Afterthoughts following interview...

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001 20:45:08 +0100

Some afterthoughts after after an interview:

(1) You asked me my reaction to your quote from someone that
I am not well regarded in the library community (or words to that

If this is true (I am not certain it is), then I think the reason may
be that many librarians (understandably) tend to focus on the problems
of making ends meet this year and the next. They are not helped in
this by what sound like far-fetched schemes to eventually free the
contents of all refereed journals, some day: They just want some way to
get more journals for their limited serials budget now.

This is understandable, but short-sighted.

And I think more and more librarians are at last beginning to see that.

So keep your eye on SPARC and its empulators; they just might change
direction -- from their current emphasis on consortial support favoring
publishers committed to lower journal prices to a new strategy:
leveraged consortial support for publishers committed to downsizing to
the essentials (peer review service costs) on an agreed timetable.

(2) The above is also my reply to your other quoted concern about
making sure the transition is stable, and that the peer reviewed
literature is never at risk. Publishers should plan ahead too:

One potential transition scenario has certainly been made explicit:

(3) I suppose it is not altogether surprising that some publishers may
not be too sympathetic to what I am advocating (and wishing I would
instead just stick to doing "what I am paid to do..."). But they should
really be looking at what I am saying, and why. It will not go away if
I go away. It may slow down, but the outcome -- if it is indeed
optimal and inevitable, for the reasons I have described -- will not
be otherwise,

(4) You also asked me about progress: You asked me what I would do if
I failed to persuade enough authors to self-archive.

First, things may soon be changing now that the interoperable software is available, and being increasingly adopted.
Try google with the query:

and you will find some of the sites that are currently mounting
eprint archives with the software. Repeat that query
in the next few months and I hope you will find the number of links
growing. Check the contents of a sample from this growing number of
eprint archives too, to see that they are growing too.

Meanwhile, as I said, my own focus now will be on trying to get the
research-universities and research-funding councils to realize
that freeing the refereed research literature through self-archiving
is the way to maximize the productivity of their researchers and the
impact of their research (which, after all, is what it is all about:
the PostGutenberg incarnation of "publish or perish"):

See also:

    Harnad, S. (2001) "Why I think research access, impact and
    assessment are linked." Times Higher Education Supplement 1487: p.
    16. longer version:

(5) About the point you made repeatedly about self-archiving's legality
never having been tested in court (even after 10 yours and 150,000
papers in physics):

Please do reflect on the Harnad/Oppenheim strategy, in making explicit
exactly what it is that you are contemplating being tested in court:

I assume that you would agree that there is no issue about the
pre-refereeing preprint being self-archived: No copyright agreement is
in force at that time.

As to the legality of archiving the corrigenda file subsequently,
see these recent contributions to the American Scientist Forum:

One from Charles Oppenheim:

And one from a US Law Professor:

Last, if there are other respects in which some may feel that my
approach has been counterproductive, I guess only time will be able to
tell us for sure. My strategy has changed across the years. I confess
that I have grown more impatient as time has gone by, and I still found
myself having to make the very same prima facie replies to the same
prima facie questions over and over, with the questioners just as
unaware about the replies already having been made, despite the fact
that they had all been published, in many places.

Historians will have to explain why it took most of us so long to
realize the obvious, and to take the requisite steps to bring us all to
the optimal and inevitable. Physicists -- instinctively, and without
thinking too much about it in advance -- twigged a decade earlier.
That is a historical fact (I've dubbed it the "Los Alamos Lemma"
elsewhere.) How long it will take the rest of us to twig, no one can
say at this point (hence, a fortiori, no one can say what would be the
optimal strategy to adopt so as to hasten our twigging, whether the
[evolving] strategy I have been using in my evangelizing, or another,
better [because more successful] strategy [which, if someone describes
it to me, I would be more than happy to adopt instead!]).

And, yes, although when you mentioned it I deflected it with "I talk
fast," I do think it may also have something to do with the speed of
thought -- but perhaps also with freedom from vested interests, whether
they be interests in the serial publishing status quo, and the revenues
it bears, or interests vested merely in not changing ingrained but
comfortable habits and practices on the part of authors and their
libraries and institutions. That will be the question that historians
will pose. It will be about speed, not about direction.

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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