Self-Archiving Mandates Are Just Natural Extensions of Publish-Or-Perish Mandates in the Online Era

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2007 01:26:55 +0000

On Wed, 28 Feb 2007, Arthur Smith wrote:

> Stevan Harnad wrote:
> >
> > I note that the authors of fee/royalty-based writings are not interested in making
> > their writings OA. Researchers, the authors of the give-away writings in question,
> > are.
> Not that I've been keeping up, but I thought the question under
> discussion was whether authors should be *forced* to make their writings
> OA (through self-archiving). If force is required, it's not clear they
> "are interested" at all.

You are quite right to raise this question and it is incumbent on mandate advocates
to reply. Here goes:

(1) Self-archiving mandates are no more (nor less) a matter of force than
publish-or-perish mandates:

(2) Is it in researchers' interests to publish their findings? Yes. Can they be
relied upon to do so without publish-or-perish? No.

(3) Why don't more researchers self-archive spontaneously? The reasons (in no
particular order) are:

    (3a) Unawareness of the possibility of self-archiving
    (3b) Unawareness of the benefits of self-archiving
    (3c) Worries that self-archiving might be illegal
    (3d) Worries that self-archiving might reduce one's chances of getting published
    (3e) Worries that self-archiving means abandoning peer review
    (3f) Worries that self-archiving is technically hard to do
    (3g) Worries that self-archiving is time-consuming
    (3i) Laziness
    (3j) and dozens of other worries "that despair and shame and [years of
         weariness] forbid me to tabulate"...

(4) But not only do Alma Swan's international, interdisciplinary
author surveys show that 95% of authors will nevertheless comply
with self-archiving mandates (over 80% of them willingly), but Arthur
Sale's actual analyses of the success rate of mandated institutional
repositories, compared to unmandated ones, fully bear out the results
of the surveys: Self-archiving mandates work, just as publish-or-perish
mandates (and public smoking bans, and seat-belt regulations) work.

> And conversely, there are quite a number of
> fee/royalty-based writings that have also been posted for free on the
> web (many of our RMP review articles, for which we usually pay authors
> an honorarium/royalty, are also posted on the arxiv for instance).

That's fine. I didn't say that some royalty-paid authors don't want to
maximise usage and impact too: I was only talking about the ones that
didn't want to do it at the expense of their royalties. Moreover,
the point is that there isn't a single exception to the give-away
mentality for journal articles, whereas there are plenty for royalty-based
books. (Paid review article authors, I believe, get a fee, not a cut from
the sales, so there is no reason they would not want to self-archive!)

> Some people want their writings available free on the web, some don't (or
> just don't care). The question seems to be quite orthogonal to whether
> the authors receive money or not.

It is not orthogonal: Most don't bother (agreed, and that is why mandates
are needed). It is not true that most of those who are informed don't care: They
just worry. But all journal article authors care about usage and citations, hence
about the benefits of self-archiving. Book authors may care too, but not enough to
risk royalties for impact.

> I'm not saying that I endorse all that Jan was talking about either...

I hope not!

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Mar 01 2007 - 01:43:39 GMT

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