Access-Denial, Impact-Denial and the Developing and DevelopedWorld

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Sun Apr 13 08:18:06 EST 2003

These are replies to queries about open access to Asian research

> Institutional repositories, eprint servers, new ejournals created
> for Asian scientists: Are these viable ideas?  

The ideas are viable, but they are not the *same* idea. Institutional
repositories and eprint servers are one kind of thing (and there are
some important internal distinctions to be made there, which I will
mention in a moment) and new ejournals are another (again with important
distinctions). But, in general, Asian (A) self-archiving in A eprint
archives is for making A research output openly accessible online, and
hence more visible and more used, applied, cited by researchers (both A
and non-A researchers), thereby increasing A's research impact. Reciprocally,
if done in the West too (non-A), eprint archives make non-A research
openly accessible online to A, thereby also strengthening A research.

New A ejournals can be created for a variety of reasons, but if they are
toll-access ejournals they do not increase A accessibility or impact;
it is open accessibility online that does that. If the new A ejournals
are open-access journals, then that does have the same effect (for their
contents) as self-archiving, but that applies only to the contents of
those A ejournals, one by one, as they are created or
converted. Meanwhile, however, what about all the rest of A research
output, appearing in both A and non-A toll-access journals? *That*
is the biggest and most important target. To self-archive -- as a
*supplement*, not a *substitute* -- all the A research that is published
in A and non-A toll-access journals now is far faster than to wait for the
creation/conversion of the open-access ejournals to publish it in (though
that should be worked toward too, in parallel).

So the pertinent distinctions among ejournals include both the distinction
between toll-access and open-access journals and the distinction between
A and non-A journals, for it is hardly a solution that the A research that
is published in non-A toll-access ejournals should remain burdened with the
restricted visibility and impact of toll-access, while only the A research
published in A ejournals becomes openly accessible -- slowly, as we
wait for the creation and conversion of more open-access A ejournals,
one by one).

And the distinction among eprint archives is:

    IS: distributed, local Institutional/departmental Self-archiving
    CS: Central, discipline-based Self-archiving (CS).

Again, IS in principle applies to *all* A (and non-A) research output,
immediately and universally, requiring only that universities
create their own IS archives (a very small individual step in each
institution's case) and then self-archive all their research output in
their IS archives:
Researchers and their institutions share the interest in and benefits of
enhanced research impact (researchers and their disciplines do not):

In contrast, CS requires both creating and maintaining central archives
for each discipline (who should do that in each case, and will they be in
an A or non-A country?), and persuading researchers to self-archive in them
(A researchers? non-A researchers? both? how?).

In other words, there continue to be many logical and practical reasons
why IS (distributed institutional/departmental self-archiving) is the
fastest, shortest, easiest, most direct, most natural, most motivated and
most universal route to open access, among the three that are available:
(1) IS, (2) CS, and (3) open-access ejournals.

> Would they ghettoise Asian science if they were Asian only?  

A-only open-access ejournals or A-only CS might ghettoize (a little),
but IS certainly would not. (In general, though, opening access does not
ghettoise, it unghettoises -- except perhaps if it is restricted to
A-languages only).

> How would one cope with Asian languages? 

Open-access to A-language research is still far better than only
toll-access to it. English abstracts help make the access chain go
A-->non-A too, and not just A-->A. Perhaps appending approximate machine
translations into English would help a little more (and would increase the
likelihood of retrieval by boolean searches in English). But obviously
also providing a full English translation would be the best solution
(even if the paper itself was published in an A-language journal).

> What techniques do we have to see if they are effective, eg,
> counting of hits, counting number of times they cited, counting deep
> links etc.  

All those techniques: and the many more that will be generated by creating
this worldwide, full-text, open-access database for further scientometric
analysis and developments.

> And how do we relate all this back to Southeast Asian librarians
> who are pretty sophisticated and already part of the internet world?

Librarions, whether A, Southeast-A, or non-A can only do so much. They
can create and maintain the IS archives and help researchers
self-archive, but they cannot persuade researchers to self-archive
(nor can they create open-access journals, nor persuade researchers
to publish in them):
Only researchers' institutions and research-funders
can persuade their researchers to self-archive (in the
same way that it persuades them to publish-or-perish):

> Issues facing the librarian in these digital times: Open URL, purchasing
> ejournals and ebooks in consortia deals, linking technologies, digital
> collection acquisition and management, libraries and knowledge management,
> creating metadata and so on

These are important digital-era issues for librarians, but they are only
marginally connected with the central problem at issue here, which is
maximizing the visibility and impact of A's research output. It
is actually slowing the progress of IS (institutional/departmental
self-archiving of research output) to keep lumping it indiscriminately
with these other worthwhile but distinct digital issues.

> It is important for us to publish many journals from Asia, as it gives
> us the opportunity to criticize one another's work (as referees), an
> important aspect of science and scholarship.

The value of publishing journals (whether ejournals or ordinary
journals, whether toll-access or open-access, whether A or non-A) should
not be confused with open-access issues. Journals are one thing, and
open-access to them is another. But it is certainly the case that
open-access provides a far greater opportunity both to see/use/cite
work (whether A or non-A) and to comment and criticize it (both before and
after peer-review)

> New advances are revolutionizing not only the way scientists communicate
> their results but also the business models followed in distributing
> scientific information. It is only at our peril that we can not
> take advantage of them. 

There are indeed new business models for open-access journals:
However, it is perhaps an overstatement that one fails to adopt
them at one's "peril"! (Rather, there is still some financial risk in
creating/converting an open-access journal!).

But neither new business models nor new risks are involved in the
self-archiving route to open-access (except as a possible hypothesis
about the end-game, once we are well along the road to open-access):

> Many physicists in Asia are already using arXiv, which has more than one
> mirror server in Asia. There are other subject-specific preprint servers
> such as CiteSeer (computer science), Cogprints (cognitive sciences),
> and RePec (economics).

Yes, these central archives for self-archiving (CS) already exist, and
are certainly open for content from A as well as non-A countries (although
only the Physics ArXiv and CogPrints can be deposited into directly by
anyone; CiteSeer is harvested from local websites and RePec requires
the creation of a local archive).

IS (distributed, local, OAI-compliant, institutional/departmental
self-archiving) does not require the creation or maintenance of
centralized archives for each discipline. Each university can take care
of that locally, using free software
to create departmental archives that are all OAI-compliant
and interoperable, and harvestable by OAI cross-archive
search engines like OAIster and scientometric analysers
like Citebase:

> Leading Asian academic and research institutions should establish their
> own institutional eprint archives using interoperable software such as
> e-prints and make their research findings electronically accessible to
> anyone with an Internet connection.

I of course agree with this recommendation, but it has to be clearly
disentangled from all the confusing associations preceding it,
concerning central archives and ejournals.

> Steve Lawrence of NEC has shown, at least in the case of computer science,
> papers made freely available on the Internet are cited far more often
> than those which are not.  This is a sure way to improve the visibility
> and impact of work performed in Asia.

(And Tim Brody and others are now gathering data to confirm that this
effect is in no way unique to computer science, but applies to all
self-archived research.)

> Also, now more and more journals are willing to forego the
> Ingelfinger rule and accept papers included in institutional archives for
> publication. If some authors are still keen to have their papers published
> in traditional scholarly journals, they can still go ahead and do so.

First, the Ingelfinger Rule (a journal's submission policy) should not
be confused with the journal's copyright transfer policy:

55% of journals already formally support self-archiving in their
copyright transfer agreements:
The other 45% can still be asked in each case, and for those that still
make full copyright transfer a condition for publication, there is a
way to self-archive without having to give up publishing in whichever
journals one wishes:

> For those who want to publish in their own languages, technically it is
> feasible today to publish and disseminate one's papers in any language.

Yes, but see above about the advantages of self-archiving the English
version too.

Stevan Harnad

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