Wednesday, July 27. 2005
The United Kingdom ranks and rewards the research productivity of all its universities through a national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) conducted every four years.
If, as lately proposed, the "RAE shifts focus from prestige journals" (THS, 22 July 2005) as a basis for its ranking, what will it shift focus to?
An established journal's prestige and track-record are correlated with its selectivity and peer-review standards, hence its quality level, and often also its citation impact. What would it mean to ignore or de-emphasise that? The correlations will be ignored, all articles will be given equal weight -- and then what?
What gain in accuracy and fairness of research assessment is to be expected from ignoring the known predictors -- for correlation is predictive -- of research quality? Are all articles to be re-peer-reviewed by the RAE itself, bottom-up? Is that efficient, desirable, realistic? The most prestigious international journals draw upon international expertise in their peer review: Is the UK to reduplicate all this effort in-house every 4 years? Why? Isn't our time better spent getting the peer-reviewing done right the first time, and then getting on with our research?
Research assessment used to be publish-or-perish bean-counting; it is now weighted by the quality level of the journal in which the bean is planted. RAE outcome is already highly correlated with counts of the citations that articles sprout, even though the RAE never actually counts citations directly. That's because a journal's prestige is correlated with its articles' citation counts.
So if we're going to start ignoring journal prestige, shouldn't we begin to count article (and author) citations directly in its place?
Monday, July 25. 2005
The (anonymized) query below concerning Wiley's NIH policy is in error, so I am preceding it by a correction:
(1) The new Wiley NIH policy below is specific to Wiley's compliance with the NIH public access policy, which invites NIH fundees to deposit their NIH-funded papers in PubMed Central (PMC) -- a third party central archive (i.e., neither the author's institutional archive nor the publisher's archive).Just as it would be a good idea if publishers were to refrain from speculating about doomsday scenarios (about catastrophic cancellations as a result of self-archiving) for which there is zero positive evidence and against which there is a good deal of negative evidence, it would be a good idea if librarians and OA advocates were to refrain from speculating about sinister scenarios involving NIH-inspired publisher back-sliding on self-archiving policy, for which there is and continues to be exactly one single isolated example -- Nature Publishing Group -- and even that merely a case of back-sliding from a postprint full-green policy to a preprint pale-green policy (which is of next to no consequence, as one can have 100% OA with corrected preprints).
Author/institution self-archiving is and always was the 100% certain path to 100% OA. 100% self-archiving is (and always was) completely within the hands of the research community. And it is unstoppable. The fact that we are not there yet is definitely not the fault of publishers but of the sluggishness and slow-wittedness of the research community (which is also it's primary beneficiary).
But it does look as if we are coming to our senses at last... The RCUK policy may prove to be the decisive step.
Date:Thu, 21 Jul 2005 12:12:15 +010
From: [identity deleted]
To: American Scientist Open Access Forum
Subject: Wiley Publishers deposit in PMC
This could be a way of publishers encouraging authors not to deposit - ie the publisher will do it, but creates an embargo because it appears that the publisher deposited article will not be available until 12 months after publication? Do you know if other publishers are following this policy? The National Institutes of Health Public Access Initiative
Response and Guidance for Journal Editors and Contributors
Notice of Wiley's Compliance with NIH Grants and Contracts Policy
Recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has requested that its grantees submit copies of manuscripts upon their acceptance for publication to PubMedCentral (PMC), a repository housed within the National Library of Medicine..
On behalf of our authors who are also NIH grantees, Wiley will deposit in PMC at the same time that the article is published in our journal the peer-reviewed version of the author's manuscript. Wiley will stipulate that the manuscript may be available for "public access" in PMC 12 months after the date of publication.
By assuming this responsibility, Wiley will ensure that authors are in compliance with the NIH request, as well as make certain the appropriate version of the manuscript is deposited.
When an NIH grant is mentioned in the Acknowledgments or any other section of a manuscript, Wiley will assume that the author wants the manuscript deposited into PMC, unless the author states otherwise. The author can communicate this via email, or a note in the manuscript. The version of the manuscript that Wiley sends to PMC will be the accepted version, i.e. the version that the journal's Editor-in-Chief sends to Wiley for publication.
Wiley will notify the author when the manuscript has been sent to PMC.
Because Wiley is taking the responsibility for sending the manuscripts to PMC, in order to ensure an orderly process, authors should not deposit Wiley articles to PMC themselves. Authors should not make corrections to their Wiley-deposited manuscripts in PMC.
Wiley reserves the right to change or rescind this policy.
For further information, please get in touch with your editorial contact at Wiley, or see the NIH Policy on Public Access.
The second of an occasional column series called "Skywritings:
Scholarly and Leisurely" has appeared on Haworth Press's Website:
Harnad, S. (2005) The Green and Gold Roads to Maximizing Journal Article Access, Usage and Impact Haworth Press, July 1, 2005
Pertinent Prior Amsci Topic Thread:
"Self-Selected Vetting vs. Peer Review: Supplement or Substitute?" (began November 2002)Although clinical medical research is not a representative model for research in general (and has led to the wrong-headed idea that the only research that needs to be made Open Access (OA) is what concerns tax-payers' health), it is an instructive model for giving us a gut sense of the importance, even the urgency, of OA.
It is in this light that it is a good idea to ask ourselves, when weighing the adequacy or even the sense of yet another "reform" proposal, to try it out first on articles that concern our health:
We have many times heard the hypothesis that post-hoc vetting by self-selected commentators on the web can serve as a substitute for that pre-evaluation and certification of specialized work by qualified specialists that we call "peer-review." The question to ask yourself about this is whether, if you need to have a loved one treated today, you would like the treatment to be on the basis of (1) unrefereed preprints posted on the web, and possibly/eventually evaluated by possibly-qualified experts -- or you would rather have them treated on the basis of (2) refereed articles that have already been evaluated by qualified experts, and certified by the established quality-standards and track-record of the journal that is answerable for having published them?
I take it that when it comes to loved ones who need treatment today, there is no contest in the mind of anyone who reflects seriously on this question but that (2) is the right answer, with (1) at most only a welcome supplement to, but certainly no substitute for (2).
That was the rather shrill family-health version of the question, but it does not require much imagination to see that the answer is the same if we ask it from the viewpoint of a researcher: If you need to decide what finding to invest your limited earthly research time and resources into trying to build upon, is it (1) unrefereed findings posted on the web, possibly/eventually evaluated by possibly-qualified experts, or is it (2) refereed findings already evaluated by qualified experts and certified by the known quality standards of an established journal?
Once again, (1) seems welcome as a supplement to (2), but certainly not as a substitute for it.
I leave it as a lemma for the reader to repeat this exercise, but this time with respect to what papers the overloaded scholar or scientist can afford to spend his finite available reading-time reading: (1) or (2).
Well if it is transparent that anarchic post-hoc self-selected online commentary (1) is not and never will be a substitute for systematic and answerable peer review (2), done and certified in advance, but only a welcome supplement to it, it should not take much more reflection to realize that the most minimal and uninformative aspect of self-selected vetting, namely citation, is even less suited to take on the a-priori quality-assurance role of peer review.
Again, citation-counts (and other measures of research usage and impact) are welcome post-hoc supplements to research evaluation, but they are certainly no substitute for peer-review itself and its all-important filtering function, certifying in advance what is "safe" for reading, using, applying, consuming. Not being infallible, peer review can use all the extra help it can get from pre- and post-refereeing commentary and citations, but there is no way to bootstrap any of those into performing peer-review's essential and indispensable function in its place.
(Please note that the possibility of posting unrefereed preprints has already made "gate-keeping" an obsolete misnomer for journals: The "gates" they guard are those to their established quality-certification tags, not those to accessing the texts themselves.)
Peer review should never even have come up in the OA context -- except tautologically, in that it is the 2.5 million peer-reviewed articles published in the planet's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals to which OA is meant to maximize access. But somehow, ideas about OA have managed to get entangled with (untested) speculations about peer-review reforms and substitutes. The result is that misconceptions about peer review have been among the panoply of misunderstandings that have already delayed OA (and hence research impact and progress) by at least a decade more than necessary since the day the online medium put 100% OA fully within our reach.
To show that these misconceptions are alive and well in 2005, I quote from an article that appeared today (July 25) in
"The Age": To publish - or to e-publish? By Leslie CannoldThe argument seems to start off well, correctly pointing out that:
LC: "The truth is that academics and universities hold most of the cards in the scholarly publishing game. This is not just because they do the research, write the papers and do the unpaid work required to provide quality assurance by reviewing the work of their peers. It is also because their primary objective is not to profit from the distribution of their work, but to have it read and cited by others."We expect that the article will now go on to point out that, with the advent of the electronic age, reading and citation can now be maximised by self-archiving the text online. But instead we read:
LC: "In the new electronic age... both the organising of and participation in peer reviews may soon become a thing of the past. Instead of relying on the publisher's reputation and peer review as quality indicators, future scholars may depend on electronic citation counts."So instead of OA to the peer-reviewed articles, we have OA to unrefereed articles and their citation counts. And now comes the coup de grace: self-publishing, instead of the self-archiving of peer-reviewed publications; and then, somehow, from out of this vanity press plus citations, something like peer-review is somehow meant to emerge anew:
LC: "[E]very university should have its own serial e-press that would be the first place of publication for first-rate work. Perhaps this press would develop into a number of disciplinary-specific, peer-refereed electronic journals."We have alas already heard all these ungrounded, untested speculations aired before, and they do not improve with repetition. In essence we are asked to assume -- for no earthly reason -- that the path to OA is to renounce journals, self-publish unrefereed papers in our own institutional vanity presses, count the citations, and wait for peer-review to somehow re-evolve out of all this.
That would already be empty, evidence-free (and almost certainly incoherent) speculation even if there were not a concrete, evidence-based and well-tested alternative staring at us as plainly as the noses on our faces: "You wanted OA to peer-reviewed journal articles? Self-archive them! No need to tamper with either peer review or publication. And self-archiving is not self-publishing: it is just access-provision -- to one's own published articles."
Harnad, S. (1998) The invisible hand of peer review. Nature (on-line) and Exploit Interactive. http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/2622/
Harnad, S. (2005) Fast-Forward on the Green Road to Open Access: The Case Against Mixing Up Green and Gold. Ariadne 43. http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/10675/
Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S., Yves, G., Charles, O., Stamerjohanns, H. and Hilf, E. (2004) The Access/Impact Problem and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access. Serials Review 30 (4) http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/10209/
Tuesday, July 19. 2005
On Mon, 18 Jul 2005, Minh Ha Duong wrote in the American Scientist Open Access Forum:
I want to sell to the higher-ups at my national research institution (CNRS) the idea of an open evangelization mission to promote open archiving. I think that just saying "now everybody on the payroll should archive" is likely not to be efficient. We are especially interested in the department of Social Sciences and Humanities, which comprises a few hundred lab or research teams.First, do not underestimate the potential impact of a mandate:
But it would also help to show researchers why they should self-archive: to maximise research usage and impact. See especially the findings in Social Sciences (Sociology, Economics)."[This] international, cross-disciplinary [author] study on open access had 1296 respondents:... The vast majority of authors (81%) would willingly comply with a mandate from their employer or research funder to deposit copies of their articles in an institutional or subject-based repository. A further 13% would comply reluctantly; 5% would not comply with such a mandate." Swan, A. (2005) Open access self-archiving: An Introduction. JISC Technical Report.
What do you think? Do you know of any instances of such institutional effort to promote OA? How did they go about it, and with what results?On how institutions actually promote OA self-archiving, I'm afraid I have no data. -- Postings from those institutions that do promote self-archiving, to let us know how they are promoting it, would be most welcome. -- The OSI Eprints Handbook as well as the Self-Archiving FAQ suggest ways to implement and promote self-archiving.
But it is the institututional self-archiving mandate itself that is the most effective way of generating self-archiving, as can be seen by comparing archive growth and size for those institutions that have no institutional self-archiving policy (1), a policy o recommending but not requiring self-archiving (2), and a policy of requiring self-archiving (3):
The only two institutions in the world so far that have a policy of requiring self-archiving (3) -- Southampton ECS and CERN -- have each (ECS, CERN) achieved a 90% self-archiving rate for current research output, exactly as the above JISC Survey findings indicated. The archives of institutions with only recommended self-archiving (2) are filling less, and less quickly; those of institutions with no self-archiving policy at all even less so.
For (2) and (3) see the Registry of Institutional OA Policies. For (1) see the Registry of Institutional OA Archives.
Saturday, July 16. 2005
This is a response to:
"Dissemination of and access to UK research outputs." Response from the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) to the RCUK [Research Councils UK] Position Statement on Open Access to Research Outputs. (2005)
Preamble: One can hardly ask for a better argument against ALPSP's 2005 Response to RCUK than ALPSP's very own 2004 Report 'Principles of Scholarship-Friendly Journal Publishing Practice'
Here are some relevant quotes from that 2004 ALPSP Report:
The needs of authors
(All plain italic display-quotes preceded by "ALPSP:" are from the 2005 ALPSP Response to the RCUK's proposed self-archiving mandate.)
ALPSP: "ALPSP encourages the widest possible dissemination of research outputs; indeed, this furthers the mission of most learned societies to advance and disseminate their subject and to advance public education. We understand the benefits to research of maximum access to prior work..."An excellent beginning!
ALPSP: "ALPSP recognises that maximising access must be done in ways which do not undermine the viability either of the peer-reviewed journals in which the research is published"No one would disagree with this either.
ALPSP: "Understandably, therefore, [publishers] may not wish their "value-added" version to be made freely available in repositories immediately on publication."Quite understandable, and self-archiving is accordingly not about the publisher's value-added version -- not the copy-editing, not the XML markup, not the publisher's PDF -- but only about the author's own preprint (unrefereed draft) and postprint (corrected final draft). That is what is to be made available, “freely and immediately, in repositories.”
ALPSP: "Even if the freely available version lacks some or all of the value added by the publisher, it may be treated as an adequate substitute by uninformed readers"The freely available version is intended for the use of those potential researcher/users worldwide whose institutions cannot afford access to the publisher's value-added version. It is accordingly a more than adequate substitute for informed users who do not have acccess to any other version at all!
ALPSP: "(and, indeed, by cash-strapped libraries). And any new model which has the potential to "siphon off" a significant percentage of otherwise paying customers will, understandably, undermine the financial viability of all these value-adding activities."Surely the financial viability of the values-added is determined by their market value. As long as the added values have a market value, they remain viable. All evidence to date is that the self-archived free versions co-exist peacefully with the publishers' value-added versions, serving as supplements for those who cannot afford access to the value-added version rather than substitutes for those who can:
Swan & Brown (2005): "[W]e asked the American Physical Society (APS) and the Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd (IOPP) what their experiences have been over the 14 years that arXiv has been in existence. How many subscriptions have been lost as a result of arXiv? Both societies said they could not identify any losses of subscriptions for this reason and that they do not view [self-archiving] as a threat to their business (rather the opposite -- in fact the APS helped establish an arXiv mirrorsite at the Brookhaven National Laboratory)." Swan, A. & Brown, S. (2005) Open access self-archiving: An author study. JISC Technical Report.ALPSP: "The National Institutes of Health in the USA has attempted to address this concern by delaying, for up to 12 months after publication, the point at which deposited material becomes freely accessible. The 12-month period was arrived at after considerable discussion with society and other publishers; it goes some way to addressing their fears about the impact on subscription and licence sales. Even the Wellcome Foundation, which has not consulted with publishers, recognises the need for a 6-month embargo."The NIH and Wellcome embargoes concern the date of deposit in a central NIH/Wellcome Archive, PubMed Central (PMC), in which the metadata and perhaps also the full-text will appear in an enhanced ("value-added') form added by PMC.
Friday, July 15. 2005
On Thu, 14 Jul 2005, Anthony Watkinson wrote (in liblicense):
AW: "The quotation from Raym Crow (whose work incidentally I admire) needs to be taken in the context of his model in the same piece. To repeat - this disaggregated model leaves almost no role for publishers..."Raym Crow's 2002 SPARC Position paper "The Case for Institutional Repositories" lost a lot of its potential usefulness because it made far too much of a completely untested (and, I suspect, ultimately incoherent) speculation (from J.W.T. Smith) about "Disaggregated Journals."
It is a great pity that a concrete, tested, and proven practical means of maximizing research usage and impact -- namely, authors self-archiving their published (traditional) journal articles in their own institutional repositories (aka archives) -- was conflated with a mere piece of speculation in what should have been an authoritative SPARC document.
Here is my original critique of Crow's paper (which I was, alas, persuaded not to post publicly in the American Scientist Open Access Forum at the time (2002), ostensibly on the grounds of maintaining solidarity among OA advocates; but that was a mistake -- it's always a mistake to remain mute about a flawed idea, even among allies). I archived it (without ever actually posting it) only 2 years later, in 2004, too late.
J.W.T. Smith's "Disaggregated Journal" idea had already been discussed extensively much earlier in the American Scientist OA Forum (then called the September-Forum) in 1999. The idea has been neither tested nor patched up since.
(So much of the slow history of OA seems to consist in recycling speculations and fallacies instead of moving ahead and doing what has already been demonstrated to be doable, and effective. Here we are in 2005, rediscovering the "Disaggregated Journal" -- and still not providing the OA that has been within reach for at least a decade and a half. -- I'm sure the pundits will now chime in with their wise saws about why it had be so...)
Your humble but impatient archivangelist,
Thursday, July 14. 2005
"Leading European Library Organization firmly supports Research Councils UK new open access policy. Policy that requires UK-funded research be deposited in openly accessible archives will strengthen increased investment in research.http://www.sparceurope.org/press_release/RCUK.htm
(Source: David Prosser)
Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) has "endorsed the principles of the Open Access movement -- promoting and sharing the results of the SSHRC-funded research with the public."http://www.sshrc.ca/web/about/council_reports/news_e.asp#3
(Source: Heather Morrison)
Tuesday, July 12. 2005
Swan & Brown's second international, cross-disciplinary JISC Open Access Author Survey will, I am fairly certain, turn out to be a milestone and historic turning point in the worldwide research community's progress towards 100% Open Access.
The JISC findings were reported at the International Conference on Policies and Strategies for Open Access to Scientific Information, Beijing, China, June 22-24, 2005
(1-s) Short introduction to 2005 OA Author Survey:See also:
(1-l) the longer full JISC version of the above 2005 author survey,
(2) the brand-new JISC Open Access Briefing Paper,
plus two versions each of Swan, Brown et al's two classic papers:
(3) the 2004 JISC survey (3-s) journal version and (3-l) full JISC version) and
(4) Swan et al's 2004/2005 report of JISC's strategic and cost/benefit analysis of institutional vs. central repository self-archiving (4-s) journal version and (4-l) full JISC version).
Summary of 2005 author survey (emphasis added): This, our second international, cross-disciplinary author study on open access had 1296 respondents. Its focus was on self-archiving. Almost half (49%) of the respondent population have self-archived at least one article during the last three years. Use of institutional repositories for this purpose has doubled since our last study and usage has increased by almost 60% for subject-based repositories. Self-archiving activity is most extensive amongst those who publish the largest number o papers. There is still a substantial proportion of authors who are unaware of the possibility of providing open access to their work by self-archiving. Of the authors who have not yet self-archived any articles, 71% remain unaware of the option. With 49% of the author population having self-archived in some way, this means that 36% of the total author population (71% of the remaining 51%), has not yet been appraised of this way of providing open access. Authors have frequently expressed reluctance to self-archive because of the perceived time required and possible technical difficulties in carrying out this activity, yet findings here show that only 20% of authors found some degree of difficulty with the first act of depositing an article in a repository, and that this dropped to 9% for subsequent deposits. Another author worry is about infringing agreed copyright agreements with publishers, yet only 10% of authors currently know of the SHERPA/RoMEO list of publisher permissions policies with respect to self-archiving, where clear guidance is provided as to what a publisher permits. Where it is not known whether permission is required, however, authors are not seeking it and are self-archiving without it. Communicating their results to peers remains scholars' primary reason for publishing their work; in other words,researchers publish to have an impact on their field. The vast majority of authors (81%) would willingly comply with a mandate from their employer or research funder to deposit copies of their articles in an institutional or subject-based repository. A further 13% would comply reluctantly; 5% would not comply with such a mandate.
Saturday, July 9. 2005
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
Department of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton
SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM
phone: +44 23-80 592-388
fax: +44 23-80 592-865
SUMMARY: Graham Taylor, director of educational, academic and professional publishing at the Publishers Association, criticises the Research Councils UK (RCUK) proposal to require that the author of every published article based on RCUK-funded research must “self-archive” a supplementary “open access” version on the web so it can be freely read and used by any researcher worldwide whose institution cannot afford the journal in which it was published. The purpose of the RCUK policy is to maximise the usage and impact of research. Taylor argues that this may have an adverse affect on some journals. This critique of Taylor's critique points out that there is no evidence from 15 years of open-access self-archiving that it has had any adverse affect on journals and a great deal of evidence that it enhances research impact.
[All quotes are from Graham Taylor, "Don't tell us where to publish" Guardian: Research News, Friday July 1, 2005]
GT:"Repositories are probably a good idea... But should they be used as a means for "publication"? And what is "publication" exactly?"
No one is proposing that institutional open-access (OA) repositories (or archives) should be used as a means of publication. They are a means of providing supplementary access to the (final drafts of) peer-reviewed, published research articles -- for those would-be users whose institutions cannot afford the paid access to the official published versions.
RCUK is not telling its fundees "where to publish," but what else they must do with their published (and funded) research, in order to maximize its usage and impact, over and above publishing it in the best possible peer-reviewed journal ("publish or perish").
GT: "UK Research Councils (RCUK) [have proposed a] policy [that] requires that funded researchers must deposit in an appropriate e-print repository any resultant published journal articles"
Correct. Notice that it says to "deposit" published journal articles, not to "publish" them. (To publish a published article would be redundant, whereas to provide a free-access version for those who cannot pay would merely ensure that the article's impact was more abundant.)
GT: "Publication involves a great deal more than mere dissemination. After the peer review, the editorial added-value, the production standards, the marketing, the customer service... the certification process process is an essential endpoint for any research activity. How does the RCUK policy relate to this?"
It relates in no way at all. The value can continue being added, and the resulting product can continue being sold (both on-paper and online) to all those who can afford to buy it, exactly as before. The author's self-archived supplement is for those who cannot afford to buy the official published version.
Does Graham Taylor recommend instead that research and researchers should continue to renounce the potential impact of all those potential users worldwide who cannot afford access to their findings today, and should instead carry on exactly as they had in the pre-Web era (when the potential to maximize the usage and impact of their findings by providing open access to them online did not yet exist)? Why?
GT: "Mandating deposit as close to publication as possible will inevitably mean that some peer-reviewed journals will have to close down. "
This is a rather strong statement of a hypothesis for which there exists no supporting evidence after 15 years of self-archiving -- even in those fields where self-archiving reached 100% some time ago. In fact, all existing evidence is contrary to this hypothesis. So on what basis is Graham Taylor depicting this doomsday scenario as if it were a factual statement, rather than merely the counterfactual conjecture that it in fact is?
A recent JISC study conducted by Swan & Brown reported: "[W]e asked the American Physical Society (APS) and the Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd (IOPP) what their experiences have been over the 14 years that arXiv [e-print repository] has been in existence. How many subscriptions have been lost as a result of arXiv? Both societies said they could not identify any losses of subscriptions for this reason and that they do not view arXiv as a threat to their business (rather the opposite -- in fact the APS helped establish an arXiv mirror site at the Brookhaven National Laboratory)."
GT: "Why should inadequate and overstretched library budgets pay for stuff that is available for free?"
(1) In order to have the print edition
(2) In order to have the publisher's official online (value-added) version of record
GT: "Library acquisition budgets represent less than 1% of expenditure in higher education... for more than a decade, despite double digit growth in research funding. Publication and output management costs represent around 2% of the cost of research to our economy, yet RCUK appears to want to bring new costs into the system."
Interesting data, but what on earth do they have to do with what we are talking about here? We are talking about researchers increasing the impact of their own research by increasing the access to their own research -- in the online age, which is what has at last made this maximised access/impact possible (and optimal for researchers, their institutions, their funders, and for research progress itself).
We have already established that self-archiving the author's final draft of a published article is not publishing, that it is done for the sake of those potential users who cannot afford the published version, and that those who want and can afford the published version can and do continue to buy it. So why are we here rehearsing the old and irrelevant publishers' plaint about the underfunding of library serials budgets? No one has mentioned the librarians' counter-plaint about publishers' over-pricing of journals. So why not let sleeping dogs lie? They are in any case irrelevant to the substantive research issue at hand, which is: maximising research impact, by and for researchers.
GT: "We need a sustainable, scaleable system for publication, which means making a "surplus" in the process to invest for the future, to fund the activities of the learned societies, to fund the cost of capital... But deposit on publication can only cannibalise the very system that makes mandating deposit viable in the first place."
How did we get onto the subject of publishers' profit margins and investments, when the problem was needlessly lost research impact? Is researchers’ needlessly lost research impact supposed to be subsidising publishers' venture capital schemes?
GT: "And then there are the costs. Is the current system failing? If access is a problem, where is the evidence?"
The problem is needless loss of research impact, because not all of the potential users of a research finding are necessarily at an institution that can afford to subscribe to the journal in which it was published. The evidence that the paid-access version alone is not reaching all or even most of its potential users is the finding -- replicated in field after field -- that the citation impact of self-archived articles is 50%-300+% higher than that of non-self-archived articles (in the same journal and issue) -- in all fields analysed so far:
Lost impact is the evidence that limited access is a problem. The web era has made it possible to put an end to this needlessly lost impact.
The system is not "failing" -- it is just extremely (and needlessly) sub-optimal in its access provision in the online age. In fact, the system is somewhat better today than it had been in the paper age, but far from the substantially better that it could and should be (and already is -- for the 15% of articles that already have a self-archived supplement of the kind the RCUK is now proposing to require for 100% of UK research article output).
[Food for thought: This needlessly lost research access and impact would still be a problem if journals were zero-profit and sold at-cost! There would still not be enough money in the world so that all research institutions could afford to purchase access to all the journals their researchers could conceivably need to use. A self-archived supplement would still be needed then, as it is now, to maximise impact by maximising access.]
GT: "Is funding repositories the right way to spend scarce funds? Maybe, for reasons other than publication, but isn't this a high risk strategy? So where is the impact assessment and the rigorous cost appraisal in the RCUK policy?"
(RCUK is not yet proposing to fund repositories; it is only proposing to require fundees to fill them – although also helping to fund institutional repositories’ minimal repository costs would not be a bad idea at all!)
It is not altogether clear to me, however, why Graham Taylor or the publishing community should be asking about how the research community spends its research funds! But as it’s a fair question all the same, here's a reply:
However research money is spent, the greater the usage and impact of the research funded, the better that money has been spent. And self-archiving enhances research impact by 50%-300+%. (There's your "impact assessment"!):
The output of one research-active university might range from 1000 to 10,000 or more articles per year depending on size and productivity. Researchers are employed, promoted and salaried – and their research projects are funded -- to a large extent on the basis of the usefulness and impact of their research. Research that is used more tends to be cited more. So citations are counted, as measures of usage and impact.
The dollar value (in salary and grant income) of one citation varies from field to field, depending on the average number of authors, papers and citations in the field; the marginal value of one citation also varies with the citation range (0 to 1 being a bigger increment than 30 to 31, since 60% of articles are not cited at all, 90% have 0-5 citations, and very few have more than 30 citations:
A still much-cited 1986 study estimated the "worth" of one citation (depending on field and range) at $50-$1300. (This dollar value has of course risen in the ensuing 20 years.)
The UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) ranks UK Universities according to their research productivity and provides a substantial amount of top-sliced research funding proportional to each university's RAE ranking. It turns out that this ranking, hence each university’s amount of funding, is largely determined by the university’s total citation count.
So there’s your “impact assessment and the rigorous cost appraisal” for the RCUK policy.
GT: "Worldwide, 2,000 journal publishers are publishing 1.8 million articles per year (and rising) in 20,000 journals. Remember the UKeU - £50m to attract 900 students? The House of Commons education select Committee concluded that supply-side thinking was to blame. Is the RCUK policy really based on demand and need, or is supply-side thinking creeping in again?”
What on earth is all of this about? RCUK is talking about maximizing the impact of UK research output by supplementing paid journal access with free author-provided access – access provided by and to researchers, for their own research output -- and we are being regaled by irrelevant figures about numbers of articles published worldwide per year, the UKeU distance learning schemes that flopped, and "supply-side" thinking! What is Graham Taylor thinking?
GT: "The RCUK policy is based on four principles that we... support... Our problem is that we harbour deep concerns that the proposals founded on those principles will bring unforeseen - and potentially irreversible - consequences that we will all live to regret."
In other words, the principles seem unexceptionable, but Graham Taylor has a doomsday scenario in mind to which he would like the research community to attach equal (indeed greater) weight, despite the absence of any supporting evidence, and despite the presence of a good deal of contrary evidence (see the Swan & Brown JISC report cited above).
GT: "Instead, we offer some principles of our own: sustain the capacity to manage and fund peer review; don't undermine the authority of peer reviewed journals; match fund access to funding for research; invest in a sustainable organic system based on surplus not grants."
Translation: Pour more money into paying for journals rather than requiring fundees and their institutions to supplement the impact of their own funded research by making it accessible for free to potential users worldwide who cannot afford to pay for access.
(But there is not remotely enough available money in the world to ensure that all would-be users have paid access to all the research they could use – even if publishers were to renounce all profits and sell their journals at-cost. That is why the web is such a godsend for research.)
GT: "Publishers will support their authors in making their material available through repositories, provided they are not set up to undermine peer-reviewed journals. We say to RCUK, by all means encourage experiments, but don't mandate. Don't force transition to an unproven solution."
You would not call a solution that (1) has proven across 15 years to enhance impact by 50%-300+% and that (2) has not generated any discernible journal cancellations -- even in fields where self-archiving reached 100% years ago -- a proven solution? And you would like RCUK to refrain from mandating it on the strength of your doomsday scenario, which has no supporting evidence at all, and only contrary evidence?
GT: "Whatever you do, make the true costs transparent. The paper backing up the policy makes little or no acknowledgement of what the learned societies and publishers have achieved over the last 10 years."
The proposal is to supplement the current system, not to replace it. The value of the system is already inherently acknowledged in the fact that it is the content of peer-reviewed journal articles to which RCUK proposes maximising access -- not something else in their stead.
GT: "This is not to say that the current system is perfect... but it's getting better fast... [R]ather than standing on principle... we should allow time for the evidence to make the case. [That is] the very basis... of research."
It is now over 25 years since the advent of the Net and the possibility of 100% self-archiving in FTP sites, 15 years since the advent of the Web and the possibility of 100% self-archiving on personal websites, and 6 years since the advent of the OAI protocol and the possibility of 100% self-archiving in distributed interoperable institutional repositories.
So far, 49% of journal-article authors report having spontaneously self-archived at least once. Yet only about 15% of annual articles are actually being systematically self-archived. In the most recent of the international author surveys commissioned by the UK JISC, researchers have indicated exactly what needs to be done to get most of them to self-archive systematically: Over 80% replied that they will not self-archive until and unless their employers or funders require them to do so; but if/when they do require it, they will self-archive, and self-archive willingly.
Graham Taylor seems to be suggesting instead:
“No, don't act on the basis of the existing evidence.Wait for what? How much longer? And Why?
Harnad, S. (1991) Post-Gutenberg Galaxy: The Fourth Revolution in the Means of Production of Knowledge. Public-Access Computer Systems Review 2(1):39 - 53.
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 35 (April 2003).
Okerson, A. & O'Donnell. J (1995) (Eds.) Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads; A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing. Washington, DC., Association of Research Libraries, June 1995.
Swan, A. and Brown, S. (2005) Open access self-archiving: An author study. JISC Technical Report
Taylor, G. (2005) "Don't tell us where to publish" Guardian: Research News, Friday July 1, 2005
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