Zen response to e-Archiving Challenge

From: Albert Henderson <chessNIC_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 18:26:09 -0400

Re Reinhard Wentz's challenge [copied below]:

Fallacies abound in this forum. We should all be able to
identify many of them, asserted and implied, without
needing to read the New Scientist.

The following come to mind:

FALLACY 1. Scientists give away their reports and copyrights.

Any economist that I have discussed this with disagrees.
Scientists (and scholars) exchange their reports for
effective dissemination services and the unique recognition
provided by publishers who organize new knowledge with
authority. Obviously the exchange has value to both parties.
Authors struggle to be accepted by the publishers of their
choice. Publishers compete for authors but may reject work
and require revisions.

FALLACY 2. Authors can legally leave the preprint version
of an article up by adding "corrigenda" after transferring
copyright to the publisher.

No copyright attorney that I know would agree with this. It
is a clear case of wilfull infringment. Having transferred
copyright, the author is obligated to delete the preprint
or be a party to Napster-like infringment. Moreover, the
preprint server is probably also liable.

FALLACY 3. Use of the word "archive" to describe unreviewed preprints.

"Archive" has long been associated with peer-reviewed journals
such as Archives of Internal Medicine and with research libraries that
are selective about what they keep. This usage is a pathetic plea for
status, much like sewage processors claiming to be "water recovery plants."

Speaking of sewage, the problem with the usage is that mixing unreviewed
preprints with published papers will confuse readers. You wouldn't offer
sewer water side by side with 7-up and Coke and offer it to your trusting
children, would you? The misleading usage is an open invitation for
fraudulent promotion of unsafe and ineffective products presented as
"research." Freedom of speech issues do not excuse the reckless and
uncaring mixing of dangerous material with original research.

Another problem is that the word "archive" is being used to market the
displacement of libraries, librarians, editors, and publishers with the
notion that a computer can replace them all, and very cheaply.

FALLACY 4. Peer review is certification of quality.

But not of results. Most peer review of published articles is
done in a few hours and without examining the authors' original
data. Because of the impoverishment of their libraries and the
slowness of interlibrary loan, referees are unable to check
unfamiliar works cited in a paper under review. Yes, referees
are not likely to be experts on the topic they review according
to one study published recently.

FALLACY 5. "Do-it-yourself" Self-archiving by authors will solve
scientists' communication problems.

Even Paul Ginsparg has noted that an intellectual non-automated
approach is needed. The literature is too massive and chaotic,
the scientific community is too broad and unruly, and the ability
of any individual (no matter how large the ego) to keep on top
is doubtful. Like the responsibility for workers' safety, the
burden of intelligence must be supported from the top. Like
the issue of safety, the people at the top would just rather
save money. Sputnik, like the Shirtwaist factory fire, shook
them out of this groove for a while.

FALLACY 6. Authors' income results from the impact of their

While publication helps substantiate a scientists capcity for
research, there is no provable relationship between authorship
and income. The most prolific authors achieve tenure early on.
Most gainfully employed authors produce only 1 or 2 papers in
their lifetime. Many scientists and engineers publish nothing
at all. Well-paid industrial technical consulting is more
likely to involve trade secrets rather than open communications.

I recall that the Association of Research Libraries Serials Prices
Project also stepped in this hold, accusing researchers of
excessive publishing!

FALLACY 7. Universities are too poor to maintain self-sufficient

In the United States, at any rate, it is clear that higher education
institutions have increased their profitability at the expense of their
libraries for over 30 years.

FALLACY 8. Science budgets cannot afford dissemination.

Science budgets seem to aim for high employment and a high rate of
grant renewals. Why? Dwight Eisenhower (former president of
Columbia University) pointed out that the government contract has
replaced curiosity as a motive. Newt Gingrich once noted that science
bureaucrats don't care about results.

A science policy that cares about results cannot afford not to support
libraries as the core of a private enterprise market that responds --
far better than any bureaucrat -- to wants, needs, and demands. The
1960s were a golden age of science in the US partly because the growth
of spending on science was matched by spending on libraries.

Is 8 enough for now?

Albert Henderson

-------------Forwarded Message-----------------

Date: 5/24/2001 7:04 AM

RE: e-Archiving Challenge

Dear Colleagues,

This week's New Scientist (26.05.01), apart from being substantially about
complementary medicine, contains a boxed article (p.53) by Stevan Harnad on
e-archiving copyrighted, peer-reviewed research findings on the Web to make
them more widely available for free to all fellow researchers. I think the
article suggests that this will improve researchers' chances to achieve
higher impact factors and better success in getting research grants and
(eventually) tenured academic posts.

I believe the reasoning behind these conclusions contains at least one major
fallacy and several sub-fallacies.

Can you spot them? I offer a book-token of 20.00 for the best suggestion.

As the article is, I believe, written with the tongue slightly in the cheek,
I don't want to appear too serious with this offer, but would like to have
the fallacies brought into the open nevertheless ...

Best wishes,


Reinhard Wentz, Dipl. Bibl.
Imperial College Library Service
Medical Library
Chelsea & Westminster Hospital
369, Fulham Road
London SW10 9NH
tel.: 0044 (0)20 8746 8109 fax.: 0044 (0)20 8746 8215
e-mail: r.wentz_at_ic.ac.uk

P.S. Stevan Harnad knows about this challenge and has already claimed the
prize money. So I may have to double it (20.00 to him, 20.00 to AN Other)
if I am satisfied with his explanations. If there are many contributions I
may have to appoint un-biased assessors and anonymise the entries. Oh dear!
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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