Discipline Differences in Benefits/Feasibility of Open Access?

From: JQ Johnson <jqj_at_DARKWING.UOREGON.EDU>
Date: Sat, 23 Nov 2002 17:38:26 +0000

I agree with Harnad that the key to understanding the success of arXiv
is the pre-existing fax-based preprint culture. I'm even willing to
agree that institutional repositories will be necessary for the trend to
spread to a wide range of other disciplines. The question, though, is
whether they (and the host of other factors within our control such as
availability of good software to make self-archiving easy) are

One way to phrase the question returns to preprint culture. Can we
easily imagine a world of 1990 where Chemistry had a preprint culture?
I think not -- the pressures of industry funding for chemistry and
chemical engineering, and the constraints on prior publication posed by
international patent law, made it essentially impossible to have a
chemistry analog of the physics culture. The prohibition on preprints
was enshrined in journal policies, where the editors took very seriously
the idea that they should never accept a submission if it even smelled
of having been released to the public as a preprint. Fast forward to
2002, and we still have Chemistry as a problem discipline for self
archiving, ETDs, and eprints.

You may want to dispute my characterization of Chemistry, since it seems
to imply that Chemistry will be a very hard nut to crack. You may want
to point out other disciplines where there are in fact active precursors
of a successful eprints culture. But I think we're stuck with one basic
observation (shared by Arunachalam, Harnad, and me): that disciplines do
have different cultures, and that these cultures do impact the rate of
adoption of changes in scholarly publishing.

JQ Johnson Office: 115F Knight Library
Academic Education Coordinator e-mail: jqj_at_darkwing.uoregon.edu
1299 University of Oregon 1-541-346-1746 (v); -3485 (fax)
Eugene, OR 97403-1299 http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~jqj
Received on Sat Nov 23 2002 - 17:38:26 GMT

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