The "Los Alamos Lemma"

Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 19:23:13 -0600

I've not been keeping track for a while, and for some reason the server
refused to recognize my registered email address. I'm hoping this will
go to the right place...

Stevan's lemma:
> If you think you know an alleged obstacle to public self-archiving
> -- let us call the obstacle "X" [X could be copyright,
> preservation, plagiarism, whatever], an obstacle that must allegedly
> be overcome before we can self-archive, and yet X did NOT stop Los
> Alamos, then X is not an obstacle to public self-archiving."

brought back fond old memories of my days as a mathematician.... Ah

Anyway, the lemma of course doesn't prove the theorem, assuming the
theorem is:

   "There are no obstacles to public self-archiving"

Given the lemma, what obstacles do remain? Things which might apply for
other fields but did not apply in the case of the Los Alamos archive.
Some such obstacles in the way of peculiarities of physicists, the
applicability of intellectual property produced in (some fields of)
physics, academic politics in other fields, etc, have already been
raised. However, I'd like to mention one other particular obstacle: the
essence of timing. Los Alamos grew wildly at a time when researchers in
those particular fields had few other options for reasonably rapid
communication of research. Los Alamos got a toe-hold before the web even
existed (the web itself, not coincidentally, also grew out of the need
for physicists to communicate amongst themselves, and far surpassed the
success of xxx or pretty much anything else...) Of course the web has
helped Los Alamos be even more effective, but it has also revolutionized
communication throughout the sciences, and in fields where there is no
Los Alamos archive, researchers either have now or will soon be
electronically communicating about research in a myriad of different
ways, some of which include the formal publication of research in
journals. That hasn't ceased in physics either, by the way. For a field
with a now established rapid electronic publication culture, does author
self-archiving actually add much utility? I don't know. Anyway, if this
isn't an obstacle now, it will be soon: at least in my opinion, time is
of the essence if author self-archiving is to succeed as well as it


Arthur P. Smith                                 email:
Research and Development                 The American Physical Society
1 Research Rd. Box 9000, Ridge, NY 11961-9000   phone: +1-631-591-4072
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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