Re: E-Biomed: Very important NIH Proposal

From: Steve Hitchcock <sh94r_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Fri, 14 May 1999 11:27:15 +0100

At 06:56 PM 5/13/99 +0100, Stevan Harnad wrote:
>This is not the trade literature! Authors are giving away their papers.
>The competition, if peer review ever becomes a paid-for service, will
>NOT be for authors' dollars but for high quality papers, as it always

This trade vs non-trade distinction has long been central to Stevan's
viewpoint, but I think it requires some clarification. I raise it now
because I think it relates to much of the confusion in Tom Walker's
response to E-Biomed, much of which has been addressed, but not fully
resolved, in Stevan's response.

In the trade model argument there are two sides. For publishers, journals
are a trade model, now and in the future, because they need to provide
income streams to support their services. For authors, on the other side,
journals also represent a trade model now - that's the Faustian bargain
long recognised - but in the future (for physicists now) it need not be.
That is because, with the possibility of e-print archives or self-archiving
- the subversive proposal - the author does not need to generate, or
require someone else to generate, an income stream to support the action of
making a work accessible, or to communicate it widely.

Here is the crucial point. It may no longer be necessary to adopt a trade
model for authors, but there must be a market model. That model will need
to be powerful to attract authors. It will need to compete with the trade
market model that publishers will continue with.

In favour of e-print archives, Stevan would cite speed of publication, free
papers - overall, easy accessibility. That's a good market model, and will
support additional features in the future. But as an indication of how
powerfully competitive the trade model is, Stevan can provide the counter too:

>I think the current journal prestige hierarchy and its impact
>factors, etc., will FAR outweigh any of the advantages of free online
>accessibility. Considerable though those advantages will be, to both
>authors and readers, they are predicated on sustaining the current
>quality of the literature, and its known sign-posts (the journals).

There is only one option in the market model: the non-trade model must
compete with the trade model. That is not to say they could not co-exist.

Radical proposals such as E-Biomed need a clear market model. Responses
such as Tom Walker's provide no market model, instead trying to co-opt the
trade model. But Tom isn't alone. The whole debate here on various threads
- esp. S/L/P vs page charges - is flawed because it tries to co-opt the
trade model. It is concerned with flows of money to support publishing
services, even if it is page charges to support peer review. It won't work
because those who want to sustain the trade model aren't interested.

For those who say this is not the trade literature - I've said it before -
get the trade model right out of the argument. But remember it's still a
market model, and that the trade model will continue for some time to come.

Steve Hitchcock
Open Journal Project
Multimedia Research Group, Department of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
Tel: +44 (01)703 593256 Fax: +44 (01)703 592865
Open Journal Project Web page
"Bringing journals alive on the World Wide Web"
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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