Re: question about other forums

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGPRINTS.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 2000 15:01:11 +0100

On Mon, 28 Aug 2000, ransdell, joseph m. wrote:

> 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.

They are relevant enough to be mentioned in this Forum, and they have
been mentioned. Now I will be very direct about why I have invoked
cloture on them:

This Forum's explicit agenda is to free the refereed journal literature
online. There have been a number of alternative proposals for how to go
about doing so, but there have also been a number of counterproposals,
among them that we should NOT free the refereed literature online. These
have been given airtime and duly rebutted. But there have also been
various ostensibly friendly "enhancements" proposed, to broaden the
agenda, among them Joseph Ransdell's "research community development"

RCD is a worthy, commendable objective, but it is not the objective of
this Forum, and, worse, it is at odds with the objectives of this Forum
in that it delays the freeing of the refereed literature, such as it is,
now, instead making it somehow contingent or conditional on first
solving the ostensibly bigger problems of RCD.

Although the analogy is a bit shrill, it is rather like hijacking a
campaign intended to get people to stop smoking now by focusing it
instead on eliminating all environmental health hazards. The latter is a
huge, open-ended goal; ending smoking is a circumscribed, defined and
attainable goal, attainable right now. If I were running a Forum on
putting an end to smoking, I certainly would not allow its focussed
discussion to be diffused into global health problems, regardless of
their worthiness (except if they have something specific and positive to
offer toward ending smoking now).

> 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.

Commendable, but irrelevant to the specific, focused agenda of this
Forum, which is to free the refereed journal literature now.

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

Laudable, but irrelevant (and potentially at odds with the Forum's
agenda, inasmuch as such broader recognition systems are envisioned as
alternatives to the refereed journal literature: develop them, test
them, prove their worth, and then compare them with peer review; but
meanwhile, let peer revew, and the freeing of the peer-reviewed corpus
proceed apace, now).

> 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
> developed.

Ditto. (See later posting on "Zeno's Paradox and the

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

A clear statement of the orthogonality of all this to the present Forum,
at best.

> 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.

Correct. It merely frees the refereed journal literature, such as it is.
And that is the objective of this Forum. Joseph has now sketched his
broader RCD objective and I now suggest that a Forum be established
somewhere to discuss it. But no more airtime in this Forum.

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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