Re: Publishing Reform, University Self-Publishing and Open Access

From: Alma Swan <a.swan_at_TALK21.COM>
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2006 05:59:58 -0000

Jean-Claude Guedon wrote:
> I have the feeling we are turning in circles, but let me try
> one last time.

And you can't expect a woman not to try to have a last word too,
Jean-Claude. As 'tis almost Burns' Night, what could be more apposite than a
few lines from the immortal Tam O'Shanter:
"Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthen'd, sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises!"

> If scientists, by distinguishing between publishing and
> self-archiving, keep on complaining they have to publish in
> journals, it shows that they believe that only journal
> publishing is worth doing while self-archiving appears
> useless, superfluous, strange, whatever else, to their eyes.

No, this isn't what I am saying. First, I haven't heard anyone (yet)
*complain* that they have to publish in journals and books. That is what
they do, what they expect to continue to do, and what they are explicitly
rewarded for doing. Second, I think all the descriptors you use about
self-archiving above (superfluous, strange, etc) *do* apply in some authors'
minds, especially when they first hear of the process. They don't
immediately understand it or its benefits. To use the terminology
'publishing' for it, at that point in their consciousness-raising process,
is downright damaging. They assume it is being promoted as an alternative to
publishing their work in journals or books, an alternative that of course
they reject.

> Stevan Harnad, and apparently Alma Swan too, do not seem to
> realize that, by disconnecting self-archiving from
> publishing, they are making self-archiving less attractive,
> not more attractive. If you do disconnect self-archiving from
> publishing, how do you help your 97% of authors reconcile the
> "need" to self-archive with their perceived need to publish?
> For them, the only need, the only objective is to "publish".

I appreciate that your case is about getting authors to connect their
conventional publishing activity (in journals and books) with their
supplementary dissemination activity (self-archiving) and I am not arguing
with that for one moment. My argument is with the use of terminology that
confuses them. If you carry your use of the word 'publish' to its natural
conclusion, you can say that all forms of dissemination are publishing and
all forms are equal. That is patently not true and will never be true so
long as the scholarly community requires quality-control to be part of the
formal system of communication and so long as there is a reward system that
acknowledges journal and book output above all else (and why not, since this
is where the quality-control resides).

> If one begins by stating that self-archiving is not really
> publishing, it is not surprising that scientists should
> wonder why self-archiving is worthwhile if it is not
> publishing. And the plot must thicken in their heads if they
> are told that self-archiving is nevertheless supposed to
> generate good, publishing-style, effects on their
> publications (for example, improved impact , etc). It walks
> like a duck, it quacks like a duck but we should nonetheless
> argue that it is not a duck? Hmmmmm No perversity here?
> hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Hmmmmm. Your analogy is fun (why didn't you choose a peacock, though?) so
let me develop it a bit further. There is perversity here indeed, because
although self-archiving quacks (in the form of delivering citations) and may
even look from the outside just like a duck (i.e. a method of disseminating
one's work), it doesn't have the feature that distinguishes the Anatidae
from the waders, webbed feet (peer review). Without webbed feet, a bird
cannot successfully occupy the habitat of a duck, however much it may look
like one. Self-archiving is not a substitute for peer-reviewed publishing,
it is an adjunct - one with all the beneficial attributes that you
eloquently describe below - and the best way to get that over to authors is
to refrain from applying the word 'publish' to both activities.

> If, on the other hand, a scientist or a scholar sees that the
> traditional form of publishing (in a peer-reviewed journal)
> can be enhanced by secondary forms of publishing such as
> self-archiving, that all these parallel forms of publishing
> contribute to impact, etc., that scientist or scholar will
> begin to understand better what is in his self-interest.

A wonderful paragraph that can only be improved by using the terms
'secondary form of dissemination' and 'parallel forms of dissemination'.
(The term 'secondary publishing' is already bagged by the A&I sector).

> Far from fielding a "perverse" definition of publishing,
> treating self-archiving as a form of publishing provides a
> coherent vision that, IMHO, will be clearer, simpler, and
> ultimately more convincing than the Harnadian rhetoric.

What you see as rhetoric - Harnadian or cygnine - is actually an ongoing
struggle to promote the use of consistent, clear, helpful terminology that
doesn't spread confusion - and thus doubt - about open access.

Alma Swan
Key Perspectives Ltd
Truro, UK
Received on Fri Jan 20 2006 - 11:09:35 GMT

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