Re: The forgotten importance of editors

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 1999 18:26:53 -0400

My goodness - Stevan I think you need to step back, take a deep breath, and
if I may be a little blunt, shut up and listen for a while. Maybe there's some
pre-history between you and Ransdell that I don't know about, but judging
from his postings and yours in this latest series, Ransdell seems by far the
more reasonable of the two at least in tone, if not content. Might I suggest
you pick an alternate moderator to handle his postings if you have
difficulty treating them rationally?

This somehow reminds me of the fracas recently in the European
Parliament when somebody mistranslated the English phrase "shooting the
rapids" as "shooting the rabbits" and caused a long loud anti-hunting
debate to erupt. Not as obvious perhaps, but the same kinds of
misunderstandings and misinterpretations can happen with the written
word as well - we need to be careful that we are understanding one
another before we accuse each other of stupidity or incompetence, and
I for one am willing to give both of you the benefit of the doubt on
a lot of things I probably haven't quite correctly understood yet.

Anyway, I was a little surprised actually at the content of some
of Ransdell's latest messages - they seemed to
reflect a change in his opinions to be much more supportive of author
self-archiving than I had thought him in the past - but I know he has also
been an advocate of smaller focused journals too. What I saw in the
first posting on the subject seemed to be an attempt at trying to reconcile
the "obvious and inevitable" Harnad advocates with the persistence of
smaller journals - and his thoughts that the key to having smaller journals
accept the inevitable was to find ways to bring their editors on board.
Ransdell is clearly worried about the provost's opinion he quoted,
that the "lower tier" journals, which is often a way of characterizing
the smaller ones, will disappear in the new regime. No matter how
much Stevan denies it, journals of all sizes are threatened by
author self-archiving - why indeed did he call it a "subversive proposal"
in the first place? And to the extent editors have power, and feel
threatened, they will oppose the business, which is exactly what Ransdell
was suggesting, and why he thinks the current proposals (E-biomed,
Scholars Forum) will not succeed, at least if restricted to author
self-archiving only.

This forum started from the proposal by the editor of a smaller
journal (Thomas Walker) to make e-reprints freely available for a fee to
authors. What will it take to motivate other editors to do the same
or more to support author self-archiving? I think this is a highly relevant
question for this forum.

And I think the answer has to be a mechanism, within these proposals,
for the continuity of journals in some form, with at least a reasonable
plan for how things will continue to be funded. With E-biomed and the Scholar's
Forum on the table, we now have a wonderful starting point to actually make
this new regime come about - but we absolutely need to address the survival
of the journals and the role of editors in the future - beyond merely
being "stamps of approval". That was in part why I very much liked
John Smith's D-Journal proposal: it analyzes the role of the journal
as having three main purposes, one of which is obviated by author
self-archiving. The D-journal or something like it may be a way to get journal
editors and publishers to think anew about their roles, and institutions
to think anew about how to fund it all.
We really need to be discussing the future of journals - if
not in this forum then somewhere more hospitable...

   Arthur Smith
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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