Re: What Can and Should Be Mandated

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Date: Sun, 5 Nov 2006 11:02:26 -0500

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Le dimanche 05 novembre 2006 à 02:06 +0000, Stevan Harnad a écrit :

 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?

Fair enough. Initial samplings in various countries (Canada, Finland,
France, brazil and other latin American countries, Italy, etc.) seem to
indicate a proportion that is 50% (Canada) and above.

 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.

The same institutions that support research often handle a separate
budget for journal subsidies. SSHRC in Canada is typical of this
situation. CNRS in France does the same. the various Conicyt, Cnpq, etc.,
in latin America do the same. Academies in other countries do the same.
In short, if these institutions accept mandating self-archiving for their
research grantees, they certainly could envision mandating OA for their
journal grantees.

If self-archiving mandates generalize sufficiently (including with an
implementation policy with teeth), Stevan is right. But that is exactly
the question. For the moment, the do not, and other routes can help
improve the general progression toward OA. Once again, what I am
proposing is not in lieu of self-archiving; it is another extra policy
measure to achieve the desired OA goal.

> 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 so. Unless we have the kinds of statistics that Finland maintains
at our disposal, how do we go about doing this easily?

> 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.)

I was responding to Stevan's point on OA being more important for "top"
publications by showing that such hierarchies do not work well in a
number of diciplines.

All this leads me to introduce an important point here. Stevan is
constantly analyzing the situation as if all scholarship and science
behaved like the most globalized natural sciences. It may be that the
globalized natural sciences do represent the future of all scholarship -
personally, I believe this to be the case - but, in the emanwhile, we
must deal with the hic et nunc of the situation. In one word, it is a far
messier situation than Stevan allows for. Now, Stevan seems to think that
when one points to complexities, one deters, divers, weakens or otherwise
opposes the one, simple, solution that he proposes. This is nonsense of
course. Saying that the devil is in the details is not an act of
opposition; neither is it conducive to paralysis. It simply means that
success will come only with a careful attention to details so as to take
advantage of every bump and shrub on the battlefield.

> 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.

How does the percentage of articles published in subsidized journals
relate to journal ranking? I do not understand.

> 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.)

How does one get it? Interviews? Questionnaires? So far as I know, there
are no published rankings of journals outside impact factors, except for
an occasional, sectorial study found in Scientometrics, for example.

> 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.

Right, and a trend seems to emerge from the few soundings that we have
been mentioning here: humanities and social sciences include a
significant proportion of their output in national, subsidized,
journals.  Natural sciences, engineering and medicine do not. In the
latter case, there is a probably correlation between national and lower
quality; in SSH, such a correlation would be much more surprising. More
work needs to be done on this, I agree.

> 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).

I am not sure that got much traction there either...

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

Of course. You forget one other group that may not go along as easily,
alas: I mean learned societies and scientific associations.

 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.)

You lost me here...

> 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...

But it also was about the two roads to OA and these two roads remain very
current, whatver Stevan may think or wish.

> > 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.

Once more, details are important. The research community is not
homogeneous. Gate-keepers do not behave exactly like mere authors. I have
already mentioned that scientific associations, although they emanate
form the research communities, have their own agendas (and there are
sevral of them: the opposition between physics associations and chemistry
associations is striking in this regard). The recent battles in
anthropology about OA and mandating shows again the importance of these
associations, all the more that they still control many of the best
journals in their respective fields. In short, more careful analysis,
once more, is needed.

 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).

Why unlikely to be high? Scientific prudence should dictate at least
neutrality in this regard, and initial soundings obviously contradict
Stevan's somewhat rash assertion above.

Journals are not just "publishers": they are also made up of editors,
associations stand behind them, aggregators often take charge of an
electronic version - a situation noted on fairly regular basis in
Canadina SSH journals, for example. In short, pushing on journals is not
so hopeless as Stevan seems to believe because fault lines between
various lines of interest are also present within journals.

 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.

The 100% OA relies on the "once mandated". As we know, encouraging
progress is showing up all the time on this front and that is why efforts
should be maintained there. But it is still very slow and very limited.
Other routes add more positive results and, ultimately, all these efforts
feed each other. This is why I do not believe in the diversion thesis
(which has never been proved, by the way).

 I'd go with the sure road.

For the moment, there is no "sure road". There are various strategies
that, together, bring us closer to success. Stevan is essentially saying
something like : the infantry is the way to win this war. Let us put all
our resources in the infantry and let us give up on the navy and the air
force, as well as armored divisions. All in the infantry. I say, in
contrast, that we should keep our options open and push in all sorts of
ways. In some circumstances, the infantry may indeed be the right way to
and then, by all means, let us support the infantry; in other situations,
the air force will be more efficient. In even more difficult situations,
it may be difficult to know and then we have to maintain a balance of
means. That is all I am arguing rather than throwing all my marbles in
one single basket.

Jean-Claude Guédon

 Stevan Harnad

Dr. Jean-Claude Guédon
Dept. of Comparative Literature
University of montreal
PO Box 6128, Downtown Branch
Montreal, QC H3C 3J7
Received on Mon Nov 06 2006 - 00:08:39 GMT

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