Re: For Whom the Gate Tolls?

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 12:11:43 -0400

Professor L.W. Hurtado <> wrote:
> I repeat, making authors pay for dissemination of their research is
> not universally feasible, for research sectors outside of the U.S.
> science/grant- based model of research, which overlooks nearly all
> humanities research, & a good deal of social-science research. End-user
> payment seems to me a necessary option, at least for those fields.
> Traditional subscription charges seem to me still possible, at least
> for some fields.

I will make a prima facie reply, but clearly much more needs to be
known about the details to respond, predict and advise realistically:

(1) UNAFFILIATED SCHOLARS: Let us set aside first the case of
unaffiliated, independent scholars. There is no question but that a
special fund will have to be available to allow them to publish too. I
am not sure what the true proportions in this category are, discipline
by discipline and country by country. But I am sure the category is a
small minority, relative to the refereed journal literature as a whole.
It would be a big mistake to decide for the literature as a whole on
the basis on a minoritarian case that could be handled in special

(2) SCHOLARS IN OTHER COUNTRIES: Here the prima facie answer is clear:
The burden of subsidising the refereed journal literature as it is
currently being subsidised (sic) -- through vast library expenditures
on S/SL/PPV -- is surely as great in other countries as it is in the
US. Hence the savings would be just as substantial. Hence the
motivation and mechanism to rechannel part of those savings toward
supporting author page costs, to save money all round and make the
literature free for all, would be just as great.

across equally disciplines.

argument in (2) and (3) has been based directly on the savings from
S/SL/PPV expenditures. It is not clear that that would not be enough
to cover page charges. Nor does research support come only from
research grants. Apart from teaching, research productivity (measured
largely in terms of publication) is the basis on which all rewards from
and to universities (from: salary/promotion/tenure; to: grants,
contributions, endowments) are conferred. Faculty productivity,
demonstrated in the form of publications, represents "money in the
bank" for the university (it is "publish or perish" for researchers
because it is "publish or perish" for the university too!). Along with
all the other efforts that universities expend to make faculty more
research-active, would the minimal costs of publication be allowed to
be an obstacle, particularly as they become the norm? (One may as well
think of charging faculty for the use of the university's library,
office, lab and classroom resources in the performance of their

Last, and most important, this all still depends critically on the
question raised in "For Whom the Gate Tolls?", namely:

    (1) What IS the true cost of on-line-only publication of a
        mainstream journal?

Surely you agree that whether or not the page charges are
affordable depends on what they actually turn out to be!

> My suggestion for moving publishers (whether acad. societies or more
> commercial ones) toward serious e-journals (not merely e-versions of
> paper journals)...

What is the difference here? The "seriousness" of a journal (its impact
factor, prestige, authorship, editorial board) are medium-independent.
If there is to be no difference between paper and on-line journals
except the name of the medium that the S/SL/PPV is paying for, then
what is the further quality being adverted to here? A "serious" paper
journal, when it goes on-line, or on-line-only, becomes a "serious"
e-journal. That's all there is to it, unless there is to be something
fundamentally different in the new medium -- such as that it is
completely free and completely interconnected (the two features are
interconnected! such is the obstructive nature of financial

> that learned societies (a) take the lead in moving
> in this direction, giving thereby the medium the acad. credibility
> sorely needed to change the "culture",...

Why doesn't the medium get all the credibility it needs from
e-versions of prestigious existing journals?

> (b) develop shared and widely
> used protocols for the refereeing, archiving/preservation, indexing,
> and dissemination & cost-payment of e-journals, so that we proceed
> with some comparative order,

Already occurring with the en-masse creation of on-line versions
of the existing paper journals. Yale's Ann Okerson (personal
communication), Founder of NEWJOUR ( the
e-list of new e-journals, estimates that there are now over 8000
refereed on-line journals. That is beginning to sound as if the core
corpus may soon be in the sky for one and all.

What's the point?

> and (c) initiate contacts with univ. acad.
> administrators to help foster acceptance and appreciation of the
> e-medium of publication, further helping to "indiginize" the medium to
> academia and promote the full acceptance of e-journal publication
> (e.g., for tenure, promotion, etc.), thus helping to attracting high
> quality submissions.

The de facto conversion of the paper fleet already accomplishes
this -- unless you have some special points to make about e-only
journals, not of paper provenance. But if these are not
distinguished in any other way from the doppelgaengers (say,
by the fact that they are free to readers!), then it is not at all
clear what the "indiginization" crusade is about, other than
perhaps trying to help out some new journal titles...

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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