Re: Open Access Speeds Use by Others

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 21 May 2006 04:01:36 +0100

 From: Seed Magazine:

> According to Gunther Eysenbach, a professor in the department of
> health policy at the University of Toronto, the main weakness of the
> proposed Federal Research Public Access Act is its inefficiency. It
> would force authors who have already published their work in open
> access journals, like the family of journals published by the Public
> Library of Science (PLoS), to go through the motions of republishing
> in the federal repositories.
> "At the end of the day, everything is on the Internet," Eysenbach
> said. "It doesn't make a big difference whether it's in the
> federal agency repository or somewhere else on the Internet in
> an open access journal site."
> For Eysenbach, who recently published an article in PLoS about the
> benefits of open access publishing, the speed of accessibility is
> far more important... "Open access [OA] really accelerates the
> scientific process"...

At the end of the day, everything is on the Internet, but if it is
behind toll-barriers that only some would-be users can afford, that means
not only loss of *speed* of accessibility, but loss of *accessibility*
itself, hence loss of scientific progress.

Hence the main weakness of the proposed Federal Research Public Access
Act (FPRAA) is most certainly *not* its "inefficiency" in requiring all
authors to self-archive their articles (provide "green" OA), even that
small minority of their articles that may have already been published in
an OA ("gold") journal!

FPRAA's main -- and only -- weakness is that it allows a 6-month access
delay -- and that weakness can be easily and decisively remedied by (1)
requiring deposit to be immediate and (2) allowing only OA access-setting
to be delayed: semi-automated individual user-generated eprint requests
forwarded to the author and fulfilled by the repository software once the
author clicks to approve can then bridge the 6-month gap for the 7% of
articles whose publishers don't yet endorse immediate OA self-archiving:

Why on earth would an OA advocate make the absurd suggestion that
double-deposit by a few (at most, 10% of journals today are OA journals)
rather than delayed deposit by the many (90%) is the FPRAA's weakness?

Perhaps it is because of the very same OA journal publisher's blind-spot
(Eysenbach edits an OA "gold" journal) that made Eysenbach and the editors
of PLoS Biology portray their recent confirmation of the within-journal
citation advantage of OA over non-OA in an optional-OA (gold) journal
(PNAS) as if it were the first and only evidence of the OA citation
advantage -- dismissing as "confounded" the abundant prior evidence of
the very same within-journal citation advantage of OA versus non-OA for OA
(green) self-archived articles published in non-OA journals, even though
that prior evidence was based on samples four orders of magnitudes
larger than Eysenbach's 1-year, 1-journal study, and yielded the very
same outcome across a dozen years, a dozen disciplines and hundreds
of journals.

Perhaps, to put it more specifically, the promotion of OA publishing is
getting in the way of the promotion of OA.

That may also explain why PLoS seem to have concluded that it is not in
their interest to host further public contributions to this debate from
me -- and perhaps they are right (that it is not in their interest)...

> From: plos AT
> Date: May 19, 2006 3:13:07 PM EDT (CA)
> To: Stevan Harnad harnad AT
> Subject: e-Letter: Decision
> Unfortunately we decided not to accept your e-Letter. Letters
> are published at the editors' discretion, and we publish
> only those that we believe will contribute substantially to
> the debate. Our editorial decisions about publishing letters
> are final, and are not open to appeal.

Below is appended the mercilessly compressed fragment that I had submitted
to PLoS as a follow-up letter (responding to Eysenbach's PLoS letter
responding to my PLoS letter responding to his PLoS article).

The full version of my reply of course appeared on AmSci and in my
Archivangelism blog
-- but, as Eysenbach's study showed, one gets still further visibility
from appearing on the website of a high-profile, high-impact journal! My
(valid) rebuttal to Eysenbach's suggestion that self-archiving is to
OA publishing as handing out leaflets is to publishing in a newspaper
was that we are talking about *publications* in the case of OA, not
unpublished materials! But with a letter, it's more like handing out
leaflets when it just appears in a Forum or a Blog, versus the website
of a high-impact journal...

Never mind. The content is what matters, and time is on OA's side (even
if it is much too dilatory!), because OA is (you've heard the song!):
Optimal and Inevitable.


    Confirming the Within-Journal OA Impact Advantage

    Stevan Harnad

    Fuller version: )

Given the large within-journal OA citation impact advantages repeatedly
found across all journals, disciplines and years in samples four orders
of magnitude larger than Eysenbach's, it is not clear that controls for
"multiple confounders" are needed to demonstrate the reality, magnitude
and universality of the OA advantage.
(This does not mean Eysenbach's controls are not useful, just that they
are not yet telling us much that we don't already know.)

Eysenbach (and PLoS) are focussed on gold-OA journals; most other OA
impact studies are focused on OA itself. Only ~10% of journals are gold
today. Few as yet offer authors "Open Choice" (allowing gold
within-journal OA/NOA comparisons) and few authors are as yet choosing
paid OA.

Regarding the "arrow of causation": Yes, "longtitudinal cohort" data
would demonstrate causation (for skeptics who think the OA advantage
might be a self-selection bias) but Eysenbach's author self-reports
certainly aren't such data! Meanwhile: (a) the OA advantage does not
diminish for younger articles; (b) OA increases downloads; (c) increased
downloads in the first 6 months correlate with increased citations later;
(d) unaffordability reduces access; (e) access is a necessary condition
for citation.

About OA being a "continuum" or "spectrum": Time is certainly a
continuum, and access certainly admits of degrees (access may be
easier/harder, narrower/wider, cheaper/dearer, longer/shorter,
earlier/later, partial/full) -- but *Open Access* does not admit of
degrees (any more than pregnancy does). OA is defined as: full-text
online access, free for all.

Eysenbach likens self-archiving to "printing something on a flyer and
handing it out to pedestrians on the street [instead of] publishing an
article in a national newspaper." But it is *published* articles that
are being self-archived.

    NOA (Not OA): 1159 articles (86.2% cited at least once)
    POA (Payed OA only): 176 (94.3%)
    SOA (Self-Archived OA only): 121 (90.1%)
    BOA (POA and SOA): 36 (97.2%)

In this PNAS sample, POA, SOA and BOA together, and POA alone, all have
significantly more citations than NOA, but SOA alone ("stratified") does
not; also, both POA and SOA increase citations, but POA does it more.

Three possible hypotheses explaining the BOA>POA>>SOA>NOA outcome:

H1: The POA advantage might be a multiple-archiving effect, maximal for
high-profile, 3-option (POA, SOA, NOA) journals like PNAS because POA
articles are more visible than SOA. (POA + SOA = BOA highest of all:
redundancy helps!) As Institutional Repositories fill, this extra
advantage will disappear.

H2: The POA advantage might arise in part from self-selection because
the decision to pay for POA is influenced by the author's sense of the
potential importance (hence impact) of his article. (But I think
self-selection quality-bias is just one of many contributors to the OA
advantage itself, not the only one or the biggest.)

H3: The POA advantage might be either a small-sample chance result or a
temporary side-effect of the 3-option journals in early days: a one-stop
shopping advantage for PNAS articles, in a high-profile store, today. It
needs to be tested for replicability and representativeness in larger
samples of articles, journals, and time-bases.

The true measure of the SOA advantage today is not found in PNAS but in
the far more populous and representative full spectrum of journals not
yet offering POA. (I'd be delighted if those journals took Eysenbach's
findings as a reason for offering a POA option! But not at the expense
of authors wrongly inferring that for the journals they currently
publish in, SOA alone would not confer citation advantages at least as
big as the ones Hajjem et al. have been reporting.)

    Harnad & Brody (2004)
    Brody et al (2005)
    Hajjem et al (2005)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon May 22 2006 - 03:07:23 BST

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