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Re: ALPSP statement on BOAI/strategic considerations Stephen Clark 25 Apr 2002 13:20 UTC

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: ALPSP statement on BOAI/strategic considerations
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 00:47:35 +0100
From: Stevan Harnad <harnad@COGPRINTS.SOTON.AC.UK>

David Goodman makes some very valid points below. There has been a
misunderstanding. ALL efforts on our part to help dispel confusion
about open access are relevant to this Forum, which is not devoted
only to developing and implementing the tools for self-archiving
and open access, but, at least as important, to correcting any
misunderstanding of open access or self-archiving, especially if
those confusions or misunderstandings have become obstacles to open
access or to taking the simple steps that need to be taken to
hasten and facilitate it.

Correcting misunderstandings that stand in the way of open access is
not only relevant, but probably even more important than developing
and implementing tools and techniques!

On Wed, 24 Apr 2002, David Goodman wrote:

> Yes, Stevan, these matters are, as you say, obstacles. Of course not
> because they would actually interfere with BOAI, or with almost any
> other system of publication, or that BOAI and other systems would
> interfere with them. You have given fully convincing examples of how
> they could be handled.
> I am not as sure as you are about what will prove to be the best
> arrangement, but these factors are in reality irrelevant.

Note that David and I are both talking about exactly the same endstate:
open online access to the entire, full-text peer-reviewed literature.

> The problem is that, just as you say, many people don't regard them as
> trivial. There are therefore two parallel courses of action needed, and
> you only accept one of them. Obviously, the key one is to continue the
> positive development of the archives.   The other course, the one it
> seems you do not accept, is to counter the arguments of those who do not
> yet understand.

Not at all! I fully accept that second, educational course; in fact, now
that the tools -- the means of attaining the end, which is open access
are ready, MOST of our efforts have to be directed at getting
to use them. And to get them to do that, we have to eliminate any
obstacles, real or imagined, that may be holding them back.

> There are significant forces working against us. There is first of all
> the economic strength of the publishing industry--now increasingly
> linked with the much greater strength of the media industry, and the
> perversions of copyright that they promote.

I think this is mostly a perceived obstacle, not a real one. But I
certainly agree that all advocates of open access need to make a
effort to show the research community that neither publishers nor
copyright are any obstacle at all.

At the same time, we also need to make efforts to discourage and
counteract any efforts on the part of publishers to make it APPEAR to
researchers as if publishers or copyright were an obstacle to open

"Is open access compatible with copyright?"

"What about copyright?"

> Another is the extraordinary
> resistance to change of most academic and related institutions. Most
> directly important is the resistance by many senior faculty, whose
> typical argument is that things work well enough for me: I can get my
> articles published where I want, and someone always gets me any article
> I might need. I and undoubtedly you consider this position antisocial,
> but it's there, and the people holding it are in policy-making
> positions.

The position is not only antisocial, it is unrealistic and
unrepresentative! David consults the faculty at Princeton University,
one of the most prosperous of universities, hence one whose faculty is
least "needy" insofar as toll-based access is concerned. (I have
discussed this in contrasting the minority of "Harvards" with the
majority of "Have-Nots.")

But I agree with David: Even comfortable faculty need to be made aware
of the needs of less comfortable faculty (the majority); they also need
to be made aware of what they themselves are losing, even if they hadn't
realized it, in terms of potential impact and access, even with their
universities' considerable toll-access budget. For no university can
come even close to affording all of the peer-reviewed journal literature
(at least 20,000 journals).

And they can and will be made aware. The facts are not difficult to
adduce, or to appreciate. And circumstances are converging on bringing
it all together. What we need is some systematic lecture and seminar
campaigns, to transmit the information. It will not happen through
informal faculty/library consultations.

> Yes, we can ignore all this and just go ahead as we can, ignoring the
> opposing forces because we are sure that the logic of our position will
> overwhelm them. I am not that much of an optimist: we will overcome
> them, but by talking to them as well as to ourselves.

David, I can hardly be said to be ignoring the opposition, having
a file of no less than 23 Prima-Facie FaQs for Overcoming Zeno's
across over a decade of confronting the "opposing forces"!

I trust and use logic, to be sure, but not passively!

> I do not ask you personally to do this. Obviously what you want to work
> on is developing the new system, and that's a very good thing for all of
> us. But if some of us want to contend directly with the other side in
> coordination with your efforts, you should at least not discourage us.
> Ignore us if you like, but I do not think you should call us completely
> wrong. There are people who are completely wrong about these matters,
> but they should not be confused with friends with a different style of
> work.

Oh dear. Where did I (so far from ignoring the "opposing forces" that I
sometimes find myself squabbling with my comrades-at-arms) give the
impression that I thought my allies were completely wrong to "contend
directly with the other side"?

If contending with the other side means disabusing people of
misconceptions about copyright, publishers, the comforts of
ivy-league-level access, peer review, and countless other confusions
about research access, nothing could be more welcome.

But if I recall, the point of disagreement with David was about whether
open access calls for any change in university faculty evaluation
procedures -- something along the lines of assigning a higher weight to
online-only journals, or to open-access journals. Here I am convinced
the obstacle to open access is not in the justified unwillingness of
university administrators to change their evaluation procedures along
these lines, or for these reasons. Rather, the obstacle to open access
is in the perception or implication that such changes in evaluation are
called for!

They are not! There is no causal contingency between current university
evaluation procedures, as practiced, and open access to the
literature (and what needs to be done to attain it). No causal
whatsoever. On the contrary, to imply that there is, or needs to be, is
increase, rather than decrease, groundless existing resistance to open
access! If it is implied -- to faculty who are not yet aware of, or
convinced of, the value and attainability of open access -- that open
access can only be had at the cost of a change in evaluation practices,
then they well balk.

As they should balk. Because, as I tried to explain, the arbiter of
evaluation has to be the peer-reviewed journal's established
quality-level and impact, not its medium of publication or its
price-tag or its accessibility!

So our disagreement there is not about the need to confront obstacles
directly, it is about what the real obstacles are! I am convinced that
what is needed to get faculty administrators committed to open access
self-archiving is to show them, clearly, that everything else stays
intact. Peer review is unchanged, university evaluation is unchanged,
publication is unchanged. The only thing that changes is research
accessibility. And the beneficiary is research impact: their own
research's accessibility to others, and hence its impact, and hence
the impact of the faculty they are evaluating.

So evaluation procedures need not and should not be tampered with for
sake of open access; same for peer review.

The other point David made was that some evaluation procedures still
that the articles be in print journals (and even that offprints be
presented for evaluation!). It was this nonsense that I sneered at --
insisting that it is not a problem! Ignore it! It changes nothing. We
talking about open access to the peer-reviewed literature via two

(1) BOAI Strategy 1, self-archiving, which applies to all 20,000
established journals, whether print-only, online-only, or hybrid.


(2) BOAI Strategy 2, open access journals, which includes new start-up,
online-only journals, as well as established journals that convert to
open access.

Neither of these strategies requires evaluation committees to change
their standards or their criteria in any respect.

I have absolutely no data to support it, but I am certain as of the day
I was born that all the authors of articles all the in JHEP, the new,
online-only, open-access journal that reached an impact factor of 7 in
in its four short years of existence are receiving full academic credit
from their evaluation committees for all their work therein. This credit
has absolutely NOTHING to do with the fact that JHEP is either
online-only or open-access: it was earned purely in virtue of the
quality of the work that appears in JHEP. (Except, of course, that the
astonishing speed with which JHEP climbed to an impact factor of 7 was
precisely because it is open-access!)

And that is exactly as it should be. And if we get involved in any
special pleading, implying that it should somehow be otherwise in any
respect, then we are simply needlessly inviting (justified) opposition
to open access!

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):

Discussion can be posted to:

See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:

and the Free Online Scholarship Movement: