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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 21:06:51 +0100

On Tue, 23 Aug 2005, Richard Durbin wrote:

> 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... its subscriptions started to suffer, and from January
> this year they introduced access controls

This was one of the ALPSP's points and was already answered in the Open
Letter posted earlier:

> > ALPSP: [3] Evidence is also growing that free availability of content
> > has a very rapid negative effect on subscriptions. Oxford University
> > Press made the contents of Nucleic Acids Research freely available
> > online six months after publication; subscription loss was much
> > greater than in related journals where the content was free after
> > a year...
> > [4] The BMJ Publishing Group has noted a similar effect...
> > [5] In the USA, the Institute for Operations Research and the
> > Management Sciences ... made freely available on the Web... noted
> > a subscriptions decline

    "In all three examples whole journals were made freely available,
    in their entirety, with all the added value and rich online
    functionality that a journal provides. This is not at all the
    same as the self-archiving of authors' drafts, which are simply the
    basic research results, provided by the author on a single-article
    basis. The latter, not the former, is the target of the proposed
    RCUK policy. It is hence highly misleading to cite the effects of
    the former as evidence of negative effects of the latter."

Longer response:

> 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
> subscriptions

Irrelevant to self-archiving: See above.

> 2) we should be concerned about secondary literature also; public
> review and commentary is an important part of academic activity.

Irrelevant to RCUK self-archiving policy, which is about the primary research the

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Aug 23 2005 - 22:21:25 BST

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