Re: OA Primer for the Perplexed

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 28 May 2008 21:10:00 +0100

Talat Chaudhri wrote:

> The argument made by Stevan Harnad... is marred by the
> repeated assertion that "all authors want OA1" (his term,
> i.e. what we have hitherto been asked to call Green OA self-archiving).

(1) As announced on this list, there are two forms of OA, free access
online, and free access plus re-use licenses of various kinds. The first
is provisionally called "OA1" and the second "OA2". These are
place-holders pending better terms to be proposed shortly. Green OA
self-archiving can in principle provide either OA1 or OA2.

(2) All authors [of peer-reviewed journal articles] want OA1 (i.e.,
all authors want their published articles freely accessible online)
is true (and I challenge Talat to find an author who would *not* want
his article freely accessible online).

But what is also true is that most authors still think it is not
*possible* to make their articles freely accessible online (for at
least 34 reasons, each of them leading to Zeno's Paralysis, all of them
groundless, and the most frequent ones being that authors think it
would violate copyright, bypass peer review, or entail a lot of work on
their part):

So it is not hard at all to see that it is true of *all* peer-reviewed
journal article authors (and definitely *not* not true of all book
authors, software authors, music authors, video authors) that they want
their work to be freely accessible to all would-be users, not just those
who can afford the access tolls.

It's also easy to see why: Because refereed journal-article authors
write for research impact, not for royalty income.

It is likewise not hard to see that even though all journal authors,
without exception, would want their articles to be freely accessible
online, most (85%) of them still don't *make* their articles em freely
accessible online (by self-archiving them).

That is precisely why Green OA self-archiving mandates by researchers'
universities and funders are needed: To cure refereed journal article
authors of the 34 unfounded phobias of Zeno's Paralysis:

    Harnad, S. (2006) Opening Access by Overcoming Zeno's Paralysis, in
    Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic
    Aspects, chapter 8. Chandos.

Zeno *wanted* to walk across the room too: He just (wrongly) believed he
could not...

> The experience of a repository manager quickly shows that many academics
> do
> not want it, largely because they are afraid of what it may entail and
> very badly informed about the benefits to themselves and to their
> disciplines.

You are stating the objective facts incorrectly: Most academics do not
*do* it (self-archive). That is not evidence that they do not *want* their
articles freely accessible. It is merely (as you note) evidence that
they are informed and afraid. This in no way contradicts what I said
(that these authors all want OA for their articles -- whereas other
kinds of authors, of other kinds of work, do not all want OA).

> In fact, when it is asserted that "all authors" want Green
> OA, in fact all that seems to be true is that all respondents to the
> studies cited in fact want it.

No, it is much stronger than that. But Alma Swan's sizable
international, interdisciplinary studies are pretty good evidence of it
too (and so is the latest study, from Australia:

    Anthony Austin, Maree Heffernan, and Nikki David (2008) Academic
    authorship, publishing agreements and open access: Survey Results,
    a new report from the OAK Law Project.

The question to ask is not "do you think it is possible to make your
article OA?" but "Would you want your article to be OA if it were
possible?" Refereed-journal article authors would all reply Yes; other
authors, of other kinds of work (or the same authors, wearing different
hats) would reply No. (The rest is just Zeno's Paralysis.)

> I have encountered whole departments that
> contained maybe only one member of staff who was favourable towards OA
> and otherwise showed ignorance of the issues. This is not their fault
> but ours for failing to accompany efforts towards mandates with the
> appropriate grass-roots advocacy. These mandates are necessary, I agree
> (as stated in the past).

You are quite right that grass-roots advocacy and reliable information
is important. But your conclusion is dead wrong. Ignorance about the
possibility of OA is not at all evidence that refereed journal article
authors would not all want their articles to be freely accessible to all
would-be users. Until this token drops for you, Talat, you still don't
quite get the point.

> I wonder if Stevan can substantiate the comment that "all authors want
> OA1" that I see repeated here, and reconcile that opinion to the
> statement that I have made about my own practical experience as a
> repository manager that it isn't in fact the case across all
> disciplines.

To repeat, you are talking about apples and I am talking about oranges.

You have no evidence that there exist any (journal article) authors who
would not want OA1 for their articles (though there is plenty of evidence
that there are plenty of other kinds of authors of other kinds of work
who would not).

OA1 means free access online. Don't ask your authors whether they think
it is legal to self-archive their articles. Don't ask them whether they
think doing so will destroy publishing. Don't even ask them whether they
think it is possible. Don't ask them whether they think it would
be complicated or time-consuming. They are uninformed and afraid,
as you say. Just ask them whether -- if it were possible, and quick
and easy, and not illegal, and would not destroy publishing -- then would
they self-archive?

And then ask authors of other kinds of works (book, software, audio,
video) whether they too would give away their writings free online if
it were possible, easy, legal and would not destroy publishing. Then you
will have a clearer idea of what people really have on their minds.

> I find it impossible to believe that my university is so
> exceptional!

Your university is not exceptional: You are simply taking false beliefs
about OA1 as evidence of lack of desire for OA1, and that is simply a
logical non sequitur.

> I might add that these are largely arts departments, at
> whom OA advocacy has never been primarily targeted.

As I said, OA is not (yet) about books, and arts are book-intensive
disciplines. But they do published in refereed journals too, so ask them
only about their journal articles, and they will be no different from
any other discipline.

Your point is a non sequitur if what you want to say is that because
authors in book-based (or audio- or video- software-based) disciplines
consider their books (audio, video, software) more important than their
journal articles, they are somehow exceptions to the universal desire of
refereed journal article authors in all disciplines for OA1 to their

As to the kinds of work these disciplines *don't* want to give away:
They are simply not relevant to this discussion. (Nor will "targeting"
them make much difference, at least for now.)

> Quite rightly, they
> feel that they have been treated as an add-on to the needs of science
> disciplines in evolving new forms of academic publishing.

This is a non sequitur and has nothing to do with OA.

> This has been
> directly stated in print by a member of our English department (their
> English Association newsletter) - sadly and ironically I don't think an
> online version exists for me to give you the link. It makes a rather
> interesting, albeit local, case study. But perhaps Stevan will argue
> that this is just one unrepresentative case. If so, the lady doth
> protest too much.

No, what I argue is that I have no idea what this member of your English
department was complaining about, but I am pretty sure it is not the topic
under discussion here, which is that all authors of peer reviewed
journal articles want OA1 for their articles (but 85% of them believe it
is not possible).

> I'm sorry, by no means would I mean to wreck the party. Nonetheless, my
> above point entirely vitiates the article.

Talat, we have *absolutely no idea* what your English department author
was complaining about when he said he felt like an add-on to the needs
of science. You haven't told us. But we can be pretty sure it is
irrelevant to what we are talking about here.

> In simple terms that I feel
> can be useful to those actually engaged in advancing Green OA, I feel
> that both parties in this argument

There are no two parties, and there is no coherent argument, as far as I
can see.

> correctly support different forms of OA,

What different forms of OA are we talking about? OA1 (free online
access) and OA2 (free online access plus licensed re-use)? Or something
else? (Books? Irrelevant.)

> that advancing the cause of one in no way need undermine the other

Until you state clearly what the one and the other is, and who is
arguing what, why, there is neither advancing nor undermining, just
talking past one another.

> (these fears are a phantom and a paranoia in my view) and that very
> little of the debate below is of practical use in putting OA into
> practice.

I'm lost. We were formerly speaking of practical things (access, impact,
mandates, peer review, and the question of whether there are any
individuals or disciplines that are exception to the obvious truism that
the impact-seeking authors of journal articles differ fundamentally from
the royalty-seeking authors of just about anything else), but now we
seem to be talking about unspecified gripes of one English department
member regarding "science publishing."

> In fact, it took me a long time to read and digest while I
> could have been engaging in targeted advocacy aimed at departments and
> management in achieving both voluntary archiving in the meantime and
> mandates as soon as possible. If a post contains misinformation, as I
> submit above, how are we repository managers to make sense of the
> argument and make any use of it? I am certainly perplexed, as primed by
> Stevan's most recent post.

I recommend giving it some more serious thought.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Wed May 28 2008 - 21:14:53 BST

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