Re: Science Article (Roberts et al.) and Science Editorial

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 21:59:26 +0000

On Tue, 27 Mar 2001, Greg Kuperberg wrote:

> On Tue, Mar 27, 2001 at 09:42:30AM +0000, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> > (ii) Asking authors to choose which journal to submit their research
> > to on the basis of whether or not the journal agrees to give away its
> > contents online for free rather than on the basis authors currently
> > use -- journal quality, reputation, impact factor -- is again an
> > unreasonable thing to ask, and will result in a long, long wait. More
> > important, it is an unnecessary thing to ask, as there is already
> > a means for authors to achieve precisely the same goal immediately
> > without having to give up anything at all: by self-archiving their
> > refereed articles themselves, in interoperable, University Eprint
> > Archives <>.
> In my experience, at least in mathematics, most authors are more likely
> to respond to the former than the latter.

It is entirely unclear to me why Greg always prefers a speculative,
anecdotal conclusion to an empirical one.

For his conclusion can hardly be based on "experience" (except possibly
subjective experience). The fact is that mathematicians have not been
faced with the former choice, as some biomedical scientists have. There
have been no boycotts or petitions in mathematics. And as far as I
know, except if a new give-away online journal has happened to find an
open niche, none have drawn away the authorship of established
journals. The only thing that has happened in mathematics is exactly
the opposite, namely, the latter: The mathematicians, after a later
start than the physicists, have started to self-archive their papers
(in Greg's arXiv).

Yet another instance of the principle: Look at what Simon does, not what
Simon says...

> One could fairly argue that
> a journal is going to undermine its reputation and even its "impact
> factor" in the long term by restricting, or even trying to restrict,
> the distribution of its papers. Maybe most mathematicians aren't phased
> by that argument, but many of them would take it seriously.

No contest on that one. Every researcher should take it seriously. But
far more important than the journal undermining ITS impact factor by
restricting access, it is undermining the AUTHOR's impact factor.

Solution: Have your cake and eat it too. Stick with your preferred
journal and its impact factor (such as it is), and maximize the impact
of your paper by self-archiving it online in an OAI-compliant Eprint
Archive -- which is EXACTLY what mathematicians in general, and the
contributors to Greg's Archive in particular have done!

I remind the reader that Greg and I are on the same team insofar as
freeing the research literature online is concerned. Where we differ is
that Greg -- for reasons unfathomable to me, since OAI-compliance makes them
interoperable and equivalent -- does not like distributed
institutional archives, and prefers centralized arXiv-archiving

Greg asked me in this Forum whether I don't in fact feel the same way,
out of fealty to "my" own centralized archive, CogPrints
<>, and was surprised to hear that I
couldn't care less! I just want the refereed literature freed online,
whether centrally or institutionally (especially now that they are
equivalent). And since, despite its head start, central archiving is
only growing linearly, and still limited to a few disciplines, it needs
all the help it can get; I hope that distributed institution-based
archiving will provide just the boost the self-archiving initiative needs to
reach critical mass fast.

Our other point of disagreement, aired repeatedly in the Forum, is on
peer review. In another Simon-says/Simon-does dissociation, Greg says
that mathematicians don't want or need peer review; all they need is
(centralized!) self-archiving and post-hoc open commentary. The peer
review is just to please the tenure committees. But alas, this
empirical hypothesis has no objective evidence in its support (just
some subjective testimony from Simon), because what Simon DOES in this
new self-archiving era is EXACTLY the same as what he did before: He
continues to submit all his work to his preferred refereed journals.
The only thing that is new is that IN ADDITION, he self-archives it
(thereby freeing it).

In other words, our disagreement has no substance. Pay attention to what
Simon does, not what he says. What he does is to self-archive (not to
switch journals). The hope is that Simon will soon be not just a
physicist or a mathematician, but representative of all the

> On the other hand, university-wide e-print archives don't yet have any
> credibility at all, and it's not clear if they ever will.

What does not yet have enough widespread "credibility" is
self-archiving itself (which Simon is already doing, centrally, in 35%
of physics and 20% of mathematics). The hope is that the new option of
institution-based self-archiving will augment and distribute the
"credibility" of self-archiving, both in the disciplines that have
already had the sense to begin self-archiving, and those that have not.

> First, at most universities there is no e-print archive. Certainly
> there isn't one at UC Davis. And if there were one, why should I
> believe that central campus computing would administer it competently?
> Central computing has a pretty low reputation on many campuses. I
> imagine that ours is not bad relatively speaking. But we've had our
> share of quarrels even over the most fundamental issues, like
> unintelligible balance sheets for grants and payroll. E-prints are a
> trivial and arcane topic compared to getting paid.

Institution-based, OAI-compliant self-archiving is new. The OAI 1.0
release of the archive-creating software only took place on
January 23, to coincide with the release of OAI 1.0. There are well
over 100 sites who are trying out the software, and UC is not one, but
three of them. I don't know about Davis in particular; perhaps someone
from UC-Davis can reply. But I do know that it's being tested by UC at
the level of the California Digital Library
<> because it was mandated
(by the Regents?) that UC must have Online Archives for its researchers
to self-archive in by 2001.


I am not in a position to reply about your problems with your Computing
Center. I expect that as distributed institutional self-archiving picks
up, it will get better resourced.

> In fact it's a little ironic that one of your biggest successes so far
> is with the California Digital Library. It's part of the University of
> California and it therefore includes the Davis campus. I don't mean to
> criticize their use of your software - I'm sure it's useful. But the
> CDL is hardly on our radar screen. I would guess that less than half
> of tenured faculty at Davis know that it exists.

Thanks for not criticizing their use of the software...

Stay tuned.

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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