Re: Workshop on Open Archives Initiative in Europe

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000 15:38:28 +0000

On Tue, 31 Oct 2000, Steve Hitchcock wrote:

> There is no publisher that sells anything that can be
> independent of the cost recovery model, so that is a meaningless caveat.
> Publishers are principally marketers. Peer review is just one part of the
> package that they market.

These points of my colleague Steve Hitchcock are well-taken, but the
reply is out of context: I was not trying to tell publishers what to do;
on the contrary! I think author self-archiving should push ahead
without first trying to change either publishers or publishing.

It is those who instead advocate first taking peer review out of the
hands of publishers somehow, or first modifying or reforming it, to
whom my comment was addressed; and the point was that peer review is an
essential service that publishers are currently the only ones with the
experience of implementing. It makes no sense to speak of wresting it
from them; nor is it necessary. It is just a red herring.

> The reason I make this point is because it isn't tenable to expect
> publishers to rationalise their role solely, or even primarily, as
> certifiers of the literature. It isn't so now, and won't be in future.

Point taken. So let us not future-cast about what publishers will or
should do in the future. Let us do what we can and should do do, which
is free the refereed literature through self-archiving, and let the
future adapt to that in the way it sees fit.

> I understand the argument that freeing the online literature depends on a
> continuing system of certification, but nothing depends on, or is achieved
> by, this limited view of the role of publishers.

What was being described was not a limited role for publishers, but
the essentials of refereed publication, as distinct from the optional
add-ons, medium-independently, from the author/researcher's point of
view. They NEED the peer review and certification, therefor that
service is essential.

> It's at odds to argue that we should maintain peer review while the
> alternatives are untested, yet urge publishers to adopt untested economic
> models.

I agree!

Publishers are not urged to do anything -- except to refrain from
attempting to block self-archiving via restrictive copyright policies.
Yet even that urging is unnecessary, because even the most restrictive
copyright policy can be legally circumvented:

So we are in agreement. Self-archiving should go ahead without first
trying to change publishers or publishing in any way.

> Leave these issues to the markets. Those of us who promote self-archiving
> have to create new markets undistracted by reforming peer review, as you
> say; equally, they should be undistracted by ideas of reforming journal
> publishing. These services exist and will continue to exist, just as you
> want, and will adapt if the self-archivers are successful.

Agreed! Now tell that to the conveners of the European OAI meeting, (to
whom this comment was a reply), who seem to have an agenda based on
changing publishers and publishing!

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

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

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