Re: Self-Archiving vs. Self-Publishing FAQ

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000 16:13:43 +0000

On Fri, 4 Feb 2000, Katherine Porter wrote:

>bn> I think Stevan Harnad is seriously underestimating the
>bn> importance of "prior discovery", which may be established
>bn> by the date attached to the placement of an unrefereed
>bn> article on an open electronic repository.
> >
> It seems to me this raises questions not only about dates of
> placement for journal articles but also for patents. The number of
> academic scientists (and universities) who deal in patents is growing
> all the time. They, and patent office examiners as well, will have
> to be well aware of the preprint literature. I foresee business for
> my patent lawyer son.

As moderator, I have to remind everyone about the subject matter of
this forum: This discussion is not about patents or establishing
priority for patents. Nor is it (pace B. Naylor) about establishing
priority for one's unpublished ideas and findings, simpliciter. The Web
is indeed a wonderful new way of doing all these things, but that is
not the issue this Forum is addressing.

Nor is the purpose of the forum to formulate new definitions, or
reformulate old definitions, of "publication" for the online era (as
in the recent ALPSP posting). Important as such definitions are for the
new online era, they do not bring our particular mandate here into
focus; on the contrary, they blur it, implying that there is some prior
uncertainty left to resolve before we can get on with it. There is no
prior ambiguity. The sole definition of publication that is relevant
here is the definition of "refereed journal."

This Forum is about freeing the CURRENT refereed journal literature.
THAT is the form of publication we are concerned with here (not
other forms of published work: not books, not magazines,
not software, not music, not movies; not vanity-press
self-offerings, whether first, second, or nth.)

Closely connected to the refereed journal literature is the unrefereed
preprint literature. This is specifically the earlier drafts of the
papers that are destined to be submitted to refereed journals for
refereeing. Hence that literature is relevant too, as are any databases
and multimedia files that the author may wish to couple with the
refereed preprints and refereed publications.

I may have omitted a few other relevant categories. But I hope the
focus is clear: it is on the literature that appears in (mostly
paper) peer-reviewed journals NOW. And that is also what we mean by

Within the specific confines of this circumscribed domain, there is
still abundant confusion and uncertainty to resolve. If patents and
priority-stamping and new definitions of publication enter the arena
too, this confusion and uncertainty is simply compounded needlessly.

So, unless someone thinks there is a substantive question about the
definition of "refereed journal publication," could we abandon the task
of further defining "publication"?

[For to be drawn further into doing so would be rather as if, in a
forum devoted to freeing medical care, one were drawn into the general
question of the definition of "care" (as in pet care, plant care, soil
care, carefree, careless, and perhaps even career, scare, and
Poincare...). There, it's what doctors are currently paid to do for us
that is at issue; here, it is what refereed journal publishers are
currently paid to do for us. (Please don't reply by overworking the
metaphor, drawing in nursing, hospitals, ambulances and

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:45:40 GMT