Re: Critique of Research Fortnight article on RCUK policy proposal

From: Sally Morris (ALPSP) <"Sally>
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 2005 14:03:11 +0100

On 16 September Stevan Harnad said on this listserv:

"[Research Fortnight]††† The Institute of Physics has already seen
article downloads from its site diminish for journals whose content is
substantially†replicated in a repository, says ALPSP.
[SH rejoinder]†† This statement is false, and is the exact opposite of
what the Institute†of Physics has said (Swan & Brown 2005)"

I was correctly paraphrased by the Research Fortnight journalist;† my
statement (in our letter to RCUK), which he claims was false, was
actually as follows:

"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."†

The IOP evidence to which I referred was publicised by them on 5th
September in a posting from Ken Lillywhite†to various listservs, of which
I assume Stevan was aware.† For completeness I will repeat it here:

"Recent claims made by some of those who advocate the mandatory deposit
of published articles in institutional and†subject repositories prompt us
to correct and clarify the relationship between physics journals and the
physics†e-print archive(arXiv).†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
It has been claimed that because physics publishers have co-existed with
the arXiv over the past 14 years,†publishers have nothing to fear about
the future. We take the opportunity to point out that the past is not
always a good predictor of futureperformance.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
Ever since the launch of the physics e-print archive in 1991, authors
publishing in IOP Publishing journals have†had the choice to post their
preprints to the service.† However, we do note that article downloads
from our site are significantly lower for those journals whose content is
substantially replicated in the arXiv repository than†for those which are
not, after usage statistics have been normalized to take account of
journal size.††††††††††††††
Usage statistics (e.g., ProjectCOUNTER) are now increasingly used as a
'value for money' measure in the library†††
community and elsewhere.† Clearly, as usage statistics become more
commonplace, it would be only natural for††††††
cash-strapped librarians to conclude that subscriptions to low-use ^÷
albeit high-quality, peer-reviewed ^÷ journals
are no longer necessary.† In this situation subscription-based journals
published by a learned society such as††††
ourselves would become economically unviable."

What's more, there is anecdotal evidence that some librarians, at least,
do have both the power and the inclination to cancel subscriptions to
journals which are not being used.† See, for example, Bob Michaelson's
(Northwestern University) posting to PAMNET on†15 September:

"Surely you know that physicists use the free depository arXiv as their
primary source for physics information†- to such an extent that some
long-established physics journals such as Nuclear Physics now have
scarcely any readers (we know this because we have the online
statistics)...†"†† Bob subsequently confirmed to me that he does, indeed,
use low usage statistics as one reason for cancellation.

I am assured that the IOP spokesperson to whom Alma Swan spoke included
the all-important word 'yet' - as in 'we have not seen greater
cancellations yet'.†† Other publishers tell me that they have†also
observed†significantly lower usage for journals most of whose content can
be found in arXiv.

Thus my statement was not false.† If Stevan had been aware of the
evidence upon which it was based, as I assume he was, then he should have
known†that my statement†was not false and should, I feel, apologise
publicly to ALPSP in consequence.


Sally Morris, Chief Executive
Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
South House, The Street, Clapham, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3UU, UK
Tel:† +44 (0)1903 871 686
Fax:† +44 (0)1903 871 457
Received on Wed Oct 05 2005 - 17:52:39 BST

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