Alternative publishing models - was: Scholar's Forum: A New Model...

From: J.W.T.Smith <J.W.T.Smith_at_UKC.AC.UK>
Date: Sun, 2 May 1999 19:14:09 +0100


On Sat, 1 May 1999, Stevan Harnad wrote:


> The current refereed journal literature, as it stands, is an extremely
> valuable resource. It is what all future work is built upon. Perhaps a
> better form of peer review could make it even better, but that is an
> empirical question. What is undeniable is that the current refereed
> journal literature, such as it is, is and has always been an invaluable
> resource to researchers.

It is the refereed literature that "is and has always been an invaluable
resource to researchers". The journal is only involved as a filter (by
organising the refereeing) and as a carrier (delivering the information o
the reader). Unfortunately it is the combining of these two roles, thus
putting too much power in the same hands, that has led to the situation we
have now where scholars (or their institutions) have to pay large amounts
of money to read what their colleagues gave away earlier. In the past the
only way to be widely distributed was to get your work into a journal -
the net bypasses this problem. However the other major need is to have
your work recognised and validated by your peers - currently you still
need the journal to do this. The LANL pre-print server still has this
problem - it can distribute but it can't validate (which is one reason I
think it is not the way to go). As long as you have 'journals' you have
exclusivity because their funding model is based on ownership of 'their'
articles. What is needed is a system that cleanly separates the validating
role from the distribution role. I have proposed such a model in the
Deconstructed Journal:

The LANL pre-print server could operate within this system as my model
does not dictate who will run the servers.

> It follows that LANL is not a "model," but a proven, working principle.

However you are proposing the the model LANL embodies become the model for
other disciplines. I have the following reservations about this:

- The LANL model leaves it dependent on journals to validate its
  content. The very journals you condemn for limiting access to knowledge.

- The LANL model is centralised. I guess this is a leftover from the era
  of the mainframe. Any centralised model is vunerable to control - who
  shall say you can deposit your work here? Just like the journal. The net
  is distributed and any publishing model based on it should take
  advantage of this.

> The gist of my recommendation to the Scholar's Forum is that that is
> the principle it should implement, not any untested model for the
> future of journals or their successors. The LANL principle has face
> validity, overwhelming proof in practice, and is ready for extension to
> all disciplines. Why take something we KNOW works stupendously well and
> weigh it down with unproven "add-ons" that could well prevent it from
> getting off the ground just when it's ready to carry the other
> disciplines skyward, just as it has done in Physics?

Because it is not not free of the 'journal' - the model it embodies is
not self-sufficient.

> There is a crucial misunderstanding here: Self-archiving means
> archiving by the author. This is not restricted to local self-archiving
> in the author's Institution's Home Server (although that is an
> important component in creating a safely distributed, redundant and
> mirrored storage architecture). Authors need to self-archive in local
> as well as global Archives, such as LANL (and, one hopes, Scholar's
> Forum), with all the consortial resources you mention, to ensure the
> reliability and preservation of the global archive.
> Once the literature is indeed all being self-archived, the Online
> medium itself will offer a wealth of resources for safely storing it,
> upgrading it with new technology, preserving it, and so on. The hurdle
> to cross is creating a LANL-style Archive in which authors are indeed
> motivated to self-archive all their papers in the first place.

If everything is safe in a "safely distributed, redundant and
mirrored storage architecture" why do we need a "LANL-style Archive"?

All we need are the 'overlays' (I don't know if this term was
originally used by you, or Ginsparg,

or someone else) but not an'overlay' on a centralised archive but an
overlay on the whole of the net. Which is what my proposed Subject Focal
Points are intended to be.

> ... But if you
> needlessly overstructure the simple target -- a LANL-style Archive in
> which all authors place their preprints and reprints -- weighing it
> down with further, unproved structures, instead of restricting it to
> the tested and proven structures of LANL, you are needlessly
> jeopardizing the prospects of getting the literature online and free,
> as it has become in LANL.
> If something has worked so well, why not extend it as is, instead of
> trying to "fix" it first, especially when all the "fixes" are
> controversial (and some of them incoherent), and hence likely to
> inspire needless opposition?

Why have 'half a loaf' when you could have a whole one?

I propose a publishing model in the Deconstructed Journal which replaces
all the roles of the current model. The implicit model within LANL
service only replaces the distribution half of the main roles.


When I think about the operation of the LANL pre-print server over time it
seems it must become like the Decontructed Journal since the 'journals'
that currently do the validating will not have a distribution role at all
so what will they be selling? All they will have is their validation role
but how can they charge the reader for it since it is the article that is
validated and once it is validated it is validated for all readers (since
it is freely available from the server). They will therefore have to sell
their services to the author or author's institution because it is these
that benefit most directly from their validation. At this point they will
cease to be 'journals' and become 'independent evaluators' - a concept
central to the DJ model - as you might expect :-) .


John Smith,
University of Kent at Canterbury.
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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