Chat: E-Archives Challenge: Results

From: Wentz, Reinhard <r.wentz_at_IC.AC.UK>
Date: Mon, 28 May 2001 16:36:42 +0100

Dear All,

I should have known better and not challenged a contributor to 'New
Scientist'! How was I to know that Stevan Harnad had not only compiled a
list of 22 fallacies about the barriers / negative consequences of
e-archiving but supplied comprehensive refutations, as he sees it, for each
of them?

My main fallacy is not included in the list, but Stevan conjectured it
correctly nevertheless:

My wording of fallacy 1:

Let us assume for a moment that the total amount of research money and
number of tenured posts is stable. If more researchers improve their impact
ratings (let us further assume that these are based on the total number of
citations all their (major) publications received) by making their output
more accessible on the Web, the baseline for successful research application
will be lifted from, say, 50 cites to 100 cites for all. The number of grant
applicants may increase, but not the success rate. The composition of the
group of successful research applicants may change, not the total number.
The number of disappointed applicants may increase and the sum total of
happiness in the research community may decrease.

Stevan's much more elegant phrasing:

If everyone self-archives, thereby freeing access to every refereed paper,
then everyone's ABSOLUTE impact may increase (more readers, more citations
all round), but their RELATIVE impact may not. (So there will be no added
help with getting grants and tenure.)

He had a refutation of this fallacy ready, implying amongst other things
that the scientific community as a whole will be better off if the
e-archiving projects became reality. That may be so, but then again, it may
not. We are not talking real fallacies here, e.g. the gamblers fallacy which
is demonstrably wrong, but presumed events in the future. They are
particularly difficult to predict when they involve technical innovations
without parallel social change, and improved human intercation. I do
therefore not accept his refutation and can only award him half the internal
prize money. However, as Stevan alerted me to a number of points and
splendid discussion-lists about e-archiving, widened the discussion, and
even helped me to improve the wording of my challenge, a book token of

PS 20.00 goes to Stevan Harnad.

Nobody else guessed this main fallacy or another three I had in mind
correctly, and I could if I wanted hold on to the original external prize
money of 20.00.

Albert Henderson supplied a list of 8 fallacies about e-archiving, not
including any I had in mind. During the debate about this challenge,
however, imputations were made about his motives (as I understand it, he has
in the past associated with librarians or even publishers (now, really!)).

Three crisp US 5.00 bills to Albert Henderson out of solidarity.

As far as I can see, the original New Scientist's article which prompted me
to issue this challenge is not available freely on the Web. For spotting
this irony in the first place a book token of

PS 10.00 goes to Valerie Hamilton.

Since issuing the challenge I have thought of a definite limitation of
e-archiving: The list of references in e-archived articles will never look
as beautiful as the ones produced by publishers' professional proof readers,
copy editors and other valuable members of a publishing team. I can send a
sample (in colour!) of such a list to anybody doubting that statement and
also some pictures of what professional copy editors (what a splendid body
of people!) are up to in their spare time.

This challenge is now closed: I have no more money to spare: I want to go to
Tennessee in the fall.

But let the discussion continue,

Best wishes and thanks to all contributors,

Reinhard Wentz

Declaration of interest: I am a librarian, my partner is a professional
editor and translator

Reinhard Wentz, Dipl. gepr. Bibl. (Han.)
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
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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