Big Brother and Digitometrics

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 25 May 2001 20:31:03 +0100

On Fri, 25 May 2001, Jim Till wrote:

> At the arXiv archive, one section of the FAQ section (under Miscellaneous)
> addresses the question: "Why don't you release statistics about paper
> retrieval?". (See:
> The short answer provided is: "Such 'statistics' are difficult to assess
> for a variety of reasons".

So are citation statistics. So?

> "It could be argued perhaps correctly that statistics may provide some
> useful information at least on the relative popularity of submissions,
> since the distributed access and other factors may be subsumable into some
> overall scale factor. But even this information is ambiguous in many
> cases, and publicizing, even when accurate, could merely accentuate
> faddishness in fields already excessively faddish".

Correct. So?

> "Most significantly, however, there is a strong philosophic reason for not
> publicizing (or even saving) these statistics. When one browses in a
> library it is very important (in fact legislated) that big brother is not
> watching through a camera mounted on the wall; for the benefit of readers
> it is very important to maintain in every way possible this sense of
> freedom from monitoring in the electronic realm".

Hit rates do not monitor WHO is hitting X, just HOW MANY are hitting X.

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
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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