Re: Top 10 reasons why print journals have a future

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 15:32:56 +0100

           The problem is not freeing the refereed journal
           literature from PAPER but from ACCESS-BARRIERS

Top 10 reasons why print journals have a future

> 1. To keep the post office in business

As long as there is a market for print versions, with parties willing to
pay for them, nothing changes, nor need change.

> 2. To keep library costs high so Universities can pay professors less

Refereed journals are not the only on-paper product the universities
have to buy (there are also books and magazines). Indeed, the refereed
journal literature is the size of a flea, compared with the rest of the
(print-on-paper) dog.

What is different about this flea is only that it is an author give-away,
whereas the dog is not (whether on-paper or on-line): It is written
with a view to earning royalties or fees for the authors.

There will always be expenditures for this non-give-away material. It is
only the inaccessibility of the give-aways that can and will change

> 3. To allow children of journal subscribers to use their home computers

Those children have probably already figured out ways to nab even
NON-give-away material via Napster and Gnutella. Once they grow up to
become the give-away authors, the game will certainly be up for both
print-on-paper journals and access-barriers to their online versions.

But note that it is not the print-on-paper that needs to be eradicated
at the moment. Most print journals have online versions by now. It's the
toll-gates blocking access to the online versions that are the problem.
And the way around them is for the authors of all those articles to
self-archive the online version in their institutional Eprint

> 4. To let subscribers read scholarly articles in the bathroom

The ubiquitous palmtop is as imminent and feasible as the equally
ubiquitous mobile phone (and may well coalesce with it).

> 5. To keep paper recycling companies busy and municipal landfill sites full

Nolo contendere -- but paper is not the issue (its demise where
it is no longer optimal is a foregone conclusion).

> 6. To allow journals to devote half their budgets to printing costs so they
> don't have to use these resources to improve their editorial processes or
> services to readers

This is inaccurate and misleading. Journals ARE doing their best to "add
value" for their readers, including the provision of the online version,
with all sorts of online enhancements. The trouble is that they are
trying to hold the refereed final draft hostage to those add-ons,
providing access only if the add-ons are purchased.

It is for this reason that authors must take matters into their own
hands by self-archiving their refereed drafts in OAI-compliant Eprint
Archives, thereby freeing this give-away literature. The rest of the
cards can fall where and when they may, just so long as this literature
is made freely accessible online, now.

The only essential publisher service is Quality-Control and
Certification (QC/C), i.e., the implementation of peer review (the
referees themselves referee for free). But this service is provided to
the author/institution, not to the reader/institution. And it is not half
the current cost, but 10%.

> 7. To keep subscription fees high so readers don't squander the money on
> video-games for their children

License [L] and Pay-Per-View [P] fees for the online version are just
as high as subscription [S] fees.

Freeing the refereed literature from paper is a piece of cake (and
already virtually accomplished). The problem now is freeing it from the
obsolete and counterproductive impact/access-barriers of S/L/P, and not
just by lowering S/L/P fees -- because ANY access-blockage is bad for
this give-way literature, written by its authors for its impact -- but
by eliminating reader-institution-end S/L/P tolls altogether (through
author self-archiving of their refereed papers) and paying the
essential 10% QC/C costs at the author-institution-end, per paper
published, out of the annual windfall S/L/P savings.

> 8. To sustain traditional brand name journals so University promotion
> committees can judge research by the journal in which its published rather
> than the quality of the research itself

Should universities instead peer-review all their own research? Perhaps
they should also provide the educations and degrees to all their own
researchers too, rather than leaving that to other accrediting bodies?

Of course not! The independent QC/C service is essential to science and
scholarship. And providing that service is, was, and always will be the
essential function of refereed journals. It's just that it need no
longer be funded at the expense of researchers' access and impact.

> 9. To limit access of the public to scientific and medical information so
> they don't question what we do

Access is being blocked for the usual, nonconspiratorial, market reasons.
But those market mechanisms are all designed for the NON-give-away
literature. It is time for these anomalous, give-away authors to take
matters into their own hands, by self-archiving their give-away refereed
papers online, freeing access to it for one and all.

> 10. To perpetuate inequities in access to information between developed and
> developing countries

The inequities are not restricted to the developing countries. When it
comes to the at least 20,000 refereed journals that are published on the
planet, there are at least as many have-not institutions in the
developed world as in the developing world. And NO institution, no
matter how wealthy, can afford the S/L/P for all or even most of it. So
most researchers on the planet cannot access most of the refereed
research published annually.

The obstacle is not paper, but S/L/P access-tolls, holdovers from the
Gutenberg days, and their Gutenberg costs and cost-recovery mechanisms.
In the PostGutenberg Galaxy the give-away refereed research literature
can at last be free, and all that needs is for its authors to free it
through self-archiving.

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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