Non-Discoverability or Non-Existence?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2007 12:57:40 +0100

Just to echo the wise words of Les Carr below: Where is the objective
evidence that there are articles actually present in Institutional
Repositories (IRs) today that users are failing to "discover" (with,
say, OAister or Google Scholar or Google or whatever)?

Otherwise we are solemnly baptising, and agonising (and wasting time)
over an a-priori, imaginary non-problem, while continue to leave the
real problem -- the *absence*, not the *discoverability* -- of 85%
of our annual target content (peer-reviewed journal articles) unsolved.

We have already wasted so much time on so many armchair non-problems
or irrelevancies in the OA/IR area (peer review reform, publication
reform, copyright reform, purported preservation problems, purported
interoperability problems, etc.) while continuing to neglect the one,
readily solvable problem that was staring us in the face all along (the
need to mandate the immediate deposit of our target contents): I hope the
myth of "nondiscoverability" will not now become yet another red herring
delaying and distracting us from performing the few keystrokes that are
the only real thing standing between us and 100% OA (and 100% "discoverable"
and usable OA):

    "A Keystroke Koan For Our Open Access Times"

    Keystroke Economy

    Zeno's Paralysis

    Self-Archiving FAQ

Please do not reply with evidence that there is an article that a
particular search failed to find. What is needed is realistic benchmarks
comparing the *size* of this purported discoverability problem, for
contents that are really out there in OA IRs, compared to contents that
are really out there in proprietary databases.

And here is a wager: a shrewd boolean full-text search plus Google's
PageRank will outperform prefabricated taxonomy-based search every time
(*if* both databases actually contain the same target contents as a
subset) -- and that's without even making use of the OAI metadata...

Stevan Harnad

On Fri, 20 Jul 2007, Leslie Carr wrote:

> On 20 Jul 2007, at 09:03, Mahendra Mahey wrote:
> > JIBS and JISC Collections Workshop -
> > Discovering eprints: finding needles in the haystack?
> Andy Powell did 30 minutes work on this last year and showed that the
> needles were actually quite easy to find with Google. (see http://
> )
> I have just repeated his exercise with some eprints selected from
> repositories at Southampton, Loughborough, Strathclyde and
> Westminster and found that the situation is unchanged. ie, it is very
> easy to find a specific needle using the needle's title or using
> keywords drawn from its title.
> I suspect that the real difficulty in finding needles comes from the
> fact that most of them haven't been put in the haystack in the first
> place.
> Can anyone point me at some data showing the difficulty that people
> are having in finding eprints? I would genuinely like to know - I am
> NOT a Google apologist (I believe that there are probably serious
> theoretical flaws with using it for certain types of information
> discovery), but I dislike perpetuating urban myths and I would like
> to find some serious data.
> ---
> Les
Received on Fri Jul 20 2007 - 13:21:20 BST

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