Re: ALPSP statement on BOAI

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 13:50:42 +0100

On Sat, 20 Apr 2002, Sally Morris Sally Morris, Secretary-General<
Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers wrote:

> Publishers acknowledge that authors want to make their work as widely
> available as possible. However, we are also convinced (and the ALPSP
> research bears this out) that publishing can add considerable value (rated
> by authors and readers, not just by publishers!) over and above peer review.

The latter may very well be true. The way to test it, and to see how much
added-value there is over and above peer review, is to open access to
the vanilla peer-reviewed version through author/institution self-archiving,
and then see how much of a market remains for the toll-access added-value

The alternative, which is to keep all access toll-based and wait for
publishers to get around to finding an alternative model is simply
unacceptable. Open access is already feasible, indeed it is long overdue;
past research impact is alas unrecoverable, but present and future
impact is not, and need not be. There are at least 20,000 peer-reviewed
journals, publishing at least 2 million articles per year. How much
longer does ALPSP think authors should continue waiting, for what, and why?

> We are concerned that moves which undermine the current model for funding
> that added value before having found a sustainable alternative model may
> destroy the ability to add that value.

No one knows for sure what the effect of open access will be on journal
publishing. It will be an empirical test of the value of the added-value.
Many outcomes are possible: There could be (1) no change, with those
institutions that can afford the tolls continuing to pay them, and only
those who cannot afford them using the open-access versions. It could
be that the market for the toll-access versions will shrink; and if it
shrinks it (2) could shrink quickly or (3) slowly. All signs so far are
that everything in this area is happening very slowly.

But the prediction that open access may (4) "destroy" the ability to
add value is rather extreme. Perhaps it is understandable that ALPSP
are more focussed on the risks to their publishers than on the benefits
to research and researchers but that does not make their predictions
more credible or creditable than others.

> Developments will, indeed, make it possible to access all the contents of a
> journal without paying the publisher, if authors archive their final
> versions in a sufficiently searchable/retrievable way. This is why we are
> convinced that the most urgent need is to ascertain (a) what is sufficiently
> valuable to authors/readers to be worth preserving and (b) how to pay for
> that.

It is quite reasonable and understandable that ALPSP should be devoting
time and energy to ascertaining what added value is worth preserving and
how to pay for it. But this must be done IN PARALLEL to the at least
equally reasonable and understandable efforts of researchers and their
institutions to access the value that they already know can and must be
openly accessible, toll-free, and that is the vanilla peer-reviewed

As noted, progress toward open-access so far has been glacially slow, in
every respect. It would be false and unfair to suggest that this has been
exclusively, or even primarily, because of publishers' efforts to prevent
or retard it. The primary obstacle, I am convinced, is the confusion of
researchers and their institutions on the matter. Publishers' policies
and declarations add to this confusion, but they are not the decisive

BOAI will work to remedy the decisive factors. Part of this work is to
counter deterrents from publishers who, on the one hand, acknowledge
the importance of open access, and even concede that it is now
attainable through self-archiving, but nevertheless counsel authors and
their institutions NOT to avail themselves of this possibility, because
of hypothetical disaster scenarios, enjoining them to simply continue
waiting instead.

Stevan Harnad

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

Discussion can be posted to:

See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:

and the Free Online Scholarship Movement:
Received on Sat Apr 20 2002 - 13:51:34 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:46:30 GMT