[Journal-notes] Re: Open access to research worth £1.5bn a year

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Fri Sep 23 14:38:27 EST 2005


On Fri, 23 Sep 2005, Sally Morris (ALPSP) wrote:

> The problem lies with Stevan's 50% figure - apparently picked out of the
> air, and with no factual basis whatsoever - for the increased 'return on
> investment' if research is OA.  I don't find it very convincing to base
> such sweeping conclusions on a completely unsupported figure

Picked out of the air? I reported (and provided the references and URLs)
the strong new empirical evidence that open access articles consistently
receive 50%-250% more citations, comparing always within the same journal
and same year. Here are some summary data at the discipline level:

In each case the two percentages will be 

    (%OA) the percentage of OA articles among all articles (OA and non-OA)
    in the same journal/year: OA/(OA + nonOA) articles

    (%OAc) the percentage gain in citations for OA article compared to
    non-OA articles in the same journal/year: (OA/nonOA) - 100% citations

 From: http://www.crsc.uqam.ca/lab/chawki/graphes/EtudeImpact.htm

                      %OA   %OAc
    Administration     6%  +180%
    Economics         14%   +49%
    Education          5%   +77%
    Psychology         6%   +93%
    Management         8%   +68%
    Health Science     5%   +57%
    Social Science    14%  +126%
    Biology           14%   +30%
    (other disciplines: data still being gathered, samples still too small)
    
 From: http://citebase.eprints.org/isi_study/

    Astrophysics      24%  +114%
    Nuclear/Particle  38%  +120%
    (other disciplines: data still being gathered, samples still too small)

I then took a low-end conservative figure for OAc at 50% and applied it
to the conservative figure of 85% not yet self-archived, to yield 50%
x 85% x £3.5.bn = £1.5bn worth of loss of return (in terms of citations)
on the RCUK's £3.5.bn annual investment.

As noted, it is not the number of articles published annually (about
130,000) that represents the return on the UK's research investment; it
is how much those articles are used, applied, and built-upon. Research
published but not used, applied and built-upon is research that may as
well not have been done or funded at all. The citation counts are
measures of the degree to which research is used, applied and built-upon --
"research impact." 

The UK is losing 1.5bn worth of potential research impact annually
(on our conservative, low-end estimate) for the 85% of it that it
is not yet self-archiving (another conservative estimate). The RCUK
open-access self-archiving mandate -- *if* it is not hobbled into an
open-ended embargoed-access policy, as the NIH policy proposal was --
will remedy all of this needless loss of research impact and return on
the UK public investment in research.

    "Please Don't Copy-Cat Clone NIH-12 Non-OA Policy!"
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/4307.html

    "Open Access vs. NIH Back Access and Nature's Back-Sliding"
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/4312.html

Please note that I did not say the UK was getting *no* return on its
research investment: Even non-OA articles get used and cited -- but
only by those users whose institutions can afford the toll access to the
journal version. The empirical 50-250% citation-gap corresponds to the
loss of the potential research impact from those users who are currently
denied access. Self-archiving the author's version is done to maximise
usage, impact, and hence the return on the public investment, by making
the research accessible to those access-denied would-be users too. 

But just as toll-access is not open access, and fails to maximise
research impact, so embargoed access is not open access and fails to
maximise research impact. The self-archiving must be required to be done
immediately upon acceptance for publication. To allow delays of 3, 6,
12 months or more would simply be to return to the needless loss in the
return on the public investment in research that the RCUK self-archiving
mandate is intended to remedy.

So: No embargo, of any length at all. What can be allowed instead --
with some loss in efficiency, but no significant loss in impact -- is
the immediate, required self-archiving of the full text and the metadata
(author, title, journal, date, etc.), with the access-setting for the
full-text to "open access" being merely encouraged, but not required. If
an author prefers to set access to the full-text as "institution-internal"
access only, the metadata are still visible and searchable to all,
and the full-text can still be harvested and inverted by google without
displaying it (as google already does with books).

Would-be users can then email the author for an eprint: Somewhat slower
and less efficient than direct click-through access, but good enough.
As over 90% of journals are already green on self-archiving, fewer than
10% of articles will suffer from this inconvenience, it will be bad
press for the non-green publishers, and the authors will soon tire of
doing the keystrokes to keep emailing the eprint -- and will simply do
the last keystroke, switching access from "institutional" to "open."

    http://romeo.eprints.org/stats.php
    
Stevan Harnad




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