Inaccessible Research Publications Versus Unpublished Research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 10:35:37 +0000

On Mon, 19 Mar 2007, Andrew A. Adams wrote:

> I think I can help clarify some of these discussions about EU research
> (Principally Framework Programme funded) and OA mandates.
> It is indeed the case that most commercial (as opposed to HE institute or
> non-profit research institute who are the other major players, in my
> experience, in EU projects) are reluctant to commit to dissemination of the
> results of the research of the project.

This is regrettable (and deserves to be remedied) but it is also completely
irrelevant to OA, which is about providing free online access to published
research for those would-be users who cannot afford paid access to
the journal.

Problems with funded research not getting published are problems, to be sure, but
they are not OA problems.

> However, the EU insists and in my own
> area of research, we seem to be doing quite well in acting as the
> dissemination partner on security-research projects where all or almost all
> of the other partners are commercial companies. Of course, Universities have
> the greatest experience in dissemination activities, so that isn't surprising.

Again: not pertinent to OA. Whatever does get published should be self-archived.
For unpublished research, OA is moot. (Not a non-problem: a non-OA problem.)

> However, unless they have been gulled by the publishing industry (and it may
> be the case with SOME commercial companies, but only until well-informed OA
> advocates can make the obvious case to them). Peer-reviewed journal articles
> are already revealing some of the results of the EU-funded research. As has
> been stressed, it is in the interests of those gaining funding from the EU
> that the already published elements of the results of those programs are
> readily available to researchers around the world, since this increases their
> pool of possible non-profit partners in future research.

It is indeed in the interests of research and researchers to make their
published research OA, but I still cannot discern why this is being linked
in any way with the red herring of unpublished research (although it is
of course also in the interests of research and researchers to publish
their findings wherever possible).

> As has been pointed
> out, other commercial players are rarely inconvenienced by the costs of
> access to research, principally because of their much narrower interests and
> higher concentration on a small number of fields - it is rare to find a
> company involved in commercialising research developed in universities that
> cannot fund the necessary small number of journals necessary for it, partly
> because they will tend to have 50 or more researchers working in closely
> related fields. Universities are broader within subjects and across the
> spectrum - oh, and typically we have other issues to balance our small
> budgets with.

Yes, R&D industries can afford paid journal access. It is not for that
reason that it is in the R&D industries' interest to ally with the OA
movement. It is because OA opens access (to published research) from
researcher to researcher, and thus generates more research findings
for R&D industries to use and apply. It is researchers' institutions
(universities, mostly) that cannot afford the paid journal access. (This
again has nothing to do with unpublished research.)

> In addition, not all research-intensive companies working in the EU actually
> get involved directly with EU-funded research. A lot of them work as
> suggested by Miradon, by taking the publicly available work of universities
> and developing it into products, sometimes in direct collaboration with the
> academics involved, and sometimes by working primarily from what the
> academics publish. These companies can also afford the publications they
> need, but as Miradon points out they are likely easily persuadable that their
> growth potential is based on the output of university researchers.

That is the same point I just made above, and it again has nothing at all
to do with unpublished research.

> Better-informed university researchers will produce more useful things for
> them, and we have a lot of evidence of the improvements that will be wrought
> by much greater OA of research output.

Hear hear! This is why there a strategic alliance indeed needs to be
forged between the research community and the R&D industry in lobbying
for OA.

(But this again has nothing to do with unpublished research. Or rather,
OA has nothing to do with getting unpublished research published. The
more research that gets published, the better, but that is not the
burden of OA. The problem of research that is inaccessible because
it is unaffordable and the problem of research that is inaccessible
because it is unpublished should not be conflated. They are completely
different problems.)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed Mar 21 2007 - 10:49:13 GMT

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