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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 18:54:44 EDT

On Wed, 28 Sep 2005 eugene.garfield_at_THOMSON.COM wrote:

> 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?

Dear Gene, good to hear from you!

No, our studies did not analyse the location of the citing authors, nor
their institutional journal holdings. Such a study would be possible, but
rather complicated, and I am not sure it would be necessary. I think the
sizeable citation advantage for the self-archived articles speaks for
itself, without the need to confirm that the increased usage indeed comes
from those who did not have institutional access.

> 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.

That was true in the days of Current Contents, when the only way to
supplement institutional access was to mail paper reprints to
reprint-requesters. But today, when one can provide help-yourself eprints
to any would-be user webwide, it is very likely that the proportions have
changed. The core journals and institutions are still the core journals
and institutions, both for subscriptions and for use, but the size of the
potential-user population whose access-denial can now be remedied is far,
far larger. Surely you don't think *every* potential user and citer
already has institutional access to *every* article they may wish to use
and cite? The rest is just about how many, where...

> Am I mistaken in making this assumption.

Not at all. Perhaps only about the size of a webwide open-access effect.

> 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

I will let the researchers from the "poorer institutions" speak for
themselves! But I suspect that it's not true that even the richest
institutions have everything they need -- either in terms of access as
users or impact as authors (the latter being dependent on the access of
*others*), nor that it is quite as closed a circle as it may have appeared
from the old statistics in paper days.

But, when all is said and done, an increased citation rate of 50-250%
speaks for itself, regardless of its provenance (rich/poor,
core/non-core). The finer-scale analysis of where the enhanced usage is
coming from and going will all be done in good time. The urgent priority
right now is fast-forwarding the self-archiving rate from its current 15%
level to the 100% where it should be, and should long have been. That will
ensure that we stop losing the benefits. Then we can, at our leisure,
count and classify the ways we've all benefitted.

See "Sitting Pretty":

Best wishes,
Received on Thu Sep 29 2005 - 00:59:51 BST

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