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ICSTI: news items

  • To: epc@iucr.org
  • Subject: ICSTI: news items
  • From: Pete Strickland <ps@iucr.org>
  • Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2004 15:27:21 +0100
  • Organization: IUCr
Subject: Item on Open Access from the San Franciso Chronicle

Available at: 


"An alarm bell is ringing in the ivory tower. Something's gone 
terribly wrong, frustrated scholars say, when scientific journals 
cost as much as new cars and diamond rings.

Critics are complaining with growing intensity that the most important 
advances in human knowledge -- the new research and discoveries of 
top universities -- have been in effect seized and are being held for 
ransom by commercial publishers."

Subject: Report on the UK Parliament Inquiry into Scientific 

At this URL: http://www.infotoday.com/it/apr04/poynder.shtml

you will find an article by well know freelance journalist Richard 
Poynder on the sessions of the Inquiry.

This is the last paragraph:-

"Time will tell whether the committee recommends the U.K. government 
to push open access. Since most research is publicly funded, such a 
move would certainly accelerate the transition from traditional 
access to open access.

But if governments truly want to help, they need to also ensure that 
scholarly communication does not break down in the process of 
transition. Harnad says, "There are two roads to OA: publishing in OA 
journals and publishing in conventional journals but self-archiving 
the articles too." To date, he adds, the Select Committee has ignored 
the latter.

Self-archiving, however, is the fastest growing form of open access as 
scientists, determined to liberate their research from publishers' 
financial firewalls, archive more and more of their papers on the Web 
with or without publisher approval.

What's being archived, however, is a mixed bag, explains Harnad. It 
includes  a good deal of the target content peer-reviewed journal 
articles but also preprints, unpublished papers, non-papers, and 
metadata without the full-text papers. In addition, he adds, "there 
are a hell of a lot more OA papers (on authors' Web sites and 
willy-nilly) than there are in the known OA archives."

At the same time, after years of seeing its complaints fall on deaf 
ears, the library community is voting with its feet by aggressively 
cutting journal subscriptions.

The danger is that these growing acts of civil protest could, in the 
short term, exacerbate the crisis. For if research institutions and 
universities cancel more and more journal subscriptions and open 
access publishing cannot immediately fill the gap, those in need of 
research may find themselves having to sift through a hodgepodge of 
(frequently unrefereed) self-archived material that's distributed 
across a wide range of repositories and Web sites.

The concern must be, then, that the U.K. government could accelerate 
the adoption of open access but fail to ensure that the transition is 
being managed properly.

The committee is due to hold further oral hearings in April and May, 
so it may yet address the self-archiving issue. After that, it will 
publish a report in June, and the U.K. government has 2 months to 
respond. If appropriate, there may then be a debate in the House of 


Best wishes

Peter Strickland
Managing Editor
IUCr Journals

IUCr Editorial Office, 5 Abbey Square, Chester CH1 2HU, England
Phone: 44 1244 342878   Fax: 44 1244 314888   Email: ps@iucr.org
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