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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 24 Sep 2005 17:54:43 +0100

On Sat, 24 Sep 2005, Sally Morris (ALPSP) wrote:

> Not sure there is any point continuing this but, for what it's worth,
> increased citations do not self-evidently equate with increased return on
> research investment.
> Those who have ears to hear have, I think, already heard. I will post no
> more on the topic of fantasy economics.

On the subject of fantasy economics (for those with ears to hear),
I quote Sally Morris when she is citing usage and citations on the
subject of her speculations about potential revenue loss for publishers:

    Sally Morris: 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."
    [See reply:]

    Sally Morris: "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."
    [See reply:]

In other words, when usage and citations are being cited as evidence of
hypothetical losses to publishers, they are not fantasy economics. But
when they are cited as evidence of actual losses to research and
researchers, they are fantasy economics.

As it happens, the only fantasy in all of this is Sally Morris's own
fantasy "that RCUK's proposed [mandatory self-archiving] policy will
inevitably lead to the destruction of journals." As already pointed out
at length (for those with ears to hear), Sally adduces *zero* evidence
in support of her fantasy. All objective evidence to date is for peaceful
co-existence between journal publishing and self-archiving.
[See reply:]

The rest is not fantasy, but facts, among them the worth of a citation to
a researcher

    Diamond, A., 1986. What is a citation worth? Journal of Human
    Resources 21, 200-215.

and, still more important, the return, in number of citations, per pound
spent on research by RCUK:

    Data-based estimate of 760,000 annual citations (on UK's 130,000
    annual articles for RCUK's 3.5 billion pounds invested annually =
    0.000217 citations per pound [Source: ISI Web of Science]

    Data-based estimate of 50%-250% increase of citations for self-archived

    Data-based estimate that only 15% of articles are being self-archived today

    Therefore: 85% x 50% of 760,000 citations = 323,000 citations lost at
    0.000217 citations per pound = 1.5 billion pounds worth of citations
    lost if not self-archived -- and gained if RCUK mandates self-archiving.

It is a real head-shaker that Sally continues to find subjective
imagination-based predictions of revenue loss to publishers as a result
of self-archiving to be non-fantasy, while she finds objective data-based
estimates of researcher revenue as well as return on research investment
to researchers, research and the public to be fantasy.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Sat Sep 24 2005 - 19:09:36 BST

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