Re: Reasons for freeing the primary research literature

From: Greg Kuperberg <>
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 18:49:04 +0100

[This is for SEPTEMBER98-FORUM]

I would like to underline David Goodman's comment on Jim Till's list
of reasons that the literature could and should be free. David is
exactly right that the arXiv is faster and more convenient than the
journal system. This is not so much a "could" or a "should" as an "is".
It simply is the raison d'etre of the arXiv; consequently it is the
main reason that the recent literature in many areas of physics and a
few areas of mathematics is free. The beautiful citation age graph at

all but proves it. The citation cycle in high-energy theory is now
shorter than the time to publication. Therefore formal publication is
too slow to insert into the cycle; there is no putting it back.

The "shoulds" that Jim Till lists - the information gap, the library
crisis, public availability, and academic freedom - are all noble causes.
But none of them apply to the biggest users of the arXiv, which as Stevan
likes to emphasize is a user-driven system. Prestigious researchers
have always been the first in the door in successful sections of the
arXiv. Surveys of the math arXiv reveal that there are relatively more
submissions from the Ivy League and other prestigious universities, and
at the other end that the most prestigious journals are overrepresented
as venues of publication of math arXiv articles. Harvard University
has the largest and most expensive library system of any university in
the United States, possibly of any university in the world. Yet it is
also the source of 262 articles in the math arXiv as of today, which is
many multiples of the per university average:

Most of these submissions come from postdoctoral members who, while
they have full access to the Harvard libraries, couldn't care less about
publishing "issues" or "policy". They read and feed the arXiv strictly
for their own convenience.
  /\  Greg Kuperberg (UC Davis)
 /  \
 \  / Visit the Math ArXiv Front at
  \/  * All the math that's fit to e-print *
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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