we are
waiting absurdly long, and needlessly losing a great deal of potential
research impact and progress in the meanwhile. Researchers are happy
for students and practitioners to read and use their research, but they
are writing it mainly for their fellow researchers (that's what their
careers and funding depend on): It is their fellow researchers who can
build on their research, thereby extending its impact. Researchers will
not be persuaded to provide OA by evidence of enhanced usage by students
(or practitioners, in that minority of research fields where there even
*are* practitioners at all!); after all, they are not yet even sufficiently
persuaded by the evidence of enhanced usage and impact by and for their
fellow-researchers! The persuasion will have to come from the same
source that persuades them to publish in the first place (rather than
put their research findings in a desk-drawer and move on to the next
piece of curiosity-driven, solipsistic research): the persuasion will
have to come from their employers and funders.

> A proposal for re-engineering the open access movement by re-directing the current
> efforts of the OA advocates was presented. It is hoped that this proposal will
> raise a lot of discussions, ultimately resulting in substantial improvements.

If everyone who wishes to invest some time and effort into promoting
OA were to invest it, first, into (1) self-archiving 100% of their own
work, and, second, into (2) persuading their own institution to adopt
a policy of requiring self-archiving for 100% of its research output,
that time and effort would be immeasurably better spent than investing
it in trying to enhance the functionality of the impoverished 20% OA
content we have today.

Stevan Harnad

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Received on Fri Aug 05 2005 - 21:37:08 BST

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