[Journal-notes] Re: Green Party Green on Gold but not on Green

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Mon Sep 12 07:23:33 EST 2005

On Sun, 11 Sep 2005, David Goodman wrote:

> DG: In responding to [Jan Velterop]:
>>>      JV: "But there is no denying that there is the potential that it
>>>      substitutes publishing when - not if - it gets organized properly
>>>      and offers the material with journal 'labels' attached.  Journals
>>>      (i.e. their publishers and organizers of peer-review) will vanish."
> DG: it is not "mere semantics" to say that the response
>>      SH: "There may or not be the potential but there is today
>>      not a shred of evidence in that direction."
> DG: is misleading. It would be correct to say
>        DG: "There is today not a shred of uncontested evidence either
>        in that direction or against that direction."

I can only reply, in all sincerity, that if this is not mere semantics,
I don't know what is. But to add a note of substance, from Alma Swan's

        "In a separate exercise we asked the American Physical Society
        (APS) and the Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd (IOPP) what
        their experiences have been over the 14 years that arXiv has
        been in existence. How many subscriptions have been lost as a
        result of arXiv? Both societies said they could not identify
        any losses of subscriptions for this reason and that they do not
        view arXiv as a threat to their business (rather the opposite --
        this in fact the APS helped establish an arXiv mirror site at
        the Brookhaven National Laboratory)." [Note: IOPP too is now 
        about to host a mirror-site of arXiv, the central archive for
        self-archiving in physics. SH]

> DG: Unless they are judged by citation counting, [researchers] do not
> care if their papers are not read or cited by those in second-rate
> institutions. 

(a) Who today is and is not judged by citation counting?

(b) What is the evidence that the 50%-250% OA citation advantage comes
from "second-rate institutions" (rather than simply from institutions
that cannot afford the particular journal in which a particular article
happens to appear)?

(c) If researchers "do not care if their papers are not read or cited"
by those [who cannot access them]," why should they care about OA at all?
In order to solve librarians' budgetary problems? In order to develop
"future publishing models"?

The near-total dissociation between the library perspective on OA and the
researcher perspective on OA could not be more transparent than in the above

Yet the ineluctable fact remains: 

        (1) *Researchers*, not librarians, are the only ones who can provide
        OA, whether by choosing to publish their articles in OA journals
        (OAJ) or by choosing to self-archive articles they publish in
        non-OA journals (OAA).

The other ineluctable facts are: 

        (2) The evidence of the 50%-250% citation advantage has not yet
        proved sufficient to induce authors to spontaneously provide OA
        either via OAJ or OAA (in anywhere near sufficient numbers).

        (3) Research funders and institutions cannot mandate that
        publishers become OA publishers (except for the small number of
        journals that are subsidised by funders). Only about 1800/24,000
        journals (8%) are OA to date.

        (4) Research funders and institutions cannot mandate their
        researchers' choice of which journal to publish in.

        (5) Research funders and institutions *can* mandate that their
        researchers self-archive.

> DG: If [researchers] were concerned about the longer term effects or 
> broader questions of access and ownership, we would have had OA long ago.

This is a classical counterfactual conditional -- and, to boot, it is incorrect:
Even if researchers had librarians' concerns rather than their own, they are not
in a position to bring about OAJ, only OAA. 

And even researchers' own concerns are not enough to induce them to reach
for the OAA that is within their grasp, so the inducement/incentive
will have to come from their funders and institutions, just as the
inducement/incentive to publish at all comes from their funders and

> DG: Stevan has gone repeatedly on record about the difficulty of convincing
> authors to routinely use OA. 

No, it is not getting researchers to *use* OA that is difficult, it is getting
them to *provide* OA.

> DG: He here provides the reason. They have mostly shown they will
> not...[spontaneously follow the example of those who self-archive].
> It will take the development of "future publishing models" to
> establish OA.

David is caught in an illogical loop from which he cannot seem to escape:

Researchers do not seek OAJ; and if they did seek OAJ, they could not
provide OAJ; they can only provide OA (for their own articles), via
either OAA, or, only where available, OAJ: only publishers can provide
OAJ, and at the moment, they do not seem to be in a hurry to provide it.

Researchers can be rightly said to be in not much more of a hurry to provide OAA
either, despite its benefits to them, and despite their nominal clamouring for OA.
This is where a mandate from the funders and employers will help break out of the
loop (and researchers have already said and shown they will comply).

So let librarians and publishing reformers continue to focus on their
goal of "future publishing models" while the research community focuses
on mandating the mandatable: OAA. The rest is just counterfactuals,
conflated agendas and "mere semantics."

Stevan Harnad

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