Making the OA causality and motivation explicit and realistic

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2005 12:40:51 -0400

On Wed, 31 Aug 2005, David Prosser wrote:

> I essentially agree with Stevan - the problem is access.

Actually (and this is not a trivial point) the problem is primarily *impact*
-- and access only inasmuch as access is a necessary condition for impact.

The "access" view is the library view, but the impact view is the
researcher view, and that's critical, because only the researchers can
provide the access, and they will provide it because of their concerns about
the impact of their own work (1), not because of either general concerns
about the access of *others* to the work of *others* (2), nor even (because
the causal connection is not sufficiently direct if seen that way)
because of concern about their *own* access to the work of others (3).

I am convinced that this (minor) bit of causal indirectness is still a *huge*
source of confusion as well as inaction.

> the problem in this case is that:
> RCUK-funded researchers do not have access to all RCUK-funded
> research.

No, the problem is that all researchers worldwide do not have access to all
RCUK-funded research! (Do you see why it is so important to deconflate the
access/impact and self-interest/magnanimity factors?)

> Of course, the situation is even worse than that because RCUK-funded
> researchers also do not have access to all international research in
> their field.

No: That is still just (3) and the core of the motivation to provide OA depends
on an appeal to (1), not to (2) or (3).

> This reduces their effectiveness as researchers (as they
> do not have access to all of the research literature) and also reduces
> the value of the investment that the UK makes in research.

True, but not decisive, because UK researchers making their own research OA
not make the research of others accessible to UK researchers. There has to be a
direct incentive and causal link, and that is (1), impact.

(Of course, the hope is that the RCUK policy will be emulated elsewhere,
and then
(1) will indeed generate (3), and (2) as well.)

> (And as an added bonus, students, politicians, journalists, and the
> general public will also get access.)

That too, but like (3) and (2), they are merely bonuses. It is only (1) that
makes the necessary direct causal connection, thereby appealing directly to
researchers' self-interest.

Stevan Harnad


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Received on Wed Aug 31 2005 - 17:57:53 BST

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