Harold Varmus: "Self-Archiving is Not Open Access"

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2006 22:34:28 +0100

If you wonder why there is internecine squabbling within the Open
Access (OA) Community, you need go no further than Richard Poynder's
latest OA interview (a skillful, revealing elicitation, as always),
this time of Nobel Laureate and PLoS co-founder, Harold Varmus:

    "[T]here has been a long-standing and vigorous debate within the OA
    movement about the respective merits of the so-called Green and Gold
    roads. The debate seems to revolve around the issue of whether it
    is better for OA advocates to put all their energy into the creation
    of new open access journals, or to focus on lobbying research funders
    and governments to require researchers to self-archive the papers
    they have published in subscription journals. What are your views
    on that debate?"

    "My views are very clear: at this point self-archiving is not Open
    Access. One of the important components of the definition of
    Open Access that we have all agreed on is that research information
    should be placed in a searchable database. Right now the only way
    to be confident that you can do that effectively is by using a large
    public digital library like PubMed Central."

I am spared having to respond (yet again) to this egregious nonsense by
Peter Suber's spare reply in Open Access News:

    "Varmus is wrong to say that self-archiving is not OA. OA is a kind
    of access, not a kind of venue, and 'OA repositories' deliver this
    kind of access as well as 'OA journals', and distributed repositories
    deliver it as well as central repositories. Repositories certainly
    count as 'searchable databases'."

To see what definition of Open Access "we have all agreed on," please see the BOAI
definition of OA, first coined by the BOAI (Peter Suber, principal drafter), 2001:

Nor is the (profound) disagreement about the definition of OA
merely semiological quibbling. The difference is strategic,
and it has profound practical implications for OA (sic), and
how soon we manage to reach it. Harold's continuing confusions
about (what was eventually dubbed) OA began early on (1999)
but certainly not as early as OA itself began, which was in the 1980's,
with computer scientists self-archiving their papers in Anonymous FTP
Archives. The rest of the road to the optimal and inevitable outcome
is history still in the making (an outcome that some OA advocates are
hastening and facilitating; others, alas, rather less than they might
if they listened a little more attentively and reflected a bit more:
The Midas Touch can be the Kiss of Death sometimes...)

    Harnad, S. (2006) Opening Access by Overcoming Zeno's Paralysis. To
    appear in: Jacobs, N., (Ed) Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical
    and Economic Aspects. Chandos Publishing (Oxford) Limited, Chapter 8.

Stevan Harnad

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UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
policy of providing Open Access to your own research article output,
please describe your policy at:

    BOAI-1 ("green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access journal
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a open-access journal if/when
            a suitable one exists.
    in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
            in your institutional repository.
Received on Wed Jun 07 2006 - 22:37:51 BST

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