Re: Follow up of EC-commissioned "Study on the economic and technical evolution of the scientific publication markets in Europe"

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 7 Oct 2006 19:09:21 +0100

This is a response to two postings, one by Tom Wilson in BOAI and one
by Fred Friend in SOAF regarding:

On Sat, 7 Oct 2006, Prof. Tom Wilson wrote:

> Stevan Harnad raises an important issue here.
> There is a danger in looking at the process of scholarly communication
> in terms of the intermediaries - publishers and libraries - and
> ignoring the producers and consumers, i.e., the (predominantly but
> not solely) academic researchers. This is, perhaps, inevitable,
> since the EU is concerned primarily not with the communication
> issues but with the economic issues, and the economic power lies
> with the intermediaries.

Alas. But surely the return on Europe's investment in its research
funding is a far larger economic issue than the revenue streams of the
journal publishing industry.

> However, while the intermediaries may be happily coming to some kind
> of arrangement among themselves, the academics are pursuing another
> track: they will seek out the most effective means of disseminating
> their work, within the constraints imposed by research evaluation
> processes.

There is no doubt that the research community is in a position to
take matters entirely into its own hands: individual researchers can
self-archive without waiting for an EU mandate (and about 15% are doing
so). Moreover, their universities and research institutions can mandate
self-archiving without waiting for an EU mandate either (and some are
already beginning to do it). And private, national and EU research
funders can likewise mandate self-archiving (and some are already
beginning to do it).

    Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies

And there is also no doubt that changes in the research evaluation
process (such as the planned conversion of the UK RAE to metrics and the
likelihood of submission via Institutional OA Repositories) will
facilitate this:

    Future UK RAEs to be Metrics-Based

However, the research community needs all the help it can get in order
to induce it to do the right thing, in its own interests (and those
of research). Researchers needed "publish or perish" mandates from
their institutions and funders in order to induce them to publish,
otherwise many would have done their research, put it in a desk-drawer,
and moved on to do their next piece of research. Researchers are also
prone to a paradoxical condition I've dubbed "Zeno's Paralysis," in
which they seem more inclined to use their fingers to do the keystrokes
to sign declarations praising -- and petitions demanding -- OA than
they are to use those same fingers to do the keystrokes required to
actually *provide* OA -- by depositing their own research in their own
Institutional Repositories!

    Harnad, S. (2006) Opening Access by Overcoming Zeno's Paralysis, in
    Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic
    Aspects, chapter 8. Chandos.

> There is no guarantee whatsoever that the present
> structure of scholarly communication will last into the indefinite
> future, nor is there any guarantee that the mores of scholarly
> communication will remain static. While the structure and mores
> are changing around them, the intermediaries may one day wake up
> and find that they have been by-passed by a new model of scholarly
> communication.

Yes, yes, one day. But 100% OA has already been fully within the research
community's reach for over a decade now, and they still have not grasped
it. OA is already long overdue, hence the time has already passed for
sitting waiting expectantly for possible, eventual, dynamic changes that
may take until the heat death of the universe to come to come to pass,
if not helped along by a little practical good sense today...

> The trappings of the scientific paper may fall away
> and scientists concerns may become focused upon the quality of data
> and the interpretation thereof (as of course they are at present)
> and may be happy to contribute these elements of a 'paper' to,
> say, a 'wiki' with the incorporation of 'social tagging' to link
> contributions and to comment on contributions.

That solves the problem of OA to data, but not the problem of OA to the
peer-reviewed articles analyzing and explaining the data... (And
besides, most researchers aren't self-archiving their data yet either.)

> Something of this kind is likely to happen first in small, niche
> research fields, just as the open access e-journal emerged first
> in such fields, but, if it proves an effective means of access to
> research (as arXiv proved the point of preprints in physics), such
> a process might well spread to well-developed disciplines.

This sounds very patient and leisurely -- but could have been said in
the early '90's (and was). So it's time to do something concrete to
accelerate things: Self-archiving mandates have already been
demonstrated to do just that.

> Consequently, the EU conference would be well-advised to engage
> the participation of academics who are already 'thinking outside
> the box' on these matters. No one can be fully prepared for the
> next instance of discontinuous change, but an exploration of what
> is actually going on among academics might prevent setting an
> existing structure in stone. A number of the participants at the
> Lund conference on scholarly communication held in April this year
> (see would be valuable
> contributors to a full debate on these issues.

Yes, certainly. But along with the visionaries, speculating about the
possible route things might or might not take in the future, I hope that
there will be a strong contingent of the experienced veterans who know
exactly what needs to be done in order to generate 100% OA right now,
at long last, and have long tired of waiting expectantly. That is the
most urgent and overdue priority right now.

On Sat, 7 Oct 2006, "FrederickFriend" wrote:

> Stevan may not have noticed that the stakeholders contributing the largest
> number of responses were individual researchers - 35% of the total
> responses - and when you add in the responses coming from academic
> organizations some 56% of responses came from the academic community.

I noticed, but I would have been more reassured if what should be
done by researchers to make their researcher maximally accessible to
researchers had come 95% from researchers, their institutions and their
funders. What to do to maximise the public benefits of publicly funded
research is no one's business but the researchers', their institutions
and their funders. Research is not funded in the service of generating
or protecting publishing revenues, but vice versa, and for the benefit
of the tax-paying public.

> Responses from librarians and publishers were important but did not
> dominate the overall response. I hope that individual researchers and
> academic organizations will also form the largest number of attendees at
> the February Conference.

In my reading, the (rather wishy-washy) response was indeed dominated by
views and concerns that were not those of the research community. I hope
the February Conference will be otherwise.

(I might add that framing this whole issue as a matter of "economic and
technical evolution of the scientific publication markets" already has
the wrong end of the stick: The issue is the "economic and technical
evolution of research communication in the online era". And it can all
be summarised in one simple question: When will we get around to doing
the obvious: Mandating self-archiving?)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Sat Oct 07 2006 - 19:23:40 BST

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