17.343 open access

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Mon Oct 27 2003 - 01:53:31 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 343.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: Stevan Harnad <harnad@ecs.soton.ac.uk> (97)
             Subject: Re: Open Access and Humanities Monographs

       [2] From: "Stefan Gradmann" <stefan.gradmann@rrz.uni- (48)
             Subject: AW: 17.339 Open Access and its implications for the

             Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2003 06:46:10 +0000
             From: Stevan Harnad <harnad@ecs.soton.ac.uk>
             Subject: Re: Open Access and Humanities Monographs

    I am redirecting this ongoing exchange to the Humanist, where I think it
    should be transpiring. Some replies below:

    On Sat, 25 Oct 2003, James J. O'Donnell wrote:

    > 1. What is the nature and quality of the evidence for what I take to be
    > the implicit assumption, that there is humanistic monograph literature
    > that is now not reaching its desired audience? What literature is not
    > reaching whom? Knowing that would help calibrate how large an effort
    > is needed and where to exercise leverage and who would pay the costs.

    There is no evidence I know of in the case of monographs, just
    overwhelming evidence in the case of journal articles. You are right
    that it is merely an *assumption* that, as with journal-articles, not
    all would-be users of monographs have access.

    We can all be sure this assumption is valid , but Jim is right to ask
    whether it is as widespread and pressing a problem as access to the
    refereed journal literature is. I do not know, but I do have a hunch (and
    a bet): If and when the connection between access and impact is made as
    clear to monograph-authors as it already is to article-authors, there
    will be a good deal more demand for open access by monograph authors:

    Books remain, however, bigger and costlier texts than articles,
    and are often not written solely or even primarily, for the
    sake of research impact but also for the sake of royalty income:

          Harnad, S., Varian, H. & Parks, R. (2000) Academic
          publishing in the online era: What Will Be For-Fee And
          What Will Be For-Free? Culture Machine 2 (Online Journal)

    And whereas it is clear that the only essential function PostGutenberg
    peer-reviewed journal publishers perform is peer review, which can be
    funded easily out of the toll-savings, it is not clear that this is also
    true of monographs; nor is it clear that we can yet do without the paper
    edition and patina, in the case of monographs.

    It would be a *huge* disservice to the open-and-shut case for
    open-access to the refereed journal literature to co-bundle it with the
    more equivocal case of the monograph literature, for then we are on the
    slippery slope to the entire book literature, most of which is most
    definitely *not* interested in renouncing royalties! That is why I am
    keeping this discussion on Humanist and not piping it to the open-access
    lists that are concerned with the refereed journal literature.

    > 2. University presses fear for their lives as sales drop. Would
    > open access further damage their position?

    Yes and no. It would cut revenues, but it would also make it possible to
    cut costs. Moreover, if there is truth to the widespread view that the
    print edition is still essential for monographs, there is no reason why
    the open-access online-only version should not serve merely as a
    parallel mode of access for the have-nots, rather than a replacement for
    the haves.

    It is undeniable, though, that some risk is entailed in making texts
    open-access online. That is why I suggested that authors' institutions
    might wish to make their own calculations on the value of maximizing
    impact, and might subsidize the costs of hybrid publication (online
    edition for-free, on-paper edition for-fee) to counterbalance the risks
    and losses for publishers.

    > It would be ironic and,
    > by some at least, deplored if the open access movement that began,
    > at least, to lubricate the movement of work impeded by the control of
    > large for-profit publishers should turn out to be bad news sooner for
    > small not-for-profits.

    The wake-up call about the access-problem came from libraries groaning
    under the yoke of rising journal costs, but it is a *great* mistake
    to imagine that (for the journal literature, at any rate) open-access is
    solely or primarily needed so as to save money for libraries or to drive
    down overpriced journals! For the fact is this: *Any* access-barrier
    is too high for give-away texts, written solely for impact, once it is
    no longer *necessary*. Fro as long as the toll is non-zero, there will
    always be would-be users whose institutions cannot afford it.

    We do not publish our refereed research in order to keep nonprofit
    publishers in business. We publish our research to maximize its impact
    (uptake, usage, applications, citations). In the Gutenberg era the only
    way we could have any impact *at all* was by reconciling ourselves to
    access-barriers to our give-away work, so the publishers could cover
    their true and irreducible costs. Today, in the online era, those
    costs are reducible to near-zero. (Peer-review costs are the only ones
    that remain, and the toll-savings will be more than enough to cover them
    several times over, on the input end.)

    This is true for journal articles: Is it true for monographs?

    For journal articles it is also true that no researcher, once made aware
    of the causal connection between access and impact) will be willing
    to go on knowingly subsidizing his Learned Society publisher's "good
    works" (funding meetings, scholarships, lobbying) with his own (i.e.,
    the researcher's) lost impact! Let the good-works find some other way
    to fund themselves!

    Is this true of monograph authors and publishers too? I don't know.

    > The risk there is that scholars who *need* that
    > univ. press blessing for their tenure would lose out and the flourishing
    > of scholarship thereby harmed.

    This I *know* is not the case, for here the journal-analogy is a
    homology: What gives the journal the tenure-value it has is the
    journal's track-record for its refereeing quality standards and
    impact factor. These are medium-independent (and of course also
    cost-recovery-model-independent!) and stand only to gain from maximizing
    access and hence impact through open access. Quality-control and
    certification can be paid for at the input end; no need for access
    barriers to assess and maintain that quality.

    Stevan Harnad

             Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2003 06:46:57 +0000
             From: "Stefan Gradmann" <stefan.gradmann@rrz.uni-hamburg.de>
             Subject: AW: 17.339 Open Access and its implications for the

    Dear colleagues,

    Stevan's reaction ("I *completely* disagree!") has made me think and after
    all made me aware of a point I had a tendency to neglect until now: of
    course we should be very careful not to use the "online-is-nonoptimal"
    argument "in a self-paralyc manner" and "as a rationalization for inaction".
    And even though I had no intention to make it sound that way I do realize
    that the argument may be perceived that way, and maybe the risk of this
    happening is much higher among the "non-hermeneuticists and
    non-semioticians" :-)

    Seriously: we probably should remind ourselves more often of the cultural
    differences of reasoning among the humanists and the 'hard science'
    colleagues. These differences not only engender different traditions of
    knowledge organization and of information transfer (hence the
    online-is-nonoptimal argument!) but also different reading reflexes and
    habits. Willard has mentioned this earlier: many of us humanists tend to
    dislike simple truths, since these are not "interesting" and we often assume
    that the really "interesting" things are complicated (and some of us then
    make the mistake of inverting this argument and to assume that complication
    in itself is interesting), whereas many of the 'hard science' people to some
    extent seek simplification or even frankly love it. This statement is of
    course a simplification in itself and it should be very clear that seeking
    simplification does not necessarily mean being simplistic - but it eplains
    why Stevan's answer to our wrapped up reasoning is "a black and white

    I am convinced that both paradigms are needed, the 'complex' and the
    'binary', the reasonings built on 'difference' and on 'identity'
    respectively. And we always need to remember the respective opposite more
    consequently: this is what Stevan's reaction has reminded me of.

    There is, however, a balance of power implied here, and that's where things
    get nasty: simplifications are quickly embraced by politicians, too, and
    more than often are turned into frankly simplistic constructs in that
    context. And these people *hate* complications, which only cost them time
    and energy that is needed for useful, pragmatic action (here again I am
    simplifying, of course) And the consequence is that in practice only the
    'binary' paradigm is present and effective in the Open Access discussion
    context, and that the 'complex' one has huge problems to make itself heard
    at all - and then most often is considered 'unuseful' and quickly discarded

    And that's a pity!

    Kind regards from wet & cloudy Hamburg -- Stefan Gradmann

    Dr. Stefan Gradmann / Virtuelle Campusbibliothek
    Regionales Rechenzentrum der Universität Hamburg
    Schlüterstr. 70, D-20146 Hamburg
    Tel.: +49 (0)40 42838 3093
    Fax.: +49 (0)40 42838 3284
    GSM : +49 (0)170 8352623
    E-Mail: stefan.gradmann@rrz.uni-hamburg.de

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