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

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Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 20:33:10 -0400

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Thank you. This is about what I was trying to say. OA will probably be
disruptive in a variety of ways, and most probably on the economic

Peter Suber puts it exquisitely :

"The purpose of the campaign for OA is the constructive one of providing
OA to a larger and larger body of literature, not the destructive one of
putting non-OA journals or publishers out of business. The consequences
may or may not overlap (this is contingent) but the purposes do not
overlap." (

No one that I know in the OA movement has the intention of putting
publishers out of business, but if OA succeeds, as I firmly believe it
will, the business model of publishers is going to change radically
(there I am a little more sanguine than Peter who leaves the hypothesis
up in the air) if only because publishers will try to adapt. Springer's
Open Choice may well be a first (and clever) sign of these kinds of

At the same time, raising this possibility does not deter from the goal
of OA; it is part and parcel of the larger picture tht we also need to
steer this movement in the right directions while taking into account
the varied perspectives of all those involved. It might be nice to
imagine that all this is by researchers only for researchers only, but
history has left us with various sedimented layers of various agents
that we cannot brush aside simply by focusing as narrowly as possible.

I also take advantage of this response to thank Michael Kurtz who in his
message from this afternoon gave us a neat and clear exposition of how
the complementarity works. Nowhere in my questioning did I question the
impact advantages of having articles in OA repositories: I believe the
effect is real and I have often quoted the same articles (or some of
them) to support the same thesis. What I was puzzling about was the fact
that such a small *proportion* of the links went back to ArXiv compared
to the journals, not that the OA repositories were in little *absolute*
use. All my arguments rested on the very comparison set up by Michael
Kurtz' most interesting posting:

"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)."

What intrigued me was the comparison of 1,479 to 19,149, not the
absolute value 1,479. Afterwards, I tried to interpret. I underscore the
phrase "I tried..." just in case...

Michael Kurtz added some important details in his second posting and
these make my interpretation weaker, while suggesting new questions:
this is fine by me because that is how we (and I) can progress. His
reaction also seemed to show that he had understood my text better than

Jean-Claude Guédon

Le mardi 23 août 2005 à 21:31 +0100, adam hodgkin a écrit :
> It is hard to get clear-cut, decisive empirical evidence on economic
> behaviour or on pricing decisions. Twenty years ago when I was an
> academic journal publisher we 'knew' that the pricing of journal
> subscriptions was relatively inelastic (shows monopoly power). Much
> less elastic than say 'student textbook' pricing. This meant that if
> the subscription to a journal went up (down) by 10% it would be
> extremely unlikely to affect the circulation by 20%, perhaps a
> perturbation of 1-2-3% would be expected. Some radical souls though
> that pricing made almost no difference at all to circulations.
> I think the proponents of OA can agree with the publishers that the
> monopoly power and the pricing power of the traditional academic
> journal is obviously affected by the availability of open access
> options for reading the scientific and scholarly literature. The
> publishers may not like it when it is pointed out that this previous
> pricing power and economic resilience reflects an unjustified monopoly
> (a no longer justified monopoly), but I dont see why the proponents of
> OA should mind recognising that the technology of OA (the internet au
> fond) is a disruptive technology and will change economic behaviour of
> libraries, publishers and researchers. That is indeed part of the
> point.
> It is odd that we should be arguing that there is no sure fire proof
> that behaviour will change, when we fully expect that behaviour should
> change and IS changing the way things are done.
> All sides can also agree that the continuing provision of quality
> control by editors and referees is also important. This is something
> no one wants to lose and provides a continuing rationale for the role
> of the publisher.
> Adam
> On 8/23/05, Stevan Harnad <> wrote:
> On Tue, 23 Aug 2005, J.F.B.Rowland wrote:
> > I think Sally Morris is on somewhat stronger ground than
> Stevan alleges -
> It would be useful if Fytton made it clear in precisely what
> this
> "somewhat stronger ground consists." It is not clear whether
> he has read
> the two rebuttals in question:
> A quick summary is this:
> Sally hypothesises that the RCUK Self-Archiving Policy
> would lead to
> the (strong version) "destruction of journals" and/or
> (weak version)
> "negative effect on subscriptions."
> Sally provides no evidence whatsoever in support of this
> (either version).
> (She cites 5 examples, 3 of them having nothing at all to
> do with
> self-archiving -- concerning only journals that make their
> contents free
> online; plus 2 examples having to do with author citation
> and usage
> statistics, both of which can and will be easily and
> naturally adapted
> to the new medium, hence have no implications one way or
> the other.)
> All actual evidence is contrary to both the strong and
> weak versions
> of Sally's hypothesis: Self-archiving has been co-existing
> peacefully
> with journal publication for 15 years now. And even in
> areas where
> it has been practised the longest (physics) and approaches
> 100%
> in some fields, the journals report no cancellations
> associated
> with self-archiving.
> Fytton is not providing any further evidence here, for or
> against the hypothesis
> (either the strong or the weak version). He is merely stating
> that he too holds
> the hypothesis.
> But there's no more accounting for hypotheses than for tastes,
> in the absence of
> any supporting evidence, and in the presence of nothing but
> contrary evidence.
> > although the suggestion that widespread use of OA
> repositories will
> > ultimately harm the subscription sales of journals is only a
> prediction, it
> > is a fairly logical one. If an item can be obtained free of
> charge, for how
> > long will people go on buying it?
> If every prediction that was not in contradiction with logic
> were provisionally
> taken to be true, Doomsday Prophecies would indeed rule.
> The question is not whether the prediction is contrary to
> logic but whether it is
> contrary to the evidence: And it is contrary to all the
> evidence to date.
> The rest is speculation: Why do libraries still subscribe?
> Here are a couple
> of logical speculations:
> (1) They still want the print edition
> (2) They want the publisher's value-added online edition,
> not just
> the author's self-archived final draft.
> Probably there are more one can think of. But note that they
> are all speculations
> about the reasons why the destruction/cancellation speculation
> is *not* supported
> by any evidence. In other words, they are merely
> counter-speculations.
> But why are we speculating and counter-speculating, when one
> body of evidence is
> substantial and irrefutable: Self-archiving increases research
> usage and impact
> dramatically. That is extremely good for research. And there
> is no sign of its being
> bad for publication either.
> So RCUK is taking the logical step of increasing
> self-archiving, so as
> to increase research usage and impact, and Sally and Fytton
> are instead
> just speculating.
> > On the other hand, it seems likely that any such effect
> will occur gradually
> > over a period of years.
> Which effect? We have different effects in mind. I am thinking
> of the
> *demonstrated* effect of self-archiving: increased usage and
> impact,
> a face-valid benefit for research and researchers.
> Sally and Fytton are instead thinking about an
> *undemonstrated* negative
> effect of self-archiving: increased journal cancellations,
> And the net result is that a hypothetical, undemonstrated
> negative effect
> (for publishers) is being taken (by Sally, perhaps not Fytton)
> as grounds
> for delaying or derailing a real, demonstrated positive effect
> (for researchers).
> Let us hope that the RCUK will not be persuaded by such logic.
> > This gives all parties concerned time to adapt.
> The RCUK immediate-self-archiving policy needs to be adopted
> immediately. Whether
> or not there is something that publishers will need to adapt
> will be seen if and
> when there are any signs of it. Right now, there are none.
> > OUP and Springer are each starting to do so
> Fytton is again changing the subject: OUP and Springer are
> experimenting with
> making their journals free online, or with giving their
> authors the option to pay
> them to make the journal version of their articles free online
> for them. That is
> an adaptation, to be sure, but it is not an adaptation to the
> effects of
> self-archiving (of which there are none, insofar as journal
> renewals and
> economics are concerned).
> There are also logical things one could say about these
> experiments, but never
> mind: let 1000 flowers bloom. The only thing about OUP and
> Springer policy that is
> remotely pertinent to self-archiving is that Springer is
> full-green (green light
> to self-archive both postprint and preprint) and OUP is only
> pale-green (green
> light only for preprint). That's not
> tragic:
> There's plenty of wiggle room in what counts as the "preprint"
> -- and,
> at bottom, authors don't really need their publishers'
> blessing to
> self-archive their own drafts; it's just a sop for the
> timorous and
> the pedantic.
> But the point is that self-archiving is the green road to OA,
> and what OUP and
> Springer are experimenting with is the golden road, which is
> perfectly fine
> (though probably premature).
> > and Bo-Christer Bjork from Finland has also recently made a
> proposal for
> > transitional arrangements that look as if they could work
> (see
> >
> One can speculate about hypothetical transition scenarios --
> and I have not been
> un-guilty of doing a spot of that myself, in my more naive
> past -- but it is now
> clear that among the many things that have been needlessly
> delaying the optimal
> and inevitable -- 100% OA -- was this constant predilection
> for counterfactual
> speculation while ignoring and failing to act upon the actual
> facts on the ground.
> So, for now, I declare, with Newton (and for the sake of
> research progress):
> Hypotheses non fingo.
> > There are potentially greater problems for learned society
> publishers, for whom
> > Sally speaks, than for larger publishers.
> I think the research community would do better to deal with
> its actual problem of
> needless research impact loss, rather than subordinating it to
> publishers'
> hypothetical/potential/maybe problems -- whether the
> publishers be commercial ones
> or those that are *nominally* closer to the research
> community, the learned
> society publishers (though one wonders, sometimes!).
> > A current JISC-funded project being undertaken by Mary
> Waltham is
> > investigating possible future business models for them; I
> look forward
> > with interest to reading her report.
> It is splendid to be working on possible future business
> models for publishers,
> but you will forgive me for being far more concerned about the
> actual impact loss
> for research and researchers, today...
> Stevan Harnad
> .
Dr. Jean-Claude Guédon
Dept. of Comparative Literature
University of Montreal
PO Box 6128, Downtown Branch
Montreal, QC H3C 3J7
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Received on Wed Aug 24 2005 - 01:57:17 BST

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