Re: FOS Newsletter

From: Peter Suber <>
Date: Tue, 9 Apr 2002 03:57:08 +0100

      Excerpts from the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Newsletter
      April 8, 2002

Thoughts on first and second-order scholarly judgments

What do search engines, web filters, current awareness services, and peer
review have in common? They all help us churn haystacks and find needles,
or process noise and find signals. They help us navigate the wilderness of
information. Pick your metaphor, or try this non-metaphorical way to look
at it.

Let's say that first-order scientific or scholarly judgments are judgments
about what is true or probably true in astrophysics, organic chemistry,
French history, epistemology, or any other field of academic
research. First-order judgments are what scientists and scholars primarily
produce in their roles as scientists and scholars. Let's say that
second-order judgments are judgments about which first-order judgments you
ought to read.

Search engines, web filters, current awareness services, and peer review
give us second-order judgments. They are just a few of the many sources of
second-order judgments, alongside card catalogues, book catalogues, tables
of contents, spam filters, and informal networks of pointers and
recommendations by trusted friends and authorities. Of course there are
important differences among discovery, retrieval, evaluation,
recommendation, and blocking. But there are also important similarities,
namely, their second-order parasitism on first-order judgments and their
ability to assist or distort research.

Second-order judgments are not necessary for researchers who personally
know all those likely to make contributions worth reading, or for
disciplines in which literature is sparse or disagreements are
shallow. But as the universe of first-order judgments relevant to our
research interests becomes unmanageably large, and as the disagreements
within this universe increase in number and depth, then we need help
avoiding the intellectual provincialism and risk of error that arise from
reading only what it is ready to hand. We need the assistance of
second-order judgments. (One recipe for crank literature is devotion
without this assistance.) This isn't assistance in formulating our own
first-order judgments or even in assessing those of others, but in making
intelligent decisions about how to allocate the finite resource of our time
and attention. As time passes and science grows, the need for second-order
judgments will only increase.

There are two reasons to celebrate. The first is that the need for
second-order judgments is a sign of the flourishing of the sciences and
scholarship producing first-order judgments. Information overload and the
need to manage it may be obstacles and irritants, but they are clearly
side-effects of success. Moreover, most of us only want remedies so that
we can efficiently find relevant literature, learn from our peers and
predecessors, do better research, and in the end worsen the problem for our

The second reason to celebrate is that free online scholarship is free
online data for increasingly sophisticated software that generates
second-order judgments. In the age of print, second-order judgments had to
be produced by trained human scholars. When scholarly literature is
digital but priced, then only its owners can experiment with software to
help us find what is relevant, what is worthy, and what is new. Some of
these owners have the means and will to code tools of this kind, and some
are creative. But when scholarly literature is digital and unpriced, and
even networked so that it can appear on every desktop that wants it, then
the fetters on innovation will fall away and the pace of development will

I'm tempted to put it this way. Computers have triggered more than one
revolution in scholarly literature, apart from their assistance with
first-order judgments. The first revolution was simply to digitize text,
which permitted flexible writing and free copying. The second revolution
was to network the digitized articles, which spread them to all connected
users. At first these networked articles were all free, but as the
technology evolved to block access to non-paying customers, more and more
of the new literature came online only behind passwords where most readers
could not reach it. The third revolution will be the return to free online
access as the default for scientific and scholarly research articles. This
will increase the accessibility of every article, helping readers, and
increase the audience and impact for every article, helping authors. This
is the FOS revolution and we're still fighting for it. But it will not be
the end of the line. The fourth revolution will be to write increasingly
sophisticated software that takes FOS as data and returns increasingly
intelligent and customizable second-order judgments about what is relevant,
what is worthy, and what is new. Making online scholarship free of charge
makes it universally accessibly to connected human researchers, a major
plateau in the progress of the sciences. But making it free and online
also makes it universally accessible to software and programmers, which has
the potential to create an even higher plateau further out.

Today there are several incentives for publishers to make scholarly
literature freely available online: to respond to competitive pressure
from other free journals, to increase their citation rate and impact factor
by reaching a larger audience, to sell auxiliary services, to accede to
demands by scholars, and to assist in the dissemination of knowledge. One
incentive that is weak today and will become stronger over time is to
provide scholarly content to the far-flung, distributed swarm of services
processing FOS and turning it into second-order judgments on which scholars
rely to learn what is relevant, what is worthy, and what is new.

If the flourishing of first-order science produces information overload,
and if information overload increases the difficulty of discrimination,
then tools to discriminate according to my own standards will be among the
most essential tools in my research toolkit. As these scholarly use of
these tools becomes routine, then literature will only be visible if it is
made visible by these tools. Free and online won't be enough, just as
ready-to-hand isn't enough if my desk is so littered with photocopies that
I can't find what I want. If the best tools or the free tools take FOS as
data, then publishers will have to produce FOS in order to make their
articles visible. It follows that one strategy to accelerate FOS is to
write good second-order judgment software that takes FOS as data.

Commercial publishers will still produce second-order software in-house and
apply it to their priced content. Insofar as their tools are good, users
will have an incentive to pay for them. This not a problem for
FOS. First, it is compatible with the growing number and quality of free
tools taking free literature as data. Second, many publishers will choose
to give away their first-order literature and sell their second-order tools
and services, which is entirely compatible with FOS. Third, users and
research benefit when second-order tools proliferate and compete.

The beauty of second-order tools using first-order scholarship as data is
that there can never be too many of them. If proliferating first-order
judgments creates information overload, then proliferating second-order
judgments creates competition, and this competition will be beneficial for
users and self-limiting. Second-order judgments are valuable even when
they conflict, because different users have different needs, interests,
projects, standards, and approaches. You should have a choice among
services competing to help you decide what deserves your time and
attention. Of those services that know what you want, some will be faster,
cheaper, or friendlier in providing it. Of those that are fast, cheap, and
friendly, some will know better what you want. If putting priced paper
literature online free of charge accelerates research, then a robust market
of sophisticated, competing second-order tools will accelerate it again.

Part of academic freedom is to have a free market in first-order
judgments. By this I only mean that scientists and scholars need the
freedom to take a stand on what is true or probably true in their field,
and be immune from every kind of retaliation, except disagreement and
criticism, for doing so. (I know that I've returned to metaphor by calling
this a free market.) As first-order science continues to flourish, and as
information overload worsens, an essential part of academic life, as vital
as academic freedom, will be a free market of second-order judgments. Yes,
there will be neo-Nazi filters on historical literature and fundamentalist
filters on biological literature, but these will merely be electronic
reflections of methodological and ideological divisions that today show up
in different journals or different conferences. Yes, second-order
judgments will evaluate other second-order judgments. (For more on this,
see FOSN for 11/16/01.) But without the discriminating power of
second-order tools, we will be at the mercy of information overload. And
without the choice of different discriminating standards, first-order
academic freedom will be ineffectual.

* Postscript. One of the sillier objections to FOS is that it will
increase information overload. Either this objection is an inept way of
saying that FOS will dispense with peer review (which is untrue) or a
prediction that making peer-reviewed literature free and online will
increase its quantity (which may be true but unobjectionable). The
standard response is to point out that the growth of peer-reviewed
literature is a sign of progress, even if it creates information
overload. While that's true, it may not address the part of the objection
that bemoans the information overload it predicts and might otherwise
value. A better response is to point out that FOS will inspire the
development of second-order tools that take FOS as data. These tools are
not only a remedy to information overload. They are the only remedy that
doesn't require reducing the output of science and scholarship.



* The Open Directory Project (ODP) has added several categories on FOS
initiatives. The ODP is the largest human-edited directory on the web,
maintained by an army of volunteer editors (FOSN for 5/25/01,
7/10/01). The new FOS categories are edited by Dario Taraborelli, unless
noted otherwise below, whose link annotations are based on descriptions
from my Guide to the FOS Movement.

Open Access Resources

Scientific Archives

Free Access Scientific Archives (in need of an editor)

Free Access Scientific Journals

Free Access Theory

Open Access Organizations

Free Online Literature (in need of an editor)

* The Canadian e-Content Awards for 2002 were announced on April 1. Most
of the awards are not FOS-related. An exception is the award for the Best
Education Product, which went to Cold North Wind, an archive publisher.

* On April 1, ebrary launched a month-long trial of ebrarian, its new
research service for libraries. After the trial period, the service will
be available from 6,000 public libraries in the U.S. Ebrary provides free
online access to full-text books and articles for reading, but charges for
printing or copying. The new service makes ebrary's holdings available in
libraries, integrates them with the library's existing holdings to
eliminate parallel searches of separate databases, and provides various
navigation, searching, and customization tools.


New on the net

* The University of California has launched the eScholarship Repository, an
OAI-compliant archive for preprints and working papers for all faculty in
the UC system, starting with faculty in the humanities and social
sciences. The repository is part of the eScholarship program from the
California Digital Library, using tools developed by the Berkeley
Electronic Press.

Press release on the launch

eScholarship Repository
(Thanks to Roy Tennant.)

* The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has also launched an
OAI-compliant institutional archive. While the UI archive is limited to
cultural heritage collections, it contains records donated by 26
institutions. In addition to launching the archive, UI has developed
open-source tools for building OAI-complaint archives and harvesting their
metadata, and makes them available for downloading from its site. UI has
the support and assistance of the University of Michigan Digital Library
Extension Service and funding from the Mellon Foundation.

UIUC Cultural Heritage Repository

UIUC archive software

* SPARC has enlarged and annotated its valuable online guide to software
for managing journals, archives, and conferences.

* The Electronic Books On-Screen Interface (EBONI) project has finished
writing its guidelines for electronic textbooks. The guidelines are based
on usability tests conducted on students and faculty in the UK.

* The Times Higher Education Supplement and the Journal of Improbable
Research are trying to identify the least-read academic journal. Submit
your nomination, along with "pithy, persuasive evidence" and a URL to
<marca [at]>.
(Scroll down to third story.)

* In a preprint dated April 5, Kurt Maly and four co-authors propose making
the NCSTRL (Networked Computer Science Technical Reference Library)
OAI-compliant. NCSTRL was the major source of free online papers in
computer science from 1994 until 2001, when its operation was
suspended. The plan to move it to OAI would not only revive it, but make
it more useful to researchers.

* On April 2, SPARC put online its manual for non-profit electronic
publishing, _Gaining Independence_. The manual focuses on the economics
and business plans of online scholarly journals, the aspect of scholarly
publishing least familiar to most scholars and the one most critical to the
success of FOS journals. It is based on SPARC's extensive experience
supporting the publication of free and affordable scientific journals.

* In the April 2 _O'Reilly Network_, Richard Koman interviews Lawrence
Lessig on the future of the public domain. The conversation ranges over
the Eldred case, the CBDTPA, the Creative Commons, the open source
movement, the Felten and DeCSS cases, and the response to his book, _The
Future of Ideas_.
(Thanks to the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog.)

* In the April 2 _Daily Herald_, Sarah Long profiles _First Monday_, one of
the first peer-reviewed journals to study the internet and still one of the
few that regularly covers FOS issues.
(Thanks to Gary Price's VASND.)

* In the April 1 issue of _LLRX_, Steven Cohen offers tips on using the
Internet Archive for legal research. It contains superseded rulings
dropped from other legal databases, and back issues of some journals
recently hidden behind passwords for paying customers.
(Thanks to LIS News.)

* In the April issue of _Online_, Greg Notess reviews the Wayback
Machine. In addition to praising it, he notes its omissions and long-term
financial insecurity.

* In the April issue of _Searcher_, Jill Grogg reviews the technical and
organizational obstacles to reference linking (linking citations to sources
in scholarly publications). This is the best overview of the complexity of
the problem and the constraints on the solution that I've seen.

* In the March/April issue of _The Technology Source_, Steven Gilbert
interviews Phillip Long, the senior strategist behind MIT's Open Knowledge
Initiative and Open Courseware Initiative.

* The March 27 issue of _Business Week_ contains an interview with Tim
Berners-Lee talking about his original vision for the web and his new
vision for the Semantic Web.
(Thanks to LIS News.)

* The February/March _SPARC E-News_ contains an endorsement of the Budapest
Open Access Initiative. "SPARC and SPARC Europe participated in the
creation of BOAI and signed the Initiative because access to knowledge is
the central purpose of scholarly communication. A system built on open
access offers the prospect of being less expensive to operate and of better
serving scholars, the scholarly process, and society. Given these
fundamentals, experiments with open access will inevitably lead us toward
enduring solutions...BOAI builds on the work of societies, university
presses, and others who have demonstrated the possibility and
sustainability of affordable access models. SPARC continues to support
their activities enthusiastically."

* Also in the February/March _SPARC E-News_, Susan Gibbons describes steps
the University of Rochester is studying in order to make the knowledge
disseminated by the university approach the knowledge it cultivates in its
classrooms and laboratories. The UR Libraries task force will consider
moving to electronic theses and dissertations, adopting institutional
self-archiving, launching new ejournals, running the new digital libraries
on open source software, making them all OAI-compliant, and integrating
current awareness and reference linking from the start.

* Also in the February/March _SPARC E-News_, Patrizia Cotoneschi describes
the Firenze University Press (FUP), an experimental electronic scholarly
publishing pilot program now in its second year at the University of
Florence. FUP creates free online access to the research papers of
Florence faculty while protecting their copyrights and assuring long-term
preservation of the texts. Of the 30 peer-reviewed paper journals
published by the university when the program began, two were converted to
open-access journals in the first year, and two more have been converted in
the second year. All FUP publications are described with Dublin Core metadata.

* _Digital Document Quarterly_ is a new online publication. The first
number is devoted to digital preservation.

* In the March issues of _Serials_, Mark Jordan and Dave Kisly present the
results of their survey on how librarians handle electronic serials. I ran
their request for survey participants in FOSN for 8/16/01. Unfortunately
the results are only available to paying subscribers.

* _Salon_ has reprinted an August 2000 cartoon by Ruben Bolling that
captures publishers' paranoia about libraries and free online
access. Bolling was probably thinking of Napster, but it applies to all
dissemination methods threatened by the DMCA.
(Thanks to LIS News.)

To see past coverage of these stories in FOSN, use the search engine at the
FOSN archive.

* is a search engine specializing in free online full-text
(Thanks to LII Week.)


If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your
observations with us through our discussion forum.

* What Scholars Need to Know to Publish Today: Digital Writing and Access
for Readers
Albany, New York, April 8

* International Conference on Information Technology: Coding and Computing
Las Vegas, April 8-10

* E-Content 2002. Dreams and Realities. [On eBooks]
London, April 10-11

* NetLab and Friends: 10 Years of Digital Library Development
Lund, April 10-12

* Censorship and Free Access to Information in Libraries and on the Internet
Copenhagen, April 11

* International Learned Journals Seminar: We Can't Go On Like This: The
Future of Journals
London, April 12

* SIAM International Conference on Data Mining
Arlington, Virginia, April 11-13

* Creating access to information: EBLIDA workshop on getting a better deal
from your information licences
The Hague, April 12

* Copyright in the Private Sector: An Engine of Free Expression or a Tool
of Private Censorship?
New York, April 15

* Licensing Electronic Resources to Libraries
Philadelphia, April 15

* Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Task Force Meeting
Washington, D.C., April 15-16

* United Kingdom Serials Group Annual Conference and Exhibition
University of Warwick, April 15- 17

* Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy
San Francisco, April 16-19

* EDUCAUSE Networking 2002
Washington, D.C., April 17-18

* Museums and the Web 2002
Boston, April 17-20

* Legal Guidelines for Use of Intellectual Property in Higher Education
Oneonta, NY, April 19

* OCLC Institute. Steering by Standards. (A series of satellite
OAIS, April 19. Metadata standards in the future, May 29.

* Information, Knowledges and Society: Challenges of A New Era
Havana, April 22-26

* Current Awareness Services on the Net
Toronto, April 22 - June 3

* DAI Institute on The State of Digital Preservation: An International
Washington, D.C., April 24-25

* CLIR Sponsors' Symposium: New Challenges, New Solutions: Libraries for
the Future
Washington, D.C., April 26

* The European Library: The Gate to Europe's Knowledge: Milestone Conference
Frankfurt am Main, April 29-30

* WebSearch University
Stamford CT, April 30 - May 1; Washington DC, September 23-24; Chicago,
Octeober 22-23; Dallas, November 19-20.

* Council of Science Editors Annual Meeting
San Diego, May 4-7

* Pacific-Asia Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining
Taipei, May 6-8

* DLM-Forum 2002. Access and Preservation of Electronic Information. Best
Practices and Solutions.
Barcelona, May 7-8

* ContentWorld 2002 [mostly for commercial content]
San Jose, California, May 13-16

* National Conference for Digital Government Research
Los Angeles, May 19-22

* Libraries in the Digital Age 2002
Dubrovnik, May 21-26

* CAiSE '02. Advanced Information Systems Engineering
Toronto, May 27-31

* Workshop on Personalization Techniques in Electronic Publishing on the
Web: Trends and Perspectives
Malaga, Spain, May 28

* Society for Scholarly Publishing (AAP)
Boston, May 29-31

* Off and Wall and Online: Providing Web Access to Cultural Collections
Lexington, Massachusetts, May 30-31

* Advancing Knowledge: Expanding Horizons for Information Science
Toronto, May 30 - June 1

* Electronic Theses and Dissertations 2002
Provo, Utah, May 30 - June 1


The Free Online Scholarship Newsletter is supported by a grant from the
Open Society Institute.


This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).

Please feel free to forward any issue of the newsletter to interested
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FOS home page, general information, subscriptions, editorial position

FOS Newsletter, subscriptions, back issues

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Guide to the FOS Movement

Sources for the FOS Newsletter

Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2002, Peter Suber
Received on Tue Apr 09 2002 - 03:57:37 BST

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