Re: Discussion on Impact moving to another list

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2005 16:11:01 +0000 (GMT)

On Fri, 11 Mar 2005, adam hodgkin wrote:

> Professor Harnad says:
> > The problem OA is intended to remedy is not loss of author
> > revenue, since these authors don't *seek* revenue. The problem OA is
> > intended to remedy is loss of author impact, for which the only remedy
> > is to make sure that every would-be user can access the research.
> Are we sure that 'loss of author impact' is the only problem OA is
> intended to remedy? Increased impact may be one of several goals. But we can
> agree that increased author impact is part of the intended outcome.
> If impact matters so also citations matter.....

Citation impact is (a large!) component of research impact. (There are
also other measures and forms of impact, including downloads and reviews.)

Open Access remedies many problems, problems of both access:

and impact:

But as the content-providers are the researchers themselves (and their
institutions and funders), the relevant rationales for providing OA are
those that remedy *their* problems:

> In modern biology, one of the ways that increased authour impact
> becomes visible is through the incorporation of citations (Citations
> to Published Literature) in databases such as
> Wormbase
> Ensembl
> UNIPROT (used to be SWISSProt)
> These databases are full of thousands of authoritative citations. Such
> databases are really the modern equivalent of a scientific reference
> book, and as such quasi-literature
> So any sensible metric which measures the impact of modern biology
> will pay a lot of attention to the citations which appear in these
> databases. For a worm researcher, being cited in Wormbase is
> absolutely part of the impact of publishing research on C.elegans.
> Since these important databases are gradually becoming 'the
> publication of record' for modern biology, and since they are
> refereed, revised, curated and authoritative, I dont think it makes
> sense, in the post-Gutenberg-era, to classify them as quite irrelevant
> to the OA issue for conventional journals. This was one of the points
> that Cockerill was driving at in his original posting.

Data-archiving and the citation of data, along with journal
article-archiving and the citation of journal articles are both important
(for impact, for OA, for research progress). But the target of the OA
movement is journal articles. It is they that are currently accessible
only to those researchers whose institutions can afford access to the
publisher's official version. OA needs to make them accessible also to
the researchers whose institutions cannot afford access to the publisher's
official version.

Data-archiving is relatively new. The content-providers are again the researchers
themselves. And the solution is also OA self-archiving.

The point that Matt Cockerill of BioMed Central was trying to make was that the
self-archiving of journal articles is not enough for "true OA" (thinking of
re-use, republication, re-distribution, data-mining) and I was saying that you
have everything that is needed with the self-archived version. I also said he was
mixing up data self-archiving considerations with journal article self-archiving
considerations: Are you?

Just as nothing prevents researchers from self-archiving their articles to make them
OA, nothing prevents them from self-archiving their data too. Nor from doing any
extra mark-up that might help in data-mining.

> Harnad says that its an empty ideological cliche to say "publishing
> the results of research is itself a part of the research process" .
> But its clear that many funders of research are coming to the same
> conclusion, perhaps it is not such an empty cliche when they take that
> view.

One can come to all kinds of conclusions (valid or invalid) on the basis of
all kinds of premises (valid or invalid), including empty ideological cliches.

It is a good thing that research funders are at last coming to their senses and
making open-access provision a condition of research funding. Publishing the
results of research was always part of the research process (hence "publish or
perish") but only now is it being realized that in the Web era open-access
provision needs to be made part of it as well. -- Not for the nonsensical reason
that the tax-paying public has a burning interest in most of the 2.5 million
articles published in the planet's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals. (It's hard
enough to just get a few qualified specialists to take any interest in them!)
Not for the nonsensical reason that institutions give away their research and then
have to buy it back. (They *have* their own research output: They are buying in
the research output of *other* institutions.) And not for the nonsensical reason
that data-archiving and article-archiving are the same kind of thing.

No, the essential and decisive rationale for OA is that researchers
conduct and report and peer-review and give away their research findings
(data and articles) for one reason only: So that they should be used,
applied and built upon. Let us call that research impact. Researchers
can and should and will make sure that any would-be user can use,
apply and build upon their research -- by supplementing the official
journal version with an open-access version self-archived in their own
institutional archives.

> 'Ideological'? Yes, but how can an Open Access proponent/opponent
> avoid ideology?

Ideology, yes, but let's get the ideology clear and in focus...

Stevan Harnad

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Received on Fri Mar 11 2005 - 16:11:01 GMT

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