Royal Society hypothesis

From: Arthur Sale <>
Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2005 17:47:42 +1100

Although I am an Australian, and eschew any interest in being an FRS or
having anything to do with 'Royal' trappings, this debate needs a succinct
statement about its absurdity, before Isaac Newton arises from Westminster
Abbey (with many others) to haunt us. Let me now be as precise as I would be
with my students.

Free global access to the final drafts of peer-reviewed publications will
result in the demise or decline of the journal/conference systems as we know

(a) examine cases where this access exists and see if the relevant
journals/conferences show signs of financial decline.
(b) institute an experiment in a pair of cognate defined fields where one is
required to use open access, and in a control case, the other field is
absolutely forbidden to use it. Analyze the results after say five years.
(Vary the experimental design if an expert committee approves, use Latin
Squares for different discipline areas, etc.) The experiment must be global
of course given that the Internet (alas, an uncontrolled and unapproved
experiment) made national experiments only of historical interest.

It is not clear that the Royal Society would be happy with either
experiment, though they say they need more evidence. Indeed they have not
advocated experimentation with the system of scientific study. There is no
proposed model. One can almost hear Galileo being told by the Inquisition:
"Yes we know you saw what you call 'moons' circling around Jupiter, but
Jupiter is a long way off and it doesn't prove that the established system
of the Earth being the centre of the universe is wrong. Although anyone on
the earth can see the images, there could be other explanations. We need
more evidence, and until we have it, you have to conform to the established

Paradigm shifts are always painful.

Arthur Sale
University of Tasmania
(almost as far away from the UK as you can get without going into space)
Received on Tue Dec 13 2005 - 13:18:08 GMT

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