Re: Ingenta to offer OAI eprint service

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 4 Jul 2002 00:40:06 +0100

> From: [Identity Removed]
> ...we'd like some more information. There are quite a lot of
> questions - not least, I would have thought, regarding the
> reliability of the content in the open archives.

"The Open Archives" refers to any archive that is compliant with the OAI
metadata harvesting protocol:

It makes no sense to ask questions in general about the
reliability of the content of OAI-compliant archives: The only
thing you can be sure of is that those that are registered with OAI
do indeed have OAI-compliant metadata! Apart from being OAI-compliant,
OAI archives could contain anything.

Perhaps you are asking about a special subset of the OAI archives
registered above and indexed by OAI Registered Service Providers:

Examples would be the University OAI Archives indexed by University of
Michigan's OAIster:;page=simple

or scientific OAI archives indexed by Elsevier's scientific OAI search
engine, Scirus

The OAI has two relevant metadata tags: "refereed journal article"
and "unrefereed preprint". The above two search engines (plus others)
specialize in retrieving OAI contents with those tags (along with
journalname, author, date, volume, etc., where available).

The reliability of an unrefereed preprint is always uncertain, so caveat
emptor. The reliability of a journal article is as reliable as the
peer-review standards of that journal. There is nothing new about this;
it is the same online as it was on-paper.

What is new is that many of the papers tagged as "refereed journal
article" will have been self-archived by their authors in their own
University's archives. Perhaps you are asking about the reliability
of these authors' tags?

For the reply, I would refer you to some FAQs, whose thrust I will
summarize here: [Peer Review] [Version Control]

In summary:

(1) Self-archiving is not self-publishing. It continues to be the
publisher who certifies the reliability of the research, through peer

(2) Any uncertainty about whether a self-archived refereed-journal
article is indeed the article it is tagged as being can be resolved the
old way: By going to a library and checking a paper version, or by
consulting the publisher's official online version, for a fee.

(4) Let it be noted that there is not a great deal of motivation for
authors to falsify their self-archived peer-reviewed research, as it is
self-archived to increase its visibility, useage, and impact.

(3) However, users will be able to use their usual scholarly judgment
on when and whether such further verification is necessary.

> Students and researchers may have problems identifying 'quality content'

In general, the peer-reviewed journal's name, year, volume, and
article-title and article-author tags should be almost as good a guide
online as they are in a card-index catalogue or in a fee-based online
index. (Again, where further verification is necessary, and the funds
are available to do it, the user can do it.)

As always, unrefereed research needs to be treated with caution.

> both publishers and librarians have been involved hitherto in selecting
> 'reliable' content for them.

And they continue to do so in the case of the self-archived versions of
authors' peer-reviewed publications deposited in their institutional
Eprint Archives. The publishers still implement the peer review and the
libraries maintain the archives:

But users are also quite capable of retrieving well-tagged content for
themselves, and judging the difference between refereed and unrefereed.

> Even in research-based organisations, information professionals have
> found that it is difficult to get researchers to search all sources,
> or read the quality sources.

That is what the metadata-tagging and the OAI search engines are for.
The only difference here is that the full-text contents are free. The
librarians can continue to provide whatever help they can provide; the
absence of a price-tag makes no difference.

But users are also quite capable of using journal-names and keywords to
search and retrieve quality contents for themselves.

> How do universities, and Southampton in particular, think that
> these additional parallel sources (the academic equivalent of 'pirated'
> sound recordings) will actually help the scholarly process?

I do not understand this question. Self-archiving is the opposite of
pirating: Pirating is consumer theft whereas self-archiving is provider

Authors are simply making their own research, pre- and
post-peer-review accessible to all its potential users for free. How can
that fail to help the scholarly process?

The relevant tags for guiding scholarly search are, as always, the
metadata tags, not the price tags!

> One of the ways in which information professionals are employed these days
> (and, indeed, search engines) is in helping researchers to reduce the amount
> of information retrieved to only that which is strictly relevant. Is there
> not a bit of a risk that this initiative will enable researchers to retrieve
> too much? How will Ingenta help to control information overload?

> Are we now starting to re-invent the publishing process, but using a
> different business model?

> This press release refers to the need for researchers to
> be involved with the whole research cycle, not just the 'final'
> peer-reviewed article in a recognised scholarly journal.

> In what way is this envisaged? How will Ingenta help the researcher,
> the library and the institution archive in a sensible way that is
> comprehensible and navigable?

The software was created so that universities and research
institutions could self-archive their own research output, both pre-
and post-peer-review. The software is free and easy to install, configure
and maintain, but some universities and research institutions will prefer
to have it installed and maintained for them commercially. Ingenta will
provide that service for a fee.

> Has the Ingenta Institute got any figures on current levels
> of use by researchers of existing eprint archives?

Here are some places to start looking:

> We'll look forward to any further information you can supply!

Hope this information is helpful to you.

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):

Discussion can be posted to:

See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:

and the Free Online Scholarship Movement:
Received on Thu Jul 04 2002 - 00:40:06 BST

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