What Provosts Need to Mandate
harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Sun Mar 14 12:56:12 EST 2004
Review of: JISC/OAI Journal Authors Survey
I was expecting to be disappointed by this JISC/OSI survey because it
was commissioned as a study primarily on Open Access Publishing
instead of on Open Access Provision.
What a wonderful surprise, then, that not only did the authors (Alma
Swan and Sheridan Brown) manage to gather some new and valuable evidence
despite the narrow confines of their mandate, but they managed to make
useful sense of it too, following through its implications in a way that
shows a rare grasp of what is really going on in the Open Access (OA)
world today -- and what is still needed.
The cynics will say my admiration is merely because I agree with their
conclusions (and I do!), but I could not have invented their data! And
although most of their questions were obligatorily focussed on how
authors liked publishing in OA journals and whether they would like to
do it again (yes, they would, and that's peachy, but it's not news!),
some of the questions they included in the survey generated extremely
useful information on the other road to OA:
Based in part on methodological details and data breakdowns kindly
provided for me by Alma Swan that were not explicitly reported in
the published version, it turns out that whereas (i) about 2% of the
conventional-journal author sample (3/140) had made at least one
article OA by publishing it in an OA journal (20/160 weren't sure!) and
(ii) about 36% (50/140) had made at least one article OA by publishing
it in a conventional journal and also self-archiving it, (iii) 69% of
the full sample of 160 (and an even higher percentage of the second,
targeted sample of 154 OA Journal authors: 83%) stated that they would
willingly self-archive all of their articles if required to do so by
their funders or their employers.
Now stop right there and think: Much of the research community has
realized that OA would be a good thing, both for authors (in terms of
impact) and for users (in terms of access). According to this JISC/OSI
sample, only 36% of authors are currently self-archiving their TA (Toll
Access) journal articles and only 2% are publishing their articles
in OA journals (I will return to this). But that current total of
36% + 2% = 38% OA by the two means could immediately be raised --
willingly! -- to at least 69%, so the survey shows, if authors' employers
and funders were simply to require it!
If this survey's take-home message for university provosts and
pro-vice-chancellors as well as for research funders is just this --
that the fastest and surest way to generate OA right now is to require
your authors to provide it (by whichever of the two means is suitable
for each article) -- it will have done a great service, and may just
get OA provision up to speed at long last.
Another initiative is ready to be launched to help out: A Declaration
of Institutional Commitment (to implementing an official institutional
policy of requiring open access provision for all institutional research
article output): Not another declaration of support for the principle of
OA provision, but a commitment to an institutional policy of requiring OA
to be provided.
Now a little more on the JISC/OSI findings: Because of the survey's
primary focus on OA publishing, half of the data were not from a random
sample of journal authors but from a specifically targeted population of
known OA Journal authors (154 of them responded). Then an approximately
matching number of authors (160) was collected from among authors in
Let us call the first population OAJ authors and the second population
TAJ (Toll Access Journal) authors. It is important to understand that
the TAJ authors actually constitute a much larger population (because
over 95% of journals are TA Journals today and fewer than 5% are OA
Journals). In fact, the TAJ population could have included any author who
had ever published an article, i.e., it subsumed the OAJ population too,
for there are as yet vanishingly few authors who have published *only*
in OA Journals. This was borne out by the fact that 3 of the TAJ sample
of authors did in fact turn out to have published in an OA Journal. (Those
3 were accordingly eliminated from the analysis and report -- because the
two questionnaires were for various reasons different -- and the remaining
157 TAJ authors were then dubbed "NOAJ" authors: i.e., not-OA-Journal
But meanwhile, there was still that (not explicitly reported) finding that
about 2% of TAJ authors (3/160, or 3 out of the 140 who were sure!) were OAJ
authors. Add that to the finding that 36% (50/140) of the TAJ authors had
provided OA through self-archiving), and you not only have a population
estimate that about 36% of articles are OA today, but also that about
17 times as many articles are made OA via self-archiving than via OA
journal publishing today.
(The true figure may be closer to 10 times as many: Alma Swan informed
me that because the TAJ sample kept growing after the study deadline
was reached, its size has since risen from 160 to 245. Eliminating 27 of
these because the authors had stated that they did not know whether or
not they had ever published in an OAJ [!], 8/223 reported that they had
published in an OAJ, which raises the OAJ estimate to about 4%, which
is close to the approximate OA proportion (5%) among OA + TA journals:
1000/20,000. In the extended sample, the self-archiving estimate --
excluding OA journal authors, lest they were merely self-archiving
their OA journal articles -- was 88/218 or 40%.)
Given that about 95% of journals are TA and about 5% are OA, this confirms
that OA journal publishing is far closer to its current 5% ceiling than
OA self-archiving is to its 95% ceiling (even though there is 10 times as
much OA self-archiving as OA journal publishing, and even though 55% of
journals have already given their official green light to self-archiving).
But the study also shows how easily this can be remedied: for 69% of
TAJ authors (and 89% of OAJ authors) report that they would willingly
self-archive if they were required by their employers to do so. So what
is needed now is obvious: an official policy on the part of universities
and research funders that Open Access must be provided for all journal
article output. OA can be provided in either of the two ways -- by
publishing the article in a suitable OA journal, if one exists, or
otherwise by publishing it in a suitable TA journal and self-archiving
it. But OA must be provided.
Requiring OA provision is not at all shocking -- or no more shocking
than requiring publication at all. The "publish or perish" policies
of universities and research funders already require that research be
published, rather than just put into a desk-drawer where no one can use
it (in which case the research might as well not have been done at
all). Mandated OA provision is merely a natural online-age extension
of existing publish-or-perish policy, to the effect that toll-gated
publication is no longer enough: it is merely a bigger desk-drawer,
insofar as all would-be users whose institutions cannot afford the
access-tolls are concerned. The growing evidence for the dramatic increase
in research impact that results from making our research OA shows just how
counterproductive that larger desk-drawer really has been for research
progress all along.
Now that we are in the online age, it is time for the research community
to make up its mind to come out of the desk-drawer, and provide open
access to all of its peer-reviewed journal article output.
Many thanks to JISC/OSI and to Alma Swan and Sheridan Brown for providing this
valuable study that clearly points the way.
"On the Need to Take Both Roads to Open Access"
"The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access"
"What Provosts Need to Mandate"
"Open Access Provision Policy"
"University policy mandating self-archiving of research output"
"Meeting: National Policies on Open Access Provision for University Research Output"
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 amsci.org
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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