The Research-Impact Cycle

Harnad, Stevan The Research-Impact Cycle., 2003 . In Open Access to Scientific and Technical Information: State of the Art and Future Trends, Paris, 23-24 January 2003. [Presentation]

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(Although I don't for a minute believe that researchers are in the trade for careerist or material reasons, I will pretend as if this were the case in order to speak a cost/benefit language that everyone can understand.) Researchers do research in order to make an impact -- so that their findings will have maximal effect on the present and future course of learned inquiry. The measure of that impact is the degree to which their work is seen, read, used, built-upon, cited, and applied by their fellow-researchers. It is palpable evidence of this research impact that also brings researchers their material rewards: salary, promotion, tenure, research grants, prestige, prizes. Note very especially that no rewards are sought or received by researchers from toll-revenues for access to their research output. It accordingly follows that all access reduction that occurs because of access tolls translates directly into impact reduction for researchers. From this it follows that to maximize the potential impact of their work, researchers must maximize its potential access. This can be, and is being done, by two complementary means: By publishing it in open access journals (when those exist in their research area) (BOAI Strategy 2) or by self-archiving in open-access Eprint Archives (BOAI Strategy 1) the work that they publish in toll-access peer-reviewed journals (of which there are 20,000, compared to about 200 open-access peer-reviewed journals so far). The maximization of research impact is in the interest not only of researchers and research progress, but of their institutions and their research grant funders, hence also of tax-paying citizens. In the Gutenberg age, open access to the peer-reviewed research corpus was not a possibility, because of the unavoidable true costs of on-paper publication. In the on-line age, all costs other than that of implementing peer review (at most $500 per paper) are no longer necessary. (Toll-access revenues per published paper from the few institutions that can afford access to the journal in which it appeared average $2000). While there is still a market, toll-based journals can and will continue to exist, but they must co-exist with open-access to the entire research corpus, provided by author/institution self-archiving of all peer-reviewed research output. A little reflection will confirm that there is only one way to resolve the PostGutenberg conflict of interest between what is best for toll-revenue streams and what is best for research providers, now that open access has been demonsrated to be not only possible, but feasible, virtually overnight, through self-archiving. Hence, as of now, researchers have only themselves to blame, historically, for any further impact-loss because of needless access-loss. Speech at the Conference "Open Access to Scientific and Technical Information: State of the Art and Future Trends" (Paris, 23-24 January 2003). The textual version was published in "Information Services and Use" vol. 23 (2003), issue 2-3, p. 139-142.

Item type: Presentation
Keywords: Open access, eprint archives, research impact, self-archiving, citation impact Impatto della ricerca, impatto di citazione, auto-archiviazione, archivi di e-prints
Subjects: B. Information use and sociology of information
Depositing user: Maria Cristina Bassi
Date deposited: 21 Feb 2004
Last modified: 02 Oct 2014 11:57


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Harnad, S. (2001) For Whom the Gate Tolls? How and Why to Free the Refereed Research Literature Online Through Author/Institution Self-Archiving, Now.

Harnad, S. (2001) Research access, impact and assessment. Times Higher Education Supplement 1487: p. 16.


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