Re: The archival status of archived papers

From: Bob Parks <>
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2002 02:37:03 +0000

Stevan Harnad writes:

>>sh> It cuts both ways. Yes, authors should not start archiving willy-nilly
>>sh> every raw draft and every afterthought.
>bp> The word DRAFT implies correction and updates. In economics, where
>bp> working papers and revisions of them are extremely common, one would
>bp> NOT want a previous DRAFT of a paper available since it might be wrong,
>bp> and had been corrected, and it would injure both the reader and the
>bp> author to have the incorrect version present. Ginsparg and I traded
>bp> a lot of notes about this when EconWPA was born - Paul kept a revision
>bp> date, but not the prior drafts and I think that arxiv still works that
>bp> way.
>bp> I think that if you make the previous drafts remain forever, authors
>bp> will be reluctant to post DRAFTs at all. OED defines draft as
>bp> "A preliminary sketch or rough form of a writing or document,
>bp> from which the final or fair copy is made. "
>bp> which begs change to the draft.
>OED's definition was written before the Internet. One can certainly
>write on a draft, prominently "This is just a temporary draft, and will
>be revised." One can even add "Please do not quote or cite." But if you
>put that on the Web, not only will some people nevertheless quote,
>cite (and link), but the draft is not necessarily ever removable, in
>principle, even if the original draft and website are removed and the
>URL no longer works. Once it is publicly posted, there will not only
>be fugitive saved versions downloaded earlier by users, but copies
>may well have been mirrored, cached, harvested, and reposted willy-nilly,
>persisting till doomsday. This is simply a fact of PostGutenberg life --

YEP, you are right. I should think in post-google terms (meaning
mirrors, robot taken copies, etc) and I was not.

>and a confusing fact, detrimental to scholarly reliability and rigor,
>unless we devise a means of version-identification, tagging and control
>that does not rely on people simply looking the other way if someone
>writes "this is just a draft."

Agreed nearly fully except that I still like the 'replacement'
of a working paper, with the draft gone off the 'definitive'
archive even if it exists elsewhere.

>Will the self-archivers of preprints be discouraged from self-archiving
>after having this very banal fact about human communication and human
>nature pointed out to them? (I rather doubt it.)

Don't know, more your subject area than mine. But I certainly have
talked with those who, knowing that google archives all of it, would
not post a 'draft'. And I guess one simply says "So be it."

>>sh> But they should not feel
>>sh> constrained in doing corrections and updates whenever they are needed
>>sh> too. Authors should know, though, that from the moment they place a draft
>>sh> into a public open-access archive, it may be read, cited, and pointed to
>>sh> -- that specific draft -- in perpetuum. That is part of what it means
>>sh> to have archived something publicly.
>bp> On this I would disagree.
>Disagree in the sense that you don't believe it may be read, cited,
>and pointed to in perpretuum (even if it is withdrawn)? Or in the sense
>that you don't believe it ought to be?

I misinterpreted what you meant by publically archived and now see your
point and we have no disagreement.

>bp> But the point is to further open access
>bp> to research, and putting in a constraint that all prior DRAFTs are
>bp> available in perpetuity will make for less archiving of working papers.
>I think deletion should be a (discouraged but available) option, but
>with a persistent tag for the deleted (null) text, as a place-holder for
>would-be citers who did read that draft and do want to refer to it (even
>against the author's request, and even backed up only by hearsay). The
>best corrective for this is to self-archive the updated, corrected draft
>too, and have the archive pointers always point to that too, even the
>null (deleted) ones. (But I really do think that if someone's draft is
>so raw that they would rather it could vanish without a trace, then
>perhaps it was too early a draft to post publicly in the first place,
>and should only have been emailed to a few trausted colleagues!)

I dunno. There are some papers which prove to be wrong, even
though there was considerable thought put into them - and possibly
they should, as much as possible, disappear. I don't think posting
early results is the key though. Its whether the author should have
ownership (in the archive) and with that ownership be able to make
something disappear (from the archive) for whatever reason.

However, you say "deletion should be a (discouraged but available) option"
so we have no disagreement.

>bp> Maybe not for other professions, but certainly in economics, business,
>bp> and political science (subjects about which I have knowledge).
>I am sure this was the practise and expectation in paper days, when
>drafts were sent only to specific trusted colleagues, but it is a fact
>that public posting on the Web is (like publication) another ball-game
>(a bit more like guassian roulette).

YES, again I agree.

>bp> The persistent URL should, as with arXiv, point to the most recent
>bp> draft and penultimate drafts should be in the trash.
>That is an option that should be available, but its use should be
>strongly discouraged. Better to selectively email the potentially
>embarrassing drafts, intended to be forgotten, and self-archive only the
>ones one feels one can live with being seen publicly (and potentially
>remembered and referred to forever). It is, after all, something of an
>antidote to unwelcome citing and quoting to be able to point to the
>extant draft and say: "See, it said 'temporary draft, to be revised, do
>not cite or quote'...."

As above, we might have a bit of disagreement about how strongly
one discourages removal, but I think we are in agreement.

And again, it is not the "potentially embarrassing drafts,
intended to be forgotten," but rather any 'draft'. I would certainly
not want to revert to the mailing of drafts - but maybe I make a
whole lot more mistakes than you do and that is the reason that we
slightly disagree.

>(Ceterum censeo: This is all irrelevant to the issue of open access,
>which is mainly about open access to the research literature after peer
>review. How early a draft one wishes to make openly accessible before
>peer review is a matter for the author to decide. But open access should
>in general be thought of as being forever.)

Ah, mea culpa. My open access (moa?) concerns both pre peer review
and post peer review. In economics, where lags between submission and
acceptance are large, require an open access working paper culture.

I fully agree that the post peer review literature ought to be
persistant. If corrections are needed, then errata should be posted
(and linked).

Gee, now that we nearly completely agree, one of us isn't needed.
I hope its me.



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Received on Wed Dec 04 2002 - 02:37:03 GMT

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