Re: local/distributed vs global/unified archives

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2008 00:34:33 +0000

On Wed, 12 Mar 2008, Sandy Thatcher wrote:

> Presumably, universities that set up their own IRs think they are going to
> gain some kind of additional prestige or score additional credit with the
> public by posting their faculty's work as soon as it is written, or at
> least
> as soon as it is peer reviewed. But consider what it is that is actually
> being posted: work that has not been copyedited.

The purpose of OA self-archiving is not to showcase non-copy-edited work;
it is to make peer-reviewed research accessible to all of its potential
users, webwide, instead of just to those whose institutions can afford to
subscribe to the journal in which it was published, as in the paper era.

Ask the countless researchers who cannot access articles they seek
whether they would rather have a peer-reviewed but un-copy-edited copy
or no copy at all.

And ask authors whether they would rather deny their access-denied
potential users online access to their peer-reviewed research (and lose
their usage and impact), as in the paper era, in order to protect them
from having to use an un-copy-edited copy.

The answers to these questions are quite transparent to anyone who
does not have a vested interest in something other than research usage
and progress. I regret to say that although peer-reviewed journal
publishing has a long tradition of performing an essential service to
research in the paper era, it appears to have entirely lost its bearings
in the online era, getting research and researchers' priorities so
topsy-turvy as to sound almost absurd. Profoundly out of touch with
reality is perhaps a more charitable and accurate a descriptor.

Sandy's specialty, however, is books, not give-away research articles,
and there all OA bets are off for the time being.

Stevan Harnad

PS Journal article copy-editing is not worth paying for
twice. Universities will pay for it directly only if and when they
are no longer paying for it through journal subscriptions that already
cover its costs many times over (i.e., if and when journals downsize
to becoming just online peer-review [+ copy-editing] service-providers,
on the Gold OA cost-recovery model).

> No one seems to place much importance on copyediting these days, but in my
> experience as a copyeditor early in my publishing career and as witness to
> plenty of poor writing as an acquiring editor over a nearly forty-year
> period, I am baffled by the eagerness of universities, like Harvard most
> recently, to show off such poor writing.
> Let me refer this list to an article titled "Sinners Well Edited" in the
> latest issue of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, vol. 39, no. 2
> (January
> 2008), pp. 168-173. The author, Adam A.J. Deville, is an academic himself,
> but has spent much of his career editing "monograph, anthologies of
> articles,
> and thousands of pages of articles" for a journal in the humanities. Here
> is
> his verdict based on this experience: "Too much academic prose
> is...barbaric."
> He elaborates: "Senior academics, long tenured at major universities,
> regularly submit papers that I would never have dared to submit in an
> undergraduate course, much less a graduate course, and still less to a
> juried
> journal of my peers. Too many papers--including, most egregiously those
> from
> authors educated or teaching at Oxbridge or Ivy League schools--are
> rambling,
> repetitive, insufficiently researched, and badly argued. They ignore basic
> stylistic guidelines with an impunity that can only be regarded as
> arrogant.
> Basic punctuation can be used or withheld at will and whim. Footnotes can
> be
> subject to gross abuses--left insouciantly incomplete, used ostentatiously
> to
> demonstrate how much reading one has done on irrelevant topics, rendered
> according to no known style sheet (or a mishmash of several), or
> containing
> sources conjured out of thin air. Vast swaths of blatantly relevant
> literature...are regularly overlooked. Precious jargon and abstruse theory
> are preferred to clear and straightforward exposition....Sentences of
> Germanic length give rise to conglomerate paragraphs spasmodically
> swallowing
> several topics and running breathlessly on for two or more entire pages.
> Extraneous tangents destroy any sense of a paper's direction. Scholarly
> passion can be abruptly set aside for vengeful bouts of puerile point
> scoring
> and polemics, then just as abruptly resumed again."
> I can vouch for the accuracy of this description from my own copyediting
> experience, which included massively correcting the footnotes of at least
> one
> Harvard senior scholar. I can also testify that a Pulitzer Prize was won
> by
> one book through the heroic efforts of another copyeditor on the staff,
> who
> did so much as to deserve credit as co-author.
> So, why does a Harvard, or any university for that matter, want to expose
> such poor prose to the world at large, including the public? Among the
> latter
> might be, for example, state legislators asked to provide funding for the
> university, potential donors to capital campaigns, and high school seniors
> thinking about where to apply to college. Surely, revealing this dirty
> laundry is not going to help raise the university's esteem in anyone's
> eyes.
> Is the imperative to spread knowledge quickly so overwhelming, especially
> in
> the humanities, as to outweigh the potential damage--nay, even
> ridicule--that
> such exposure could bring? I could see Congress awarding a new "Golden
> Fleece" prize to the worst of such writing posted in IRs, and it would be
> subject to endless jibes from our late night show hosts and other
> satirists
> like Jon Stewart.
> To avoid this consequence, universities like Harvard will need to consider
> investing substantial money to have the work of its faculty edited before
> posting. Are they prepared to step up to the plate in that way? Have they
> even thought about this? I doubt it.
> Sandy Thatcher
> Penn Stte University Press
> > Atanu Garai poses an interesting question. Essentially, I
> > believe he is asking why the industry is pursuing institutional
> > repositories when subject-matter repositories and consortial
> > repositories may have greater upside. Discipline-based
> > approaches should resonate with the researchers, as their first
> > loyalty is to the field. Consortial-approaches should resonate
> > with the sponsoring bodies, as they distribute costs.
> >
> > Why, then, have institutional repositories initiatives have
> > gotten the lion's share of attention/money/effort/publicity?
> >
> > Primarily because they are far easier to get up and running.
> > Repository advocates within a single school should have a good
> > sense of their institution's idiosyncratic bureaucracy and
> > decision-making structure. They are also likely to have a basic
> > understanding of how to secure the resources (funds, staffing,
> > hardware, etc.) to get an IR launched. Extrapolating that
> > knowledge beyond the school's boundaries is a challenge. Who
> > does what work to support a discipline-based repository? How are
> > expenses fairly distributed among the partners of a consortial
> > approach? In either instance, how is the free-rider problem
> > minimized?
> >
> > This is but a quick observation on the subject. There are
> > obvious examples of both subject-matter (obligatory arXiv
> > reference here) and consortial (CDL) successes. The bottom line,
> > however, is that launching an IR is a more straightforward and
> > capturable task for most institutions.
> >
> > --
> > Greg Tananbaum
> > Consulting Services at the Intersection of Technology, Content, &
> > Academia
> > (510) 295-7504
> >
> >
Received on Thu Mar 13 2008 - 00:58:26 GMT

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