On Horses, Water, and Life-Span

“I have a feeling that when Posterity looks back at the last decade of the 2nd A.D. millennium of scholarly and scientific research on our planet, it may chuckle at us… I don’t think there is any doubt in anyone’s mind as to what the optimal and inevitable outcome of all this will be: The [peer-reviewed journal| literature will be free at last online, in one global, interlinked virtual library… and its [peer review] expenses will be paid for up-front, out of the [subscription-cancelation] savings. The only question is: When? This piece is written in the hope of wiping the potential smirk off Posterity’s face by persuading the academic cavalry, now that they have been led to the waters of self-archiving, that they should just go ahead and drink!”Harnad (1999)

I must admit I’ve lost interest in following the Open Access Derby. All the evidence, all the means and all the stakes are by now on the table, and have been for some time. Nothing new to be learned there. It’s just a matter of time till it gets sorted and acted upon; the only lingering uncertainty is about how long that will take, and that is no longer an interesting enough question to keep chewing on, now that all’s been said, if not done.

Comments on: Richard Poynder (2015) Open Access, Almost-OA, OA Policies, and Institutional Repositories. Open And Shut. December 01, 2015

A few little corrections and suggestions on Richard’s paper:

(1) The right measure of repository and policy success is the percentage of an institution’s total yearly peer-reviewed research article output that is deposited as full text immediately upon acceptance for publication. (Whether the deposit is immediately made OA is much less important, as long as the copy-request Button is (properly!) implemented. Much less important too are late deposits, author Button-request compliance rates, or other kinds of deposited content. Once all refereed articles are being deposited immediately, all the rest will take care of itself, sooner or later.)

(2) CRIS/Cerif research-asset-management tools are complements to Institutional Repositories, not competitors.

(3) The Australian ERA policy was a (needless) flop for OA. The UK’s HEFCE/Ref2020 policy, in contrast, looks like it can become a success. (None of this has anything to do with the pro’s or con’s of either research evaluation, citations, or metrics in general.)

(4) No, “IDOA/PEM” (Deposit mandates requiring immediate deposits for research evaluation or funding, with the Button) will not increase “dark deposit,” they will increase deposit — and mandate adoption, mandate compliance, OA, Button-Use, Almost-OA, access and citations. They will also hasten the day when universal IDOA/PEM will make subscriptions cancellable and unsustainable, inducing conversion to fair-Gold OA (instead of today’s over-priced, double-paid and unnecessary Fool’s-Gold OA. But don’t ask me “how long?” I don’t know, and I no longer care!)

(5) The few anecdotes about unrefereed working papers are completely irrelevant. OA is about peer-reviewed journal articles. Unrefereed papers come and go. And eprints and dspace repositories clearly tag papers as refereed/unrefereed and published/unpublished. (The rest is just about scholarly practice and sloppiness, both from authors and from users.)

(6) At some point in the discussion, Richard, you too fall into the usual canard about impact-factor and brand, which concerns only Gold OA, not OA.

RP: “Is the sleight of hand involved in using the Button to promote the IDOA/PEM mandate justified by the end goal ? which is to see a proliferation of such mandates? Or to put it another way, how successful are IDOA/PEM mandates likely to prove?”

No sleight of hand — just sluggishness of hand, on the part of (some) authors (both for Button compliance and mandate compliance) and on the part of (most) institutions and funders (for the design and adoption of successful IDOA/PEM mandates (with Button). And the evidence is all extremely thin, one way or the other. Of course successful IDOA/PEM mandates (with Button) are (by definition!) better than relying on email links at publisher sites. “Successful” means near 100% compliance rate for immediate full-text deposit. And universal adoption of successful IDOA/PEM mandates (with Button) means universal adoption of successful IDOA/PEM mandates (with Button). (Give me that and worries about author Button-compliance will become a joke.)

The rest just depends on the speed of the horses — and I am not a betting man (when it comes to predicting how long it will take to reach the optimal and inevitable). (Not to mention that I am profoundly against horse-racing and the like — for humanitarian reasons that are infinitely more important than OA ever was or will be.)