Re: Questions concerning Cogprints

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 5 Nov 2009 22:56:12 -0500

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  ** apologies for cross-posting **
On 5-Nov-09, at 4:00 AM, [Identity deleted] wrote:

      We [deleted] are informing researchers from the social
      sciences and humanities in [deleted] about repositories
      in their domain.

I am happy to answer your questions about central disicplinary
repositories in general and, in particular, about
CogPrints, which I founded in 1997 as a
conscious effort to extend to other disciplines the long-standing
practice of physicists to self-archive their papers -- both before
and after refereeing -- in what used to be called "XXX" and then
became the Los Alamos (now Cornell) Physics Arxiv.

The idea of CogPrints was to show that making one's papers freely
accessible online was not just feasible and useful in physics, but in
all disciplines. The idea was also (vaguely) that it could all be
deposited in one global archive -- Arxiv, perhaps, eventually, but
that first CogPrints needed to demonstrate the feasibility and
usefulness of self-archiving in other disciplines, as evidence that
the practice could be generalized and could scale.

But there was always some uncertainty about whether the
self-archiving should be central or local (institutional). The
original self-archiving proposal (1994) had been for local
self-archiving:  Somehow, however
-- perhaps because of the prominent success of Arxiv, which had
launched in 1991, but preceded by similar practices by high energy
physicists in the sharing and distribution of preprints in hard copy
form, at central deposit sites such as CERN and SLAC -- the local
self-archiving proposal mutated, temporarily, into central
self-archiving, and that was when CogPrints was created.

Since then, however, the OAI metadata harvesting protocol (itself first inspired by Arxiv) was
created (1999), making all OAI-compliant repositories interoperable,
and the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2001) was launched, CogPrints was made
OAI-compliant, and then used to create the first generic
OAI-compliant, Open Access (OA) Institutional Repository (IR)
software (EPrints), and the
international OA IR movement began, and is now culminating in
institutional mandates to self-archive in institutions' own

So the tide has turned, functionally, to institutional rather than
central self-archiving, with the OAI protocol making it possible to
harvest the metadata data (or both the metadata and the full-texts)
from all the distributed IRs into many discipline-based or geographic
central repositories.

This development was natural, and indeed optimal, because
institutions (not disciplines) are the universal providers of all of
OA's target content (refereed research), across all disciplines and
nations, hence distributed local deposit and central harvesting is
the most natural and universal way to ensure (and mandate) that all
of OA's target content is systematically provided. That had been the
gist of the original 1994 self-archiving proposal.

The notion of central deposit was made obsolete by the OAI harvesting
protocol. (The idea is the same as with Google: we don't deposit
centrally in Google; we deposit content locally, and Google harvests.
With research, there are disciplines and countries and funders, and
if any or many of them want their own entral collection, they need
merely harvest it. No need to have researchers depositing willy-nilly
here and there. Depositing once, in their own institution's IR is
enough, and the rest is just a matter of automated import/export
and/or harvesting. Moreover, IRs cost far less to create and maintain
than central repositories, because they distribute the cost and the

So CogPrints, and other direct-deposit central repositories are
obsolescent, with good reason. It is institutional self-archiving
mandates that will put an end to the direct-deposit central
repository era -- but harvested central collections may still
continue to flourish, until generic global harvesters manage to
provide the same functionality or better, across disciplines and
nations -- and institutions have a special interest in hosting and
managing their own output.) 

      We have 2 questions considering cogprints:

      ? Are peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed documents
      available on cogprints?

Yes, both unrefereed preprints and refereed postprints can be
deposited in CogPrints -- and in IRs. But only refereed postprint
deposit can be mandated by institutions (and funders). Whether
researchers choose to make their unrefereed drafts public (as the
physicists have found useful to do) must be left up to the individual

      If yes, do you control if documents from authors who say
      they are peer-reviewed are really peer-reviewed? Is there
      such a control at Cogprints?

CogPrints certainly does not fact-check whether papers deposited as
having been published in a (named) refereed journal were indeed
published in that refereed journal. 

Institutions may choose to fact-check that for deposits in their own
IRs (but I doubt it's necessary: publicly claiming to have published
in a journal when anyone on the web can check and confirm that it is
untrue would be a very foolish thing for an academic to do -- and the
deception would not last long).

      ? Is it free for authors to upload their documents on
      Cogprints or do they have to pay something?

Of course it is free -- both to the uploading author and to the
downloading user. 

But it is not cost-free to maintain a central repository. (And
maintaining Arxiv costs a lot of money; it doesn't cost much to
maintain CogPrints simply because CogPrints -- and central
self-archiving in general, apart from Arxiv, is either a failure or
just a very minor and temporary success. The natural and optimal way
to self-archive is institutionally, with central repositories being
just harvested collections, not multiple off-site loci of remote
deposit, competing for or overloading the poor depositing author's
keystrokes, and discouraging institutional self-archiving

I hope this helps. It's a good idea to consider setting up central
collections, but better to encourage local institutional deposit, and
to harvest therefrom, rather than trying to get authors -- who mostly
(85%) don't self-archive at all --  to deposit directly in yet
another central repository.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Nov 06 2009 - 04:22:37 GMT

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