Re: What would Einstein had done today?

From: (wrong string) ťdon <>
Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2005 18:25:24 -0400

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Le mardi 27 septembre 2005 à 21:27 +0100, Stevan Harnad a écrit :

> There is nothing wrong with peer review; it is just qualified experts
> evaluating the work of their peers, and peer-review reform has
> absolutely nothing to do with the movement for provding open access
> to the peer-reviewed journal article literature, after (and sometimes
> optionally before) peer review.

Although there is plenty wrong with the peer review process, this is not
the point, as Stevan harnad points out. Furthermore, I fully agree that
we must keep peer review.

Providing other ways to improve quality control is just that - an
attempt to improve quality control - and not an attempt to reform peer
review. Stevan Harnad is right when he says that peer review reform and
OA are totally different issues.

One might add that quality control and peer review are related, but
distinct, issues. Quality control is more fundamental than peer review
because peer review is but one method to obtain some degree of quality

It is my contention that reaching OA can be helped by finding ways to
link it with methods to improve quality control. Linking OA and quality
control provides interesting tactical and strategic perspectives that a
strict adherence to self-archiving simply does not permit. A strict
adherence to self-archiving limits one to three arguments: simplicity of
the self-archiving procedure, improvement of the articles' impact,
necessity of mandating self-archiving to ensure the filling up of
depositories. Ample textual evidence shows that the strict adherence to
self-archiving tends to generate an endless repetition of the same three
arguments by those who support this strict adherence.

While not wrong - in fact, while needed - the three arguments
accompanying strict self-archiving are insufficient.

There is a further point: the OA movement is not to provide open access
only to the "peer-reviewed journal article literature" (see above in
SH's statement); it is, to quote Peter Suber's excellent definition, to
provide "... open access to peer-reviewed research articles and their
preprints". (sous-titre du "Open Access Overview" à

On first reading, the distinction between the two phrasings may appear
very slight ; yet it is crucial. Wisely, Peter Suber speaks of "peer
reviewed research articles" and does not single immediately single out
"peer-reviewed journal article literature" as Stevan Harnad does. A
"peer-reviewed research article" is a more generic and fundamental
entity than "peer-reviewed journal article literature".

In its present state, most of the peer review process is applied to
research articles that aim at being integrated into a scientific
journal. This may be the source of the existing confusion between the
two points of view. However, by simply speaking in terms of
"peer-reviewed research articles", and by avoiding limiting Open Access
to journal articles, Peter Suber provides useful language that is better
adapted to the fluid and changeable landscape of scientific
communication. It is language that does not lock the reader into a
vision of the future acquired through a rear-view mirror (borrowed from

Jean-Claude Guédon
> Stevan Harnad
> On Mon, 26 Sep 2005, Bo-Christer Björk wrote:
> > On the 26th of October 1905 the paper "Zur Electrodynamik bewegter
> > Körper" by an unknown researcher called Albert Einstein was published by
> > Annalen der Physik in Band 17, pp. 891-921
> > (
> > This paper is of course a landmark in the history of science, but it
> > also illustrates the big changes that the scientific publication process
> > has gone through in a century. The paper did not go through an anonymous
> > peer review but was read by the editor (Max Planck) who made a decision
> > to publish it. The process was extremely fast since the manuscript was
> > sent in the 30th of June and published three months later. It would
> > probably have had problems in passing a current day peer review process
> > since it contains no references, breaks with the prevailing paradigms in
> > the field and at the time lacked empirical evidence to back it up. What
> > would Einstein do if he wanted to publish his results today?. He would
> > probably have posted a copy of the manuscript to the open access
> > repository for High Energy Physics ( and hoped that
> > others would pick up the ideas and spread the word via viral marketing.
> >
> >
> > Bo-Christer Björk
> >
Dr. Jean-Claude Guédon
Dept. of Comparative Literature
University of Montreal
PO Box 6128, Downtown Branch
Montreal, QC H3C 3J7
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Received on Wed Sep 28 2005 - 02:22:04 BST

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