Re: Harvesting open-access data as commercial add-ons

From: Steve Hitchcock <sh94r_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 13:45:46 +0100

At 12:33 18/04/02 +0100, Stevan Harnad wrote:
>My own sense is that there is nothing whatsoever to worry about if
>commercial publishers and providers are re-using Open Access
>content and services to enhance their own products and services.
... [remainder below]

Stevan, There is a saying in business, for those who want to try and
divine the future, "follow the money". We want open archives, but we want
them to be economically sustainable. The ability to make the self-archived
peer-reviewed literature freely available to users is predicated on
absorbing the costs of running these services. In arXiv's case it attracts
funding because it is incredibly efficient, whether viewed in terms of
presentation (cost per paper) or usage (cost per user). But it still costs

Institutional funding support may offer more options in future, or
commercial companies may fund services. But if I were to paint a scenario
in 10 years in which the majority of open archives were managed or owned by
a monolithic commercial entity, you would be concerned. In such a case you
can be pretty sure that if the open access model was not serving the
business plan its future would be reconsidered.

The wider issue here - and I must admit, I didn't set out to address it on
this occasion, nor via all of these lists, but have been drawn in - is not
about "commercial-publisher-baiting" but debating the principle of who
funds open access, and about the implications of possibly surreptitious,
possibly not, incursions into open access archives by commercial interests.

As to the rest of the speculation, it wasn't mine.

Steve Hitchcock
Open Citation (OpCit) Project <>
IAM Research Group, Department of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3256 Fax: +44 (0)23 8059 2865

>On Thu, 18 Apr 2002, Steve Hitchcock wrote:
> > Re: From FOS Newsletter, 4/15/02:
> > >
> >
> > The Mathematics Web portal is clearly Elsevier (if not
> > overtly so, e.g. no logo). The preprint link takes you to the Mathematics
> > Preprint Server. I've visited this site before and had no idea it was an
> > Elsevier service....
> >
> > This appears to be an example of Guedon's assertion with regard to 'open
> > article archives' such as the Chemistry Preprint Server that: "I believe
> > Elsevier is testing ways to reconstruct a firm grip on the evaluation
> > process of science in the digital context". How significant is the low-key
> > approach to this, I wonder?
>Yes, they are trying to reposition themselves in the market, add value,
>hold on to what they have, extend it, become more essential to the
>evaluation process, etc. etc. That is all fine. They may or may not
>be successful. It does not matter in the least. Nor does it matter
>that it is "they" (i.e., the commercial publishers, the ones with the
>high-priced journals) that are doing it.
>What matters is getting the peer-reviewed content up there, with free
>full-text access, OAI-compliant and in the (research) public eye. That
>may well add value to toll-based products and services as a side-effect,
>but that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that (1) it is available for
>free for all, at last, and that (2) it will in turn draw more of the
>peer-reviewed content up there.
>Please let us not forget that freeing all of this content online is our
>first (and last!) goal. We are not dedicated to competing with, let
>alone ruining, publishers, primary or secondary, commercial or
>otherwise. What kind of a goal is that? We are dedicated to providing
>open access to the peer reviewed literature.
>As to what might be the eventual secondary effects of our efforts, over
>and above reaching the goal of open access for the whole of this special
>literature (at least 20,000 journals, 2 million articles annually), we
>can speculate about what those effects might be, but it simply does not
>Moreover, it would be a mistake to focus on these speculations,
>because they distract us from our real goal -- and, in an odd way,
>focussing on such irrelevant speculations (e.g., in the form of
>"commercial-publisher-baiting") instead of our goal is and has been one
>of the many things that have actually been holding us back from open
>itself, as well as provoking needless opposition to open access from
>My own guess is that whereas now, while we are still in the era of
>toll-access to most of this literature, the open-access archives and
>services will (among other things) provide an added value to commercial
>goods and services, they will also be providing (and irreversibly
>converting use and users to) open access (our explicit goal). That means
>that all users whose institutions cannot afford the toll-access, and
>perhaps also those who can, will access this literature for free rather
>than for fee, forever.
>Then what about services (search, citation-linking, evaluation, etc.)
>on top of this open-access literature? Isn't the natural expectation
>that the same thing will happen there? The commercial publishers,
>primary and secondary, will continue to enhance their own services,
>while the free open-archives services continue to enhance their own.
>Our explicit goal was to free the peer-reviewed literature, not to free
>all services on it. But if the literature is free and there are free
>services on it (search, citation-linking, evaluation, etc.), why not
>let the cards fall wherever they may?
>Both toll-based access to this literature, and fee-based services on it
>can and should continue for as long as there is a market for them, and
>that should not concern us (except inasmuch as we also happen to be the
>users, hence we will be making our own individual decisions as to what
>it is that we use).
>"Research Access, Impact and Assessment"
>Stevan Harnad
>NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing free
>access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
>American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):
> or
>Discussion can be posted to:
>See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:
>and the Free Online Scholarship Movement:
Received on Thu Apr 18 2002 - 14:27:08 BST

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