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

From: Dr. John R. Skoyles <skoyles_at_BIGFOOT.COM>
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 21:25:15 +0100

>> 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.

Harold Varmus' original proposal for E-BIOMED last May got heavily
criticized over the issue of quality control. One objection was that eprint
archives change the differential reputation status of papers. An eprint of
a paper published in Nature would become a eprint like any other in the
proposed E-BIOMED. While for the informed, any paper in Nature will retain
the quality control reputation associated with that journal, for those not
so informed [students, lay persons], publication source will not matter --
with the result there will be a leveling down of reputation.

One solution is to limit eprints to peer reviewed journals. But that
requires a filter that knows what journals are peer reviewed and which are
not. A natural fear exists therefore that open eprints archives will erode
the importance of quality control over the scientific literature with
unreviewed papers gaining some, if not much, of the reputation of reviewed
ones. Given enough opposition already exists from those with a commercial
interest in keeping papers tolled, that fear has to addressed. Are there
automated quality controls that could differentiate the status of eprints?
If not there will always be critics.

This is where and come in. Here software
developers aware of quality control issues in their own field -- and
obviously possessed of the programming skills to do it -- have invented
techniques to automate it. Read Raph Levien's paper on trust metric and you
will discover he has worked out ways to make a quality control system
secure against attack. Indeed, a proof is presented. The ideas are general
to all systems in which experts certificate and evaluate others as experts
or not. There is nothing specific to them for use only in software

The science community are not the only ones interested in quality control.
Software developers are as well. Unlike scientists, however, they have the
abilities to be in the vanguard of programming its internet automatization.
That they have done so, I suggest changes the debate about eprints -- it
means eprint archives need not necessarily level down reputations.
Techniques exist that will enable papers in eprint archives to gain
differential status. That should kill one source of criticism against
freeing the scientific literature from its bondage to paper, and its access
tolls. This off-topic subject as a result could turn out to be very
Dr. John R. Skoyles
6 Denning Rd,
Hampstead, NW3 1SU
London, UK

In the autumn, I will be at the London School of Economics, Centre for
Philosophy of Natural and Social Science.

Check out my Golden House-Sparrow award winning homepage
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:45:44 GMT