Re: Conflating Gate-Keeping with Toll-Gating

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 2001 14:44:31 +0000

On Tue, 30 Jan 2001, Fytton Rowland wrote:

> While I lean toward's Stevan Harnad's view of the world rather than Albert
> Henderson's in general, I think it is worth pointing out that scholarly
> journal editors are not *just* gatekeepers. They don't just certify papers
> as acceptable. They also *improve* papers.

This is certainyl correct, but it has no bearing whatever on my point.
Of course refereed-journal "gate-keeping" is not just a binary
red-light/green-light process. No one who has edited a refereed journal
for over two decades as I have could fail to be fully aware of that:

    "Peer review is the evaluation and validation of the work of experts
    by qualified fellow-experts (referees) as a precondition for
    acceptance and publication, so that the research community at large
    can know which work is likely to be worth the time and effort of
    reading and trying to build upon. Peer review is not a
    red-light/green-light, accept/reject system: It is a dynamic
    interaction between the author and referees, mediated by and
    answerable to a qualified expert (the Editor). It sometimes
    involves several rounds of revision and re-refereeing before a
    final draft can be certified as having met the quality standards of
    a particular journal."

But let us not forget that the referees referee for free, just as the author
gives away the paper for free. What needs to be paid for is the implementation
of that refereeing -- which costs a pittance compared to what is currently being
forcibly paid for that essential service PLUS many add-ons (on-paper version,
distribution, PDF) that should be optional rather than obligatory in the on-line

So let me repeat: The ESSENTIAL services are what I have called the QC/C
services, and they will continue to have to be rendered and paid for, except
that they need not be "wrapped in" as "value-added" into a take-it-or-leave-it
S/L/P product, as in the past.

> Henderson was right to point
> out that often papers as submitted -- even if scientifically valid -- are
> badly written, poorly structured, etc. Academic editors, assisted by their
> paid editorial assistants, create in many cases a piece of work that
> provides a better impression of the authors than they had provided for
> themselves. I have argued before -- mainly in my chapter in the 1996 Peek
> and Newby book -- that there remains a need for professional publishing
> expertise in the electronic era. In Harnad's current vision of things --
> the journals carry on, but authors mount their own papers for
> free-of-charge access on the WWW -- maybe this professional attention is
> part of the value added that the journals can lay claim to providing.

The essentials will continue to be the essentials, and will continue to
be paid for (as a QC/C service to the author-institution). It is the
optional add-ons to which we must no longer allow the essentials to be
held hostage. (The add-ons too, can of course continue to be bought and
sold, but separately.)

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 & 01):

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

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