Questions from Italy about "Subversive Proposal"

From: Mauro Scanu <>
Date: Sun, 2 Jul 2000 11:20:20 +0100

Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2000 20:13:45 +0200 (MET DST)
From: Mauro Scanu <>

Dear Mr. Harnad

I have some questions to help clarify your objectives regarding
electronic publishing:

(1) You have written that the self-archiving of papers by authors will
allow S/L/P [Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View] costs to be saved
and that those savings will cover QC/C [Quality-Control/Certification]
costs. What do you mean? Is QC/C not done for free by scientists?
Peer reviewing will still be done by editorial boards for journals or
voluntarily by scientists for on-line archives?

(2) The Los Alamos Physics Archive <http://> was born
in 1991 but is still an isolated case with respect to the whole of
scientific production. Don't you think that the success of
self-archiving depends on the peculiarities of certain disciplines
(physics, mathematics, cognitive sciences, computer science) that may
be fitter for this kind of publishing than others?

(3) I have interviewed some Italian scientists. Some of them argued that
self-archiving would benefit more those individuals who have a very low
impact-factor (because of high specialisation in their field or an
inability to publish in prestigious journals).

I know that you are against a "hybrid" system. Don't you think,
however, that for scientists who already have great visibility, the
Faustian bargain is a bit less "Faustian"? On the one hand, they do
give their articles to publishers, but at the same time they derive a
great reward in terms of impact-factor and diffusion of their ideas:

This is the starting point of a continuing cycle of credit (as
suggested by Bruno Latour in "Laboratory Life"). I think that even if
scientists admit the illegitimacy of publishers' excessive gains, they
prefer to turn a blind eye on them and to carry on with this system

    Latour, Bruno and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Construction
    of Scientific Facts, Second ed. Princeton: Princeton University
    Press, 1986.

(4) Don't you reckon that the scientific community would be too
conservative, especially in some disciplines, to create this revolution
spontaneously? (I'm referring to scientific communities like the Italian

5) You launched the subversive proposal in 1994. What are the reasons
that have hindered this change in science? Do you think that these
depend on economic interests or the mentality of scientists who don't
consider electronic media as a proper vehicle for their credibility?

Thank you for your attention.
Best Regards,

                                  MAURO SCANU
Home: Viale Villa di Chiesa 3, Iglesias 09016, ITALY. Tel: +39 (0)781 42366
University: Via dei Pittori 14, Siena 53100, ITALY. Tel: +39 (0)577 43208
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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