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

From: Rick Anderson <rickand_at_UNR.EDU>
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 07:38:25 -0800

> 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.

You're piffling with words in order to avoid the substance of my
comment, and doing so even more egregriously here:

> Nor is the need for immediate access to research being *imposed*:
> It is part of what research means.

What is being imposed is not the "need for access." What is being
imposed is the Harnadian definition of OA, which you treat as if it were
universally held among all participants in the scholarly-information
marketplace (which I called the "industry," but can be called whatever
you like). As has been pointed out repeatedly, the real definition of
OA is both various and controversial. Pretending otherwise undermines
the relevance, in the real world, of anything one says on the topic.

> 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.

What OA's evangelists say it is "about," and the effects that it will
have in the real world, are not necessarily the same. Our
responsibility to researchers is to anticipate, as best we can, the
actual effects of our actions. We don't meet that responsibility simply
by talking about how good our intentions are.

> Immediate 100% self-archiving is a 100% solution to the
> problem of putting an end to needless research access and
> impact loss (online).

This would be true if self-archived material were as easy to access as
formally published material is. "Access loss" arises not only from
tolls, but also from lazy or sloppy self-archivers, from imperfectly
indexed archives, and from any number of other factors. Again: it's
important to distinguish between intended effect and actual effect. In
the case of universal self-archiving, the intended effect is immediate,
universal and real access; if current self-archiving reality is any
guide to the future, then the actual effect of universal self-archiving
will be immediate, spotty and relatively difficult access (at least for
the intended beneficiaries of OA, i.e., those who don't subscribe to the
journals that provide formally-published versions). Of course, the
access will be free, and that's a significant benefit. But to cast it
as a "total solution" is to willfully ignore the very significant
real-world difference between access in theory and access in fact.

> > RA: 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.

I've described my own experience in this forum before. In the interest
of conserving bandwidth, here's a link to that previous posting:

My personal experience isn't the same as a full-blown scientific study,
of course. (It would be interesting to attempt that, though I'm not
sure whether it's possible.) But it's at least strongly suggestive of
the existence of a real problem that deserves serious attention, rather
than breezy dismissal.

> > 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
> "theorising."

You mean, let's impose radical change on a large and complex
scholarly-information marketplace and then, after the fact, talk about
what its consequences might be for researchers? Well, we'll certainly
have more data to work with at that point.

> > 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)...

Data about the future does tend to be hard to come by. In the absence
of effective time-traveling technology, we're stuck with learning what
we can from the past and using that information to make imperfect
predictions. One thing the past has taught us is that, given the
opportunity to pay for something that can be had for free, people often
decline that opportunity and simply take it. I realize it sounds like
I'm arguing both sides here -- saying on the one hand that publishers
provide a real service (by making content readily accessible) and on the
other hand that people may not pay for formally-published access when
free self-archived versions of the same content are available -- but the
fact that both of these propositions are simultaneously and
self-evidently true points to an economic situation that is vastly more
complicated than you (and many other OA evangelists) want to to admit,
Stevan. If we do get to a 100% Green world, we will probably not find
ourselves in an information utopia, where we still have just as much
high-quality information as before and all of it is both available
without charge and also easily accessible. It will be certainly more
complicated than that. "Total solutions" are probably not available to
us -- if you want to ask for data, you should ask for examples of "total
solutions" that have emerged in the past, in any area of life.

The only way we can talk about the future is by hypothesis and
speculation. It seems to me that responsible guesswork (trying to
anticipate the real effects of our actions, rather than simply
rhapsodizing about the beneficence of our intentions) is exactly what's
required of us if we really want to improve the situation in the future
for researchers. Any intelligent person, with any experience of life
whatsoever, will be skeptical when someone offers a "total solution" to
a large and complex problem.

Rick Anderson
Dir. of Resource Acquisition
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
(775) 784-6500 x273  
Received on Fri Dec 16 2005 - 16:15:27 GMT

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