Re: What Can and Should Be Mandated

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 5 Nov 2006 02:06:04 +0000

On Sat, 4 Nov 2006, Jean-Claude Guédon wrote:

> Many journals of a "national" reach...
> tend not to appear in [Ulrich's or ISI]

The question still stands: What percentage of *those* journals
is subsidised?

And there is a second question: Would it help or handicap the
prospects of adoption for OA self-archiving mandates to try to add
subsidised-journal-conversion clauses to them? Mandates are adopted
by research institutions and funders and applied to the research
output of their employees and fundees. Subsidised-journal-conversion
mandates would be addressed to an entirely different
constituency. Moreover, OA self-archiving mandates would already cover
all the contents of all journals, subsidised or unsubsidised.

> in the social sciences and the humanities... top-down distinctions
> are much more difficult to establish.

No doubt. But the percentage of research output in subsidised
journals should be much less difficult to establish.

> how does one determine if a Finnish journal on Finnish literature,
> published in Finnish, is inferior or superior to a Dutch journal on
> Dutch literature, written in Dutch?

No need to compare Finnish journals to Dutch journals. Just
Finnish research output in subsidised journals to total Finnish
research output. (If there is a way to estimate relative
quality, that would be helpful too, as would separate tallies
by discipline.)

> If impact factors do not work well as tools to rank journals, how
> does one go about deciding what is top and what is down?

There are other ways to rank journals, but point taken: Where
quality ranking is unavailable, percentage of research published
in subsidised journals, by discipline, will do.

> in each discipline... the pecking order is there, but...
> not always clearly visible [from] SCI or Ulrich's.

Then use the pecking order, not SCI, to estimate the relative quality
of subsidised and unsubsidised journals. (Ulrich's does not rank.)

> Stevan's disbelief in the significant reality of subsidized scholarly
> journals...

It seems reasonable to ask for percentages, by discipline, in
order to weigh the significance of this reality.

> In the debates with opponents to OA... estimates of lost money
> because of access denial... [have] never gained much traction...

The traction of the access/impact argument is not meant to be
with the *opponents* of OA, but with the *beneficiaries* of OA (and
of access/impact), namely, researchers, their institutions,
their funders, and the tax-paying public that funds the funders
(for the sake of research usage/impact, productivity, progress).

The potential mandator of OA self-archiving is the research
community itself -- research funders and institutions -- not
the publishers who oppose OA.

Lost subscription money is a matter of concern to publishers,
and shortage of subscription money is a matter of concern
to librarians, but the former are unwilling and the latter
unable to mandate either OA self-archiving or conversion to
OA publishing.

Hence the traction for OA needs to be with research institutions and
funders. Any the potential traction from subsidised-journal-conversion
mandates would depend entirely on the percentage of subsidised journals
and the willingness of the subsidisers to mandate conversion. (But
if access/impact loss had no traction with subsidisers, what *would*
have traction? Why is subsidising non-OA journals bad, if not
because of access/impact loss? "Monetising" access/impact loss
is merely estimating how bad that access/impact loss is.)

> These are two different, parallel strategies. The whole of the BOAI
> document was also very clear on this point.

BOAI was about OA, not about OA mandates. We've come a long way
since December 2001...

> > SH: once the self-archiving mandates prevail,
> > the issue of converting subsidised non-OA journals
> > to OA becomes moot, insofar as OA is concerned.
> J-CG:
> One could argue symmetrically that once all journals have turned OA,
> self-archiving is moot insofar as OA is concerned. So where does that
> leave us?

It leaves us with one route to 100% OA (self-archiving) that depends
only on the research community itself, the research providers and users,
their institutions and funders, and that can be 100% mandated.

And one route that depends on converting journals, hence on journal
publishers, most of whom are not so inclined; and if conversion is
mandatable at all, it is mandatable only for the subsidised journals,
whose percentage and distribution in the quality hierarchy is not known
(but unlikely to be very high).

In other words, one route that, once mandated, is certain to
deliver 100% OA, and another route that, even it can be mandated
for some unknown percentage of journals, is likely to leave us
waiting for 100% OA for a long, long time to come.

I'd go with the sure road.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Sun Nov 05 2006 - 11:52:04 GMT

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