Re: Withdrawal from Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2008 14:09:18 -0400

> Arthur Smith:
> Surely the most common case is that the article contained or was based
> on a mistake that the authors now find embarrassing. Such things often
> are revealed in peer review, so if these proceedings were subject to
> only skimpy or no review there could easily be such problems. Do these
> OA proceedings have any mechanism for authors to add corrections to
> their articles after they have been posted?

It seems to me that there are (at least) 4 kinds of cases at issue:

(1) Arthur Sale's original posting referred first to conference
proceedings. Presumably this means a conference at which the paper was
actually presented. (That can certainly not be withdrawn or denied
after the fact.) Usually the paper conference proceedings are
distributed at the conference. (That too cannot be withdrawn after the
fact.) Sometimes the conference proceedings are also distributed to
institutional libraries. (The conference certainly cannot do a second
print-run, omitting the conference paper. So that too is a fait
accompli, for those who wish to retract after the fact.) The online
proceedings website is another story. Unless the author has assigned
rights to the publisher, he can ask the online version to be
withdrawn, if he wishes -- though linking a corrected version. or even
a retraction might be better for archival and scholarly purposes, as
Arthur Smith suggests. If the original version contains an egregious
error that risks leading people astray, it could still be retained in
the archive, but so as to make only its bibliographic data accessible,
setting its full-text as Closed Access.

So much for the case of oral, print and online conference papers: The
historic, archival fact that the paper existed and was presented
cannot be undone; a retraction can be published; and the online
version can perhaps be made inaccessible if necessary. But that's it.

I presume, however, that the reason Arthur Sale posted his original
query to an OA Forum is that he was interested specifically in the
OA/IR aspects. For this there are three more cases to consider:

(2) Inasmuch as a printed conference proceedings is archival,
self-archiving an OA version (postprint) in the author's IR works
much the same way as with journal articles: The self-archived OA
postprint is merely a supplement, for access purposes. Retraction
pertains to the original, and if that has already been distributed
archivally, its existence can no longer be suppressed. The author can
self-archive a corrected OA version, and can even make the original
postprint in the IR Closed Access, if necessary.

(3) Exactly the same is true of journal articles (whether published in
OA journals or in non-OA journals): The article is archival, and a
historic fact. If retracted because of errors, unless the errors are
likely to cause serious problems should the retraction fail to be
noticed, it is best to leave the postprint accessible, though
prominently tagged as retracted, or, better, deposit a corrected
version too (specifying the changes). For uncorrectable errors that
risk serious scholarly or scientific errors, the OA postprint in the
IR can again be made Closed Access, with an accompanying explanation
along with the metadata.

(4) The only other case is unpublished work, whose only distribution
is via OA self-archiving of the unpublished draft in the author's IR.
Here it seems reasonable for the author to withdraw it if it contains
egregious errors, though again better for scholarship if it is left
accessible, but prominently tagged as erroneous -- linking, if
possible, to a corrected version. Again, for archival and scholarly
purposes (as the draft may already have been used and cited) the best
strategy is to leave the text OA, but clearly tagged as erroneous, or
to make it Closed Access, rather than withdrawing all scholarly

I would say that IRs should strongly discourage withdrawal of
published papers (whether conference or journal) for frivolous

Stevan Harnad

> > Arthur Sale:

> > I have recently come across two cases of an author asking for
> > their paper to be withdrawn from the proceedings (online, OA) of a
> > conference.
> >
> > I am pursing these cases as I can to find out why. I assume that
> > the conferences did not have an appropriate license agreement
> > allowing them to make the paper OA, though few authors would pay
> > much attention to that anyway.
> >
> > There are a variety of possible reasons; perhaps reader of this
> > list can suggest others:
> >
> > 1. The authors want to publish their paper in a journal as
> > well to get double counted value in their cv from their research.
> >
> > 2. Conferences don't count for anything in their field, but
> > journal articles do.
> >
> > 3. As above in 1 and 2, and the authors have been scared by
> > publisher's words about 'prior publication' invalidating submission.
> >
> > 4. The work is plagiarized, fraudulent, or is a case of
> > multiple papers spread over one research nugget, and the authors
> > do not want to be found out.
> >
> > 5. The authors do not believe the Internet is suitable for
> > scientific publication and discovery.
> >
> > 6. The authors are in their 60s or 70s and set in their ways
> > (not Internet-savvy).
> >
> > It is worthwhile trying to understand these counter-intuitive
> > actions. There may be lessons to be learnt.
Received on Tue Oct 28 2008 - 18:10:35 GMT

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