Re: Moderated Forum Subject Threads

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 27 Dec 2003 13:25:42 +0000

Apologies for this digression on the subject of the differences between
a moderated and an unmoderated Forum, but perhaps some will find them
pertinent and useful:

In a moderated Forum, not all postings are accepted. Long-time
participants in The American Scientist Open Access Forum will recall
that cloture has previously been invoked on certain topic threads:

    Updated version of:

    Since this Forum began in 1998, cloture (i.e., ending discussion on
    a topic) has been invoked by the moderator (me) on [five] topics:

    (1) University-administration conspiracy theory:

    (2) University-library underfunding theory:

    (3) The public-domain solution

    (4) Peer-review reform:

    [5] Napster

    Those who are interested in why cloture was invoked in those [five]
    cases can find the discussion threads above. In brief, each topic
    had been fully aired, and the postings had become repetitive and
    uninformative. If someone who has reviewed the prior discussion feels
    they have something new and substantive to add, the discussions can
    be re-opened. (Alas, topic 2 was re-opened several times, only to
    go back into the same pattern of repetition, and closed again each
    time. On topic 4, cloture was not formally invoked: discussion ended
    on an unspoken gentlemen's agreement.)"

Apart from closing topics that have either become repetitive or irrelevant
to the subject matter of the Forum, the moderator also needs to try to
filter out intemperate, ad hominem, or even abusive postings. (Sometimes
some spell-checking is also in order.) He also has to try to regularize
author-address formats so the author's name is clear (anonymous postings
are not accepted).

And one of the most important functions of the moderator is to manage
the subject-threads, for they are the basis on which the discussion
is organized, classified and archived, as well as the basis on which
participants decide whether to skip or read a particular current posting
(depending on whether it is or is not on a thread they wish to follow).

One of the features that limits the usefulness and tractability
of unmoderated Forums is the possibility for any poster to change,
willy-nilly and at whim, the subject-header for any ongoing discussion:
"'XXX' was 'YYY'" etc. Sometimes a subject-header change is indeed
in order, if the discussion has actually changed topics, but often
these header-changes are idiosyncratic and unhelpful, and simply leave
the reader confused and unable to retrieve prior postings on the topic
effectively. (Often the new subject-header is on a topic that has already
been discussed too, but under another subject-thread, not the new poster's
idiosyncratic one.)

So these are things the moderator must do, to make and keep the Forum
useful, both for those following current topics and for those wishing
to search and use archival topics. (Besides altering a subject-header
to reflect the subject-matter of a posting, the moderator might also add
references to related prior threads, if more than one subject thread-name
is involved.)

The moderator must exercise judgment in doing this, and may occasionally
make mistakes (misclassifying a posting or even invoking cloture on
a topic that was still relevant and new). I hope I have not done this
too often in the six years I have been moderating this Forum. I also
hope that my own point of view -- expressed in my own postings and
replies -- has not biassed my judgments on classification or cloture
too often. (The advantage of an online Forum and a moderator who is not
too pig-headed is that mistakes can be corrected, once they are drawn
to the moderator's attention.)

Now, have I made a mistake here, in reclassifying Dr. Koudinov's recent
postings as I have done? I leave it to Forum participants to see and say:

Dr. Koudinov's first SOAF posting with the new subject-thread:

        Subject: [SOAF] "Open access" is NOT " charging the author or
        institution" // "Re: Draft letter for institutions to sign...

was reassigned in Amsci to the ongoing AmSci subject-thread to which
it was a reply:

        Subject: Re: Draft letter for institutions
        to sign to implement Berlin Declaration

[Note that Dr. Koudinov also CC'd this and some subsequent
postings to "Sci & Tech Committee, The UK Parliament" <>
This is a Committee soliciting written recommendations
(that had been the subject of another ongoing Amsci thread: )
but not, as far as I know, soliciting CC's of online exchanges
on the topic: A prior SOAF posting by Dr. Koudinov (not branched
to Amsci) had appeared under the heading: "Subject: [SOAF]
UK Inquiry - look at compromised academic integrity is a must" ]

Dr. Koudinov's second SOAF posting with the subject-thread:

        Subject: [SOAF] Open access development: alternatives for
        "charging the author"

was reassigned in Amsci to the existing AmSci subject-thread to which
its content (a critique of the BMC approach to OA publishing as well
as of a critique of OA publication charges) seemed closest:

        Subject: Re: BioMed Central and new publishing models

with links to the pertinent prior Amsci threads inserted by me at the end:

        "Author Publication Charge Debate"

        "BioMed Central and new publishing models"

Dr. Koudinov's third SOAF posting with the subject-thread:

        Subject: [SOAF] clarification

was reassigned to the (present) new Amsci thread:

        Subject: Moderated Forum Subject Threads

The only prior Amsci posting from Dr. Koudinov had been made on the day
he signed on to the Forum (Dec. 7 2003). The posting bore the subject:

        Subject: Response on Re: Call for Boycott of Cell Press Journals

and was reassigned to the existing Amsci thread:

        Subject: Re: Call for Boycott of Cell Press Journals

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

On Sat, 27 Dec 2003, Alexei Koudinov wrote:

> Dear Colleagues,
> Thank you for your appreciation that earlier today I attempted to provide
> my argument to discuss Dr. Stevan Harnad "Draft letter for institutions
> to sign to implement Berlin declaration" dated 25 December 2003.
> I did not intend to "going on and on about BiomedCentral" as Dr. Harnad
> justified (see below).
> I think that what might cause such thinking is a moderation-born erratic
> "Prior Amsci Thread" stamp: "Re: BioMed Central and new publishing
> models".
> Please be sure that what I discuss in both letters is the statement in
> Item 8 of Dr. Harnad draft letter that "New "open-access" journals can
> recover their costs by charging the author-institution for each outgoing
> article they publish". I argue that "Open access" does not necessarily
> mean "charging the author or institution", and explain why.
> Not moderated [by Amsci] version of both letters are available at ARL SOAF archive:
> 1st letter: <>
> 2nd letter: <>
> (2nd letter is a response on
> <> Dr.Harnad reply
> on my 1st letter)
> Sincerely,
> Alexei Koudinov, MD, PhD
> Competing interest declaration: I do not have any competing financial
> interest. I am a founding, managing and publishing editor of the
> <>Neurobiology of Lipids, an unpaid
> position. Neurobiology of Lipids (ISSN 1683-5506) has no affiliation
> with any professional association, publisher, industry member, commercial
> enterprise, public, educational or government organization. The viewpoint
> presented in the cited above letters is my personal view.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 07:11 PM 12/26/2003 +0000, Stevan Harnad wrote:
> > Alexei Koudinov is tilting at the wrong target: The target is
> > open-access provision for the 2,500,000 yearly articles in the world's
> > 24,000 journals. We will not reach that target faster if we spend our
> > time quarreling with the few journals (<1000) that provide open access
> > already! 23,000 journals-worth of articles -- 2,400,000 -- still await
> > open-access. Why is Alexei going on and on about BiomedCentral?
Received on Sat Dec 27 2003 - 13:25:42 GMT

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