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Free Access vs. Open Access

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Thu Aug 14 11:30:53 EST 2003

On Thu, 14 Aug 2003, Sally Morris wrote:

> I think part of the problem may be that we are considering various different
> 'axes' in trying to define 'Open Access':
>     1)    Whether or not it's free to access (not, we should remember, a
> requirement of OAI!).

OAI is not the relevant "OA" in this, BOAI is. OAI is merely a
digital interoperability protocol; it is BOAI that is concerned with

>     2)     If it is free to access, how the costs are covered

Whose costs, and costs of what? 

There is BOAI-1, which is author/institution self-archiving
of their own published articles (published in toll-access journals). 
The authors and their institutions cover their own (negligible)
self-archiving costs and the toll-access publishers carry on as before,
covering costs out of the access-tolls.

Then there is BOAI-2, which is open-access journal publishing. Open
access journals have their own cost-recovery models.

>     3)    Whether it is 'public domain' (or some variant thereof) or not

What is the "it" that is public domain? Certainly not researchers'
articles, whether published in toll-access journals or open-access

>     4)    Whether OAI-compliant metadata is exposed

OAI-compliance pertains to whether the (full-text)
access is efficient, not to whether it is toll-free.

>     5)    Whether the item and/or its metadata are deposited in certain
> types of databases (this last seems to me supremely irrelevant)

I agree it's irrelevant.

> If what we're seeking to achieve is the widest possible access for readers, 
> then only 1 is vital, though 4 is also helpful. 


> However, whether this will actually happen must depend, as Stevan keeps
> pointing out, on author behaviour.  

Depends on the referent for "this": BOAI-1 or BOAI-2. BOAI-1
(self-archiving) depends only on author behaviour. BOAI-2
(open-access publishing) depends on the behaviours of many different
parties: publishers (are they willing to found new OA journals, or
convert from TA to OA publishing?), authors (are they willing to submit
to new OA journals rather than their established TA journals), and users
(will they read and cite the articles in the new OA journals as much
as the ones in the established TA journals). OA definitely has the edge
on visibility and accessibility, but OA journals have an initial
handicap for being new.

> Unless free access (plus or minus all
> the rest) is demonstrably better at achieving the things that motivate
> authors - ultimately career progression, funding (via such intermediates as
> citation) - there is no reason why they should change;  

It is demonstrably better, so it is only the empirical fact about its
being better that needs to be conveyed to the research community:
It is not only an empirical finding, but a logical fact, that anything
that blocks research access also blocks research impact. It is merely
taking a while for this token to drop in the research community's
collective mind.

> they are no more altruistic than the rest of us.  

No one is calling for altruism. Self-archiving is an appeal to
researchers' self-interest:
    Harnad, S. (2003) Self-Archive Unto Others as Ye Would Have
    Them Self-Archive Unto You. The Australian Higher Education
    Supplement. http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Temp/unto-others.html

    Harnad, S., Carr, L., Brody, T. & Oppenheim, C. (2003)
    Mandated online RAE CVs Linked to University Eprint
    Archives: Improving the UK Research Assessment
    Exercise whilst making it cheaper and easier. Ariadne.

    Harnad, S. (2003) Measuring and Maximising UK Research
    Impact. Times Higher Education Supplement. Friday, June 6 2003.

    Harnad, S. (2003) Maximising Research Impact Through Self-Archiving.

> It's my view that what we should be doing
> is trying to gather some valid evidence one way or the other.

We're working on it!

    How to compare research impact of toll- vs. open-access research

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):


Discussion can be posted to: september98-forum at amsci-forum.amsci.org 

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