Let's Not Balkanize the Literature Liberation Movement

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_coglit.ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 11:04:27 +0000

Owing to human nature, there is always the risk that even with the best
of causes, small strategic differences among comrades-at-arms can get
needlessly magnified, balkanizing the effort, and dividing the movement
against itself. Please let's not do that.

We are all for freeing the refereed research literature.

    Some of us hope to do it through publisher eprint charges to
    authors (Walker).

    Some of us hope to do it through established or alternative
    publishers who are committed to giving away their contents for free
    online (PubMedCentral, BiomedCentral).

    Some of us hope to do it through centralized self-archiving

    Some of us hope to do it through both centralized and distributed
    self-archiving (eprints.org).

We each have our reasons for supporting the option we think is most
promising, and we should certainly air those reasons (that's what we've
all been doing in this Forum for four years now).

But there is no reason whatever to oppose one another's efforts: They
are all compatible, and all lead toward the same goal.

For example, I don't happen to think that publisher eprint charges will
succeed in freeing the literature (for the simple reason that
self-archiving will produce the same outcome for free, and money does not
grow on trees). But if, mirabile dictu, eprint charges did succeed in
freeing the entire refereed literature, I would welcome and applaud the

I also don't happen to think established publishers will agree to give
away their contents for free online (why should they?), nor that
authors will give up submitting to their preferred, established
journals and switch instead to new, alternative publishers just because
those will give them away for free online (because self-archiving will
produce the same outcome without having to give up one's preferred
journals). But if this initiative did succeed in freeing the entire
refereed literature, I would welcome and applaud the outcome.

And as to central vs. distributed self-archiving: I have always
advocated both, leaning more toward distributed in the early years
(FTP, WWW), then toward central (because of the growth of arXiv), and
then back toward distributed (with the advent of OAI interoperability).

Surely central advocates, distributed advocates, and advocates of both
(like myself) should be ready to welcome victory from whatever direction
it comes!

Let a thousand flowers bloom, as long as each is growing skyward, along
with our intellectual goods.

Stevan Harnad harnad_at_cogsci.soton.ac.uk
Professor of Cognitive Science harnad_at_princeton.edu
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/
Highfield, Southampton http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/

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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