Re: Maximising the Return on UK's Public Invetsment in Research

From: <>
Date: Thu, 15 Sep 2005 16:49:19 +0100


The flow of your logic is that open access increases the chances of an article
being downloaded and read, and hence a greater probability that it will be
cited, all things being equal. That's fine as a point of departure.

If I am the first author to publish an open access article in an almost wholly
toll access environment, I can see that I would have an enormous comparative
advantage over the rest of my colleagues and might well expect to accrue
additional citations. Similarly the first research group or even nation to see
the light would have a great advantage.

If, however, I am the one millionth author (or the 10,000th research group or
the 100th nation) to publish open access, that comparative advantage must
quickly decline, approaching zero as the last few laggards pile in: there would
be a completely level playing field. This is not an argument against open
access but it is a logical consequence of the mass migration to that particular
form of publishing in terms of citation advantage.

Meanwhile, the measurement tools (and I'm thinking here specifically of ISI as
an example) remain constant. The only way for us all to get higher citation
counts within this frame of reference is EITHER for ISI to expand its coverage
to include more sources OR for ISI-indexed journal editors to reject fewer
papers or for authors to compile longer reference lists. I can't see the latter

If open access became near universal, all that would happen within the current
measurement regime is that we'd still all get the same number of citations,
they'd just be from open access rather than tolled sources. The logic of your
press release is fine, it's just there's an imminent sell by date before the
magic works off.

Dr Ian Rowlands
Department of Information Science
City University London

> Date: Wed, 14 Sep 2005 18:42:53 +0100
> From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
> Reply-To: ASIS&T Special Interest Group on Metrics
> Subject: Maximising the Return on UK's Public Investment in
> Research
> Adminstrative info for SIGMETRICS (for example unsubscribe):
> Press Release:
> Maximising the Return on UK's Public Investment in Research
> Stevan Harnad
> Moderator, American Scientist Open Access Forum
> Professor of Cognitive Science
> Department of Electronics and Computer Science
> University of Southampton
> Chaire de recherche du Canada
> Centre de neuroscience de la cognition (CNC)
> Université du Québec à Montréal
> Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 3P8
> The United Kingdom is not yet maximising the return on its public investment
> in
> research. Research Councils UK (RCUK) spend £3.5 billion pounds annually.
> The
> UK
> produces at least 130,000 research journal articles per year, but it is not
> the
> number of articles published that reflects the return on the UK?s investment:
> A
> piece of research, if it is worth funding and doing at all, must be not only
> published, but used, applied and built upon by other researchers. This is
> called
> ?research impact? and a measure of it is the number of times an article is
> cited
> by other articles (?citation impact?).
> But in order to be used and built upon, an article must first be accessed. A
> published article is accessible only to those researchers who happen to be
> at
> institutions that can afford to subscribe to the particular journal in
> which
> it
> was published. There are 24,000 journals in all, and most institutions can
> only
> afford a small fraction of them. In paper days, authors used to supplement
> this
> paid access to their articles by mailing free reprints to any would-be users
> who
> wrote to request them. The online age has made it possible to provide free
> ?eprints? (electronic versions of the author?s draft) to all potential users
> who
> cannot afford the journal version by ?self-archiving? them on the author?s
> own
> institutional website.
> The online-age practice of self-archiving has been shown to increase
> citation
> impact by a dramatic 50-250%, but so far only 15% of researchers are doing
> it.
> A
> recent UK international survey has found that 95% of authors would
> self-archive
> ?
> but only if their research funders or their institutions required them to do
> it
> (just as they already require them to ?publish or perish?). The solution is
> hence
> obvious:
> After lengthy deliberations first initiated in 2003 by the UK Parliamentary
> Select
> Committee on Science and Technology, RCUK have proposed to adopt a policy
> requiring UK researchers to deposit, on their university's website, the
> final
> author's draft of any journal article resulting from RCUK-funded research.
> The
> purpose of the proposed policy would be to maximise the usage and impact of
> UK
> research findings by making them freely accessible on the web ("open
> access")
> for
> any potential users in the UK and worldwide who cannot afford paid access to
> the
> published journal version. How does this maximise the return on the UK
> public
> investment in research?
> It is not possible to calculate all the ways in which research generates
> revenue.
> A good deal of it is a question of probability and depends on time: Although
> everyone thinks of an immediate cure for cancer or a cheap, clean source of
> energy
> as the kind of result we hope for, most research progresses gradually and
> indirectly, and the best estimate of the size and direction of its progress
> is
> its
> citation impact, for that reflects the degree of uptake of research results
> by
> other researchers, in their own subsequent research. Citation impact is
> accordingly rewarded by universities (through salary increases and
> promotion)
> and
> by research-funders like RCUK (through grant funding and renewal); it is
> also
> rewarded by libraries (through journal selection and renewal, based on a
> journal's
> average citation "impact factor"). Counting citations is a natural extension
> of
> the cruder measure of research impact: counting publications themselves
> ("publish
> or perish").
> If citations are being counted, it is natural to ask how much they are
> worth.
> The marginal dollar value of one citation was estimated by Diamond in 1986
> to
> range from $50-$1300 (US), depending on field and number of citations. (An
> increase from 0 to 1 citation is worth more than an increase from 30 to 31;
> most
> articles are in the citation range 0-5.) If we convert from dollars to UK
> pounds
> sterling (£27-£710) and update by 170% for inflation from 1986-2005, this
> yields
> the range £46-$1207 as the marginal value of a UK citation today.
> Self-archiving,
> as noted, increases citations by 50-250%, but, as also noted, only 15% of
> the
> articles being published are being self-archived today.
> We will now apply only the most conservative ends of these estimates (50%
> citation increase from self-archiving at £46 per citation) to the UK's
> current
> annual journal article output (and only for the approximately 130,000 UK
> articles
> a year indexed by the Institute for Scientific Information, which covers
> only
> the
> top 8000 of the world's 24,000 journals). If we multiply by the 85% of the
> UK's
> annual journal article output that is not yet self-archived (110, 500
> articles),
> this translates into an annual loss of £2, 541, 500 in revenue to UK
> researchers
> for not having done (or delegated) the few extra keystrokes per article it
> would
> have taken to self-archive their final drafts.
> But this impact loss translates into a far bigger one for the British
> public,
> if
> we reckon it as the loss of potential returns on its research investment. As
> a
> proportion of the RCUK?s yearly £3.5bn research expenditure, our
> conservative
> estimate would be a 50% x 85% x £ = £1.5bn worth of loss in potential
> research impact. And that is without even considering the wider loss in
> revenue
> from potential usage and applications of UK research findings in the UK and
> worldwide, nor the still more general loss to the progress of human
> inquiry.
> The solution is obvious, and it is the one the RCUK is proposing: to extend
> the
> existing universal 'publish or perish' requirement to 'publish and also
> self-archive your final draft on your institutional website'. Over 90% of
> journals already endorse author self-archiving and the international author
> survey
> -- plus the actual experience of the two institutions that have already
> adopted
> such a requirement (CERN and University of Southampton ECS ) -- has shown
> that
> over 90% of authors will comply.
> The time to close this 50%-250% research impact gap is already well overdue.
> This
> is the historic moment for the UK to set an example for the world , showing
> how
> to
> maximise the return on the public investment in research in the online era.
> How self-archiving increases citation impact:
> How much a citation is worth:
> How much time and effort is involved in self-archiving
> RCUK self-archiving policy proposal:
> Directory of publishers' policies on author self-archiving:
> JISC user survey on self-archiving:
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Received on Thu Sep 15 2005 - 23:23:51 BST

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