Re: Wrong Advice On Open Access: History Repeating Itself

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 31 Oct 2009 17:22:57 -0400

On 31-Oct-09, at 12:05 PM, Prof. Tom Wilson wrote:

> No one knows exactly how the 'open access' movement will pan out but
> I think
> that some things are fairly clear.
> 1, scholarly publishers are facing very similar problems to the
> newspaper
> industry - changes in technologies are making them redundant.

Newspapers do not provide the service of peer review.

> 2, anything that props up the industry will simply delay the
> inevitable and
> institutional repositories prop up the industry - indeed, why else
> would
> publishers give permission for authors' works to be archived?
> Strong advocacy
> of repositories is strong advocacy of the status quo in scholarly
> communication.

The purpose of the Open Access movement is not to knock down the
publishing industry. The purpose is to provide Open Access to refereed
research articles.

> 3, at least in the UK, universities seem to have other things on
> their minds
> (like potential bankruptcies in a number of cases) to be too
> concerned about
> such things as mandating repositories.

The enhanced research impact that OA will provide is a (virtually cost-
free) way of enhancing a university's research profile and funding.

> 4, scholars are increasingly taking matters into their own hands and
> producing
> free OA journals on some kind of subsidy basis and any economist
> will tell you
> that social benefit is maximised by this form of OA.

Hardly makes a difference. The way to take matters in their own hands
is to deposit the refereed final drafts of all their journal articles
in their university's OA Repository.

> 5, change is difficult when status and promotion are made dependent
> upon
> publication in journals that are highly cited in Web of Knowledge,
> consequently, it is only when free OA journals make their way into
> the upper
> quartile of the rankings that they will begin to attract as many
> submissions as
> the established fee-based journals (whether subscription or author-
> charged).
> Some OA journals are already in that position.

No need whatsoever to switch to or wait for OA journals. Just deposit
all final refereed drafts of journal articles immediately upon

> 6, however, 5 above may be overtaken as scholarly communication
> methods
> continue to evolve. The present situation is not the end of the
> line, but a
> somewhat confused intermediate stage of development. Cherished
> features of such
> communication, such as peer review, may disappear, to be replaced by
> post-publication comments. These may be stronger affirmations of
> quality than
> citation - particularly as we usually have no idea as to why a paper
> has been
> cited.

The goal of the OA movement is free peer-reviewed research from access-
barriers, not to free it from peer review.

> In brief - any strategy evolved today on the assumption that the
> future is
> likely to be the same as the past is probably going to fail.

The only strategy needed for 100% OA to the OA movement's target
content -- the 2.5 million articles a year published in the planet's
25,000 peer reviewed journals -- is author self-archiving and
institution/funder self-archiving mandates.

Stevan Harnad

> Professor T.D. Wilson, PhD, Hon.PhD
> Publisher/Editor in Chief
> Information Research
> e-mail:
> Web site:
> ___________________________________________________
Received on Sat Oct 31 2009 - 22:05:25 GMT

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