Re: ecitations -- the missing ingredient for eprint success?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 13:05:37 +0100

On Sun, 23 Apr 2000, Dr. John R. Skoyles wrote:

> Owen Cliffe mentions two sites and I
> visited them and read through the automated moderation system of pieces and
> associated comments upon them. Steven Harnad has always pointed out that
> newsgroups are world web graffiti. But these comment pages were a joy to
> read: clear, sharp, pertinent and relevant. Software development is not
> science publication, but is it so different that the peer quality control
> of the former might not suggest directions for the future of the latter?

This is an empirical question, and deserves further empirical testing
and analysis. But it is not the subject matter of this Forum, which is
about freeing the CURRENT peer-reviewed journal literature, SUCH AS IT
IS, NOW, from its bondage to paper, and its access tolls.

There is, and should be, no linkage whatsoever between (F) the
face-valid and feasible immediate goal of freeing the extant journal
corpus and any (H) hypothetical, untested, unvalidated schemes for
improving on or replacing peer review.

But as we are in the realm of speculation, let me give a speculative
reply to the speculative question that has been raised:

   Yes, "software development is not science publication" (let alone
   representative of scientific research in general)." And no, these
   new web-based forms of "peer quality control" in the case of
   software development (likewise not representative of software
   science in general, much of which is still filtered through peer
   reviewed journals and conferences) do not "suggest directions for
   the future" of science research/publication yet at all, but at best
   only possible directions for future empirical testing.

[For the record, what I have repeatedly called a "Global Graffiti Board
for Trivial Pursuit" across the years is Usenet/Netnews, but clearly I
and others have at the same time been taking steps to try to help remedy
this insofar as refereed research is concerned, for the refereed journal
I edit, Psycoloquy, is, and has been since its inception in 1990, a Usenet
Newsgoup -- sci.psychology.journals.psycoloquy -- in one of its several
online incarnations. The Web too, is still (based on brute byte count)
preponderantly garbage -- since pornography and dilettantism hog far
more bandwidth than anything else -- but quality is making more and
more inroads there too. But, as elsewhere, one cannot expect
science/scholarship to amount to much more than the flea on the tail of
the dog here, even at the best of times.]

And here is another speculation about which I feel fairly confident:

    Public opinion polls and popularity contests will never be the
    right model for Scholarly/Scientific Research. As long as humanity
    produces research worth having and keeping, it will be the
    qualified specialists who adjudge of and certify its quality, not
    the entire demography of the Bell Curve, even once every last human
    on the planet is online.

    And Learned Publication will never be a ratings-based Vanity Press;
    that exoteric model may be the right one for politics, pop-stardom,
    commercial TV, and commerce in general, but not for the esoteric
    road of Learned Inquiry.

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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