Re: Call for Commentary:

From: Lorre Smith <>
Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2001 04:39:37 +0000

What actually isn't broken?

Lorre Smith

[apologies for clugey editing - I'm not accustomed to the interface]

LORRE SMITH: "What about the role of editors and scholarly societies
in enforcing (1) appropriate copyright agreements"

STEVAN HARNAD: Editors of refereed journals are usually researchers,
like the authors and the referees, appointed to serve for a period.
They could have a good deal of influence, with some exceptions, they
have rarely used it so far:

SMITH: That is partly my point - what is it that is going to take to
make this change? The problem has existed since the 1970s, when
journal prices began to escalate at far greater rates than any cost
index could justify. It's not the technical change, it's the
research/academic establishment social and cultural change that
remains. I do wonder if the change can take place completely within
the existing journal publication infrastructure. I don't know if that
can remain a given.

LORRE SMITH: "and [in] (2) refereeing and distribution services?"

HARNAD: Here it's not clear what you mean. It's important not to mix
the face-valid objective of freeing online access to the refereed
journal literature, such as it is, with the much more speculative
objective of reforming or replacing the refereeing system

SMITH: I'm not talking about reforming the system to the extent that
it destroys the essence of peer review, but reforming the format, so
to speak, so that peer review can take place in a variety of
technologies. It's a matter of researchers realizing that peer review
can happen in a variety of contexts. With this realization, if
publishers cannot adapt to the change that you recommend, the peer
review process will take place in any (technological or distribution)

HARNAD:A Note of Caution About "Reforming the System"

And distribution is another matter again, one that is now better
handled by OAI-compliant Eprint Archives, online at least:

SMITH: It is my opinion that quality control truly is the remaining
difficulty, or unknown. Researchers must trust that aspect of the
system before any change in paradigm will take place and the
literature, as you say, is "freed". I am not so confident that current
publishers will especially "go" for your proposal, and I think that
researchers must be prepared to deal with publisher refusal to play
along in the way that you describe. I still also contend that you
underplay the costs of OAI-compliant archives, but more about that
further down.

LORRE SMITH: "editors might exert considerable influence in regard to
the role of publishers"

HARNAD: But what influence? Making sure that publishers' copyright
policy does not attempt to prevent self-archiving is the only
influence that is really needed right now.

(I know librarians are troubled by high subscription prices, but
lowering those it not the goal here: freeing online access to the
entire literature is. And apart from copyright transfer policy, there
is not much that editors can do about that now: It is up to

SMITH: That copyright policy is no small part of your whole scheme. I
think that in the electronic world, at least, journal publishers do
currently also provide indexing and abstracting services, and editors
can influence the publisher role in access to the significant body of
literature of the past, both recent and distant. Intellectual access,
or the ability to search by subject, is a significant part of our
goals - the goals of the academic and research communities.

LORRE SMITH: "scholarly societies... may exert even more by
scrutinizing contracts or composing contracts that enforce more
appropriate policies"

HARNAD: But (apart from copyright), more appropriate in what way?

SMITH: My point is that the people who must make the changes here are
the researchers in their various roles, not that the changes all must
be apart from copyright and its influences on distribution. By giving
up the distribution rights to publishers, and standing by for all
these decades while publishers have essentially broken the system of
scholarly communication (by price increases), researchers have got
themselves into a pickle. It's ours and ours alone. I think the
important questions are _how_ can researchers have influence on the
Post-Gutenberg Anomaly. I think expanding our responsibilities and
awareness not only in self-archiving, but in our editing roles, and in
the way our societies handle the publication of our journals will add
swiftness to our influence in the riddance of the Anomaly.

LORRE SMITH: "senior scholars [could] encourage mentees by introducing
and encouraging new ways of quality control"

HARNAD: Is this about reforming peer review again? Wouldn't it be
better to study what's wrong with it first, and what will fix it? The
way to free online access to the refereed literature is not to free it
from refereeing, nor even to free refereeing from the established
journals. It is to self-archive the literature!

SMITH: Your point is well-taken, however a careful approach to
inflicting your proposal on publishers may be in order. How many
prestigious journals can disappear before a given field is in
disarray? In some fields and specializations it may be as few as
three. After that point, there is nowhere for anyone to publish.
Shouldn't researchers be prepared even a little bit for this

LORRE SMITH: "recognize and reward publication through new and
changing venues"

HARNAD:Why new venues? Aren't there enough journals already? The only
change that's needed is author self-archiving, to free what's in there

SMITH: I'm not so sure, as you can see, that the existing publications
will hold together under the pressure of change.

LORRE SMITH: "understand and advise junior scholars concerning
appropriate publication"

HARNAD: Appropriate publication is to publish in the highest quality,
highest impact refereed journal one can. It is not about switching to
give-away journals, because of their giveaway policy instead of their
quality and reputation. The giveaway can be done without any sacrifice
by the authors themselves. That's what senior scholars should advise
junior ones to do (and do themselves too!).

LORRE SMITH: "can afford to take the risks of publishing in the new
venues so that new venues achieve elite status."

HARNAD: To try to free the literature of 20,000 refereed journals by
establishing 20,000 now, free ones would be an uphill road and might
take forever!

SMITH: To convince publishers to continue titles with highly eroded
profit value may be utterly impossible.

LORRE SMITH: "Harnad has neglected to consider carefully (in his
article) the full costs of self-archiving and institutional costs for
electronic archives. These facilities are not inexpensive. Building
and maintaining appropriate interfaces and search engines are not cost
free. While it is true that institutions will be free of subscription
costs in the hundreds and thousands of dollars, those dollars may go
quickly to information systems that will provide access to archives."

HARNAD: Nothing of the sort. The Eprints archive-creating software,
and all the software it draws on, are free. A linux server costs about
$1000. Space on one that's already up costs even less. Reckon in some
sysad start-up time (not much: see )
and you have an archive ready to take a LOT of papers.

SMITH: Let's add in a few more costs: consistent and effective
indexing, creating metadata, network maintainance, search engine
maintenance and development and hardware. Let's also add in the costs
of archiving data for more than a few years. Hardware must be
upgraded. New technologies emerge and data and software must be
migrated. For a single document real costs can be as large as $10.00
US _per year_.

It's very easy to think of the individual researcher, but
self-archving sits upon a very large infrastructure that incurs very
high costs. Intellectual access to individual researcher documents is
not a simple matter. OAI-compliant metadata may guarantee a certain
level of rough retrieval, but how long are researchers really going to
put up with the retrieval of thousands of irrelevant documents for any
given search of the networked archives? Intellectual access questions
are very difficult to resolve when speaking of archives that contain
millions upon millions of items. An OAI architecture forms only the
most rough basis for retrieval. Any effective engine for relevance
involves significant labor cost, either in automated index functions
or human labor.

HARNAD: The challenge is not getting the money, but having led the
research cavalry to the waters of self-archiving, to actually get them
to drink (by which I means self-archive: they have much less
sluggishness as users than as providers):

SMITH: I applaud your call for action, but commend you to consider
further the retrieval problems of self-archiving. And I thank you for
a most stimulating discussion.

Lorre Smith, mercredi 21 novembre 15:55 (heure de Paris)
Received on Thu Nov 22 2001 - 04:40:27 GMT

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