Re: Publication at LANL as involving peer review

From: Ransdell, Joseph M. <ransdell_at_DOOR.NET>
Date: Thu, 15 Jul 1999 15:32:31 -0500

I think I have stated my view and its rationale as clearly as I can
within the limitations of a forum context and won't go through it again
unless it is felt that a formal restatement would be helpful. But I am
bothered by your continuing to talk as if I am urging the abandoning of
traditional peer review. That is a misinterpretation: what I say does
not have that implication. So, again, all of the rhetoric about what
happens if peer review is abandoned, the horror stories about scientists
sunk in the depravities of usenet news, and so forth, is not to the
point and I see no reason to respond to it.

However, you do shift the basis of the disagreement in an important way,
and although I can hardly hope to persuade you that you are wrong I do
want to pin down what the new disagreement is so others can judge for
themselves and perhaps help us in getting clarity and consensus on these

The disagreement is this: I say and you deny that publication, in the
scientific sense, occurs through the preprint server at LANL.

Now, your reason for denying it cannot be:

(1) because electronic rather than paper dissemination disqualifies it
as publication since your whole project is aimed at overcoming the
"papyrocentric" view

(2) because of the form in which the material is presented there, since
that is indistinguishable from the form of paper publication

(3) because the management of the system by Ginsparg deviates
significantly from the norms implicit in traditional publication
(exclusive of the formal peer review filter, of course) as regards
document handling, such as dating, identification, and versioning (and
if there is anything he has overlooked along that line I am confident
that he would be quick to rectify that, as I am sure you would agree)

(4) because the way in which claims are made and the way in which they
are regarded by the people to whom the communications are addressed
deviates from professional norms

(5) because the material disseminated is not in fact used by the
relevant scientific communities in the way publications are normally

(6) because the science is not in fact affected by whatever is
disseminated there

What condition is not being met, then? So far as I can see all of the
conditions for publication are met, including most importantly those
specified in Lederberg's formulation, as quoted extensively in my
earlier message that initiated this thread.

The URL for that message is:

(The subject header for this thread unfortunately changed early on, but
the date of the initial message in the thread is: Sun, 11 Jul 1999
20:57 and the subject header reads: "The significance of the LANL
preprint server" .)

The reasons you actually give are in the following passage:

sh> As long as LANL co-exists, as it does, with a refereed
sh> journal literature, and virtually all of its contents are
sh> concurrently submitted to, and eventually destined
sh> for, that literature, it simply cannot be described as a
sh> means of primary publication. It is merely (among many
sh> other things, and I am here in no way belittling LANL
sh> but rather insisting that there is much MORE to LANL
sh> than this) a faster means of pre-publication.

Your answer is, then, that it is

(7) because the preprint server co-exists with a refereed journal

(8) because virtually all of its contents are concurrently submitted to
and eventually destined for that literature.

I fail to see why either of these is supposed to preclude it being
publication, in the relevant sense, and primary publication, as I
defined it. I suggest that what you doing, Stevan, is inadvertently
turning the priorities upside down by treating the actual inquiry
process as if it were for the sake of the literature it generates
instead of recognizing that publication is in the service of inquiry.
That is what I call "the administrator's fallacy" since administrators,
not being part of the inquiry process, can only see it from without, as
it were, as productive of something that can be seized upon as proof
that what is going on in the process itself is really worthwhile. Thus
the peer review report becomes the main thing, from their point of view,
since that provides the hook for their control system. Otherwise
expressed, the acceptance that counts, for them, is the peer reviewer's
acceptance in the form of the stamp of approval for journal acceptance
-- re-read Phelps' paper to see what I mean -- whereas from the point of
view of the inquirer this is secondary, the primary acceptance being
acceptance of one's claims by one's peers in inquiry. I am not saying
there is no use for administrators or peer review or that they are
dispensable, but just trying to get clear on what is wagging what.

I'll be out of town during the next few days (Friday through Monday) and
unable to respond further until Tuesday, if further response is in
order. Many thanks for the dialogue, Stevan.

Joseph Ransdell  <> or <>
Dept of Philosophy   Texas Tech Univ.  Lubbock TX 79409
(806)  742-3158 office    797-2592 home    742-0730 fax
ARISBE:Peirce Telecommunity
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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