Re: Not a Proud Day in the Annals of the Royal Society

From: Iain Stevenson <>
Date: Thu, 24 Nov 2005 12:50:15 +0000

On the contrary, is not what the Royal Society saying in its statement is that
we need more research about what researchers actually want before OA and
repositories become standard policy for research communication? In so doing,
it is upholding its proud history of seeking evidence and drawing conclusions
from research rather than jumping on bandwagons. There has not been enough
research to show what researchers actually want and that which has been done,
notably the work of Rowlands et al at CIBER, seems to show that researchers are
hazy and confused about OA and the benefits of self-archiving and institutional
repositories over conventional publishing. I for one am profoundly depressed
that a body that represennts UK research funders like RCUK can take the
Stalinist view embodied in its statements which seems to be based much more in
dirigiste managerialism than good research about demand and benefits. Or is it
too much to expect research councils to commission someresearch?

Earlier this week I attended an invitation only conference sponsored by the
British Department of Trade and Industry about Research Communication that had
the laudable aim of bringing together stakeholders in the research
communication process--funders, information managers, publishers and
researchers to discuss what was needed. However, I was deeply disturbed to
hear a succession of funders and information managers affirm their faith in OA
and repositories as the way forward without--when pressed--having any evidence
that this is what the research community (and let us not forget that funders
and information managers exist to support the research enterprise not the other
way about) actually want. Evangelism and blind faith can to be sure result
in colourful ceremony and impressive liturgy but if the congregation (the
researchers) don't know what is going on, it is only empty rhetroic. At the
conference, it was significant that the researchers were conspicuous by their
absence, despite having been invited. To my mind, this is 'the dog in the
night time' (reference 'Silver Blaze' to non-Sherlockians): they weren't there
because it doesn't matter to them and it wont matter to them until there is
real research to show the benefits. It is an affront to the entire research
community that a body
like RCUK can draw conclusions and determine policy before even basic research
about demand and benefits has been conducted. Or
is it normal for the verdict to be reached before the trial has been

Oh, and by the way, can I nail the canard that the Royal Society published the
world's second scientific journal? Of course Phil. Trans. holds that
distinction but it was published as a commercial venture by Henry Oldenberg,
one of those despised publishers who stand in the way of progress. As indeed
was Journal des Scavans, the earliest scientific journal.

Professor Iain Stevenson
Professor of Publishing Studies
City University London.
Received on Thu Nov 24 2005 - 19:40:34 GMT

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