Re: Medical journals are dead. Long live medical journals

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 1 Mar 2000 19:34:46 +0000

On Wed, 1 Mar 2000, Albert Henderson wrote:

> > So biomedical science, which its researchers give away for free for all,
> > exactly as physical scientists do, should continue to be held hostage to
> > access-blocking tolls, because there's money to be made there...
> Researchers don't give away "free for all" their best papers.
> They exchange them for the dissemination and recognition that
> can be provided only by the investment of their peers in an
> intensive review,

Peers review for free; authors give it to publishers, for free, to
publish. No royalties or fees asked or expected, unlike with all other
forms of publication. No point treating this highly anomalous literature
as if it were just the same as any other form of publication.

> publication, and citation in the formal literature.

Peers cite for free. Publication now only requires the implementation of
peer review, and certification of having met its quality standards. The
dissemination can be incomparably better accomplished free through
the Open Archives.

> Financing has to come from somewhere. Ever since
> Henry Oldenburg founded the Philosophical Transactions in 1665,
> subscribers have underwritten dissemination and given the
> publishers (including nonprofits) returns on their investments.

The service of quality control and certification (QC/C), consisting
mainly of the implementation of peer review, it is essential, and it
needs to be paid for; but none of the rest is needed any more (and, a
fortiori, need not be paid for); it is the year 2000 and there is a
revolutionary new medium for disseminating give-away research. No point
treating things as if they were just the same as they were in the

> Dissatisfaction with this arrangement has come primarily from
> university managers who have added to their profits by cutting
> library spending for 30 years. (see my article in AGAINST THE
> GRAIN. Dec 1999/Jan 2000 p. 32)

I am familiar with Albert Henderson's one-line remedy for it all:
"Spend More on Libraries." Is Albert familiar with the replies to the
above queries that have been made repeatedly in this Forum?

    Harnad, S. (1999) Free at Last: The Future of Peer-Reviewed Journals.
    D-Lib Magazine 5(12) December 1999

> > The issue here is not the use and misuse of peer-reviewed research in
> > sales and advertising to consumers. It is the free dissemination of peer
> > reviewed research to researchers online.
> >
> > The clinical risks of publicising UNrefereed results are real and can
> > and will be dealt with. At issue here are the scientific benefits of
> > free online dissemination of REFEREED research. Let us not confuse the
> > issue by conflating the two:
> For many readers, the two are indistinguishable particularly
> when they are used as reference sources for promotional claims
> that use phrases like "studies show that...." Such claims in an
> article in PHYSICS TODAY, asserting superior cost-effectiveness
> of AIP's journals, was amplified without reservation by the
> Association of Research Libraries SERIALS PRICES PROJECT REPORT
> (1989) and an editorial in SCIENCE by Philip H. Abelson
> (1989;244:1125). You can read my review of all the errors in
> that study and the circumstances surrounding it in THE SCIENTIST
> (1998;12,2:7-8)
> In other words, you cannot hold up Ginsparg's preprint server
> as a model of success and then claim your only interest is
> the refereed literature.

I'm afraid I could not follow any of the foregoing. And yes, I do hold
up Ginsparg's preprint (and refereed reprint) server as a model of
success and do claim that my primary interest is in the refereed
literature. (Not the only interest, because open archiving is intended
for both unrefereed preprints and refereed reprints: Both are essential
milestones along the "Scholarly Skywriting Continuum," as are
post-publication revisions, comments, replies, citations and links.)

    Harnad, S. (1990) Scholarly Skywriting and the Prepublication
    Continuum of Scientific Inquiry. Psychological Science 1: 342 - 343
    (reprinted in Current Contents 45: 9-13, November 11 1991).

    Harnad, S. (1995) Universal FTP Archives for Esoteric Science and
    Scholarship: A Subversive Proposal. In: Ann Okerson & James
    O'Donnell (Eds.) Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads; A Subversive
    Proposal for Electronic Publishing. Washington, DC., Association of
    Research Libraries, June 1995.

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

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

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Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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