Re: ALPSP's Facts About OA Report

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 13 Oct 2005 21:04:43 +0100

On Thu, 13 Oct 2005, Sally Morris (ALPSP) wrote:

> As far as the 'self-archiving' route to OA is concerned, I must have
> explained our concern a hundred times; let me spell it out yet again:
> Let us assume that self-archiving mandates become widespread, and that
> tools such as Google Scholar make self-archived articles as easy to
> discover as the published versions.
> Then if free substitute versions are available for all or most of the
> content of a given journal, and if these are used by library patrons in
> preference to the published version, the rational librarian will not
> purchase the published version

But if, as all the studies to date show, library patrons use the library
licensed published version for those articles that their libraries can
afford, and use the author's self-archived OA version for those they
cannot, what is Sally's and ALPSP's rationale for keeping them deprived of
the articles their libraries cannot afford? and for keeping the authors
of those articles deprived of that usage and impact? Is the rationale
that the need to protect publishers' from any possibility of risk of
a decline in subscription revenues (for which there does not yet exist
even a single shred of evidence today ) takes precedence over all these
author and user needs -- over all of these *research* needs?

Nor do subscriptions and cancellations depend primarily on the "rational
librarian": they depend on their user/author communities, who are not
calling for cancellations, but for access to what their libraries cannot
afford, and for the impact that their own articles lose, from users at other
institutions whose libraries cannot afford the journal they were published

> If subscriptions fall dramatically, journals will no longer be viable and
> will cease publication

Repeating this "a hundred times" and a hundred times more does not make it one
whit more a statement of actual fact, rather than the counterfactual "if/then"
conjecture that it is, and continues to be, with not a shred of evidence to
support the "if."

I advise Sally to attend the STM session in Frankfurt next week in which
Michael Kurtz of astrophysics of Harvard will be presenting the data
of Edwin Henneken on usage by astrophysicists, showing how they switch
from using the preprint to using the publisher's published version as
soon as it is available -- except those who cannot afford access, who
continue to use the self-archived postprint.

> If journals are no longer there to carry out their current functions (not
> just the management of peer review, but also
> selection/refinement/collection of content of particular relevance to a
> given community of interest) that will be a great loss to scholarship

So would every other negative if/then counterfactual that I or Sally
or Pascal or anyone else could dream up, but that doesn't make their
if-premises any truer either, not even after being repeated thousands
of times. And the more use raise the hypothetical ante, the more ominous
it sounds -- without becoming one bit truer.

    "Pascal's Wager and Open Access"

So let me say it straight out: All evidence is that what is in the best interests of
the research community and what is in the best interests of the publisher community
can co-exist peacefully with self-archiving. But if there ever were a conflict of
interest, there is no doubt whatsoever about the direction in which it would have
to be resolved: the dog (research production), not the tail (research publishing).

> I do not argue that society or indeed other publishers have any right to
> continue to perform their current function. I'm just pointing out that they
> may be unable to do so if self-archiving sweeps the board as some would
> like it to do. That is why we are urging caution to those who would
> mandate immediate self-archiving.

Self-archiving mandates are not for "sweeping the board," they are
for providing access to those researchers who *actually* can't afford
it today, and thereby providing their lost impact to the research and
researchers that are actually losing it today. The sweepingly overboard
statements about counterfactual disaster scenarios, in contrast, are
coming from those who are trying to protect actual, unchanged publisher
revenue streams from counterfactual, hypothetical risk, at the cost of
certain and sizeable benefits to research, researchers, their institutions,
their funders, and the public that funds their research -- i.e., the canid
rather than its queue.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Oct 13 2005 - 21:46:40 BST

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