Wednesday, December 14. 2005
Many thanks to Brian Lynch and Les Carr for providing quote/commentable versions of Lord Rees's letter to the Fellows who signed the Open Letter to the Royal Society dissenting from the Royal Society's Position Statement on Open Access which had been aimed at delaying implementation of the Research Councils UK's proposed policy on access to research outputs.
The Fellows' letter stated quite explicitly in what respect the Royal Society position statement on open access was negative:Royal Society's Position on Open Access
"The society's statement, which takes a largely negative stance on open access, appears to be aimed at delaying implementation of the Research Councils UK's proposed policy on access to research outputs."It is the RS's stance on the RCUK open-access policy that is at issue here, and the RS's stance in its position paper on open access was that the RCUK policy should not be implemented but deferred, pending more "experimental evidence" (without specifying: evidence of what? how gathered? and why?).
Moreover, there is a consistent dissociation between what the RCUK is actually proposing, and what the RS is arguing against. The RCUK is proposing to require that the author's final, peer-reviewed draft of all published, peer-reviewed articles resulting from RCUK-funded research should be self-archived in the author's institutional repository (or a central repository) in order to make it accessible to those would-be users who cannot afford access to the published version. Peer review is not at issue. Quality control is not at issue. Long-term accessibility is not at issue. The proposal is to provide supplementary accessibility over and above what exists already, for those would-be users who cannot afford access now.
The RS's allusions to peer review, quality-control and long-term accessibility are hence non-sequiturs. One can guess, however, what motivated them: There is the implicit assumption that self-archiving may (1) cause journal subscription declines or even (2) catastrophic cancellations, which would make journals unable to cover costs, and thereby make it impossible to provide peer-review/quality-control. The worry about long-term accessibility is even more convoluted, being based on the assumption that when journals collapse for inability to cover costs, not only will there be no more journals, but the access to what there had been would be lost as well.
This doomsday scenario is cited as grounds for opposing the immediate implementation of the RCUK policy, despite the fact that the scenario is not only based on pure speculation, but there already exists substantial empirical evidence against it: In physics (for example) self-archiving has now been going on for over 14 years; in some areas of physics, it reached 100% years ago. Yet both the UK and US Learned Societies in Physics (IOP and APS) have reported that there has been no detectable decline in subscriptions associated with self-archiving, that they do not see self-archiving as a threat, and that they indeed host mirror-sites of the main central self-archiving site in physics, Arxiv.
Hence peer review, quality control, and long-term accessibility are alive and well in the field that has been experimenting the longest with self-archiving and open access. And the resulting OA has since also been shown to deliver substantial benefits to research and researchers, in terms of usage and citation impact that is enhanced 25%-250%+. Nor are these benefits peculiar to physics. They are present in every other discipline in which the comparison has been made.
We must pause to reflect upon this abstract statement, because, on the face of it, it is in such blatant contradiction with what the RS is concretely trying to do with its position statement. RCUK can rightly say that it "is committed to the widest possible dissemination of [RCUK] research outputs" for their widest possible dissemination is precisely what RCUK is proposing to mandate. The RS, in contrast, is opposing this long-overdue RCUK OA mandate, and trying to see it delayed still longer.Lord Rees: The Royal Society is committed to the widest possible dissemination of research outputs. [emphasis added]
On the face of it, then, the RS position certainly does not sound like a commitment "to the widest possible dissemination of research outputs."
And what are the grounds for this opposition by RS to what the RS itself professes to be committed to? The doomsday scenario -- for which there is no supporting evidence, with all the evidence to date instead contradicting it.
And what does the RS propose instead? Seeking more evidence.
More evidence of what? How? If 14 years of evidence of peaceful co-existence between self-archiving and journal publishing is not evidence enough, what is?
And why is the RCUK proposal itself not supported as the experimental means of gathering more evidence? RCUK only funds a small portion of the contents of any given international journal. If we are testing the road to 100% OA, then 100% OA for RCUK-funded research, indeed for all UK research, is still just a small percentage of total worldwide OA, hence of total worldwide journal content. So the RCUK policy will not even go as far as self-archiving has already gone in physics.
Not that it would be a bad thing at all if RCUK-mandated self-archiving did go all the way to 100% worldwide OA -- but the fact is that it does not. So if one has a hypothesis that self-archiving might lead to subscription decline after all, despite all the negative evidence from physics, is the RCUK policy not the way to test that very hypothesis, if one is truly seeking objective evidence rather than simply seeking to draw pre-emptive conclusions from dire conjectures?
Please let us lay this to rest at once: There is no "delayed open access publishing." Open access means free, immediate online access. Delayed access is not open access, it is embargoed access. And research progress is not well-served by access embargoes. Access embargoes are not "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs." Why should would-be users of a piece of new research who cannot afford access to the journal that it happens to be published in have to wait a year before they can access, use, apply, and build upon that research? Whose interests does that serve?Lord Rees: The Society is itself a delayed open access publisher (already providing free access after 12 months)
More important: RCUK is not asking (nor can or could it require) journals to become open-access journals, nor their publishers to become open-access publishers: It is commendable if publishers do; it is commendable if they make their journals' contents accessible to nonsubscribers after a one-year embargo. But neither of these has anything to do with the RCUK policy, which is that RCUK fundees must make a supplementary copy of their final, peer-reviewed drafts OA immediately upon acceptance for publication, by self-archiving them -- for the sake of maximising the uptake and impact of RCUK-funded research.
All acts of charity and largesse by the RS are welcome. But it is neither the RCUK's policy to require such acts of charity and largesse from publishers, nor is the RCUK's policy to leave would-be users worldwide dependent on such acts of charity and largesse from publishers. RCUK is proposing to mandate that its own fundees self-archive immediately, and not out of charity, but in the interests of research progress and impact, including their own citation impact (which also brings authors career and funding benefits, not to mention prestige, prizes, and RS Fellowships).Lord Rees: and [RS] provides immediate access to researchers in developing countries
These are further instances of admirable magnanimity, but not something on which the world's would-be research usership can afford to rely for research progress on all findings.Lord Rees: and also to scientific papers that are of major public interest (for example the results of the farm scale evaluation of genetically modified crops).
Not only do the undemonstrated perils of "undermining the established subscription model of publishing" through OA self-archiving go counter to all existing evidence, and not only do they fail to take into account the demonstrated benefits of OA self-archiving, but demanding a prior demonstration of the viability of the author-pays model as a precondition for RCUK's applying the demonstrated experimental results to date is rather like demanding a prior demonstration of the viability of the US economy under Kyoto restrictions as a precondition for signing the Kyoto accord!Lord Rees: However, the Society is not in favour of policies that might imperil scholarly communication by undermining the established subscription model of publishing before the alternatives (such as author-pays journals) have been fully explored and have been shown to be viable in the long term.
Does stanching a cumulative annual scholarly impact loss of 25%-250% not impact on the future of scholarly communication? Is scholarly communication primarily about protecting scholarly publishers from any imaginable risk at all costs, irrespective of objective evidence for or against?Lord Rees: I hope that you will agree that any decisions that impact on something as important as the future of scholarly communication should be based on sound evidence.
Are there any disciplines that do not benefit from increased access, usage and impact? Are there any that do not lose from loss of access, usage and impact?Lord Rees: Our various statements on this subject, which have been discussed extensively by the Council of the Royal Society, outline a number of questions that have been raised with us as part of this debate. They include the following:
And mathematics is catching up on physics in the practice of self-archiving. I doubt that it is the self-archiving mathematicians and physicists who are raising the concerns; and we already know it is not their Learned Societies, APS and IOP.
Or is this a reference to the IOP's data on reduced downloads at the IOP's sites for self-archived articles? But what difference does that make if it is having no effect on subscriptions? Would IOP be hosting a mirror Arxiv site if it felt self-archiving was a threat to its subscription revenues? Isn't pooling download counts the obvious, natural solution? Or is it again expressed concerns about possible perils that are being counted now as if they were objective evidence of something other than what they are (expressed concerns about possible perils, contradicted by all evidence to date)?
(1) Why is this question being asked at all, in connection with the RCUK policy, which is not mandating author-pays publishing but OA self-archiving?Lord Rees: + Would researchers without a grant or research position or from the developing world be able to afford to publish under an author-pays mode!? Would those journals that hope to subsidise such researchers be able to afford to do so in a sustainable manner?
(2) Why is this question being asked at all, in connection with the RCUK policy, which is not mandating author-pays publishing but OA self-archiving?Lord Rees: + Do the alternative models of publication provide the same level of quality assurance and peer review as the established model? For example, under an author pays model will there be a pressure to publish articles by authors who can pay rather than to publish the very best work?
The answer is Yes: It is called the metadata tag "published in JOURNAL NAME" just as it always was.Lord Rees: Where repositories contain both pre- and post- print articles is there an effective method for distinguishing between multiple versions of the same paper?
Or are we to go on renouncing 25%-250% of annual research access and impact on the off-chance that some of the versions used by would-be users -- who would otherwise have had no access at all -- might have uncorrected errors, or might be mis-tagged by their authors or institutions? Should we eschew books because of possible misprints, or library indices because of possible cataloguing errors? (These trivial points have all the familiar features of special pleading and filibusters. We have heard them many times before, verbatim. It would be so much more helpful to hear Lord Rees's own thoughts, in his own words.)
The answer is again Yes (because the set-up and maintenance costs for an OA IR are risibly low).Lord Rees: + Is there sufficient funding to ensure the survival of institutional repositories in the long term?
Nor is it at all clear, prima facie, why this question should be the RS's concern at all; but let us suppose for the sake of argument that there are not sufficient funds, and that after a year or two in which they increase research impact by 25%-250%, all IRs go bottom-up: Is that, then, a reason for renouncing that year or two of maximised research impact? Is it a reason for delaying the RCUK mandate? (Why are these irrelevant concerns about IR support being asked at all?)
(As it happens, the IR movement is growing quite robustly, for digital-curation reasons of its own, independent of OA concerns, and with preservation/survival its main raison d'etre: Should RCUK delay its mandate till the digital survivalists can ensure their own survival?)
Is "what some fear" to be taken as empirical grounds for delaying or deferring the adoption of a practice (self-archiving) that has already empirically demonstrated its benefits, with no resulting empirical evidence to support the fears?Lord Rees: + Under a self-archiving model, how will peer review be organised if, as some fear, journals go out of business? Is the brand of a journal important, and if so what will replace it?
If any subscription journals go out of business, their titles ("brands") can always migrate to OA publishers.
(3) Why is this question being asked at all, in connection with the RCUK policy, which is not mandating author-pays publishing but OA self-archiving?Lord Rees: + Is there an inherent problem with the current model and do the proposed alternatives address it?
More evidence on what?Lord Rees: These are just some of questions that we believe should be addressed.
And is all the accumulated evidence on the benefits of OA self-archiving to research and researchers -- and the absence of any negative effects on subscriptions or publishers -- to be ignored? Will anything other than evidence of subscription-decline be accepted as actually being evidence? And how long do we have to keep gathering evidence before we can act on it?
And how (now we are on the subject) are we to test whether the hypothesis that self-archiving will cause subscription decline is valid? Is the RCUK policy itself not the direct test of the so-far-unsupported hypothesis that self-archiving will cause subscription decline?
Why must we wait and first test alternative economic models (which are not what RCUK is proposing to mandate) before we can test self-archiving itself (which is what RCUK is proposing to mandate)? Are we simply to accept without supporting evidence that self-archiving will lead to subscription decline and to the need to adopt other economic models?
How does testing the relative merits of models test whether or not the hypothesis that self-archiving imperils journals is valid?Lord Rees: As contribution to this evidence base, we believe that a study should be commissioned to assess the relative merits of the various models that have been proposed under the rather broad banner of 'open access',
What model was outlined by RCUK in its consultation document? The only two concrete measures RCUK proposed were (1) to require self-archiving and (2) to help fund author-pays costs.Lord Rees: including that outlined by RC UK in its consultation document.
Assess it how? By asking people's opinions about perils? Is it not the RCUK policy itself that tests whether self-archiving generates subscription loss? Has not all evidence to date attested to self-archiving's benefits, and no evidence to date given any hint of drawbacks?Lord Rees: Such a study should assess what potential benefits and drawbacks could result from changing current practices in the dissemination of research findings to each of the proposed new models.
The RCUK policy, being pan-disciplinary, will test just that: Does any discipline fail to enhance research impact by self-archiving? Do some disciplines have subscription declines and others not?Lord Rees: It would need to examine how these benefits and drawbacks may vary from discipline to discipline and the impacts on researchers who may not be funded through traditional routes.
But what has funding to with it, since OA publishing is not what is being mandated?
It seems clear that the only thing the RS is interested in testing is the viability of different economic models for publishing. Fine. Let the RS go ahead and test publishing models.Lord Rees: Reliable evidence would allow the research community as a whole, including RC UK, to make better informed decisions about whether changes in current practice are desirable. We have indicated to RC UK that we would be happy to discuss with them how such a study might be taken forward.
But meanwhile, the RCUK is committed to applying (and thereby also further testing) ways to generate "the widest possible dissemination of [RCUK] research outputs", and OA self-archiving is one of the ways that has already garnered a lot of supporting evidence.
Let the RCUK, without further delay, test whether the already-demonstrated positive effects generalise to all disciplines, whether all enjoy the impact benefits, whether any signs emerge of subscription decline. Let the outcome and the policy be evaluated in 2008, as proposed, or even annually. But let there be no further delay in getting the RCUK experiment underway.
First, to repeat, there is no evidence to date of any loss of subscription income as a result of author self-archiving.Lord Rees: Our overriding concern is the future of scholarly communication. It is important to remember that more than 40% of journals are published by not-for-profit organisations many of whom use their publishing surpluses to fund activities such as academic conferences and public lectures, which are also crucial to the exchange of knowledge. A loss of income by not-for-profit publishers (particularly some of the smaller Learned Societies) would lead to a reduction in, or cessation of, these activities.
Second, if there ever were some detectable loss of publisher revenue as a result of self-archiving, would the optimal response be to curtail the self-archiving and its benefits? to renounce "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs"? Are "activities such as academic conferences and public lectures" to continue at all costs to be subsidised by researchers' lost research impact? Or might there be some other way to fund such worthy activities than by curtailing "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs"?
But in any case, should we not decide what to do about that bridge if and when there is some evidence that it exists and we are coming to it, rather than now, when all we have is the evidence of benefits with no drawbacks (or drawbridges) at all?
OA self-archiving maximises research access and impact and has shown no signs of imperilling subscription revenue. It is time to apply this long-standing and well-supported empirical finding, and extend it further. RCUK funds only a small portion of any individual journal's contents. In a few years it will be possible to re-assess whether or not mandated self-archiving has had any detectable effect on subscription revenue (and whether that warrants any change of RCUK policy, or merely adaptation by publishers). Meanwhile let RCUK, with no further delay, widen the dissemination of its research outputs, to the benefit of UK's research and the UK tax-payers' investment in it.Lord Rees: The Society wishes to enable maximum access to the outputs of research while safeguarding the future of scholarly communication. I hope that the Society can count on your support in encouraging a study that explores the many issues around the future direction of scientific publishing.
Tuesday, December 13. 2005
Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, has written a reply (7 Dec) to the Open Letter by Fellows of the Royal Society (7 Dec) dissenting from the Royal Society position statement on 'open access' (24 Nov)
Because Lord Rees's text is only available as a page image, I have not yet been able to quote/comment it directly.
However, the following text, distributed to the press last week by a spokesman for the Royal Society, contains some of the same verbatim text; I have commented on it for now. These comments should not, however, be construed as comments on Lord Rees's version (for which I hope someone will send me the digital text: I hope distributing it as a page-image was not designed to fend of quote/commenting!)
Royal Society: "We have today received a collective letter regarding the Society's policy on 'open access', signed by a small number of the 1274 Fellows of the Royal Society. The letter appears to reflect a misunderstanding of a re-statement of the Society's position which was published on 24 November 2005."The number of dissenting fellows is growing daily. More important, the substance of their questions and criticism will have to be dealt with openly now.
Royal Society: "The Council of the Royal Society considered the issue of 'open access' in February 2004 before publication of a submission to the inquiry into scientific publications by the House of Commons select committee on science and technology in March 2004. The latest position statement and the Society's submission to RCUK's consultation on access to research outputs, which was also published on 24 November, are both consistent with the Society's evidence to the select committee."(1) What consultation was there with the 1274 Fellows about that original Royal Society position statement in February 2004?
(2) That was a submission to the House of Commons select committee deliberations a year and a half ago. That committee has since published an outcome, followed by many further developments, worldwide as well as in the UK, such as the RCUK policy proposal, which acted upon the committee's principal recommendation, which was even referred to approvingly by the government (even as it rejected the committee's other recommendations).
(3) Were all of these subsequent developments taken into consideration, and were the 1274 Fellows informed? Were their views sought? Was there consultation? Or are the dissenting 46 (now 59 and growing) the only ones who have even had a chance to make their views heard?
Royal Society: "The Royal Society certainly does not, as the collective letter implies, take a 'negative stance' on open access. We are simply concerned that open access is achieved without the risk of unintended damage to peer-review, quality control and long term accessibility of the scientific literature."These are abstract principles. The RCUK is trying to put them into practice. The concrete question on the table is whether the RS is for or against the immediate implementation of the already long-delayed RCUK self-archiving policy. It is quite clear that the RS statement is against this immediate implementation, requesting still further delay (after over a year's worth of time to consult and inform, which seems to have been used instead largely to ignore and filibuster).
Indeed, warnings, embargoes and filibusters seem to be the only substantive contribution the RS has thus far made, by way of a stance of any kind.
Royal Society: "The Royal Society is absolutely supportive of the principle of open access and is committed to the widest possible dissemination of research outputs." [emphasis added]This is more than just the repetition of an abstract principle: It seems to be a statement that is in direct contradiction with what the RS is actually doing, which is to try to defer and deter "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs," as proposed by the RCUK (and many others).
Royal Society: "The Society is itself a delayed open access publisher, providing free access after 12 months, and provides immediate access to researchers in developing countries and also to scientific papers that are of major public interest - for example the results of the farm scale evaluation of genetically modified crops."There is no such thing as "delayed open access publishing", otherwise all publishers are "delayed open access publishers", some merely having very long delay periods, corresponding to human mortality and the heat death of the universe. The Royal Society, like all non-OA publishers, is an embargoed-access publisher, and that is just fine:
The RCUK is not proposing to require publishers to become OA publishers. It is proposing to require RCUK fundees to provide "the widest possible dissemination" for their own (funded) research articles -- by supplementing the publisher-based paid-access version with a free online version for those would-be users worldwide who cannot afford access to the former.
The RS is encouraged to continue its own admirable efforts to widen access to its publications, but it should refrain from trying to narrow the efforts of the RCUK to do likewise with its own funded research output.
Royal Society: "However, there is understandable concern that, if researchers can access large numbers of final versions of journal papers from repositories, then they will not be prepared to subscribe to these journals. The Society is not in favour of policies that might reduce scholarly communication by undermining the established subscription model of publishing before the alternatives (such as author-pays journals) have been fully explored and have been shown to be viable in the long term."The author of this statement for the press (who, I am guessing, represents the publishing tail, not the research head, of that venerable institution) is here demonstrating that no attention has been paid to the accumulated experimental evidence (which is that self-archiving has had no effect at all on subscriptions -- even in the fields where it has already been going on for over 14 years and reached 100% years ago: The The two physics Learned Societies, the American Physical Society and the Institute of Physics, have reported that they support self-archiving, host an archive for self-archiving, and can detect no sign of its "undermining the established subscription model".
To repeat: the RCUK proposal is not to require the "author pays" or any other publishing model. It is to require self-archiving for the sake of "the widest possible dissemination of [RCUK] research outputs." This RS publications representative, in contrast, seems to be arguing for delaying this, as long as possible (after an already long and needless delay). This is not the open-access mentality, but the mentality of filibusters and embargoes -- the last thing that scientific research needs from its own Learned Society.
Royal Society: "The Royal Society is opposed to the proposal issued for consultation by RCUK, which is predicated on a number of unresolved issues, to require researchers in all disciplines to deposit papers in repositories after publication. We believe that any decisions that impact on something as important as the future of scholarly communication should be based on sound evidence. Our published statements on this subject, which have been discussed extensively by the Council of the Royal Society, outline a number of questions that have been raised with us as part of this debate." "One of the main issues is whether the various alternative models are appropriate to all disciplines. Many of signatories of the letter in circulation are from the life sciences and may not realise that concerns about RCUK's proposals have been raised with the Society by the mathematics, chemistry and physics communities."(1) The RCUK is not proposing an "alternative model" for publishing or publishers: It is proposing that RCUK fundees self-archive their research articles for "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs."
(2) There is zero evidence that self-archiving "undermin[es] the established subscription model of publishing".
(3) All the experimental evidence to date in the field that actually has the empirical data, physics, is that 100% self-archiving can and does co-exist peacefully with "the established subscription model of publishing".
(4) The empirical data on the research-impact enhancing benefits of OA self-archiving come from all fields (physical sciences, biological sciences, social sciences and humanities): No discipline fails to benefit from "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs."
I hope this makes clear how little it means to profess to support high-minded principles in the abstract, while concretely opposing their practice on the ground (by trying to delay and deter them under the pretext that first still further "evidence needs to be collected". This is a good recipe for embargoing "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs" till doomsday (on the strength of nothing but an empirically groundless doomsday prophecy) rather than promoting it.
Royal Society: "In view of the importance of this issue, and the very significant long-term consequences that changes in policy could have, we believe that more evidence needs to be collected. As contribution to this evidence base, we believe that a study should be commissioned to assess the relative merits of the various models that have been proposed under the rather broad banner of 'open access', including that outlined by RCUK in its consultation document."Again, the non-sequitur that the RCUK is proposing a "model" rather than simply proposing to self-archive, on the basis of the cumulated experimental evidence of its positive effects on research and its absence of negative effects on publishing. (To call this a "model" is to conflate OA publishing with OA self-archiving in order to try to defer/deter OA self-archiving as if it were an alternative publishing model, rather than what it really is: an author practice of supplementing access to the publisher's version with access to the author's version for those would-be users who cannot afford access to the publisher's version -- for the sake of "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs.")
Royal Society: "Such a study should assess what potential benefits and drawbacks could result from changing current practices to each of the proposed new models."No new models are being proposed. Self-archiving is being proposed.
Royal Society: "It would need to examine how these benefits and drawbacks may vary from discipline to discipline and the impacts on researchers who may not be funded through traditional routes."All disciplines have already been demonstrated to benefit from "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs". (Why on earth would one even have expected otherwise?)
Funding has absolutely nothing to do with it (other than that RCUK is a research-funder, proposing to require "the widest possible dissemination of [RCUK] research outputs").
What the RS publishing representative is probably single-mindedly focusing on here, and what he means by "funding" is, of course, the funding of the "author-pays" model -- which is not what the RCUK is proposing to require at all!
(The RCUK has merely, along with requiring self-archiving, offered to help pay author OA publishing costs if/when needed: a rather innocent and generous proposal about which the RS should have nothing to say one way or the other; indeed, the RS itself helps pay OA publishing costs!)
Royal Society: "Reliable evidence would allow the research community as a whole, including RCUK, to make better informed decisions about whether changes in current practice are desirable. We have indicated to RCUK that we would be happy to discuss with them how such a study might be taken forward."Again, the RS rep is talking about changes in publishing practice, which the RCUK is not (and cannot) require. The RCUK is proposing to require that its fundees provide "the widest possible dissemination of [RCUK] research outputs" -- by self-archiving them in their institutional repositories.
How and why would further study of hypothetical changes in a publishing model that the RCUK is not proposing clarify whether RCUK should or should not go ahead with what they are proposing, which is to require that its fundees provide "the widest possible dissemination of [RCUK] research outputs" -- by self-archiving them?
Royal Society: "We are also aware of a report that appeared in 'The Times Higher Education Supplement' a few weeks ago suggesting that RCUK was delaying publication of its proposals in light of pressure from commercial publishers of scientific journals. We feel that the scientific community should also be aware of the many issues that have been raised by the learned societies and professional associations. These not-for-profit organisations publish more than a third of all scientific journals and use their publishing surpluses to fund activities such as academic conferences and public lectures."Repeating the same incoherent non-sequitur louder, and in unison with others who have voiced it, does not make it one bit more coherent or compelling.
Royal Society: "A letter from Lord Rees of Ludlow responding to the signatories of the collective letter is being published on the Royal Society's website."I look forward to responding to a digital draft of Lord Rees's reply as soon it is made openly accessible...
Monday, December 12. 2005
On Fri, 9 Dec 2005, Bob Ward (Press and Public Relations, Royal Society) wrote:
For the very same reason that my own (minor) efforts to inform Fellows of the Royal Society about the Royal Society Statement and its implications were not openly declared: Because neither my efforts, nor those of Peter Suber, nor those of BMC, nor those of PLoS are of any consequence or relevance in this fundamental matter. (And they are already well-known.)
What is at stake is access to scientific research. We are not competing for revenues. There are no commercial interests involved. The only pertinent interests we are all representing are the interests of research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public that funds the funders and in whose ultimate interest research itself is being done.
And those interests are prominently declared in every word we say on behalf of Open Access -- which, to repeat, is not a competing economic model, serving commercial interests (as I am beginning to think that the publishing wing of the Royal Society might truly and innocently believe it to be!): Those interests are genuinely and solely in "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs" -- as you yourself put it, in describing the position of the Royal Society.
So I actually think the shoe is on the other foot. It is not BMC whose efforts on behalf of the RCUK proposal need to be openly declared. The RCUK proposes to require its fundees to self-archive their published research articles in their own institutional repositories for "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs" (by making them OA). That RCUK self-archiving policy is not in fact in BMC's commercial interest: If anything, it is contrary to it, for, as I noted in my posting, the incentive for publishing papers in an OA rather than a non-OA journal (and paying to do so) is that the journal provides OA: Yet the self-archiving of articles published in non-OA journals provides the very same benefit.
So the disinterested efforts of BMC and others on behalf of OA speak for themselves. What require a franker and more open declaration and examination are the interests and efforts of those in the Royal Society who influenced the drafting of the Royal Society statement on OA and the RCUK policy. For those interests are not only not those of the RS Fellowship as a whole (as the still growing number of FRS signatories to the Open Letter dissenting from the RS statement declares quite openly), but apparently the FRSs were not informed or consulted about the RS statement at all, or not nearly sufficiently.
And now the four questions that the Royal Society needs to face equallyBW: I think it would be best for contributors to the debate on open access to openly declare their interests. The Royal Society has openly acknowledged that, as a registered charity, it uses its surplus from the publication of its journals to fund meetings, lectures and other activities for the benefit of the science, engineering and technology communities, and for the public.
openly are these:
(1) Why is the RS trying to further delay the application of 15 years' worth of positive experimental results on the benefits of OA self-archiving to research and researchers in the absence of any evidence of negative effects on publishers and publishing? and to delay the application of those experimental results, and the further extension of this successful experiment, in the name of seeking still further "experimental results"? What further experiments? Experiments on what? And why?
(2) Why does the RS keep treating the RCUK proposal to require OA self-archiving of non-OA journal articles as if it were a proposal to require OA publishing? All evidence to date is that OA self-archiving leads neither to OA publishing nor to non-OA journal cancellations. Is the RS's advocacy of delaying the RCUK for further experimental evidence itself based on experimental evidence, or is it a delay based on speculation, and giving greater weight to imaginable risk to publishing revenues than to demonstrable and demonstrated benefits to research impact and progress?
And now the hardest and most soul-searching question of all:
(3) Even if the imaginable risks were eventually to prove to be real, and self-archiving were to lead to cancellations and a transition to the OA publishing model, would that be grounds for renouncing the demonstrated benefits to research impact and progress?
To put (3) still more graphically:
(4) Are the benefits currently funded by the RS's "surplus from the publication of its journals" -- i.e., "meetings, lectures and other activities for the benefit of the science, engineering and technology communities, and for the public" -- are those benefits to continue to be subsidised, at all costs, by researchers' lost impact and progress? Is there no other, more direct way to fund "meetings, lectures, and other activities for the benefit of the science, engineering and technology communities, and for the public" than at the cost of lost research access and impact? Are research reports a commodity whose main purpose is to subsidise something else through its sales revenue? Or is research an end in itself for the Royal Society?
Research is certainly an end in itself for RCUK. And what the RCUK is proposing to require is not a change in publishing model or practices at all. It is proposing to maximise the usage and impact of the research that it funds, for the benefit of the public that funds the research -- by self-archiving it.
RCUK is not requiring the RS or any publisher to become an OA publisher. RCUK is not requiring RCUK fundees to publish in OA journals (such as BMC's or PLoS's). RCUK is only requiring RCUK fundees to self-archive their own RCUK-funded research, for the sake of "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs" -- an objective to which the RS too declares itself to be dedicated.
Where is the concrete evidence of that abstract dedication in the RS's unflagging efforts to filibuster the RCUK policy?
I think there is not much mystery about mine, but I am happy to declare them: They are the very same as the RS's: "the widest possible dissemination of research outputs."BW: So how about everybody else declaring their interests? After all, it is now standard practice for authors to declare any potential conflicts of interest when they submit papers to journals. So perhaps you could start a trend, Stevan, by declaring your interests.
And I sent the following letter to about 40 FRSs I knew from their association with the journal I formerly edited. Behavioral and Brain Sciences:
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 03:17:51 +0000 (GMT)
Wednesday, December 7. 2005
Forty two Fellows of the Royal Society (including 5 Nobel Laureates) have signed an Open Letter to Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, expressing concern about the Royal Society's position statement on open access.
If you are a Fellow of the Royal Society and would like to add your name as a signatory to the Open Letter, send an email to email@example.com
"Not a Proud Day in the Annals of the Royal Society"
Monday, December 5. 2005
This is a summary (from my own viewpoint) of the Washington meeting this weekend sponsored by American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIST), organized by Michael Leach (Harvard, President, ASIS):Dorothea Salo and Christina Pikas.)
DASER 2 rehearsed some familiar developments, highlighted some of them, and brought out one potentially important new one (re. the NIH Public Access Policy).
The familiar developments were the worldwide growth in Institutional Repositories (IRs), and in new services to help institutions to create, maintain or even host IRs: ProQuest (using Bepress software), BioMed Central OpenRepository (using Dspace software) and Eprints Services (using Eprints software).
Fedora software was also discussed, but it was quite apparent (at least to me!) that at this DASER meeting, whose specific focus was digital science/engineering resources -- hence Open Access (OA) IRs in particular, targeting the self-archiving of institutional peer-reviewed science/engineering article output, in order to maximise its visibility, usage and impact, rather than digital curation in general -- Fedora's much wider and more diffuse target (the collection and curation of any and all institutional digital content, incoming or outgoing, research or otherwise) was not the urgent priority. Indeed, there are good reasons for expecting that if the IR movement first puts its full weight and energy behind the focussed archiving of 100% of each institution's own OA IR target content, that will itself prove to be the most effective way to launch and advance the more general digital-curation agenda too.
There was likewise considerable time devoted to the future of publishing, with much discussion of OA publishing and the possibility of an eventual transition to OA publishing. But here too, the lesson was that the best contribution that OA IRs in particular can make to this possible/eventual transition is to hasten their own transition to the institutional self-archiving of 100% of their own OA target content.
Present and contributing very constructively were the two Learned Society Publishers in whose discipline author self-archiving has been going on the longest, and has gone the farthest (having reached 100% years ago in some fields): The American Physical Society (the first publisher to adopt [in 1994] an explicit "green" policy on author self-archiving [today about 76% of publishers and 93% of journals are green]) and the Institute of Physics (likewise green, along with some notable experiments in "gold" OA publishing).
The keynote speaker was Jan Velterop, formerly publisher of "pure gold" BioMed Central, and now director of OA for Springer's "optional gold" Open Choice. Jan's main concern was (understandably) to encourage authors to pick the gold option and to encourage their institutions and research councils to fund the author costs.
Jan applauded the growth in the IR movement but noted a substantial decrease in the number of postings on the American Scientist Open Access Forum (AmSci) in 2004-2005 compared to prior years, and worried that this might reflect a decrease in OA momentum.
On the contrary: the decreased AmSci volume was intentional. In 2004, a new policy for AmSci postings was announced, reserving the Forum for concrete, practical discussion of institutional and research-funder OA policy design and implementation. AmSci's former open-ended (and unending) philosophical and ideological debate about open access was instead redirected to the many other OA lists that have spawned since the AmSci OA Forum's inception in 1998:
"[T]his Forum, the first of what is now a half dozen lists devoted to OA matters, is -- as has been announced several times -- now reserved for the discussion of concrete, practical means of accelerating OA growth." [December 2004]The DASER conference also devoted time and thought to the future of librarians in the digital and OA era; again, insofar as IRs are concerned, a good investment of librarians' available time, energy and resources is in helping to create and fill IRs, first OA IRs, and then eventually expanding them to wider and wider digital content, thereby again facilitating the inevitable and desirable transition. (My own personal view, however, is that librarians should abstain from speculation about the future of peer review, which is not really their field of expertise; I also think retraining librarians to become institutional in-house publishers may not be the best use of their time and talents.)
That librarians can be an enormous help in getting institutional authors to deposit their OA content in their IRs was illustrated in my own talk, using examples from around the world (CERN, U. Minho, Southampton ECS) but with especially striking data from Australia (with thanks to Arthur Sale, University of Tasmania and Paula Callan, Queensland University of Technology). I also reported on the growing evidence for the dramatic OA research impact advantage across all disciplines, now including the humanities and social sciences, and its implications for research and researcher funding and progress..
The OA impact advantage, IRs, and librarian-help are all necessary conditions for filling IRs with OA content, but to make them into a jointly sufficient condition, one further critical component is needed, and this has been demonstrated in case after case: The only IRs that are well along the road toward toward 100% OA are the ones that also have an institutional self-archiving requirement. Without that, spontaneous OA self-archiving is hovering at about 5% - 15% globally..
Which brings us to the last and newest development reported at DASER: The NIH Public Access Policy is flawed and failing -- its deposit rate is at about 2%, which is even below the global average for spontaneous self-archiving. But the good news is that NIH has realized this, and is planning to do something about it. The question is: what? There is a committee to look at this question, but at a quick glance, it does not seem to include those who actually know what needs to be done, and how, to make the NIH policy work. Represented are librarians and publishers, but missing are the institutional OA policy-makers that can make self-archiving work.
But the solution is simple, and NIH can do it, very easily. First, it is important to face the 3 flaws of the current NIH policy very forthrightly. Here they are, in order of severity:
(1) Deposit is requested rather than required.The reason the deposit is not required and not immediate is related to the reason the deposit is in PMC instead of the author's own IR: NIH has cast itself in the role of a 3rd-party access-provider, via PMC. This is fine, for its own funded research. But then NIH must deal with its publishers and their conditions (which include access-embargoes of up to 12 months, in order to protect against perceived risks to their revenues).
OA itself does not require a 3rd-party access-provider. All it requires is OA! And for that, any OAI-compliant archive, whether the author's own institutional respository or a central repository like PMC will do, because they are all equivalent and interoperable, in the OAI-compliant age, and all accessible to any user or harvester webwide.
So NIH can have what it wants -- 100% of its funded content in PMC within a year of publication -- while still requiring the author's final draft to be deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication, (preferably in the author's IR, harvestable by PMC, but absent that, directly deposited in PMC).
That leaves only the question of how to set the access-privileges, and now those can be merely the subject of a (strong) request to set them to OA immediately upon deposit -- but with the option left open (sic) for the author to set access instead as restricted to institution-internal and PMC-harvestable (or, for PMC, PMC-administrative-only) if the author has reason to prefer that (the reason presumably being that the article is published in one of the 7% of journals that are not yet green on immediate OA self-archiving).
Is this merely a way of tweaking the current NIH policy so as to get deposits up to 100% without getting immediate OA up to 100%? The answer is: Yes and No. Yes, this policy will immediately drive up NIH deposits from their current 2% level to 100%, because deposit will be a fulfilment condition on receiving the NIH grant. But no, it is not true that it will not generate immediate 100% OA. For it can generate that too, with a far smaller delay-loop than 12 months: something more of the order of a few minutes to 12 hours at most:
The solution is very simple (and we are already building it into the Eprints IR software): The metadata (author, title, journal, date, abstract, etc.) are of course all immediately OA for 100% of deposited papers, regardless of how the access-privileges for the full-text are set. That means that from the moment the text is deposited, the metadata are visible and accessible to all would-be users and harvesters webwide, thanks to OAI and the OAI search engines, as well as to google scholar and the non-OAI search engines.
But what about the full-text? For about 7% of journal articles (the ones in the non-green journals), access might not be immediately set to OA. What the Eprints software will do when a would-be user encounters this dead-end is that the IR interface will provide a link that will pop up a window allowing the user to send an automatic email to the author (whose email address is part of the IR's internal metadata) requesting to be emailed an eprint of the full-text in question. The requester's email will be sent by the software -- automatically and immediately -- to the author, with a prepared URL that the author need merely click on, in order to have the eprint immediately emailed to the would-be user. (Eprints requests will be counted, as will direct downloads and eventually also citation links.)
This author-mediated access-provision is not quite as convenient, instantaneous or sensible as immediately setting the full-text to unmediated OA, allowing the user to just click to download it; but it is effective 100% OA just the same. And NIH can (as now) harvest the full-text whenever it likes, and can go on to make it OA in PMC whenever it elects to. None of that will be holding back OA any longer.
This immediate-deposit requirement is also the form that the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Self-Archiving Policy is now taking; and this offers a general model for the rest of the world to adopt too.
Note that this slightly modified policy completely side-lines all publisher objections: It is merely a deposit requirement, not an OA access-setting requirement. It is left up to researchers and the would-be users of their research to sort out access-provision according to the needs of research -- exactly as it should be.
This is of course also the policy that institutions should adopt, for their own institutional research output, whether or not funded by NIH or RCUK. An immediate-deposit requirement will result in IRs worldwide filling virtually overnight (at long last).
(The other thing NIH should do is to couple its deposit requirement with an explicit statement of NIH's readiness to cover OA journal publication charges for those NIH fundees who choose to publish their findings in an OA journal.)
P.S. In the last session (which I had to miss, to catch my plane) David Stern suggested central archiving as the way to induce more self-archiving. Unfortunately, that's not the solution, because the problem is not that authors can't find an IR to deposit in: it's that only about 15% of authors are self-archiving spontaneously today (i.e., there are plenty of Institutional Repositories, but they are near-empty). Hence what's needed is not central archiving but "central" self-archiving mandates (from the authors' institutions and funders). Central archives are fine as a provisional locus for authors to self-archive until their institutions have an IR, but they are neither necessary nor optimal otherwise. Centralism is obsolescent in the OAI era: distributed interoperable archives, harvested centrally, are the natural way forward. Local insitutions, being the primary research content-providers, are the best placed, and motivated, to mandate, monitor, and reward compliance with a self-archiving policy for their own institutional research output that is to the joint benefit of authors, their institutions, and their funders (but no other central entity).Stevan Harnad
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