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

From: David Goodman <David.Goodman_at_LIU.EDU>
Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 22:17:46 -0400

I can contribute the experience Stevan asks for--and at both economic ends
of the spectrum.

Previously, I was associated as Biology Librarian with one of the richest of all
universities, with the library treated fairly generously by comparative standards.
Over the period 1990-2001, I found it necessary to cancel
about one-third of our journals (considering unique titles only, not duplicates
made almost obsolete by e-journals. ) Lacking schools of medicine, agriculture,
or natural resources, almost no material in these subjects could be purchased.

Our excellent very fast document delivery service,
provided same-day or next-day delivery of several thousand articles a year.
 Good as it was, it was not instantaneous. I estimated at the time that the
use of the journals requested would have increased about five-fold if owned.

If this was the state of one of the research libraries in one of the very
best research universities, the situation surely would not have been better elsewhere.
Open Access to research journals material would have permitted considerable staff
saving, greater user satisfaction, and undoubtedly more efficient user work. This must
have been true almost everywhere else.

I now teach at a small university, where the Library Science program is one of the only
two doctoral programs, and consequently relatively well provided for. The other subjects
are not. In order to give a realistic course in science reference work, it is necessary to
teach the subject at a cooperative university in the nearest urban center. The undergraduates
at my institution cannot possibly receive a good training in the library side of research. The
faculty travel to major university libraries periodically, in spite of the inconvenience. Such
was the best practical way to access material in 1805 or even 1905; it is not in 2005.
Current Contents was wonderful in 1965; much better can be expected forty years later.

Some of the benefits of OA can be specified in monetary terms, but many of its
advantages can be quantified only indirectly. It is artifical to measure the value
in terms of a single country. It will help wealthy countries with
thriving research activity, and small countries without. The benefits of OA are
for all authors and all readers in rich and poor educational instiututions,
and also those without such affiliation. It will help research in private enterprises as well as
public institutions. It will improve the service being offered by all libraries. It will benefit
the general public. Properly organized, it should also benefit the publishers. Stevan is
right that it is important to do it rapidly. It should be done right now as best we can,
but it so important that it should also be done so it can be readily improved later.

Even not considering monetary values, education, research, libraries, and OA are of
obvious benefit to all. There was a time when many people were illiterate, though
now we regard literacy as a basic right. It will be similarly for OA.

Dr. David Goodman

-----Original Message-----
From: on behalf of Stevan Harnad
Sent: Wed 9/28/2005 6:54 PM
To: American Scientist Open Access Forum
Subject: Re: Maximising the Return on UK's Public Investment in Research
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 - 04:06:57 BST

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