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

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2001 16:00:32 +0100

On Mon, 13 Aug 2001, Arthur Smith wrote:

> > as> it is important that that responsibility be transferred
> > as> as far as it can be, from authors to more stable and
> > as> identifiable entities, so that the end-users of that
> > as> information have a source for whom they have a certain
> > as> relationship of trust.
> >
> sh> There is such an entity, and it is called a peer-reviewed
> sh> journal, just as it always was.
> as> this statement looked to me like an endorsement of the
> as> peer-reviewed journal as the entity responsible for distribution of
> as> articles. You agree with that, even if the journal uses S/L/P
> as> methods to recoup its costs?
> as> ...I sometimes don't... read through [your posts] in detail...

No substitute for reading the details, I'm afraid; that's always where
the devil resides:

The only essential costs are the peer review implementation costs.
Neither I (nor anyone else) care or should care how those costs are
recouped -- as long as all the peer-reviewed articles are publicly
accessible for free for all online.

Currently, those essential peer-review costs are paid via S/L/P tolls
on the reader/institution-end by wrapping them in with the additional
costs of what are really optional add-ons (on-paper version,
publisher's PDF, other publisher enhancements). That's fine, for those
who can afford it, but only if there is a free online version too, for
everyone else. This can be ensured by author/institution self-archiving
of the peer-reviewed articles.

If ever the annual S/L/P revenues should shrink (because of user
preference for the free version) to where they can no longer cover the
essential peer review costs, those costs can be covered by the author's
institution out of a small portion (10-30%) of its annual windfall
S/L/P savings in the form of one-time peer-review charges per outgoing
paper, instead of S/L/P tolls for incoming papers.

That is an endorsement of peer review, and the coverage of its
essential costs, but it is not an endorsement of continuing to hold
the peer-reviewed papers hostage to the costs of the inessential

> as> And then you say again:
> sh> To repeat, the free self-archived version is a supplement to,
> sh> not a substitute for, on-paper/on-line publication in the
> sh> refereed journal it appeared in.
> as> which sounds like the same thing in other words?

It means exactly what it says: Self-archiving the outcome of peer
review (the peer-reviewed paper) is a supplement to peer review,
not a substitute for it.

Currently peer review is funded by S/L/P. As long as that covers costs,
the only problem is ensuring that there is a free online version too.
Self-archiving does that.

If/when S/L/P no longer covers the peer review costs, adjustments can
be made:

> what will motivate authors to self-archive their research papers, when
> researchers are always pressed for time? Of course they can always be
> forced to do it, by their institutions as some of the University
> provosts seem to have in mind.

Bravo for the provosts! Besides, the "time" in question per paper is
negligible! Compared to the time it takes to conduct the research,
write it up, submit it for refereeing, and revise it to make it
acceptable, the few extra minutes it takes to pop it into an archive is
hardly worth speaking about! (And smart provosts will give some seed
money to their digital librarians so they can "self-archive" the first
wave by proxy for those researchers who feel too busy, tired, confused
or old to do it for themselves!)

It's time to update "Publish or Perish" to "Publish and Self-Archive or

> But the standard argument has always been
> that self-archiving will expand the readership of articles to the many
> who can't afford journals. So the question becomes secondarily, what
> will motivate "the many" who may not be able to afford journals to make
> active use of free author self-archives?

Arthur, I cannot follow this at all! The problem is getting all that
refereed content (all 20K refereed journals' worth) up there, online
and free. Where on earth did you get the idea that the problem was that
it may not be used, once it's online and free?

> And thirdly, will those so-motivated actually be among the group that
> the original authors are really interested in reaching?

Do you have any reason to believe that the criterion for belonging to
the group that authors are "really interested in reaching" is whether
or not they happen to be lucky enough to be at an institution that can
afford that year's S/L/P tolls for that particular journal?

Is it not much more likely that the criterion for belonging to
the group that authors are "really interested in reaching" is that
those readers are "really interested in reaching" that particular
paper, irrespective of their institution's S/L/P fortunes?

> There's a self-consistency problem here
> that goes back to the heart of what the original authors want - somehow
> the current journal system in most fields seems to meet those wants
> pretty well, however that happens.

There is no self-consistency problem here whatsoever, merely a lot of
Just-So Stories in defense of the status quo -- and (I grant) an
EXTREMELY sluggish tempo at which the research community is coming to
realize what is in its own best interest, and what old habits it has to
change in order to attain it.

> Those fields where the needs are not met so well may be the ones that
> have rushed to self-archiving.

It will be for historians to determine why it began in Physics first.
My own personal opinion is that it was merely because physicists are
somewhat smarter and more serious about their research than the rest of
us, not because our needs are being met by impact/access-blocking S/L/P
tolls whereas theirs are not!

If I am right, then it is only a matter of time (and testimony) until
the same token falls (for the same reasons) for the rest of us, despite
our more sluggish intellects... The very same outcome is optimal for us
all, and hence inevitable.

> But in
> the others, it seems the key issues of context and transfer of
> responsibility are what the (1) authors are seeking, since that is what
> the (3) important audience is (2) actively reading. And the prediction
> is there will be no rush to self-archiving in these fields where the
> journals meet author needs.

There is indeed no rush yet, alas, but not because needs are being well
met! It is because researchers have not yet realized that there is an
alternative -- that the status quo of access/impact-blocking S/L/P
tolls can easily be changed, and how.

   Harnad, S., Carr, L. & Brody, T. (2001) How and Why To Free All
   Refereed Research From Access- and Impact-Barriers Online, Now.

> Maybe the dynamic will change so that journals no longer work so well in
> these fields; on the other hand, it seems things could go in the other
> direction as well. The nlin-sys listings at seem to have
> dropped slightly from a peak in 1999, the hep-lat listings seem to have
> peaked in 1998. Perhaps those are simply due to declining activity in
> those fields though... But it seems to me that universal author
> self-archiving is not inevitable - mainly because in many fields it is
> simply not wanted.

I'll let others reply about those alleged drops in activity.

As to changes in "dynamics": The only question researchers need to put
to themselves is this:

    "Is there any field in which limiting the access to and impact of
    its refereed articles by S/L/P toll-barriers is a plus, or even
    neutral, rather than a minus?"

Only then will we know what is or is not wanted.

Except if there exist fields for which the answer is "yes" (I suspect
there are none: respondents, please make sure you quote and address the
above statement verbatim and not something else, lest you just generate
a non-sequitur), the only "dynamic" that needs changing is the
understanding by researchers of the status quo, and of what simple
actions will instead get them what they want.

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