Re: Leading academics back UK Research Councils on self-archiving

From: Richard Durbin <rd_at_SANGER.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 17:38:13 +0100

Foprgetting about the semantics, I believe that there is some evidence
that making articles open access reduces print subscriptions.

The BMJ (British Medical Journal) was a leader in making all its content
freely accessible (full text in 1998) and a strong believer in the value
of donig this. Although electronic access continued to increase
( its
subscriptions started to suffer, and from January this year they
introduced access controls for non-primary research (original research
articles remain free I understand
this was done after substantial internal debate - a lot of lay people
access the medical literature as well as medical professionals and
academics, and the BMJ wanted to maximise access and use.

In case someone says "this is fine - all we care about is original
research" there are two points to make:
  1) that is irrelevant to main reason for bringing this up - BMJ found
that making all its content available online for free damaged its
  2) we should be concerned about secondary literature also; public
review and commentary is an important part of academic activity.

I may have got some things wrong about the decision making process at
BMJ. If there is someone working there who reads this it would be good
for them to confirm/correct.


Stevan Harnad wrote:
> On Tue, 23 Aug 2005, Sally Morris (ALPSP) wrote:
>>There's a difference between 'refute' (= produce evidence to disprove) and
>>'rebut' (= argue against). Stevan's letter does the latter, not the
>>former; there is no evidence whatever that self-archiving will not damage
>>journals or those who produce them
> (Umm, first, that's Berners-Lee et al's letter, not Stevan's letter...;>)
> Second, there is no evidence to refute Creationism either: Just no
> evidence *for* it, and all existing evidence *against* it (in both cases).
> So one can only rebut, not refute, in both cases.
> I suggest that Sally look into the logic of hypothesis-testing and
> empirical inference. One does not, in the real empirical world, say
> "I conjecture, and you cannot refute": Refutation (disproof) is only
> possible in mathematics -- by proving that something is logically
> impossible, self-contradictory. For anything else that is not logically
> impossible, we seek not refutation but supporting or contrary
> evidence. For the proposition "Self-archiving will ruin journals" (or
> even that it will reduce subscriptions) there is no supporting evidence
> to date, and all evidence to date is to the contrary: that self-archiving
> is neither ruining journals nor even reducing their subscriptions.
> Sally would do well to look at "Pascal's Wager" (as I have urged her to do
> before):
> Pascal thought that it was more rational to behave *as-if* the Creed
> (that there is an afterlife, with eternal damnation for nonbelievers)
> were true, because the costs of behaving as if the Creed were false if
> it was in fact true (eternal damnation) were so much greater than the
> costs of behaving as if the Creed were true even if it was in fact false
> (leading a slightly more constrained but finite life).
> What Pascal missed was that the force of this unassailable logic came
> from one unquestioned but questionable premise: The (arbitrary) threat of
> eternal damnation, merely on the Prophets' say-so. It was the direness
> of the purported consequences that made the logic look unassailable. (Any
> rival Prophet could have raised the Wager by promising even more dire
> consequences [e.g., one's soul splitting into an infinity of sub-souls, all
> suffering one another's anguish for an eternity of cardinality Aleph-1,
> where each instant lasts an eternity] if one fails to behave according to
> *that* Creed, and so on.)
> What this shows is that one does not make a point by just positing the
> dire consequences that would ensue if one does not take the point.
> I, for my part, am not prophecying ruin for research if
> researchers fail to self-archive. I am merely demonstrating exactly
> what they are actually losing, daily, monthly, yearly, as long as they
> don't:
> Sally should give up the Doomsday business too...
> Stevan Harnad
>>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
>>----- Original Message ----- From: "Peter Suber" <>
>>To: "SPARC Open Access Forum" <>
>>Sent: Monday, August 22, 2005 2:22 PM
>>Subject: Leading academics back UK Research Councils on self-archiving
>>[Forwarding from the University of Southampton. --Peter.]
>>News from the University of Southampton
>>Ref: 05/155 22 August 2005
>>Leading academics back UK Research Councils on self-archiving
>>Academics from some of the UK's top universities are giving public support
>>to the UK Research Councils' (RCUK) proposed self-archiving policy.
>>The academics, who include inventor of the World Wide Web, University of
>>Southampton Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, have co-signed a document
>>refuting claims made by the Association of Learned and Professional Society
>>Publishers (ALPSP) that the RCUK policy would have 'disastrous consequences'
>>for journals.
>>The claims were made in a letter from ALPSP to RCUK in response to the
>>RCUK's position statement on Access to Research Outputs issued in June.
>>The rebuttal document, which has been signed by representatives from the
>>universities of Southampton, Cambridge, Loughborough, Sheffield and
>>Strathclyde and will be sent to RCUK by the end of the month, details the
>>reasons why ALPSP's claims are unsubstantiated, not least because evidence
>>has shown that not only can journals co-exist and thrive alongside author
>>self-archiving, they can actually benefit from it.
>>Authors, institutions, funders and publishers benefit from the increased
>>visibility, use and impact of research articles that are self-archived and
>>freely available to all.
>>In a covering letter to Professor Ian Diamond, Chair of the RCUK Executive
>>Group, the academics state: 'We believe that RCUK should go ahead and
>>implement its immediate self-archiving mandate, without further delay. That
>>done, RCUK can meet ALPSP and other interested parties to discuss and plan
>>how the UK Institutional Repositories can collaborate with journals and
>>their publishers in sharing the new-found benefits of maximising UK research
>>access and impact.'
>>Notes to Editors:
>>1. RCUK draft policy proposal:
>>ALPSP critique of RCUK proposal:
>>Open Letter to Research Councils UK: Rebuttal of ALPSP Critique:
>>Journal Publishing and Author Self-Archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence and
>>Fruitful Collaboration:
>>2. The University of Southampton is the home of GNU EPrints software,
>>the most widely used software for building Institutional Repositories, and
>>the JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee) TARDis (Targeting
>>Academic Research for Deposit and Disclosure) project, which has been
>>investigating the technical, cultural and academic issues which surround
>>institutional repositories.
>>3. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research
>>institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and
>>scholarship. The University has over 20,000 students and over 5000 staff.
>>Its annual turnover is in the region of 270 million.
>>For further information:
>>Professor Stevan Harnad, School of Electronics and Computer Science,
>>Tel: 023 8059 2582, email:
>>Joyce Lewis, Communications Manager, Electronics and Computer Science,
>>University of Southampton, Tel: 023 8059 5453, email:
>>Sue Wilson
>>Press & PR Officer
>>Media Relations
>>University of Southampton
>>Southampton SO17 1BJ
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Received on Tue Aug 23 2005 - 20:52:48 BST

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