Re: Incentives

From: Peter Singer <peter.singer_at_UTORONTO.CA>
Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2000 22:41:45 -0400

Stevan's responses help me sharpen my line of argument (see below). Please
see also my original posting. What do others think about the role of
incentives in freeing the literature?


PAS>> [T]hree clear instantiations of the [current] incentive system are
PAS>> university promotion committees, granting agency review committees,
PAS>> award committees... These groups... are supposed to judge "quality"...
SH >They judge quality, in part, with the help of prior peer review, as
SH>implemented by the established refereed journals. (This is one of the
SH>functions of the essential Quality-Control/Certification [QC/C] service
SH>that refereed journals provide, and will continue to be paid for
SH>providing.) If each paper had to be peer-reviewed afresh by each review
SH>committee, the work of quality-control would be increased by an order
SH>of magnitude -- rather like asking employers to re-mark the school
SH>essays of all their candidates instead of relying on the marks they
SH>were assigned by their universities.

I agree with the comment about QC/C. The argument about re-marking papers
afresh is specious for reasons I present below.

SH>Peer review is imperfect, whether exercised by journal editors/referees
SH>or by review committees; it could stand improvement, as well as
SH>supplementation by other new forms of evaluation, including online
SH>informetrics. But that is not the focus of this Forum. This Forum is
SH>about freeing the peer-reviewed literature, such as it is, now. There
SH>is no reason to delay or side-track this immediate, face-valid
SH>objective by coupling it in any way with untested hypotheses about
SH>ways of improving or modifying or replacing peer review.

There is a reason. You can create self-archives but their use by
researchers will be impeded by the fact that self-archiving will be seen by
researchers to limit future publication options (see below), and therefore
opportunities for promotion and other incentives. I know the Los Alamos
physics archive enjoyed tremendous growth, but i am not aware the physics
community faced a critical mass of prestigious journals that would not
publish papers that had been self-archived. Am i wrong about this? This
is of course an empirical question. We can find some empirical evidence in
BMJ netprints -- the growth there has not to date paralleled the situation
with the Los Alamos server. Why not?


PAS>> Now the question becomes how does the decision of an author to submit
PAS>> her work to traditional journals versus new forms of e-"publishing"
PAS>> such as self-archiving or Biomedcentral relate to these incentives?
SH>This is a false opposition: There IS an either/or decision for authors
SH>contemplating "new forms of e-publishing [e.g., BiomedCentral]," but NO
SH>such either/or decision for authors contemplating self-archiving (of
SH>their refereed papers, published in traditional journals). They are
SH>contemplating a both/and decision that can only increase, not decrease
SH>the impact of their papers.

Self-archiving is not a both/and decision because many prestigious
journals will not accept papers that have been posted to the web. Although
some journals do accept previously posted articles, the author limits her
options by self-archiving. We may agree that such restrictions are not a
good thing, but they exist.

On the matter of self-archiving vs. Biomedcentral, after attending the
interesting conferenece in New York, I am not sure the distinction between
self-archiving and Biomedcentral with respect to subsequent publication is
as striking as Stevan implies. In both cases the author retains copyright.
Why would another journal -- say a specialty journal serving a particular
audience -- publish [a modified or customized version of] only self-
archived papers but not papers from Biomedcentral if they feel the material
is of interest to their readers?


PAS>> Now the question becomes how to change the incentive system so authors
PAS>> can be rewarded for "publishing" in the new ways?

SH>On the self-archiving model, there is no need to change the incentive
SH>system for publishing; an incentive has to be provided for
SH>self-archiving IN ADDITION TO publishing. Part of that incentive is the
SH>increased impact made possible by free access; the other part would
SH>come from Universities' mounting Open Archives, rewarding their
SH>researchers for self-archiving in them, and even providing proxies
SH>(students or digitial library staff) to do the first wave of
SH>self-archiving for them:

If you build it, they might not come. The reason is self-archiving might
limit publication options (see above). When you write Unviersities should
reward researchers for self-archiving, you are agreeing with my argument
that incentives matter. What sort of incentives did you have in mind here?

PAS>> The... university, granting agency, or award-giving body simply needs
PAS>> to state that the work itself, and not where it was published, should
PAS>> be the focus of attention of review committees
SH>And unfortunately the proponent of this expedient needs to state where
SH>these review committees are to find the time, money, and peers to
SH>peer-review all these already peer-reviewed papers afresh each time.

The focus of review in the incentive system is not the paper but usually
the person (university promotion committee or career award or prize). So it
is a false proposition to say all the articles will need to be re-
reviewed. Rather, we need valid and efficient assessments of the body of a
person's work that treats fairly work published, for example, in
Biomedcentral rather than the brand name journals that will not accept self-
archived papers.

PAS>> The current tools of number of articles, journal brand, journal impact
PAS>> factor, peer reviews can be improved. If we produce better tools, we
PAS>> will decrease reliance on the ones we have now -- especially journal
PAS>> brand -- and authors can be recognized appropriately for their work
PAS>> submitted to the new venues for e-"publishing".
SH>By all means produce better tools; test them; and once they have been
SH>chosen to do the job, they will no doubt be adopted. Meanwhile, we have
Sh>a job to do: freeing the current refereed literature online, now. --
SH>Once this is done, there will be a much bigger database for developing
SH>those new kinds of tools:

I am not arguing that self-archives should not be established in medicine
and science. I also agree that the freed literature will provide a much
better database for citation analysis etc.

The difference in our views is that Stevan sees the proper alignement of
incentives as a detour on the way to freeing the literature and I see them
as a necessary precondition. The problem is, to use Stevan's metaphor, you
can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. We can create self-
archives but researchers won't use them in large numbers if the incentive
system is not aligned with such use.
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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