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

From: (wrong string) édon <>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 15:45:22 -0400

    [ The following text is in the "utf-8" character set. ]
    [ Your display is set for the "iso-8859-1" character set. ]
    [ Some characters may be displayed incorrectly. ]

These are really interesting figures and many thanks for sharing them
with all of us.

I fully agree that they support the view that, for now, depositories do
not pose a financial threat to journals.

At the same time, one may puzzle as to why, when so many articles are
already available in open access, the rate of use is so low.

One may also wonder, in the light of these, admittedly fragmentary, but
certainly illustrative, data whether mandating authors to deposit their
articles in OA depositories would be enough to ensure the success of
open access.

What is happening here? Inertial habits, as I tried to argue in my Green
and Gold article in Serials Review of last December? Some sort of
threshold effect (but with 75% of all articles in arXiv in the example
quoted below, and 90% of all citations, one may begin to wonder if the
notion of threshold retains any use at all in this context)? At any
rate, these figures show that even when depositories (or even, in this
case, just one depository) contain a very significant majority of papers
in a particular field, this is still not sufficient to encourage actual

Stevan Harnad often stresses that OA is not in lieu of, but as a
supplement to, existing journals. But if such figures were to be
multiplied across a significant number of disciplines, one could begin
to ask whether all the efforts for OA repositories are worth it given
the benign neglect they seem to generate. Supplement to what end, if use
remains low?

Lest people misunderstand me, I will nevertheless hasten to add that we
must pursue all our efforts for the repositories and the mandating. But
it also tends to prove one more point I have been making for over a year
now: if we limit ourselves to OA , OAI-PMH compliant, depositories, and
with mandating, we will still not be where we want to be. If OA, à la
Harnad - i.e. as complement and strictly nothing more - is not being
used very widely, then what is the point? We do want actual use, don't

The reason existing journals do not suffer very much (if at all) from
the presence of OA depositories is that librarians - yes, the poor
librarians that seem to be regularly attacked - have noticed that use is
still largely directed by the traditional channels of dissemination. For
that reason, they do not cancel too many subscriptions too quickly.

We seem to end up with a proposition that does carry some ironic
dimensions: OA should exist. Why? Because it is good for the flow of
scientific ideas, concepts, data, etc.. Moreover, it must be a
complement to existing publishing and, as such, it will not harm
publishers because. Why will it not harm publishers? simply because
librarians will maintain their subscription so long as the repositories
are not being used very widely. ... !!!

But what if repositories were to become popular with the average
researcher? Should librarians feel duty bound to buy the journals in
order to maintain the system in place?

I will let my library friends respond to that one...

Meanwhile, this can lead to an ironic outcome: in making sure that the
OA depositories we design are *pure* (nothing else) complements to the
existing journal literature, we should also be careful to make them
sufficiently ineffective so as to avoid competition with the trade (not
the circulation, but it is a little difficult to dissociate trade from
circulation in practice) of the existing journals.

Why so many paradoxes? The answer, of course, lies in the fact that OA
cannot avoid inducing important changes in scientific publishing, even
with the best intentions not to do so (however, as the French say, hell
is paved with good intentions). Publishers are fully aware of this
because they keep their eyest trained on one objective: the bottom line.
Not surprisingly, they have begun to fight back, some more subtly than
others incidentally. One subtle way to fight back is to transpose the
old recipe apparently developed within the confines of Microsoft:
embrace and extend. The reason OA cannot simply complement the existing
structure of science publishing is that there exists a dynamic
relationship between the gated set and the open access set of scientific
(scholarly) papers. Although trying to solve dynamical problems with
static concepts is a time-honoured tradition in the history of
mechanics, it is not necessarily the best or even a good approach in
this particular case.

But, for the moment, the financial implications of OA repositories
appear insignificant. For the moment...

Jean-Claude Guédon

Le mardi 23 août 2005 à 12:50 -0400, Michael Kurtz a écrit :
> A quick data point to the discussion of the financial impact of open
> access sources on journals.
> The Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System is the primary access
> point for nearly every professional astronomer to access the journal
> literature, usage trends from its logs are definative as to the behavior
> of astronomers.
> Astronomers have long used the open access Cornel arXiv astro_ph data
> base to read the current literaure, its use is, as with ADS, nearly
> universal among research astronomers.
> For the leading astronomy journal, The Astrophysical Journal, for the
> year 2004, 75% of its articles, representing 90% of citations to these
> articles, appeared in the astro_ph database.
> Once the journal article is published ADS makes an automatic link
> between it and the astro_ph version, this link receives equal prominance
> with the links to the journal itself, and all other links associated
> with the article. Once a scientist has looked up an article s/he needs
> to decide which link to follow to read further.
> For the month of July 2005, looking at ApJ articles from 2004, there
> were 46,128 links followed, 19,149 of these were to the full text of the
> article, and 1,479 of these were to the OA astro_ph version. The OA
> version was 3.2% of total links and 7.7% of full text links (with the
> rest of the full text links to the subscription only journal).
> This seems to indicate that for astronomers the existence of a widely
> used OA alternative source, with total equality of access, does not pose
> a serious financial threat to the journals, at least for now.
> --
> Dr. Michael J. Kurtz
> Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
> 60 Garden Street
> Cambridge, MA 02138
> VOICE: +1-617-495-7434
> FAX: +1-617-495-7467
> WWW:
Dr. Jean-Claude Guédon
Dept. of Comparative Literature
University of Montreal
PO Box 6128, Downtown Branch
Montreal, QC H3C 3J7
    [ Part 2, "This is a digitally signed message part"  ]
    [ Application/PGP-SIGNATURE  196bytes. ]
    [ Unable to print this part. ]
Received on Tue Aug 23 2005 - 22:21:47 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:47:58 GMT