Re: Open Access Speeds Use by Others

From: Gunther Eysenbach <geysenba_at_UHNRES.UTORONTO.CA>
Date: Thu, 25 May 2006 20:44:19 -0400

On Sun, 21 May 2006 04:01:36 +0100, Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>

> 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.

>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!

The "main weakness" is what a journalist wrote, I never spoke of "main
weakness" or used the word "inefficiency". He asked me about my opinion
about the Act, and after general praise for the direction I merely pointed
out that the Act makes the wrong assumption that all published articles are
behind toll-access barriers, and doesn't reflect the reality that there are
(increasingly) OA journals out there which make content immediately
accessbile anyway, hence researchers who publish in OA journals could be
made exempt from the self-archiving mandate, as this would be a duplicative

>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?

Mr Harnad, please stop these personal attacks. I think to draw attention to
the fact that the Act does not contain an exception for material published
in OA journals is a completely valid point.

>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

Ridiculous. There is no "blind spot" for green. Green-OA was in fact part of
the study and - another misquote - editors NEVER said this was the first and
only evidence - the editorial said SOLID evidence. And why it is considered
more solid is discussed at - even for
people who have a blind spot in statistics and basic research methodology.

The truth is, 1) As a green-OA advocate, Harnad (calling these findings
"controversial") doesn't like the finding that gold-OA is cited more often
than green-OA, although this is a completely intuitive finding for the rest
of the world 2) Harnad is still whining over previous studies (his own)
being called unsolid in the editorial, while there are completely reasonable
and scientific arguments for why the rest of the world agrees with this
study being more solid than prvious studies - because it adjusts for
confounders. See a detailed response to Harnad's polemic and unscientific
postings on

>(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.

Yes, alright, repeating this nonsense a hundred times doesn't make this a
more valid argument. There is also a universal association between carrying
matches and cancer (unadjusted for smoking as a confounder), in a dozen of
countries, across dozens of years, in millions of people, several magnitudes
higher than any adjusted cohort study on the association between carrying
matches and cancer controlled for smoking status, hence adjustment for
confounders is completely unnecessary to demonstrate the causal relationship
between carrying matches and cancer, right?

Oh dear...

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

WHAT???? A very interesting statement indeed.

>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)...

The reason, I assume, is the nature of Mr Harnads responses, which I can
only call polemic and unscientifc. They are also completely unnecessary (I
still think we are on the same side, so when attacking me in a very personal
manner nothing is gained other than discrediting the OA movement).

>> 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.

Thank god. Sometimes editors are worth their money.

>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!

I thought this is what Harnad disputes as a "controversial" finding? Didn't
Harnad just say that all these findings of a gold-over-green advantage are
hyped - gold tries to devalue green, because gold-OA editors are afraid to
loose authors who could suddenly start self-archiving? So why the sudden
eagerness to publish the e-letter on PLoS, instead of sending it to a toll
access journal and self-archiving it?
Gold will always have an impact-advantage overgreen, if editors of gold-OA
journals do their job properly, which includes promoting their journal site
and their content.
(Yes, editors of toll-access journals do the same, but does anybody
seriously think that they will point readers to a self-archived copy instead
of to the journal site, where readers will encounter a subscription barrier?
If they would, who would still subscribe? And if nobody subscribes, who runs
the journal, which includes promoting the journal? Only gold-OA journals can
"afford" to promote the openess of their content, and it should be obvious
even to Harnad that this leads to the citation advantage of gold over green)

> 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!

A misquote, I did not "suggest" this. "Publishing" was used as an ANALOGY,
pointing out that one study on gold cannot replace a study on green, because
OA publishin is a continuum, much as publishing itself. I pointed this out
becxaus eof Harnad's continuing whining along the lines "all this has been
shown before in MUUUUUCH larger studies".
See for a detailed elaboration on the
"OA as continuum" idea.

>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.

Yes, but with his postings Harnad has not exactly helped in promoting
progress towards OA.
Received on Fri May 26 2006 - 03:11:36 BST

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