Well-Meaning Supporters of "OA + X" Inadvertently Opposing OA

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2006 14:05:39 +0000

Chris Armbruster seems to be a well-meaning supporter of OA + X (i.e.,
Open Access plus something else, X, where in this case X seems to be:
copyright reform, publishing innovation, and data-archiving).

The problem with well-meaning supporters of OA + X invariably arises
when X gets in the way of OA. For then, support for OA + X becomes
opposition to OA - X (especially when "X" turns out to be a bigger,
slower, vaguer and less certain agenda than OA itself).

But OA -- already long overdue, and now at last moving toward success via OA self-archiving mandates -- is not helped, at this point, by opponents of OA - X.

I reply to Chris Armbruster below, suggesting that with a little patience,
he may find that the likelihood of the "X" he desires (copyright reform,
publishing innovation and data-archiving) will be greatly enhanced
by OA itself, and OA itself, 100% OA, is now within practical reach,
via self-archiving and self-archiving mandates. It is unhelpful in the
extreme to urge not grasping 100% OA at this point.

Failing to grasp the OA that is within reach already has a long history,
alas (over a decade now), and the fallacy has a name -- "Zeno's Paralysis"
-- and a long list of instances, which well-meaning supporters of OA +
X would do well to consult, so as not to help history to repeat itself,
inadvertently: http://www.eprints.org/openaccess/self-faq/#32-worries

A point-by-point reply to Chris Armbruster follows:

On Thu, 14 Dec 2006, Armbruster, Chris wrote:


OA (to research articles, as defined) first has to be *reached*, before
it can help foster data-archiving and innovation. OA is now within reach,
via self-archiving, mandated by research institutions and funders, now
spreading worldwide. Let us speak about using OA to foster data-archiving
and innovation once we have OA, rather than continuing to hold OA at arm's
length any longer, for any reason.

(Research, and OA to research, by the way, are global, interdigitating
matters, not European ones; all research benefits, reciprocally, from OA,
not just European research.)

> The programme of the European Commission Conference: Scientific Publishing
> in the European Research Area - Brussels, 15-16 February 2007 includes
> speakers from the publishing industry such as Reed Elsevier and Springer,
> but it is clear that the proponents of Open Access are having their day
> in Brussels (on top of this - from Springer it is Jan Velterop). This
> vindicates those that read the outcome of the earlier study as an
> unequivocal support of OA, at least among the authors of the study and -
> presumably - among those in DG Research that commissioned the study.

Let us hope it is so. Now why is an OA supporter, like Chris Armbruster, not happy
about this?

> Yet, it is far from certain that the conference will become a milestone
> on the way to OA. For the OA movement may be heading into a dead end.
> It is worrying to see the widespread incapacity to understand the
> importance of unblocking innovative capacities in scientific publishing,
> scholarly communication and access to data.

The immediate objective is OA, and 100% OA will contribute immeasurably to
"unblocking innovative capacities in scientific publishing, scholarly
communication and access to data." Blocking or delaying immediate OA will not.

> And here is the problem with the prior study of scientific publishing in
> Europe, with the so-called green road to access and with the new approach
> of Science Commons. The study by Dewatripont et al failed to address
> the issue of copyright and thus missed the importance of shifting the
> dissemination of research articles AND data from an IPR to nonexclusive
> licensing.

The objective of the OA movement is OA. Copyright is addressed to the
extent that it is pertinent to OA. Nonexclusive licensing of articles AND
data is welcome and desirable, but it is not a precondition for OA, and
insisting on it as a prerequisite for OA simply places further needless
obstacles in the path of OA.

Self-archiving mandates require researchers to deposit their articles in
their Institutional (or Central) Repositories. For the articles that are
published in the 69% of journals that have already endorsed immediate
OA self-archiving, access to the deposited article can be set to Open
Access immediately upon acceptance for publication.


For the remaining 31%, access can be provisionally set to Closed Access
during any allowed embargo interval, during which all research usage
needs can be fulfilled via the semi-automatic EMAIL EPRINT button,


whereby individual users, seeing the deposited article's globally
accessible metadata, click to request an individual copy from the author
via email, and the author can authorise the emailing via one click. That
is not yet OA, but a close functional approximation, and will be followed
by OA quite naturally once mandated depositing approaches 100% globally.

    Optimizing OA Self-Archiving Mandates: What? Where? When? Why? How?

Hence, no need to await successful negotiation of nonexclusive licensing
in order to self-archive, or mandate self-archiving, right now.

> Many proponents of green OA seem to brazenly assume that they
> can go on self-archiving post-prints without paying attention to copyright

Please see above.

> - At some point in the future (when OA pressure has abated somewhat)

Why would it be imagined that OA pressure will *abate* rather than grow,
as OA grows? Enjoying the benefits of OA will only increase the desire
for and dependence upon OA by research and researchers, as well as their
institutions and funders (the ones who mandate it), worldwide.

> publishers will ask their authors to remove all openly accessible copies
> of the research article, word-wide, from all servers.

This is being hypothesised here rather confidently a-priori on the basis
of a subjective impression. The objective probabilities are look rather
the opposite: http://www.eprints.org/openaccess/self-faq/#32.Poisoned

> Publishers are not to be blamed - for as long as their business model
> of regarding research articles and data as 'property' is accepted by
> researchers, universities and research funders. Shareholders have every
> right to insist that publishers maximise profits from the property that
> they have acquired.

On present evidence, publishers are to be praised, not blamed, for 93%
of journals have already endorsed some form of self-archiving. There is
also zero evidence to date that self-archiving causes cancellations. And
even if it ever does, publishing can and will adapt. It is quite clear
that maximising research usage and impact -- for research, researchers,
their institutions and their funders, and for the tax-paying public that
funds the funders and institutions, and for whose benefit the research is
conducted -- takes precedence over insuring publishers' current revenues
streams and current cost-recovery methods. Publishing can and will adapt;
it will not be able to deny research the benefits of OA.



> That Science Commons should now also be advocating self-archiving
> is unbelievable.

On the contrary, it is quite sensible and welcome that Science Commons should
recognise that access is the end and CC-licensing is merely one of the means:

     "On the Deep Disanalogy Between Text and Software and Between Text
     and Data Insofar as Free/Open Access is Concerned"

    "Making Ends Meet in the Creative Commons" (Jun 2004)

    "Open Access Data Archiving: A Complement to Article-Archiving"
    (Mar 2005)

> It is no comfort that SC provides "author addenda"
> for copyright transfer contracts by which the author retains the right
> to self-archive. This is nonsense because it effectively legitimates
> the mistaken idea that the future of scientific publishing and data
> management should continue to be one in which the publishing house will
> own the IPR to the article.

No, Chris, it *moots* it, once one realizes that all the usage
capabilities that researchers need already come with the (free, online)
territory once the full-text is made freely accessible to all online:

    All the *usage* rights that researchers and research harvesters
    need for full-text journal-article content come with the free online
    territory (including linking, downloading, viewing, storing locally,
    printing-off locally, and data-crunching).

    Other "re-use" rights are neither part of, nor needed for, OA (e.g.,
    republishing or redistributing online or on paper).

    CC licenses are useful, desirable and welcome -- but *not necessary
    for OA*, and a deterrent to OA if needlessly insisted upon as an
    extra precondition.

> The green road to OA and the Science Commons "author addenda" are
> not in the best interest of researchers and universities.

Does this mean that *not* self-archiving research, free for all online,
is in the best interest of researchers and universities? (OA - X is
bad? It should be deferred until/unless we can have OA + X?)

> They are certainly detrimental to the interest of higher education
> institutions and their students.

It is bad for students to have free online access to the research output
of higher education institutions?

> And they are ruinous to the economic future of Europe.

Protecting the current revenue streams and cost-recovery models of
journal publishers is more important for the economic future of Europe
than maximising the usage, uptake, applications and impact of European
research output (i.e., maximising research progress and productivity)?

> Here is why: Given the expansion of research, the rise of the
> internet, the acceleration of innovation and the increasing importance
> of knowledge-based industry and services it is imperative that access
> to scientific knowledge (in the form of research articles and data that
> have been publicly funded and/or have been produced not-for-profit)
> be unrestricted and seamless.

Is that not precisely what OA provides? And is that not precisely why
self-archiving is to be mandated?

> This would not only increase the quality
> of research (ease of peer review, availability of results, transparency
> of knowledge claims), it would also unblock the market for the creative
> emergence of new services to readers and authors.

Note that all these benefits, on which there is full agreement with Chris,
are benefits of OA, not of X. Yet it is against OA that Chris argues
when he argues against OA - X.

> Given the large number of knowledge claims, the enormous amount of
> publications in circulation and the requirement to handle ever more
> complex data, we urgently need services that help readers (be they
> researchers, students or companies) organize their activities more
> effectively and efficiently.

What we need most urgently is the 80-85% of annual research output that
is not yet OA to be made OA. Self-archiving mandates will generate this.

Yes, search and navigation services on this growing OA database can and will
become ever more powerful as the OA database grows. But what is missing now
is not the overlay services, but the OA content itself.


> The challenge to the European Commission is not to take sides for or
> against OA.

Isn't it? If immediate OA is reachable via mandated self-archiving, and
its benefits to research, researchers, their institutions, their funders,
and the fax-paying public are substantial, should the European Commission
not take sides in the conflict of interest between those benefits and the
risks to the current revenue streams and cost-recovery models of research
publishers, in deciding whether or not to mandate OA self-archiving?

    Houghton, J., Steele, C. & Sheehan, P. (2006) Research Communication
    Costs in Australia: Emerging Opportunities and Benefits. RESEARCH
    A report to the Department of Education, Science and Training.

    Houghton, J. & Sheehan, P. (2006) The Economic Impact of Enhanced
    Access to Research Findings. Centre for Strategic Economic Studies
    Victoria University

    Harnad, S., Carr, L., Brody, T. & Oppenheim, C. (2003) Mandated
    online RAE CVs Linked to University Eprint Archives: Improving
    the UK Research Assessment Exercise whilst making it cheaper and
    easier. Ariadne 35 (April 2003).

    Harnad, S. (2005) Making the case for web-based
    self-archiving. Research Money 19 (16).

    Harnad, S. (2005) Maximising the Return on UK's Public
    Investment in Research.

    Harnad, Stevan (2005) Australia Is Not Maximising the Return on
    its Research Investment. In Steele, Prof Colin, Eds. Proceedings
    National Scholarly Communications Forum 2005, Sydney,
    Australia. http://eprints.utas.edu.au/204/

> It is to understand what legal, economic and technical regime
> would be best for the quality of research in the ERA, for the quality of
> higher education in the EHEA and for the economic prosperity of Europe
> as a whole.

This "X" sounds rather abstract, vague, and general. Mandating OA
self-archiving in order to maximise European research access and impact,
in contrast, is concrete, specific, practical, testable, tested, has
been demonstrated to be both implementable and successful, and has
already been sporadically implemented in the UK, Switzerland, Portugal,
Australia, and India, with proposals pending in the US and Europe. It
is time to implement it systematically in Europe, for the sake of OA.

Let us hope that the Brussels meeting will not instead be distracted by "X."


Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Dec 14 2006 - 14:57:19 GMT

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