Re: Self-Archiving Refereed Research vs. Self-Publishing Unrefereed Research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 18:10:55 +0100

On Fri, 10 Aug 2001, George Lundberg wrote:

> Practicing physicians do not have time to study "the world literature"-
> be it traditional paper, electronic, self-archived or some mix. They
> want the most reliable and applicable information quickly. Medscape
> Select, a search process of only the "best" 269 of the 4000 Medline
> journals, is one Medscape method of meeting this real need.

Fine. But please let us not conflate the problem of navigating the
information glut with the problem of freeing access to the refereed
journal literature. There is no connection between these two problems
whatsoever. I quote below from:

    4. Navigation (info-glut)

        "I worry about self-archiving because there is already too much
        to read, and it is already too hard to navigate it on paper;
        adding eprints will just make this situation even worse."

    This worry deserves even less space than the others. It is
    incontestable that the information glut
    ( is far
    more navigable and manageable on-line than on-paper (Harnad & Carr

    The primary objective of self-archiving is to free the refereed
    journal literature from access-tolls on-line. That literature is
    already being published on-paper. (If you think it should not be,
    it is with the journals and their referees that you need to take
    issue, not with self-archiving or the on-line medium!) When it is
    all accessible free on-line, there is no need for anyone to feel
    any more (or less) obliged to read the refereed literature than
    they did on-paper. Keeping it off-line is certainly no cure for
    the information glut (if there is one); it merely makes the
    existing S/L/P access-tolls the arbitrary arbiters of whether or
    not one reads something, rather than the reader's own rational
    judgement. (And unrefereed preprints can of course always be
    ignored altogether, if the reader wishes, on-line just as

    In short, no rational deterrent at all to immediate self-archiving
    from concerns about navigation or information glut.

> And, far from Stevan's Harnad's
> statement of a few days ago suggesting that i as a person was trying to
> keep the medical literature behind fiscal barriers, i remind readers
> that my well documented position is quite the opposite, and for an
> example, <> is a FREE-to-all
> internet users, primary source, peer reviewed, general medical journal,
> the nature of which prevents the need for self-archiving, since it
> publishes quickly, after peer review, and proper editing, has
> relatively high acceptance rates since there are no paper costs, and is
> itself on Medline and in Medscape.Select.

George Lundberg's new, free, online refereed journal is admirable and
welcome, but the problem, alas, is the other 19,999+ refereed journals,
which are not free online. It is for these 19,999+ journals (and their
annual 2 million articles) that self-archiving is needed, not for the
few new, free online journals.

There are Six Current Strategies for Freeing the Refereed Journal
Literature. The problem with Strategy #2 (waiting for or switching to
free online journals, boycotting the rest) is this:

    "(2) Boycotting journals that do not agree to give away their
    contents online for free
    requires authors to give up their established journals of choice
    and to switch to unestablished journals (if they exist), not on the
    basis of their quality or impact, but on the basis of their
    give-away policy. But if authors simply self-archive their papers,
    they can keep publishing in their established journals of choice
    yet still ensure free online access for all readers."

    Harnad, S. (2001) Six Proposals for Freeing the Refereed Literature
    Online: A Comparison. Ariadne 28 June 2001.

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.

Discussion can be posted to:
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:46:12 GMT