Re: Afterthoughts following interview...

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 15:55:33 +0100

On Thu, 14 Jun 2001, John MacColl, Sub-Librarian, Online Services,
SELLIC Director, University of Edinburgh

> sh> Some afterthoughts after an interview:
> sh>
> sh> (1) You asked me my reaction to your quote from someone that I am
> sh> not well regarded in the library community (or words to that effect).
> Not true on my own account, but then I am an adherent of the subversive
> proposal. The Librarian here at Edinburgh, who moves in the elevated
> circles of Library Directors internationally, has also asked me to tell
> you that it is not true. In fact I think it is *becoming* less true as
> the self-archiving/publication conflation becomes understood as a
> fallacy. And the current open archiving initiative - based largely upon
> your vision - is attracting a lot of interest from librarians, as the
> July meeting and the prospect of DNER funding testifies.

Many thanks for the kind words, John. Some quote/comments follow:

> Also, it has become much more legitimate for librarians to take a hostile
> stance against journal publishers whose pricing policies are exposed as
> shark-like by the arrival of electronic publishing.

The immediate, day-to-day serials budget crisis, and the steps that
need to be taken to relieve it and survive till the next fiscal year
are one thing (and alas on that score I'm afraid I have nothing to
offer), but the long-term solution -- and steps that need to be taken
NOW, to ensure that it should not be longer in coming, rather than
shorter -- are another.

So "hostility" might be the right stance for short-term bargaining
about serials prices, but the self-archiving initiative, in the service
of the long-term, optimal solution, does not call for any hostility
toward anyone. It simply calls for concerted action on the part of
researchers and their institutions -- actions that do not depend
critically on the stance of publishers! For there is already a legal
way to self archive ALL of the refereed literature IMMEDIATELY from
this day forward, irrespective of publishers' copyright policy.

That is the most important of all messages to get out and understood,
by both the research community and the library community: None of this
is contingent or dependent on any changes in journal publishers'
copyright transfer policy!

> And librarians do listen
> to publishing academics, many of whom are fully on board with the proposal.

Ah, but which proposal! There is, after all, the subversive proposal
(the URL above), which is to self-archive all preprints now, and then,
after refereeing and acceptance, to self-archive either the refereed
postprints -- if the copyright transfer agreement can be suitably
modified -- or the corrigenda, if not.

The proposal to wait to self-archive until AFTER a successful change in
the copyright agreement has been negotiated is not my proposal! And it
will entail a long wait. (We are talking about at least 20,000+ refereed
journals and 2+ million refereed articles annually -- all waiting to
be self-archived as we speak!)

Ditto for hopeful boycott proposals...

> I addressed a meeting of informatics staff yesterday (seeking to enthuse
> them about the archive we are establishing in Edinburgh)

Is it registered as OAI-compliant in:

If not, I strongly urge you to do it, for visibility, and

> and was told that
> the proposed wording regarding permission to self-archive the peer-reviewed
> postprint on the web (which I had taken from your article 'For whom the gate
> tolls') was more cautious than most of them use in their own dealings with
> publishers.

The trouble with being more aggressive (i.e., with asking for any more
than necessary: all that is really necessary is retaining one's public
online self-archiving right for the refereed postprint) is that it
increases the probability of refusal by the publisher.

But, more important, not only is it unnecessary to ask for more than
just the author's online self-archiving right for the refereed
postprint -- it is is not even necessary to get even that! Our biggest
strategic mistake (and posterity will chide us for this) has been to
think of self-archiving as contingent in any way on prior publisher
compliance. No publisher compliance is necessary!

If they refuse for the refereed postprint, the pre-refereeing preprint
plus the corrigenda (effectively, the "DIFF" file for turning the
preprint into the postprint) will do almost as well!

> Far from being wary about whether academic authors will back off
> from seeking to change copyright transfer conditions in case publishers
> refuse to accept their work, they urged a much more aggressive approach.

I am not sure what "aggression" they had in mind: Boycotts? See:

What we need now is not aggression towards publishers, but vigorous
self-archiving by researchers, and strong support for it by university
libraries, universities, and research funders. (See the posting about
the active supporting and facilitating role being taken by the
librarians at CalTech!)

By the way, I detect some confusion above between (1) publisher copyright
transfer policy and (2) publisher embargo policy ("The Ingelfinger

Regarding the goal of making sure that an accepted, refereed paper is
published, authors -- if their efforts to mildly modify the copyright
transfer agreement fail -- should simply sign the restrictive agreement
and archive the corrigenda for now. The preprint + corrigenda are
INFINITELY better than nothing right now, for all those potential
users, planet-wide, whose access to the refereed literature is
currently blocked by the toll-gates. If all 20,000+ journals were
available now in that not-quite-optimal form, most of researchers'
access/impact needs would already be provided for thereby, and journal
publishers would eventually have to adapt, concede and scale down as a
side-effect anyway, as a consequence.

But it is simply silly to wait now, and try to get this adaptation to
happen in advance, through "aggression" in negotiating the copyright
transfer agreement: That would take much too long (and probably
wouldn't succeed at all, in many or most cases).

As to the Ingelfinger Rule ("We will not even referee, let alone
publish, a paper that has been previously self-archived publicly as a
preprint"), this is NOT a LEGAL MATTER. It is a mere policy: an
unjustifiable one, but that is irrelevant; what is relevant is that
it is also UNENFORCEABLE! The message to transmit to researchers at
this point is that the Ingelfinger Rule should simply be IGNORED!
Nothing legal is at issue.

> But then, these were the converted, to a large extent.

Indeed. And they were the librarians.(*) But the ones who really
need to be converted are the researchers. And they need to be converted
to self-archiving. And librarians can play a crucial role. Forget about
copyright. It's not a problem. Focus on creating and supporting the
eprint archives, and both persuading and helping the researchers to
deposit their papers therein:

    (*)[Follow-up from John MacColl: "Thanks for your comments. Please
    do go ahead and post. Only point to correct you on: the group I
    mentioned which I was addressing *WAS* composed of researchers - in
    informatics. Not librarians."]

I quote from a relevant posting to this Forum from Eric van de Velde,
Director of Library Information Technology at CalTech:

    "Caltech reference librarians are actively recruiting faculty into
    this new publishing venture [self-archiving in CalTech Eprint
    Archives: ]. Once faculty sign
    on, librarians handle most document-management and metadata issues.
    For the repositories we just registered, this work fell primarily
    on Kim Douglas (Director of the Sherman Fairchild Library and Head
    of Technical Information Services) and Hema Ramachandran (Reference
    Librarian). However, all librarians are getting involved as they
    are signing up new options."

> Interestingly, one of
> those attending, who admitted being an editor-in-chief of an Elsevier
> journal, said that I was misusing the term 'preprint', which publishers
> generally understand as meaning the peer-reviewed article, minus its
> publisher logo and citation details. What I meant by preprint - pre-refereed
> article - they called 'submission.'

That's just a minor lexical issue. I don't think it is very relevant
what some publishers may in the past have used the word "preprint" to
mean. I should think the authors of the 150,000 papers already
self-archived in the Physics Archive in the last decade -- authors who
had already been circulating unrefereed preprints (sic) to one another
in paper form well before that -- have established the pertinent usage
quite firmly where it counts. Who cares about this variant,
idiosyncratic sense of "*preprint" -- in the form of the refereed
postprint minus the publisher logo and citation details? That entity
has no functional use whatsoever, so hardly needs a name; it's like a
currency in which no one bothers to trade. Just retire that sense of
the term and focus on the pertinent variables: unrefereed preprint vs.
refereed postprint. (It would be ridiculous if authors elected to call
their unrefereed preprints "submissions" before they were even
submitted! This is a vendor-centric view of the embryology of
research reports!)

But the usage is worth clarifying, as it would make the
Harnad/Oppenheim proposal ambiguous, if not downright incoherent, to
read it as asking authors to self-archive the preprint (wrongly
construed as the refereed "postprint minus the citation information")
BEFORE submitting it to the journal!

It is clear from context that what is meant by "unrefereed preprint" is
what is ultimately submitted to the journal, hence what eventually
becomes the "submission."

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):

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

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