Re: ALPSP statement on BOAI

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2002 14:21:50 +0100

On Mon, 22 Apr 2002, Sally Morris [ALPSP] wrote:

> I am intrigued by David's last statement - please elucidate!
> From: "David Goodman" <dgoodman_at_PHOENIX.PRINCETON.EDU>
> What will prove or disprove the case is not [ALPSP's] study, or anyone's,
> but the market. If people value the features, they will pay for them.
> And it is really that simple, assuming there are no artificial constraints,
> such as excessively rigid tenure requirements and other
> administrative interference.

I fervently hope that we will not be led down the garden path of
"evaluation/assessment reform" (or "peer-review reform") in continuing
this discussion.

There are no doubt grievances and gripes in both those domains too, and
plenty of room for reform, but they have nothing to do with what we are
discussing here, causally, apart from the fact (which changes nothing)
that academic evaluation/assessment currently depends in part on
publication ("publish or perish") and on publication in high-imact
peer-reviewed journals in particular.

Yes, academic evaluation/assessment relies in part on the peer review
implemented by the high-quality, high-impact journals. And so it should.

It is quixotic (and borders on absurd) to imagine that the remedy for
high serials prices and access-barriers is to have tenure/promotion
committees take on the function of implementing the peer-reviewing of
the annual research output of all their academics themselves! Not only
would that be prohibitively costly and time-consuming, but it would be
less rigorous peer review, because not implemented by a disinterested
third party (the journal).

It is equally quixotic (and as close to absurd) to imagine that the
alternative remedy for high serials prices and access-barriers is to
have tenure/promotion committees drop their reliance on peer review and
impact altogether. This is throwing out the baby, bathwater, and

Please, there are so many red herrings that have been keeping us back
from freeing access to the peer-reviewed literature at last, despite
the fact that it is entirely within reach and has been for some time.
Some of these distractions, like the "evaluation/assessment"
non-sequitur, just keep us jousting with irrelevant conspiratorial
shadows, diminishing the credibility of our cause, while access/impact
loss continues happily along its independent way, and those who benefit
from the status quo chuckle at our naivete, or invoke it as evidence of
our out-of-touchness with reality.

(It is but a few weeks since we were led down yet another garden path --
that of royalty payments to authors of peer-reviewed articles -- in this
same Forum, on this same thread!)

Let us not get into tenure evaluation/assessment again. It is not our
area of expertise, as researchers, publishers and librarians. Nor is it
a relevant area of expertise. We may have our own amateur ideas on the
subject. But, please, let us not rehearse them here. We are here to
free this peer-reviewed literature, such as it is, from its
impact-blocking access-tolls, not to free it from peer review or
impact, nor from the uses to which the output of those quality-control
methods and metrics are subsequently put.

Stevan Harnad

Harnad, S. (2001) Research access, impact and assessment.
Times Higher Education Supplement 1487: p. 16.

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):

Discussion can be posted to:

See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:

and the Free Online Scholarship Movement:
Received on Mon Apr 22 2002 - 14:22:45 BST

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