Re: EPrints, DSpace or ESpace?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2003 14:27:55 +0100

On Wed, 3 Sep 2003, Maurizio Grilli wrote:

> I'm doing a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science at the
> Cologne Technical University (Fachhochschule Koeln). I'm writing a thesis
> about non-commercial publication models of scholastic writings.

I know of no "non-commercial" models for research journal publication,
only the traditional toll-access model (subscription, site-license or
pay-per-view) versus open-access models (no toll to users, costs covered
in advance by author's institution or grant). Both kinds of models can be
(and are being) implemented by both commercial and non-commercial (i.e.,
nonprofit, or learned-society) publishers. Hence commercial/non-commercial
is the wrong dichotomy.

> Your distinction between pre- and postprint and the definition of eprints
> [ ]
> [ ]
> as all of them is clear. However, I think that they also differ from each
> other not only because one is refereed and the others are not (yet), but
> because the preprints could never be accepted by the referees and
> therefore be "notprints".

I cannot follow you: All papers are preprints before they are accepted
for publication, whether they are self-archived publicly online or
merely sent as a single hard copy to the publisher to be refereed.

Are you perchance referring to the "Ingelfinger Rule," which was the
(now obsolescent) policy of a tiny minority of journals to refuse
to consider for publication a preprint that had been previously
posted on the Internet? That policy is well on the way out and need
not be considered as a relevant factor in current discussions of
open access:

> What I find very important and even more
> essential is your distinction between
> RES [open access to self-archived institutional research output]
> and PRES [digital preservation of institutional digital holdings]
> [ ]
> but I think that there
> is some inconsistency in saying that preprints are not publications and
> try then to apply peer review (something typical for publication) to them.

No inconsistency whatsoever. In research and in professional academic
life, the criterion is "publish or perish." One most do research, and
publish the findings in peer-reviewed journals, if one is to be employed
as a researcher and one's research is to be funded. "Publication" in
this sense accordingly means *peer-reviewed journal publication.*
One cannot present one's unrefereed preprints to one's university
or one's research-funder by way of betokening having published one's
research! Until it has met, and been certified as having met, a journal's
established peer-review standards, a paper is merely an informal,
unpublished manuscript (and the rule for would-be users is well-known
to the research community: Caveat emptor -- use unrefereed results only
at your own risk!).

May I suggest that in your masters dissertation you not attempt -- as so
many others have done -- to invent a hypothetical and untested
alternative to a peer-review system that has nothing wrong with it
*except that its fruits [refereed articles] are not freely accessible to
all would-be users?*

What research needs is to be freed from access-tolls, not from
peer-review. Be careful not to conflate these two completely different

    Garfield: "Acknowledged Self-Archiving is Not Prior Publication"

    The Invisible Hand of Peer Review.

    Peer Review Reform Hypothesis-Testing

    A Note of Caution About "Reforming the System"

> In my opinion it would be better to make no distinction in scholastic
> writings. Preprints and postprints should be put together without thinking
> of peer reviews.

Not warn potential users about what has and has not been reviewed by
qualified experts? Whyever not? (Should certified and uncertified eggs
likewise be freely intermixed, for the hapless consumer?)

> They could be distinguished at the research output
> through ranking, depending of whether the autor is member of a University,
> or the eventual publication.

If the author's "rank" -- whether based on his titles, his prior
publications, his institution, or even a public opinion poll -- were
enough to serve as guide to the research community as to what research
is and is not sound and safe to try to build further research upon,
peer-review would have been abandoned as a costly and time-consuming
waste of time well before the online age.

But it is not. And if the research community were foolish enough to
abandon peer review in favor of this sort of ranking without first
testing it to see whether it would work, then it would just be a matter
of time before peer review -- which, after all, is merely qualified
experts vetting the work of their fellow-experts -- would simply be

Remember, what is new is the online medium, and the newfound possibility
it offers of making peer-reviewed research (and its precursors) freely
accessible. But for anything else: If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

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

(Preprint usage can be and is being used to predict and rank the
eventual citation impact of the peer-reviewed postprint, but that too
is merely a supplement to, not a substitute for, peer review: .)

> Peer reviews should then be used in other
> contexts, like a publication platform at a University server.

What you miss is that "publication" is not a decorative or post-hoc
matter for researchers. Researchers use one another's research in order
to build further research upon it. Unsound research collapses, wasting the
user's time and slowing the progress of research. The purpose of peer
review is to test and pre-certify this "soundness for research use".
It is an upstream guide, not a downstream ornament.

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):

Discussion can be posted to:
Received on Wed Sep 03 2003 - 14:27:55 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:47:02 GMT