Optimality, Inevitablity, and Conflicts of Interest

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 30 Jul 2006 12:56:14 +0100

In "More misinformation on repositories from ALPSP"
Steve Hitchcock wrote:

> ['Romeo Green' publisher] policies [endorsing author self-archiving]
> have benefited both publishers and repositories. [They] would not have
> been voluntarily adopted by publishers otherwise.'

Not quite: Many of the 94% of journals that are Romeo green (e.g.,
the APS and IOPP journals) became green because of Open Access (OA)
self-archiving's demonstrated benefits to research, researchers and the
public that funds them (doubled research usage and impact), not because
self-archiving also enhances journal visibility and impact factors,
hence _might_ benefit journal sales or submissions. Let us not forget
that although the PLoS petition, which threatened to boycott journals
that did not provide OA, failed (because publishers were understandably
unwilling to convert to an untested publishing model), the will of its
34,000 signatories was nevertheless noted, and green self-archiving
policies were partly the result.

The will of the research community is still being (understandably)
monitored by the publishing community. It is being noted that only about
15% of researchers self-archive spontaneously, despite its demonstrated
benefits. Research funders and institutions are now proposing to mandate
self-archiving (just as they already mandate publishing itself), in
order to maximize the benefits to researchers, their institutions, and
the funding public. Publishers are trying to oppose those mandates, but
again, there is ultimately no choice but to adapt to the will and
interests of the research community (which includes researchers'
employers and funders).

The problem is that publishers are also trying (rather ineptly) to
_manipulate_ that will, by misrepresenting the research community's
interests, and that effort is bound to backfire sooner or later, to
publishers' historic discredit. It is not only natural for the research
community to _'put the interests of [its own] institution[s] and local
community' first'_ but it is also in the interests of research
productivity and progress, and the tax-paying public that funds them.
Publishers would accordingly be far better advised to allow nature to
take its course, toward the optimal and inevitable outcome for research,
researchers and the public, and to prepare to adapt to it, rather than
just trying to delay and waylay it. There is absolutely no doubt about
which way any conflict of interest here (between the research community
and the public on the one hand, and the publishing community on the
other) will need to be resolved.

Best not to argue with the optimal and inevitable...

Stevan Harnad

    Pertinent Prior AmSci Topic Threads:

    "Evolving APS Copyright Policy (American Physical Society)"

    "Evolving Publisher Copyright Policies On Self-Archiving" (2002)

    "Elsevier Gives Authors Green Light for Open Access Self-Archiving" (2004)
Received on Sun Jul 30 2006 - 14:34:03 BST

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