Re: Leading academics back UK Research Councils on self-archiving

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 16:01:34 +0100

On Tue, 23 Aug 2005, Sally Morris (ALPSP) wrote:

> There's a difference between 'refute' (= produce evidence to disprove) and
> 'rebut' (= argue against). Stevan's letter does the latter, not the
> former; there is no evidence whatever that self-archiving will not damage
> journals or those who produce them

(Umm, first, that's Berners-Lee et al's letter, not Stevan's letter...;>)

Second, there is no evidence to refute Creationism either: Just no
evidence *for* it, and all existing evidence *against* it (in both cases).
So one can only rebut, not refute, in both cases.

I suggest that Sally look into the logic of hypothesis-testing and
empirical inference. One does not, in the real empirical world, say
"I conjecture, and you cannot refute": Refutation (disproof) is only
possible in mathematics -- by proving that something is logically
impossible, self-contradictory. For anything else that is not logically
impossible, we seek not refutation but supporting or contrary
evidence. For the proposition "Self-archiving will ruin journals" (or
even that it will reduce subscriptions) there is no supporting evidence
to date, and all evidence to date is to the contrary: that self-archiving
is neither ruining journals nor even reducing their subscriptions.

Sally would do well to look at "Pascal's Wager" (as I have urged her to do

Pascal thought that it was more rational to behave *as-if* the Creed
(that there is an afterlife, with eternal damnation for nonbelievers)
were true, because the costs of behaving as if the Creed were false if
it was in fact true (eternal damnation) were so much greater than the
costs of behaving as if the Creed were true even if it was in fact false
(leading a slightly more constrained but finite life).

What Pascal missed was that the force of this unassailable logic came
from one unquestioned but questionable premise: The (arbitrary) threat of
eternal damnation, merely on the Prophets' say-so. It was the direness
of the purported consequences that made the logic look unassailable. (Any
rival Prophet could have raised the Wager by promising even more dire
consequences [e.g., one's soul splitting into an infinity of sub-souls, all
suffering one another's anguish for an eternity of cardinality Aleph-1,
where each instant lasts an eternity] if one fails to behave according to
*that* Creed, and so on.)

What this shows is that one does not make a point by just positing the
dire consequences that would ensue if one does not take the point.

I, for my part, am not prophecying ruin for research if
researchers fail to self-archive. I am merely demonstrating exactly
what they are actually losing, daily, monthly, yearly, as long as they

Sally should give up the Doomsday business too...

Stevan Harnad

> Sally
> Sally Morris, Chief Executive
> Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
> South House, The Street, Clapham, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3UU, UK
> Tel: +44 (0)1903 871 686
> Fax: +44 (0)1903 871 457
> Email:
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Peter Suber" <>
> To: "SPARC Open Access Forum" <>
> Sent: Monday, August 22, 2005 2:22 PM
> Subject: Leading academics back UK Research Councils on self-archiving
> [Forwarding from the University of Southampton. --Peter.]
> News from the University of Southampton
> Ref: 05/155 22 August 2005
> Leading academics back UK Research Councils on self-archiving
> -------------------------------------------------------------
> Academics from some of the UK's top universities are giving public support
> to the UK Research Councils' (RCUK) proposed self-archiving policy.
> The academics, who include inventor of the World Wide Web, University of
> Southampton Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, have co-signed a document
> refuting claims made by the Association of Learned and Professional Society
> Publishers (ALPSP) that the RCUK policy would have 'disastrous consequences'
> for journals.
> The claims were made in a letter from ALPSP to RCUK in response to the
> RCUK's position statement on Access to Research Outputs issued in June.
> The rebuttal document, which has been signed by representatives from the
> universities of Southampton, Cambridge, Loughborough, Sheffield and
> Strathclyde and will be sent to RCUK by the end of the month, details the
> reasons why ALPSP's claims are unsubstantiated, not least because evidence
> has shown that not only can journals co-exist and thrive alongside author
> self-archiving, they can actually benefit from it.
> Authors, institutions, funders and publishers benefit from the increased
> visibility, use and impact of research articles that are self-archived and
> freely available to all.
> In a covering letter to Professor Ian Diamond, Chair of the RCUK Executive
> Group, the academics state: 'We believe that RCUK should go ahead and
> implement its immediate self-archiving mandate, without further delay. That
> done, RCUK can meet ALPSP and other interested parties to discuss and plan
> how the UK Institutional Repositories can collaborate with journals and
> their publishers in sharing the new-found benefits of maximising UK research
> access and impact.'
> Ends
> Notes to Editors:
> 1. RCUK draft policy proposal:
> ALPSP critique of RCUK proposal:
> Open Letter to Research Councils UK: Rebuttal of ALPSP Critique:
> Journal Publishing and Author Self-Archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence and
> Fruitful Collaboration:
> 2. The University of Southampton is the home of GNU EPrints software,
> the most widely used software for building Institutional Repositories, and
> the JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee) TARDis (Targeting
> Academic Research for Deposit and Disclosure) project, which has been
> investigating the technical, cultural and academic issues which surround
> institutional repositories.
> 3. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research
> institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and
> scholarship. The University has over 20,000 students and over 5000 staff.
> Its annual turnover is in the region of 270 million.
> For further information:
> Professor Stevan Harnad, School of Electronics and Computer Science,
> Tel: 023 8059 2582, email:
> Joyce Lewis, Communications Manager, Electronics and Computer Science,
> University of Southampton, Tel: 023 8059 5453, email:
> ---------------------------------
> Sue Wilson
> Press & PR Officer
> Media Relations
> University of Southampton
> Highfield
> Southampton SO17 1BJ
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Received on Tue Aug 23 2005 - 16:41:27 BST

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