Re: Ian Gibson on open access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2006 18:41:44 +0100

On Sun, 30 Apr 2006, Lesley Perkins wrote:

> Forgive me for interrupting, but does it really matter if the reasons
> for self-archiving are primary or secondary? Doing the right thing for
> the "wrong" reasons is still the right thing. Wouldn't you say that
> applies in this case?

It would perhaps not matter if people actually *were* self-archiving --
and mandating self-archiving -- for secondary or wrong reasons.

But the fact is that only 15% of papers are as yet being spontaneously
self-archived *at all*. And among the reasons why self-archiving is not
yet being done or mandated nearly enough is that secondary and wrong
reasons for self-archiving, or for mandating self-archiving, are simply
not compelling enough to make it happen.

Researchers will not self-archive -- and their universities will not
require them to self-archive their -- in order to make their papers freely
accessible to the general public. That is just too absurd. Both
universities and their researchers know perfectly well that most of
their specialized research papers are of no absolutely no direct interest
to the general public. Hence public access to them would be a ludicrous
(and readily defeasible) reason for requiring researchers to take the trouble
to self-archive them (little trouble though that is).

In contrast, both universities and their researchers know that
researchers' income and funding depends to a large on their research
impact. So demonstrating the strong and dramatic causal connection
between self-archiving and research impact *is* a compelling reason --
indeed *the* compelling reason -- for mandating it.

It is this strong and compelling causal connection between self-archiving
and research impact -- well known to this Forum, but still too little known
to researchers and their employers and funders -- that needs to be
conveyed far more widely than this Forum, if we are to reach the 100%
OA that is already so long overdue.

Trading instead in secondary or wrong reasons is a good way to continue
ideological crusading if one feels one has a lot of time on one's hands
and has an appetite for that sort of thing, but it does not get much done.

I might add that -- however much it may preoccupy and exercise the
library community -- appeals to remedy the journal pricing/affordability
crisis will also fail to induce researchers to self-archive. Indeed,
any user-end rationale will fail. The appeal has to be to the *author*
as author -- not to the author as user (for authors already have the use of
their own papers). That means the primary (and secondary, and tertiary)
reason for self-archiving has to be based on the self-interest of the
author and his institution. And that means the impact of their (joint)
research output.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Sun Apr 30 2006 - 18:52:30 BST

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