|High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine|
Issue 4 / June 2001
Stevan Harnad, Les Carr, Tim Brody
Why do scientists (and scholars) do research and report their findings? In a word, it is so that their findings will have an impact -- not just in the narrow sense of the "citation impact factor" (the number of subsequent research reports that cite their findings [Garfield 1955]), but impact in the broadest sense: Researchers want their work to make a difference, to build upon the work of others, and to be built upon in turn by others. They want to make a contribution to human knowledge; and it is no contribution if it is not noticed and has no consequences.
How do researchers maximize the impact of their research findings? By making them public through publishing them, so that any potentially interested fellow-researcher anywhere in the world, now and at any future time, can access and use them. The findings are published in peer-reviewed journals, which thereby perform a double service for research and researchers. They not only (i) make the findings accessible to the world (on-paper in the Gutenberg era, both on-paper and on-line in the PostGutenberg era), but they (ii) certify their quality-level too. They do this by implementing peer review [Harnad 1998/2000].
Peer review is the evaluation and validation of the work of experts by qualified fellow-experts (referees) as a precondition for acceptance and publication, so that the research community at large can know which work is likely to be worth the time and effort of reading and trying to build upon. Peer review is not a red-light/green-light, accept/reject system: It is a dynamic interaction between the author and referees, mediated by and answerable to a qualified expert (the Editor). It sometimes involves several rounds of revision and re-refereeing before a final draft can be certified as having met the quality standards of a particular journal. There is a hierarchy of journal-quality in most fields, with the higher quality journals tending to have the higher rejection rates and higher impact factors [Yamazaki 1995], grading all the way down to a vanity press at the bottom. Peer review accordingly also performs the function of filtering and triage, sign-posting the resultant literature for navigation. It has been suggested that most papers are eventually accepted somewhere in their field's hierarchy [Lock 1985], but this may differ from field to field [Hargens 1988]).
In the on-paper era, journals provided the double service of quality-control and certification [QC/C] plus dissemination for refereed research reports. Providing that service cost money, which then had to be recovered (along with a fair profit) from subscription (S) fees (mostly from institutions), and lately, in the on-line era, also from institutional site-license (L) and/or pay-per-view (P) fees. Let us call these three fee-based access tolls, jointly, S/L/P.
It is important to note an immediate conflict of interest between access-tolls and research here: Researchers conduct and report research for impact, as we have noted. But S/L/P fee-based access-barriers are necessarily also impact-barriers. Institutions and individuals that cannot or do not pay the S/L/P tolls cannot access the research: All this blocked access adds up to lost potential impact for the researcher. Is there any way to resolve this conflict of interest? There is, but to find it, we first have to clearly understand where the conflict resides.
Authors of refereed research reports are not representative of authors in general (not even of themselves, when wearing other hats); in fact, they are highly anomalous. Unlike the authors of books, who write their texts for royalty income, or the authors of magazine articles, who write them for fee income, the authors of refereed journal articles write solely for impact: Their texts are, and always have been give-aways, whereas most of the rest of the published literature is non-give-away [Harnad, Varian & Parks 2000]. The rewards for researchers (research-funding, salary, promotion, tenure, prizes) come from the impact of their research, not from the S/L/P toll income (which does not accrue to them in any case, but to their publishers). This is why access-barriers create a conflict of interest for this nonstandard minority, the give-away authors, but not for the majority, the non-give-away authors, on whose much more representative interests publishing in general is (rightly) modeled.
How much impact-loss do S/L/P access-barriers cause research and researchers annually? We can only make crude guesses at this point, because the data are not available. A direct estimate would require comparing the citation impact for comparable and representative samples of literature under metered and unmetered access conditions. At best, we can treat differences between S/L/P-limited and S/L/P-free access levels as estimates of upper bounds for potential differences in impact-levels (although even these could be underestimates just as readily as overestimates, if the relation between access and impact is nonlinear). A hint of what unmetered usage levels would look like comes from that small portion of the refereed literature that has already been freed of S/L/P in Physics. It is a reasonable assumption that most of the free daily downloads of papers from the Los Alamos Physics Archive and its 14 worldwide mirror sites represent a net increment in access, hence potential impact for those papers [http://arXiv.org/cgi-bin/show_weekly_graph] over S/L/P baselines. The only users who could otherwise have accessed all those papers that freely would have been the lucky ones who happened to be at institutions that could afford online S/L/P access to all the journals in which those papers appeared. But no institution anywhere near that lucky (or wealthy) exists.
To see why no such lucky institution exists, we need to consider the total number of refereed journals currently published annually. A conservative estimate would be the 20,000 active refereed journals indexed by Ulrich's Periodicals Directory [http://www.ulrichsweb.com/ulrichsweb/]). A conservative estimate of the average number of papers appearing in each would be 100 (the numbers range from 12 to 1200 according to ISI's Web of Science [http://wos.mimas.ac.uk/]) for an annual total of 2 million refereed papers. What is the average proportion of the 2 million annual papers that is currently inaccessible per research institution because of the limits on annual institutional S/L/P budgets? Even the most conservative estimate of 0.5 would mean that the lost potential access is enormous. The lost potential impact will also be some function of that figure [Odlyzko 1998, 1999a, 1999b].
The proportion will of course be different for Harvard, with perhaps the largest S/L/P budget in the world (but still short of being able to afford the annual total of 20K refereed journals), compared to universities in the developing world, or even the less wealthy universities in the U.S. [http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/newarl/index.html]. But the Los Alamos Physics unmetered useage levels suggest that even Harvard researchers may have a good deal to gain -- both in terms of their own access to the research of others and the impact of their own research on others -- if the entire research corpus could be freed of all impact- and access-barriers.
Well the good news is that it can be: Virtually all the papers in all the refereed journals in all fields can now be freed of all S/L/P barriers by author-institution self-archiving [Harnad 1994]. Physicists have been the first to recognize and exploit the feasibility of this, but even they are still doing it too slowly: At its present (linear) rate of growth (150K papers archived so far, 30K per year, annual growth 3.5K) [http://www.openarchives.org/DC2001/warner_long.pdf], it will take the Physics Archive another decade to free the full annual refereed corpus of physics (at least 300K refereed papers published annually in physics, astrophysics, and mathematics according to ISI's Web of Science [http://wos.mimas.ac.uk/]). Other fields are even further behind [http://cogprints.soton.ac.uk], and most have not even started. Why not? Future historians will need to answer this question, but as of January 2001 [http://www.openarchives.org/DC2001/OpenMeeting.html], it will certainly not be for lack of the universal means to do so, immediately.
Free "Eprint" archive-creating software (using only free resources) has just been designed [http://www.eprints.org] to make it possible for all universities and research institutions worldwide to immediately create their own archives, in which all their researchers can then self-archive all their papers online (n.b., "eprints" include both pre-refereeing preprints and electronic refereed postprints, in electronic form). These Eprint archives are not only extremely easy and cheap to install and maintain, but they are all fully interoperable with one another, through compliance with the Open Archives Initiative's [http://www.openarchives.org] metadata tagging protocol OAI 1.0 released on January 23. This means that all the Eprint archives are like clones, and can be registered [http://oaisrv.nsdl.cornell.edu/Register/BrowseSites.pl] and "harvested" into one (or many) global "virtual" archives [e.g. http://arc.cs.odu.edu/], so that researchers worldwide can search and retrieve the entire refereed corpus by discipline, topic, keyword, author, journal, etc., with no need to know which institutional Eprint archive a paper happens to be deposited in.
The distributed Eprint archives can
be multiply mirrored at "twinned" sites for reliability and backup. Their
contents can also be citation-linked, so users can surf from paper to paper
via the "mother of all hyperlinks," reference citation. The OpCit Project
[http://opcit.eprints.org] has demonstrated
this by citation-linking the centralized Physics Archive; that same feature
can be applied to distributed Eprint Archives too [Hitchcock
et al. 2000]. A barrier-free refereed corpus online also spawns new
scientometric measures of impact, productivity, and the time-course and
direction of evolving knowledge [Harnad
& Carr 2000]. Citation-linking allows any user to retrieve the
results of searches ranked by the papers', authors' or journals' citation
impact [Figure 1]. Download impact [Table
1], prepublication immediacy factors, and still newer metrics can be
gathered and analysed from this digitized corpus to complement the classical
citation impact measures, offering us a much deeper and richer analysis
of the embryological stages in the development of knowledge, from the pre-refereeing
preprint, through successive stages of revision, to the refereed, journal-certified
postprint, to postpublication revisions, corrections, updates, commentaries,
and responses -- all can be linked and threaded together in the Eprint
Archives, charting a "scholarly skywriting" continuum [Harnad
1990] in the PostGutenberg Galaxy [Harnad
Figure 1. How long and how often papers are downloaded from the Los Alamos Physics Archive: Papers can be divided into those receiving high, medium and low numbers of citations (all papers are citation-linked). Note that the higher the citation impact, the greater the download longevity. For further data see: http://opcit.eprints.org/tdb198/opcit/ and http://opcit.eprints.org/ijh198/
Table 1. Citation Impact vs. Download Impact
|All Papers (8-month sample, total cites equally split)||+0.11155||63671|
|High Citation Papers (40+ cites) (2.0%)||+0.27293*||1981|
|Medium Citation Papers (13-39 cites) (7.7%)||+0.01288||5937|
|Low Citation Papers (1-12 cites) (46.5%)||-0.01412||30163|
All that is needed in order to provide immediate, unlimited click-through, full-text access to the entire refereed research corpus online, for free, for all, forever, is for universities and research institutions to install Eprint Archives and for their researchers to fill them with all their papers, now. If (a) the enhanced access by their own researchers to the research of others and (b) the enhanced visibility and the resulting enhanced impact of their own research on the research of others are not incentive enough for universities to promote and support the self-archiving initiative energetically at this time, they should also consider that it will be an investment in (c) an eventual solution to their serials crisis and the potential recovery of 90% of their annual serials (S/L/P) budget [Harnad 1998, 1999]. (Note that the success of the self-archiving initiative is predicated on the same Golden Rule on which both refereeing and research themselves are predicated: If we all do our own part for one another, we all benefit from it: Give in order to receive...)
A more detailed account of what Researchers, Universities and Libraries can do right now to hasten the day, including answers to questions about copyright, preservation, embargo policies (such as Science's embargo policy [Harnad 2000a, 2000b]), educational implications [Light et al. 2000] and the future role of refereed journals, is archived online at: http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Tp/resolution.htm
We hope this Policy Forum will induce researchers
(and historians and citizens) to reflect upon all the potential research
impact being lost forever -- yearly, daily -- the longer we keep putting
off doing the Optimal and Inevitable, now that it is entirely within our
reach, and could become the Actual virtually overnight. (We are conducting
a web survey to try to ascertain why people have and have not already begun
to self-archive already. Readers of this paper are invited to complete
the survey at: http://www.eprints.org/survey.htm).
 Garfield, E., (1955) Citation Indexes for Science: A New Dimension in Documentation through Association of Ideas. Science 122: 108-111 http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/papers/science_v122(3159)p108y1955.html
Hargens, L. (1988) Scholarly Consensus and Journal Rejection Rates. American Sociological review 53: 139-151.
Harnad, S. (1990) Scholarly Skywriting and the Prepublication Continuum of Scientific Inquiry. Psychological Science 1: 342 - 343 (reprinted in Current Contents 45: 9-13, November 11 1991). http://cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Papers/Harnad/harnad90.skywriting.html
Harnad, S. (1991) Post-Gutenberg
Galaxy: The Fourth Revolution in the Means of Production of Knowledge.
Computer Systems Review 2 (1): 39 - 53
Harnad, S. (1994) A Subversive Proposal.
In: Ann Okerson & James O'Donnell (Eds.) Scholarly Journals at the
Crossroads: A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing. Washington,
DC., Association of Research Libraries, June 1995.
Harnad, S. (1998) On-Line Journals and Financial Fire-Walls. Nature 395(6698): 127-128 http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/nature.html
Harnad, S. (1998/2000) The invisible
hand of peer review. Nature [online] (5 Nov. 1998) http://helix.nature.com/webmatters/invisible/invisible.html
Longer version in Exploit Interactive 5 (2000):
Harnad, S. (1999) Free at Last: The Future of Peer-Reviewed Journals. D-Lib Magazine 5(12) December 1999 http://www.dlib.org/dlib/december99/12harnad.html
Harnad, S. (2000a) E-Knowledge:
Freeing the Refereed Journal Corpus Online. Computer Law & Security
Report 16(2) 78-87. [Rebuttal to Bloom Editorial in Science and Relman
Editorial in New England Journal of Medicine]
Harnad, S. (2000b) Ingelfinger
Over-Ruled: The Role of the Web in the Future of Refereed Medical Journal
Publishing. Lancet (in press)
Harnad, S. & Carr,
L. (2000) Integrating, Navigating and Analyzing Eprint Archives Through
Open Citation Linking (the OpCit Project). Current Science 79(5): 629-638.
Harnad, S. (in preparation) For
Whom the Gate Tolls? How and Why to Free the Refereed Research Literature
Online Through Author/Institution Self-Archiving, Now
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) http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Temp/Varian/new1.htm
Hitchcock, S. Carr, L., Jiao, Z., Bergmark,
D., Hall, W., Lagoze, C. & Harnad, S. (2000) Developing services for
open eprint archives: globalisation, integration and the impact of links.
of the 5th ACM Conference on Digital Libraries. San Antonio Texas June
P., Light, V., Nesbitt, E. & Harnad, S. (2000) Up for Debate: CMC as
a support for course related discussion in a campus university setting.
In R. Joiner (Ed) Rethinking Collaborative Learning. London: Routledge
Lock, Stephen (1985) A difficult balance : editorial
peer review in medicine London : Nuffield
Provincial Hospitals Trust.
Odlyzko, A.M. (1998) The economics
of electronic journals. In: Ekman R. and Quandt, R. (Eds) Technology and
Scholarly Communication. Univ. Calif. Press, 1998.
Odlyzko, A.M. (1999a) Competition
and cooperation: Libraries and publishers in the transition to electronic
scholarly journals, A. M. Odlyzko. Journal of Electronic Publishing 4(4)
(June 1999) and in J. Scholarly Publishing 30(4) (July 1999), pp. 163-185.
The definitive version to appear in The Transition from Paper: A Vision
of Scientific Communication in 2020, S. Berry and A. Moffat, eds., Springer,
Odlyzko, A.M. (1999b) The rapid
evolution of scholarly communication, to appear in
the proceedings of the 1999 PEAK conference.
Yamazaki, S. (1995) Refereeing
System of 29 Life-Science Journals Preferred by Japanese Scientists. Scientometrics
2. A fellow-researcher
at that same university sees a reference to that same
3. An undergraduate
at that same university sees the same article cited on
undergraduate loses patience, gets bored, and clicks on Napster to
later, the same PhD is being considered for tenure. His
thing happens when he tries to get a research grant: His research
7. He decides
to write a book instead. Book publishers decline to publish
8. He tries
to put his articles up on the Web, free for all, to increase their
9. He asks
his publisher: "Who is this copyright intended to protect?" His
What's wrong with this picture?(And why is the mother of the PhD whose give-away work people cannot
steal, even though he wants them to, in the same boat as the mother of the
recording artist whose non-give-away work they can and do steal, even though
he does not want them to?)
Some Relevant Chronology and URLs
Psycoloquy (Refereed On-Line-Only Journal) (1989)
"Scholarly Skywriting" (1990)
Physics Archive (1991)
"PostGutenberg Galaxy" (1991)
"Interactive Publication" (1992)
Self-Archiving ("Subversive") Proposal (1994)
"Tragic Loss" (Odlyzko) (1995)
"Last Writes" (Hibbitts) (1996)
NCSTRL: Networked Computer Science Technical Reference
University Provosts' Initiative (1997)
CogPrints: Cognitive Sciences Archive (1998)
Journal of High Energy Physics (Refereed On-Line-Only
Science Policy Forum (1998)
American Scientist Forum (1998)
OpCit:Open Citation Linking Project (1999)
E-biomed: Varmus (NIH) Proposal (1999)
Open Archives Initiative (1999)
Cross-Archive Searching Service (2000)
Eprints: Free OAI-compliant Eprint-Archive-creating
For citation purposes:
Stevan Harnad, Les Carr, Tim Brody, "How and Why To Free All Refereed Research From Access- and Impact-Barriers Online, Now", High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine, issue 4, June 2001
Last modified: june 2001