The needs of authors
Our own surveys (1,2) have shown that two needs are of equally great
importance to authors: maximum dissemination of their work, and
publication in the most prestigious journal possible.
1.1 Dissemination by the author
It is in publishers' as well as authors' interest to maximise access to
authors' work. There are many good examples of author agreements which
enable authors to retain the rights which are particularly important to
1.1.1 Posting of preprints
According to our own survey of 149 publishers, including all the
leading players (4), nearly 50% of publishers have no problem with
authors posting a preprint or submission version of their article on
one or more of their own, their institution's or a disciplinary website
or repository, although some impose certain conditions such as
requiring a link to the published version (5). So far, experience in
those (relatively few) fields -- such as high energy physics (6) -
where such repositories are active suggests that there is little or no
damage to subscription or licensing income from the research journals.
1.1.2 Posting of final version
Our survey (7) shows that over 60% of publishers allow authors to post
the final, published version of their article on websites or
repositories (8), some even providing the PDF for this purpose.
Although some speculate that increasing use of OAI-compliant metadata
will ultimately enable such posting to undermine subscription and
licence income, this does not seem to be the case so far....
It is in publishers' interest to satisfy the needs of their authors,
readers and institutional customers to the best of their ability; this
entails paying close attention to what these communities are saying,
and collaborating with them to develop new approaches as need arises.
Scholarship-friendly publishers maximise access to and use of content;
they also maximise its quality and, thus, prestige. It goes without
saying that -- by one business model or another -- publishers need to
make enough money to cover their costs and stay in business; but they
recognise that institutions' funds are increasingly inadequate to
purchase all the information required by users, and they welcome
collaboration with their customers to find new approaches which might
solve this dilemma.
ALPSP: "ALPSP encourages the widest
possible dissemination of research outputs; indeed, this furthers the
mission of most learned societies to advance and disseminate their
subject and to advance public education. We understand the benefits to
research of maximum access to prior work..."
An excellent beginning!
ALPSP:"ALPSP recognises that maximising
access must be done in ways which do not undermine the viability either
of the peer-reviewed journals in which the research is published"
No one would disagree with this either.
[publishers] may not wish their "value-added" version to be made freely
available in repositories immediately on publication."
ALPSP:"Even if the freely available
version lacks some or all of the value added by the publisher, it may
be treated as an adequate substitute by uninformed readers"
The freely available version is intended for the use of those potential
researcher/users worldwide whose institutions cannot afford access to
the publisher's value-added version. It is accordingly a more than
adequate substitute for informed users who do not have acccess to any
other version at all!
ALPSP:"(and, indeed, by cash-strapped
libraries). And any new model which has the potential to "siphon off" a
significant percentage of otherwise paying customers will,
understandably, undermine the financial viability of all these
Surely the financial viability of the values-added is determined by
their market value. As long as the added values have a market value,
they remain viable. All evidence to date is that the self-archived free
versions co-exist peacefully with the publishers' value-added versions,
serving as supplements for those who cannot afford access to the
value-added version rather than substitutes for those who can:
Swan & Brown (2005): "[W]e asked the
American Physical Society (APS) and the Institute of Physics Publishing
Ltd (IOPP) what their experiences have been over the 14 years that
arXiv has been in existence. How many subscriptions have been lost as a
result of arXiv? Both societies said they could not identify any losses
of subscriptions for this reason and that they do not view
[self-archiving] as a threat to their business (rather the opposite --
in fact the APS helped establish an arXiv mirrorsite at the Brookhaven
National Laboratory)." Swan, A. & Brown, S. (2005)
self-archiving: An author study. JISC Technical Report.
ALPSP:"The National Institutes of
Health in the USA has attempted to address this concern by delaying,
for up to 12 months after publication, the point at which deposited
material becomes freely accessible. The 12-month period was arrived at
after considerable discussion with society and other publishers; it
goes some way to addressing their fears about the impact on
subscription and licence sales. Even the Wellcome Foundation, which has
not consulted with publishers, recognises the need for a 6-month
embargoes concern the date of deposit in a central NIH/Wellcome
Archive, PubMed Central (PMC), in which the metadata and perhaps also
the full-text will appear in an enhanced ("value-added') form added by
The RCUK mandate concerns the self-archiving of the author's own
preprints and postprints -- by the author in the author's one
institutional repository -- for the sake of maximising immediate
research progress and impact.
Research impact and progress are certainly not maximised by imposing 6-
or 12-month embargoes!
The value-added publisher's version can wait, but research itself
certainly cannot, and should not.
ALPSP:"Although in some areas of
physics, journals have so far coexisted with the ArXiv subject
repository, some of our members in other disciplines already have
first-hand evidence that immediate free access can cause significant
damage to sales."
It would be very helpful if we could see precisely what this "other"
evidence is, and precisely what it is evidence of. As physics
and computer science are the fields that have self-archived the most
and the longest, and all of their evidence is for peaceful co-existence
between the authors’ supplementary drafts and the publisher's
value-added version, it would be very interesting to see what evidence,
if any, exists to the contrary. But please do make sure that the
putative evidence does address the issue, which is:
How much (if at all) does author
self-archiving reduce subscriptions?
The evidence has to be specific to author self-archiving, anarchically,
article by article. It cannot be based on experiments in which journals
systematically make all of their own value-added contents free for all
online, for that is not the proposition that is being tested, nor the
policy being recommended by RCUK!
ALPSP:"We therefore recommend that the
Research Councils should respect the wish of some publishers to impose
an embargo of up to a year (or, in exceptional cases, even longer)
before self-archived papers should be made publicly accessible."
RCUK should require immediate self-archiving of the author's
own postprint drafts (and strongly encourage preprint self-archiving
too) for the sake of immediate research usage, progress and impact.
Access to the publisher's value-added version can be embargoed for as
long as the publisher deems necessary.
ALPSP:"It should be stressed that any
restrictions are intended simply to ensure the continuing viability of
the journals, which allow authors (under either copyright model) all
the rights which our research indicates they require, including
The message is clear: Authors can and should self-archive their own
drafts ("inadequate" though these may be), immediately, for the sake of
research progress. The publisher's value-added version can be subject
to whatever restrictions publishers see fit to impose.
ALPSP:"It seems to us both
inappropriate and unnecessarily wasteful of resources to create
permanent archives of versions other than the definitive published
versions of articles."
It is not at all clear why publishers should be concerned with what
authors elect to do with their own "inadequate" versions, in the
interests of research. Publishers' concern should surely be with their
own definitive, value-added versions, not whatever else the research
community elects to do to maximize research progress and impact.
ALPSP:"[A] significant proportion (41%)
of existing Open Access journals do not, in fact, cover their costs"
It is not clear why the topic has been changed here to Open Access Journals: What the RCUK is
requiring is self-archiving; it is not requiring publication in Open
ALPSP:"while ALPSP supports the
principles which underlie the RCUK policy, we believe that existing
publishing arrangements go a long way towards meeting the first three
principles, and that publishers' concerns about the potential negative
impact[emphasis added] of self-archiving must be
Existing publishing arrangements go a long way, but the RCUK policy
goes the rest of the way, for the sake of all the potential
researcher-users worldwide whose institutions cannot afford the
publisher's value-added version, despite the existing publishing
It is in order to put an end to the needless and costly loss of that
potential positive impact on research that the RCUK
self-archiving mandate has been formulated.
Institutional repositories (and institutional self-archiving mandates)
are necessary in order to maximise research access and impact, not
in order to solve libraries' financial problems. Conflating the two has
always been a fundamental mistake, both practical and conceptual, and
one that has done nothing but lose us time (and research progress and
impact), needlessly delaying the optimal and inevitable outcome (for
research, researchers, their institutions and their funders): An OA self-archiving
mandate has nothing to do with library financial problems. It is
adopted by researchers' employers and funders in order to maximize
their (joint) research impact.
(But I agree that if many
others had not repeatedly made this unfortunate and common
conflation, Sally could not have made her own specious argument by way
SM:"Stevan, I don't know what planet
you live on (;-) but on Planet Earth the problem librarians are trying
to address - and the reason for any enthusiasm for repositories or any
other means of OA - is a shortage of funds"
Sally, that might be the reason for librarians' (and library funders')
enthusiasm for OA, but it is not the main reason for OA. The reason for
OA is to maximise research impact, hence research progress and
productivity. And the providers of OA are not and cannot be
librarians (be they ever so enthusiastic): The only providers of OA are
the researchers themselves. And the only reason that will persuade them
(and their funders) to provide OA is that it maximizes their research
So whereas both the publishing community and the library community are
marginally implicated in OA (each can either help or hinder it)
OA-provision itself is 100% in the hands of the OA-providers: the
research community. It can and will be done only by and for them.
It is to the terrestrial research community that the RCUK mandate is
SM:"and on the other [hand, how can
people argue that self-archiving]... will not lead to increased
subscription/licence cancellations and thus, ultimately to the collapse
The argument that self-archiving can and will increase research impact
substantially is based on objective fact, tested and
demonstrated by (a) years of self-archiving and by (b)
repeatedly-replicated objective comparisons of
citation impact between self-archived and non-self-archived
articles in the same journals and issues, across all fields.
The argument that self-archiving will lead to journal cancellations and
collapse, in contrast, is not based on objective fact but on hypothesis.
There are of course counter-arguments too, based on counter-hypotheses.
but it is also a fact that all objective evidence
to date is contrary
to the hypothesis that self-archiving leads to journal cancellation and
When -- in reply to Sally's statement:
SM:"Although in some areas of physics,
journals have so far coexisted with the ArXiv subject repository, some
of our members in other disciplines already have first-hand evidence
that immediate free access can cause significant damage to sales."
I asked Sally for that evidence, she has now replied:
SM:"the evidence I've been given so far
was in confidence"
So apparently the world research community is to contemplate continuing
to refrain from maximising its research impact -- despite the
many-times replicated objective evidence that self-archiving can and
does maximize research impact -- on the strength of confidence in a hypothesis
about eventual journal wrack and ruin, based on confidential evidence,
unavailable for objective evaluation.
(This kind of empty -- but ominous-looking -- hand-waving, by the way,
is precisely the grounds on which the NIH self-archiving
mandate was reduced to the toothless
dictum it has become, sans requirement, sans immediacy, sans
SM:"Incidentally, the NIH embargoes are
slightly more complex than Stevan suggests - authors are encouraged to
deposit papers immediately on acceptance; the embargo relates to the
date when they are made publicly available; I chose my words with care!
Wellcome on the other hand is, I understand it, talking about the date
Promptly "depositing" papers in NIH's PubMed Central (PMC) so that they
can just sit there, inaccessible, for 12 months? That sounds exactly as
pointless as it ought to sound to anyone who remembers, if ever so
faintly, that what this was all about was maximising research
access and impact (immediately). The objective was not to perform a
symbolic central-depositing ritual followed by an arbitrary
research-wasting gestation period, in which the document -- meant to
supplement paid access for those would-be users who cannot afford it --
instead simply lies fallow, for absolutely no defensible reason, at the
continuing cost of daily, weekly, and monthly research impact and
progress, exactly as it had done before the dawn of the online/OA era
at last made it possible to put an end to that gratuitous impact loss
once and for all!
Sally is right, however, that the NIH policy is more complicated than
merely being the empty "request" to deposit papers ("immediately"),
only to wait 12 months for them to become accessible to their intended
users (6 months for the marginally less unwelcome Wellcome Policy). It
is also only a request to deposit them in PMC, rather than what
it could and should have been, namely, a requirement to
deposit them immediately in each researcher's own institutional
repository (with NIH/PMC harvesting them centrally if/when
they see fit).
That would have been a policy that actually maximized
research access and impact, rather than locking in a gratuitous year of
access/impact loss (with the whole thing merely optional rather than
obligatory to boot -- and almost inviting publishers to back-pedal
on their existing immediate-self-archiving policies... in the name of
And now here is RCUK,
policy for maximizing research access and impact, and here's Sally
hoping to pull its teeth much the way NIH's
Fortunately, there is a way
the RCUK policy can be protected from unneeded and unwanted NIH-style
dental work! The key would be that the RCUK mandates distributed,
institutional self-archiving rather than NIH-style central
archiving. Hence each author can decide for himself whether and
when to set access to his own full-text as "Open Access" (OA) rather
than just "Institution-internal Access" (IA). Both the full text and
the metadata, however, must be deposited immediately in the fundee's
own institional repository. Those keystrokes must be performed.
The metadata of course always immediately become openly accessible to
all, webwide. (There is not even the semblance of a juridical issue
about the author's metadata!) But the single keystroke that determines
whether access to the full-text is institutional or worldwide can be
left to the author (with strong encouragement to make it OA as soon as
With such a policy, there is no point in anyone (including ALPSP)
lobbying RCUK about embargoes: RCUK has simply mandated the immediate
keystrokes and strongly encouraged the Nth one ("OA"). And research is
still leaps and bounds ahead as a result. For not only do over 90% of articles
already have their journal's green light for the Nth keystroke, but for
the less than 10% that don't, the author can, for the time being,
simply respond to email eprint-requests for the full-text (based on the
openly accessible metadata) by doing the further keystrokes needed to
email out the postprint to each eprint-requester.
Eventually, of course, nature will take its course, the author will
tire of the needless keystrokes, and will simply do the Nth keystroke
to make his postprint OA (as the sensible authors will all do in the
first place). (The long
overdue transit to the optimal and inevitable has -- it is now
patently obvious – always been just a keystroke problem all
along. Once the keystrokes are mandated, nature can be safely trusted
to pursue its optimal course forthwith, guided by the incentive of
impact -- and prodded by the nuisance of eprint-requests!)
But the point is that in the meanwhile, it will not be possible to edentate
(q.v.) the RCUK policy in the same way that the NIH policy managed to
get itself so sadly disfigured. And all the keystrokes will get done.
(Sally is characteristically coy about coming out and saying whether
she is for or against giving the publisher's green light to the
immediate institutional self-archiving of the author's own "inadequate"
[Sally's word] final revised draft: She is eloquent about its
inadequacies, but rather evasive about whether she would be for authors
[immediately] setting that Nth keystroke -- for that self-same
inadequate full-text -- as OA, or merely IA!)
I close by re-quoting in full the call for evidence in support of
Sally's rather alarmist hypothesis of doom and gloom:
SH: “It would be helpful to see precisely
what this "other" evidence is, and precisely what it is evidence of. As
physics and computer science are the fields that have self-archived the
most and the longest, and all of their evidence is for peaceful
co-existence between the author's drafts and the publisher's
value-added version, it would be very interesting to see what evidence,
if any, exists to the contrary. But please do make sure that the
putative evidence does address the issue:
“How much (if at all) does author self-archiving
“The evidence has to be specific to author self-archiving,
anarchically, article by article. It cannot be based on experiments in
which journals systematically make all of their own value-added
contents free for all online, for that is not the proposition that is
being tested, nor the policy being recommended by RCUK!”
And, to repeat Sally's reply:
SM:"the evidence I've been given so far
was in confidence"
Scientist Open Access Forum has been chronicling and often
directing the course of progress in providing Open Access to
Universities' Peer-Reviewed Research Articles since its inception in
the US in 1998 by the American Scientist, published by the Sigma Xi
The Forum is largely for
policy-makers at universities, research institutions and research
funding agencies worldwide who are interested in institutional Open
Acess Provision policy. (It is not a general discussion group for
serials, pricing or publishing issues: it is specifically focussed on
institutional Open Acess policy.)