Re: The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)

From: Ransdell, Joseph M. <>
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 15:38:43 +0000

    MODERATOR'S NOTE: Although I have used the moderator's prerogative
    to invoke cloture on this topic already in this forum, I don't want
    to deny Joseph his say this once, as the topic has again been
    briefly touched upon again, in passing.

    Instead of responding to Joseph's message by quote/commenting it as
    in the past (and repeating the responses made in the past) I will
    simply try a brief, pre-emptive innoculation:

    (1) This Forum is about freeing the (give-away) literature
    PUBLISHED in refereed journals.

    (2) It is not about literature WITHHELD from refereed journals.

    (3) Literature published in refereed journals is PUBLIC: Anyone can
    read it (if they can afford access to the journal!), anyone can
    apply it (unless it's patented), and anyone can build on it, cite
    it, comment on it, etc.

    (4) If there is an impending Provosts' Plot to WITHHOLD papers from
    publication in refereed journals, papers that would until now have
    been published there, that is a very serious problem indeed, and
    someone should do something about it. (It means, among other
    things, that the "publish or perish" era is over, and promotion,
    tenure, impact, prizes, prestige, grant-income etc., no longer
    depend on refereed publication: on what, then, one wonders?)

    (5) But (4) is NOT the problem that we are concerned with here,
    which is (to repeat) the problem of freeing the literature
    PUBLISHED in refereed journals.

    (6) There have been attempts by journal publishers to use Copyright
    Transfer Agreements to prevent their authors from publicly
    self-archiving their published papers online, free for all.

    (7) Joint copyright with the author's institution (for these
    GIVE-AWAY papers) might help overcome this ostensible barrier to
    freeing the literature.

    (8) As this is give-away literature, and as we are only talking
    about papers that are indeed being PUBLIshed, authors have nothing
    to lose here. Universities are not looking for (nor will they find)
    a cut in the movie rights from the spin-offs of these articles that
    almost no one reads, let alone cites.

    (8) ADVICE TO AUTHORS: If there is a possibility of making
    significant money from the sale of your paper, don't share
    copyright with your university and don't give it away to a refereed
    journal either! Get an agent and make a good fee/royalty deal with
    a trade publisher.

    (10) The above does not apply to any of the papers under discussion
    here; let it not detain us further.

    Stevan Harnad

Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 08:34:34 -0600
>From: (Ransdell, Joseph M.)


May I make a correction in your representation of my view as regards the
issue of the universities and intellectual property rights, especially
copyright? In response to Tom Wilson's comment that:

> tw> . . .the institutions are likely to have something to say in the matter,
> tw> given the emerging awareness of their stake in intellectual property -
> tw> some Universities may decree that, in certain areas, work is of such
> tw> commercial significance that their stake must be protected.>

you say:

sh> Tom, this too has come up repeatedly in this forum (mostly from Joseph
sh> Ransdell in connection with Steve Koonin and the Provosts' initiative).
sh> I recommend a little reflection on this. Just as it was highly
sh> instructive, indeed essential, to make the critical distinction between
sh> the give-away and the non-give-away literature (roughly, journals vs.
sh> books) in order to see the light about self-archiving, so it is
sh> essential not to confound the case of patents, software piracy, etc., in
sh> which universities indeed have a stake, with the case of refereed
sh> research publication.

The correction is this: I am and have always been quite clear on the
distinction between patents, etc., and copyright and on the differences
between the sorts of research material they apply to, and I am
concerned with the same material you are concerned with. I am also
aware of something else which you do not seem to be taking duly into
account, Stevan, namely, that there are many scientific fields --
especially those in biomed but not only those -- in which copyrightable
but nonpatentable research material can be and in fact often is of
great monetary value to those who understand that well-substantiated
theoretical findings are ipso facto connected with experimental
procedures and these procedures can frequently be used to generate
productive procedures of great practical application and financial
profit, if one is interested in that sort of thing. And, yes, there are
many people who are interested in that sort of thing, among whom one
even finds university administrators. In fact, finding administrators
that are not interested in possible profit from research, institutional
or personal, would be the real challenge. The connection of pure
research with possible profit is built into science insofar as it is
experimentally based: every experimental design is a proto-technology
in principle, though of course there might or might not be a human use
for it that makes it worth developing in that direction. That is why
pharmaceutical companies buy the research output of entire university
departments, for example, and commercial sponsors invoke proprietary
rights of secrecy whenever they can figure out a way to do it.

With the universities themselves emulating for-profit commercial
organizations more and more blatantly, with provosts increasingly
referring to themselves as CEO's and using topdown management
techniques, with the once disreputable metaphor of the university as
knowledge factory becoming the literal truth because it is taken that
way by the people who run it, it is disconcerting to find you talking
as if there is no problem about sharing copyright with universities on
the grounds that they are only interested in pure research and its
values. Shared copyright, such as you and the Caltech provost
advocate, can easily turn out to be the equivalent in practice to just
giving copyright to the universities, and there are many reasons why
universities might decide that research results which are, for all
intents and purposes, their property are not going to be made
unrestrictedly available. For outside of the hard sciences, where the
profit motive is often straightforwardly connected with research, there
is also the fear and defensiveness that can develop in connection with
research results in ANY field which political demagogues can seize upon
to use as a scapegoat for their own purposes, and that applies across
the whole spectrum of academic research.

In short, university administrators are in the service of many masters
and the ideals of pure research unsullied by the principles of profit
and fear are not necessarily among those with the highest priority.
When your defense of your view of copyright sharing is to talk as if the
objections to it are based on not understanding the difference between
patent and copyright one cannot help but wonder whether you have become
afflicted with tunnel vision, especially in view of your own background
in computer science, where the copyright/patent distinction has been
subject to massive confusion. As regards the provosts, if they are
going to expect faculty cooperation as regards new copyright
arrangements which transfer the power from the publishers to the
universities they are going to have to try making a plausible and OPEN
case for it instead of relying on a simplistic trust relationship which
simply cannot be presumed to exist -- and certainly is not strengthened
when obvious and responsible criticism is treated as if it were
aberration and foolishness.

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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