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RE: Summary paper from the Publishing Research Consortium

It is interesting that the publication of a condensed version of 
'Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Co-existence or 
Competition?' has received a repeat of the criticisms of the 
original, completely disregarding the clarifications that 
appeared on this list shortly afterwards. I apologise that I do 
not maintain a link to the previous response on my web site and 
so have to simply paste in the reply made at that time below.

> For those who may have forgotten, here also is the critique of 
> (the long version of) that study:
>      Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Critique of PRC Study
>      http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/162-guid.html
>      http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/5795.html

This is what was posted in response to this criticism in November

Response from Simon Inger and Chris Beckett.

Stevan Harnad, in his posting of 13th November to the American 
Scientist Open Access Forum list and copied to several others, 
raised a number of issues with our recently published, aforenamed 
research, which we felt should be addressed and clarified.

Stevan focuses his criticism on five main points:

1. The methodology deployed and the entire point of conducting a
    conjoint survey at all
2. Whether or not OA can be considered a product in any meaningful
3. The issue of bias
4. The statement of apparently obvious or banal findings
5. The validity of inferring cancellation behaviour from the findings

Let's discuss these in order:

1. We decided to undertake a conjoint survey because we felt that 
other attitudinal surveys of what future intentions might be were 
highly prone to being bogged down exactly because surveyees were 
asked in absolute terms to what extent they would like one 
scenario, and then another, without ever asking them to choose 
between them. A survey that asks people if they like steak to 
eat, and then asks if they like chicken to eat, is not as 
powerful as a survey that asks them to choose between steak and 
chicken. Bring in another variable, such as, "how well done do 
you like your meat?" and you get a very different answer 
depending on whether the surveyee preferred steak or chicken in 
the first place. By combining these factors with others through a 
conjoint survey, you might just find out how bad the steak has to 
be before chicken tartare starts to command a market share! We 
hope this illustrates the whole purpose of the conjoint in 
applying it to the situation that publishing currently faces; it 
forces people to reveal the true underlying factors in their 
decision-making in a way that hasn't been done before.

2. Can articles in Open Access repositories be considered a 
product and one that librarians may select instead of journals? 
Absolutely they can. Is the issue here that they are free via OA, 
or that they are not organised and packaged? If we were to stand 
on a street corner and give away mobile phones, they would be 
every bit as much as a product as one you paid for in a shop. 
Would we cause some people not to go into the shop and buy a 
mobile - sure we would. Would some people not trust the mobile we 
gave them and buy one anyway - yes they would. Would some people 
use our mobiles as a spare and buy another anyway - yes they 
would do that too. A survey might tell you in what proportions 
people would undertake these actions. But you can be certain that 
at least some of the people would use the mobile we gave them and 
postpone or cancel the acquisition of a paid-for phone. So we 
believe that articles via OA, even though they are free, are 
still very much a product. So perhaps they should not be 
considered as a product because they are not organised into 
product-shaped offerings, like journals are. That may be so, for 
now, but at the same time we are aware of organisations that are 
building products which combine the power of OAIPMH (and the 
crawling power of Google); existing abstracting & indexing 
databases; publisher operated link servers; and library operated 
link servers: to build an organised route to OA materials - a 
route that would allow a non-subscriber of a journal article to 
be directed to the free OA repository version instead. Once these 
products exist we are sure our research indicates that *some* 
librarians at least will actually switch to OA versions for 
*some* of their information needs, while others will continue to 
purchase the journal product for a whole raft of reasons and 
others will provide, i.e. acquire, both options.

3. The whole Open Access debate evokes an emotional response from 
publishers, librarians and researchers on both sides of the 
debate. At the same time, so does the word "cancellation". For 
that matter, so does the phrase "serials crisis". We wanted to 
avoid using all of these phrases in the research so as not to 
cloud people's judgement in favour of their beliefs alone. This 
is one way of avoiding one type of bias. Specifically the type of 
bias we sought to eliminate was an emotional bias, not a bias for 
or against OA per se. It can be equally well argued that another 
survey should be done with these words actually mentioned. The 
results may well be different. But no more or less valid than 
ours - such a survey would be measuring a different thing. It is 
up to each individual reader of the report to decide which kind 
of response and hence survey they would prefer.

4. The critique states that some of the findings are obvious and 
banal. "The fact that everyone would like something for free 
rather than paying for it", for example. In fact the survey shows 
that not everyone would prefer that. Even in a completely like 
for like situation. Possibly because people are suspicious of 
free things. Much more important, however, is how the decision 
becomes qualified by other factors - *and to what extent* they 
are qualified. (Would you like free raw chicken for dinner or 
paid-for cooked chicken?) Look closely and the results show that 
the lure of "free" has only so much pulling power, and a 
combination of other factors pull more potently against it. So in 
themselves the importance of each of the attributes has limited 
value - it is in combination that their true meaning comes 

5. So, can we infer cancellation behaviour from the results? Yes, 
we can. Because it is unrealistic to expect that everyone that 
expresses a preference for acquiring a product that looks very 
much like content on OA repositories would still continue to 
acquire a paid-for version. Some will, of that we have very 
little doubt. But likewise some won't. To that end I think we 
*can infer cancellation will occur*. It may be after someone has 
provided an organisational layer on top of the repositories. It 
may be after improved librarian awareness of the alternative has 
occurred. And it may require way more than 15% of the material to 
be available on OA.