Re: Zen response to e-Archiving Challenge

From: Charles Oppenheim <>
Date: Fri, 25 May 2001 10:23:36 +0100

>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.

Whilst it is an exchange, it is between what is usually a powerful player
(the publisher) and an individual, for in most cases the individual needs
the publisher more than the publisher needs the individual.
>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.

You've been talking to the wrong copyright attorneys! Since the preprint
version PREDATES the version supplied to the publisher, the author (or the
server) preprint cannot be accused of copyright infringement, which of
course requires someone to have copied the publisher's copyright material.
The author can be accused of breach of contract in that the contract (s)he
signed promised that the material had not been published previously
elsewhere. The argument would revolve around whether the item published in
the journal is the "same" as the preprint item. And what would be the
consequence if indeed it was found that the author was in breach of
contract? The author would no doubt not be welcome by the publisher again,
but unless the publisher could actually DEMONSTRATE that it had lost
business as a result of the breach of contract, it could not recover
>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.

The English language is constantly changing. If a word is well understood
by many people as to its meaning, that's good enough for me. "Archive" has
entered the scientists' world meaning a repository of high quality papers,
and no amount of huffing and puffing can stop that use. The point about
mixing unrefereed and refereed papers in one place is valid, but this can
surely be addressed by marking the papers accordingly, and letting readers
decide to search for one type or both as they see fit.
>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.

Many studies show that refereed material is higher quality than
unrefereed. I do agree that the refereeing system is full of flaws though.
>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.

I agree with this comment, but hope that novel techniques, such as proposed
in the Semantic Web, will address this issue in the future.
>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!

Blaise Cronin did some important research about ten years ago that showed
that US academics' salaries were directly correlated with their citation
counts. Since citation counts are (it is universally agreed) a measure of
a scientist's impact, I think the relationship IS proved - unless Albert
has evidence contradicting Cronin's results?
>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.

This one has ben flogged to death before and I have nothing to add.
>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.

I agree! If government or other sponsors really wanted good dissemination
to occur, they would build this into their funding model.


Professor Charles Oppenheim
Dept of Information Science
Loughborough University
Leics LE11 3TU

Tel 01509-223065
Fax 01509-223053
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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