Re: Nature 10 September on Public Archiving

From: Mark Doyle <doyle_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 13:08:04 -0400


On Thu, 17 Sep 1998, "Albert Henderson <>" wrote:

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

> 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.

Harnad's point was only that a new electronic journal should be compared to
established journals when they were new, not when they are established.
Hard to understand why you can't understand this simple point.

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

They aren't necessarily preprints -- you are attacking a strawman. And the
xxx model _includes_ publishers (or other peer-reviewing entities) that
provide add-ed value services such overlays that point readers to the
important or searchable indexes that help organize (Alta Vista model of
searching v. Yahoo model - the first is something that is entirely
automated, the second requires human intervention and thus a different
add-ed value that some may be willing to pay for).

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

Only because there hasn't been an alternative. In fact, the marketplace is
sending clear signals to publishers that this model is no longer
sustainable. See below.

> How many indeed. I would say most of the Third World and FSU
> scientists, for starters, are not 'state-of-the-art.'

'state of the art' isn't needed. E-mail is sufficient. xxx receives papers
from the FSU (a lot!), Eastern Europe, China, Taiwan, Korea, Iran, and a
whole host more. You can't really believe that developing countries have the
resources to stock libraries that cover, in the case of physics, the same
volume of material as xxx?

> I still see
> typewriters in use in many places in the US.

The APS gets almost no typewritten manuscripts. The only typewriters I see
are used for filling out forms.

> 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.

$5000 is a gross exaggeration for what is required and not every researcher
needs a computer on their desk. One computer with access for a whole group
is sufficient for at least getting access to the literature and for
preparing manuscripts.

> 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.

This is just plain silly. What could be more democratic than a centralized
repository with free access that makes the work of a professor at Princeton
and that of one in Iran available to each other and all of their colleagues
at the same moment?

> 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 failure of a journal modeled for the most part after a traditional
print journal doesn't speak at all to the points being discussed here.

> 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.

Those without electronic access don't really have full access today to the
literature since these are the same people who can't afford well-stocked
libraries. It is far cheaper to get electronic access now (or at least the
trend is towards cheaper access) than it is to stock and maintain a library
(you yourself admit that this is on a trend towards costing more money).

> 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

A thirty year old study? You must be joking....

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

Hence you misunderstand. We are not saying that you take all present day
costs and shift them to authors and users. Rather, by re-designing and
optmizing the entire process, you create an opportunity where it is actually
feasible to transfer the _reduced_ costs.

> - 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?

Printing vs. photocopying is a wash (well, actually printers are cheaper
than photocopiers and more reliable). Relatively expensive document delivery
via faxing and snail mail would be a thing of the past. Travel to the
library would be eliminated. So there are no costs to shift in these

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

None would of course and no one is calling for this. Another strawman.
Publishers and other entities could still provide value-added overlays that
serve as guides to the literature. They just wouldn't be tied to the
delivery of the documents itself (though if someone wanted to buy paper then
a publisher could easily print and bind it and sell it without affecting
the cost to those who like free electronic access to the literature).

> - 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?

No it wouldn't. Another silly strawman.

> 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.

They were still maintaining a dual system -- hardly optimized. Having a
paper deliverable doesn't preclude free electronic distribution. It should
also be noted that a sizeable portion of the Astrophysical Journal (and the
rest of the astrophysics literature) appears on xxx in the astro-ph archive
which has grown about 400 manuscripts per month).

> 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.

Why do you think that reviews (with the potential of having their hundreds
of references hyperlinked to the literature) will dissappear? In fact, there
will be more demand for them since they provide an ideal overlay to the
literature. Why can't a review article be circulated on xxx (rhetorical
question -- they are circulated on xxx as you would see if you bothered to

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

Costly publishing discourages librarians....

> 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
> duplication.

Thus the advantage of having large, central, low-cost repositories like xxx
in which researchers can see all of the literature at once. Peer-review
stamps (which aren't logically tied to distribution) are present and can
serve as a guide.

> 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.

An expensive work station isn't required. The overhaed of the expense of
the wire is no different in nature from the overhead used to support the
library. It all comes out of tuition and overhead carved out of grants. You
have to treat overheads on equal footing -- neither the electronic access
nor the library are "free" when you do. And the trend is for electronic
access to become cheaper and for library collections to become more

> > > 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?

xxx is a player in the market econonmy and is doing quite well by any
measure... All players in the market compete against each other. The xxx
model presents a direct market challenge to traditional publishers -- the
market economy will drive publishers who don't embrace new means of
disseminating information out of business (see Forbes article from several
year ago about Elsevier as potential first Internet victim because of the
threat of xxx). Also, it is market forces that are preventing libraries from
increasing their serials budgets to keep apace. You choose to see this
market pressure on publishers as being a sign that the demand side should
increase to meet supply. But this is backwards -- it is the supplier who
responds to demand. It is up to the publishers to respond to market forces
in other ways than continually raising prices and re-evaluate the way they
do business. So much for your free market views....

> Your are against better financial support for libraries?

This is the silliest cariacture yet. We are against increasing support just
to feed publishers who refuse to take measures to reduce the costs in their
business (or their profit margins). We would rather see libraries free up
money they already have for other uses by reducing their ever-increasing
outlays for acquiring and maintaining their serials collections.

Mark Doyle
APS Research and Development
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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