Re: Author self-archiving and legacy retrodigitization and archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 2 May 2006 14:37:35 +0100

On Tue, 2 May 2006, [Identity deleted] wrote:

> Dear Professor Harnad,
> Thank you very much for your very helpful reply to my enquiry.
> A few additional points. I am, of course, aware that issues were not
> digital 50 years ago. I wrote 're-digitize' because our journal had already
> just digitized all the back issues, but in a much simpler PDF format which
> is not compatible with the much more sophisticated search and cross-
> referencing in the [X] digitization. Our own PDF digitization is therefore
> really only of use to readers who already know where to find us...
> We are considering re-digitizing via X in order to reach a wider and
> different readership.

Once the text has been digitised once, there is no earthly reason to
re-digitise it: It need merely be reformatted, and perhaps enriched with
more metadata tags and links. So if the only objective is wider
reach, being on the web (harvested by google) plus OAI-compliance is
more than enough. (Soon even reference-linking will be done
automatically by future OAI services.)

But as far as I can tell, your journal, being a small one, has the
main concern of cost-recovery. And since the X archive is not OA but
PPV, that is the main reason for wanting to archive your contents there,
and that's fine. There is no reason whatsoever why a journal should put
its capacity to make ends meet at risk today by becoming a "gold" OA
journal today; in my own view, it is hugely premature for a journal to
go gold today, when most journals are not gold, and
subscription/license/PPV tolls are the way they recover their costs.

There is no reason for journals to rush into the gold cost-recovery
model (author-institutions peer-reviewing charges) at this time. But by
the same token, there is no reason for researchers to wait till their
journals go gold in order to make their own articles OA -- by ("green")
OA self-archiving in their own Institutional Repositories (IRs).

All journals need to do today is to themselves have a "green" policy on
author self-archiving (as 93% of them already do).

> I remain puzzled about how small specialist journals can have any viable
> future in the long term, given the meta-data harvesting of the OAI.

One small correction: I think you are not here talking about OAI (the
metadata-tagging protocol) but about OA, Open Access, which is making
the full-texts accessible online for free. OAI makes the texts
interoperable, but it would do so even if the texts were Closed Access.
So if there were a problem (though I shall shortly argue there is none) it
would be with OA, not OAI.

> If libraries cease to pay journal subscriptions because their readers can
> access the papers through OAI, the publishers' consortia revenues will
> surely collapse and a small journal such a ours, whose income largely comes
> from our publishers' consortia deals, will surely no longer be a viable
> proposition for our publisher. At present the income from the consortia
> deals pays the salary of our managing editor, whose role is crucial to the
> journal's functioning.

Notice that your query began with "IF" (and again you mean OA, not just
OAI): *IF* OA self-archiving were ever to lead to a decline of toll-revenue
so that it no longer sustains cost-recovery, the journals would convert to the
"gold" cost-recovery model -- (author-institution peer-review charges per
*outgoing* paper) -- instead of the present user-institution access-tolls
per *incoming* paper.

I have for years now abstained from speculating about this, however, for
the simple reason that there is as yet zero evidence that self-archiving
leads to cancellations (let alone catastrophic cancellations) even in
the few subfields that have already reached 100% for some time now.

So the priority (for researchers, though not necessarily for publishers)
is to increase OA self-archiving globally to 100% (it is only at 15%
today), rather than to speculate about what would happen if/when 100% OA
self-archiving were to generate catastrophic cancellations. (The answer
is that there would be no catastrophe but merely a natural transition to
gold, but since "hypotheses non fingo" I only point again to the link
above, a relic from a less abstemious time, when I thought that by 2006
100% OA self-archiving would already be long behind us -- which, alas,
it is not!)

> It almost looks to me as though the OAI could have an
> adverse effect on availability of information if only the larger mainstream
> journals survive as economically viable publishing propositions. If we join
> the X archive we would have a small revenue from that source but without
> the income from our publisher, we would simply be unable to fund the
> employment of the person on whose administrative and copy-editing skills we
> depend. Our contract with our publisher runs for another 5 years, but will
> they want to renew it with us after that time, or will they concentrate on a
> smaller number of mainstream journals?

These are all counterfactual conjectures, conditional on the "IF" which
has neither happened yet nor even given the slightest hint of ever being
destined to happen.

Let us, again, distinguish "green" OA (local, distributed author
self-archiving) from gold OA (when a journal makes all of its own contents
OA). First, neither of these is the same as OAI (though it is a good idea
that OA contents should be OAI-compliant too). The X archive you refer
to is PPV-toll-based, not OA, so that too is irrelevant here. And as
far as I can tell, your journal is not a gold journal (though I hope it
is a green one, endorsing local self-archiving of their refereed final
drafts by your authors, in their own IRs).

So it is not clear what actual evidence your worries are founded upon.
You are a toll-access journal, making ends meet out of tolls; you are
contemplating making your back issues available online, via PPV tolls,
through archive X. That's all fine: What's the problem?

Please see:

   Not a Proud Day in the Annals of the Royal Society (Nov 2005)

   Rebuttal of STM Response to RCUK Self-Archiving Policy Proposal (Aug 2005)

   Open Letter to Research Councils UK: Rebuttal of ALPSP Critique (Aug 2005)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue May 02 2006 - 14:43:36 BST

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