Re: Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives '99

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 19:42:21 +0100

On Sat, 10 Jul 1999, Hal Varian wrote:

> Undoubtedly, [trade authors] would be happy to be paid for
> writing, but academic authors would be happy to be paid for their writing
> too.

I'm afraid I have to disagree. The answer is "yes" when the academic
authors are wearing their trade hats (writing books or magazine
articles) but the answer is "no" when they are reporting their
research in peer-reviewed journals.

> No author *wants* to deter eyeballs, even trade authors.

You might as well say no producer of any product wants to deter greater
consumption of their product (it's just that they would like to get
paid for it!).

> If academic authors
> were *sufficiently* compensated for detering eyeballs, I expect many would
> be happy to do so. If a referred journal offered you payment for an
> article, would you turn it down? (Several refereed journals in business
> and medicine do pay for articles, by the way.)

I'm afraid I have to disagree again: It would require a MONSTROUSLY
large amount of money to make a research author trade off his potential
impact on research for the impact on his pocketbook. (And many
scientists and scholars, still recalling why they chose the leaner path
of Learned Inquiry rather than heading straight for the junk bond market
in the first place, would decline even that!)

But no peer reviewed journal could (or would) afford to make it worth an
author's while anyway.

Here's a test: How much would (should) the author of a refereed journal
article accept to SELL his self-archiving rights to his publisher?

(My guess: a lot more than any publisher could ever afford to offer!
This is not big-market literature we're talking about! And that's the

> Furthermore, even academic authors make money from their publications,
> albeit indirectly. If you regress earnings on publications and citations
> you find a large and significant coefficient on refereed journal
> publications and citations. Academic authors who publish more are paid
> more, and part of the motivation for academic publishing is the prospect
> of academic advancement and higher salaries.

Correct, but TOTALLY irrelevant! The author is not being paid out of the
access-blocking toll-gate receipts from the sale of his papers by S/L/P!

On the contrary, if you properly regressed THOSE on earnings, you would
find that they REDUCE impact and hence earnings!

This is a completely spurious, noncausal correlation, and the simple
act of self-archiving shows it to be so. (Have the 100,000 authors who
have self-archived in Los Alamos reduced or inhanced their impacts and

> The point of my note is that motivations are not as far apart as you
> claim: there is an (indirect) financial motivation in publication for
> academic authors and there is a large component of desire to communicate
> in trade authors. There is certainly a difference in the economic model
> in the two industries, but the divide in the motivations of the authors is
> not as "profound and significant" as you claim.
> But again, I don't think this point makes much difference for the rest of
> your argument.

I'm afraid I disagree, and I do think it makes a great difference. The
similarities between the two populations are partial, superficial and,
in the present context, misleading. The deep differences are in the
means/ends: For most trade authors, self-archiving their work free for
all is only a temporary means to an end (hopeful, eventual
compensation); for (most?) refereed journal authors it IS the end
(widest possible access to their findings for peer eyes/mind, present
and future).

The reason stressing the similarities between the trade and nontrade
literatures here is misleading is that the self-archiving model I have
been advocating for refereed journal papers is decidedly NOT the right
model for the rest of the literature, and conflating the two simply
blurs the critical insight at the core of all this.

But this can be settled empirically: Let a line be drawn in Cyberspace,
and let those who are interested in giving away their products
(whatever they are) as freebies in perpetuo step to the left of it
(say), and let those who are not step to the right.

The entire refereed journal authorship will be on the left. Perhaps
some others will be too. Let's see wait and see who. I'm predicting
that most book and magazine authors will not (and note that I said "in
perpetuo," not in "pro-tem promo"!).

In any case, that is the literature I am dedicated to freeing (from its
hostagehood to the trade model and S/L/P) -- not every product of the
human mind!

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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