Re: Critique of Research Fortnight article on RCUK policy proposal

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 6 Oct 2005 16:35:33 +0100

    Prior AmSci Topic Thread (started September 16, 2005):
    "Critique of Research Fortnight article on RCUK policy proposal
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/4761.html

On Thu, 6 Oct05, Sally Morris (ALPSP) wrote:

> Interesting that Stevan chooses to ignore key points in my message: IOP
> didn't say 'the opposite' at all - they said subs hadn't been affected
> 'yet'; as Ken Lillywhite's message makes clear, they fully expect subs to
> suffer as the logical consequence of the fall in downloads - and Bob
> Michaelson's message shows that their fear is justified

Please do look again, Sally, as I did duly note the "yet":

    "'Yet' can quite safely and reasonably be appended to everything I
    have seen and heard, and it makes not a whit of difference."

And the target of "opposite" was also fully clarified:

    "What I should have said was that the diminished article downloads
    do not equal, nor do they imply, diminished subscriptions, and
    that IOP had said exactly the opposite: That despite replication
    in a repository (ArXiv) IOP had [1] found no diminished subscriptions,
    [2] does not consider self-archiving a threat, [3] cooperates with Arxiv,
    and indeed [4] will soon be hosting a mirror of Arxiv.

[1] - [4] are all true, and constitute the *substance* of what we
are talking about: ("Is there any evidence that self-archiving causes
cancellations?" Answer: No. "Is IOP opposing self-archiving ?" Answer: No.)

You, dear Sally, have instead always refocused the question from objective
evidence (about actual self-archiving and actual cancellations) to subjective
worries (about possible future cancellations) for which there is as yet no
objective evidence at all. And you have tried (but were, I am afraid, destined to
be unsuccessful) to interpret the perfectly true, but perfectly irrelevant
statement that IOP has recorded lower *downloads* at its website, as if it were
evidence of present or future cancellations. It is not:

     "This statement [that IOP finds diminished downloads for
     self-archived articles] is perfectly true but in no way implies what
     ALPSP cites it to imply (i.e., that diminished downloads are evidence
     that self-archiving causes cancellations), for that is the exact
     opposite of what the Institute of Physics has said (Swan & Brown05)."

So please do keep the two propositions in focus:

True: IOP website downloads are reduced by self-archiving
False: IOP subscriptions are reduced by self-archiving
True: IOP welcomes self-archiving and is even mirroring Arxiv at their website
False: IOP, like ALPSP, is opposing self-archiving

These are the objective facts. The rest is about subjective worries,
which, with Rene Descartes, I tend to regard as incorrigible (to the
worrier), hence impenetrable to doubt (by the worrier), yet eminently
fallible. (I cannot doubt that I have a tooth-ache, when I have a
tooth-ache, but I can doubt that the tooth-ache means there's anything
wrong with my tooth, even though it feels like it: it might be referred
pain from another organ, or even just neurasthenic pain.)

As to librarian anecdotes about cancellation practices: First, you will
agree that they do not amount to much until/unless they translate into
measurable objective effects (which both APS and IOP have said they
could not detect, across 14 years of self-archiving). Apart from that,
librarian anecdotes can be freely traded. Here's one of my favorites:

    "Personal communication from a UK University Library Director:
    'I know of no HE library where librarians make cancellation or
    subscription decisions. Typically they say to the department/faculty
    'We have to save X,000" from your share of the serials budget: what
    do you want to cut?'. These are seen as academic --not metrics-driven
    -- judgements, and no librarian makes those academic judgements, as
    they are indefensible in Senate' [S]uch decisions are almost always
    wholly subjective, not objective, and have nothing to do with the
    existence or otherwise of repositories.'
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/20-guid.html

In my next posting, I will turn to the consequences of failing to
exercise the Cartesian faculty of critical analysis, one-sidedly hewing
to subjective worries, while ignoring objective counter-evidence. I will
do a critique of the following unsigned article that has just appeared in
Research Fortnight:

http://www.researchresearch.com/getPage.cfm?pagename=RFEdition&ElementID=33310&lang=EN&type=10.03&Issue=10.03

    "The Dangers of Open Access, RCUK Style"
    Unsigned Article, Research Fortnight:

Stevan Harnad

---------------------------------------------
> > Date: Wed, 5 Oct05 14:03:11 +0100
> > From: "Sally Morris (ALPSP)" <sally.morris_at_ALPSP.ORG>
> > Subject: Self-archiving, journal usage and cancellations
> >
> > On 16 September Stevan Harnad said on this listserv:
> >
> > "[Research Fortnight] The Institute of Physics has already seen
> > article downloads from its site diminish for journals whose content is
> > substantially replicated in a repository, says ALPSP.
> >
> > [SH rejoinder] This statement is false, and is the exact opposite of
> > what the Institute of Physics has said (Swan & Brown05)"
> >
> >
> > I was correctly paraphrased by the Research Fortnight journalist; my
> > statement (in our letter to RCUK), which he claims was false, was
> > actually as follows:
> >
> > "Increasingly, librarians are making use of COUNTER-compliant (and
> > therefore comparable) usage statistics to guide their decisions to renew
> > or cancel journals. The Institute of Physics Publishing is therefore
> > concerned to see that article downloads from its site are significantly
> > lower for those journals whose content is substantially replicated in
> > the arXiv repository than for those which are not."20
> >
> > The IOP evidence to which I referred was publicised by them on 5th
> > September in a posting from Ken Lillywhite to various listservs, of
> > which I assume Stevan was aware. For completeness I will repeat it
> > here:
> >
> > "Recent claims made by some of those who advocate the mandatory deposit
> > of published articles in institutional and subject repositories prompt
> > us to correct and clarify the relationship between physics journals and
> > the physics e-print archive (arXiv).
> >
> > It has been claimed that because physics publishers have co-existed with
> > the arXiv over the past 14 years, publishers have nothing to fear about
> > the future. We take the opportunity to point out that the past is not
> > always a good predictor of future performance.
> >
> > Ever since the launch of the physics e-print archive in 1991, authors
> > publishing in IOP Publishing journals have had the choice to post their
> > preprints to the service. However, we do note that article downloads
> > from our site are significantly lower for those journals whose content
> > is substantially replicated in the arXiv repository than for those which
> > are not, after usage statistics have been normalized to take account of
> > journal size.
> >
> > Usage statistics (e.g., ProjectCOUNTER) are now increasingly used as a
> > 'value for money' measure in the library
> > community and elsewhere. Clearly, as usage statistics become more
> > commonplace, it would be only natural for
> > cash-strapped librarians to conclude that subscriptions to low-use -
> > albeit high-quality, peer-reviewed - journals
> > are no longer necessary. In this situation subscription-based journals
> > published by a learned society such as
> > ourselves would become economically unviable."
> >
> > What's more, there is anecdotal evidence that some librarians, at least,
> > do have both the power and the inclination to cancel subscriptions to
> > journals which are not being used. See, for example, Bob Michaelson's
> > (Northwestern University) posting to PAMNET on 15 September:
> >
> > "Surely you know that physicists use the free depository arXiv as their
> > primary source for physics information - to such an extent that some
> > long-established physics journals such as Nuclear Physics now have
> > scarcely any readers (we know this because we have the online
> > statistics)... " Bob subsequently confirmed to me that he does,
> > indeed, use low usage statistics as one reason for cancellation.
> >
> > I am assured that the IOP spokesperson to whom Alma Swan spoke included
> > the all-important word 'yet' - as in 'we have not seen greater
> > cancellations yet'. Other publishers tell me that they have also
> > observed significantly lower usage for journals most of whose content
> > can be found in arXiv.
> >
> > Thus my statement was not false. If Stevan had been aware of the
> > evidence upon which it was based, as I assume he was, then he should
> > have known that my statement was not false and should, I feel, apologise
> > publicly to ALPSP in consequence.
> >
> > Sally
> > ------------------------------
> >
> > Date: Wed, 5 Oct05 16:29:00 +0100
> > From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
> > Subject: Re: Self-archiving, journal usage and cancellations
> >
> > On Wed, 5 Oct05, Sally Morris wrote:
> >
> >> On 16 September Stevan Harnad said on this listserv:
> >>
> >> "[Research Fortnight] The Institute of Physics has already seen
> >> article downloads from its site diminish for journals whose content is
> >> substantially replicated in a repository, says ALPSP.
> >>
> >> [SH rejoinder] This statement is false, and is the exact opposite of
> >> what the Institute of Physics has said (Swan & Brown05)"
> >
> > Sally is quite right. What I should have said was that the diminished
> > article downloads do not equal, nor do they imply, diminished
> > subscriptions, and that IOP had said exactly the opposite: That
> > despite replication in a repository (ArXiv) IOP had found no diminished
> > subscriptions, does not consider self-archiving a threat, cooperates
> > with Arxiv, and indeed will soon be hosting a mirror of Arxiv.
> >
> >> on 5th September in a posting from Ken Lillywhite [IOP]:
> >>
> >> "Recent claims made by some of those who advocate the mandatory
> >> deposit of published articles in institutional and subject
> >> repositories prompt us to correct and clarify the relationship
> >> between physics journals and the physics e-print archive (arXiv).
> >>
> >> "It has been claimed that because physics publishers have
> >> co-existed with the arXiv over the past 14 years, publishers
> >> have nothing to fear about the future. We take the opportunity
> >> to point out that the past is not always a good predictor of
> >> future performance.
> >
> > No, but as David Hume would remind us, the past is still the best
> > predictor
> > of the future, not the opposite. But let me quickly agree that anything is
> > possible: That the 14-year peaceful co-existence between self-archiving
> > and
> > subscription sales continues, or that it does not. If self-archiving
> > should
> > reduce subscriptions, there will be ways for journals to adapt. Renouncing
> > the maximised access and impact -- and their benefits to research and
> > researchers -- by *not* self-archiving is not an option, regardless of
> > which
> > course the future takes.
> >
> >> "Ever since the launch of the physics e-print archive in 1991,
> >> authors publishing in IOP Publishing journals have had the choice
> >> to post their preprints to the service. However, we do note
> >> that article downloads from our site are significantly lower
> >> for those journals whose content is substantially replicated in
> >> the arXiv repository than for those which are not, after usage
> >> statistics have been normalized to take account of journal size.
> >>
> >> "Usage statistics (e.g., ProjectCOUNTER) are now increasingly
> >> used as a 'value for money' measure in the library community and
> >> elsewhere. Clearly, as usage statistics become more commonplace,
> >> it would be only natural for cash-strapped librarians to
> >> conclude that subscriptions to low-use - albeit high-quality,
> >> peer-reviewed - journals are no longer necessary. In this
> >> situation subscription-based journals published by a learned
> >> society such as ourselves would become economically unviable."
> >
> > And if that so-far-counterfactual speculation should happen to prove true,
> > there are many speculations available as to how journals and learned
> > societies
> > can and will adapt.
> >
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmsctech/399/399we152.htm
> >
> > What is fact, and not speculation, is that self-archiving enhances
> > citation counts by 50%-250%, and that only 15% of researchers are
> > self-archiving spontaneously today. It follows that a self-archiving
> > mandate will remedy this needless impact loss, and should hence be
> > adopted as soon as possible.
> >
> >> What's more, there is anecdotal evidence that some librarians, at least,
> >> do have both the power and the inclination to cancel subscriptions to
> >> journals which are not being used. See, for example, Bob Michaelson's
> >> (Northwestern University) posting to PAMNET on 15 September:
> >>
> >> "Surely you know that physicists use the free depository arXiv as their
> >> primary source for physics information - to such an extent that some
> >> long-established physics journals such as Nuclear Physics now have
> >> scarcely any readers (we know this because we have the online
> >> statistics)... " Bob subsequently confirmed to me that he does,
> >> indeed, use low usage statistics as one reason for cancellation.
> >
> > The fact is unchanged that neither APS nor IOP have detected any
> > cancellations
> > associated with self-archiving -- nor are they attempting (as Sally and
> > the
> > ALPSP are) to try to persuade RCUK not to mandate self-archiving.
> > Librarian
> > anecdotes there will always be, but it is the actual data on
> > self-archiving
> > and subscriptions, across journals and institutions, that tell the true
> > tale.
> >
> >> I am assured that the IOP spokesperson to whom Alma Swan spoke included
> >> the all-important word 'yet' - as in 'we have not seen greater
> >> cancellations yet'. Other publishers tell me that they have also
> >> observed significantly lower usage for journals most of whose content
> >> can be found in arXiv.
> >
> > "Yet" can quite safely and reasonably be appended to everything I have
> > seen and
> > heard, and it makes not a whit of difference. (One could, after all, even
> > add "yet" to Newton's observation about apples not falling up but down:
> > All
> > empirical data are merely data to-date, not proofs about the course of the
> > future.)
> >
> >> Thus my statement was not false. If Stevan had been aware of the
> >> evidence upon which it was based, as I assume he was, then he should
> >> have known that my statement was not false and should, I feel, apologise
> >> publicly to ALPSP in consequence.
> >
> > I apologise to ALPSP publicly: I should have said:
> >
> > "This statement [that IOP finds diminished downloads for self-archived
> > articles] is perfectly true but in no way implies what ALPSP cites
> > it to imply (i.e., that diminished downloads are evidence that
> > self-archiving causes cancellations), for that is the exact opposite
> > of what the Institute of Physics has said (Swan & Brown05)."
> >
> > Now that Sally has been so focussed and scholarly on this one point,
> > which has no implications whatsoever for the substantive matters at
> > issue, it would be very gratifying to hear her replies to the many,
> > many other substantive points I and others have made about the absence
> > of evidence in support of her claim "that RCUK's proposed policy will
> > inevitably lead to the destruction of journals."
> >
> > http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/20-guid.html
> >
> > Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Oct 06 2005 - 17:03:35 BST

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