Elsevier Science Policy on Public Web Archiving Needs Re-Thinking

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 15:44:03 -0400

In: http://www.chronicle.com/colloquy/98/copyright/19.htm

Arthur Smith writes that he "fail[s] to see how [Elsevier's] copyright
policy is, as Stevan Harnad put it, '[so] manifestly incoherent and
tortuous as to be almost ludicrous, wearing [its] blatant conflict of
interest on [its] sleeves'."

First the Elsevier policy, then the incoherence. The policy:

        --A paper may be posted to the author's Web site but may not be
        updated to include the results of refereeing and editing, which
        "reflects the value we have added in the publication process
        and that the textual integrity of this final paper is best
        preserved by reference to the published article."--

Now the incoherence.

(1) I write a paper. It consists of the following:

     "The ratiometer reading for Clintonite-21 it 4.072."

(2) I submit it to the (top, Elsevier) Journal of Ratiometry for peer review,
and simultaneously archive it on my home-server and xxx.

(3) JoR sends it to referees, who reply "brilliant finding, but
failed to make the Starrken correction: the reading should be 3.972."

(3) I revise and resubmit the paper, which is now:

    "The Starrken-corrected reading for Clintonite-21 it 3.972."

(4) The paper is now accepted and edited and takes the final form:

    "The Starrken-corrected reading for Clintonite-21 is 3.972."

(5) The paper goes to press.

According to Elsevier policy, it is in something's/someone's interest
that my home-server and xxx either contain:

    "The ratiometer reading for Clintonite-21 it 4.072."

or nothing at all.

Do I need to spell out the incoherence, tortuousness, ludicrousness and
blatant conflict of interest coursing through all this more explicitly?

Is it coherent to declare that "you may publicly archive your work, but
not the correct, final version?" (Will you shoot me if I just fix the

Is there an apter word than "tortuous" to describe the attempt to
justify this constraint as being in the service of "preserving
textual integrity"?

Does "ludicrous" not quite capture portraying such a self-serving
restriction as "adding value"?

Is the conflict of interest with which this is all but exploding blatant
only to my ears?

And here is the last step of the reductio ad absurdum: Both the author
and the referees have "added their value" to the product for absolutely
nothing, not a penny!

It remains only to point out that all these unflattering adjectives of
mine are justified only in the case of the refereed journal literature
in the online-only era, where true page costs are potentially low
enough to be covered by means other than the access-blockage (S/SL/PPV)
that these self-serving injunctions are designed to preserve, at
whatever cost to the interests of the author, the reader, and learned
inquiry itself.

They do not apply to the preponderance of the written corpus, where the
author writes for royalty or fee, and makes common cause with his
publisher in seeking to block access to their joint product to any who
have not paid the toll.



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

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