Email list hosting service & mailing list manager

(Previous discussion continued)
Re: Open Access piece by Walt Crawford Stevan Harnad (19 Aug 2004 16:34 UTC)

Re: Open Access piece by Walt Crawford Stevan Harnad 19 Aug 2004 16:34 UTC

     ** apologies for the cross-posting **

On Wed, 18 Aug 2004, Sloan, Bernie wrote:

> Walt Crawford of the Research Libraries Group has an essay on Open Access
> in the latest issue of his Cites & Insights:
>
> Crawford, Walt. Library access to scholarship. Cites & Insights, 4(11),
> 4-16. September 2004.

Here is a long passage from that article. I will first quote it in full,
then comment on it point by point:
http://cites.boisestate.edu/civ4i11.pdf

    My primary interest in this section is freeing up library funds
    so academic libraries can maintain humanities subscriptions, buy
    monographs, other books, and media, provide access to gray literature,
    maintain technical services and reference librarianship, and in other
    ways preserve the record of the civilization and maintain themselves
    as libraries.

    OA journals can help? if they're represented in library catalogs
    and when they replace overpriced commercial journals or force those
    journal publishers to reduce prices.

    As for OA archives, as far as I can tell, these are likely to have
    either no effect on library costs or? when they have an effect? a
    potentially disruptive effect on scholarly communication.

    As long as OA archives represent such a small percentage of the
    papers in a given subscription journal that libraries must retain
    their existing subscriptions, then the OA archives don't help the
    financial problem at all.

    When a large enough percentage of the papers in a given journal
    are represented in OA archives, and the OA archives are harvested
    so that libraries can reasonably expect to find those papers via
    OpenURL or otherwise, then a growing number of libraries can, will,
    and must cancel their subscriptions to those journals.

    That has one effect in the short term, another in the slightly longer
    term. In the short term, profit-oriented publishers will raise prices
    for remaining subscribers, squeezing the biggest stones for as much
    blood as possible.

    In the slightly longer term, the subscription journal will
    fail? taking with it the full-text archives and the peer-review
    mechanisms.

    The peer review mechanisms will be replaced, of course, as researchers
    migrate to OA journals.

    Full text archives may or may not be so easy to replace, unless LOCKSS
    and national-library archival agreements take care of the situation.

    The concept that libraries must and will retain expensive
    subscriptions as long as any significant papers are being published
    in those journals that are not available via other means is ludicrous
    in a world of limited library resources.

Now my quote/commentary:

> My primary interest in this section is freeing up library funds
> so academic libraries can maintain humanities subscriptions, buy
> monographs, other books, and media, provide access to gray literature,
> maintain technical services and reference librarianship, and in other
> ways preserve the record of the civilization and maintain themselves
> as libraries.

This frank declaration immediately brings to the fore a fundamental
fact about Open Access (OA) that systematically escapes Walt Crawford
(WC): WC's primary interest may be freeing up library funds, but the
primary interest of the research community is in freeing access to
their peer-reviewed journal articles, so that their research impact can
be maximized.

WC weighs the pro's and con's of OA in terms of his own interest (freeing
library funds) but he assigns no weight at all to the research community's
interest, which is freeing access and and maximizing impact. This is
unfortunate, because in the end it is authors' needs and wishes that
will determine whether or not their writings are made OA.

The primary task now is to reach 100% OA, as soon as possible.

> OA journals can help -- if they're represented in library catalogs
> and when they replace overpriced commercial journals or force those
> journal publishers to reduce prices.

5% of journals are OA. That helps 5% for OA. What about the other 95%?

And what about if the solution for providing OA to that other 95% --
OA self-archiving -- does *not* "replace overpriced commercial journals
or force those journal publishers to reduce prices? That is indeed a
solution, but to a different problem! (The journal pricing/affordability
problem and the journal-article access/impact problem are not the same
problem!)

    Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S.,
    Gingras, Y, Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E. (2004)
    The green and the gold roads to Open Access. Nature Web Focus.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/accessdebate/21.html

OA journals can help on both counts: They can help free up library
funds (WC's interest) and they can also help free access and maximize
impact. The only trouble is that there are only about 1200 of OA
journals, and that is only 5% of the total number of the 24,000
peer-reviewed journals published today. And converting the remaining
22,800 journals (95%) is neither easy, nor quick; nor is it probable
for the forseeable future, because most journals do not appear to be
interested in taking the risk of adopting the as yet untested OA journal
cost-recovery model.

So not much freeing of either library funds or access/impact is to
be expected from OA journals for the foreseeable future.

But research access is being denied and research impact is in the mean
time being lost daily, and cumulatively.

The primary task now is to reach 100% OA, as soon as possible.

But this is not WC's primary interest, on the contrary:

> As for OA archives, as far as I can tell, these are likely to have
> either no effect on library costs or -- when they have an effect -- a
> potentially disruptive effect on scholarly communication.

The purpose of OA self-archiving is to make 100% of the annual 2,500,000
journal articles published in the world's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals
Open Access. If this has no effect on library costs, does that make it
any less desirable or necessary?

As to "potentially disruptive effects on scholarly communication":

What WC writes about this is 100% subjective speculation. All the
objective evidence to date is precisely the contrary. Self-archiving
actually has highly positive effects on scholarly communication:

    Harnad, S. & Brody, T. (2004) Comparing the Impact of Open Access
    (OA) vs.  Non-OA Articles in the Same Journals, D-Lib Magazine 10
    (6) June http://www.dlib.org/dlib/june04/harnad/06harnad.html

The primary task now is to reach 100% OA, as soon as possible.

> As long as OA archives represent such a small percentage of the
> papers in a given subscription journal that libraries must retain
> their existing subscriptions, then the OA archives don't help the
> financial problem at all.

The objective is to raise the percentage OA from its present
level of about 20% to 100% OA, via self-archiving (as well as OA
publishing), with the help of a mandate from authors' funders
and employers: extending their already-existing publish-or-perish
mandate to: publish-and-make-OA.
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Temp/UKSTC.htm
http://www.eprints.org/signup/sign.php

But even today's 20% OA is far better (for researchers) than nothing. If
it is not better for the financial problem of libraries, is self-archiving
then not to be, or not to be favored by WC?

The primary task now is to reach 100% OA, as soon as possible.

> When a large enough percentage of the papers in a given journal
> are represented in OA archives, and the OA archives are harvested
> so that libraries can reasonably expect to find those papers via
> OpenURL or otherwise, then a growing number of libraries can, will,
> and must cancel their subscriptions to those journals.

Please let us cross that bridge if/when we get to it! This is pure
speculation right now, and counting one's chickens before the eggs
are even laid (and diminishing the probability that they will be
laid!)

Speculations can be countered by counter-speculations, but it is all
just air either way!
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Tp/resolution.htm#4.2

What research and researchers need now is 100% OA, not economic
speculations.

> That has one effect in the short term, another in the slightly longer
> term. In the short term, profit-oriented publishers will raise prices
> for remaining subscribers, squeezing the biggest stones for as much
> blood as possible.

Counter-speculation: If/when cancellation pressure is felt, there will be
cost-cutting and downsizing to the essentials:

    "Savings from Converting to On-Line-Only: 30%- or 70%+ ?"
     (Started Aug 27 1998)
     http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/0002.html

    "Online Self-Archiving: Distinguishing the Optimal from the Optional"
    (Started May 11 1999)
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/0248.html

    The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)"
    (Started July 5 1999)
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/0303.html

    "Separating Quality-Control Service-Providing from Document-Providing"
    (Started November 30 1999)
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/0466.html

    "Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons"
    (Started July 2001)
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/1437.html

    "Journal expenses and publication costs"
    (Started January 10 2003)
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/2589.html

    "The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition"
    (Started January 7 2004)
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/3378.html

But the primary task now is to first reach 100% OA, as soon as possible,
not to speculate on what it might or might not do to journal prices.

> In the slightly longer term, the subscription journal will
> fail? taking with it the full-text archives and the peer-review
> mechanisms.

Counter-speculation: If/when there is no longer a subscription-based
market for journals because of 100% OA, they will adopt the OA (gold)
cost-recovery model and become pure peer-review service-providers and
certifiers, offloading all access-provision on the OA Archive network
that is already providing 100% of the access.

But the primary task now is to first reach 100% OA, as soon as possible,
not to speculate about the effect it might or might not have on journal
subscriptions.

> The peer review mechanisms will be replaced, of course, as researchers
> migrate to OA journals.

Peer-review is peer-review and has nothing whatsoever to do with
cost-recovery models. If the speculation about migration to the OA (gold)
cost-recovery model should one day prove correct, then that is the way
journals' peer-review costs will continue to be recovered.

But the primary task now is to first reach 100% OA, as soon as possible,
not to speculate about how it may or may not influence journals'
cost-recovery models.

> Full text archives may or may not be so easy to replace, unless LOCKSS
> and national-library archival agreements take care of the situation.

For the time being, self-archiving is merely an OA *supplement* to the
current subscription-based proprietary archives of subscription-based
journal publishers and their library subscribers, not a *substitute*
for them. If/when the task of access-provision is offloaded onto the
OA archives completely and exclusively, they will also easily be able to
upgrade to perform the permanent storage and preservation function too.

But the primary task now is to first reach 100% OA, as soon as possible,
not to speculate about whether or not this may lead to offloading all
access-provision on the OA Archives.

> The concept that libraries must and will retain expensive
> subscriptions as long as any significant papers are being published
> in those journals that are not available via other means is ludicrous
> in a world of limited library resources.

Agreed.

But the primary task now is to first reach 100% OA, as soon as possible,
not to speculate about whether or when libraries may or may not
ever be in a position and inclined to do something non-ludicrous as
a consequence of that 100% OA.

Stevan Harnad