Re: question about other forums

From: ransdell, joseph m. <ransdell_at_DOOR.NET>
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 17:34:46 -0700

 Sorry for the delay in responding to your message of a week or two ago,
Stevan. You asked if I have any initiative to propose as alternative to
yours and the others you mention in your response to my earlier
message. I am not in position to do anything so momentous as initiating
an initiative, but I do have some suggestions about what people in
position to do something helpful might do. These suggestions do not
represent an alternative to the initiatives you have in mind, in the
sense of an alternative initiative, but I think you will agree that they
are relevant enough to be worth mentioning in this forum even if it
would not be to your purpose to pursue them further.

For the convenience of the readers let me list these suggestions in the
present message, with some brief explanatory comments, and take up the
other question you asked, which has to do with the Ginsparg archives, in
a separate message.

1) Support researchers who are doing RESEARCH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT for
their research fields based on use of the net as an open access
communicational medium.

(RESEARCH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT = website based provision of
communicational facilities, document resources, and, in the case of the
sciences, observational/experimental facilities, all seamlessly
interfaced as a single environment. Communications development takes
priority, as a general rule, since the development of network practices
is the aim; but this could entail providing document access and/or
observational/experimental facilities.)

2) Support changes in policy which recognize such development work as
research proper, hence supportable as a normal part of research.

(There is at present no category of activity as commonly understood in
academia to describe professorial activity -- e.g. research, teaching,
service -- that can be appealed to in funding this sort of activity,
which is why so little is done along this line. It is suicidal unless
one is already well protected, and few well protected people are
interested in doing that sort of thing. It is important that it be
recognized as research rather than inventing a new category for it. I
would be happy to explain the reasons for this.)

3) Extend such support to anyone attempting to empower their research
community communicationally, in the way described, regardless of whether
or not the facilities being developed have the same sort of research
function as the special kind of research server system Ginsparg

(The point to this is explained in a separate message.)

4) Extend such support regardless of whether or not the development
work has any special bearing on "freeing the refereed literature

(This is intended to indicate that the aim is broader than that of the
Harnad self-archiving initiative, though that initiative is supported as
a matter of course.)

SUMMARY DESCRIPTION: Roughly, the idea is to seek out and support
people who are already doing or trying to do or show some real interest
in doing for their research fields what Paul Ginsparg did for his,
understanding what he did in a generalized sense which does not require
that the research field have the maturity of development of those that
the LANL system was designed to serve. Such projects would be aiming at
constructing on-line research environments -- communications facilities,
document databases, and observational/experimental facilities (when
possible and relevant) seamlessly related -- tailored in form as well as
in content to the special needs of the particular research fields, with
communications facililties taking priority since the development of
networking practices is the basic aim.
     They need not be constructed for the purposes of primary research
publication, as the Ginsparg archives were constructed, though that is
of course a worthy aim, if the research community is matured enough to
make effective use of it. If not, let the existing journal system
continue to take care of that until the research community is ready to
handle that sort of facility since the attempt to do so prematurely will
come to nothing. (No police are required to regulate these things,
contrary to the fears of the curmudgeon spirits who envision hordes of
barbarians waiting for the chance to deposit trash.)

COMMENT: The rationale is the same as that for the construction of the
world-wide-web, which was originally driven by the idea of constructing
total "virtual" research environments, enabling collaboration not merely
in the assessment of results obtained but in all aspects of the ongoing
inquiry process. The web is a global and top-down systems solution,
though, and it cannot reform practices to take advantage of the digital
revolution without a corresponding local or "grassroots" or bottom-up
response that concretizes it. The web can be considered either as a
potential global research environment or as a sort of scaffold for
constructing multiple such environments in the same global
communicational space, but it has to be built up, in any case, BY actual
research communities according to their concrete needs rather than being
built FOR them by high level agencies as turnkey systems.
     The commercial interests have been proceeding from the bottom up in
their exploitation of the opportunities offered by the web, whereas the
scientific/scholarly/academic interests have done very little in this
respect -- nearly nothing -- though the sciences in particular were
originally intended to be the beneficiaries of the web. The Harnad
self-archiving initiative -- which is also a global systems solution,
notwithstanding its appeal to the individual user to make use of it --
should be situated within the context of this much broader aim of
establishing research communities on-line, and it is unlikely to be a
success if it is not since the motivations of the individual for
publishing are always relative to a research community of which the
individual is or aspires to be a member.

The suggestions are addressed to anyone interested in these things, but
I do not have administrators primarily in mind, and doubt that they
would find it interesting since it does not provide them with something
further to administer. The idea is rather to appeal to people actually
in research, with some influence as researchers, to do whatever they can
to encourage the development of comprehensive on-line communications
environments for their own research communities (or complexes of such
communities which naturally associate together in the research process),
in view of communicational needs not currently being met, and
participate in such developmental activity themselves instead of waiting
for administrators, librarians, or computer service people to come
around and set them up according to some preconceived notion of how they
ought or ought not to be communicating.

Self-archiving is not of much interest to researchers except as a way of
making one's work available to a more or less definite research
community and it is research communities that must be encouraged rather
than individuals. A self-archiving initiative by itself makes no
effective contact with motivation.

Joseph Ransdell
Dept of Philosophy  806 742-3275  Home: 806 797-2592
Texas Tech University - Lubbock, Texas 79409   USA (Peirce Gateway website)
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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