Re: Scholar's Forum: A New Model For Scholarly Communication

From: Anne Buck (
Date: Sat May 01 1999 - 01:13:24 BST


We would like to point out some features of the Scholar's Forum that
are being overlooked or misinterpreted.

 1. The Forum does not propose establishing one generic
"journal" for all disciplines, or even a number of generic journals
for different disciplines. It is a model for conducting scholarly
discourse, not the name of one server somewhere. Each element of the
Operational View flowchart stands for many such elements in practice,
i.e. many editorial boards, panels of copy-editing technical writers,
groups of referees, technical program committees, authors, and
archives. The flowchart describes the relationships among various
parts of the model. Arrows indicate communication or discussion
channels; dotted lines indicate automated interaction with standards
and protocols.

 2. The preprint server is distinct from the archive. The
Consortium makes a long-term commitment to transfer reviewed works
(final versions) to permanent archives, both paper (for now) and
electronic. It guarantees that as digital technology evolves, all
electronic works will be converted in a timely and high quality

  We are adamant in our belief that "self-archiving" to a
single pre-print server by authors when they submit a work is not
building an archive. Archiving involves a commitment to retain and
maintain a work in a secure, systematic fashion beyond the foreseeable
future. The preprint server offers an author a venue for presenting a
work openly, without restrictions, and obviates the author's need to
maintain a personal server for this purpose. The Consortium will
commit to providing on-going server maintenance and further archival
retention including making conversions to new formats as network
technology advances.

 3. The purpose of the Forum is not to put established
publishers out of business, nor to generate a parallel universe to
what already exists. We agree that scholars do not need duplicative

  The Forum establishes a mechanism by which a society,
group, conference committee, etc. may process and post their collected
works without having to develop an infrastructure of their own. Once
a standards and protocols platform is developed, it will be tested
with people who have no established journals of their own before it is
opened to general use.

  There is no reason the Forum cannot entertain proposals
from established journals to move their electronic collections onto
Forum servers under the following important conditions:

  a.) The Consortium will not support any S/L/P terms
from anyone for access to the materials on the Consortium servers.

  b.) To use a Forum server as its electronic
distribution source, the publisher must freely accept the terms agreed
to by all parties to the Consortium.

  c.) Authors or their institutions retain copyright per
the terms established by the Consortium (see the Model text).

 4. The journal as a finite aggregation of vetted works will
fade away. In its place, the Forum offers a strong set of value-added

* Societies or other groups may create and disseminate coherent,
accessible virtual collections of links selected for their pertinence
to members' interests. Thus, a society may announce the availability
of a work of particular interest to members but that may be outside
their usual focus or discipline.

* In addition, this platform will enable individuals to establish
their own subject profiles to create personal alerting services.

 5. The Forum provides flexibility to authors:

* The Forum supports choice on how widely a work may be made
available prior to acceptance; authors may submit works directly to
editorial boards or to conference planners without first announcing
their work in a preprint server.

* Authors do not have to relinquish their right to submit papers
to established journals; the Forum represents one option for authors.

 6. The Forum does not propose to change the peer review
process. Peer review will continue to be conducted within the
disciplines by referees selected for their expertise by their peers.

* Editorial Boards will continue to be established just as today
by the scientific community, to serve the same critical needs. There
may be an infinite number of such boards, and they may be broadly
based or highly specialized, depending solely on their objectives and
goals. They will continue to exercise exactly the same quality
control function as for today's journals and they may compete in areas
in which the scholarly community feels that competition is beneficial.

 7. Copy-editing is a minor process. As Andrew Odlyzko
recently pointed out, "The manuscripts prepared by authors have been
improving, to the point that copy of diminished value."

* However, editorial boards may demand that any author have a work
copy-edited to meet its quality standards. The Forum proposes that
such copy-editing continues to be performed but that the author
becomes responsible.

* The Forum proposes to eliminate the need for an editorial board
to contract with or become a publisher to accomplish copy-editing, by
establishing lists of approved consultants or services to whom an
author may take a work that needs to be brought up to the board's

* It is the prerogative of the editorial board to insist on
receiving verification of required copy-editing from its approved list
prior to final acceptance of a work.

 8. The new management of copy-editing illustrates a central
advantage of the Forum model: production cost is shifted from the
reader/subscriber to the author/creator. Authors are given meaningful
incentive to improve their writing skills and to submit quality copy
at the outset which would certainly improve the lot of referees and
editorial boards!

 9. While journal publication may take time to displace or
reconfigure, conference proceedings are expensive, limited
publications that are difficult to access but contain many valuable
works. They may provide an ideal arena for initial experimentation.

  Conference organizers will have the opportunity to
distribute abstracts or preliminary works prior to a conference
without incurring the expense of printing and mailing, thus reducing
the costs associated with publicizing a conference.

  The Forum also provides a mechanism for conference
organizers to announce programs and create indexes of submitted works.
Full papers, reviewed or not, may be made available at a later time
with links to the original program and possibly with added commentary
from the conference itself. Refereed papers would be included in the
archive, and could include links to standing editorial boards in
addition to the conference links.

 10. The Forum proposes to develop a dynamic alternative to
deadening email discourse surrounding works in servers. By providing
a hierarchical "threaded" discourse platform, comments may be linked
in a coherent and logical manner. Readers will have access to the
full discussion rather than to edited email commentary.

* All prior comments will be available to each reader, in full, as
submitted, without requiring compilation or intermediation.

* To facilitate this new mode of discussion, the Forum will
develop the mechanisms to support and retain linked commentary.

* The author of a comment on a refereed work may also submit it
directly to an appropriate editorial board for review and possible
inclusion in the archival record.

 11. A well-designed index to the scholarly record assures
that present and future scholars may efficiently identify relevant
work. Since the Forum's input protocols and standards platform will
permit the creation of a body of works that carry consistent
identification parameters, works may be sorted and retrieved by those
parameters. Consistent identification parameters counterbalance the
limitations of hyperlink-only retrieval or free text-only searching.

We submit that the Scholar's Forum, in its alpha-to-omega vision for
advancing scholarly communication, addresses for the first time in one
coherent model the wide range of needs and concerns of the academic
and research community. The Scholar's Forum provides a framework for
experimentation to develop the next paradigm for scholar discourse.

Anne Buck
University Librarian
California Institute of Technology

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