Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Uses of OA peer-reviewed manuscripts

Stevan Harnad, No Such Thing As "Provostial Publishing": II, Open Access Archivangelism, June 8, 2008.

Summary:  OA IRs provide free supplemental copies of published, refereed journal articles. The way to access them is via a harvester/indexer. Direct searching of the IR is more relevant for (1) institution-internal record-keeping, (2) performance assessment, (3) CV-generation, (4) grant application and fulfillment, and perhaps also some window-shopping by prospective (5) faculty, (6) researchers or (7) students. The main purpose of depositing refereed journal articles is (8) so they are accessible to all would-be users, not just to those whose institutions happen to have a subscription to the journal in which they were published. That way (9) the usage and impact of the institutional research output is maximized (and so is (10) overall research progress).

What content an IR accepts is an entirely different matter from what content an IR mandates. Harvard is mandating OA target content, which is the refereed, accepted final drafts of peer-reviewed journal articles. Harvard is not publishing its journals articles. The journals are publishing them, and providing the peer review and copy-editing. Harvard is merely providing supplementary access to the peer-reviewed final drafts for those would-be users who cannot afford access to the publishers published (and copy-edited) version.

OA is needed for researcher (peer to peer) access. The lay public benefits indirectly from the enhanced research productivity, progress, impact and applications generated by OA, not from direct public access to esoteric, technical reports. But whatever is one's primary rationale -- public access or peer access -- the other comes with the OA territory.

Are would-be users whose institutions cannot afford subscription access to the publisher's copy-edited version better off with a refereed final draft, not copy-edited, or are they better of without out it? (The answer is obvious.)

If and when Green OA self-archiving (of refereed, non-copy-edited final drafts of journal articles) and Green OA self-archiving mandates should ever make journal subscriptions unsustainable, author-institutions can pay for peer review by the article out of their windfall subscription cancellation savings on the Gold OA cost-recovery model. If they find it worth paying for too, the copy-editing service can be bundled with the peer review service.