Re: Nature 10 September on Public Archiving

From: Albert Henderson <> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 07:59:04 -0400

On 16 Sep 1998 Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK> wrote:

> Apples and oranges. To compare citations of e-journals to p-journals is
> simply to compare new-journals to old-journals. What on earth can
> one learn from such a comparison? Look instead at xxx statistics,
> including deposits, hits and citations.

Apples and oranges certainly can be compared in terms of the food value
they deliver. If you wish to claim value for ejournals, you must use
recognized measures and submit to reasonable comparisons.

Does a 'hit' measure value? Or does it signify a 'browse." These are
preprints, right?

ah> Unlike the electronic-only journal, most publications must run two
ah> distributions.
> For now. But we are trying to hasten the transition to the optimal and
> the inevitable. And hybrid paper/online editions, sustained by S/SL/PPV,
> are just Trojan Horses in this regard, designed to hold us hostage to
> S/SL/PPV forever, if possible.

The paper editions are sustained by the marketplace, a compelling
argument for their survival.

ah> Many readers lack the infrastructure required to
ah> participate in epublishing.
> How many today? And tomorrow? And the next day? Keep an eye on

How many indeed. I would say most of the Third World and FSU
scientists, for starters, are not 'state-of-the-art.' I still see
typewriters in use in many places in the US. Studies like Red Sage and
TULIP suggest that the infrastructure is too expensive. Not everyone
can affort a workstation that costs $5000+, an internet connection,
energy, and supplies of paper. The library which provides 'free' access
to all qualified users is far more democratic and in the long run it is
less expensive using paper if it is properly supported.

> Has anyone polled AAAS on preferences today? And compared it to
> yesterday? and tomorrow?

I have not heard of any polls.

Not long ago, the publisher of SCIENCE, AAAS, made a major investment
with the ONLINE JOURNAL OF CLINICAL TRIALS. They had a star-quality
editorial board and the attention of the scientific world. After taking
a "bath" they sold it, you probably recall.

> ...the 6500 refereed journals indexed by ISI or the
> 14,000 indexed by Ulrich's.

Ulrich's is a directory based on publisher questionnaires that are not
peer reviewed. It is not an index.

> Odlyzko, A.M. (1998) The economics of electronic journals. In:
> Ekman R. and Quandt, R. (Eds) Technology and Scholarly
> Communication Univ. Calif. Press, 1998.

Andrew Odlyzko has some interesting ideas. His question, whether
ejournals can operate at lower costs and still provide all the services
that scholars required, must be answered with a resounding no. As long
as all the scholars do not have electronic access, he will not near a
"yes" this these ideas.

There are other problems in his paper. (I seem to be the only one on
the earth who has not contributed.) I don't see TULIP or Red Sage or
Project Elvyn in his references. Other references are tainted, such as
Kirby's promotional price analysis for the heavily subsidized Pacific
Journal of Math. He seems unaware that another ATT scientist, Conyers
Herring counted characters in the ATT library 30 years ago and reported
a range in price per unit of 80 times. Perhaps he wishes to create a
more dramatic impression change than circumstances allow. He also
suffers from his association with Bell Labs which has been promoting
the electronic alternative since the late 1960s with no success. They
have an apparent agenda. ATT, after all, is a major
provider of related technology.

Most important, Odlyzko fails to take on the costs sustained by the
reader. Readers' costs exceed those of authors, publishers, and
libraries in 1977 [his reference KingMR p. 220]:

    12% Authors

    14% Publishers

    10% Libraries and (A&I) secondary organizations

    64% Users

As I understand it, the proposal aims to shift costs from libraries and
publishers to authors and users.

- Users already have been absorbing more costs of equipment, printing
supplies, photocopycosts, document delivery fees, and travel to use a
decent library. They complain about this. Why would authors and other
researchers favor more cost shifting in their general direction?

- It would eliminate the dissemination services - primarily
organization, presentation, and procurement -- provided by publishers
and libraries. Why would researchers favor this?

- It would eliminate the special features -- bibliographies, books
received, directories, reference works and other information compiled
by publishers and libraries. Why would researchers favor this?

With all due respect I am more impressed by actual experience in dual
publishing related by Peter B. Boyce and Heather Dalterio. (1996.
Electronic publishing of scientific journals. Physics Today.
49,1(Jan.):42-47). An electronic version of Astrophysical Journal was
unable to achieve savings suggested by Harnad without dropping
editorial standards. Costs eliminated by author keyboarding were
replaced by costs of online editing. The authors also note that the
strong demand to continue publication in paper form will double many
make-ready costs of production and distribution.

ah> There are more pressing problems flowing from the poor productivity of
ah> research. Even Newt Gingrich complains about the poor dissemination and
ah> synthesis of scientific results. The taxpayer is not getting his/her
ah> money's worth. The researcher is insulated from important information.
ah> Going electronic offers no solution to this.
> Is that poor productivity or poor dissemination? For better
> dissemination, turn to
> For better productivity, increase research funding.

The preference of most researchers is for review articles and reference
materials, not preprints or formal primary reports. All forms are
important, but the preference suggested by every measure is clear.

Library impoverishment is discouraging to publishers. Poor library
collections are an obstacle to writing good reviews and syntheses.

Productivity in research is controlled by the information used as an
ingredient. It dictates method, materials, hypotheses, and the other
resources applied. When researchers and reviewers have not acquired and
fully digested the findings of others, the result is error and

> Re-do the
> calculation factoring in some perestroika toward free online-only
> dissemination with quality-control supported by author page charges
> financed from the S/SL/PPV savings.

Library dissemination has always "free" to the user. Until recently it
has not required the user to connect an expensive work station to an
expensive wire.

ah> He also points out
ah> that library growth has not been sufficient to absorb the growth of
ah> research.
> Make that paper-library growth. Now re-do it online-only, etc.

Brown's reference was to 1976-1990. I don't think there was any
online choice during that period. If we were to do it "online-
only, etc.," we would like a commitment from university administrators
that they would support growth at a rate measured by research work
product. Based on their history of betrayal of their responsibility to
conserve knowledge, I think such commitments would be unlikely and
untrustworthy without guarantees.

ah> I would add, nor is library growth able to disseminate what
ah> it cannot absorb. In my eyes this is due to universities diverting
ah> library finances to support administrative growth.
> Ah me...
> > A solution to the problems of dissemination would be easily derived by
> > financial support of library growth that would keep up with research.
> Yes, let's just make paper journals fatter and serials acquisitions
> budgets fatter; that should solve all of our problems...

Then you are against a market-oriented solution to problems of
dissemination and the bottleneck in research communications?

Your are against better financial support for libraries?

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

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