Re: Self-Archiving vs. Self-Publishing

From: John Unsworth <>
Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2003 14:05:41 +0000

On Dec 4, 2003, at 5:53 AM, Stevan Harnad wrote:

> As I re-read your piece, a couple of other related problem passages
> recurred to me:
> "the things that university presses [can] contribute... [include]
> administering an online authoring and peer-review environment that
> encourages authors to produce content in forms that lower library
> costs for collection and preservation"
> I know you just mean software for reducing the cost of peer review,
> hence publication. But I know from experience that this will be
> misconstrued as universities peer-reviewing their own output.

University presses already routinely run peer review processes for
books -- but since those books are rarely written by faculty at the same
university that houses the press, I don't think it counts as self-review.
In any case, presses have been doing peer review for a long, long time.

> That interpretation needs to be blocked. There is also slight crossing
> here of another pair of wires: *All* publishers need to lower (and
> most of them are lowering) peer-review costs with online processing
> software. Singling out university presses here again sounds like
> take-over plans for what are currently independent journals.

No, I mean that university presses should compete for some of the
business currently owned by commercial publishers, and universities
should look favorably on them, if they compete by lowering costs for
the university. Of course, if that encourages commercial publishers to
compete on the same terms, all to the good.

> The number of new-journal niches is small (this has not changed), so
> the prospect of achieving open access solely by creating new, competing
> open-access journals (PLOS- and BMC-style) and trying to win away the
> authors of the established toll-access journals (23,400 of them!) is
> extremely uncertain and certainly extremely slow.

I'm more optimistic, actually -- but the point I'm making doesn't rest
on creating new open-access journals.

> The self-archiving road needs to be clearly differentiated from the
> open-access journal road. Subsuming them both under a university function
> only encourages their conflation (while again evoking the spectre of
> vanity press publication).

Fine--I understand.

>ju> "we should conduct peer review independent of a decision to publish."
>sh> Who are "we" (the university? the author?).

journals, societies, presses.

> And here is an important one: What needs to be separated is (1)
> peer-review provision and certification from (2) access-provision and
> archiving, *not* peer-review from publication.

That's splitting a hair, seems to me. Isn't peer-review provision =
peer review, and access-provision = publication?

> Hence journals are and will remain (autonomous) peer-review
> providers/certifiers, and to be certified as having successfully met
> a particular established set of peer-review quality standards *is*
> to be published.

Well, that's silly, isn't it? If I peer review something and then
stick it in a drawer, have I published it?

> Hence there is no dissociating publishing from peer review!

Well, sure there is.

> There is only dissociation of *access-provision* from peer review.

Sophistry, or else muddle.

>ju> "peer-reviewed information would be freely available *soon after*
its creation"
> This "soon after" also occurs repeatedly in your proposal, and I
> would suggest removing it, because it is quite easily misconstrued
> as not being about open-access at all, but only the journal's
> willingness to allow free access after an interval (from 6 months to
> 2 years or more) has elapsed after which toll-revenues become
> negligible anyway.

Nope, I just mean that there shouldn't be a great lag time in between
creation and publication. I'll stand by that as a desideratum for an
ideal system of scholarly communication.

> This is not how research progresses, and not what open access is for
> or about! Open access means *immediate* open access. It in fact starts
> *before* refereeing, with the preprint (optional), and continues,
> unbroken, to the moment when the accepted, peer-reviewed final draft
> (the "postprint") exists, which is immediately self-archived too.

Sure--we don't disagree on that.

> Surely with this "soon after" you don't want to reduce open access to
> Dave Shulenburger's old and inadequate "NEAR" proposal of free online
> access only after an agreed embargo period!

It's much simpler than that: not a prescription for a particular
publishing model, just a desirable characteristic for a system of

>ju> "self-archiving and open-access journals, by themselves, do not
>ju> guarantee 'permanent open access'."
> This raises the red herring of preservation in a place where it
> harms rather than helps: Of course digital contents need to be
> preserved permanantly. But in the special case of the peer-reviewed
> journals, the preservation problem is squarely on the shoulders of
> the 23,400 journals and the libraries that subscribe to them at this
> time.

Well, journals don't do preservation. Libraries do. So, at least on
half of that point we agree.

> That is all toll access.

Libraries don't charge for access. They do limit access when the
publishers they rent from require them to do so. A library-based
open-access model is much more powerful than one based on individual
self-archiving, because preservation is an important characteristic of
a system of scholarly communication, and individuals can't guarantee it
(nor can publishers).

> the physics corpus, doing this since 1991, is all with us today

all of 12 years later.

John Unsworth
Received on Mon Dec 08 2003 - 14:05:41 GMT

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