Re: Forthcoming OA Developments in France

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 1 Jul 2006 04:53:53 +0100

I left the following posting unanswered because, on the one hand, it was so
far-fetched as to be virtually self-refuting, and, on the other, I was sure
others would do the honours. But, faute de mieux, here goes:

On Thu, 29 Jun 2006, Lisa Dittrich wrote:

> I personally think the push to OA has come from a few zealots (Varmus
> and whatever Nobel Laureates he could strong arm into signing his
> various decrees)

Harold Varmus strong-armed his fellow Nobel Laureates to sign his
decrees? Did he also strong-arm the 34,000 signatories of the PLoS
Open Letter?

> and librarians upset about "the serials crisis"

About "the serials crisis" or about the serials crisis? Do you think they are just
crying wolf?

> Most scientists, though,
> with the possible exception of physicists, have been quite content with
> the "open access" they already have--namely, the ability to easily get
> content through their libraries, paid for by their library's budget.

So it is out of contentment with the "open access" they already have
that those of the 34,000 who were not strong-armed by Harold signed the
PLoS petition?

And is it to be expected that authors (once the word is out) will be content that
their articles are getting only half their potential research impact?

> many of the authors I work with... don't even know what the term "open access"
> means!

Keep counting, because those numbers are changing, and not changing in
the direction of diminishing knowledge...

> And they are VERY busy people. So ask them to take one
> more step after publication--to deposit their research on an NIH
> database, or even an IR, and most will say "I'll get to
> that...sometime."

"unless our employer or funder mandates it, in which case 95% of us will do it, 81%
willingly" (Swan & Brown 2004, 2005 surveys).

> As with most other causes, it's those whose livelihoods --the Varmuses
> and Harnads of the world

Livelihoods? We both have day jobs!

> --and those whose pocketbooks--the librarians and publishers--who are most
> invested in this issue who get their knickers in a twist over it

That's to be expected. But librarians and publishers can only knick and twist:
it is researchers who provide the content, and they're the only ones who can
provide the OA. But their employers and funders can help see to it that they do --
just as they see to it that they publish at all.

> intellectuals w/too much time on their hands.

You mean the opine-accessors who just can't resist thinking out loud on OA lists?
I agree they're a liability, to both sides, but I'm not sure why they're being
singled out as intellectuals: Intellectual content is certainly not what the OA
movement is going to go down in history for...

> The researchers are busy researching and publishing.

And counting their citations -- and getting promoted and funded for them. How long
do you think it will take the news to trickle down to the least intellectual of
them that they are losing citations as long as they lose would-be users who can't
afford the access-tolls?

> One other thing: the assumption that all researchers want to share
> their data is nuts. Remember the fight over who first discovered the
> AIDS virus? It got pretty ugly. And we've published research in our
> journal about geneticists holding their findings pretty close to the
> vest for fear of being scooped. It's not all a love fest in science
> land, people.

Have you ever wondered, then, why they publish it at all? or count
their citations? Because, you see, OA is about what they publish,
not what they keep private. And have you ever asked yourself, Lisa:
if your researchers *didn't* want to share their findings (indeed if
they weren't mandated by their employers and funders to "publish or
perish") what would fill the pages of Academic Medicine?

Stevan Harnad
Received on Sat Jul 01 2006 - 10:44:04 BST

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