Re: Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 8 May 2003 03:32:04 +0100

> From: [identity deleted]
> I hope you will add to your evolving consideration of the value
> of peer-reviewed journals - editorial assessment, substantive
> editing of text, tables, graphs and illustrations (and often their
> recreation), copyediting, and proofreading. We have good evidence that
> technical/substantive editing improves the quality of published papers
> (see, for example, the article by Wager and Davidoff on the Peer Review
> Congress Web site at In fact, this is better
> than what we have to date for the effectiveness of peer review. Perhaps,
> you include this in your $500 or $500+ valuation of peer review, but
> peer review is distinct from these other quality assessment/"assurance"
> processes. I think it is important that the contributions and value of
> editing for most scientific papers are understood and appreciated.

After 25 years of editing I can hardly be blind to the value of editing
and copy-editing! But, as usual, the question is a relative one: Worth
how much, and compared to what?

Peer review is indispensable; without it all we have is vanity-press
self-publication of raw drafts, with no clue as to whether they are worth
the time to read or solid enough to risk trying to build upon. So peer
review is indispensable. The burden of proof is *not* on those who hold
that this is so. The null hypothesis is that the existing peer-reviewed
literature owes its quality (such as it is) to peer review; it is those
who would hypothesize otherwise who must demonstrate that this is *not* so.

    Peer Review Reform Hypothesis-Testing

    A Note of Caution About "Reforming the System"

    Self-Selected Vetting vs. Peer Review: Supplement or Substitute?

A qualified, responsible editor is an essential component of the
implementation and the cost of peer review. So that's part of the $500
per paper estimate for the peer-review service cost.

But the rest of the added values (including copy-editing, proofing
etc.) will have to earn their own keep -- or rather their keeping. All
researchers want their work peer-reviewed and certified as such, so
potential users know they can rely on it. And researchers and their
institutions will be ready to pay for that service, if and when that
should ever become necessary. (It will only become necessary when its
costs are no longer covered by annual institutional access-tolls, at
which time the annual windfall savings in institutional access tolls
will be more than enough to pay them.)

    4.2 Hypothetical Sequel

So how much *more* value researchers and their institutions will be
willing to pay for, over and above peer review for their research output,
is an empirical question, but one that can only be answered if and when
the various added values are unbundled and offered as separate options. It
is impossible to say as long as they are inextricably bundled with peer
review, paper, and PDF, and sold as a take-it-or-leave-it product to the
reader-institution, rather than as an optional service to the

    The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)

    Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons

Self-archiving will certainly achieve its primary objective, which is to
maximize research impact by putting an end to needless impact loss owing
to access-tolls. It will also serve to unbundle some of the
added-values, so we can get a clearer idea of what they are worth to
researchers as separates.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu May 08 2003 - 03:32:04 BST

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