Re: CERN successful green policy and ongoing efforts to promote gold

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 00:10:04 +0000

On Thu, 15 Dec 2005, Rick Anderson wrote:

> > SH: The urgent immediate problem is to reach 100% OA; that is not
> > a *partial* solution to the immediate access problem: It is a
> > total solution.
> Here we see one illustration of the problem that Sally pointed out
> earlier today -- that of one man trying to impose his own definition of
> OA on an entire industry.

No, dear Rick, not on an industry. This is not about OA publishing, or the
publishing industry. It is about research, and access to research. Nor is
the need for immediate access to research being *imposed*: It is part of
what research means. The notion of embargoing (published) research
findings is alien to and antithetical to the very nature of research and
research progress.

I had said in my reply to Sally that perhaps this is a concept that
publishers have difficulty grasping. I must repeat this now, with
regret (for some have been such dedicated helpmeets in the quest
for OA) that it is also a concept that many librarians have difficulty

OA is not (necessarily) about changing an industry; nor is it
(necessarily) about solving the library budget crisis. It is
about putting an end to the research community's needless
loss of access and impact in the online age, at long last.

> Stevan makes two assertions here, one tacit
> and one explicit, and neither one uncontroversial:
> 1. (Tacit) That the definition of "OA" is "immediate self-archiving"
> (this is what he means by "100% OA")

Research access needs to be immediate. There is no notion of "embargo"
implicit in research access, and there never has been.

> 2. (Explicit) That immediate self-archiving is a total solution to the
> problem of providing immediate access.

Immediate 100% self-archiving is a 100% solution to the problem of putting
an end to needless research access and impact loss (online). That --
not publishing reform, nor the serials crisis -- is the OA problem, and
its solution. What might follow after 100% OA is a matter of speculation,
and what we (researchers) need now is more OA, not more speculation.

It seems obvious, however, that although 100% OA self-archiving will not solve the
serials crisis, it will certainly reduce its weight and urgency (since bare-bones
access will no longer be a survival issue).

> Leaving aside the question of whether Stevan's definition of OA is
> universally appropriate, let's look at the second assertion -- that
> self-archiving is a "total solution" to the access problem. It seems to
> me that this will not be true until tools exist to make self-archived
> articles as easily and quickly discoverable as formally published ones.

Perhaps some in the library community are inclined to theorise about
search tools when what is really missing is OA content, but I hope it will
be understood why the research community is not similarly inclined. The
search tools are a piece of cake, and what we have is already up to the
task; what's needed is the content.

> In my experience, such is not the case. One of the very real benefits
> of formal publication is that it makes content relatively easy to find.

This is a non-sequitur: OA self-archiving is a *supplement* to formal publication,
not a *substitute* for it.

> A very real downside of self-archiving is that self-archived content is
> often quite difficult to track down, even if one has free access to it
> once it's found.

I would like to see the data on which Rick's assertion is based. My own
experience has been that the reason research-article content is hard to
track down on the web is that it is mostly not there (and I have tons
of robot data to back that up). Can I say (with no disrespect intended)
that this divergent view may truly derive from the fact that researchers
actually *use* the online content rather than just contemplating it
theoretically, or cataloguing it.

Searcher, blame not thy search tools: If you don't find it, it's 'cause
it prob'ly ain't there.

(Having said that, given a more substantial database than the flimsy 15% OA
content we have now, the search-wizards will give us lots of undreamt of
goodies by way of OA-age search tools: You can bank on that.)

> Until self-archived content is as easy to get to as
> formally published content, 100% OA self-archiving will only be a total
> solution to the problem of immediate *theoretical* access -- the problem
> of immediate *real* access will remain only partially solved.

Let's have the 100% OA, then we can talk. Till then, we are both just

> Here's something else to consider: that universal self-archiving would
> likely drive at least some publishers out of business (a very real
> possibility regardless of whether OA advocates intend for that to
> happen),

Back to data-free speculation about the hypothetical future of publishing
rather than the actual present and pressing needs of research and
researchers (and the obvious immediate way of meeting them)...

> leaving a marketplace richer in providers that don't do a good
> job of delivering content (self-archives) and poorer in providers that
> do deliver content well (publishers).

First a data-free speculation (self-archiving will drive out good publishers)
and the conflation of content-provision (which authors do), publication
(which peer-reviewed journals do), and access-provision (which publishers do, and
author self-archiving *supplements* -- but does not substitute for).

One gets out of such incoherent premises exactly what one has put into them.

> When we start thinking about the
> potential ramifications of universal immediate self-archiving, it starts
> sounding less like a "total solution" and more like a whole new set of
> problems.

To those focussed on search, classification, preservation, serials
budgets, etc. But not to those who are focussed on research access,
because they actually need it for their immediate ongoing research.

> Which, frankly, is probably all that can be expected in an
> imperfect world. Promises of a "total solution" should always be
> regarded with deep skepticism, whether from publishers or from system
> vendors or from evangelists.


Now back to the immediate problem: immediate (unembargoed) OA, 85% of it still

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Dec 16 2005 - 02:57:06 GMT

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