Self-archiving in Philosophy: Author-Give-Aways [AGAs] Or Not?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 13:01:12 +0100

On Wed, 18 Aug 1999, Ransdell, Joseph M. wrote:

> whereas your focus has been on liberating the journal literature mine
> was originally on liberating the textual literature which the humanities
> live by. Many of the same elements are paralleled in the two cases,
> though there are some differences as well.)

Fundamental difference (or question): Is yours an author-give-away
[AGA] (no-royalty, no-fee) literature or not? If not, the differences
far outweigh any similarities.

> what I envisaged from the beginning was what we
> now think of as a website that would provide access not only to the
> document base mentioned but also to the secondary literature, including
> as well links to all work relevant to it in other ways (as in citation
> linking and the like, for example) and providing simultaneous seamless
> access to communication with other researchers so that documents could
> be worked with in common in real time.

Same question: How much of this is firewall-free material, and how much
is (and in many cases has to be) behind financial firewalls? The story
is completely different for the two; conflating the two is neither
workable nor instructive.

"Liberating" the non-AGA literature by getting it online (for-fee
[sic]) is certainly a very useful goal, but one that the learned and
commercial providers are now aware of and pursuing. Accelerating and
facilitating this (and perhaps putting some sparks under trouser-seats
through pre-emptive self-archiving where movement is sluggish) is
eminently worthy, but not the agenda under discussion here either.

This is why SELF-ARCHIVING is key here: Because AGA material can be
auto-archived by the author, But one can't give away what is not one's
own! (And persuading others, e.g. copyright-holding publishers, to give
away what they would rather sell, even if slow off the mark, is a
rather quixotic mission!).

> included a solution to the problem of copyright as well by including
> as a sixth member pro forma a representative from the Harvard philosophy
> department (an individual who holds the premier chair in philosophy in
> this country), which owns copyright of the material.

Not exactly a solution to the problem of copyright, and especially not
if this is potential royalty/fee material, mais passons...

> Defeat was snatched from the
> jaws of victory when two of the five members of the team announced that
> changes had to be made which would, in effect, have converted it from an
> open access project as described above into a scaled down in-house
> project that would benefit only the pre-existing paper-based editorial
> project which one of them directed.

Could this not, at base, have arisen from the fact that the material
was non-AGA?

> In commenting on our project he remarked that although it had
> interest both as a librarian database project and as a computer systems
> project, what we should be focusing on was the question of whether there
> really is a user community out there. People were simply assuming that
> if you built an ideally conceived system of communication people would
> of course use it, whereas there was actually no evidence to support
> this. You can see the pertinence of that to the present situation,
> where there is little evidence that people are actually going to be
> willing to self-archive in spite of the seeming reasonableness of the
> assumption a priori.

You have unfortunately been very vague about the nature of the material
in question here. But I would say there is OVERWHELMING evidence both that
authors will self-archive and that readers will use (heavily) AGA
material of a very specific kind (pre-refereeing preprints and
post-refereeing reprints).

So far this has only happened in Physics and Mathematics, but I believe
the rest of the disciplinary dominoes are ready to fall, starting with
Cognitive/Computer Science, and, one hopes, soon Biomedical Science and
then all the rest.

> I realized immediately, though, that something much
> more important than that was going on [on the Web], and that the giveaway of
> the do-it-yourself materials for constructing an on-line site was
> actually providing -- or would in due time provide -- the basis for the
> sort of on-line environment which we had earlier intended to construct
> from the ground up using grant money. I realized at that point, though,
> that the priority would have to be given to amassing an increasingly
> valuable basis of secondary material through linking and self-archiving
> rather than giving priority to the primary material, until some reason
> would exist for having another try at freeing the latter from the paper
> archives, where it is still entombed.

Unfortunately, this re-states the basic problem: There is a clear,
straight-forward scenario for freeing AGA material (self-archiving),
but none yet (and perhaps never will be) for non-AGA material. If
you conflate them, you end up with an impossible Escher-figure.

> I have been focally concerned with trying to understand why
> faculty in particular will NOT take advantage of the opportunities
> networking offers, including the opportunity to self-archive, regardless
> of whether it is refereed material or not.

Why the academic cavalry are taking so long to drink from the waters of
the optimal will be an interesting question for future historians to
investigate. It is already a historical fact that, thanks to Paul
Ginsparg, Physicists were indisputably the first to figure it out and
get to it.

But surely clarity and coherence will be an important factor in helping
the rest hydrate, and conflating AGA with non-AGA does not clarify but

> Getting people to use [the self-archive] is not easy. People can be
> persuaded one by one to archive a paper provided one is willing to spend
> one's time persuading people one by one to do that, though there are
> always some who cannot be persuaded at all.

Welcome to the real-time biosocial world of horses, water, and drinking...

> (1) A major deterrent for many is fear of being regarded by others as
> desperate for recognition or as being "pushy"...
> Sorry to keep pushing
> that, Stevan, but that is how people are regardless of how irrational it
> may be, and it is a much more potent deterrent to self-archiving than
> you might think. Both pride and sensitivity to prestige are involved in
> this, and your insensitivity to this factor alone indicates to me that
> you have not done much of the grass roots work required.

Let's wait to hear what the historians have to say about the "coyness"
factor in a decade or two. For now, by way of a reductio ad absurdum, I
point out that, out of consistency, such sentiments should have
militated against any PUBLICation at all!

(Is it insensitivity, or simply recognising a spade as a spade? Why do
authors provide reprints to those who ask? Why do they care whether the
journal they appear in is prestigious, indexed, cited, and has a high
impact factor? It's not coyness, it's simply the [momentary] failure to
have put two and two together, as the Physicists did from the outset!
Self-archiving is not self-advertising, any more -- or less -- than
publishing itself is.)

> When people put something up on my website, I have to do it for them for
> technical reasons.

A big mistake, in my opinion. CogPrints began with a set of
distinguished invitees for whom we did all the technical work, but once
100 papers were archived that way, the idea was that the rest would be
in the authors' hands. The self-archiving procedure was designed to be
as simple as possible -- as easy as emailing or downloading the text to
someone -- but of course there was still the horse/water factor...

And that's why this Forum is still fomenting. For the handwriting was
already on the wall with the appearance of the Subversive Proposal
in 1994

if the LANL model, in place since 1991, was not already proof enough:

> (2) A second deterrent is peculiar, I think, to people outside of the
> hard sciences, particularly in the humanities, namely, the unreflective
> belief that it is not their job as faculty to familiarize themselves
> with and use the underlying mechanical instruments of communicational
> composition, such as the HTML formatting programs.

This can and will be finessed by making self-archiving so simple that
anyone who can touch a keyboard can do it. It is already almost that
simple now. Try it. And for those not quite ready to take the plunge
themselves, a student, secretary, offspring, or spouse can do it, as
with the programming of the VCR...

> (3) To self-archive, authors require personal motives, not just general
> principles about the need for a free literature.

No general principles required at all, just the already present desire
to have one's findings read, cited, built-upon (and rewarded, through
promotion, prizes, posterity). In short, the motives for public
self-archiving are PRECISELY the same as the motives for PUBLICation,

(The puzzle is only why this is not patently obvious immediately; the
answer is, of course: human (and equine) nature, habits, superstitions,
inertia -- and a certain amount of conflict of interest, with certain
interests vested in the status quo, as this Forum has been discussing.
But it is clearly just a matter of time before the rest of the
disciplines twig on the optimal and inevitable.)

> Challenge copyright by seeing if publishers will enforce it? Forget it.
> A few heroes are not enough to make any difference.

The 100,000 authors in LANL are not heroes. They just did the sensible
thing from the outset; and absolutely nothing happened to them, of course,
because this is the AGA literature, and copyright laws were not written
or conceived for that: Le droit d'auteur n'est pas la pour se proteger
contre soi-meme!

> These things can be overcome, but it will be in virtue of individual
> persons here and there who are willing and able to put their time in on
> development work that focuses on changing academic practices in
> particular fields in which they have firsthand understanding of the
> problematics, not by establishing ingenious facilities of use in
> abstraction from the realities of those that might use them.

Ahem, let us hope that, in the scheme of things, one's relentless
attempts to explain, reply, and inform don't play a null causal role

> The LANL
> archives that you take as your model were developed step by step by Paul
> Ginsparg through experimental modification of pre-existing practices, as
> is readily evident both from his papers at the website
> and from the message he posted a week or so ago in clarification of a
> good many points about how development occurred there. That is why it
> worked.

My understanding is that LANL worked because Paul had the vision to
make a self-archive available and useable; but physicists took to
self-archiving like ducks (not horses) to water. And (apart from the
ancillary focus on TeX), there is nothing Physics-specific about the
LANL principle at all. And now that it is a proven principle, it is
ready to scale up to the rest of the disciplines with nothing more than
some cosmetic changes.

> Self-archiving will not occur in the way you hope for where
> there are no people like Paul who are willing and able to take time away
> from their primary interest in their field to do the kind of careful
> work required, and Paul cannot do it for other fields.

I don't see this at all. The wheel need only be invented once, and Paul
has already done it. Moreover Paul (and myself, and others) are
actively involved in trying to generalize self-archiving to the rest of
the disciplines:

> Archives with sophisticated facilities of access, reference, and
> manipulation are wanted, but in themselves they are very weak
> attractors. The construction of such archives does not in itself
> address the human realities -- the practices and traditions -- that
> must be understood and worked with patiently.

The need for patience I understand, and efforts to inform must be
relentless, but other than that I'm not at all sure what you have in
mind here...

> Those who want to convert academics in general to the really effective
> use of the internet will want to focus on finding out how to support
> grassroots development -- field or area specific development of on-line
> practices -- to make the archives work. My experience suggests that if
> nothing is done along this line, as has been the case so far, things
> will continue to change at their present glacial pace, apart from
> occasional special developments here and there, as at LANL. Neither
> computer science nor information science holds the solution to this
> problem.

This all seems rather vague to me, and I am much more optimistic. You
may be overgeneralizing from the disappointing outcome of your own
specific project (which, as I suggested, seems to have conflated AGA
and non-AGA factors, probably to its own disadvantage, and certainly to
the disadvantage of clarity about what is really at issue here).

I too have related projects that have moved disappointingly so far:

I founded an online journal of Open Peer Commentary 10 years ago that
-- if there were any logic to the movements of the academic cavalry --
should have overtaken the paper journal of Open Peer Commentary I
founded 20 years ago (because the online medium is so much more
suitable for Commentary), but it has not, yet.

I founded a self-archive modelled on LANL that should have
been well on the road to catching up to LANL, yet it has only
gone 1/100,000 of the way so far!*

By the same token, my Subversive Proposal seems so far to have fallen
on deaf ears (discounting the already-converted Physicists).

And yet I am not a bit pessimistic. On the contrary, I see the recent
E-biomed, Scholar's Forum, and other initiatives as signs that the
optimal and inevitable hydration is nearing after all.

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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