IUBio Biosequences .. Software .. Molbio soft .. Network News .. FTP

On the Need to Take Both Roads to Open Access

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Thu Oct 16 16:08:59 EST 2003

I've re-directed this thread from the closed Budapest list to the AmSci
list as it has now become of more general interest. -- SH

On Thu, 16 Oct 2003, Jan Velterop wrote:

> The trouble is, making the case for open access journals *implies* making
> the case for open-archiving (indeed multiple archiving, as multiple as
> possible; as you know, the BMC material is at the very least archived in
> PubMed Central, INIST, Potsdam and the Royal Dutch Library; more to come).
> Self-archiving doesn't imply open access publishing in the same way.

Jan, I think there is a major misconstrual here:

Open-access publishing does not imply open-access *self*-archiving, it
merely implies (indeed requires) open-access *archiving*! There is a world
of a difference there. And the fact that open-access publishing implies
archiving is certainly no "dual-strategy" on the part of open-access
publishing (BOAI-2) toward open-access self-archiving (BOAI-1)! (I have
noticed -- and noted -- this somewhat erroneous implication in BMC
promotional material before):

An open-access journal *must* (by definition) provide open access to its
articles. So that *necessarily* implies some form of online archiving
for access provision -- but not necessarily self-archiving! On the
contrary, surely the *one* kind of journal where the author need *not*
perform those extra keystrokes it requires to self-archive, is an
open-access journal! Having already *paid* for open-access publication,
the author would understandably feel doubly put-upon if he himself
also had to take the responsibility for providing the access and doing
the archiving, just as if he was publishing in a toll-access journal
(for free)!

[But the case is actually more complicated; I will return to the above
point in a moment in connection with (hypothetical) *future* open-access
publishing, done slightly differently. I am referring only to present-day,
BMC- and PLoS-style open-access journals right now.]

So the kind of (presumably OAI-compliant) archiving that must be done
with the articles in an open-access journal is *not* self-archiving,
being surely the responsibility of the journal, not the author!

So open-access publishing does *not* imply open-access self-archiving.

Nor does open-access self-archiving imply open-access publishing, as
you correctly note. So in that respect the two strategies are on a par.

However, the dual open-access strategy, if promoted by both BOAI-1 and
BOAI-2 as I have recommended:

    BOAI-2: publish your article in a suitable open-access journal
            whenever one exists;
    BOAI-1: otherwise, publish your article in a suitable toll-access
            journal and also self-archive it

would have the following benefits for BOAI-2 and its archiving burden:

Today, as authors self-archive the majority of their articles (which
are today 95% toll-access journal articles), it is quite natural
for them to also go on to do those same extra keystrokes for the
5% of them that are open-access journal articles -- especially if
the self-archiving is a systematic institutional or departmental
policy along the lines of the policy model we have recommended:
Insitutional research output will *all* be self-archived in the
institutional archive, whether it is published in a toll-access or an
open-access journal (if for no other reason then to facilitate
research assessment: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue35/harnad/ ).

And now we can return to that hypothetical future form of open-access
publishing, when it will no longer be the odd-man-out as it is now,
but the form of publishing to which all of toll-access publishing all
converts, because open-access self-archiving has become universal: In
cost-cutting and down-sizing to open-access publishing, all toll-access
publishers *then* will be able to offload all access and storage functions
onto the network of existing institutional eprint archives of
self-archived research output, allowing the journals to charge less for
their sole remaining essential service (administering peer review).


Right now, you can really only ask your paying authors to self-archive
for you as a favor. But if you adopt the dual strategy, it will seem a
much smaller favor to ask. And it will promote self-archiving too.

> Self-archiving is the cough mixture where open access publishing is the
> vaccine. That's good and fine. And you are right, it's much more immediate,
> too, and very soothing as a palliative, as long as you can convince the
> patient to take it.

I'm afraid I have to reject that metaphor! Let's talk about today's
*absence* of open access for over 90% of researchers' output as lost
potential impact. *That's* the disease. Today, open-access publishing is
the cure for about 5% of that disease: Only self-archiving can cure all
the rest (yes *all* the rest). Wait for open-access publishing? Wait for
the creation or conversion of 23,500 toll-access journals? Waiting means
mounting daily/weekly/monthly/yearly impact-loss. Liken it (though still
imperfectly) to a diabetic's daily blood-sugar problems, rather than to
palliative cough-syrups vs. vaccines! Should we take insulin (BOAI-1)
now, or keep waiting for the definitive *cure* of diabetes (BOAI-2)?

And the metaphor is all the more imperfect because there *is* as yet
no definitive cure of diabetes, nor will taking insulin hasten it, but
impact-loss is the disease, open-access is the cure, and open access
through self-archiving now will actually hasten and facilitate the 
"definitive" cure (eventual universal open-access publishing).

> You'll just have to work on publicity (doesn't cost much money at all; just
> an awful lot of application and tenacity of which you have plenty, but it
> has to be applied right) and try to reach those who matter rather than the
> already converted on lists like this.
> I truly wish you'll succeed, and soon, too.

You're right that these lists are for the already-converted. But I hope
others are carrying the message forward! 

Best wishezs,

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):
    Posted discussion to: september98-forum at amsci-forum.amsci.org 

Dual Open-Access Strategy:
    BOAI-2: Publish your article in a suitable open-access journal
            whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1: Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable toll-access
            journal and also self-archive it.

More information about the Jrnlnote mailing list

Send comments to us at biosci-help [At] net.bio.net