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RE: Summary paper from the Publishing Research Consortium


I would like to make two observations here, one anecdotal and the 
other the key reason that I believe cancellations have yet to 
occur in numbers:

1. The anecdotal one is that since the New Year I have spoken to 
two publishers with a rolling free archive policy both of which 
are reviewing their embargo periods because of (a) perceived 
cancellations and (b) a perceived brake on their growth in "new 
territories". I will be interested to see as and when anyone is 
willing to go on record with these observations.

2. I personally believe that one of the key issues around 
potential cancellation is that there simply isn't a product out 
there that organises OA content in a way that librarians could 
see it (OA) as a viable substitute. [The survey actually asked 
responding librarians to assume that access to content was always 
via an organised and structured route.] Having to search for OA 
versions of articles in Google is no substitute for the organised 
access to content offered through library and agent gateways or 
major abstracting and indexing databases. It may be good enough 
for the researcher expert in her field, but I don't think 
librarians perceive it that way. And certainly not for a less 
expert audience. Of course in time someone will offer up such an 
organised layer, at which point I am quite confident 
cancellations will become more prevalent.

Given these two points I think you'll agree that the research is 
far from being shown as "flawed". It remains consistent with your 


> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu [mailto:owner-liblicense-
> l@lists.yale.edu] On Behalf Of David Prosser
> Sent: 20 March 2007 21:47
> To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
> Subject: RE: Summary paper from the Publishing Research Consortium
> The Beckett and Inger paper 'Self-Archiving and Journal
> Subscriptions: Co-existence or Competition?' gives us a
> hypothesis (p. 11 of the summary paper):
> 'In the extreme case of 100% availability of content on the
> institutional archives and a 24-month embargo, still nearly half
> the market for subscription journals has disappeared.'
> So, if 100% of the journal's content is freely available the
> journal will, all other factors being equal, lose a massive
> proportion of its subscription base.  Decreasing the embargo to
> zero increases the predicted fall in the market from 50% to
> approximately 70%.
> Can we test this hypothesis?  If we look at journals hosted by
> HighWire Press we can see that a large number make papers freely
> available after 6, 12, or 24 months (see
> http://highwire.stanford.edu/lists/freeart.dtl). For these
> journals, the final versions of papers are made available to all.
> If the prediction made by Beckett and Inger was true then these
> journals should have started to haemorrhaging subscriptions
> following the opening-up of the archives.  Is there any evidence
> that they have?
> Back in 2005, John Sack wrote, in a history of HighWire Press
> (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/alpsp/lp/2005/00000018/00000002/art
> 00008)
> After several years of content was online, Nick Cozzarelli
> (PNAS), Bob Simoni (JBC) and Michael Held (Rockefeller University
> Press) presented a concept of 'free back issues' to their
> colleague HighWire publishers. Their view was that librarians and
> researchers were subscribing because they needed access to
> absolutely current issues, and that there was significant
> educational benefit in issues that were months old. They proposed
> that back issues (6 or 12 months old) be made freely available to
> the public to support educational uses, and expected that this
> would have no significant effect on subscription count. Gradually
> more and more journals came to this same belief, and today the
> programme comprises the largest archive of free full-text
> research articles that we know of: over 825,000 articles from
> about 220 journals.
> There does not appear to be a mass retreat from the free back
> file programme - are publisher sanguine in the face of 50%
> declines in their subscription base?
> Of course, most of the HighWire hosted journals offering free
> backfiles are in the biological and medical fields, but as the
> summary does not break-down the response of librarians by subject
> area, it is difficult to tell what predictions are being made in
> these fields.
> So, we have a hypothesis and we have some test-cases. If the
> HighWire-hosted journals are managing to survive despite the
> predicted massive falls in subscriptions they should have
> experience, why should we take the Beckett and Inger study as a
> credible warning of what might happen as self-archiving become
> more widespread?
> David C Prosser PhD
> Director
> SPARC Europe
> E-mail:  david.prosser@bodley.ox.ac.uk
> http://www.sparceurope.org