STM Talk: Open Access by Peaceful Evolution

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2003 14:16:16 +0000

Abstract of invited talk to be given on Thursday May 15 in Amsterdam
at the STM Conference "Universal Access: By Evolution or Revolution?".

        Open Access by Peaceful Evolution
        Stevan Harnad

The open access movement was originally inspired by research-author and
research-user frustration with the continuing loss of research impact
because of access-blockage by unaffordable tolls in a new era when
all peer-reviewed research output is so clearly within universal reach
thanks to the Internet. The movement's efforts and motivation were at
first led by the library community and directed against the publisher
community. The motivation was right, but the target was wrong, and indeed
unfair, and little progress was made. (Prices would probably have come
down anyway, with global licensing developments.) The research community
has since realized that its real target should have been *itself* all
along: Only now are researchers and their institutions grasping
that the way to maximize their research impact is to self-archive their
own peer-reviewed research output in their own institutional open-access
Eprint Archives. The toll-access and open-access versions will co-exist
and co-evolve, possibly indefinitely, or they may converge on a new
system, whereby the publisher is paid for the peer review and any
other essential added value as a service-cost on each institution's
own *outgoing* research, instead of an access-cost on the *incoming*
research from all other institutions.
The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) is promoting both
self-archiving (BOAI-1) and open-access journal publishing (BOAI-2), and
SPARC is promoting business models for both. The only thing publishers
must avoid at all costs is to appear to be trying to deliberately
block the evolution of self-archiving through restrictive copyright
policies! That would be very bad public relations with the research
community, creating and highlighting a dramatic conflict between what
is obviously in the best interests of research and researchers, their
institutions and funders, and the society benefitting from the research,
on the one hand, versus what is in the best interests of journal
publishers' current revenue streams and business models on the other
-- a conflict of interest that could indeed precipitate a revolution,
now that necessity is so obviously no longer a justification, as it was
in paper days! Far better to allow evolution to take its natural course
peacefully, and adapt to it accordingly.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon Feb 17 2003 - 14:16:16 GMT

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