Re: Central vs. Distributed Archives

From: J.W.T.Smith <J.W.T.Smith_at_UKC.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 17:17:58 +0100

Professor Harnad,

On Tue, 29 Jun 1999, Stevan Harnad wrote:

> On Tue, 29 Jun 1999, J.W.T.Smith wrote:
> > A monopoly in the sense that it could become 'the place' where readers
> > look for items relevant to their subject. The non-presence of an article
> > in a recognised subject specific archive could imply it is not relevant to
> > the subject. More on this later.
> Papyrocentric thinking. We live in the era of metadata tagging and
> search engines that trawl it all.

I don't see what is 'papyrocentric' about this since the idea of an item
gaining some kudos by being in a certain archive has no necessary
connection to the paper world. A similar situation occurs when a journal
gains kudos from being indexed in a specific online biblographic database.
No paper involved here.

> > Once an archive (or its mirrors) is seen as 'the place'
> > to search for items of interest and access to that archive can be
> > controlled it might be temping to place some restriction on access like
> > payment of a fee (for purely reasonable reasons like getting enough money
> > to maintain the archive).
> A lot of other networked services are likely to get a price tag before
> the tiny refereed literature archive is likely to: It is the flea on the
> tail of the dog, and we will all be best served if it is given a free
> ride. Again, this worry is papyrocentric and misplaced.

Again I don't see why this is 'papyrocentric'. It may be paranoid but it
is not 'papyrocentric' :-) .

> > Now I know the actual quality control/validation
> > is provided elsewhere (maybe by the 'old' journals, maybe by other
> > players) but from the point of view of the author they may also need to be
> > in the archive as well as have the validation/stamp of approval of an
> > external organisation.
> This sentence was a bit difficult to decode, but from what I can make of
> it, one entity (the established journals -- why on earth not?) can
> continue to do the quality controlling and certification-tagging, and
> another (new, virtual) one, the Archive, can provide free access to the
> texts.
> What is the problem?

The subject specific archive seems an unnecessary complication. Applying
Occam's razor it seems we can chop it off and the system can run happily
without it.

> > Why don't you drop the word 'journal' then? Why not use 'validator' or
> > some other word that indicates the role and doesn't carry over
> > connotations from the old "papyrocentric" model?
> Suit yourself. But I think "Physical Review Letters" will continue to
> prefer to call itself by its current familiar and trusted brand name --
> and why on earth shouldn't it?

I'm not saying we shouldn't have "Physical Review Letters" (or any other
title) just that in the new model we should stop calling it a 'journal'.
The problem with the word 'journal' is that it carries connotations from
the "papyrocentric" world. For example - the idea that an item can only be
in one 'journal'. This does not need to be the case in a net-based model.
Your descriptions of your model seem to contain a "papyrocentric"
influence since there still seems to be a close relationship between an
item and the 'journal' that validates it. There is no reason why an item
could not be validated by more than one validator - especially if it
crosses current subject boundaries.

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

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