Re: Open Access Priorities: Lay Public Access or Researcher Access?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 01:55:36 +0100

Peter Suber's is an excellent, ecumenical way of putting it (see
below). Peter is right and I am wrong:

    SH: Dear Peter, your wise, well-informed comment on my
    comment in OA News (5/7 2006) was terrific!
    Yes, the priorities are: research use primary, lay use secondary;,
    and yes, the public benefits from both, in that order, but it's ok
    for senators to stress the lay use for vote-getting purposes -- as
    long as the Bill itself is loud and clear enough on the priorities
    to be able to block all spurious objections by publishers that imply
    that the primary rationale is lay use rather than research use. You
    have read the Bill fully, whereas I have only skimmed it, so if you
    are satisfied the ammunition is all in there, that's one less thing
    to worry about! (If, in addition, the dual deposit/release plank is
    added too, that takes publishers out of the loop completely.)

    PETER SUBER: Thanks, Stevan. The bill itself certainly doesn't put lay
    readers ahead of researchers. It mandates OA for everyone. It's wrong for
    publishers to assume a lay-reader accent in the bill and it would be
    wrong for us to do so as well. If anything, the bill puts researchers
    first. Here's Section 2, where the bill describes its rationale:

        "Congress finds that the Federal Government funds basic
        and applied research with the expectation that new ideas
        and discoveries that result from the research, if shared and
        effectively disseminated, will advance science and improve the
        lives and welfare of people of the United States and around
        the world" (2.1). [Moreover] "the Internet makes it possible for
        this information to be promptly available to every scientist,
        physician, educator, and citizen at home, in school, or in a
        library" (2.2).

    If the sequence of beneficiaries in the last sentence is roughly in
    priority order, then researchers are first and lay readers last.


> From OA News (5/7 2006)


    (1) I agree with Stevan that the primary beneficiaries of FRPAA, and
    of every similar OA policy, are researchers, and that the benefits
    for lay readers are important but secondary. I've said so whenever
    the question has come up --for the NIH policy, the draft RCUK policy,
    the CURES Act, and now the FRPAA.

    (2) I also agree with Stevan that casting lay readers as the primary
    beneficiaries needlessly opens these policies to publisher objections.

    (3) However, I would distinguish the language of the sponsoring
    Senators from the language of the bill itself. The Senators may
    put researchers and lay readers on a par but there's nothing in
    the substantive provisions of the bill to support or require that
    emphasis. The problem is not with the bill but with some ways of
    pitching the bill.

    (4) I'm also more inclined than Stevan to be lenient with this way
    of pitching the bill, at least for the sponsoring Senators. The bill
    really will make publicly-funded research accessible to the taxpayers
    who paid for it, whether they are professional researchers or lay
    readers, and this really will benefit lay readers, whether these
    benefits are primary or secondary. It's natural, even irresistible,
    for an elected legislator introducing a new bill to point to every
    benefit for every constituent. If we had to choose, I'd rather see
    sponsors of good OA legislation be re-elected than to fine-tune their
    rhetoric in order to disarm every publisher objection. However, we
    don't have to choose. There are ways to point out the benefits for
    lay readers, and still put the accent on the benefits for researchers.

    (5) The FRPAA, like the NIH policy before it, uses the term "public
    access". In opposing the NIH policy, many publishers mistakenly
    assumed that the goal of public access was the goal of access for
    lay readers, and some are already making the same assmption about
    the FRPAA. We OA advocates shouldn't make the same mistake. "Public"
    doesn't mean "lay public" any more than it means "professional
    public". It means everyone.

See also:
    MICHAEL GEIST:,com_content/task,view/id,1237/Itemid,85/nsub,/
Received on Wed May 10 2006 - 02:11:02 BST

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