Re: ALPSP statement on BOAI

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002 00:01:25 +0100

On Mon, 22 Apr 2002, David Goodman wrote:

> Although I agree these are trivial matters, it is just such matters that
> may well affect the success of initiatives such as BOAI. The publication
> of scientific articles is interwoven with the pattern of academic
> affairs in general.

I regret to have to keep disagreeing with my comrade-at-arms, David
Goodman, but in the interests of our joint goal -- which it is neither
he nor I who are holding us all back from -- I have to reiterate that
not only are these matters trivial, but they are obstacles. They are
obstacles because many people don't see them as trivial, and assign them
all kinds of far-fetched causal roles, with the result that instead of
doing, or helping to do, the simple, obvious things that need to be done
in order to usher in the open-access era, those who do not discern
what is trivial and what is significant, what is an obstacle and what is
merely a mirage, remain part of the problem instead of the solution.

Be it ever so interwoven in people's minds, open access to the peer
reviewed literature, and what must be done to bring it about, has
NOTHING to do with evaluation/assessment procedures -- apart from the
fact that those procedures will continue to rely on the peer reviewed
literature even after it is open-access.

To give or feed the impression that there is some contingency between
university evaluation policies and the open access initiative is
simply incorrect, and I have stated the reasons why. If David is under
the impression that this reasoning is itself incorrect, he needs to
reply specifically how and why. It will not do to simply say that
publication and academic affairs are "interwoven." Well, yes; but ours
is to sort out which aspects of the interweaving, if any, are causally
relevant to open access. I have argued that David's candidate, namely
academic evaluation policy, is not, and for the reasons I have stated.

David, along with many others, has a hypothesis that this is incorrect,
that there is still a complex contingency there, and that perhaps it is
academic evaluation practices that have to change or be changed, somehow,
before we can have open access.

I think this is completely wrong, and I have said why. It is for David
to reply and say why not, if he has further information to add.

> Stevan, under the facade of maintaining an open position on these, you
> are imposing your own particular desired pattern. Follow your own
> advice, and concentrate on getting the system working, to be refined as
> opportunity permits. Let's all of us not bother the list with more of
> this.

I am most definitely endeavoring to follow my own advice, to
concentrate on doing whatever is needed to hasten and facilitate open
access to the peer-reviewed literature. It is for that reason that I
criticized your suggestion that "excessively rigid tenure
requirements... [e.g.] that the publications be in formal conventional
journals, sometimes even requiring that they be in print format... and
other administrative interference" have anything whatsoever to do with
open-access, or the way to reach it -- other than as yet another garden
path to take in place of the one that leads to open access.

The topic remains open; I am not invoking or even implying cloture. I am
simply listing reasons why I think you are giving very wrong advice here.

Stevan Harnad

> Stevan Harnad wrote:
> >
> > On Mon, 22 Apr 2002, David Goodman wrote:
> >
> > > ...the insistence of some
> > > administrative bodies that the publications be in formal conventional
> > > journals, sometimes even requiring that they be in print format...
> > > ...has nothing to do with peer review, one way or another. I agree
> > > with Stevan on this...
> >
> > Let us put this in context, and sort out some of the conflations:
> >
> > FACT 1: Virtually all of the important established peer-reviewed
> > journals today have an online version too. So "online vs. print" in
> > this sense is clearly not the issue, for "administrative bodies."
> >
> > FACT 2: Among the new peer-reviewed journal start-ups in the past
> > several years -- i.e., among the UNestablished journals -- a
> > significant proportion have been online-only (i.e., they have not
> > bothered to produce a print version at all, anticipating the future,
> > and in order to minimize needless costs).
> >
> > FACT 3: Established journals are weighted more heavily by "administrative
> > bodies" in academic standing reviews for the very valid reason that they
> > are established, they have reputations, track-records, impact-factors.
> > There is a known, reliable way of inferring what their quality-standards
> > are, hence of what the likely quality of accepted papers will be.
> >
> > FACT 4: Papers in new journals in general do not have the above,
> > regardless of whether the journals are are print-only, online-only, or
> > both. (There are, however, some notable exceptions: Journal of High
> > Energy Physics JHEP is online-only and was
> > established only four years ago, but rose to a very high impact factor
> > within a year or two of its inception.)
> >
> > As a consequence, based on the empirical data, it makes eminently good
> > sense that universities, in evaluating the research output of
> > their faculty, should place much greater weight on journals with
> > established quality-standards than on those without them. The odds are
> > accordingly that they will place less weight on online-only journals for
> > the simple statistical reason that (a) virtually all of them will be new
> > start-ups rather than established journals and (b) JHEP is the exception
> > rather than the rule (but a clear enough exception so that we can be
> > certain that JHEP authors are receiving due credit for their JHEP
> > publications, by whatever their university happens to be).
> >
> > As to the bureaucratic requirement that the copies of the published papers
> > that are physically submitted for assessment to the "administrative
> > bodies" must be in "print format" -- that arbitrary and inefficient
> > constraint is just too silly and trivial for us to waste time on here.
> > We have rather more serious things to worry about than whether
> > bureaucrats happen to want our documents in triplicate rather than
> > duplicate. The UK's RAE had such a requirement
> > last time; I trust that they will be much more sensible next time (if
> > there is a next time):
> >
> >
> > One thing is sure: None of this has anything to do with the goal
> > of the American Scientist Forum
> > , the
> > Budapest Open Access Initiative , the
> > Public Library of Science or the
> > Free Online Scholarship Movement ,
> > all of which are dedicated to ushering in at last the long overdue era
> > of toll-free online access to the entire peer-reviewed research
> > literature. The fact that this literature is online rather than just
> > in-print is taken for granted in all of this. That foregone conclusion
> > is no longer even a matter worth mentioning.
> >
> > Stevan Harnad
> >
> > 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):
> >
> > or
> >
> >
> > Discussion can be posted to:
> >
> >
> > See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:
> >
> >
> > and the Free Online Scholarship Movement:
> >
> --
> David Goodman
> Research Librarian and
> Biological Science Bibliographer
> Princeton University Library
> Princeton, NJ 08544-0001
> phone: 609-258-7785
> fax: 609-258-2627
> e-mail:
Received on Tue Apr 23 2002 - 00:02:34 BST

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