Journal Publishing and Author Self-Archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 17:25:44 +0100

    Journal Publishing and Author Self-Archiving:
    Peaceful Co-Existence and Fruitful Collaboration

A (shorter) UK-only version was co-signed by:

        Tim Berners-Lee (UK, Southampton & US, MIT)
        Dave De Roure (UK, Southampton)
        Stevan Harnad (UK, Southampton & Canada, UQaM)
        Derek Law (UK, Strathclyde)
        Peter Murray-Rust (UK, Cambridge)
        Charles Oppenheim (UK, Loughborough)
        Nigel Shadbolt (UK, Southampton)
        Yorick Wilks (UK, Sheffield)

This longer version is also signed by:

        Subbiah Arunachalam (India, MSRF)
        Helene Bosc (France, INRA, ret.)
        Fred Friend (UK, University College, London)
        Andrew Odlyzko (US, University of Minnesota)
        Arthur Sale (Australia, University of Tasmania)
        Peter Suber (US, Earlham)

    Please also see the version with hyperlinks:

    SUMMARY: The UK Research Funding Councils (RCUK) have proposed
    that all RCUK fundees should self-archive on the web, free for
    all, their own final drafts of journal articles reporting their
    RCUK-funded research, in order to maximise their usage and
    impact. ALPSP (a learned publishers' association) now seeks
    to delay and block the RCUK proposal, auguring that it will
    ruin journals. All objective evidence from the past decade and
    a half of self-archiving, however, shows that self-archiving
    can and does co-exist peacefully with journals while greatly
    enhancing both author/article and journal impact, to the benefit
    of both. Journal publishers should not be trying to delay and
    block self-archiving policy; they should be collaborating with
    the research community on ways to share its vast benefits.

This is a public reply, co-signed by the above, to the August 5,
2005, public letter by Sally Morris, Executive Director of ALPSP
(Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers) to
Professor Ian Diamond, Chair, RCUK (Research Councils UK), concerning
the RCUK proposal to mandate the web self-archiving of authors'
final drafts of all journal articles resulting from RCUK-funded
research, making them freely accessible to all researchers worldwide
who cannot afford access to the official journal version, in order
to maximise the usage and impact of the RCUK-funded research findings.

It is extremely important that the arguments and objective evidence
for or against the optimality of research self-archiving policy be
aired and discussed openly, as they have been for several years
now, all over the world, so that policy decisions are not influenced
by one-sided arguments from special interests that can readily be
shown to be invalid. Every single one of the points made by the
ALPSP below is incorrect -- incorrect from the standpoint of both
objective evidence and careful logical analysis. We accordingly
provide a point by point rebuttal here, along with a plea for an
end to publishers' efforts to block or delay self-archiving policy
-- a policy that is undeniably beneficial to research and researchers,
as well as to their institutions and the public that funds them.
Publishers should collaborate with the research community to share
the benefits of maximising research access and impact.

(Please note that this is not the first time the ALPSP's points
have been made, and rebutted; but whereas the rebuttals take very
careful, detailed account of the points made by ALPSP, the ALPSP
unfortunately just keeps repeating its points without taking any
account of the detailed replies. By way of illustration, the prior
ALPSP critique of the RCUK proposal (April 19) was followed on July
1 by a point-by-point rebuttal. The reader who compares the two
cannot fail to notice certain recurrent themes that ALPSP keeps
ignoring in their present critique. In particular, 3 of the 5
examples that ALPSP cites below as evidence of the negative effects
of self-archiving on journals turn out to have nothing at all to
do with self-archiving, exactly as pointed out in the earlier
rebuttal. The other 2 examples turn out to be positive evidence for
the potential of sharing the benefits through cooperation and
collaboration between the research and publishing community, rather
than grounds for denying research and researchers those benefits
through opposition.)

    The RCUK draft proposal is at:

All quotes below are from:

    ALPSP response to RCUK's proposed position statement
    on access to research outputs

which was addressed to: Professor Ian Diamond, Research Councils
UK Secretariat on 5th August, 2005:

> ALPSP: "Although the mission of our publisher members is to
> disseminate and maximise access to research information"

The principle of maximising access to research information is indeed
the very essence of the issue at hand. The reader of the following
statements and counter-statements should accordingly bear this
principle in mind while weighing them: Unlike the authors of books
or of magazine and newspaper articles, the authors of research
journal articles are not writing in order to sell their words, but
in order to share their findings, so other researchers can use and
build upon them, in order to advance research progress, to the
benefit of the public that funded the research. This usage and
application is called research impact. Research impact is a measure
of research progress and productivity: the influence that the
findings have had on the further course of research and its
applications; the difference it has made that a given piece of
research has been conducted at all, rather than being left unfunded
and undone. Research impact is the reason the public funds the
research and the reason researchers conduct the research and report
the results. Research that makes no impact may as well not have
been conducted at all. One of the primary indicators -- but by no
means the only one -- of research impact is the number of resulting
pieces of research by others that make use of a finding, by citing
it. Citation counts are accordingly quantitative measures of research
impact. (The reader is reminded, at this early point in our critique,
that it is impossible for a piece of research to be read, used,
applied and cited by any researcher who cannot access it. Research
access is a necessary (though not a sufficient) condition for
research impact.)

Owing to this central importance of impact in the research growth
and progress cycle, the authors of research are rewarded not by
income from the sales of their texts, like normal authors, but by
'impact income' based on how much their research findings are used,
applied, cited and built upon. Impact is what helps pay the author's
salary, what brings further RCUK grant income, and what brings RAE
(Research Assessment Exercise) income to the author's institution.
And the reason the public pays taxes for the RCUK and RAE to use
to fund research in the first place is so that that research can
benefit the public -- not so that it can generate sales income for
publishers. There is nothing wrong with research also generating
sales income for publishers. But there is definitely something wrong
if publishers try to prevent researchers from maximising the impact
of their research, by maximising access to it. For whatever limits
research access limits research progress; to repeat: access is a
necessary condition for impact.

Hence, for researchers and their institutions, the need to 'maximise
access to research information' is not just a pious promotional
slogan: Whatever denies access to their research output is denying
the public the research impact and progress it paid for and denying
researchers and their institutions the impact income they worked
for. Journals provide access to all individuals and institutions
that can afford to subscribe to them, and that is fine. But what
about all the other would-be users -- those researchers world-wide
whose institutions happen to be unable to afford to subscribe to
the journal in which a research finding happens to be published?
There are 24,000 research journals and most institutions can afford
access only to a small fraction of them. Across all fields tested
so far (including physics, mathematics, biology, economics,
business/management, sociology, education, psychology, and philosophy),
articles that have been self-archived freely on the web, thereby
maximising access, have been shown to have 50%-250+% greater citation
impact than articles that have not been self-archived. Is it
reasonable to expect researchers and their institutions and funders
to continue to renounce that vast impact potential in an online age
that has made this impact-loss no longer necessary? Can asking
researchers to keep on losing that impact be seriously described
as 'maximising access to research information'? Now let us see on
what grounds researchers are being asked to renounce this impact:

> ALPSP: "we find ourselves unable to support RCUK's proposed
> position paper on the means of achieving this. We continue to
> stress all the points we made in our previous response, dated 19
> April, and are insufficiently reassured by RCUK's reply. We are
> convinced that RCUK's proposed policy will inevitably lead to the
> destruction of journals."

If it were indeed true that the RCUK's policy will inevitably lead
to the destruction of journals, then this contingency would definitely
be worthy of further time and thought.

But there is in fact no objective evidence whatseover in support
of this dire prophecy. All evidence (footnote 1) from 15 years of
self-archiving (in some fields having reached 100% self-archiving
long ago) is exactly the opposite: that self-archiving and journal
publication can and do continue to co-exist peacefully, with
institutions continuing to subscribe to the journals they can afford,
and researchers at the institutions that can afford them continuing
to use them; the only change is that the author's own self-archived
final drafts (as well as earlier pre-refereeing preprints) are now
accessible to all those researchers whose institutions could not
afford the official journal version (as well as to any who may wish
to consult the pre-refereeing preprints). In other words, the
self-archived author's drafts, pre- and post-refereeing, are
supplements to the official journal version, not substitutes for

In the absence of any objective evidence at all to the effect that
self-archiving reduces subscriptions, let alone destroys journals,
and in the face of 15 years' worth of evidence to the contrary,
ALPSP simply amplifies the rhetoric, elevating pure speculation to
a putative justification for continuing to delay and oppose a policy
that is already long overdue and a practice that has already been
amply demonstrated to deliver something of immense benefit to
research, researchers, their institutions and funders: dramatically
enhanced impact. All this, ALPSP recommends, is to be put on hold
because some publishers have the 'conviction' that self-archiving
will destroy journals.

> ALPSP: "A policy of mandated self-archiving of research articles
> in freely accessible repositories, when combined with the ready
> retrievability of those articles through search engines (such as
> Google Scholar) and interoperability (facilitated by standards
> such as OAI-PMH), will accelerate the move to a disastrous
> scenario."

The objective evidence from 15 years of continuous self-archiving
by physicists (even longer by computer scientists) has in fact
tested this grim hypothesis; and this cumulative evidence affords
not the slightest hint of any move to a 'disastrous scenario.'
Throughout the past decade and a half, final drafts of hundreds of
thousands of articles have been made freely accessible and readily
retrievable by their authors (in some fields approaching 100% of
the research published). And these have indeed been extensively
accessed and retrieved and used and applied and cited by researchers
in those disciplines, exactly as their authors intended (and far
more extensively than articles for which the authors' drafts had
not been made freely accessible). Yet when asked, both of the large
physics learned societies (the Institute of Physics Publishing in
the UK and the American Physical Society) responded very explicitly
that they could identify no loss of subscriptions to their journals
as a result of this critical mass of self-archived and readily
retrievable physics articles (footnote 1). The ALPSP's doomsday
conviction does not gain in plausibility by merely being repeated,
ever louder.

Google Scholar and OAI-PMH do indeed make the self-archived supplements
more accessible to their would-be users, but that is the point: The
purpose of self-archiving is to maximise access to research
information. (Some publishers may still be in the habit of reckoning
that research is well-served by access-denial, but the providers
of that research -- the researchers themselves, and their funders
-- can perhaps be forgiven for reckoning, and acting, otherwise.)

> ALPSP: "Librarians will increasingly find that 'good enough'
> versions of a significant proportion of articles in journals are
> freely available; in a situation where they lack the funds to
> purchase all the content their users want [emphasis added] it is
> inconceivable that they would not seek to save money by cancelling
> subscriptions to those journals. As a result, those journals will
> die."

First, please note the implicit premise here: Where research
institutions 'lack the funds to purchase all the content their
researchers want,' the users (researchers) should do without that
content, and the providers (researchers) should do without the usage
and impact, rather than just giving it to one another, as the RCUK
proposes. And why? Because researchers giving their own research
to researchers who cannot afford the journal version will make the
journals die.

Second, RCUK-funded researchers publish in thousands of journals
all over the world -- the UK, Europe and North America. Their
publications, though important, represent the output of only a small
fraction of the world's research population. Neither research topics
nor research journals have national boundaries. Hence it is unlikely
that a 'significant proportion' of the articles in any particular
journal will become freely available purely as a consequence of the
RCUK policy.

Third, journals die and are born every year, since the advent of
journals. Their birth may be because of a new niche, and their
demise might be because of the loss or saturation of an old niche,
or because the new niche was an illusion. Scholarly fashions,
emphases and growth regions also change. This is ordinary intellectual
evolution plus market economics.

Fourth (and most important), as we have already noted, physics
journals already do contain a 'significant proportion' of articles
that have been self-archived in the physics repository, arXiv --
yet librarians have not cancelled subscriptions (footnote 1) despite
a decade and a half's opportunity to do so, and the journals continue
to survive and thrive. So whereas ALPSP may find it subjectively
'inconceivable,' the objective fact is that self-carving is not
generating cancellations, even where it is most advanced and has
been going on the longest.

Research libraries -- none of which can afford to subscribe to all
journals, because they have only finite journals budgets -- have
always tried to maximise their purchasing power, cancelling journals
they think their users need less, and subscribing to journals they
think their users need more. As objective indicators, some may use
(1) usage statistics (paper and online) and (2) citation impact
factors, but the final decision is almost always made on the basis
of (3) surveys of their own users' recommendations (footnote 2).
Self-archiving does not change this one bit, because self-archiving
is not done on a per-journal basis but on a per-article basis. And
it is done anarchically, distributed across authors, institutions
and disciplines. An RCUK mandate for all RCUK-funded researchers
to self-archive all their articles will have no net differential
effect on any particular journal one way or the other. Nor will
RCUK-mandated self-archiving exhaust the contents of any particular
journal. So librarians' money-saving and budget-balancing
subscription/cancellation efforts may proceed apace. Journals will
continue to be born and to die, as they always did, but with no
differential influence from self-archiving.

But let us fast-forward this speculation: The RCUK self-archiving
mandate itself is unlikely to result in any individual journal's
author-archived supplements rising to anywhere near 100%, but if
the RCUK model is followed (as is quite likely) by other nations
around the world, we may indeed eventually reach 100% self-archiving
for all articles in all journals. That would certainly be optimal
for research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and
the tax-paying public that funds the funders. Would it be disastrous
for journals? A certain amount of pressure would certainly be taken
off librarians' endless struggle to balance their finite journal
budgets: The yearly journal selection process would no longer be a
struggle for basic survival (as all researchers would have online
access to at least the author-self-archived supplements), but market
competition would continue among publisher-added-values, which
include (1) the paper edition and (2) the official, value-added,
online edition (functionally enriched with XML mark-up, citation
links, publisher's PDF, etc.). The market for those added values
would continue to determine what was subscribed to and what was
cancelled, pretty much as it does now, but in a stabler way, without
the mounting panic and desperation that struggling with balancing
researchers' basic inelastic survival needs has been carrying with
it for years now (the 'serials crisis').

If, on the other hand, the day were ever to come when there was no
longer a market for the paper edition, and no longer a market for
some of the online added-values, then surely the market can be
trusted to readjust to that new supply/demand optimum, with publishers
continuing to sell whatever added values there is still a demand
for. One sure added-value, for example, is peer review. Although
journals don't actually perform the peer review (researchers do it
for them, for free), they do administer it, with qualified expert
editors selecting the referees, adjudicating the referee reports,
and ensuring that authors revise as required. It is conceivable
that one day that peer review service will be sold as a separate
service to authors and their insitutions, with the journal-name
just a tag that certifies the outcome, instead of being bundled
into a product that is sold to users and their institutions. But
that is just a matter of speculation right now, when there is still
a healthy demand for both the paper and online editions. Publishing
will co-evolve naturally with the evolution of the online medium
itself. But what cannot be allowed to happen now is for researchers'
impact (and the public's investment and stake in it) to be held
hostage to the status quo, under the pretext of forestalling a
doomsday scenario that has no evidence to support it and all evidence
to date contradicting it.

> ALPSP: "The consequences of the destruction of journals' viability
> are very serious. Not only will it become impossible to support
> the whole process of quality control, including (but not limited
> to) peer review"

Notice that the doomsday scenario has simply been taken for granted
here, despite the absence of any actual evidence for it, and despite
all the existing evidence to the contrary. Because it is being
intoned so shrilly and with such 'conviction', it is to be taken
at face value, and we are simply to begin our reckoning with accepting
it as an unchallenged premise: but that premise is without any
objective foundation whatsoever.

As ALPSP mentions peer review, however, is this not the point to
remind ourselves that among the many (unquestionable) values that
the publisher does add, peer-review is a rather anomalous one, being
an unpaid service that researchers themselves are rendering to the
publisher gratis (just as they give their articles gratis, without
seeking any payment)?

As noted above, peer review and the certification of its outcome
could in principle be sold as a separate service to the author-institution,
instead of being bundled with a product to the subscriber-institution;
hence it is not true that it would be 'impossible to support' peer
review even if journals' subscription base were to collapse entirely.
But as there is no evidence of any tendency toward a collapse of
the subscription base, this is all just hypothetical speculation
at this point.

> ALPSP: "but in addition, the research community will lose all the
> other value and prestige which is added, for both author and
> reader, through inclusion in a highly rated journal with a clearly
> understood audience and rich online functionality."

Wherever authors and readers value either the paper edition or the
rich online functionality -- both provided only by the publisher
-- they will continue to subscribe to the journal as long as they
can afford it, either personally or through their institutional
library. As noted above, this clearly continues to be the case for
the physics journals that are the most advanced in testing the
waters of self-archiving. Publishers who add sufficient value create
a product that the market will pay for (by the definition of supply,
demand and sufficient-value). However, surely the interests of
research and the public that funds it are not best-served if those
researchers (potential users) who happen to be unable to afford the
particular journal in which the functionally enriched, value-added
version is published are denied access to the basic research finding
itself. Even more important and pertinent to the RCUK proposal: The
fundee's and funder's research should not be denied the impact
potential from all those researchers who cannot afford access.

Researchers have always given away all their findings (to their
publishers as well as to all requesters of reprints) so that other
researchers could further advance the research by using, applying
and building upon their findings. Access-denial has always limited
the progress, productivity and impact of science and scholarship.
Now the online age has at last made it possible to put an end to
this needless access-denial and resultant impact-loss; the RCUK is
simply the first to propose systematically applying the natural,
optimal, and inevitable remedy to all research output.

Whatever publisher-added value is truly value continues to be of
value when it co-exists with author self-archiving. Articles continue
to appear in journals, and the enriched functionality of the official
value-added online edition (as well as the paper edition) are still
there to be purchased. It is just that those who could not afford
them previously will no longer be deprived of access to the research
findings themselves

> ALPSP: "This in turn will deprive learned societies of an important
> income stream, without which many will be unable to support their
> other activities -- such as meetings, bursaries, research funding,
> public education and patient information -- which are of huge
> benefit both to their research communities and to the general
> public."

(Notice, first, that this is all still predicated on the truth of
the doomsday conviction -- 'that self-archiving will inevitably
destroy journals' -- which is contradicted by all existing evidence.)

But insofar as learned-societies 'other activieties' are concerned,
there is a very simple, straight-forward way to put the proposition
at issue: Does anyone imagine that -- if a trade-off, either/or
choice point were ever actually reached -- researchers would knowingly
and willingly choose to continue subsidising learned societies'
admirable good works -- meetings, bursaries, research funding,
public education and patient information -- at the cost of their
own lost research impact?

The ALPSP doomsday 'conviction', however, has no basis in evidence,
hence there no either/or choice needs to be made. All indications
to date are that learned societies will continue to publish journals
-- adding value and successfully selling that added-value -- in
peaceful co-existence with RCUK-mandated self-archiving. But entirely
apart from that, ALPSP certainly has no grounds for asking researchers
to renounce maximising their own research impact for the sake of
financing learned societies' good works (like meetings, bursaries
and public education) -- good works that could finance themselves
in alternative ways that were not parasitic on research progress,
if circumstances were ever to demand it

The ALPSP letter began by stating that the mission of ALPSP publisher
members is to 'disseminate and maximise access to research information'.
Some of the journal-publishing learned societies do indeed affirm
that this is their mission; yet by their restrictive publishing
practices they actively contradict it, and defend the resulting
inescapable contradiction by pleading a disaster scenario (very
like the one ALPSP repeatedly invokes) in the name of protecting
the publishing profits that support all of the society's other
activities. Yet this is not the attitude of forward-thinking,
member-oriented societies that understand properly what researchers
in their fields need and know how to deliver it. Here is a quote
from Dr Elizabeth Marincola, Executive Director of the American
Society for Cell Biology, a sizeable but not huge society (10,000
members; many US scientific and medical societies have over 100,000

    "I think the more dependent societies are on their publications,
    the farther away they are from the real needs of their
    members. If they were really doing good work and their
    members were aware of this, then they wouldn't be so fearful''
    When my colleagues come to me and say they couldn't possibly
    think of putting their publishing revenues at risk, I think
    'why haven't you been diversifying your revenue sources all
    along and why haven't you been diversifying your products
    all along?' The ASCB offers a diverse range of products so
    that if publications were at risk financially, we wouldn't
    lose our membership base because there are lots of other
    reasons why people are members." (Footnote 3)

This perfectly encapsulates why we should not be too credulous about
the dire warnings emanating from learned societies to the effect
that self-archiving will damage research and its dissemination. The
dissemination of research findings should, as avowed, be a high-priority
service for societies -- a direct end in itself, not just a trade
activity to generate profit so as to subsidise other activities,
at the expense of research itself.

> ALPSP: "The damaging effects will not be limited to UK-published
> journals and UK societies; UK research authors publish their work
> in the most appropriate journals, irrespective of the journals'
> country of origin."

The thrust of the above statement is rather unclear: The RCUK-mandated
self-archiving itself will indeed be distributed across all journals,
worldwide. Hence, if it had indeed been 'damaging', that damage
would likewise be distributed (and diluted) across all journals,
not concentrated on any particular journal. So what is the point
being made here?

But in fact there is no evidence at all that self-archiving is
damaging to journals, rather than co-existing peacefully with them;
and a great deal of evidence that it is extremely beneficial to
research, researchers, their institutions and their funders.

> ALPSP: "We absolutely reject unsupported assertions that
> self-archiving in publicly accessible repositories does not and
> will not damage journals. Indeed, we are accumulating a growing
> body of evidence that the opposite is the case [emphasis added],
> even at this early stage"

We shall now examine whose assertions need to be absolutely rejected
as unsupported, and whether there is indeed 'a growing body of
evidence that the opposite is the case'.

What follows is the ALPSP's 5 pieces of putative evidence in support
of their expressed 'conviction' that self-archiving will damage
journals. Please follow carefully, as the first two pieces of
evidence [1]-[2] -- concerning usage and citation statistics --
will turn out to be positive evidence rather than negative evidence,
and the last three pieces of evidence [3]-[5] -- concerning journals
that make all of their own articles free online -- turn out to have
nothing whatsoever to do with author self-archiving:

> ALPSP: "For example: [1] Increasingly, librarians are making use
> of COUNTER-compliant (and therefore comparable) usage statistics
> to guide their decisions to renew or cancel journals. The Institute
> of Physics Publishing is therefore concerned to see that article
> downloads from its site are significantly lower for those journals
> whose content is substantially replicated in the ArXiV repository
> than for those which are not."

How does example [1] show that 'the opposite is the case'? As has
already been reported above, the Institute of Physics Publishing
(UK) and the American Physical Society have both stated publicly
that they can identify no loss of subscriptions as a result of
nearly 15 years of self-archiving by physicists! (Moreover, publishers
and institutional repositories can and will easily work out a
collaborative system of pooled usage statistics, all credited to
the publisher's official version; so that is no principled obstacle

The easiest thing in the world for Institutional Repositories (IRs)
to provide to publishers (along with the link from the self-archived
supplement in the IR to the official journal version on the publisher's
website -- something that is already dictated by good scholarly
practice) is the IR download statistics for the self-archived version
of each article. These can be pooled with the download statistics
for the official journal version and all of it (rightly) credited
to the article itself. Another bonus that the self-archived supplements
already provide is enhanced citation impact -- of which it is not
only the article, the author, the institution and the funder who
are the co-beneficiaries, but also the journal and the publisher,
in the form of an enhanced journal impact factor (average citation
count). It has also been demonstrated recently that download impact
and citation impact are correlated, downloads in the first six
months after publication being predictive of citations after 2

All these statistics and benefits are there to be shared between
publishers, librarians and research institutions in a cooperative,
collaborative atmosphere that welcomes the benefits of self-archiving
to research and that works to establish a system that shares them
among the interested parties. Collaboration on the sharing of the
benefits of self-archiving is what learned societies should be
setting up meetings to do -- rather than just trying to delay and
oppose what is so obviously a substantial and certain benefit to
research, researchers, their institutions and funders, as well as
a considerable potential benefit to journals, publishers and
libraries. If publishers take an adversarial stance on self-archiving,
all they do is deny themselves of its potential benefits (out of
the groundless but self-sustaining 'conviction' that self-archiving
can inevitably bring them only disaster). Its benefits to research
are demonstrated and incontestable, hence will incontestably prevail.
(ALPSP's efforts to delay the optimal and inevitable will not redound
to learned societies' historic credit; the sooner they drop their
filibustering and turn to constructive cooperation and collaboration,
the better for all parties concerned.)

> ALPSP: "[2] Citation statistics and the resultant impact factors
> are of enormous importance to authors and their institutions;
> they also influence librarians' renewal/cancellation decisions.
> Both the Institute of Physics and the London Mathematical Society
> are therefore troubled to note an increasing tendency for authors
> to cite only the repository version of an article, without
> mentioning the journal in which it was later published."

Librarians' decisions about which journals to renew or cancel take
into account a variety of comparative measures, citation statistics
being one of them (footnote 2). Self-archiving has now been analysed
extensively and shown to increase journal article citations
substantially in field after field; so journals carrying self-archived
articles will have higher impact factors, and will hence perform
better under this measure in competing for their share of libraries'
serials budgets. This refutes example [2].

As to the proper citation of the official journal version: This is
merely a question of proper scholarly practice, which is evolving
and will of course adapt naturally to the new medium; a momentary
lag in scholarly rigour is certainly no argument against the practice
of self-archiving or its benefits to research and researchers.
Moreover, publishers and institutional repositories can and will
easily work out a collaborative system of pooled citation and
reference statistics -- all credited to the official published
version. So that is no principled obstacle either. This is all just
a matter of adapting scholarly practices naturally to the new medium
(and is likewise inevitable). It borders on the absurd to cite
something whose solution is so simple and obvious as serious grounds
for preventing research impact from being maximised by universal

> 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. The journal became fully Open Access this
> year, but offered a substantial reduction in the publication
> charge to those whose libraries maintained a print subscription;
> however, the drop in subscriptions has been far more marked than
> was anticipated."

This is a non-sequitur, having nothing to do with self-archiving,
one way or the other (as was already pointed out in the prior
rebuttal of APLSP's April critique of the RCUK proposal): This
example refers to an entire journal's contents -- the official
value-added versions, all being made freely accessible, all at once,
by the publisher -- not to the anarchic, article-by-article
self-archiving of the author's final draft by the author, which is
what the RCUK is mandating. This example in fact reinforces what
was noted earlier: that RCUK-mandated self-archiving does not single
out any individual journal (as OU Press did above with one of its
own) and drive its self-archived content to 100%. Self-archiving
is distributed randomly across all journals. Since journals compete
(somewhat) with one another for their share of each institution's
finite journal acquisitions budget, it is conceivable that if one
journal gives away 100% of its official, value-added contents online
and the others don't, that journal might be making itself more
vulnerable to differential cancellation (though not necessarily:
there are reported examples of the exact opposite effect too, with
the free online version increasing not only visibility, usage and
citations, but thereby also increasing subscriptions, serving as
an advertisement for the journal). But this is in any case no
evidence for cancellation-inducing effects of self-archiving, which
involves only the author's final drafts and is not focussed on any
one journal but randomly distributed across all journals, leaving
them to continue to compete for subscriptions amongst themselves,
on the basis of their relative merits, exactly as they did before.

> ALPSP: "[4] The BMJ Publishing Group has noted a similar effect;
> the journals that have been made freely available online on
> publication have suffered greatly increased subscription attrition,
> and access controls have had to be imposed to ensure the survival
> of these titles."

Exactly the same reply as above: The risks of making 100% of one
journal's official, value-added contents free online while all other
journals are not doing likewise has nothing whatosever to do with
anarchic self-archiving, by authors, of the final drafts of their
own articles, distributed randomly across journals.

> ALPSP: "[5] In the USA, the Institute for Operations Research and
> the Management Sciences found that two of its journals had, without
> its knowledge, been made freely available on the Web. For one
> of these, an established journal, they noted a subscriptions
> decline which was more than twice as steep as the average for
> their other established journals; for the other, a new journal
> where subscriptions would normally have been growing, they declined
> significantly. While the unauthorised free versions have now been
> removed, it is too early to tell whether the damage is permanent."

Exactly the same artifact as in the prior two cases. (The trouble
with self-generated Doomsday Scenarios is that they tend to assume
such a grip on the imagination that their propounders cannot
distinguish objective evidence from the 'corroboration' that comes
from merely begging the question or changing the subject!)

In all three examples, whole journals were made freely available,
all at once, in their entirety, along with all the added value and
rich online functionality that a journal provides. This is not at
all the same as authors self-archiving only their own final drafts
(which are simply their basic research reports), and doing so on a
single-article (rather than a whole-journal) basis. Yet the latter
is all that the RCUK proposes to mandate. Hence examples [3]-[5]
are really a misleading conflation of two altogether different
matters, creating the illusion of support for what is in fact an
untenable conclusion on which they actually have no bearing one way
or the other.

[Moreover -- even though it has nothing at all to do with what the
RCUK is mandating --if one does elect to look at evidence from
whole-journal open access then there are many more examples of
journals that have benefited from being made freely available:
Molecular Biology of the Cell's subscriptions, for example, have
grown steadily after free access was provided by its publisher, The
American Society for Cell Biology (footnote 3). That journal also
enjoys a high impact factor and healthy submissions by authors,
encouraged by the increased exposure their articles receive. The
same has happened for journals published by other societies (footnote

> ALPSP: "In addition, it is increasingly clear that this is exactly
> how researchers are already using search engines such as Scirus
> and Google Scholar: Greg R. Notess, Reference Librarian, Montana
> State University, in a recent article in Information Today (Vol
> 29, No 4) writes 'At this point, my main use of both [Scirus and
> Google Scholar] is for finding free Web versions of otherwise
> inaccessible published articles.'"

This is merely a repetition of ALPSP's earlier point about OAI and
Google Scholar. Reply: Yes, these wonderful new resources do increase
access to the self-archived supplements: but that's the point! To
maximise research access, usage and impact.

Other search engines that retrieve free access articles (such as
citebase, citeseer and OAIster) likewise serve the research community
by enabling any unsubscribed researchers to find and access drafts
of articles they could not otherwise use because they are accessible
only by subscription. ISI's Web of Knowledge and Elsevier's Scopus,
both paid services, find the authors' free versions as well as the
journals' subscription-only versions, which researchers can then
use whenever they or their institutions can afford subscription,
license, or pay-per-view access; Elsevier's Scirus, a free service,
likewise retrieves both, as does Google itself (if at least the
reference metadata are made web-accessible). All these services do
indeed help to maximise access, usage and impact, all to the benefit
of the impact of that small proportion of current research that
happens to be spontaneously self-archived already (15%). The RCUK
mandate will increase this benefit systematically to that remaining
85% of UK research output that is still only accessible today to
those who can afford the official journal version.

> ALPSP: "'I found a number of full-text articles via Google Scholar
> that are PDFs downloaded from a publisher site and then posted
> on another site, free to all.'"

This point, on the other hand, is not about author self-archiving,
but about pirating and bootleg of the publisher's official version.
RCUK is not mandating or condoning anything like that: The policy
pertains only to authors' own final drafts, self-archived by them
-- not to the published version poached by 3rd party consumers,
which is called theft. (Hence this point is irrelevant.)

> ALPSP: "'Both Scirus and Scholar were also useful for finding
> author-hosted article copies, preprints, e-prints, and other
> permutations of the same article.'"

Exactly as one would hope they would be, if one hopes to 'maximise
access to research'.

> ALPSP: "In the light of this growing evidence of serious and
> irreversible damage, each publisher must have the right to establish
> the best way of expanding access to its journal content that is
> compatible with continuing viability."

So far no evidence whatsoever of 'serious and irreversible damage'
(or indeed of any damage) caused by author self-archiving has been
presented by ALPSP. (This is unsurprising, because in reality no
such evidence exists, and all existing evidence is to the contrary.)

Of course publishers can and should do whatever they wish in order
to expand access to their journal content and remain viable. But
they certainly have no right to prevent researchers, their institutions
and their funders from likewise doing whatever they can and wish
in order to expand the access to, and the impact of, their own
research findings -- nor to expect them to agree to keep waiting
passively to see whether their publishers will one day maximise
their access and impact for them.

100% self-archiving is already known to be both doable and to enhance
research impact substantially; self-archiving has also been co-existing
peacefully with journals for over a decade and a half (including
in those fields where 100% self-archiving has already been reached)
; 100% self-archiving overall is already well overdue, and years'
worth of research impact have already been needlessly lost waiting
for it. ALPSP has given no grounds whatsoever for continuing this
delay for one moment longer. It has merely aired a doomsday scenario
of its own imagination and then adduced 'evidence' in its support
that is obviously irrelevant and defeasible.What is certain is that
research impact cannot be held hostage to publishers' anxieties,
simply on the grounds of their subjective intensity.

> ALPSP: "This is not best achieved by mandating the earliest
> possible self-archiving, and thus forcing the adoption of untried
> and uncosted publishing practices."

Self-archiving in October 2005 is not 'the earliest possible
self-archiving' It is self-archiving that is already at least a
decade overdue. And it has nothing to do with untried and uncosted
publishing practices: Self-archiving is not a publishing practice
at all; it is a researcher practice. And it has been tried and
tested -- with great success and great benefits for research progress
-- for over 15 years now. What is needed today is more self-archiving
-- 100% -- not more delay.

Or does the 'earliest possible' here refer not to when the RCUK
self-archiving mandate is at last implemented, but how early the
published article should be self-archived? If so, the answer from
the point of view of research impact and progress is unambiguous:
The final draft should be self-archived and made accessible to all
potential users immediately upon acceptance for publication (prefinal
preprint drafts even earlier, if the author wishes). No research
usage or progress should be held back arbitrarily for 3, 6, 12 or
more months, for any reason whatsoever.

It cannot be stressed enough just how crucial it is for RCUK to
resist any pressure to impose or allow any sort of access-denial
period, of any length, during which unpaid access to research
findings would be embargoed -- findings that the RCUK has paid for,
with public money, so that they can be immediately reported, used,
applied and built upon, for the benefit of the public that paid for
it, not so that they can be embargoed, for the benefit of assuaging
publishers' subjective fears about 'disaster scenarios' for which
there does not exist a shred of objective evidence. Any delay that
is allowed amounts to an embargo on research productivity and
progress, at the expense of the interests of the tax-paying public.
That is exactly what happened recently to the US National Institutes
of Health's public access policy, setting US research access and
impact back several years.

Fortunately, there is a simple compromise that will completely
immunise the RCUK mandate from any possibility of being rendered
ineffectual in this way:

  What all RCUK-funded researchers should be required to self-archive
  in their own Institutional Repositories (IRs) immediately upon
  acceptance for publication are:

    (1) each article's metadata
    (author name, date, article title, journal name, etc.).


    (2) each article's final draft (full-text)

  That fulfills the RCUK requirement. The access-setting, however,
  can then be given two options:

    (OA) Open Access
    (both the metadata and the full-text are made
    freely accessible to everyone webwide)

    or (IA) Institutional Access
    (the metadata are freely accessible webwide but the full-text is
    made accessible only to the fundee's institution, its employees,
    and its funders, such as the RCUK and RAE, for record-keeping,
    grant-fulfillment and performance-assessment purposes).

  The RCUK fundee is strongly encouraged (but not required) to set
  access to OA immediately.

As 90% of journals have already given article self-archiving their
official green light, 90% of articles can have their access set to
OA immediately. For the remaining 10%, the author can set access
to IA initially, but of course each article's metadata (author,
title, journal, etc.) will immediately be openly accessible webwide
to all would-be users, just as the metadata of the OA 90% are.
That's enough data so that would-be users can immediately email the
author for an 'eprint' (the author's final draft) if they cannot
afford to access the journal version. The author can keep emailing
eprints to each would-be user until either the remaining 10% of
journals update their policy or the author tires of doing all those
needless keystrokes and sets articleaccess to OA. In the meanwhile,
however, 100% of RCUK-funded research will be immediately accessible
webwide, 90% of it directly, and 10% of it with author mediation,
maximising its access and impact. Nature can take care of the rest
at its leisure.

> ALPSP: "It is clearly unrealistic to consult adequately with all
> those likely to be affected over the summer holiday period, and
> we therefore urge you to extend the consultation period and to
> defer, for at least 12 months, the introduction of any mandate
> for authors to self-archive. In the meantime, we would like to
> take up RCUK's expressed willingness to engage with both publishers
> and learned societies, beginning with a meeting in early September
> with representatives of ALPSP; we propose one of the following
> dates: 5th September, 6th September, 7th September, 8th September
> We look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience. Yours
> sincerely Sally Morris, Chief Executive"

The consultation has been going on since long before 'the summer
holiday period' and there has already been far more delay and far
more research impact needlessly lost than anyone can possibly
justify. Some members of the publishing community are quite leisurely
about continuing to prolong this needless loss of research impact
and progress in order to continue debating, but the research community
itself is not (as indicated, for example, by the ill-fated demand
for open access -- by a deadline of September 1, 2001 -- on the
part of the 34,000 researchers who signed the PloS petition).

RCUK should go ahead and implement its immediate-self-archiving
mandate, with no further delay or deferral, and then meet with ALPSP
and other interested parties to discuss and plan how the UK
Institutional Repositories can collaborate with journals and their
publishers in pooling download and citation statistics, and in other
other ways of sharing the benefits of maximising UK research access
and impact. Any further pertinent matters and developments can be
discussed as well -- but not at the cost of further delaying what
is indisputably the optimal and inevitable (and long overdue) outcome
for research, researchers, their institutions, and their funders
-- and for the public, which funds the research on the understanding
that its use and applications are meant to be maximised to benefit
the public's interests, not minimised to protect other parties'
from imaginary threats to their interests.

(A shorter UK version of this critique -- --
has been co-signed by the following UK senior researchers [in
boldface] and sent as hard copy to the recipients of the ALPSP
statement. The present longer analysis has also been co-signed by
some prominent international supporters of the RCUK initiative.)

Tim Berners-Lee (UK, Southampton & US, MIT)
Dave De Roure (UK, Southampton)
Stevan Harnad (UK, Southampton & Canada, UQaM)
Derek Law (UK, Strathclyde)
Peter Murray-Rust (UK, Cambridge)
Charles Oppenheim (UK, Loughborough)
Nigel Shadbolt (UK, Southampton)
Yorick Wilks (UK, Sheffield)

Subbiah Arunachalam (India, MSRF)
Helene Bosc (France, INRA, ret.)
Fred Friend (UK, University College, London)
Andrew Odlyzko (US, University of Minnesota)
Arthur Sale (Australia, University of Tasmania)
Peter Suber (US, Earlham)


1. Swan, A (2004). Re: Open Access vs. NIH Back Access and Nature's
Back-Sliding. American Scientist Open Access Forum: 3 February 2005.

2. Personal communication from a UK University Library Director:
'I know of no HE library where librarians make cancellation or
subscription decisions. Typically they say to the department/faculty
'We have to save X,000" from your share of the serials budget: what
do you want to cut?'. These are seen as academic --not metrics-driven
-- judgements, and no librarian makes those academic judgements,
as they are indefensible in Senate' [S]uch decisions are almost
always wholly subjective, not objective, and have nothing to do
with the existence or otherwise of repositories.'

3. The society lady: an interview with Elizabeth Marincola. Open
Access Now: 6 October 2003

4. Walker, T (2002) Two societies show how to profit by providing
free access. Learned Publishing 15: 279-284.

    Copies of ALPSP open letter were also sent to: The Lord Sainsbury
    of Turville Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Science
    and Innovation Department of Trade and Industry, Professor Sir
    Keith O'Nions Director General of Research Councils Office of
    Science and Technology Dr. Astrid Wissenburg RCUK Secretariat,
    Professor Colin Blakemore Medical Research Council, Frances
    Marsden Arts and Humanities Research Council, Professor Julia
    Goodfellow Biotechnology and Biological Research Council,
    Professor Richard Wade Particle Physics & Astronomy Research
    Council, Professor Alan Thorpe Natural Environment Research
    Council, Professor John O'Reilly Engineering and Physical
    Sciences Research Council, Professor John Wood Council for the
    Central Laboratory of the Research Councils, Andrea Powell Chair
    of ALPSP Council, (Director of Publishing, CAB International)
Received on Thu Aug 25 2005 - 20:08:31 BST

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