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[BOAI] Re: Public Access to Science Act (Sabo Bill, H.R. 2613)
From: Stevan Harnad <harnad AT ecs.soton.ac.uk>
[I liked Peter Suber's paper on "The taxpayer argument for open access." https://mx2.arl.org/Lists/SPARC-OANews/Message/97.html The following was written earlier, after I saw his draft, but Peter asked me to wait till his paper appeared before posting mine. Our positions agree, and differ only slightly in emphasis.] Public Access vs. Public Domain Stevan Harnad (1) HEALTH RESEARCH VS. ALL OTHER KINDS OF RESEARCH The tax-paying patient-rights argument for toll-free access to research is a good one for health-related research, but it does not generalize to other research -- and hence risks inducing the (incorrect) conclusion that health-related funded-research is the only special case that needs toll-free access! It is accordingly important to immunize against all such narrow interpretations of the case for toll-free access from the outset, by coupling the health/tax-payer rationale for toll-free access with the other, more general toll-free-access rationales, pre-emptively. The most general rationale is that toll-free access to research is best for research itself. Blocking research access blocks research uptake and usage, thereby blocking the pace, progress, productivity, and impact of research, in every field. It has to be made very clear that open access is as much about hadrons (and Hadrian!) as it is about health! Health just serves to drive the point home, because the connection between research progress and our health is so transparent, vital and close to where we all live. But if the rest of scientific and scholarly research too is worth doing (and funding), and not just health-related research, then it *all* needs toll-free access just as much as health research does. (2) TAX-PAYER ACCESS VS. RESEARCHER ACCESS The tax-payer argument for toll-free access to research in general (rather than just to health research in particular) should not be cast solely, or even primarily, in the form of toll-free research-access for tax-payers! It should be cast primarily in the form of toll-free research-access for researchers: Researchers are funded by tax-payers to conduct research because of the potential benefits of research progress to tax-payers. Those benefits do not consist of the tax-payer's freedom to read the research results! Most tax-payers will have no interest in reading research results. Their interest is in the potential *application* of research results -- technological, medical, commercial and cultural -- to the improvement of their lives. The primary readers and users of research are researchers, and the benefits to tax-payers of giving researchers toll-free access to one another's research are exactly the same as the benefits to tax-payers of funding the conduct of the research itself: Research is interactive, collaborative, collective, cumulative. Maximizing researchers' access to research results maximizes research progress and productivity and thereby maximizes the probability of eventual applications, and hence of eventual direct benefits to the tax-payer. Access-denial (the current subscription/license toll-based status quo) has the exact opposite effect. It blocks researchers' access to one another's research. Researchers can only access and use the research for which their own institution can afford the access tolls. No institution can afford access to all or even most published research. Most institutions can afford only a small and shrinking fraction of it. Hence all research is effectively inaccessible to most researchers. All that potential research usage and progress is currently being lost, daily. That is why it is in tax-payers' (and research funders') interests to make all research accessible toll-free to all potential users (worldwide). (3) PUBLISHING IN OPEN-ACCESS JOURNALS (THE 5% SOLUTION) VS. SELF-ARCHIVING TOLL-ACCESS PUBLICATIONS IN OPEN-ACCESS ARCHIVES (THE 95% SOLUTION) But the appeal and the emphasis should not be unduly focussed on the tax-payer either. Researchers themselves are the ones that most need to be targeted. It is critically important to stress that whereas, with help from the tax-payer and from funding agencies, it is possible to help cover the costs of publishing in open-access journals, there are still very few open-access journals in existence today (500 journals, according to http://www.doaj.org/ ), relative to the amount of research that is published annually (24,000 journals according to http://www.ulrichsweb.com/ulrichsweb/analysis/ ). This demographic fact and its consequences must be stated very explicitly and they must also be understood clearly: If the 5%/95% figure is not stated and understood, it is certain that most people will draw the erroneous and counterproductive conclusion that publishing research in open-access journals is the fastest, most direct (perhaps even the only) way for researchers to provide toll-free access to their research today. But this is far from being the case. Open-access journals exist for only 5% of annual research output today. Hence publishing in (and covering the costs of) open-access journals is only the 5% solution for refereed research publication and access today. The other 95% of research can only be published in toll-access journals today. Hence researchers self-archiving their own toll-access journal publications in their own institutions' open-access archives is the solution for the remaining 95%. This too must be strongly encouraged by the tax-payer and the research-funder, not just the 5% solution. The complementarity as well as the relative scope of the two means of attaining open access must be clearly understood if we are to reach the optimal and inevitable outcome of toll-free access to 100% of the refereed research literature now rather than decades hence. (4) "PUBLISH (WITH MAXIMIZED ACCESS/IMPACT) OR PERISH" Last, there is a limit to how much the government, the research-funder, and the tax-payer can do through funding and legislation. The traditional institutional carrot/stick mandate that researchers must "publish or perish" must now be extended to mandating that they "publish with maximized access/impact" (i.e., open access) so as to help bring it home to researchers that it is in their own interest to make their research accessible toll-free for all potential users. The optimal dual strategy is hence: (i) Wherever a suitable open-access journal for you to publish your research in exists today (c. 5%), publish it there, today. (ii) For the rest of your research (c. 95%), for which a suitable open-access journal does not exist today, publish it in your preferred toll-access journal, but also self-archive it in your institutional toll-free access archive, today. http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue35/harnad/ (5) PUBLIC ACCESS VS. PUBLIC DOMAIN The Public Access to Science Act (Sabo Bill, HR 2613) (PASA) rightly invokes the taxpayer argument in support of open access to (funded) research. However, the *means* by which PASA proposes to provide open access is far more radical and confrontational than necessary -- and the reason is that the Bill's proponents clearly had only the 5% solution in mind in proposing it, as if that were the only possible solution. All that is needed to serve all the needs of researchers, research, and tax-payers is open access -- that is, immediate, permanent, free, online access to the full-text of every research journal article. To attain this, it is not necessary that all authors and publishers renounce copyright protection for all those texts. It is only necessary that *someone* provide open access to them! Open-access journals do that, but they represent less than 5% of the 24,000 journals there are. What about the rest? All that the PASA need mandate is that all journal articles based on funded research must be made openly accessible. To comply with this, neither the author nor the publisher needs to renounce copyright protection for those articles. The journal must simple allow the author to self-archive them, in his own institutional open-access archive -- as 55% of the journals sampled already do officially (and many others will agree to do if asked on a per-article basis): http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ls/disresearch/romeo/Romeo%20Publisher%20Policies.htm And even for the few journals that might refuse, the author has a legal alternative that is almost as simple, and effectively provides the open access anyway: self-archive the unrefereed preprint plus the corrections. http://www.eprints.org/self-faq/#publisher-forbids PASA could help bring the 55% figure to the 95% needed (together with the open-access journals' 5%) to make the entire research journal literature 100% open-access -- by simply mandating open access itself. By needlessly mandating more -- the renunciation of copyright (forcing authors not only to seek a journal that will accept those terms, instead of the journal they might have preferred, but also putting their texts at risk of being plagiarized or corrupted) -- PASA would needlessly elicit opposition from publishers and authors alike. The tax-payer is best served if the access to (and hence the usage and impact of) tax-funded research is maximized by requiring that its full-texts must be made openly accessible online to all would-be users, everywhere. There is no need whatsoever for those texts to be put into the public domain in order to obtain that universal benefit. Stevan Harnad NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 ↵ & 03): http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september98-forum.html or http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/index.html Discussion can be posted to: september98-forum AT amsci-forum.amsci.org
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