Re: Author Publication Charge Debate

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2004 17:10:59 +0000

On Mon, 16 Feb 2004, Suhail A. R. wrote:

> [Arxiv] is mainly for the mathematical sciences.

This is incorrect. Arxiv is mainly for the various fields of physics.
Mathematics is a much smaller sector (but an important and growing

> Both [Arxiv] and [Citeseer] have a very user unfriendly interface and
> searches that are not comparable to say for example PubMed.

This is correct: The current Arxiv and Citeseer user interfaces are
dreadful, but that does not matter in the least, as long as cross-archive
harvesters such as
or or even are used. They integrate and re-present the
contents of OAI compliant Open-Access Archives such as Arxiv (a central
one) as well as the contents of the many distributed institutional OA
Archives in a far more useful,
useable, and user-friendly form. (That harvesing, integration and
re-repesentation was one of the main reasons OAI-interoperability was

PubMed is such a cross-archive harvester, and so far carries some, but
far from all of the avialble OA articles in the biomedical sciences. It
can and will carry all of them, but there is absolutely no reason for
any biomedical researcher to wait till PubMed covers all the OA Archives
in biomedical science: no reason whatsoever to wait to *use* the rest
of the available OA articles, and no reason whatsoever to wait to make
his own articles OA.

(I should also add: (1) the longstanding habitual users of arxiv
(13 years) and citeseer (8 years) manage just fine, or at least
have not complained enough to inspire a much-needed face-lift
of these user interfaces. With cross-archive harvesters like
OAIster providing far better interfaces to their contents, however,
and with the growth of distributed institutional self-archiving
the local user interfaces of the individual OA Archives (whether central
or institutional) are becoming less and less relevant. (2) Citeseer is
not yet OAI compliant, so it is not harvested by the OAI cross-archive
harvesters, but only by Google, which is certainly not enough.)

> Furthermore, in the medical sciences, I wouldnt want to self archive
> anything till it has been published and indexed on Medline or Pubmed.

It is entirely up to the individual researcher whether or not he
wants to self-archive his pre-peer-review preprints. But it is
irrational in the extreme, once having had the final revised draft
accepted for publication, to wait for it to appear in an index before
making it avaliable to users by self-archiving it! That would
be an arbitrary self-imposed embargo with absolutely no value or
utility: merely the unreflective persistence of a dysfunctional

> There are many problems related to dissemination of non-published
> research and archiving is not recognised for any purpose apart from
> helping disseminate information, and that is never the primary intent
> of researchers (let's face the facts).

(1) We are talking here about the self-archiving of the peer-reviewed,
accepted postprint, not the unpublished, unrefereed preprint.

(2) The purpose of making one's peer-reviewed research *public* by
publishing them, is so that they can be read, used, applied, cited and
built-upon. That is called "research impact."

What other "facts" does Suhail have in mind?

> In the end, medical researchers at least, will find it easier to email
> each other till some other facility comes along.

Suhail has already informed us (without telling us the reason why) that
he personally prefers that each would-be user of his research should find
out (somehow) about its existence (perhaps from an index like Pubmed) and
then email him for an eprint, which he prefers to email to requesters,
one by one.

This is clearly a throwback to the days of mailing paper reprint-requests
and mailing paper reprints in return, and Suhail seems to be fond
of this obsolete habit. But unless he has a reason to recommend this
inefficient and uncessary bottleneck over the much simpler, more direct,
and less-time-consuming method that the web era has since brought us --
namely, to self-archive the postprint publicly on the web, let the
OAI harvesters pick it up, and let all would-be users click on it to
get it for themselves (bothering both themselves less and the author not
at all) -- I think Suhail should just chalk this personal preference up
to lingering habit (as in the case of those habitual users who still
like the unfriendly Arxiv and Citeseer interface) rather than recommending
it as an ergonomic principle to be adopted by the rest of us.

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at the American Scientist Open Access Forum:
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Unified Dual Open-Access-Provision Policy:
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Mon Feb 16 2004 - 17:10:59 GMT

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