Re: Leading academics back UK Research Councils on self-archiving

From: Alma Swan <a.swan_at_TALK21.COM>
Date: Tue, 6 Sep 2005 19:58:09 +0100

Sally Morris wrote:

> > I have yet to hear any confirmation from physics publishers > that
> the anecdotal 'evidence' reported by Alma Swan (the only shred of such
> > 'evidence', as far as I can tell), suggesting that ArXiv is not
> hurting > journals, is actually correct or the full story. I hope
> they will tell us?

I reported that 'evidence' (anecdotal it may be, but the anecdotes were from
the mouths of the publishers themselves so presumably we can take it that
they were not lying anecdotes but truthful anecdotes) in order to inform the
discussion and to reassure nervous society publishers in other fields that
their colleagues in physics are still alive and kicking very vigorously 14
years after the launch of arXiv. And not only kicking but, in the case of
the American Physical Society at least, working WITH open access
repositories in a collaborative way. I hoped that this would be helpful.

The point of turning to the physics societies was to supplant the stance of
"The future is horrible: I just know it is; I feel it in my bones" with the
more scientific approach of "Hmm. We must try to model the future but,
before we start from scratch, is there any instance where the variables in
question already pertain and, if so, what can we learn from it to feed into
our model?"

And yes, there is. Self-archiving has not yet produced anything like a
critical - or even substantial - body of postprint material in any
discipline, EXCEPT in the areas of physics covered by arXiv. So the most
informative way to proceed was to turn to those who publish journals in
those areas and ask them how they've coped, what effects they have felt and
whether they are struggling to see a viable future for themselves. I turned
to the societies because society publishers merit the concern of all of us,
being vulnerable to the effects of the Big Deal and other pressures, and
having less wherewithal than the large commercial publishers to withstand
tremors in the marketplace. The examples I chose are two excellent,
successful and innovative societies, one in the UK and one in the US, and it
seemed they should have useful lessons to teach us all. And so it proved.
They told it like it is - what has happened in real life, in a set of
conditions as near to those required by our future-modelling experiment as
can yet be found. They said they have not seen any subscription
cancellations as a result of self-archiving.

What they HAVE seen is a decrease in the download figures for the journals
in the arXiv areas (though no libraries have acted upon these to cancel
subscriptions). There are moves afoot to help with this issue; the EPrints
software now has a field for the link to the publisher's copy of each
article self-archived, which will help in those instances where the searcher
has access to the journal concerned, and new projects underway - one of
which we are ourselves involved with - are working on ways to combine usage
statistics from self-archived articles with those from journals so that
librarians and publishers can get a much clearer picture of the download
activity for any article, whichever version is accessed.

But please note two things about what I reported: (i) It was an exercise in
the collection of existing-data, albeit one from which various deductions
can then be made (ii) It was not the future-modelling part of the exercise,
though some have suggested - erroneously - that that was what I was doing.
Plenty more variables need to be taken into account for the latter. I am not
so na´ve as to suggest that we have seen the future behind us.

However, I share Sally's sentiments and hopes - that the other publishers
who have strong journal lists in physics will share their experiences with
us, too. What is the answer, publishers? Have your journals in the areas of
high energy physics, condensed matter physics and astrophysics suffered from
more pronounced cancellations than in other physics fields or in other
disciplines? Is it just these two societies that are riding out a storm that
has hit elsewhere?

Let's hear it from Elsevier (167 physics journals in total; 87 journals in
these three fields), Wiley (26 physics journals; 21 journals in these
fields), Springer (90 physics journals; 17 journals in these fields) and
Taylor and Francis (28 physics journals; 9 journals in these fields). If we
could be told how much higher the levels of subscription cancellations for
the pertinent journals are than in other fields - and which we may then
deduce as having arisen as a result of the existence of arXiv - then the
discussion can proceed on new grounds.

Alma Swan
Key Perspectives Ltd
Truro, UK
Received on Tue Sep 06 2005 - 20:04:43 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:47:59 GMT