Re: APA: Open Access and Public Understanding

From: David Goodman <dgoodman_at_Princeton.EDU>
Date: Sun Sep 10 22:57:49 2006

I agree with SH and Jan that the author-argument is a strong
one, and I share the surprise that it has failed.
Jan says that scientists are "open to logic and facts as
opposed to beliefs and prejudices," but
perhaps this only applies to their scientific work itself. Most may be
tradition-bound and non-innovative outside that--including
what many regard as the uninteresting process of publishing their work.

Perhaps the way the argument has been presented is the problem.
The only effectual method of presentation may be personal persuasion
by a colleague, and repeated public exhortations have a contrary effect.

OA is good for every part of the information chain, authors and readers,
researchers and students, publishers and libraries, private
sponsors of research and public sponsors. Different people will
be interested most at different aspects, but OA is one of the
rare changes that would benefit all parties.

I think it inappropriate for someone primarily concerned
with one aspect to denigrate the benefits from the others. We
cannot expect that everyone will have the same priorities,
and every possible benefit will not be understood by someone.

SH's posting shows that somone concerned primarily about the
authors will not care at all about the arguments of the lay
disease-oriented advocates. Jan's posting shows that someone
primarily concern with both the authors and publishing,
may also think them a group of perhaps secondary concern.

Equally, it can only be expected that these groups will not
much care that particular authors might get a somewhat
higher readership. The students at small colleges will
not be interested in either argument--they want access.
(and so on)

The outside administrators and politicians will find that
there are many people proclaiming that only their
own different views are correct. They will draw from this
the conclusion that the academic world is incapable of
dealing with its own affairs, and that the administrators
and politicans must do it as they think best.

People who support OA, but do not agree with another about
the details, or the arguments, should support their own
view, but it is folly to reject other views. The other positions
may be as Jan suggests, additional arguments--they may also
even be correct, with more effective reasons or a better
strategy, than one's own. Even their view of the best version of
OA may be superior.
It is neither good nor useful to denigrate everyone with whom
 one even slightly disagrees. That's how one loses the status of
being a supporter of OA, only a supporter of one's own ideas.

David Goodman
Associate Professor
Palmer School of Library and Information Science
Long Island University
and formerly
Princeton University Library

----- Original Message -----
From: Guédon Jean-Claude <jean.claude.guedon_at_UMONTREAL.CA>
Date: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 5:43 pm
Subject: [AMERICAN-SCIENTIST-OPEN-ACCESS-FORUM] RE : APA: Open Access and Public Understanding

> I think there is a little more to this than Stevan wants us to
> believe. To put it in a nutshell, science is relatively autonomous
> from the rest of society - a point generally made by sociologists
> of science as diverse as Robert K. Merton and Pierre Bourdieu. It
> is sufficiently autonomous from the rest of society that it makes
> sense to talk about a science-communication system in terms of
> exchanges limited to scientists. It is not so autonomous as to
> prevent communicating with non specialists. They can often read and
> make sense of at least some of this literature. And this "some" is
> not an insignificant fraction of the total scientific literature of
> the world. In the case of the humanities and the social sciences
> these two categories constitute 53% of the faculty at my
> university), most of the research literature is accessible to
> educated laymen. The open access movement is not limited to
> science, technology and medicine, so far as I know. It includes all
> the peer reviewed literature. SSH research falls into this category.
> There is more to this issue. Over and over, Stevan Harnad has
> accumulated evidence and arguments to demonstrate that open access
> provides concrete advantages to researchers. Despite these
> (excellent) arguments and despite the fact that he has often been
> addressing his peers, i.e. fellow scientists, Stevan Harnad does
> not appear to have convinced them to a great extent. And they
> probably are the fraction of the population most open to logic and
> facts as opposed to beliefs and prejudices. As a result, Stevan
> Harnad has advocated (and I support him, to repeat myself)
> mandating self-archiving in our universities and research
> institutions. Alas, this time, the call for mandating goes to whole
> new categories of people - namely administrators and politicians -
> for whom logic and facts import less than they would scientists.
> And this is where we stand now.
> What we need now are strategies to bring this mandating about in as
> many institutionsas possible. How do we do this? One way not to do
> this is hectoring the administrators and politicians to demonstrate
> their ultimate stupidityunless one is intent on failing; one way
> among many to achieve this transformation, obviously, is precisely
> to show the advantage of open access for "the rest of us" to a
> number of non-scientists. This kind of argument stands a chance of
> influencing decision makers, administrators and politicians. It
> will do so because achieving a mandate, in each institutional case,
> will be the result of political efforts. Political efforts, alas,
> do not rest on logic alone.
> For a long time, on this list, we have been turning in circles
> precisely because of this kind of short-sightedness in Stevan
> Harnad's position: he defends a very good position and does so very
> logically. So long as one limits oneself to the description of OA
> objectives, logic is very central and useful; however, when it
> comes to finding the strategies and tactics, the mechanisms and
> transformations that may help bring about open access, the sitation
> becomes laso very political. Stevan Harnad does not seem to
> understand this simple point; or rather he seems to refuse looking
> at it as if adopting openly political strategies to achieve a shift
> which is political in nature could adversely contaminate the nature
> of the objective sought, or deter from the straight, perfect,
> logical road to success.
> I will make more specific comments below.
> -------- Message d'origine--------
> De: American Scientist Open Access Forum de la part de Stevan Harnad
> Date: lun. 24/04/2006 19:01
> Objet : APA: Open Access and Public Understanding
> On Mon, 24 Apr 2006, Christopher D. Green wrote:
> > Did you see this?
> >
> [snip]
> Why would NIH have set itself up for the kind of obvious prima facie
> criticism opened up by using public access as the rationale for Open
> Access? Partly because (viewed superficially and naively, as most
> thingsare), it *sounds* like a good argument for Open Access: your
> health, the
> health of your loved ones, new medicines your doctor may not know
> about,cautions about possible side-effects -- and even general
> "right-to-know"
> issues are all dramatically engaged by the public-access argument.
> It has
> political and tax-payer lobbyist appeal. And it is in fact perfectly
> valid, for the small fraction of the target Open Access literature
> thatit applies to.
> But unfortunately, *it does not scale*! On the contrary, it
> provides an
> excellent argument (and APA is making it) for *not* providing Open
> Access to most of the target Open Access literature because it not
> onlyhas no interest for the general public, but the general public
> could not
> make the faintest sense of it even if they showed the slightest
> inclinationto do so (and they don't). So APA can in this way
> effectively lampoon
> the entire case for OA -- *if* public access were indeed the
> primary or
> sole rationale for OA. But it is not.
> If public access "were the primary or sole rationalefor OA. But it
> is not indeed. This said, it may be a second-order argument, a
> supplementary argument - one that may influence people who are in
> positions to make important decisisons but who are not scientists.
> Not even educational access for teaching/learning is a compelling
> enoughargument for making the primary research literature OA,
> because most of
> the primary research literature is not used in teaching and learning.
> The only ones who make heavy use of the primary research literature
> areresearchers, and no wonder, since that literature was written by
> andfor them. But the trouble is that no researcher can access all
> or most
> of it, because no researcher's institution can afford to buy access to
> all or most of it. And hence much of the research that the public
> fundsis losing much of its potential usage and impact. And *that*
> is the real
> rationale for OA.
> Again, saying that this will *also* help education does not deter
> from the primary goal; it only aims at influencing people who may
> have education in mind, may have power, and are not research
> scientists.
> It would be nice if the NIH (and others) got this into focus,
> because as
> long as they keep going on and on about minoritarian trifles like
> publicaccess to research that the public has next to no inclination
> or ability
> to read, the optimal and inevitable outcome for research, researchers,
> *and* the public that supports them will continue to be delayed.
> This would be true if NIH were gibving up the primary, purely
> scientific, objective. What I read in NIH's position is not a
> rejection of the objective that SH (and I) seek; I only see adding
> these arguments to the primary one and modulating the message
> according to the nature of the listener. Most Senators, so far as I
> know, are not practising scientists...
> [snip]
Received on Sun Sep 10 2006 - 22:57:49 BST

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