Select Committee Inquiry into Scientific Publication

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Mon Jan 12 10:48:35 EST 2004

One brief comment below on this otherwise very useful posting to
the Chartered Library and Information Professionals list. -- SH

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Chartered Library and Information Professionals
> [Posted On Behalf Of Prof Bruce Royan]
> Sent: 11 January 2004 14:42
> Subject: Re: Select Committee Inquiry into Scientific Publication
> I agree with Ian Johnson that CILIP need to produce a submission on this:
> I'd be surprised if they do not. I see it as a possibly unique opportunity
> for Librarians to influence a radical shift in the way access is provided to
> research findings. I've mobilised my MP (who happens to be a DTI Minister)
> to write in, but first I had to brief him on the basic arguments for the
> need for this. The notice in the committe is below:
> It strikes me that the briefing I gave to him, might be helpful to one or
> two LIS-CILIP folk, so i've reproduced it below. It draws heavily on the guy
> I take to be the guru on these matters, Stevan Harnad, though any errors are
> my own:
>   - Publicly funded researchers in the UK, publish their findings so that
> other reseachers, anywhere in the world, can access them, challenge them and
> use them as the basis of further research. This process of "scholarly
> communication" reduces duplicated effort, ensures quality, and increases the
> productivity of research and development.
>   - Traditionally, research is published in peer-reviewed journals. About
> 2,500,000 articles per year, in some 24,000 journals.
>   - The authors of these articles don't expect royalties or fees for them:
> their reward is in recognition of their research ("visibility" or "impact").
>   - Traditionally, publishers of these journals have covered the peer-review
> and other production costs by charging subscriptions for the paper journal
> issues. Universities and research institutions bought subscriptions (often
> with public money) so that their own researchers could access and use the
> peer-reviewed research output of others. This approach has come to be
> described as "toll-access".
>   -But even the richest institution has only ever been able to afford a
> fraction of the 24,000 journals published, and this is rapidly reducing as
> the price of journals continues to outstrip inflation. The majority of
> potential users of any research article are denied access, and much of its
> research impact is lost.
>   -The rise of Web technology, by radically reducing the basic technical
> costs of access to information, has higlighted the prospect of a new
> paradigm in scholarly communication, where access to research results would
> be made freely available to any interested researcher. This would maximise
> the impact of any piece of research, and thus the productivity of the whole
> research process. This approach is known as "open-access".
>   -A new type of publication has arisen which uses this approach.
> Open-access journals are freely available to users, as they recover their
> peer-review and other production costs from the institutions whose
> researchers contribute the research articles themeselves. This approach is
> strongly to be encouraged, but currently accounts for only about 5% of total
> research output.
>   -The remaining 95% continues to be published in "toll-access" journals.
> However, an increasing number of research organisations worldwide are
> setting up "open-access" websites on which their researchers can
> "self-archive" full copies of the articles that have been contributed to
> "toll-access" journals, so that their research results can be widely
> available and acheive the greatest possible impact.
>   -Fifty-five percent of journals already officially support this author
> self-archiving. Many of the remaining 45% will agree if asked. Government
> should do whatever is in its power to persuade all UK publishers to support
> self-archiving and all research institutions to set up open access archives.
>   -Although a substantial proportion of the publishing community may be
> expected to lobby in favour of the status quo, 

I think this prediction either contradicts the prior passage (that
at least 55% of journals already support self-archiving) or it gives
the incorrect impression that to support the status quo regarding the
toll-access cost-recovery model is to oppose self-archiving! This is not
the case either. "Green" publishers may support the status quo insofar
as cost-recovery is concerned, but may still support open-access insofar
as self-archiving is concerned!

This is a *very* important distinction that needs to be made very explicit:

    "The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition"

I would suggest:

    "  -Although a substantial proportion of the publishing community may be
        expected to lobby in favour of the status quo insofar as their
        cost-recovery model is concerned...

> there is little evidence that
> "open-access" archiving damages sales of "toll-acess" journals: it simply
> increases the readership of research, far beyond the institutions that can
> afford to buy subscriptions. Extension to all research institutions and the
> contents of all journals would lead to more efficient use of public money in
> both research grants and university library budgets, and incidentally do a
> great deal to bridge the divide between the information-rich countries and
> the developing world.
> [posted by Prof Bruce Royan]

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at the American Scientist Open Access Forum:
        To join the Forum:
        Post discussion to: 
    american-scientist-open-access-forum at
        Hypermail Archive:

Unified Dual Open-Access-Provision Policy:
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.

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