Re: Central vs. Distributed Archives

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 3 Feb 2001 23:22:50 +0000

Greg, I honestly don't know what the substantive issue is that you are
disagreeing with me about. We are both for freeing the research
literature. We are both for self-archiving. We are both for
interoperability. We both agree that the Physics arXiv was the first to
show the way. We both agree that it would be good if the pace of
self-archiving were accelerated. We both agree that it would be good if
self-archiving spread to all disciplines.

So what is at issue here? That I have suggested that distributed
OAI-compliant self-archiving may help accelerate and spread
self-archiving whereas you think it won't? Well let's just wait and
see. You seem to have some reason for wanting to nip distributed
self-archiving in the bud, a reason that I can't fathom. Could it be
because it is "competing" with arXiv in mathematics? Who cares?
Self-archiving is self-archiving, and free is free.

As for interoperability, the reason I stress it is that that is what
will make the locus-differences between the individual archives
irrelevant. It will all be harvested into global virtual archives, and
those, not the individual archives, will be the locus classicus for the
research literature.

On Sat, 3 Feb 2001, Greg Kuperberg wrote:

> You don't just recommend institution-based archives, you hype them as
> superior to discipline-based archives. You describe them as a "powerful
> and natural complement" that you hope will "broaden and accelerate the
> self-archiving literature". I think you should add, more clearly than
> you have, that that part is only your opinion, and not that of the
> physicists and others who have "shown the way".

Greg, it seems to me "hope" is already at least as subjective and
hypothetical a descriptor as "opinion." Nor does "hope" equal "hype."
Nor do I say anything about "superior." I simply state the facts (and
hopes). The facts are that it started in Physics, in the form of
centralized self-archiving; but this is only growing linearly and not
generalizing across disciplines. Enter OAI-interoperability and the
possibility of complementing central self-archiving with distributed

Why, one wonders, would any disinterested party (or rather, one with
an interest solely in freeing the literature, not in characterizing one
form of self-archiving as "superior") fail to welcome a complementary
form of archiving, rather than trying to dismiss it as hype and
opinion, or as contrary to the opinion of physicists?

    "The freeing of their present and future refereed research from all
    access- and impact-barriers forever is now entirely in the hands of
    researchers. Posterity is looking over our shoulders, and will not
    judge us flatteringly if we continue to delay the optimal and
    inevitable needlessly, now that it is clearly within our reach.
    Physicists have already shown the way, but at their current
    self-archiving rate, even they will take another decade to free the
    entire Physics literature
    ( -- with
    the Cognitive Sciences ( 39 times
    slower still, and most of the remaining disciplines not even

    "This is why it is hoped that (with the help of the
    institutional archive-creating software) distributed,
    institution-based self-archiving, as a powerful and natural
    complement to central, discipline-based self-archiving, will now
    broaden and accelerate the self-archiving initiative, putting us
    all over the top at last, with the entire distributed corpus
    integrated by the glue of interoperability

> sh> Perhaps I should have said interoperable OAI-compliant archives.
> sh> And ir they exist, that's splendid. I hope there will be many more.
> This sounds like the Western leftists who insisted that China and the
> Soviet Union didn't practice true Communism. If it is utterly irrelevant
> that many of the mathematical archives are interoperable and DC-compliant,
> why will making them interoperable and OAI-compliant make all the
> difference? Granted, the OAI group may have made a better standard
> than the Dublin Core. It's still insane to dismiss one as paganism and
> embrace the other as gospel.

Greg, I don't care! One of the purposes of interoperability is to make
sure it can all be harvested into global virtual archives like ARC thereby making the individual archive locus
irrelevant (and "empowering" distributed archiving). If DC-compliance
is enough to vouchsafe that, that's fine with me! Let 1000 flowers
bloom! *You* (not the Western leftists) are the one who seems to have
some sort of animus against these other archives!

And I think we are beginning to repeat ourselves (again). We have bet
on our respective horses. Can we now wait and see how they do in the
self-archiving sweepstakes? (I have the advantage that I win either
way, just as long as they make it to the finish gate.)

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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