Discipline Differences in Benefits/Feasibility of Open Access?(fwd)
harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Mon Dec 2 17:23:57 EST 2002
Forwarded from Bob Parks, with permission.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 2 Dec 2002 09:14:54 -0600 (CST)
From: Bob Parks <bparks at wueconc.wustl.edu>
To: Stevan Harnad <harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: Discipline Differences in Benefits/Feasibility of Open Access?
Stevan Harnad wrotes:
>[Bob may I have permission to post this also to the
>American Scientist Forum?]
Again fine with me to share. NOTE that the [BOAI list]
does not allow me to post, so if you desire that
forum to see my stuff, you guys will have to do it.
I think the main points are defining 'optimal' and second
determining the process to optimality.
>>bp> I will not belabor the point, but I can not see an OPTIMAL solution
>>bp> to this particular market.
>It's an understandable inference on the part of an economist, but in
>fact I was not speaking about a market optimum, in particular, when I
>said open access was optimal. (I'm not even sure what a market optimum
>is!). What I said (and here repeat, with undiminished confidence!) is that
>open access to the entire refereed research literature is optimal for
>researchers, their institutions, their research-funders, the tax-payers
>who fund the funders and the institutions and benefit from the research,
>and for the progress of research itself. Right now, that optimum is tied
>(needlessly) to a Gutenberg-era economic model for the sale of a product:
>a text. In the Gutenberg era there was no other option for this anomalous
>commodity (refereed research). In the PostGutenberg (online) era there
>is. And it is part of the much-needed information campaign to dispel
>under-informedness about the cause/effect connection from access to
>impact, in order to make these new options clear and explicit to the
With Stevan's definition of optimal, I could not agree more. Research
within academic institutions (most of it anyway) should be freely available
to those that desire to view it. Some research in academia may be more like
private research and hence might demand tolls - and I do not want to step
into those waters. So the research I have in mind is what the majority
of academics do, write papers to further knowledge, at least indirectly
(I think that most of us write because if we don't we won't get paid).
And optimality requires that the research be available without toll.
Fortunately, the internet provides us with a means to distribute that
research without any measurable cost. Hence to have any toll to access
the research (which once produced is a public good, with no distribution
cost). To exclude anyone from viewing the research is to exclude benefits
without cost and hence can not be optimal.
Let me now present an optimal world in which there is completely open
access (as I presented the other case earlier).
The major resource cost of research is the writing, the author's time.
This today is compensated by the rewards gained from the writing,
gaining certification from editors and referees (I wish to avoid the
word 'publish', postprint, etc).
Referees today are mostly uncompensated or so poorly compensated that
we can ignore their compensation. Hence in today's world they must
benefit from spending their time refereeing, and in a completely
open access world, there is no reason to believe that they would
not benefit in a similar manner.
Editors were not compensated 30 years ago (or very rarely).
Today many editors are compensated. My argument is that given
30 years ago they were not compensated, in an optimal open access world,
they would need no compensation other than the benefits that
they were getting 30 years ago. And today, many editors are
not compensated at all, except for the prestige, etc.
(Note that editors today, at least in economics/business, demand
compensation because others are getting compensation, not because
they would not edit if they were not compensated.)
Hence, the writing of the paper, and the certification of the
paper (editors and referees), does not require resource transfers.
Those who read the research do not have to compensate those
who write and certify, as it is in their own interests to do so
RESULT: A complete open access of research without any resource
transfer - certainly there are resource costs, but they are borne
internally. There are NO costs to be paid from one (person, or
institution) to another. The product is produced 'freely' for
consumption, and for optimality, consumption can not be reduced
In the world above, I do not even allow the $500 per paper
that Stevan has mentioned. It is not a cost that must be
compensated externally. And if that is a cost that must
be externally compensated, we are really at the current state,
qualitatively at least. One of my arguments in my Faustian
Grip paper was that reducing the 'out of pocket' cost of research,
from its current level, to say just 10% of the current 'charges',
will still lead to a 'crisis' in the long run. The current
library/journals/acquisition/etc crisis will be solved in the
short run by lowering today's charges but certainly not forever.
That is why I support BOAI and do not support ELSSS or Sparc
or Berkely Press as long run optimal solutions. And IF resource
costs of producing the certified literature must be transfered
from one to another, then we are back at my previous world in
which open access would (my prediction) end the current refereed
My second point, which Stevan seems to acknowledge, is that I am
pessimistic about getting to the optimal world which Stevan (and I)
would like to see (open access of all research). I think it might
be the only example of a path dependent equilibrium (Dvorak keyboards,
and BetaMax recorders having been shown to be falacious path dependent
problems). Here we are today, editors are compensated, journals are costly,
and I don't see us getting out of that world, for reasons presented in
my Faustian Grip paper. I have worked the last 10 years to try to get us
out of this in-optimal equilibriumit with EconWPA, but I see the research
world remaining in its non-optimal state forever. Stevan to his credit
remains the optimist.
>>bp> If the discussion/argument is about BOAI-1/BOAI-2 not allowing
>>bp> such ventures as ELSSS, well that is somewhat mute, isn't it? In
>>bp> no way should any of the above be taken as an argument against
>>bp> Stevan or even Manfredi.
>I think what you meant here was that if BOAI is about either
>self-archiving or open-access journals, then lower-toll-access journals
>are moot (for BOAI). I agree.
Which is what I was trying to say - BOAI is not about lower-toll-access
but about OPEN ACCESS.
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