Re: PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research

From: Bernard Lang <>
Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2001 17:27:15 +0100

I have two slides that summarize the technical view I develop below.
They are unfortunately only in French:

Publication Scientifique Traditionnelle

Publication Scientifique numérisée

On Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 11:29:25PM +0100, Stevan Harnad wrote:

> bl> why should the quality-control service be provided by publishers ?
> Because they are providing it now. And there is nothing wrong with it
> (except the extras forcibly wrapped in with it).

"Because they are providing it now" is not an answer. My point is that
we have to reanalyze the system from scratch, to see what would be the
basic rules in the Internet world.

Referreeing is a function in itself, which is actually playing an
increasing role in many areas, largely because of the internet and its
dynamic interactive character, and in many guises. Typically, any site
that lists and criticizes products, web pages (for example to tell
whether it is obscene or violent, and how much), people, books
(amazon), or software componenets, is performing a refereeing task.

A whole referreeing technology is currently being developped (using
mathematical tools) because, of course, one as to assess the
credibility of the refereeing services, either from an absolute (as
much as that make sense) or from a personnal viewpoint.

So quality-control, or relevance to a given profile, will be more an
more a general form of service on the internet. Among other things it
will be applicable to scientific or litterary resources (paper, data,
...). It will be open to competition ... and publishing houses are
welcome to compete.

But I doubt it will be the source of very high income, especially for
those who are not willing to pay the referrees, since most of the
infrastructure can be mechanized.

> bl> My view is that they can provide it if they wish and manage to sell
> bl> it. But it can actually be provided by any individual, any
> bl> organization, who cares, for a fee or for free, with or without
> bl> competence.
> Of course. But those who wish to free the refereed corpus would like to
> have it done with competence.

And the best way to ensure competence is to have open competition.

> bl> Of course, incompetent quality control will be known as such fast
> bl> enough. Since there can be multiple, competing, quality controls, the
> bl> better ones will emerge. And there can be quality control on the
> bl> quality control (like assessing the quality of journals). But in fact
> bl> a much more open and dynamic system that what we have now.
> What's wrong with the quality control we have now? And wouldn't new
> quality-control methods have to be tested first? And what about the
> freeing of the 20,000 while we are waiting for the outcome of the
> test?

It does the job, more or less, with cliques, schools of thought, and
other human weaknesses.

But we all know that the current system is far from perfect. A
colleague of mine was barred from publication in a journal for nearly
ten years, because he had made public a scientific fraud by a member of
the editorial board. I once had to cover up for attempted unethical
publishing so as to protect the victim (who had agreed) from the risk
of further harassment by a powerful scientist.

Let's not kid ourselves, the system is adequate, but far from perfect.

> > > Then, if the day arrives when there is no longer any market for the
> > > OPTIONS (paid for by institutional S/L/P), then refereed-journal
> > > publishers can downsize to become providers of only the ESSENTIAL QC/C
> > > service, paid for by the author-institution out of 10% of its 100%
> > > annual windfall S/L/P savings.
> >
> > why them ?
> I don't understand? Why should it be the publishers who implement the
> quality control? Because they are the ones doing it already. And
> whoever does it is the "publisher".

this definition does not leave much room for discussion, does it ?

For me the publisher is the person who makes the work public. Not
necessarily the person who assess the value. The link between the two
is a Gutenberg era concept, due to economic constraints.

and still, I do not agree that the quality-control should be
centralized. Hence even your concept of publisher becomes somewhat

> Why paid for by the
> author-institution? Because they would have the windfall savings of
> 100% out of which to pay the 10%. They are also the beneficiary (in
> research impact) of freed access.

I never said the service should not be paid ... I only meant that, as
far as I can tell, those who provide it, even now, are not what we call
publishers. And I doubt it is (or will be) that expensive
... but I may be wrong.

> I don't think journal publishers are villains,

no they are not ... well not any more than the silk workers in Lyon who
were being replaced by automatic weaving machines 2 centuries ago (I
guess the same happened with wool in the UK).

The difference is that they (some of them, at least) are powerful, and
they fight back more strongly, for example by lobbying at international
level to get anti-human laws (I mean laws intended to privilege private
companies economic interests against the interest of society and human

And that makes them villains.

> and I don't think peer review needs to be changed (urgently).

no ... but it is useful to assess where we are going, and what is
meaningful in the long term.

> What is urgent is freeing the peer reviewed literature, such as it
> is. Peer review reform is another matter, and empirical one, and the
> two should not be coupled in any way.

I agree to this, and certainly support this priority. It is politically
wise to stick to the most urgent goals.

But I will not let supporters of the past take argument of their past
role in (simply organizing) quality assurance as a reason for
maintaining the old system. We do not need them for quality assurance,
though they are welcome to offer it, if they can do it competitively
(in price and effectiveness). Like any other willing organization or

Barnard Lang

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

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