Re: Wrong Advice On Open Access: History Repeating Itself

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 2009 15:30:23 -0500

On 1-Nov-09, at 10:21 AM, Prof. Tom Wilson wrote:

>> SH: Newspapers do not provide the service of peer review.
> TW: Irrelevant - they are all subject to the same forces and, in any event, it is
> the scholarly community that provides peer review, not the publisher.  Free OA
> journals can provide peer review just as well as the commercial publisher,
> since it is without cost in either case.

Irrelevant to what? I would say that it is the details of peer review
that are irrelevant, when what we are seeking is access to
peer-reviewed journal articles, all annual 2.5 million of them,
published in all the planet's 25,000 peer reviewed journals -- of
which only about a 5th at most, and mostly not the top 5th, are OA

If researchers -- as authors and users -- want OA, it borders on the
absurd for them to keep waiting for journals to convert to OA, rather
than providing it for themselves, by self-archiving their journal
articles, regardless of the economic model of the journal in which
they were published -- but especially for the vast majority of
journals that are not OA journals. (And it is equally absurd for
researchers' institutions and funders to keep dawdling in doing the
obvious, which is to mandate OA self-archiving.

And posting to unrefereed content to a "social network" is no solution
to the problem.

Among the many dawdles that never seem to relent diverting our
attention from this (and our fingertips from doing it) are irrelevant
preoccupations with peer review reform, copyright reform, and
publishing reform. And whilst we keep fiddling, access and impact keep
burning to ash...

>> SH: 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.
> TW: The only way to accomplish this in any true sense is for the scholarly community
> to take over the publication process - as indeed was the case originally.
> Commercial publishers provided a service that the technology has made
> redundant.

In "any true sense"? What on earth does that mean? The only sense in
which articles are truly free online is if we make them free online.
Waiting for publishers to do it in our stead has been the sure way of
*not* accomplishing it.

>> SH: The enhanced research impact that OA will provide is a (virtually cost-
>> free) way of enhancing a university's research profile and funding.
> TW: The only way it is cost free is through the publication of free OA journals -
> anything else has either a charge or, potentially, with withdrawal of
> permission to archive.

Truly astonishing: Charging author/institutions publication fees today
is decidedly not cost-free, especially while the potential funds to
pay it are still locked up in subscriptions to journals whose articles
authors are not self-archiving to make them free!

The cost per article of an Institutional Repository and a few author
keystrokes is risible.

And as for the tired, 10-year-old "Poisoned Apple" canard -- I expect
that people can and keep invoking it, against all sense and evidence,
for 10 more decades as yet another of the groundless grounds for
keeping fingers in that chronically idle state of Zeno's Paralysis:

>> SH: 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.
> TW: No - the way to take matters into their own hands is to develop and publish in
> free OA journals - archiving is with the permission of the publishers and that
> can be withdrawn at any time the cost to the publisher becomes evident.

Repeating the Poisoned Apple canard does not make it one epsilon more
true. Fifteen percent of articles are being self-archived, yet 63% of
journals (including most of the top ones) have already endorsed
immediate OA self-archiving --  and for the rest (i.e., those authors
who elect to honor publisher embargoes), there is the immediate option
of depositing anyway and providing "Almost OA" via the IR's email
eprint request button.

These are all just the same old, wizened Zeno's canards, being
repeated over and over again, year in and year out.

I've lately even canonized them all as haikus -- --
upgraded from koans:

But it doesn't work; they seem to be imperishable, and just keep being
reborn, as my voice goes hoarse from making the same rebuttals year in
and year out, and my fingertips decline into dystonia...

>> SH: No need whatsoever to switch to or wait for OA journals. Just deposit
>> all final refereed drafts of journal articles immediately upon acceptance.
> TW: I'm not arguing for waiting - and no one is waiting, it is happening now - there
> is no reason why a dual strategy cannot be applied. The focus upon repositories
> at the expense of adopting free OA publishing supports the status quo, which,
> in any event cannot survive the changes taking place.

You may not think you are arguing for waiting, but what you have been
doing is invoking the main classical canards that have kept people
waiting (instead of depositing, and mandating) for well over a decade
now (including Gold (OA) Fever). I'd say 4000 Gold OA journals vs. 100
Green OA mandates is a symptom of attention deficit, not focus. Since
the online era began, the total amount of OA provided via spontaneous
Green OA self-archiving is and always has been greater than the amount
provided by Gold OA publishing, but that (15%) is no consolation,
considering that the other 85% is and always has been within reach all
along too, whereas publishers' economic models are not.

>> SH: The goal of the OA movement is to free peer-reviewed research from access-
>> barriers, not to free it from peer review.
> TW: I'm not arguing that publication should be freed from peer review - I'm saying
> that the developments in such things as social networking, etc. make it
> possible that non-peer-review open publication is one of the possibilties.

I would say that keystrokes and keystroke mandates, for the existing
peer-reviewed literature, such as it is -- the one OA is trying to
free -- are a far more possible possiblity (for OA) than speculations
about the future of peer review.

> SH: 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.
> TW: Impossible to achieve - arguing for a single strategy when that strategy is not
> achievable is to bury one's head in the sand. Changes in communication methods
> will continue to take place and it is likely that multiple methods of OA
> publishing will evolve

Impossible to achieve? Perhaps only in the sense that overcoming
Zeno's Paralysis may not be possible to achieve. But certainly not
because of the validity of any of the several Zeno rationales that you
have invoked.

And changes in "communication methods" are not what is at issue, when
the target is to communicate validated peer-reviewed research rather
than simply posting or blogging in a social network. (The latter is a
supplement, not a substitute.)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Nov 06 2009 - 04:19:50 GMT

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