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Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence and Fruitful Collaboration

         ** Apologies for Cross-Posting **

On Tue, 12 Dec 2006, Sandy Thatcher wrote:

> coming new to this list...  as President-Elect of the AAUP 
> (Association of American University Presses) charged with 
> preparing a white paper on OA for the Association... [and] 
> [n]ot knowing what may have been discussed previously, I begin 
> by asking whether this list has focused any attention on the 
> relatively new study from the Publishing Research Consortium 
> titled "Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Co-existence 
> or Competition? An International Survey of Librarians' 
> Preferences" http://www.publishingresearch.org.uk

Dear Sandy, Welcome to the list and to your new post!

Everything you wrote in this opening message has been enlightened 
and constructive, and I think we may be on the verge of a new era 
of fruitful cooperation and collaboration between the research 
and publishing community.

Let me reply to the questions you addressed to me. There has 
indeed been previous discussion of the PRC study on this list.

This is Chris Beckett's response:
to my critique of the study:
and my reply to Chris's response:

The point of disagreement, in essence, was that one of the main 
objectives of the study had been to gather evidence on whether or 
not librarians will cancel journals as a consequence of author 
self-archiving (because there exists as yet no evidence at all 
that self-archiving causes cancellations, and, as you note, two 
publishers in the fields with the longest and most extensive 
self-archiving, APS and IOPP, have both reported that they can 
detect no correlation).

The PRC study tried to predict, via simulation and modeling, 
whether librarians would cancel if authors self-archived.

(1) The lesser point of my critique was that even asking 
librarians directly -- "Please predict how much of a journal's 
content would have to be available free via self-archiving to 
induce you to cancel it?" -- would have generated speculative 
guesses rather than evidence, because:

     (1a) There is no way to know how much of any particular journal's
     content is being self-archived, since author self-archiving is
     gradual, distributed and anarchic;

     (1b) mandates would not affect one journal's contents more than
     another's, so their effects would be global, not focussed on any
     individual journal, and

     (1c) no librarian can really know today what their research faculty
     would advise, hence what they would do, under gradual, uncertain,
     anarchic growth of self-archiving, and when.

(2) My more critical point was a methodological one, concerning 
the indirect hypothetical choices and modeling used: To avoid 
bias (by mentioning either self-archiving or open access), the 
survey asked librarians for their preferences among various 
hypothetical competing journals with various hypothetical 
properties (among them: being free), and then used a model to 
extrapolate this to predict cancellations. This method actually 
made it impossible even to infer what librarians speculated they 
might do under the distributed anarchic conditions described 
above, because, as noted, no such journal-vs-journal information 
or options would ever be available to librarians: self-archiving 
does not grow on an individual journal-vs-journal basis, but on a 
global, distributed, anarchic, individual-article basis. The 
librarian's choice is hence never between cancelling a free 
journal in favour of another journal. (This sort of reasoning 
does fit gold OA journals, but it does not fit green OA 
self-archiving of individual articles by individual authors.)

Journals are acquired or cancelled on a comparative/competitive 
basis. Individual articles -- self-archived globally and 
anarchically by their individual authors across all journals -- 
are not the comparative/competitive journal 
acquisition/cancellation options that are familiar to 
acquisitions librarians, and that the PRC study was trying to 
simulate, and from which the model was trying to make predictions 
about the conditions that would cause cancellations. The model 
works for simulating actual comparative journal choices, but it 
fails for the special case of anarchic article self-archiving.

Hence the survey did not provide the evidence that still does not 
exist today: that self-archiving will cause cancellations.

Let me add, though, that I personally do believe that global 
self-archiving will eventually lead to cancellation pressure, but 
no one knows how much or when, as it will depend on how quickly 
global self-archiving and self-archiving mandates will grow. I 
must also add, though, that I do not believe that this likelihood 
of eventual cancellation pressure is any grounds for not 
self-archiving now, or for not mandating self-archiving now. 
Self-archiving brings substantial demonstrated benefits to 
research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the 
tax-paying public that funds the funders and institutions. Hence 
OA is optimal and inevitable for research (and already long 
overdue!), it is therefore publishing that will need to adapt to 
any eventual cancellation pressure that might arise from OA 
self-archiving; and publishing can, and will successfully adapt: 

> Another very interesting finding for me is that librarians care 
> a lot that the material is peer-reviewed but care very little 
> whether they have access to the final published version.

Yes. In fact that was the one substantive finding of the study. 
But the same considerations (about global anarchic growth) apply 
either way (whether the self-archived draft is the author's 
postprint or the publisher's PDF).

> Librarians seem to place little or no value on the final 
> processing of manuscripts after acceptance, which should be an 
> eye-opener to publishers

Yes! It might be a region in which costs could already be cut, 
even before any cancellation pressure is felt.

> Once we publishers think something is going to happen, we will 
> act on those beliefs if they seem to be firmly supported, by 
> such studies as the PRC's... behaviors will start to change 
> based on beliefs, however erroneous they may be.

I am not sure what publishers are contemplating doing, but it 
seems to me that self-archiving and self-archiving mandates are 
in the hands of researchers, their institutions and their 
funders. So cooperating and adapting to this OA-age new reality 
would, I think, be the optimal strategy.

     Berners-Lee, T., De Roure, D., Harnad, S. and Shadbolt, N.  (2005)
     Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence
     and Fruitful Collaboration.

> (By the way, the PRC study directly confronts the "evidence" of 
> the physics preprint archive not affecting cancellations of 
> physics journals, by pointing out that the archive combines 
> peer-reviewed and not peer-reviewed materials, thus making it 
> less than fully reliable as a source of completely 
> authenticated work in the field.)

Indeed. And the same will be true of the global network of 
Institutional Repositories: They too will contain preprints as 
well as postprints too.

> I think the tipping phenomenon, which we know already to have 
> shown itself operative in this arena when e-journals came to 
> displace print journals as the main product in the marketplace 
> (rather more quickly than many people anticipated), is 
> extremely important to keep in mind here. This is what I see as 
> a real possibility: enough of the major commercial journal 
> publishers in an ever more consolidated market (after the 
> purchase of Blackwell by Wiley) become convinced that their 
> subscriptions will erode seriously (if, say, the FRPAA becomes 
> law) and therefore decide to abandon the arena of STM journal 
> publishing because they cannot sustain the expected profit 
> margins under the new regime (as outlined by Dr. Harnad).

As always, if a publisher decides to abandon a journal title, it 
can migrate to another publisher. There are now a growing number 
of new gold OA publishers, ready and willing to take over 
established titles (and to scale down to whatever there is still 
a market for, in the OA era).

But, to repeat, the growth of green OA via self-archiving is 
anarchic, not based on individual journals separately approaching 
100% OA, so the "tipping point" is a global one, and still far 
away, and will approach gradually, so journals can adapt by 
phasing out goods and services for which there is no longer a 
market. There will always be a market for peer-review service 
provision. (And I wouldn't write off the market for the print 
edition, or even the publisher's enhanced PDF and copy-editing 
just yet!)

Sandy, I actually think you answer this question yourself, with:

     "I long ago predicted that university press journals would migrate
     to the electronic environment [and that it] was therefore much
     more possible, and more likely, that journals could spring up online
     without the support of publishers, if they went OA and did not have to
     bother about the complications of outsourcing printing and handling
     subscription fulfilment. (And a journal only has to be designed
     once, and the template followed thereafter, while marketing takes
     care of itself if the journal is aimed at a niche community anyway.)"

> This could all happen very quickly, as "tipping" phenomena 
> generally do. Where would that scenario leave the academy? With 
> several thousand journals suddenly left to fend for themselves!

Nothing sudden. And plenty of flexible ways to fend, in the 
portable online age!

> the infrastructure of universities today is simply not 
> prepared, in any shape or form, to deal with that "crisis" and 
> find some way of sustaining those journals.

There is no evidence at all for such an impending crisis, just as 
there is as yet no evidence of self-archiving causing 

> Self-publishing would then proliferate, and chaos would ensue 
> for some time to come. Are librarians prepared to deal with the 
> consequences?

It's not up to librarians but to researchers. (And I'm afraid I 
have to say this sounds like hypothetical alarmism, rather than 
evidence-based reasoning and planning.)

> I do not depict this nightmare scenario in order to defend the 
> existing system... But I do think university faculty, 
> administrators, and librarians need to think through these 
> issues and possible scenarios very carefully and "worst-case" 
> planning would probably be appropriate here.

I agree that cooperative planning for a possible eventual 
downsizing to peer-review service-provision alone and a 
transition to the OA cost-recovery model under cancellation 
pressure (and corresponding institutional windfall savings) would 
be an excellent idea -- and much more constructive than trying to 
wish away the proposed self-archiving mandates such as the FRPAA.

Please see:

     "The Urgent Need to Plan a Stable Transition" (began Sep 1998!)


     Berners-Lee, T., De Roure, D., Harnad, S. and Shadbolt, N. (2005)
     Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence
     and Fruitful Collaboration.

Best wishes,

Stevan Harnad