Re: E-Biomed: Very important NIH Proposal

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 11:38:00 +0100

On Wed, 30 Jun 1999, Juan Miguel Campanario wrote:

jc>> I am sending comments on EBIOMED. The EBIOMED idea is very similar to
jc>> an idea I have published before. I am sending an elaborated version
jc>> of my idea with references to THE SCIENTIST, the journal in which I
jc>> published it.
sh>Unfortunately, I cannot agree with your ideas about peer review.
sh>Please see:
sh>plus my critique of E-biomed:
> Dear Prof. Harnad:
> Thank you for your answer. I know your opinions concerning E-biomed
> and concerning peer review.
> My main interest in E-biomed is that I propossed a very similar
> publishing outlet some time ago. The main diference between E-biomed and
> my idea is that, while in E-biomed authors are entitled to choose the journal
> to which referes are afiliated, in my proposal (a central database or
> metajournal) authors would submit an abstract or a full manuscript to the
> central facility or metajournal. Journal editorial boards would routinely
> scan the metajournal to locate potentially innovative manuscripts and/or
> papers of interest. Editors would then contact authors about publishing the
> article. If more than one offer is made, the author would choose the
> journal in which to publish. The task of shopping around could be
> eliminated and left totally in the hands of interested journals. The new
> system would inspire a new role in science: the journal scout or journal
> agent who would seek out manuscripts for journals.Journal scouts should be
> real experts in their fields and should be able to convice editors that
> candidate papers are worthy of publication. I strongly believe that when
> electronic publishing evolves, the
> publishing system will be similar to the above I dreamed. Now, I am interested
> in stating that a precedent to the idea of E-biomed was published by me some
> time ago.
> The Scientist,
> 1997, Vol 11, Iss 10, May 12, pag 9 (Internet:
> Juan Miguel Campanario
> Departamento de Fisica
> Universidad de Alcala
> 28871 Alcala de Henares TEL 34-91-8854926 Fax 34-91-8854942
> ---------------------------------------------

Dear Prof Campanario,

The idea is interesting but has some problems.

(1) Peer-review is a "seller's" market and not a "buyer's" market (if
the "market" metaphor is applicable at all -- and I rather doubt it).
This means authors are trying to reach the acceptance threshold of the
highest quality journal they can reach. Quality-control is a FILTER, not a

(2) There is nothing whatsoever wrong with the current quality and
specialty hierarchy and network of journals -- except that access to it
is blocked (by the access-constraints of paper and the toll-barriers of
proprietary paper and online access) instead of being free.

(3) E-biomed's real mission (once the confusion about being, competing
with or collaborating with journals is resolved in favour of what the
archive should real be: none of these) is to provide a reliable,
permanent facility for authors to self-archive both their refereed
reprints and their unrefereed preprints, thereby freeing the journal
literature for one and all.

(4) Megajournals and peer-review reform having nothing whatsoever to do
with it. E-biomed will only come into focus when it dissociates itself
from such interesting but irrelevant and potentially derailing issues.


Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 2380 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 2380 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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