Re: ePrint Repositories

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2003 14:19:46 +0000

On Tue, 11 Mar 2003, [identity deleted] wrote:

> Doubtless, I have missed the point(s) but perhaps you may wish to clarify -
> or refer me to your other contributions!
> 2a) Preservation surely remains a valid concern. It cannot be adequate to
> discount the relevance of digital preservation from a programme which may
> tend to discourage the production of hard copy. Of course, open access
> should, and must, be pursued but potential incidental impacts cannot be
> ignored.

My point, in its briefest from, is that digital preservation (for the
entire digital corpus) is a *parallel* concern, along with open-access
to the refereed-research subset of that corpus. There is no serial
contingency, or conditionality between the two. Nothing to justify
anything along the lines of: "But before we can have open online access,
we must solve the digital preservation problem!"

Open, online access to the refereed research literature is attainable
now (today, yesterday) through author/institution self-archiving, and it
is a *supplement* to, not a *substitute for* toll-access (on-line or
on-paper). It is the toll-access literature that has the preservation
problem. Open-access to it is an extra, an author/institution-provided
a freebie, not to be burdened with any extra concerns about preservation!

> 2b) Are you implying there is some problem with university 'publication'
> online? Can you clarify why you think it 'wacky'?

No problem with university publication. No problem with online
publication. And no problem with university online publication.
But absolutely irrelevant to the question of open-access to the
refereed-research literature, which is not published by the researcher's
(or user's) *own* university but by whichever journal actually publishes
it. The wacky idea is to try to combine (1) the solution to the university's
*access" problem -- which is about access to the research output of
*other* universities (quality-controlled and certified by an independent
3rd party called a refereed journal) -- with (2) the solution to an
entirely different problem ("How can I increase university revenues
through electronic publication?").

This is as much of a non-sequitur as agonizing over the preservation
problem instead of immediately self-archiving: it's conflating the
research-access problem with other university revenue and expenditure
problems (and schemes for their solution).

> 2c) If institutions make their own corpus of material available on the web
> in a common format with common indexing, then does not this constitute the
> potential for hard-copy substitution? Are you saying that, because the peer
> review function has to be external to the institution, electronic
> self-publication cannot replace the 'journal', something which is surely
> only a construct defined as a collection of peer-reviewed multi-sourced
> articles? Is not your thesis that the cost of peer review administration
> can be covered precisely by the savings in serials budgets?

Yes I am saying that because peer-review *must* be administered and
certified by an independent 3rd party, universities are barking up the
wrong tree if they are imagining doing it for their own research output,
in-house. That is vanity-press publication, and is useless as a
quality-certifier and guide.

Online refereed journal publishing will eventually reduce to
peer-review implementation and certification. That is what is left of
refereed-research "publication" in the online age. The rest is about
*access*, which is the archiving and distribution of the peer-reviewed
(hence "published") digital document. That can and will be accomplished,
eventually, by the distributed, interoperable university Eprint Archive
networks. But that is all still far away. What is immediately reachable
is open access, and that can be attained immediately by self-archiving,
with no worries about digital preservation and no linkage to university
electronic publishing plans.

Stevan Harnad

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Stevan Harnad [mailto:harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK]
> Sent: 27 February 2003 15:21
> Subject: Re: ePrint Repositories
> On Thu, 27 Feb 2003, [identity deleted] wrote:
> > [T]he latest report from the RSLG
> > makes interesting reading and it is clear that at least
> > some interest groups intend to use institutional repositories not just to
> > increase access but also to bypass publishers altogether, or have I
> > misinterpreted?
> Based on the often contradictory and incoherent plans that are being
> voiced about institutional repositories these days -- particularly the talk
> about bypassing publishers -- I can entirely understand your confusion!
> (It is not you who have misinterpreted, but some of the repository
> enthusiasts who have got it a bit garbled, because they have not thought
> it through carefully themselves.)
> Fortunately, it can all be clarified.
> (1) Please bear in mind that the idea of institutional repositories is
> very new, so although there is a lot of talk these days about the
> *software* for creating these archives, there has been far less talk
> (and even less thought) about what sort of *content* these repositories
> should house, and why, and how.
> (2) Despite the lack of forethought (and often also a surprising lack
> of information), universities have pushed ahead with the momentum for
> institutional repositories (because they are basically a very good
> thing). I think I know quite well by now what the five main notions
> are that are churning around in administrators' and librarians' minds
> in this connection, and not all of them make sense, nor are they all
> compatible, or even desirable:
> (2a) Preservation of Digital Content: This is the most general,
> hence the vaguest mandate of all. (What *kinds* of digital
> content? Whose? Why?)
> (2b) Publication, Alternative Publication, and Alternatives to
> Publication: This is in some ways the wackiest notion of all,
> and a microcosm of the incoherence I spoke of. Universities have
> the simultaneous desire (i) to become online, in-house publishers
> themselves (if there is money to be made that way), (ii) to provide
> alternative "forms" of publication (alternative forms of peer review,
> for example -- invariably untested and speculative, if not contentious
> ones), and (iii) to provide means for making some of their own output
> public in forms other than formal publication.
> (2c) Remedying the Serials Crisis: The serials crisis is real,
> but the notion that since it is our institution that generates our
> published content, we should not need to buy it back from publishers
> is incoherent (since universities are mostly buying in *other*
> universities' published content, not their own). Self-archiving our
> *own* refereed journal publications does make sense, but in and of
> itself it has nothing directly to do with the buy-in problem.
> (2d) Courseware: There is also the sense that these repositories
> could house the university's growing online courseware content,
> either to make it open-access or to cash in on it (e.g.,
> through toll-access distance-education revenue).
> (2e) Maximizing the Research Impact of Institutional Research Output
> by Making it Open-Access (pre- and post peer review and publication).
> (This is really the only coherent, focused, motivated agenda so far
> for Institutional Repositories. The rest is just a hodge-podge.)
> The last of these (2e) is the only institutional repository agenda that is
> pertinent to this Forum. It is irrelevant that some universities have
> vague, wide-eyed notions of becoming in-house online publishers at the
> moment: For the published papers in the institutional Eprint Archives
> for their own refereed research output are *by definition* published
> by *another publisher* and have nothing whatsoever to do with the
> institution's inchoate yearning to become an online publisher! Each paper
> in question is published by whichever of the 20,000 peer-reviewed journals
> it appeared in. The only content in a university's Eprint Archive is its
> *own* research output. This neither constitutes a university publication
> (merely a means of providing open-access to its published output) nor
> does it repackage the contents of a publisher's journal: Any University
> Eprint Archive holds only its own vanishingly small contribution to the
> contents of any of the 20,000 journals.
> Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Mar 11 2003 - 14:19:46 GMT

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