Re: Book on future of STM publishers

From: John MacColl <>
Date: Thu, 8 Aug 2002 09:08:22 +0100

Catching up with this thread late, I find this interesting as Edinbugh
University Library has just been funded by JISC to run an e-theses project
for the UK, to provide advice on the development of Electronic Theses &
Dissertation (ETD) services ('Theses Alive!').

I agree with Fytton that the culture of the discipline is what is important.
If the expectation is that the thesis may become a book with a sale value,
then the author must feel free to restrict it, and the software which has
been developed to date for ETDs will normally allow such restriction. I
assume this restriction will apply mostly in the Arts & Humanities area.
Scientific theses are also restricted, however, in cases where
commercialisation may be an issue (e.g. via patenting).

Such uses of restriction are fine and perfectly respectable. What is less
respectable is the invoking of restriction because of fears that 'prior
publication' on a free server will jeopardise the future career of a
researcher because journal publishers will refuse to publish their work.
This fear is widespread and is promulgated by faculty as well as among
doctoral students - who of course are the most vulnerable to any suggestion
that their careers may be damaged by premature publication of research. In
fact, the fear is largely unfounded, but - inevitably - authors will be
cautious in the absence of a guarantee. The current situation in which no
one seems quite sure whether or not a publisher might blacklist a
researcher - irrespective of the views of individual journal editors, and of
publisher policy statements - acts as a brake upon free scholarly
publication, in both the eprints and in the ETD arenas.

But I suspect we worry too much about the cases in which free publication is
hampered by fears over publisher reactions. If we were to concentrate only
on the literature whose authors had no anxieties whatsoever about free
publication of articles or theses, we could still build a significant corpus
of freely available research online, which would eventually lead to the
restricted material - where the restriction is based on fear of career
damage (rather than worries about income loss) - joining the rest of the
corpus. In other words, let's concentrate for now on the low-hanging fruit,
which I suspect there is in some abundance.

------------- Created on Wed 7 Aug 2002
John MacColl
SELLIC Director
Sub-Librarian, Online Services
University of Edinburgh Tel: 0131 650 7275/3375 or 07808 170075

> -----Original Message-----
> From: September 1998 American Scientist Forum
> Rowland
> Sent: Thursday, July 18, 2002 10:06
> Subject: Re: Book on future of STM publishers
> This is an interesting point. In some disciplines, there is a
> tradition of
> writing journal articles based on one's PhD research -- some of
> them perhaps
> published before the thesis is written -- while in other fields
> the practice is
> to turn one's thesis into a book. However, the thesis itself, in
> its original
> form as an examination document, is usually made publicly available in the
> library of its home university, and is indexed in various
> secondary services
> such as Dissertation Abstracts. If universities in future mostly
> have OAI-
> compliant servers, and theses are submitted in electronic as well
> as printed
> form, there seems to be no obstacle to each university mounting
> its own theses
> on its server for free worldwide access.
> But... Stevan often makes the point that his concern is purely with the
> scholarly journal literature, which is given away by its authors,
> and which
> should be avialable free of charge to other scholars. He goes on
> to say that
> this argument does not apply to other kinds of publication for
> which authors
> are traditionally paid, which is the case with books, even
> scholarly books. On
> that argument, having to pay 30 Euros for Meier's book is o.k.
> Hmm... So, if we are in a discipline that uses journals, free
> access is o.k.;
> free access to the raw thesis is also o.k.; but if the discipline
> is one that
> has the tradition of a book based on the thesis, then free access
> is not o.k.
> What do others think of this line of argument?
> Fytton.
> Fytton Rowland, Dept of Information Science, Loughborough University, UK.
> Quoting Thomas Krichel <krichel_at_OPENLIB.ORG>:
> > M. Meier writes
> >
> > > An exposť is availabel under
> > The
> > > book as a whole will unfortunately not be available online for free.
> >
> > I understand that the book is Michael's PhD thesis. I think that
> > it would be interesting to understand the reasons why it is not
> > freely available online. If the FOS movement can not convince scholars
> > in scholarly communication to make their work freely available online,
> > we do have a problem. I would like to understand what the problem is
> > here.
> >
> > Cheers,
> >
> > Thomas Krichel
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > RePEc:per:1965-06-05:thomas_krichel
> >
> >
Received on Thu Aug 08 2002 - 09:08:22 BST

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