Maximising research access vs. minimizing copy-editing errors

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 6 Jul 2006 11:30:00 +0100

On Wed, 5 Jul 2006, Anthony Watkinson wrote:

> I suppose Professor Harnad thinks that if he constantly
> promulgates the idea (see below) that the only difference between
> the accepted paper and the final published version is a matter of
> formatting he will get those not involved in publishing to accept
> this as a "fact". In fact there is something called
> "copyediting". There are some publishers who do very little
> copy-editing or even none at all. However many publishers,
> especially those who have important journals, do a lot of
> copy-editing which is not just a matter of house style but can
> pick up serious errors. The difference between the versions can
> be significant and this difference is (I understand) being
> recognised by the current NISO groups working on version. Journal
> editors of course know this very well too.

The trouble is that Anthony Watkinson and I are addressing two completely
different problems, hence two completely different user populations.

Mr. Watkinson is thinking of the user who has a subscription to the
journal, with its copy-edited, proofed PDF, and is weighing the use of
this against the use of the author's final, accepted draft -- revised
and accepted, but not copy-edited. He is quite right that the copy-edited
version is to be preferred: I too would prefer it, if I had access to it.

But the problem I -- and the OA movement -- are addressing is not that
one at all. We are concerned with the population of would-be users who
cannot, today, access the journal version, because it is not in one of
the journals they or their institutions can afford to subscribe to. And
the choice *they* are facing is access to the author's final, refereed,
accepted (but not copy-edited) draft, versus no access at all. I very
much doubt that all those would-be users would be very appreciative of
Mr. Watkinson's concern to protect them from access to the author's final
draft on the grounds of potential errors that might arise from the lack
of copy-editing.

I think Mr. Watkinson may have both the immediate needs of researchers
and the immediate motivation for Open Access rather out of focus and
proportion if he imagines that his very legitimate scholarly concern to
minimize all errors that a copy-editor might catch carries any weight at
all in the context of the overarching research concern that would-be
users should not continue to be denied access to the final, refereed
drafts of research findings.

And if Mr. Watkinson is curious about the size and scope of this would-be
user population, and of the research access problem that the OA movement
is addressing (compared to the copy-editing error-risk problem that
he is addressing), a good estimate is provided by the 25%-250% higher
citation impact of research for which the author supplements access to
the journal version by self-archiving his final draft in his institutional
repository. That's quite a dramatic difference, but I expect it will prove
to be even bigger, once we have not only citation data, but also usage
(download) data comparing self-archived and non-self-archived articles
(in the same journal and year).

If anyone has any comparative data on the research impact of undetected
copy-editing errors, I would be very happy to see it...

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Stevan Harnad" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Wednesday, July 05, 2006 12:10 AM
> Subject: Re: Forthcoming OA Developments in France
> > On Sat, 1 Jul 2006, Richard Feinman wrote:
> >
> >> I meant that I didn't see why it is considered a step forward.
> >> Without some consistent link from a search engine, I suspect
> >> researchers don't see the point. (Are there data on how often
> >> archived papers are accessed?).
> >
> > (1) All major search engines harvest OA Institutional and
> > Central Repository content.
> >
> > (2) There are also OAI-compliant harvesters and search engines
> > specialising in the OA content (OAIster, Citebase, CiteSeer,
> > Scirus, Scopus, Google Scholar)
> >
> > (3) OA is not a search engine problem, it is an access problem.
> >
> > (4) For data on how OA increases citations and downloads, see:
> >
> >
> >> If a paper isn't accessible, researchers tend to write to the
> >> authors who will send you a pdf (legally or otherwise).
> >
> > Correct, but that is incomparably more time-consuming and
> > inefficient -- hence much less functional -- than a click, for
> > browsing and usage, no search for author email address, no
> > wait, and no dependence on whether author has or will email the
> > PDF. OA would provide that for all papers, instantly, with one
> > click. (OA Institutional Repositories do have a semi-automatic
> > email-eprint-request button which speeds the process:
> >
> >
> >> Also, I think the idea that you can't post the final version
> >> seems ridiculous to most people but, of course, that gets back
> >> to the global question.
> >
> > Who says one can't post the final version? The final version is
> > the author's refereed, accepted final draft. No need for the
> > publisher's PDF. Or are you referring to the 24% of journals
> > that have so far only endorsed the self-archiving of the
> > unrefereed preprint, not the final refereed draft? With 70%
> > endorsing the self-archiving of the final draft, I think the
> > semi-automatic email-eprint-request button will do for the time
> > being, for the remaining 24% (plus the 6% for which even
> > preprint self-archiving has not been endorsed by the
> > publisher), if the preprint plus corrections is found too
> > ridiculous (I agree), or the author is foolish enough to comply
> > with a *pre-submission* requirement not to self-archive the
> > preprint.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > The spread of OA self-archiving mandates and the growth of the
> > systematic practice of self-archiving both text and metadata
> > upon acceptance for publication will ensure that all
> > ridiculousness and foolishness will phase itself out in short
> > order, as nature takes its course.
> >
> > Stevan Harnad
> >
> >
> >> On Wed, 28 Jun 2006, Richard Feinman wrote:
> >>
> >>> I don't understand self-archiving.
> >>
> >> Please let me explain it to you: It is researchers making the
> >> final refereed drafts of their own published articles freely
> >> accessible on the web for those would-be users who cannot afford
> >> access to the publisher's version.
> >>
> >> Self-Archiving FAQ
> >>
> >>
> >>> Isn't that another bizarre practice of having the author assume
> >>> a task which should be done by the publisher.
> >>
> >> Not in the least. The publisher implements the peer review,
> >> performs the copy-editing, markup, composition, printing and
> >> distribution, in print and on paper. In exchange, he receives
> >> subscription revenue. It is not the publisher's task to provide
> >> access to those who cannot afford his product. If the author
> >> wants those potential users to have access too, he needs to
> >> provide it. But all it costs is a few minutes and keystrokes per
> >> paper, and what it brings is substantially more usage and impact:
> >>
> >> Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2005) Keystroke Economy: A Study of the
> >> Time and Effort Involved in Self-Archiving.
> >>
> >>
> >> Bibliography of Findings on the Open Access Impact Advantage
> >>
> >>
> >>> Does it not highlight the intent of publishers to reduce access
> >>> to the author's article. Are they not saying: sure we'll
> >>> publish it but if you want everybody to be able to read it you
> >>> have to take care of that.
> >>
> >> Nothing of the sort. The head-shaker is not that publishers won't
> >> do it for authors. (It's more than enough if publishers simply
> >> give author self-archiving their green light, as the publishers
> >> of 94% of journals already do -- and if they do not lobby against
> >> research-funder self-archiving mandates.)
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> The real head-shaker is that, despite the substantial benefits to
> >> them, only 15% of researchers self-archive spontaneously. This is
> >> why self-archiving mandates were needed. Fortunately, the
> >> mandates are coming, at long last:
> >>
> >> Swan, A. (2005) Open access self-archiving: An Introduction.
> >> Technical
> >> Report, JISC.
> >>
> >>
> >> UK (RCUK):
> >> EC:
> >>
> n-study_en.pdf
> >>
> >> US (FRPAA):
> >>
> >>
> >> Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Jul 06 2006 - 13:00:05 BST

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