(Previous discussion continued)
Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence and Fruitful Collaboration Stevan Harnad 13 Dec 2006 14:58 UTC

Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence and Fruitful Collaboration Stevan Harnad 13 Dec 2006 14:58 UTC

        ** Apologies for Cross-Posting **

On Tue, 12 Dec 2006, Sandy Thatcher wrote:

> coming new to this list...  as President-Elect of the AAUP (Association
> of American University Presses) charged with preparing a white paper
> on OA for the Association... [and] [n]ot knowing what may
> have been discussed previously, I begin by asking whether this list has
> focused any attention on the relatively new study from the Publishing
> Research Consortium titled "Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions:
> Co-existence or Competition? An International Survey of Librarians'
> Preferences" http://www.publishingresearch.org.uk

Dear Sandy,

Welcome to the list and to your new post!

Everything you wrote in this opening message has been enlightened
and constructive, and I think we may be on the verge of a new era
of fruitful cooperation and collaboration between the research and
publishing community.

Let me reply to the questions you addressed to me. There has indeed
been previous discussion of the PRC study on this list.

This is Chris Beckett's response:
to my critique of the study:
and my reply to Chris's response:

The point of disagreement, in essence, was that one of the main objectives
of the study had been to gather evidence on whether or not librarians
will cancel journals as a consequence of author self-archiving
(because there exists as yet no evidence at all that self-archiving
causes cancellations, and, as you note, two publishers in the fields
with the longest and most extensive self-archiving, APS and IOPP, have
both reported that they can detect no correlation).

The PRC study tried to predict, via simulation and modeling, whether
librarians would cancel if authors self-archived.

(1) The lesser point of my critique was that even asking librarians
directly -- "Please predict how much of a journal's content would have to
be available free via self-archiving to induce you to cancel it?" -- would
have generated speculative guesses rather than evidence, because:

    (1a) There is no way to know how much of any particular journal's
    content is being self-archived, since author self-archiving is
    gradual, distributed and anarchic;

    (1b) mandates would not affect one journal's contents more than
    another's, so their effects would be global, not focussed on any
    individual journal, and

    (1c) no librarian can really know today what their research faculty
    would advise, hence what they would do, under gradual, uncertain,
    anarchic growth of self-archiving, and when.

(2) My more critical point was a methodological one, concerning the
indirect hypothetical choices and modeling used: To avoid bias (by
mentioning either self-archiving or open access), the survey asked
librarians for their preferences among various hypothetical competing
journals with various hypothetical properties (among them: being free),
and then used a model to extrapolate this to predict cancellations. This
method actually made it impossible even to infer what librarians
speculated they might do under the distributed anarchic conditions
described above, because, as noted, no such journal-vs-journal information
or options would ever be available to librarians: self-archiving does
not grow on an individual journal-vs-journal basis, but on a global,
distributed, anarchic, individual-article basis. The librarian's choice
is hence never between cancelling a free journal in favour of another
journal. (This sort of reasoning does fit gold OA journals, but it does
not fit green OA self-archiving of individual articles by individual

Journals are acquired or cancelled on a comparative/competitive
basis. Individual articles -- self-archived globally and anarchically
by their individual authors across all journals -- are not the
comparative/competitive journal acquisition/cancellation options that
are familiar to acquisitions librarians, and that the PRC study was trying
to simulate, and from which the model was trying to make predictions
about the conditions that would cause cancellations. The model works
for simulating actual comparative journal choices, but it fails for the
special case of anarchic article self-archiving.

Hence the survey did not provide the evidence that still does not exist
today: that self-archiving will cause cancellations.

Let me add, though, that I personally do believe that global
self-archiving will eventually lead to cancellation pressure, but no
one knows how much or when, as it will depend on how quickly global
self-archiving and self-archiving mandates will grow. I must also
add, though, that I do not believe that this likelihood of eventual
cancellation pressure is any grounds for not self-archiving now,
or for not mandating self-archiving now. Self-archiving brings
substantial demonstrated benefits to research, researchers,
their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public that funds
the funders and institutions. Hence OA is optimal and inevitable for
research (and already long overdue!), it is therefore publishing that
will need to adapt to any eventual cancellation pressure that might arise
from OA self-archiving; and publishing can, and will successfully adapt:

> Another very interesting finding for me
> is that librarians care a lot
> that the material is peer-reviewed but care very little whether
> they have access to the final published version.

Yes. In fact that was the one substantive finding of the study.
But the same considerations (about global anarchic growth) apply
either way (whether the self-archived draft is the author's postprint or
the publisher's PDF).

> Librarians seem to place little or no value on the
> final processing of manuscripts after acceptance, which should be
> an eye-opener to publishers

Yes! It might be a region in which costs could already be cut, even
before any cancellation pressure is felt.

> Once we publishers think something is going to happen, we will act on
> those beliefs if they seem to be firmly supported, by such studies as
> the PRC's... behaviors will start to change based on beliefs, however
> erroneous they may be.

I am not sure what publishers are contemplating doing, but it seems to
me that self-archiving and self-archiving mandates are in the hands of
researchers, their institutions and their funders. So cooperating and
adapting to this OA-age new reality would, I think, be the optimal strategy.

    Berners-Lee, T., De Roure, D., Harnad, S. and Shadbolt, N.  (2005)
    Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence
    and Fruitful Collaboration.

> (By the way, the PRC study directly confronts the "evidence"
> of the physics preprint archive not affecting cancellations of
> physics journals, by pointing out that the archive combines
> peer-reviewed and not peer-reviewed materials, thus making it
> less than fully reliable as a source of completely authenticated
> work in the field.)

Indeed. And the same will be true of the global network of Institutional
Repositories: They too will contain preprints as well as postprints too.

> I think the tipping phenomenon, which we know already to have
> shown itself operative in this arena when e-journals came to
> displace print journals as the main product in the marketplace
> (rather more quickly than many people anticipated), is extremely
> important to keep in mind here. This is what I see as a real
> possibility: enough of the major commercial journal publishers in
> an ever more consolidated market (after the purchase of Blackwell
> by Wiley) become convinced that their subscriptions will erode
> seriously (if, say, the FRPAA becomes law) and therefore decide
> to abandon the arena of STM journal publishing because they
> cannot sustain the expected profit margins under the new regime
> (as outlined by Dr. Harnad).

As always, if a publisher decides to abandon a journal title, it can
migrate to another publisher. There are now a growing number of new
gold OA publishers, ready and willing to take over established titles
(and to scale down to whatever there is still a market for, in the OA era).

But, to repeat, the growth of green OA via self-archiving is anarchic,
not based on individual journals separately approaching 100% OA, so the
"tipping point" is a global one, and still far away, and will approach
gradually, so journals can adapt by phasing out goods and services for
which there is no longer a market. There will always be a market for
peer-review service provision. (And I wouldn't write off the market for
the print edition, or even the publisher's enhanced PDF and copy-editing
just yet!)

Sandy, I actually think you answer this question yourself, with:

    "I long ago predicted that university press journals would migrate
    to the electronic environment [and that it] was therefore much
    more possible, and more likely, that journals could spring up online
    without the support of publishers, if they went OA and did not have to
    bother about the complications of outsourcing printing and handling
    subscription fulfilment. (And a journal only has to be designed
    once, and the template followed thereafter, while marketing takes
    care of itself if the journal is aimed at a niche community anyway.)"

> This could all happen very quickly, as "tipping" phenomena
> generally do. Where would that scenario leave the academy? With
> several thousand journals suddenly left to fend for themselves!

Nothing sudden. And plenty of flexible ways to fend, in the portable
online age!

> the infrastructure of universities today is simply
> not prepared, in any shape or form, to deal with that "crisis"
> and find some way of sustaining those journals.

There is no evidence at all for such an impending crisis, just as there
is as yet no evidence of self-archiving causing cancellations.

> Self-publishing would then
> proliferate, and chaos would ensue for some time to come. Are
> librarians prepared to deal with the consequences?

It's not up to librarians but to researchers. (And I'm afraid I have to
say this sounds like hypothetical alarmism, rather than evidence-based
reasoning and planning.)

> I do not depict this nightmare scenario in order to defend the
> existing system... But I do think university faculty, administrators,
> and librarians need to think through these issues and possible scenarios
> very carefully and "worst-case" planning would probably be appropriate
> here.

I agree that cooperative planning for a possible eventual downsizing
to peer-review service-provision alone and a transition to the OA
cost-recovery model under cancellation pressure (and corresponding
institutional windfall savings) would be an excellent idea -- and much
more constructive than trying to wish away the proposed self-archiving
mandates such as the FRPAA.

Please see:

    "The Urgent Need to Plan a Stable Transition" (began Sep 1998!)


    Berners-Lee, T., De Roure, D., Harnad, S. and Shadbolt, N. (2005)
    Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence
    and Fruitful Collaboration.

Best wishes,

Stevan Harnad