The Need To Re-Activate the Provosts' Initiative

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 11:41:40 +0000

On Sun, 18 Feb 2001, Peter Singer <> wrote:

> when do you expect this threshhold of ready availability
> [of OAI-compliant University Eprints Archives} will be reached?

As soon as the Provosts' Initiative

or something like it is reactivated worldwide, and Universities and
research institutions mount (OAI-compliant) Eprint Archives (and help
their researchers fill them):

> At that point, my hypothesis is that we will see sub-optimal use of self-
> archiving in medicine.

Here too, the Universities' initiative will be critical. Universities
must initially be proactive in encouraging and helping their
researchers to self-archive their pre- and post-refereeing papers in
their University Eprint Archives (see the URL above).

> The preliminary evidence supporting the hypothesis is that the BMJ
> Netprints preprint server has not caught on the way the Los Alamos physics
> one did a decade or so ago.

Netprints is (1) only for unrefereed preprints (not refereed
postprints), it is (2) not OAI-compliant (so far -- though
could make it so), hence not interoperable, and (3) it is a central,
rather than an institutional Archive. The hope is that distributed,
University-based Eprint Archives will now at at last divide and conquer
this obstacle locally.

Here is the target: On the rough (under)count I gave before (20K
refereed journals x 100 papers per journal = 2 million refereed papers
per year from all the disciplines and around the world), that amounts
to 2 million annual papers becoming available for free for all online: a
vast new free resource for all researchers and a huge boost to the
potential impact and productivity of all research.

> I think this is because of the incentives in
> medicine to publish in brand name journals that disallow prepublication.
> Presumably the physics journals do not have restrictive prepublication
> policies, yes (ie no "Ingelfinger-like rule")?

As I said before, I doubt very much that it's the "Ingelfinger Rule"
(i.e., journals declining to referee submissions that have been
"previously publicized") that's holding medical researchers or anyone
else back, for the reasons I've already adduced: The Rule (besides
being arbitrary, unnecessary, unjustifiable, directly contrary to the
interests of research and researchers, and invoked solely to protect
journals' current revenue streams and past modera operandi) is (unlike
copyright) not a legal matter and UNENFORCEABLE; moreover, it is
invoked by a shrinking minority of journals and it did not stop the
Physicists! (Yes, there are Physics journals that invoke the
Ingelfinger Rule, among them Science and Nature -- but Nature has since
dropped it, and there is reason to expect Science soon will too.)

    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]

    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.

> However, if my hypothesis proves true (which i think it will), and the
> remaining name-brand journals persist with restrictive pre-publication
> policies (and frankly i do not see the NEJM backing away from the
> Ingelfinger rule any time soon), then realigning incentives by producing
> brand-name independent quality measures and incorporating them into the
> incentive system in medicine will become the crucial step to free that
> literature.

I repeat. The Ingelfinger Rule is not just indefensible, it is
unenforceable. The physicists, in their wisdom, duly ignored it. The
rest of the world research community will realize it can and should
do the same.

> I am not sure we can go much further with this debate in the abstract.
> We need more data now which we should have as the open archives
> initiative unfolds.

I agree. But please note. As mentioned before in this Forum:

    "The OAI is a much broader initiative than the self-archiving

    "OAI is dedicated to providing shared interoperability standards
    for the entire on-line digital literature, whether self-archived
    or not, whether for-free or for-fee, whether journal, book or
    other, whether full-text or not, whether centralized or

    "It is true that the OAI was originally proposed as the "UPS"
    (Universal Preprint Service), which was indeed a form of
    self-archiving (though a limited form, focussing on the unrefereed
    preprint rather than on both the unrefereed preprint and the
    refereed postprint, as self-archiving does). But "UPS" was quickly
    dropped and the OAI has since vastly outgrown those limited
    original objectives."

So what we must now follow is the progress of the self-archiving
sub-initiative of the OAI rather than the OAI itself.

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):

You may join the list at the site above.

Discussion can be posted to:
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:46:03 GMT