Re: Napster: stealing another's vs. giving away one's own

From: Dr. John R. Skoyles <skoyles_at_BIGFOOT.COM>
Date: Sat, 20 May 2000 09:37:25 +0100

Harnad's vision of journal publishers scaling down to becoming
quality-control/certification (QC/C) SERVICE-providers puts the future in
clear and surely correct focus. Two points need to be made.

Publishers cannot hide their revenue behind fire-walls. Search spiders are
now sufficiently smart that contents pages of any published journal can
have its papers located upon personal servers thus enabling any company to
set up alternative 'content pages' with urls to them rather than a
publisher's own password protected and revenue generating
Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View S/L/P access tolls. The period in
which science publishers can profit from work freely given to them, freely
edited and freely reviewed is now historical. Their future, as such, exists
as quality control/certification service providers.

Second, the provision of quality control/certification needs to be
separated from the historical accumulation of journal reputation. We --
readers, employment/promotion boards -- are time short and so use the
reputation of journals as a substitute for a detailed study of the quality
of their quality control. Moreover, due to a Matthew-like process, those
journals with high status gain more: good papers are submitted to journals
with high reputation increasing their reputation further. This means that a
publisher of a well known and respected title has a limited resource from
which they can extract a premium. Publishers obviously have a legitimate
claim to charge for the provision of quality control/certification, but do
they have a right to gain this premium that has accumulated to their
journals from the work given freely to them in the past? Does this not
properly belong to the scientists that have given their time and work
without compensation as paper contributors and reviewers? This point is
central to science publishers as they adapt to their new role: they might
complain that they are losing revenue, but much of that should never have
belonged to them.

>Note that, unlike in music and trade-book production, in research
>journal paper production there is and always has been a conflict of
>interest between the author and publisher: the publisher needs to sell
>their joint product, the author would prefer to give it away. The
>solution to this is for the journal publisher to scale down to becoming
>a quality-control/certification (QC/C) SERVICE-provider, instead of a
>producers of papers, which can instead be given away by being
>self-archived online in the open archives. The (minimal) costs of the
>QC/C service can be paid for by the author's institution out of a small
>portion of its annual institutional savings from cancelling all
>payments for the (now-free) PRODUCT (formerly paid for by
>Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View S/L/P access tolls).
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.

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

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