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

From: <eugene.garfield_at_THOMSON.COM>
Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 14:57:09 -0400

Dear Stevan: There seems to me to be problem with your estimates of increased citation due to lack of author self-archiving. Have you determined what percentage of citations are made by authors at institutions that cannot afford access to the journals?

It would seem to me, from previous experience, that the group of institutions that account for a large percentage of the publications and subsequent citations, are the ones that can afford and do have access to the journals which account for the largest percentage of pubs and cites.

Am I mistaken in making this assumption.

So how will the citations increase if it is mainly the poorer institutions that benefit from free access. Just because you provide access to journals does not mean that you have made it possible to do more research. I of course support the idea of access but see it as of great educational value to those in the poorer nations. We must also promote increased support for research in those countries if we are to see increased citation. Best wishes. Gene Garfield

When responding, please attach my original message
Eugene Garfield, PhD. email:
home page:
Tel: 215-243-2205 Fax 215-387-1266

-----Original Message-----
From: American Scientist Open Access Forum [mailto:AMERICAN-SCIENTIST-OPEN-ACCESS-FORUM_at_LISTSERVER.SIGMAXI.ORG] On Behalf Of Stevan Harnad
Sent: Saturday, September 24, 2005 9:57 PM
Subject: Re: Maximising the Return on UK's Public Investment in Research

Letter to Times Higher Education Supplement for publication concerning:

    Laura Barnett and Hanna Hindstrom, "All research to go online,"
    Times Higher Education Supplement, September 23, 2004

The Research Councils UK have proposed to mandate that all RCUK fundees
make their articles openly accessible online by self-archiving them on
the web. In disappointingly inaccurate THES article ('All research to
go online' Sep 23), the authors get most of the important details wrong.
They write:

    THES: '[A] benefit of online *open access publishing* [italics mine]
    would be that academics and researchers would no longer have to
    rely on their institutions to provide access to articles published
    in subscription-only journals.'

Not only is it not open access publishing but open access self-archiving
(of their articles published in subscription-only journals) that the
RCUK is mandating for their researchers, but this does not mean that
their researchers will no longer rely on their institutions to provide
access to the journals they subscribe to: How could my giving away my own
published articles online provide me with access to the articles in the
journals my institution subscribes to? I give my articles away so other
researchers worldwide whose institutions cannot afford to subscribe to
the journals my articles were published in can nevertheless access and
use them. That is how it (1) maximises my own research impact, and, far
more important, also (2) maximizes the return on the British public's
yearly 3.5 billion investment in research.

But the THES article misquotes me on (1):

    THES ("quoting" SH): 'if citations rose by 50 to 250 per cent because
    of online *open-access publishing* [sic, again: italics mine, but
    not the words] researchers could gain more than 2.5 million a year
    in potential salary increases, grants and funding renewals'

and simply leaves out completely (2) the far more important loss of 1.5
billion in returns (in the form of at least 50% more citations) on the
British public's yearly 3.5 billion pound investment in research. Nor
is this an if/then pipe-dream: The projections are based on objective,
published measurements of the degree to which self-archiving increases
research impact.

But by far the worst inaccuracy in the THES article -- and it really does
a disservice to those who pin their hopes on the RCUK policy for
maximising British research impact -- is the gratuitous exaggeration of
what is currently a real but remediable flaw in the wording of the RCUK
proposal. The current draft says

    RCUK: 'Deposit should take place at the earliest opportunity,
    wherever possible at or around the time of publication.'

But the THES article instead says:

    THES: 'Under the proposals from Research Councils UK, published work
    would not necessarily go online immediately. Academics and publishers
    would be allowed a grace period, which could last anywhere from a
    few months up to several years. The publisher would determine the
    exclusion period...'

This is utter nonsense, and it would make a nonsense of the RCUK policy,
if this were indeed the form it took. The RCUK's current language simply
needs to be made more precise:

    SH: 'Deposit must take place immediately upon acceptance for
    publication, and access should be made open at the earliest

(In the meanwhile, the article is visible, and the authors can email
e-prints of it to all those e-print-requesters whose institutions cannot
access it, thereby still maximising its impact, but with more keystrokes
than would be most efficient.)

The 8 co-signatories of the open letter in support of the RCUK policy,
including the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, are quoted
correctly on this, but the THES authors don't seem notice that what
they said is contradicted by the letter:

    TB-L et al: 'We believe the RCUK should go ahead and implement its
    immediate [italics mine] self-archiving mandate, without delay.'

(More trivially, the THES authors name 4 universities, corresponding
to one each of 4 of the 8 co-signatories, but omit Southampton, the
university of all 4 of the remaining co-signatories, including Sir Tim!)

The last piece of nonsense is this:

    THES: 'Universities are not obliged to implement a repository system,
    which costs about 80,000 to set up and about 40,000 a year in

This too is based on a flaw in the current wording of the policy, which
actually says that the articles

    RCUK: 'should be deposited in an appropriate e-print repository
    (either institutional or subject-based) wherever such a repository
    is available to the award-holder.'

But the cost of creating and maintaining a repository is in reality less
than 10% of the arbitrary and inflated figures cited by THES.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Sep 28 2005 - 20:53:16 BST

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