Re: Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 15:48:01 +0000

On Thu, 30 Oct 2003, Hugo Fjelsted Alrĝe wrote:

> I agree that the postprint will fulfil most of what the published article
> provides. But there is one thing which is quite essential, and which has
> sofar mainly been provided by the final versions of papers published
> in scientific journals. That is the page numbers used for reference
> when citing works. In many cases scholarly citing needs more precision
> than merely citing an article (or worse, a book) as a whole. If the
> referencing is not sufficiently precise, this will hamper the process
> of peer criticism, which is an essential aspect of science.

Surely citing the URL of the full text (plus the section name and the
paragraph number, as you go on to note below) -- and even quoting enough
of the passage commented so that it can be found by character-string
search -- is incomparably more useful than the old papyrocentric page
number (which will in any case be replaced by the paragraph number,
in the new online world)!

(For URL permanence, please see threads on OpenURL and OAI.)

> Greater availability of pre- and postprints (and the speed-up involved,
> which I believe to be a great benefit to the process of science) will
> presumably increase the wish to refer to these in other papers. Since
> pre- and postprints will typically have other page numbers (if any)
> than the published article, referring to the pre- and postprints may
> obfuscate the scientific communication. This will probably be of less
> importance in some disciplines than in others, due to differences in
> the form of scholarly writing.

Page numbers are an obsolete paper-era approximation to scholarly

> New technology and new conventions for scholarly writing may well provide
> new answers to this potential referencing problem. In fully electronic
> journals that utilize the power of the html format, for instance,
> one solution is to number paragraphs instead of pages. The point is
> that there is a need for adaquate standards of referencing and that
> the existing standards are challenged by the changes involved in the
> development towards open access (which I fully support). Therefore we
> need to address this issue in the open access movement.

Page numbers are *already* obsolete for online work. They have been
superseded by a much more powerful and exact way of pinpointing the
passage in question.

(Even in a paginated PDF, I would infinitely prefer to cite a passage by
section and paragraph number, plus a unique string for grepping right to
the words in question! Even primitive PDF has string-grepping

    Harnad, S. (1995) Interactive Cognition: Exploring the Potentional
    of Electronic Quote/Commenting. In: B. Gorayska & J. L. Mey
    (Eds.) Cognitive Technology: In Search of a Humane Interface. Elsevier
    P. 397-414.

    Harnad, S. (2003) Back to the Oral Tradition Through
    Skywriting at the Speed of Thought. Interdisciplines.

Stevan Harnad

> > -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
> > Fra: Stevan Harnad []
> > Sendt: 29. oktober 2003 13:27
> > Emne: Re: Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons
> >
> > On Wed, 29 Oct 2003, Chris Korycinski wrote:
> >
> > Re:
> >
> >
> >
> > > the next faq from Nature says that 'you may not distribute the
> > > PDF... on open archives'. So presumably you can still keep _your_
> > > version of the article on an open archive, but not the one which was
> > > published in Nature.
> >
> > That does not matter *in the least*! The publisher's proprietary PDF
> > contains added-values to be sure, but I am betting (and please stay
> > tuned!), that the the only thing researchers really want and
> > need is the peer-reviewed final draft.
Received on Thu Oct 30 2003 - 15:48:01 GMT

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