Re: Comparing OA/non-OA in Developing Countries

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Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2009 14:45:18 -0500

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Just to make sure that no misunderstanding emerges:

OA journals do not necessarily require author/institutional fees. In
fact the majority of the journals in DOAJ do not require such fees.
All SciELO journals, for example, work without author/institution
fees. Let us not conflate OA journals with author-pay OA journals.

A strong reason why many authors in non-OECD countries do not publish
in OA journals is because the evaluation rules applied in many of
these countries often rely on a mechanical use of impact factors.
This is what the evaluation of "quality" amounts to in such cases,
and this fact deeply distorts the way in which authors choose their
journals, especially when impact factors are limited to the results
provided by Thomson Reuters. Again, SciELO has found it necessary to
develop its own metrics if only to have arguments against
quantitative measurements regularly presented as authoritative.

If we really want to deal with quality, we should begin by agreeing
on a set of thresholds that would act as minimal requirements for
quality. In parallel, if we want to evaluate excellence, i.e. an
evaluation ultimately based on competition, then we should also
design our metrics for that purpose. But it should also be remembered
that each objective is quite different from the other. Quality is
like a passing grade; excellence is like a prize. If careers are
first evaluated from the perspective of passing grades, and then from
the perspective of prizes, many confusions will disappear and many
countries will discover that, while the great majority of their
researchers may simply be passing some grades, they are nonetheless
terribly useful to the country's economy and culture.

So, let us be concerned with quality and let us not confuse it with

Jean-Claude Guédon

Le mercredi 14 janvier 2009 à 11:39 -0500, Stevan Harnad a écrit :
      Comparing OA/non-OA in Developing Countries

            "[A]n investigation of the use of open
            access by researchers from developing
            countries... show[s] that open access
            journals are not characterised by a different
            composition of authors than the traditional
            toll access journals... [A]uthors from
            developing countries do not citeopen
            access more than authors from developed
            countries... [A]uthors from developing
            countries are not more attracted to open
            access than authors from developed
            countries.[underscoring added]"(Frandsen
            2009, J. Doc. 65(1)) 
            (See also "Open Access: No Benefit for Poor

      Open Access is not the same thing as Open Access

      Articles published in conventional non-Open-Access
      journals can also be made Open Access (OA) by their
      authors -- by self-archiving them in their
      own Institutional Repositories.

      The Frandsen study focused on OA journals, not on OA
      articles. It is problematic to compare OA and non-OA
      journals, because journals differ in quality and content,
      and OA journals tend to be newer and fewer than non-OA
      journals (and often not at the top of the quality

      Some studies have reported that OA journals are cited
      more, but because of the problem of equating journals,
      these findings are limited. In contrast, most
      studies that have compared OA and non-OA articles within
      the same journal and year have found a significant
      citation advantage for OA. It is highly unlikely that
      this is only a developed-world effect; indeed it is
      almost certain that a goodly portion of OA's enhanced
      access, usage and impact comes from developing-world

      It is unsurprising that developing world authors are
      hesitant about publishing in OA journals, as they are the
      least able to pay author/institution publishing fees (if
      any). It is also unsurprising that there is no
      significant shift in citations toward OA journals in
      preference to non-OA journals (whether in the developing
      or developed world): Accessibility is a necessary -- not
      a sufficient -- condition for usage and citation: The
      other necessary condition isquality. Hence it was to be
      expected that the OA Advantage would affect the top
      quality research most. That's where the proportion of OA
      journals is lowest.

      The Seglen effect ("skewness of science") is that the top
      20% of articles tend to receive 80% of the citations.
      This is why the OA Advantage is more detectable by
      comparing OA and non-OA articles within the same journal,
      rather than by comparing OA and non-OA journals.

      We will soon be reporting results showing that the
      within-journal OA Advantage is higher in "higher-impact"
      (i.e., more cited) journals. Although citations are not
      identical with quality, they do correlate with quality
      (when comparing like with like). So an easy way to
      understand the OA Advantage is as a quality advantage --
      with OA "levelling the playing field" by allowing authors
      to select which papers to cite on the basis of their
      quality, unconstrained by their accessibility. This
      effect should be especially strong in the developing
      world, where access-deprivation is greatest.

      Stevan Harnad
      American Scientist Open Access Forum

Jean-Claude Guédon
Université de Montréal
Received on Wed Jan 14 2009 - 22:28:41 GMT

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