Re: What if it's peer-review versus free-access?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2001 11:42:48 +0000

On Mon, 17 Dec 2001, David Goodman wrote:

> I agree with Stevan's argument that free is intrinsically an all or
> nothing matter, and that is another good reason why, if it came to it I
> would implement free, and not worry about peer review one way or the
> other...

But free WHAT? I am arguing for freeing online access to peer-reviewed
research. I am not arguing for freeing research from peer review.

I am a researcher. David is a librarian. I want online access to my
peer-reviewed research freed so as to maximize its research impact and
uptake. David wants access freed so as to relieve his overloaded
journals budget. We can be sure that researchers would not be happy
to have library budgets relieved at the expense of having their research
freed of peer review!

> I'm not concerned with lower quality, because where quality really
> matters in my subject is the illustrations, and links to the author's
> original illustrations on the web offer better quality than any
> publisher can provide.

I can assure David that the authors and users of the peer-reviewed
research literature (20,000 refereed journals) ARE concerned with
maintaining its quality (such as it is), rather than being concerned
only with illustrations.

> I suspect than Stevan grossly underestimates the number of people in
> various fields greatly interested in reforming peer review.

Perhaps. (What do you think the number is?) But it is irrelevant,
because the objective here is to free access to the peer-reviewed
literature. Reforming peer review, no matter how many people are
greatly interested, is simply another agenda! [And it is one thing to
be "greatly interested" in reforming peer review, and another to have
found and tested an alternative, and successfully demonstrated that it
will indeed yield a research literature of at least as high (low) a
level of quality as what we have now (and are trying to FREE, not

> the quality of much of what gets
> published in many fields is so low that it is reasonable to think that
> peer review should either be improved or given up on.

Don't you think it's the researchers in those fields who need to
decide that -- and would have done so, if they really felt that
dissatisfied with their peer review? What has this to do with the
immediate problem of freeing access to the peer-reviewed literature,
such as it is?

> Whether it will be easier to persuade researchers to self-archive
> unreviewed mss. than reviewed ones neither of us can possibly know.

So far, it has been equally difficult to persuade them to self-archive
either pre- or post-review mss. I would be quite happy with an upsurge
in either, as each will inevitably bring along the other eventually.

> I may differ from you in that I would most certainly regard the
> establishment of a system of free access as a worthwhile goal even if it
> came without peer review.
> Stevan, where do you stand on that?

A system of free access to WHAT? Of course I would be delighted if
researchers at last started self-archiving at least their
pre-refereeing preprints! That was what the Subversive Proposal of
1995 had proposed:
I haven't the slightest doubt that, once they do, the refereed
postprints will follow close behind, exactly as they did with the

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Dec 18 2001 - 11:52:28 GMT

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