Re: Critique of Research Fortnight article on RCUK policy proposal

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2005 20:57:51 +0100

On Mon, 19 Sep 2005, [identity deleted] wrote:

>> SH: (1) It's not an "argument," it is evidence: 14 years
>> of self-archiving in the area where it is most advanced --
>> hence the best predictor of what is and is not likely to happen
>> elsewhere -- physics, in which some areas already reached 100%
>> self-archiving a number of years ago: No increased cancellations,
>> peaceful co-existence, active collaboration between both of the
>> learned societies involved -- the American Physical Society and
>> the Institute of Physics, on the one hand, and the self-archiving
>> research community and their archive (Arxiv) on the other hand.
> Have you spoken to any physics librarians recently?
> The ones I [have spoken] to don't see it like that at all. They see
> the current scenario, whereby they are paying for subscriptions, and yet
> much of the content is OA via the ArXiV, as inherently a broken model
> that needs to change. They see the value in peer review, and see that
> someone needs to to pay for the service that journals provide. But they
> do not wish to be held to ransom over subscription prices, and do not
> wish to be limited in what they can and can't do with the final version
> of the article.
> They haven't de-subscribed en masse yet because they are a conservative
> bunch, don't want to burn their bridges too soon, don't want to cause
> unnecessary turmoil for journals, and think that coordinated action
> is needed.
> But they're very keen to see change in the model by which journals
> are funded, away from subscriptions, and will do whatever they can to
> make it happen.

I'm not quite sure of the thrust of what you are saying.

(1) The objective *evidence* is not what librarians are *saying* but
what they are/aren't *doing*; and after 14 years, they are still not
cancelling physics journals.

(2) This is not surprising, since, as repeatedly pointed out (e.g.
by Derek Law), it is not really librarians who decide whether or not to
cancel journals, but researchers -- and physicists are not asking their
librarians to cancel their journals even though they use mostly Arxiv.

(3) Librarians don't just deal with physics journals, hence they don't
just *talk* about physics journals when they talk about "being held
ransom" -- they are talking about all their journal holdings.

(4) Self-archiving will not free librarians from the demands on their
budgets; it will free researchers from access-denial to their research.
And it will free both researchers and librarians from the current
life/death *urgency* of acquisitions/cancellations decisions.

(5) Self-archiving is not in the hands of librarians; it is in the hands
of researchers. Librarians' views on it would carry no weight whatsoever
-- except for one thing: Silly talk (by *some* librarians) like the above
(which talk, to repeat, is not coupled with any objective actions on the
part of librarians) *could* help to keep some researchers in their current
state of paralysis and stupour about self-archiving.

(5) Is that the objective?

(6) If not, why are we talking about this?

Stevan Harnad

P.S. If some librarians are silly, most researchers are more than silly,
and they are the real culprits for the grotesquely late arrival of 100%
OA. The mandates will solve this at last, but this is not the time for
librarians, who were initially part of the solution, to make themselves
part of the problem.
Received on Mon Sep 19 2005 - 21:29:52 BST

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