Re: Ian Gibson on open access

From: guedon <>
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2006 14:21:17 -0400

Let me comment below.



Le dimanche 30 avril 2006 à 18:41 +0100, Stevan Harnad a écrit :
> It would perhaps not matter if people actually *were* self-archiving --
> and mandating self-archiving -- for secondary or wrong reasons.
> But the fact is that only 15% of papers are as yet being spontaneously
> self-archived *at all*. And among the reasons why self-archiving is not
> yet being done or mandated nearly enough is that secondary and wrong
> reasons for self-archiving, or for mandating self-archiving, are simply
> not compelling enough to make it happen.

Neither is impact compelling enough. However, saying that "secondary and
Wrong" - note in passing that we have gradually moved from "secondary"
to "flawed" and now to "wrong"... - reasons are not being compelling
enough does not mean that they are completely ineffective and it
certainly does not mean that they generate negative consequences. No
one, so far as I know, is arguing that we should use only "secondary and
wrong" arguments to achieve open access.
> Researchers will not self-archive -- and their universities will not
> require them to self-archive their -- in order to make their papers freely
> accessible to the general public. That is just too absurd. Both
> universities and their researchers know perfectly well that most of
> their specialized research papers are of no absolutely no direct interest
> to the general public. Hence public access to them would be a ludicrous
> (and readily defeasible) reason for requiring researchers to take the trouble
> to self-archive them (little trouble though that is).

Many points here. First of all, universities, if not researchers (but
even there...) do try and show that their research is of some interest
to the general public. So do granting agencies like NIH or, in Canada,
SSHRC, or in the UK, the ESRC. Special granting programs even exist to
support that (e.g. KIS at SSHRC).

Moreover, in many disciplines, research can be of direct interest to at
least some segments of the general public. This may include SME's (small
and medium-sized industries) that cannot finance research and who try to
identify expertise for their technical problems without having access to
the literature or a good library. This may also include teachers, at
least at the upper echelons. Looking systematically at the possible uses
of research results, discipline by discipline and population segment by
population segment would create a very important and useful tool to
locate the production of knowledge in our societies.

Finally, the reasons why universities may want to mandate archiving of
research articles will probably vary from one institution to another; in
any case, as Dadid Goodman sensibly pointed out, one also has to
convince administrators who are not (or no longer) researchers and these
administrators will listen to the "secondary and wrong" reasons much
more attentively than a researcher, especially in its ideal-typic
> In contrast, both universities and their researchers know that
> researchers' income and funding depends to a large on their research
> impact. So demonstrating the strong and dramatic causal connection
> between self-archiving and research impact *is* a compelling reason --
> indeed *the* compelling reason -- for mandating it.

Well, if it is so compelling, why is it not working? Why is mandating
> It is this strong and compelling causal connection between self-archiving
> and research impact -- well known to this Forum, but still too little known
> to researchers and their employers and funders -- that needs to be
> conveyed far more widely than this Forum, if we are to reach the 100%
> OA that is already so long overdue.

No one contests that.
> Trading instead in secondary or wrong reasons is a good way to continue
> ideological crusading if one feels one has a lot of time on one's hands
> and has an appetite for that sort of thing, but it does not get much done.

Glad to see that it may get something done... how much is probably a
good place to begin debating. This argumentative structure reminds me of
the debate we had earlier about looking into the possibility that
subsidized journals could be mandated to be placed in open access: it
was wrong, then insignificant, then limited. However, when figures began
to pile up, country after country, Harnad's basic negativism turned out
to be without real empirical basis. I believe we are facing a similar
situation here.
> I might add that -- however much it may preoccupy and exercise the
> library community -- appeals to remedy the journal pricing/affordability
> crisis will also fail to induce researchers to self-archive. Indeed,
> any user-end rationale will fail. The appeal has to be to the *author*
> as author -- not to the author as user (for authors already have the use of
> their own papers). That means the primary (and secondary, and tertiary)
> reason for self-archiving has to be based on the self-interest of the
> author and his institution. And that means the impact of their (joint)
> research output.

Hmmm! Why are the poor librarians getting it in the neck here? They have
not said much with regard to journal pricing in this particular debate.

As for the recourse on self-interest, nothing wrong with that so long as
one keeps in mind the many forms self-interest can take - for the great
majority of researchers who squeak by with a few publication, impact is
probably less important than constructing a dossier with mentionable
publications, whatever their merit. Also, one should not push the
virtues of self-interest too far... But perhaps Stevan harnad is intent
on building a sociology of science (and a psychology of scientists)
based on Ayn Rand... :-)

> Stevan Harnad
Received on Sun Apr 30 2006 - 23:57:22 BST

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