Re: Central vs. Distributed Archives

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 3 Feb 2001 19:10:10 +0000

On Sat, 3 Feb 2001 Greg Kuperberg <> wrote:

> if I submit a paper to the arXiv...
> that is them archiving my papers, not me archiving my own.

Sorry, Greg, I don't find these details useful. This is terminological
niggling. (As long as we're at it, I prefer the word "depositing" to an
archive, because I "submit" to a journal.)

> The arXiv has a technical staff, admittedly small, and you could fairly
> call the staff members archivists. The authors are not archivists.

And authors are not publishers either. Yet it is quite common to say
"I've published that paper."

What was needed was a term to describe the act of depositing a paper
into a free on-line archive for yourself, rather than relying on
someone else (e.g., a publisher) to do it for you. Self-archiving
describes that quite transparently.

(If I had to vote on it, I'd say most of the work of archiving itself
was being done by the software and the hardware, not the staff. But the
supporting staff are certainly essential, as they are even for personal

> in your paper you do still imply that the arXiv is an example of
> "self-archiving".

And so it is. Authors can self-archive in centralized OAI-compliant
archives like arXiv or distributed institutional OAI-compliant archives
like the ones being set up using software.

> Anyway, my *main* comment last time is that you don't even mention these
> points of disagreement in your article. Your article has the bias that
> if people agree with you on the ends, it doesn't matter if they agree
> with you on the means.

Well it seems to me that in my article (1) I recommend self-archiving to
free the refereed research literature, and (2) I recommend self-archiving
in distributed institutional OAI-compliant Archives to complement
self-archiving in centralized OAI-compliant Archives.

Now in recommending this, what exactly do you think I should add? That
there are some people who think it's not worth complementing the former
with the latter? that they think we should just carry on with the
former as if there were no new possibilities for broadening and
accelerating the growth of self-archiving?

Why would I want to say that? Why would anyone want to say that?

> > On-Line archives (apart from the Physics arXiv) are all but non-existent.
> That's not true at all. In mathematics alone the AMS has a list of 60+
> department-based and research-institute-based archives,

Perhaps I should have said interoperable OAI-compliant archives. And if
they exist, that's splendid. I hope there will be many more.

> Maybe a dozen of these independent archives are bigger, as measured by
> new submissions per month, than your CogPrints archive. The biggest one,
> mp_arc, gets 30 new papers a month. If you put them all together they
> are comparable in size to the math arXiv.

Good. Let them go OAI-compliant (perhaps by installing
software!) and they will be making a valuable contribution to freeing
the refereed research literature (assuming they are not just for
unrefereed preprints!).

> But they're not growing as quickly as the math arXiv

So what?

> > I have no idea why you mention politics.
> Because deciding who gets to maintain the archives is political.
> People get service credit for it and they don't want to give that up.

Pity. Especially if it ever engenders a conflict of interest (as it has
done in journal publishing) between what's in the best interest of
research and researchers (maximizing free access) and what's in the
interests of "archivists."

> Some of the Europeans don't trust projects that they perceive as American.
> In mathematics, the numerous institution-based archives tend to satisfy
> administrators more and readers less. They are useful, but they grow
> less quickly than the arXiv because they are less useful. They aren't
> by any means the arXiv's savior.

Make 'em all OAI-compliant and it will no longer make a bit of

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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