Re: Publish OA if you can - self-archive either way

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 17 Oct 2005 21:30:56 +0100

On Mon, 17 Oct 2005, Velterop, Jan Springer UK wrote:

> You write: "[Self-archiving] *Hasn't* harmed journals to date (after 14
> years). That's what the *evidence* is (or isn't). The rest is
> predictions and speculations".
> If it isn't used for prediction, what's the use of evidence? To
> establish that the past was as the past was?

Jan, one moment's reflection on the *content* of what I said, rather than
merely its arbitrary form, would make it clear that the *evidence* is:
no correlation. Hence the evidence-based prediction is: no causation.
And the non-evidence-based prediction/speculation is: no, no, causation
anyway, contrary to the evidence.

> You apply a certain logic -- let's call it Harnadian logic -- to turn
> lack of material evidence that for more than a decade self-archiving in
> physics leads to cancellations of physics journals, into evidence that
> self-archiving does not lead to cancellations, and you extrapolate that
> to areas other than physics.

There is neither Harnadian logic nor Harnadian empiricism here (nor

Self-archiving has not caused cancellations for 14 years now (even
after having reached 100% in some subfields), in physics (or computer
science). Natural inference: It hasn't so far, so it won't.

So far that inference is identical to Newton's, that apples fall down,
not up, as so far that's the only way they've ever fallen. You may
reply: "Ah, that's only on earth." But then go find apples (or anything)
that full up rather than down, anywhere. Till then, all you have is a
counterfactual speculation (plus the banal fact that mere evidence-to-date
is never the same as proof that the pattern will hold everywhere,

But, in the meantime, I note also that there is self-archiving at 15% in
other fields too, and still no evidence of correlation or cancellation.

(And I note, dear Jan, that you seem to be devoting considerable energy
to arguing for the danger inherent in the practise -- self-archiving --
that you in your last email purported to support...)

> Let's apply Harnadian logic to this:
> After more than a decade, "only 15% of authors are self-archiving [this
> includes physics, I presume. JV], even though 100% could". A small
> minority by any standards and an even smaller minority outside the realm
> of physics. This is empirical and uncontrovertible evidence that
> Academia doesn't see open access as an important priority at all.

(1) The 15% average includes physics, but physics itself is not at 15%
but higher, with some sub-areas -- especially HEP -- already at 100%
for years now.

(2) Estimates of the percentage of self-archiving by discipline, see: (for physics only:
    other fields are based on minuscule sample-sizes) (for
    other disciplines, with good-sized samples)

(3) If you now look at growth rates, you will see that that 15% has
not been stationary across the past decade. It has been growing:

(4) What is certainly true is that it has not been growing nearly fast

(5) However, in the 5 institutions that already have self-archiving
mandates, it has grown far faster, and is approaching or has even passed

(6) The conclusion is that mandates are needed to get self-archiving to
grow, and they work.

(7) We had already empirical evidence that this would be the case,
from the two Swan & Brown surveys, in which researchers responded that
mandates *would* work (and only mandates would work, as, although they
would like OA, most are not prepared to do anything about until/unless
self-archiving is mandated by their employers or funders).

(8) And we already had empirical evidence against your counterfactual
hypothesis that "Academia doesn't see open access as an important
priority at all" from, among other things, the 34,000 signatures on the
PLoS petition, demanding OA from their publishers (and threatening to
stop publishing with, refereeing for or reading their journals if they
don't get it.)

(9) The aftermath of the PLoS petition -- the journals did not respond
to the boycott threat and the signers did not carry out their threat
either -- does, I will grant you, cast some doubt on whether researchers
are to be taken at their word, but I am afraid that applies just as much
to the form of OA you are promoting (OA publishing) as to the form I am
promoting (OA self-archiving).

(10) My conclusion is simple: Researchers really do mean it when they say
they want and need OA, because (1) we know they want and need citation
impact and (2) we know that OA increases citation impact substantially.
So their employers and funders should mandate OA, by mandating
self-archiving. They cannot mandate either that publishers should become
OA publishers, nor that researchers should publish in journals that
either do not exist or that they would rather not publish in.

> Sad, isn't it? You -- and I -- have been flogging a dead horse all the
> time.

It's sad that only 15% of researchers are doing what's incontrovertibly
in their own best interests, but the horse is not dead: A self-archiving
mandate will speed it over the finish line to 100%.

If avowed friends of OA don't scare them away with counter-evidential
speculations about its dangers...

> Of course you could say "I'm right, I know what's in Academia's best
> interest, and it will be proven one day". So could those who believe
> that self-archiving will harm journals. Being right is one thing; being
> recognised as being right is another.

Jan, I can only wearily tell you that the evidence is all against you.
OA *is* in the best interests of research and researchers. Many, perhaps
most researchers already know and say that. But they don't *do* enough
about it. Self-archiving mandates will induce them to do it. And they
will work, and bring us 100% OA at last. You are merely peeved because
they will not necessarily bring us more OA publishing. But that's not
the necessary goal of the OA movement: OA is. 100% OA.

> Pretty silly, isn't it, this logic?

It sure is...

> The 15% of authors who do archive includes physics. Since they represent
> a large proportion of self-archived articles, let's take them out of the
> equation and see if the picture changes. When we do, we see about 6.5%
> of articles being self-archived. You say "only about 7% are publishing
> in OA journals, but that is because only about 7% of journals are OA
> journals". That's probably about 6.5% once we also take out the OA
> physics journals.

I'm afraid that your data -- (what *are* your data?) -- are incorrect
Jan. Please look at the %OA by discipline in:

You will see that it varies from 5% to 22% excluding physics. And the
recent Swan & Brown international, cross-disciplinary survey reported
that 49% of authors have self-archived at least one article:

I will leave it to Swan & Brown to summarise their comparative data on
author self-reported OA publishing and self-reported self-archiving.

> What a coincidence, though! 6.5% of journals are OA and 6.5% of articles
> are self-archived!

Your figure for self-archiving is incorrect, being short by almost
200%; but even at its correct 15% it is far too low. The figure for
OA publishing, in contrast, is, unsurprisingly, near ceiling, since
only about 7% of today's journals are OA. Self-archiving, by contrast,
is nowhere near ceiling, for 100% of articles could be self-archived
virtually overnight. The mandates are meant to make this happen sooner
rather tan later; it's already long overdue (for those whose goal is 100%
OA, rather that 100% OA publishing in particular).

> Empirical evidence that OA publishing and self-archiving are
> neck-and-neck the fastest routes to OA, I reckon.

Reckon again, Jan: It's nothing of the sort!

> You say "most publishers are still interested in recovering their costs
> the way most of them do now". As a publisher, I refute your 'the way
> most of them do now' bit. Of course they are interested in recovering
> their costs. Here, too, it's the goal that counts, not the way. Funders
> recognising the cost of publication as integral to the cost of doing
> research understand that basic issue.

I will take it as a refutation when most publishers do as you do. Till
then, it is merely an exhortation. (I hope the exhortation is successful,
but I have no wish to wait for its success, nor to have 100% OA wait for
its success.)

> OA may become a 'cultural mandate' like publish-or-perish.

Jan, you are playing games with language. At last you are ready to say
OA is not the same as OA publishing: that OA includes both OA publishing
and OA self-archiving. But now you are talking about "mandating OA" as
if it were just as possible to mandate OA publishing as to mandate OA
self-archiving: It is not. The ones on whom the mandates have sway are
the employees and fundees of the employers and funders, not publishers.
And not only can neither of these employers and funders mandate that
publishers convert to OA; they cannot mandate that their own employees
and fundees publish in either nonexistent journals or journals they do
not wish to publish in.

Researchers who say (in the survey) that they will comply with
a self-archiving mandate do not eo ipso say that they will comply
with a mandate to publish other than in their journals of choice.
(I wouldn't; and I especially wouldn't, knowing I had a ready
alternative: publish in my journal of choice and also self-archive.
This is the *real* logical issue underlying our differences, and
you are always simply side-stepping it, Jan.)

> OA might get
> there by first becoming a funder's or institutional mandate, on top of
> the existing cultural mandate of publish-or-perish. Publish-or-perish,
> however, isn't what it seems to be. It is
> 'publish-in-peer-reviewed-journals-or-perish'. An OA mandate could
> easily become 'publish-in-OA-journals-or-perish', with self-archiving as
> the stick, and incorporating the cost of publishing in grants as the
> carrot, to get publishers to provide OA journals.

You are imagining that it is (1) as justifiable and (2) as feasible to
mandate authors' *choice* of journal (particularly at a time when so few
journals are OA) as it is to mandate authors to self-archive. It is not.
It is neither justifiable nor feasible -- nor necessary. Not for 100%
OA, anyway.

(I would agree, though, that if *all* publishers offered Open Choice like
Springer, and all employers/funders mandated and funded it, then *that*
could bring 100% OA too. But alas most publishers are neither OA nor
Open Choice, and I don't think employers and funders should wait,
while self-archiving remains the Open Option. Do you?)

> That way we would have a robust publishing system, delivering OA. The
> underlying cause of the pain of not having OA would have been removed.
> Not just the pain itself, by swallowing the painkiller called
> self-archiving (and 'clinical trials' to establish the existence or
> absence of harmful side-effects are so far inconclusive).

Swallowing the pain-killer of self-archiving will remove the illness
the OA movement was meant to cure: access-denial and impact-loss. If
(contrary to all evidence to date) it causes cancellation pressure on
journals, journals can and will adapt to it. One way would be to begin
converting *then* to the OA publishing that you are instead arguing for
mandating on them a-priori, when there is no evidence it is necessary.
But let's cure researchers' sure disease now, and wait to see whether
any other hypothetical publishers' disease waits around the corner...

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon Oct 17 2005 - 23:56:28 BST

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