Re: Chat: E-Archives Challenge: Results

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 28 May 2001 18:55:30 +0100

On Mon, 28 May 2001, Wentz, Reinhard wrote:

> 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?

Never mind. The Optimal and Inevitable is already long overdue. It's
evidently not enough to simply supply the refutations. They need to
keep being invoked, over and over, until they have propagated widely
enough to induce the research community to do the right thing, at
last (for itself!).

> 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.

Well, perhaps this is a bit melodramatic. Isn't it more upbeat to say
that (as the total pool of salary-paying and grant-funding money is not
likely to increase), the outcome of at last removing the arbitrary
access-barriers to research findings online will be :

    (1) that potentially important work that may have been overlooked
    because of the access barriers will now be more likely to receive
    its due and

    (2) work that might have been weakened by insufficient access to
    the research literature will be better informed and hence stronger

so that, even if the total reward pool cannot grow, it can be more
fairly and fruitfully distributed?

Besides, as the overall size of everyone's research impact, and hence
productivity, can only grow as a result of making it all freely
accessible to everyone at last (how can it shrink? see the "information
glut fallacy" before making an overhasty reply!), who is to say that the
reward pool itself may not grow as well?

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

I hereby dedicate my award to the paying of a clerical aid of
Reinhard's to make some phone calls to pertinent parties at Imperial,
encouraging them to set up eprint archives at Imperial for your
researchers to self-archive their refereed papers in (the lobbying may
cost some time and money, but the archive software
is free).

And what on earth could it mean to say that "Well, it's not really
a fallacy, so the refutation may not really be a refutation"?

How can freeing the access to the refereed research literature be
anything but beneficial to research? (Be careful not to make your
reply dependent on already-refuted fallacies about putative
breakdowns in quality or quality control or its funding. Vide supra.)

Or to put it another way: What can possibly be said in favour of
continue to hold access to this give-away research literature hostage
to the very finite and arbitrary capacity of (some) research
institutions to pay for (some of) it, now that it is no longer

> 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.

Splendid! Twice as many phone calls and email to Imperial's Research
Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Computing Services, Libraries, and Departent
Heads. Please use the "RAE" card freely; it's the one that will make
them token drop, at last:

    Harnad, S. (2001) Research Access, Impact and Assessment. Times
    Higher Education Supplement 1487: p. 16.

> 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!)).
> Therefore:
> Three crisp US 5.00 bills to Albert Henderson out of solidarity.

I like Albert, even if I don't like his position or his arguments. So
he is welcome to the three fins -- but be advised that, despite
disclaimers to the contrary, you are not there rewarding an ally of
librarians, libraries, or library users, but rather an advocate
of the vendors who gobble up so much of libraries' serials budgets in
exchange for the lamentably low level of restricted access that it buys
them (yes, yes, I am subtly alluding to the publishers here, not the
aggregators). Albert will say this is because evil forces are shrinking
libraries' budgets. But the truth is that no remotely conceivable budget
could ever free it all.

Which is why this is all neither about decreasing refereed journal
prices nor about increasing serials funding, but about FREEING
this literature at last (online). The real test of whose friend Albert
is -- the vendors' or the users' -- is how he relates to that
proposition. And a glance at the history of Albert's contributions to
this and many other lists across the years will leave you in doubt about
the answer to that question.

But $15 can't do too much harm either way...

> 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.

Brava to Valerie -- but it is not an irony! The New Scientist is NOT
a refereed journal, and its articles are NOT researchers' reports of
their give-away research! They are mostly written by journalists for
salary or fee, and sold for revenue and advertising. There is nothing
whatsoever wrong with this.

I, however, did not write my article therein for the sake of the fee
(which one hundred and fifty pounds I happily contribute to anyone who
requires it to lobby seriously for eprint archiving at their
institution). I wrote it there for the sake of the "(refereed)
literature liberation movement"; and in signing the copyright form I
made sure to reserve the right to archive it, free for all, on the
Web -- as I have indeed done, at:

In my opinion, Valerie's well-meaning but uninformed conflation of the
give-away and non-give-away literatures (thinking it's an irony, when
it is not) is in fact one of the main retardants in our transition to
the optimal and inevitable (just as naive analogies to Napster and
Gnutella and calls for "freedom of information" are):

> 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.

And then, compare the lapidary beauty of those inert on-paper reference
lists with the power and wonder of navigating a citation-hyperlinked
digital corpus, eventually (eventually!) cross-validatable by methods
incomparably more powerful than what copy editors overtaxed retinas and
axons (bless them) could ever be capable of:

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):

You may join the list at the site above.

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

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