Re: Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Critique of PRC Study

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2006 23:01:54 -0500

On Mon, 13 Nov 2006, Mark Ware wrote:

> [A]m I right to think Stevan is changing his position slightly on this,
> from saying [1] there's no evidence that OA will cause cancellation
> and that [2] arXiv suggests the opposite in physics, to saying that
> [3] it is "possible, [4] even probable that self-archiving will cause
> some cancellations" but that [5] this is a (much) lower-priority issue
> than the gains to research (and hence society) that would flow from
> OA? I think the latter emphasis is much more coherent and one that
> crystallises the issue for publishers.


(1) There is still no evidence at all that self-archiving causes
cancellations: Zero. (And hypothetical preference models for journal
*acquisition* by librarians are not evidence of either the likelihood
or the extent or the timing of *cancellations* caused by self-archiving.)

(2) The Arxiv/physics evidence is certainly not the "opposite" -- in the
sense of being evidence that self-archiving causes subscriptions! It is
the opposite in the sense that it is evidence that self-archiving (in
that particular case, so far, and even when it has been at or near 100%
for several years) does *not* cause cancellations.

(3) Of course it is "possible" that self-archiving *does* cause
cancellations (but we just haven't succeeded in detecting it) or that it
*will* cause cancellations, but just hasn't started to do it yet. (Only
logically self-contradictory things are provably impossible.)

(4) Hypotheses non fingo: I no longer speculate about relatively
unimportant contingencies (such as the possibility of eventual
cancellations) while extremely important and urgent contingencies
are still being appallingly neglected (such as the near-certainty of
dramatically enhanced access and impact with 100% OA as well as the
near-certainty that self-archiving and especially self-archiving mandates
will deliver that 100% OA). But it is (alas) a matter of historic record
that I too can speculate and counter-speculate as well as anyone else,
and have done so, and of course when I do so, my hunch is that eventually
the demand for anything other than peer review will shrink to zero:

(5) And one need only google "harnad faustian bargain" to see that
from the very first moment that the (trivial) token dropped (for me) --
let us not forget that we are not talking here about rocket science but
about raincoat science -- it was apparent, indeed transparent (for me)
that the online (PostGutenberg) era had put a decisive end (potentially:
still waiting for it to become actual, at long last, and already well
past the point where it first become possible), once and for all, to the
need for researchers to make the "Faustian Bargain" that they had had
to make in the paper (Gutenberg Era): having to allow a toll-barrier to
be erected between their research findings and their potential users,
usage, and impact in exchange for the very possibility of making them
public at all, by publishing them. Ever since the token dropped (for me)
(in the early 90's), it has been patently obvious that maximising research
access and impact trumps immunising (let alone maximising) publishers'
current revenue streams, and trumps it overwhelmingly. A no-brainer.

Publishing can and will adapt to OA: OA itself is non-negotiable, insofar
as research, researchers, research institutions, research funders, and
the tax-paying, research-supporting public are concerned. Self-archiving
is simply the research community taking this long overdue matter into
its own hands (at long last, and far, far too late in the day). Nature
will take care of the rest...

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Nov 17 2006 - 04:10:51 GMT

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