Re: Maximising the Return on UK's Public Investment in Research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2005 12:14:22 +0100

On Fri, 16 Sep 2005, [Identity Deleted: engineer for medium-sized UK
industry] wrote:

> Professor Harnad,
> A very good paper. I would like to point out one major group of people
> who are excluded from access to published research - staff working in
> industry. Obviously there are some companies which are heavily research
> oriented, for example drug companies, and who therefore subscribe to
> a range of journals. However, outside this small group of companies
> developers are excluded from direct access to new research results.

You are quite right. And this is why I said that my estimate of loss -- which is
based only on lost citations in peer-reviewed journals -- is an under-estimate:
because it leaves out the loss from inaccessibility to potential users who might
have made practical *applications* of the research findings, rather than writing a
further research paper citing them:

    "And that is without even considering the wider loss in revenue from
    potential practical applications and usage of UK research findings
    in the UK and worldwide, nor the still more general loss to the
    progress of human inquiry."

Industry tends to be mentioned in this context only as deep pockets
that can afford subscriptions. But of course there is also a good deal
of industry that cannot afford subscriptions, just as many research
institutions cannot afford subscriptions to most journals -- and none,
not even the Harvards, can afford access to all, most, or even many out
of the total of c. 24,000 research journals published. Self-archiving
is intended to supplement the affordable paid access for the would-be
users among the Have-Nots who cannot afford it.

(I personally find it crude and crass to speak of "wealth-creation" as the
rationale and justification for supporting research and Learned Inquiry,
but as that is, alas, the idiom in vogue today, the case for OA can,
fortunately, be made purely in "wealth-creation" terms too. Hence all the
hype about losses in potential impact-income.)

> It would take a bit of digging to try and quantify the loss to the
> economy. Clearly companies are not failing due to lack of access to
> current research, but since so much research is funded on the basis
> that it is of economic benefit there must be some impact if access by
> industry is restricted to the research departments of a small number of
> vary large companies. It's SMEs [Small/Medium-sized Industries] that have
> the highest probability of picking up and exploiting a new idea.

You are right that it is hard to quantify, but I suspect you are also
right in your inference.

Stevan Harnad

> Principal Engineer
> [Identity Deleted] Limited
> Registered in England...
Received on Mon Sep 19 2005 - 12:55:14 BST

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