Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's Open Access Week - Here is a great link

This passage is from Jason Baird Jackson's blog:

"Last year, did you get paid nothing to work hard for a multinational corporation with reported revenues of over 1 billion dollars in 2008? [2]

If you have (1) done peer-reviews for, (2) submitted an article to, (3) written a book or media review for, or (4) taken on the editorship of a scholarly journal published by giant firms such as Springer, Reed Elisevier, or Wiley, then you belong to a very large group of very well-educated people whose unpaid labor has helped make these firms very profitable. Their profitability in turn has positioned them to work vigorously against the interests of (1) university presses and other not-for-profit publishers in the public interest, (2) libraries at all levels, (3) university and college students, (4) scholars themselves, and (5) particular and general publics with a need to consult the scholarly record.

I am not willing to freely give my labor to large multinational corporations whose interests align with their shareholders but that are antagonistic to my own."

You can read the whole thing here.

Jackson urges scholars like you and me to take these five steps:

  • "Choose not to submit scholarly journal articles or other works to publications owned by for-profit firms.
  • Say no, when asked to undertake peer-review work on a book or article manuscript that has been submitted for publication by a for-profit publisher or a journal under the control of a commercial publisher.
  • Do not seek or accept the editorship of a journal owned or under the control of a commercial publisher.
  • Do not take on the role of series editor for a book series being published by a for-profit publisher.
  • Turn down invitations to join the editorial boards of commercially published journals or book series."
This is a great post, it echoes my sentiments pretty closely.

*** NEVERTHELESS *** I am now editing my initial post here, curbing my enthusiasm somewhat, and arguing that readers should consult Steven Harnad's comment below. While I can feel indignant about commercial publishers, what is really needed is the development of institutional repositories by universities and professional organizations. We need to post our publications on the internet, and then it matters much less what happens to commercial publishers or OA journals. The key point is to make our scholarly output available on the internet, and it is much easier and faster to post one's publications than to wait around for big corporations to change their ways to please scholars.


Jason Baird Jackson said...

Thanks Michael. You are doing great work with Publishing Archaeology. (Before I saw your post here, I commented on your comment there.) I am really thankful to everyone who has been interested in these issues and so supportive as I have learned about and worked on them.

Stevan Harnad said...


With every good intention, Jason Jackson is giving the wrong advice. He is recommending a strategy that has been tried and failed.

In 2000, 34000 biological researchers worldwide signed a boycott threat to stop publishing in and refereeing for their journals if they did not provide (what we would now call) Open Access (OA) to their articles.

The boycott threat was ignored by the publishers of the journals because it was obvious to them if not to the researchers that the researchers had no viable alternative. And of course the researchers did not make good on their boycott threat when the journals failed to comply.

The (likewise well-intentioned) people who had launched the boycott threat then turned to another strategy: They launched the excellent PLoS journals (now celebrating their 5th anniversary) to prove that there could be viable OA journals of the highest quality. The experiment was a great success, and many more OA journals have since spawned, some of them (such as the BMC -- now Springer -- journals) of a quality comparable to conventional journals, some not.

But what also became apparent from the (now 9-year) exercise was that providing OA by creating new journals, persuading authors to publish in them instead of in their established journals, with their track-records for quality, and finding the funds to pay for the author publication fees that many of the OA journals had to charge (since they could no longer make ends meet with subscriptions) was a very slow and uncertain process.

There are at least 25,000 peer-reviewed journals published annually today, including a core of perhaps 5000 journals that constitute the top 20% of the journals in each field, the ones that most authors want to publish in, and most users want to access and use (and cite).

There are now about 5000 OA journals too, likewise about 20%, but most -- unlike the PLoS journals (and perhaps the BMC/Springer and Hindawi journals) -- are far from being among the top 20% of journals. Hence most researchers in 2009 face much the same problem that the signatories of the 2000 PLoS boycott threat faced in 2000: For most researchers, it would mean a considerable sacrifice to renounce their preferred journals and publish instead in an OA journal: either (more often) OA journals with comparable quality standards do not exist, or their publication charges are a deterrent. [See Part II, posted in 2 parts becase of blogger’s character limit.]

Stevan Harnad said...


Yet ever since 2000 (and earlier) there has been no need for either threats or sacrifice by researchers in order to have OA to all of the planet's peer-reviewed research output, for those same researchers who were signing boycott threats that they could not carry out could instead have used the keystrokes to make their own peer-reviewed research OA, by depositing their final, peer-reviewed drafts in OA repositories as soon as they were accepted for publication, to make them freely accessible to all would-be users, rather than just to those whose institutions could afford to subscribe to the journals in which they were published.

Researchers could have made all their research OA spontaneously since at least 1994. They could have done it OAI-compliantly (interoperably) since at least 2000.

But most researchers did not make their own research OA in 1994, nor in 2000, and even now in 2009, they seem to prefer petitioning publishers for it, rather than providing it for themselves.

There is a solution, but that solution is not more petitions and more waiting for publishers or journals to change their policies or their economics. It is for researchers' institutions and funders to mandate that their researchers provide OA to their own refereed research by depositing their final, peer-reviewed drafts in OA repositories as soon as they are accepted for publication, to make them freely accessible to all would-be users, rather than just to those whose institutions can afford to subscribe to the journals in which they were published.

I would like to suggest that Jason Jackson (and other well-meaning OA advocates) could do incomparably more for global OA by lobbying their own institutions (and funders) to adopt OA mandates than by launching more proposals to boycott publishers who decline to do what researchers can already do for themselves.

OA 2009 would be a good time for the worldwide research community to come to this realization at long last, and reach for the solution that has been within its grasp all along.

Michael E. Smith said...

As usual, Steven Harnad clarifies the complex issues of Open Access, helping people of limited vision like me see the broader issues and implications. He is absolutely correct, and our real efforts should be directed at self-archiving.