Re: question about other forums

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2000 10:03:36 +0100

On Sun, 13 Aug 2000, ransdell, joseph m. wrote:

> Does anyone know if there are any open public forums currently concerned
> with the problem of extending the principles of the Ginsparg archives
> across academia generally?

This is one, assuming the principle is self-archiving. What other
principles do you have in mind?

> This is not to be confused with forums devoted to "freeing the refereed
> journal literature on-line" (such as the present forum) nor with forums
> concerned with establishing a "free vanity press" for professional
> literature, if any such actually exist -- which is questionable since
> the term "vanity press" has its home as a term of rhetorical denigration
> in the domain of commercial rather than professional publication.

"Vanity Press" means self-publication (not mere self-archiving),
without answerability to some form of Quality Control. The Web is a
wonderful place for it, but that certainly isn't what the Ginsparg
Archive (LANL Archive) is or ever was. Almost all the preprints therein
were destined for refereed journals, from the very beginning, and the
majority were followed within 8-12 months by at least the updated
journal reference, and often the refereed final draft itself.

See the data in:

    Harnad, S. & Carr, L. (2000) Integrating, Navigating and Analyzing
    Eprint Archives Through Open Citation Linking (the OpCit Project).
    Current Science (special issue honour of Eugene Garfield) (in

> The present forum has apparently reached the stage where there seems to
> be little to be said that cannot be answered by mechanized use of
> boilerplate and URLs

Not quite sure what this means. It is certainly true that often the
very same questions and objections keep being raised, sometimes by
someone newly joining the Forum, sometimes repeatedly by the ones who
raised it the first (and second, and third) time without apparent
awareness that they have already been answered. It is a chore to try to
repeat the answers without boring those who have heard them already,
but one tries. (This was the general phenomenon that gave rise to the
"FAQ" file.)

On the other hand, this Forum is wide open to ANSWERS to those
answers/FAQs; but they don't seem to be forthcoming; instead we tend
to have relapses to the original questions and objections.

The three detours on which I have formally invoked cloture so far

    (1) the hypothesis that there are administrative conspiracies to
    cash in on academics' intellectual property

    (2) the hypothesis that library underfunding is the root cause of
    the serials crisis

    (3) hypotheses about ways to improve or eliminate peer review

are, I believe, genuinely irrelevant distractors in this Forum, which
is indeed dedicated to freeing the refereed literature such as it is
(though, as Tom Walker has reminded us us, by other potential means
too, apart from self-archiving, such as his own online journal offprint
proposal, which was the one that originally launched the Forum).

It is not that these three topics are without interest, and no doubt
they do deserve Fora of their own (particularly (3)). But in this
Forum, on this issue, which is already rife with confusion, they simply
add to the confusion and distraction instead of helping to resolve it.

To put it very simply: Many people have ideas about ways they would like
to see things change in the transition from the on-paper to the on-line
world. The ONE change to which this Forum is dedicated is freeing the
on-paper refereed journal literature on-line.

Candidate strategies include self-archiving, paid on-line offprints
(Walker), free alternative on-line-only refereed journals (BioMed
Central), and free official archives (PubMed Central); and associated
concerns include interoperability (the Open Archives initiative), and
copyright (Oppenheim).

But freeing the refereed literature from refereeing simply is not on
this agenda, for that would be rather like freeing the bathwater from
the baby.

> yet there is obviously much yet to be said and
> done if Ginsparg's initiative is to be carried through as far as it is
> feasible to do so.

I would be very grateful if you would state clearly what Ginsparg's
initiative is. Although it was never explicitly formulated in those
terms, it seems to me that Ginsparg's initiative IS the self-archiving

> If that is to happen, though, there has to be OPEN
> internet discussion of the problems and possibilities that engages the
> interest of the people who might actually help make it happen. The
> question is, is that happening anywhere? Or has that movement now been
> safely contained by being subsumed -- or is the word "co-opted"? -- by
> Harnad's self-archiving initiative, about which there appears to be
> nothing more to say other than "I wonder when those horses will start
> drinking?"

It is indeed puzzling that so far it is largely only only Physicists
and Mathematicians who have taken to self-archiving in force (and that
even their numbers are growing only linearly, whereas we need
exponential growth to reach critical mass now, rather than in

But if there is some pertinent larger initiative of which we have not
made aware (apart from (1) - (3)), by all means air it in this Forum.

> I understand what the Santa Fe interoperability initiative is and why it
> is important to pursue it, by the way, but that is not what I am asking
> about.

Which makes this larger initiative that is being denied its voice in
this Forum all the more of a mystery. Please let us know.

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

You may join the list at the site above.

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

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