The Ultimate Danger of SkyReading/Writing

From: Albert Henderson <>
Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 22:37:29 +0000

On 26 Nov 2001 Stevan Harnad <> wrote:

> And let us not confuse interactive on-line commentary (the "labile"
> medium) with the refereed research corpus itself, which is, if you
> like, the lapidary textual ("skyreading") database on which the
> rapidfire skywriting can be based (if/when one wishes). Peer review
> itself is one of the intrinsic brakes on the process.

The confusion comes in the link between the 'freeing' of the scientific
record and the debasement of libraries, the demolition of journals, and
the shifting of costs from institutions to individuals. The confusion
comes when 'liberation' as a utopian goal results in 'anarchy' with all
evils permitted in lawlessness.

Peer review, if any, will operate differently in Harnad's 'sky' than it
does currently The freedom of self-archiving informal communications
together with formal publications will admit any paper from any author
without consultation of editors and referees. Any refereeing of
informal communications is done publicly or, more usually, not at all.

The absence of criticism may leave the impression that errors,
duplications, omissions, and rhetoric represent the norms of research.
A great deal of research is poorly prepared, as most editors will
affirm. Self-publishing will sully the record.

Informal interaction will have little value. My impression is that most
researchers would rather present better supported claims than attack
someone else's work in print.

Clearly, under Harnad's proposals, the burdens of judgment, together
with library costs, are shifted from the community to the individual.
This would be the unfortunate reversal of policy going back to the
beginning of history -- the policy that has supported libraries as the
disseminators of free information.

Who has the capacity to plow through all the unrefined self-published
claims and comments? No one. This, the challenge of dissemination and
not the exhaustion of ideas (predicted by Holton, Horgan and others),
will be the end of science.

Albert Henderson

Received on Mon Nov 26 2001 - 22:38:05 GMT

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