the single most important Post-Gutenberg distinction

From: adam hodgkin <>
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 10:54:40 +0000


I expect to reply to the list on some of the substantive points about
'impact' in your rebuttal. But a few comments which are for your
consideration about this claim:

(quote from Harnad)
The difference between give-away and non-give-away work is the single
most important Post-Gutenberg distinction. Without it, one hasn't a hope
of understanding OA:

(end of quote)

First, thanks for pointing me at the 'resolution' piece. I may have
skimmed it before but it was a while ago, and it covers a lot of
interesting terrain.

Second, your claim 'The difference between give-away and non-give-away
work is the single
most important Post-Gutenberg distinction'. is grandiloquent, rather
loose and surely false unless very carefully qualified. The MOST
important post-Gutenberg distinction? For what purpose? Only on a very
narrow focus in a very special context could this possibly be true. I
take it you mean post-Gutenberg-era (not post-Gutenberg), and surely
we can think of many more important distinctions such as:
referred/referring, cited/not-cited, true/false, relative/absolute,
derivative/new, transient/archival etc

Third, I missed some of the support for your argument in the piece to
which you refer me through a number of bad links in the passage. There
are three bad links in the section to which you refer me, their lack
of reference detracts from the clarity of the argument.

Fourth, I wonder if you should more clearly specify what you mean by '
bulk of the written literature' (bad link). In the post-Gutenberg era
a lot of writing (eg web pages, grey literature, email to lists,
blogs etc) is not refereed but by common understanding it is
literature and it is also author-giveaway; and so refereed
scholarly/scientific research publishing is not SO anomalous as you
suggest with respect to the bulk-of-the-written-literature in the
post-G-era. I suspect that whatever the bad link refers to is already
becoming the 'minority' case in the post-G era.

Finally, I was of course aware of the relevance of the distinction
between 'give-away and non-give-away' to a discussion of OA which is
why I mentioned it, but I suggest that there is also a distinction
between 'give-away and non-give-away' authorship, and 'give-away and
non-give-away' works.


On Wed, 9 Mar 2005 18:42:39 +0000, Stevan Harnad <> wrote:
> On Wed, 9 Mar 2005, adam hodgkin wrote:
> > Cockerill [makes] some good points and Harnad may be missing something.
> > It sometimes seems that there can be too much reliance on the fact that
> > authors of scientific research articles are not paid by the publishers
> > for publishing their papers, and is Harnad relying too much on this
> > criterion to define the field of OA concern?
> I don't think so: Matt and I have exactly the same target literature in
> mind: the 2.5 million annual articles published in the planet's 24,000
> peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific journals. Those articles are not the only
> author give-aways on the planet (*some* authors give away their books,
> magazine articles, unpublished works, poems, novels, plays, music, video,
> software). But I would say that the peer-reviewed research literature is
> the only one for *all* of which this is true without exception -- in fact,
> the only one that comes close (to being 100% author give-aways). Moreover,
> it is the literature for which the urgency of OA is greatest, as it is
> all written for research impact, and anything that blocks research access,
> blocks research impact.
> The difference between give-away and non-give-away work is the single
> most important Post-Gutenberg distinction. Without it, one hasn't a hope
> of understanding OA:
> > I suspect that Cockerill
> > and Harnad agree that the major science publications which have
> > journalist-written reports and news are not expected to be OA (the
> > front half of the magazines).
> Correct.
> > But the research reports that Science,
> > Nature and the Lancet carry should on the Cockerill and Harnad view be
> > OA -- but not I suggest for the simple reason that the authors are not
> > being paid.
> Not just for that simple reason: Also for the reason that they are
> all written for research impact:
> > If the unpaid nature of the authorship were the key issue, would
> > Harnad consider it an acceptable way of reforming the system for such
> > authors to be paid a fee on the appearance of their article, which was
> > thereafter Toll Access? Presumably not.
> Certainly not. The problem OA is intended to remedy is not loss of author
> revenue, since these authors don't *seek* revenue. The problem OA is
> intended to remedy is loss of author impact, for which the only remedy
> is to make sure that every would-be user can access the research.
> > It seems to me that Cockerill's point is that publishing the results
> > of research is itself a part of the research process, and the
> > publication itself should be viewed as such, openly, with the maximum
> > opportunity for review, analysis, reuse and improvement;
> But that is all abstractness and ideology. The practical problem is
> far more straightforward: 2.5 million articles are published yearly
> in 24,000 peer-reviewed journals. Currently, those articles are only
> accessible to those users whose institutions can afford to subscribe to
> the journals in which they are published. If there were no other would-be
> users than these, there would be no OA problem! But the fact is that most
> institutions cannot afford most journals. Which means most articles are
> inaccessible to N > 0 of their potential users. (No one knows how many,
> but the dramatically and consistently higher impact of self-archived
> articles suggests that the N is substantial.)
> The remedy? Supplement the publisher's official version (accessible to
> all users who can afford it) with the author's self-archived version (for
> all users who cannot afford it).
> Nothing to do with "publishing the results of research is itself a part
> of the research process" (which is merely an empty ideological cliche).
> Not does it have anything to do with "the publication itself [being]
> viewed, openly, with the maximum opportunity for review, analysis,
> reuse and improvement" -- another pious platitude:
> Peer-review reform is not at issue here: *Access* to the peer-reviewed
> literature -- *such as it is* -- is.
> > and Harnad
> > cannot rely on the point that most of a typical article is text, in
> > many cases the most important parts of a publication are not text, but
> > images, data and those other elements of a research report, eg
> > references, that matter to those in the field.
> So what is the point? The images and references all in the self-archived
> supplement too. So are the data (if they are part of the published
> article: in if they are not, they should be self-archived anyway! see
> below).
> > There is a big lesson
> > to be learned from the experience of the human (and other genomes)
> > where the toll access mode of publication was resoundingly and
> > decisively defeated four or five years ago.
> To repeat what I said to Matt: That was data self-archiving. Highly
> commendable, but another matter, and not the one at issue
> here. (Peer-reviewed journal article content is.)
> The analogy with the human genome project (or with open-source software)
> is incorrect and misleading, and it does not get any better with
> repetition!
> > It didnt even get off the
> > ground because it was so clearly going to impede scientific progress
> > if all the databases (and their annotations) were closed or subject to
> > proprietary control.
> Open access to scientific data is a splendid, highly desirable thing --
> but not what is at issue here! (Peer-reviewed journal article content is.)

> > Science is most efficiently pursued when its an open and collaborative
> > process and that is where the OA argument strikes hardest.
> When it is aimed at a concrete, practical target, not an abstract (and
> empty) ideological one.
> Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Mar 10 2005 - 10:54:40 GMT

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