Saturday, July 14, 2007

Open Access Introduction

“In no other industry does one produce material of great value, give it to others, and allow them to sell it back to the community that created it and at a high price.” (Fisher 2007:2), citing (Bergstrom 2001).

Does this make sense? Of course not. Paying commercial publishers to distribute the results of research made economic and professional sense in the pre-internet era. But now, with the internet’s potential for inexpensive widespread dissemination of data and reports, the current model harms research rather than facilitating it.

“Open access” refers to several phenomena, most prominently “open access journals” and “self-archiving.” Open access journals are posted on the internet, freely available to anyone who wants to consult them. One doesn’t have to pay for a subscription, one doesn’t have to have an affiliation with an institution that pays for the subscription, and one doesn’t have to wait for a period of time before getting access (as in most JSTOR journals, for example). Self-archiving refers to the practice of posting one’s publications and papers on the internet, freely available to all. For self-archiving, see (Harnad 2001, 2003); I will probably blog on this soon.

Peter Suber, one of the gurus of the open access movement, has commented:

“Yes, OA [“Open Access”] solves problems. There's the access-to-authors or knowledge problem for readers. There's the access-to-readers or impact problem for authors. There's the affordability problem for libraries. There's the unfairness problem of making taxpayers pay a second time for access to research they funded. There's the inefficiency problem of funding useful research that isn't accessible to everyone who can make use of it. There's the perversity problem of making a public commitment to use public money to expand knowledge and then hand control over the results to businesses who believe, correctly or incorrectly, that their revenue and survival depend on limiting access to that knowledge. …

The subscription model makes a publisher's method of cost recovery function as an access barrier. It requires artificial scarcity for information when digital technologies can abolish information scarcity altogether. It makes publishers insist on controlling access to research they didn't perform, write up, or fund.”

- Peter Suber:

If this is new to you, Suber has some useful guides on open access:

I am new to the Open Access movement, and other authors have far more expertise and knowledge than I do. For archaeology check out the SAA Digital Data Interest Group:, or (Xia 2006). The Open Access Anthropology blog: also has some relevant material. Peter Suber’s newsletter: [ is a rich source of information on OA, with occasional coverage of developments in archaeology and anthropology.


Bergstrom, Theodore C.
2001 Free Labor for Costly Journals?

Fisher, Julian H.
2007 Fixing the Broken Toaster: Scholarly Publishing Re-imagined. Science and Technology Libraries.

Harnad, Stevan
2001 The Self-Archiving Initiative. Nature 410:1024-1025.

2003 Online Archives for Peer-Reviewed Journal Publications. In International Encyclcopedia of Library and Information Science, edited by John Feather, and Paul Sturges. Routledge, London.

Xia, Jingfeng
2006 Electronic Publishing in Archaeology. Journal of Scholarly Publishing 37(4):online publication.


Stevan Harnad said...

It would be ironic indeed -- if not just plain self-contradictory -- if my papers were the ones that were not duly self archived! Both the cited papers (and all my other papers), of course, are:

Harnad, S. (2001) The Self-Archiving Initiative. Nature 410: 1024-1025

Harnad, S. (2003) Online Archives for Peer-Reviewed Journal Publications. International Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. John Feather & Paul Sturges (eds). Routledge.

Peter Suber said...

Mike: Thanks for mentioning my work. Unfortunately, your link to my newsletter (your last link before the references) is incorrect []. The correct URL is [].

Mike Smith said...

OK, I've fised both of these errors. Sorry!