The access problem — small, medium, or large?

On Mon, 10 May 2010 Joseph Esposito wrote in l-liblicense:

“Harnad is hoping to replace the small problem of access with the large problem of fiscal recklessness.”

On May 14, 2010 Jim Stemper replied:

‘The Research Information Network’s 2009 study “Overcoming Barriers: Access to Research Information Content” goes to some lengths to show that the access problem is not “small.” Some excerpts:’

“Of the 800 respondents, over 40% said that they were unable readily to access licensed content at least weekly; and two-thirds at least monthly. The key reasons for failing to secure access were perceived to be […] that the library had not purchased a licence for the content, because of budgetary constraints (56%). Around 59 per cent of respondents thought that non-availability of content does have some impact on their research, while 18 per cent say the impact is ‘significant’ either in terms of timing and/or comprehensiveness and/or other quality impact.”

And let’s not forget the Open Access Impact Advantage: If journal affordability constraints are a direct indicator of the fact that the access problem is not small but large, the fact that in every field OA enhances both citation and download impact are indirect indicators of that same fact (apart from being benefits in their own right):

Hitchcock, S. “The effect of open access and downloads (‘hits’) on citation impact: a bibliography of studies

To see efforts to give research access priority over publisher revenue as “fiscal recklessness” is (yet again) a symptom of the entrenched but fallacious Gutenberg-era assumption that the (publishing) tail somehow has the natural right to keep wagging the (research) dog?

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum