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Re: Study Identifies Factors That Could Lead to Cancelled Subscriptions

I reply to only one part of Joe's astute discussion. Quite apart 
from OA, there is a role for self-archiving that is supplemental 
rather than parasitic to formal publishing. For decades--for 
centuries--academic publishing has been a slow an complicated 
process. It always required supplementation with indexes, which 
were additionally slow and additionally complicated.

There has always been a need for something more current. For all 
these centuriesx, from the time of Galileo to the time of James 
Watson, they were supplemented by the personal letter and the 
personal visit. The extent of the effort in the 19th and early 
20th century in travel tointernational congresses seems 
fantastic-- until one realises that they represented the only 
opportunity for interpersonal communication.

When publication required either a library or the personal 
acquitance with the authors who sent preprints, the nature of 
science communication remained static. There were no structural 
arrangents for providing the necessary information except 
membership in large and well-known laboratories, and the 
institutional history of science in the middle of the 20th 
century is essentially the rise of such strong laboratories and 

The development of electronic journals gave the potential for 
change: there may have been institutional reasons for slow 
publication, but there were no longer technical ones. The 
development of the web had the same effect on informal 
discussion. But there was now a remedy for slow publication, 
which was preprints: at first by xerography, but soon by web 

No journal could work so fast--Nature, working at top speed with 
the expectation of a priority battle, still took weeks to publish 
the Watson and Crick papers.  With electronic publication, a 
journal could work faster: some sort of accepted manuscript could 
be published on the web the same day the peer-review was 
complete. But the technology was equally available to an 
individual author, and in most fields they knew how to operate 
the technical components as well as the publishers. And so they 
did--whether to a private distribution list, or publicly.

It was not long before some authors concluded that their 
reputations were sufficient that they had no need of peer review. 
This was seen in all fields, especially the ones that relied upon 
mathematics and thus had composition and graphics systems 
essentially the equal of the publishers.

This applied only the the most secure of authors, but lesser and 
younger ones could imitate it, knowing they would eventually need 
to supplement it by formal peer-reviewed publication. And this 
was the change--no longer was the rapid publication of eprints 
supplementary to the formal publication system, but the formal 
system has now become the supplement to the individualistic 
self-archiving. If one finds something in one's core area first 
in a published paper, this implies that the author is either 
secretive or old-fashioned--or else new to the system.

Therefore I obvious regard self-archiving as central--not as my 
choice, not because I prefer it--but because major scientists do. 
They will do it if the journal is subscription based, they will 
do it even if the journal if open access. They still use the 
secondary services, at least for SDI--but they will use the most 
effective and easiest, and it already seems clear that they are 
unlikely to ne the traditional ones.

This leaves publishers in a quandary, for they are now necessary 
only for the support of peer review--they are no longer necessary 
in any sense for distribution, and apparently scientists are 
prepared to forgo the benefits of copyediting. Thus they rely on 
the need to manage peer-review. Open access is compatible with 
peer review, which can surely be organized more cheaply that 
commercial publishers do. Thus they continue to proclaim the 
importance of formal peer review--blithely ignoring that the 
analysis of all published studies indicates that there is no 
evidence supporting its effectiveness. (Jefferson, T. et al. 
Effects of Editorial Peer Review a Systematic Review. JAMA, 2000 
<http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/287/21/2784> ) (Not to 
mention less formal evidence known to all newspaper readers since 

No librarian can cancel journals like PNAS without faculty 
consent. Perhaps we have now seen why the consent seems to be 
easily obtainable.

The only remaining role of a publisher is to preside over a dying 

David Goodman, Ph.D., M.L.S.

----- Original Message -----
From: Joseph Esposito <espositoj@gmail.com>
Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2006 7:04 pm
Subject: Re: Study Identifies Factors That Could Lead to Cancelled Subscriptions
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu

> I am inclined to think that Professor Harnad has "the question" 
> wrong. It is not to seek evidence that is irrelevant; it is for 
> the managers to pursue the interests of the ownership of their 
> publications.  The evidence is irrelevant because (a) decisions 
> will be made (have to be made) before the evidence comes in, 
> which is why we associate the word "risk" with investment; and 
> (b) even if the evidence unequivocally demonstrated that OA 
> does not result in a decline of subscriptions, the management 
> of a publication may determine that OA is still not in the 
> interest of their ownership.  For example, the publisher may 
> begin to market back issues separately for an incremental fee. 
> There is in fact no situation that I can think of where a 
> toll-access publication can ever benefit from any form of OA 
> beyond limited product-sampling. Thus for the publisher of such 
> a journal to have some portion of the publication become OA is 
> a breach of fiduciary duty.
> There are, however, circumstances that are wholly appropriate 
> for OA. Examples of these are BioMedCentral and the Public 
> Library of Science, which have established revenue models that 
> absolutely require that their publications be OA.  Whether 
> these models will be sustainable long-term remains to be seen, 
> but I for one am rooting for them.  For these models the 
> principal beneficiary of a publication is the author (who thus 
> pays), not the reader (hence OA).  It is my view that the 
> long-term future of academic research publishing will be a 
> sophisticated extension of what BMC is doing today.  (BMC may 
> or may not make it to that future point, but it is showing the 
> way.)
> The one form of OA that benefits no one and should not be 
> supported by any responsible individual is so-called 
> self-archiving, which I prefer to call informal publishing. 
> The problem with informal publishing is that it cheats:  it 
> wants the infrastructure of the formal publication without the 
> attendant costs and responsibilities.  If the formal 
> publication were to disappear, could the informal publication 
> (that is, an editorially similar, if not identical, version of 
> the formally published article) exist?  I think not.  This is 
> parasitic publishing.
> Unfortunately, this form of OA adds to costs in the form of 
> institutional repositories (an emerging budget item for more 
> and more libraries) and in evolving services whose objective is 
> to identify the authorized version of an article when a 
> multitude may be strewn across the Internet.
> So, OA, yes; toll-access, yes; but self-archiving, no.
> Joe Esposito