Re: Incentives

From: Peter Singer <peter.singer_at_UTORONTO.CA>
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2000 16:07:41 -0400

Thank you very much for your comments, Stevan. They are very helpful. I
have questions or comments on four of your points, below.

sh>But note that you said above "[t]here IS a reason" (to delay or
sh>side-track this immediate, face-valid objective of freeing the
sh>peer-reviewed literature): What is that reason, then? If it is something
sh>different from what is being discussed in that other thread, please say
sh>what it is, so we can consider it explicitly.

You are right Stevan. The exciting initiatives aimed at freeing the
literature need not be delayed to align incentives or validate quality
measures. However, the literature will never be truly free until the
incentives are aligned and the quality measures valid. Until then,
researchers may not make optimal use of the new vehicles such as self-

sh>BMJ netprints is just for unrefereed preprints; we are talking about
sh>freeing the refereed literature. But it is certainly true that the
sh>horse/water problem is not yet solved, either in physics or in
sh>biomedicine. Let us hope that the availability and proliferation of
sh>Santa-Fe-compliant open archives will at last persuade the research
sh>cavalry that it is safe to drink!

Here is the part i don't get, Stevan. If a researcher chooses not to post
an electronic unrefereed preprint because of restrictive journal embargo
policies, and the journal insists on copyright, how can the peer-reviewed
literature be freed?

>So such sci-fi scenarios are mere figments of the imagination, and not
>realistic reasons for fearing to self-archive one's pre-refereeing
>preprints, or for feeling obliged to submit them only to journals that
>explicitly allow self-archiving. Embargoes, I repeat, unlike copyright
>agreements, are not legal matters, but mere journal policy matters --
>and arbitrary and self-serving ones, in this case.

Stevan, help me out here. If i want my paper published in the highest
impact medicine journal, and that journal's restrictive embargo policy
precludes self-archiving the unrefereed preprint, and its restrictive
copyright policy prevents me from archiving the referreed postprint, what
should i do? Hint: "Publish somewhere else" is not advice most people will
heed because of the incentives and reward system of academic medicine.

>Republication by other journals is utterly irrelevant, once the
>refereed version is free for all online.

Maybe now but not in the future. Journals, especially those that are
focussed on secondary review, will be an important element in a quality
assessment system. One can envision the same article "published" in
several journals, and this would be an indicator of its quality. Journals
will focus more on the information needs of their audiences than on
ownership of other people's scientific papers. Several people at the NYAM
confence envisioned this sort of scenario, and i wrote about it in my
earlier article "Medical Journals are Dead. Long Live Medical Journals."
The current sentiment regarding "republication" is a social convention
rooted in the old model of information dissemination using paper journals.
It is one of the conventions that i predict will change with a free
literature. You will respond that this is a futuristic and unproven
scenario and we oughtn't to delay freeing the literature now. Fair point,
but i just want to point out that republication will not be "utterly
irrelevant" for long.
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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