Pascal's Wager and Open Access (OA)

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Sun Dec 5 15:53:34 EST 2004


On Sun, 5 Dec 2004, Fred Spilhaus (AGU) wrote:

> I don't think we are looking at any sort of conspiracies or
> doomsday scenarios.  What Sally suggests is just one of the
> consequences that are certain in at least some small measure if
> the variety of sources of support for science publication are
> reduced.  Each contributor to the system now has some say in how
> it will operate.  That fact is not going to go away.  If readers
> have no say it will be a different forum.

What Sally wrote on this occasion was:

> >>I am sure members of this list are all aware of the US Government's
> >>all too recent attempts (a) to censor what type of articles
> >>publishers can publish and (b) to censor the countries from where
> >>authors' work may be edited

I don't see anything there about "the variety of sources of support for science
publication [being] reduced." The proposal (to repeat, yet again) is not
a transition to OA publishing but a transition to OA. It is mere
speculation that a transition to OA (though self-archiving) would (1) lead
to a transition to OA publishing *and* (2) reduce the "variety of sources
of support for science publication."

On the face of it, the only thing OA is *certain* to do is increase the variety of
sources of scientific impact.

    http://romeo.eprints.org/publishers/6.html
    http://www.crsc.uqam.ca/lab/chawki/ch.htm

And the readers of concern here are the would-be users who (and whose
institutions) currently happen to be unable to afford access to the
journal in which that article happens to be published. It's not clear
what say they have in anything right now. The ones who *do* have a say
are the *authors* of those articles (along with their institutions and
research funders): i.e., the current (needless) losers of that potential
research impact: They can provide OA to their findings for would-be users
who cannot afford access by self-archiving a supplementary OA version
of their own articles in their own institutional OAI-compliant archives.

But the AGU is green on author self-archiving --
http://romeo.eprints.org/publishers/6.html -- 
so it's not clear what we're disagreeing about: untested hypotheses
(doomsday or otherwise)?

Hypotheses non fingo. Let AGU authors (and their institutions and
research funders) vote with their keystrokes (and in accordance with
their conditions of employment and funding). What we need now is more
impact, not more imagining.

Stevan Harnad





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