Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Flawed Method and No Data

Harnad, Stevan (2006) Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Flawed Method and No Data s.n.


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There is no evidence to date that Open Access (OA) self-archiving causes journal cancellations. The Publishing Research Consortium commissioned a survey of acquisitions librarian preferences to see whether they could predict such cancellations in the future using a "Share of Preference model," but the study has a glaring methodological flaw that invalidates its conclusion (that self-archiving will cause cancellations). The study consisted of asking librarians which of three hypothetical products -- A, B or C -- they preferred least and most, for a variety of hypothetical combinations of 6 properties with 3-4 possible values each: 1. ACCESS DELAY: 24-months, 12-months, 6-months, immediate access 2. PERCENTAGE OF JOURNAL'S CONTENT: 100%, 80%, 60%, 40% 3. COST: 100%, 50%, 25%, 0% 4. VERSION: preprint, refereed, refereed+copy-edited, published-PDF; 5. ACCESS RELIABILITY: high, medium, low 6. JOURNAL QUALITY: high, medium, low No mention was made of OA self-archiving (in order to avoid "bias"); but, as a result, the model cannot make any prediction at all about the effects of self-archiving on cancellations. The questions on which it is based were about relative preferences for acquisition among competing "products" having different combinations of properties, and the model treated OA (0% cost) as if it were just one of those product properties. But self-archived articles are not products purchased by acquisitions librarians: they are papers given away by researchers, anarchically, and in parallel. Hence from the survey's "Share of Preference model" it is impossible to draw any conclusions about self-archiving causing cancellations by librarians, because the librarians were never asked what they would cancel, under what conditions; just what hypothetical products they would prefer over what. And of course they would prefer lower-priced, immediate products over higher-priced, delayed products! But if all articles in all journals were self-archived, the "Share of Preference model" does not give us the slightest clue about what journals librarians would acquire or cancel. Nor does it give us a clue as to what they would do between now (c. 15% self-archiving) and then (100% self-archiving). The banal fact that everyone would rather have something for free rather than paying for it certainly does not answer this question, or fill the gaping evidential gap about the existence, size, or timing of any hypothetical effect of self-archiving on cancellations. Nor does the study's one nontrivial finding: that librarians don't much care about the difference between a refereed author's draft and a published-PDF. (Let us hope that this study will be the last futile attempt to treat research as if it were done in order to generate or protect journal revenues. Even if valid evidence should eventually emerge that OA self-archiving does cause journal cancellations, it would be for the publishing community to adapt to that new reality, not for the research community to abstain from it, and its obvious benefits to research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public that funds the funders and for whose benefit the research is conducted.)

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Related URLs:
Keywords: open access, self-archiving, research policy, institutional repositories, journals, publishing, subscriptions, cancellations, methodology, research
Organisations: Web & Internet Science
ePrint ID: 263179
Date :
Date Event
November 2006Published
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2006
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 21:29
Further Information:Google Scholar

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