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Re: Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Critique of PRC

On 23/05/07, Phil Davis <pmd8@cornell.edu> wrote:

The economic analysis of subscription versus author-pays model was first calculated for the Cornell University Library, and then generalized for 113 Association of Research Libraries. The second link provides a spreadsheet where basic assumptions for the calculations can be modified. There was considerable debate on liblicense when these reports came out. To avoid redundancy on this list, readers are directed to view those posts.

http://hdl.handle.net/1813/193 [Cornell Library Report, p.26]

http://hdl.handle.net/1813/236 [ARL calculation spreadsheet]
Clearly there are two aspects here: one is funding and another is the author's self-interest in promoting his/her research i.e. through citation impact. I support open access because of its broad goals of providing toll-free access to a large number of audience very righteously. But my points of contention are not the goal, but the ways of achieving it. The way open access model is designed and being practiced is not very convincing for me.

For instance, I have gone through report Phil Davis cited on open access implementation in Cornell and various other research findings. The author's motivation for submitting preprint in IR is very little - one can not at least at the initial stage predict and hope for the possible citation impact. Or, for that matter, authors in most cases, would give citation impact of the journal article a low priority, the greater priority is to disseminate research findings to fellow colleagues who are doing similar research in home or abroad. But in many cases, this is being done through informal communities of practice and close-group research scientists often share internally their research articles - preprint, post-print, all versions. IR and open archive may not be very helpful or unhelpful in that practice.

The question is - are the open archive and IRs best ways to promoting access to the research findings. Researchers and librarians find particular research articles using a wide variety of tools, most important among those are indexes and abstracts, not the google. Now, a typical open access or closed-access journal will have multiple authors and those authors will publish their preprints (and in some cases post-prints) in a wide variety of IRs and open archives, located and indexed in their own institutional repositories.

The problem obviously does not arise in the case purely open access journals, wherein all the articles are kept in the OA journals site itself and there is no need for the users to locate the pre-print version of the journal articles.

But in the case of journal with open access mandate that allow authors to submit their preprints or post-prints in their IRs, we can not guarantee that the article will be submitted in IRs. This proposition is not hypothetical either - consider these optional open access journals being published by Oxford Journals - http://www.oxfordjournals.org/oxfordopen/. I am wondering if anybody of us could locate the pre/post-print versions of the articles published here in the IRs of the authors. I could not do this.

That means, from a purely methodological point of view, it is not the appropriate way for the institutions to maintain their IRs and mandating the authors to deposit their pre/post-print copies. This may or may not happen. But we are here talking about a notion of guaranteed access to the most important articles by a researcher on the web. If there is no guarantee that a researcher would not be able to access at least a pre-print copy of the research article, then the very purpose of the OA is defeated. The researchers then obviously has to rely on the subscription based databases, which in the midst of urgent need can supply the required article.

This does not do justice to

1. business model (be it author-payee or subscription based)

2. access and citation impact.

For the purpose of taking advantages of both these objectives, there are two options - either a journal would be fully open access, meaning all costs and processes would be managed by the journal publisher or it has to be closed access. The apparent solution to find the relevant article might be to give the link to the IRs from the open access mandated journal articles, but if publishers agree to do that, there is no point in making it a subscription-based model. And if journal publishers are agreed to give the links to IR deposits, there is no need to maintain a separate IRs by the institutions themselves, as publishers will not see any business in making the final version available for sale.

-- Atanu Garai Globethics.net