Re: ePrint Repositories

From: George Lundberg <GLundberg_at_MEDSCAPEINC.COM>
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2001 10:45:07 -0500

on the interesting topic of Quackery
the readers of this discussion may enjoy
george lundberg

-----Original Message-----
From: Stevan Harnad []
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2001 6:20 PM
Subject: Re: ePrint Repositories

Dear Art,

Before I reply, may I suggest that you and others on this list who
might be interested sign on to the American Scientist Forum, which
has been actively discussing these and related topics:

The issue of quackery and potential dangers to public health has been
extensively discussed, for example, in:

    (1) The ARCHIVE OF COMMENTS ON E-biomed: A Proposal for Electronic
    Publications in the Biomedical Sciences (May 5, 1999 DRAFT)

    (2) Harnad, S. (2000) E-Knowledge: Freeing the Refereed Journal
    Corpus Online. Computer Law & Security Report 16(2) 78-87.
    [Rebuttal to Bloom Editorial in Science and Relman Editorial in New
    England Journal of Medicine]

    (3) Harnad, S. (2000) Ingelfinger Over-Ruled: The Role of the Web
    in the Future of Refereed Medical Journal Publishing. The Lancet
    Perspectives 256 (December Supplement): s16.

    (4) The American Scientist Forum (above)

The very same solution for quackery-minimization that evolved in the
Gutenberg (on-paper) era, namely, relying on certified, peer-reviewed
findings, is equally applicable in the PostGutenberg (on-line) era. Any
residual problem created by public on-line read-write access coalesces
with the problem of on-line pornography and xenophobic literature, the
policing of which is a much bigger problem, well beyond the remit of
learned journals, and more in the jurisdiction of institutional
consortia and government. This should be clearly kept in mind.

The protection of public health from quackery at the journal and Eprint
archive level is, in the first instance, accomplished by prominent
tagging of the peer-reviewed literature as such, just as it was done
on-paper. All OAI-compliant archives have a "refereed" and
"journal-name" meta-data tag which can be used not only to restrict a
user's focus to the refereed literature (just as it was on-paper), but,
if deemed necessary for security reasons (I doubt this will be
necessary for some time, if ever), the metadata tags, like the papers'
full-texts themselves, could be uniquely authenticated by cryptographic

In addition, the nonrefereed papers in Eprint Archives can not only
itself be pre-vetted for quackery, but it can be displayed with
prominent "health warnings", as as being done, for example, in the
British Medical Journal's experimental

Nor should we forget that a good deal of biomedical literature is not
public-health-related; for that sector quackery is no more (or less) of
an issue there than in Physics or other disciplines.

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

On Fri, 26 Jan 2001, Art Huntley (Dermatology, UC Davis) wrote:

> > From our standpoint, the issue of putting unvetted material on the CDL
> Website relates to conflict of interest of the authors. Probably not an
> issue for those in the physics world, but a traditional problem in
> medicine today.
> The existence of the printing press permitted the development of the
> journal and scientific format as we now know it. As early as 1662, it was
> noted that medical knowledge needed to fulfill the Baconian criterion of
> being freely communicated and fairly criticized. The printing press led
> to great communication of science, but a parallel advancement of quackery.
> I believe the existence of the Web has fertilized the quackery industry.
> We are concerned that allowing anyone to post material to the CDL, to be a
> recognized site, may result in hosting content that may be simply
> advertisement or, at worst, quackery. This is one of the issues that will
> need to be sorted out before we have widespread acceptance by Academic
> Medicine.

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Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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