Re: The Ultimate Danger of SkyReading/Writing

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 17:32:05 +0000

Trisectionism, Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the Football

I reply to Albert Henderson in some haste, being off to the Open
Society Institute (Soros Foundation) meeting arranged by
Peter Suber of the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Movement
in Budapest Dec 1

> AH2: "The appearance of the Xerox 914 in the 1960s justified the draconian
> slashing of library spending..."

Albert Henderson is still fighting the old late-Gutenberg battles of
paper vs. photo-copying. Meanwhile, we've moved on to the
Post-Gutenberg Galaxy...

> AH2: "estimated average prerun costs at $1050 per article...
> expensive computers... could save 9 cents per article...
> the other $1050 must come from somewhere. If it does not come from
> libraries, then where?"

Already answered many, many times, including in the article under
discussion here, but apparently inscrutable to
trisectionists (and M. Antoinette):

"4.2 Hypothetical Sequel"

"Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons"

> AH2: "you advocate the 'every man for hisself' policy of self-publication
> as an alternative to libraries

Self-ARCHIVING of peer-reviewed (published) research, Albert,

(And it's not an alternative to libraries, it's an
addition, and a relief, to them.)

> AH2: "mixture of unrefereed drafts with journal articles sullies
> the entirety. The scientific record needs to be protected,
> as do its readers."

Protected by a $1050 per article access-fee...

> AH2: "Who will regulate the use of "journal of" labels...?"
> online access degrades the powers of discrimination, as many teachers
> have repeatedly pointed out... Many students seem to believe that the
> Internet solves everything.... not to mention the Johns Hopkins
> scientist who killed a subject with the ignorance of limited Internet
> resources not long ago."

The freeing of online access to refereed research is primarily for
researchers (although all others are of course welcome to it too).
Researchers know their journal-names, on-line even as they did on-paper.
And pretending to have written an article in an established journal is
not high on researchers' priority lists, and would not get very far if
it were.

(In other words, the above worries would be nonsense even if they were
not so obviously a pretext for defending indefensible price-tags. The
only relevant tag is the refereed-journal-name...)

> AH2: "The research into informal communications over the last 30 years
> demonstrates that much if not most research described informally is
> never submitted and never published...

It doesn't. But even if it did, who cares? The primary purpose of the
self-archiving initiative is free online access to the refereed
(published) journal literature. The pre-refereeing preprints are just a
bonus. And as for what never will be refereed and published -- who

> AH2: "The point is that the individual researcher is already overtaxed by the
> massive output of others. Mixing swill with the refined ingredient
> does more harm than help."

So, let us protect him with the most rational form of discrimination, a
price tag, right?

> AH2: "By undermining the journal and the library out of the picture, we lose
> authenticity and the protection of multiple gatekeepers."

Ah me! See (again):

"Conflating Gate-Keeping with Toll-Gating"

> AH1: "A great deal of research is poorly prepared, as most editors will
> affirm. Self-publishing will sully the record."

> SH: "Albert, no matter how many times he is reminded that we are
> talking about the self-ARCHIVING of refereed research, not about
> self-PUBLISHING, will keep on making this dreary non-point..."

> AH2: "You also advocate the self-'archiving' of preprints - unreviewed drafts
> that may never be published."

Pre-refereeing preprints are just extras. The essentials are the
post-refereeing postprints. They are the mainstay of the self-archiving
initiative (and the point Albert keeps failing to assimilate!)

> AH2: "How can anyone restrict themselves to the refereed literature when it
> is mixed up with preprints and other unreviewed clutter.

By restricting searches to registered OAI-Compliant Eprint Archives:

"DP9- An OAI Gateway Service for Web Crawlers"

> SH: "Comments in Journals"
> "Open source tool for online peer review commentary"
> "

> AH2: "Thank you for these excellent examples of unrefereed self-serving
> promotional materials. This is just the sort of self-publication I have
> been warning against."

These are not refereed journal articles (nor were many of the sources
you cited). What is your point?

> AH2: "your proposals eliminate journals as well as libraries....
> 'Freeing' libraries from the 'tolls, etc.' leaves journals with no
> income and libraries with no need to exist."

Ah me. See (again):

4.2. Hypothetical Sequel:

Steps I-IV [self-archiving] are sufficient to free the refereed
research literature. We can also guess at what may happen after that,
but these are really just guesses. Nor does anything depend on their
being correct. For even if there is no change whatsoever - even if
Universities continue to spend exactly the same amounts on their
Subscription budgets as they do now - the refereed literature will have
been freed of all access/impact barriers forever.

However, it is likely that there will be some changes as a consequence
of the freeing of the literature by author/institution self-archiving.
This is what those changes might be:

V. Will users prefer the free version?

It is likely that once a free, on line version of the refereed research
literature is available, not only those researchers who could not
access it at all before, because of Subscription-barriers at their
institution, but virtually all researchers will prefer to use the free
on line versions.

Note that it is quite possible that there will always continue to be a
market for the Subscription options (on-paper version, publishers on
line PDF, deluxe enhancements) even though most users use the free
versions. Nothing hangs on this.

VI. Will Publisher Subscription revenues shrink, Library Subscription
savings grow?

But if researchers do prefer to use the free on line literature, it is
possible that libraries may begin to cancel journals, and as their
Subscription savings grow, journal publisher Subscription revenues will
shrink. The extent of the cancellation will depend on the extent to
which there remains a market for the Subscription -based add-ons, and
for how long.

If the Subscription market stays large enough, nothing else need

VII. Will Publishers downsize to providers of Quality-Control service+
optional add-ons products?

It will depend entirely on the size of the remaining market for the
Subscription options whether and to what extent journal publishers will
have to downsize to providing only the essentials: The only essential,
indispensable service is Quality-Control .

VIII. Will Quality-Control service costs be funded by
author-institution out of reader-institution Subscription savings?

If publishers can continue to cover costs and make a decent profit from
the Subscription-based optional add-ons market, without needing to
down-size to Quality-Control provision alone, nothing much changes.

But if publishers do need to abandon providing the Subscription
products and to scale down instead to providing only the
Quality-Control service, then universities, having saved 100% of their
annual Subscription budgets, will have plenty of annual windfall
savings from which to pay for their own researchers continuing (and
essential) annual journal-submission Quality-Control costs (10%); the
rest of their savings (90%) they can spend as they like (e.g., on books
- plus a bit for Eprint Archive maintenance).
Received on Thu Nov 29 2001 - 17:33:09 GMT

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