Re: Journals > Peer-Reviewed Journals > Open-Access Journals < Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2003 15:01:12 +0000

On Fri, 12 Dec 2003 Richard Durbin wrote:

> Michael is right. Most biomedical research has an appropriate open-access
> journal for it to be published in. The barrier to submitting to those
> journals is no higher than the barrier to self-archiving. The main issue
> is inertia and conservatism in both cases.

The view of Richard Durbin, Head of Informatics at the Wellcome Trust
Sangerer Institute, is important partly because of the importance of
the genomics research at the Institute (and of genomics research itself)
and partly because of the Wellcome Trust's very prominent and helpful
support for open access.

    "Wellcome Trust statement on open access"

It is accordingly important that the various views and counterviews
not simply fly past one another, but that they enter into dialogue;
weighing the arguments and evidence for and against.

Regarding Richard's view on whether the existing 600 open-access journals (not all or even most of them biomedical journals)
are indeed enough for most biomedical research output today, it would be
helpful if Richard could consider and reply to the points made by Helene Bosc
both on the number of suitable journals of various kinds, and on the
very important question of "consanguinity": Should there be many
independent, competing journals, as now, or a few under the same roof,
a possibility Jan Velterop of BioMedCentral has suggested? ("Why not just 250?")

It would also be useful if Richard could address the points I raised in
my own reply to Mike Eisen, particularly comparing reality with reality
(OA is being provided for about 3 times as many articles today via OA
self-archiving than via OA journal-publishing) and comparing potential to
potential (the potential for providing immediate OA for TA articles via
OA self-archiving is 100%: How does Richard think this compares with the
potential for finding a suitable OA journal to publish them in instead?).

It would also be useful to hear Richard's reply to the critique
of his statement that: "Although I applaud open [access]
archiving, from my point of view open access publishing
is what is needed in the long run. This is now possible."

On the face of it, one would think that *open access* was what was needed,
both in the short and the long run -- and the rest is just about how
we can *attain* that open access, as quickly and as fully as possible,
both for the short and the long run.

OA is most certainly *possible* today, but is it possible via OA journals
alone? How much? 5% 10% 50% 100% ? Today? It will not do to conflate
the short and long run in replying. When we are talking about today we
are talking first and foremost about the short run.

If Richard's view is that in the long run OA will be provided and sustained
entirely by OA journals, then I am inclined to agree that this is the most
probable long-term outcome:

But before we can have long-term OA we first need to have OA, and I
have many times described both the evidence and the reasons showing that
OA journal-publishing is not providing, and cannot provide anything
near 100% OA today, but rather something much closer to 5%, whereas OA
self-archiving can provide 100% OA, today.

Richard's view of open access seems to be shaped to a great extent by
the experience of data-sharing in the genomics community -- an excellent
model for us all. But the problem of providing free access to research
data is not the same as the problem of providing open access to research
articles! Fee-based toll-barriers to accessing research articles --
2,500,000 articles annually, in 24,000 refereed journals -- is the
open-access problem. By contrast, making research data accessible *at
all* is new, and the problem is not that they are accessible only behind
toll-barriers: They are mostly not accessible at all -- but (fortunately)
on the way to being made accessible (and with no one contemplating
charging access-fees).

So this cannot be Richard's point. Richard's point seems to be that
only OA journals provide the kind of full-computational access to the
full-contents of articles (including whatever data, figures and tables
they may contain).

In this regard I would like to ask Richard a very specific question:
What is it that he imagines a would-be user *could* do with the full
digital text of a research article if it is made openly accessible by
an open access journal that a would-be user could *not* do with the
full digital text of a research article it is made openly accessible
by self-archiving?

    "Free Access vs. Open Access"

These points were made in the American Scientist Open Access Forum
in response to Richard's longer posting to this Forum
as well as his shorter posting to Open Access Now (October).

(My reply
was posted to BioMedCentral's Open Access Now in October, but, as noted
in this Forum

    "Submission to Open Access Now"

there was no acknowledgement of receipt, and the reply never appeared.)

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist Open Access Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):
    Post discussion to:

Dual Open-Access-Provision Policy:
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Sun Dec 14 2003 - 15:01:12 GMT

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