Re: Nature 10 September on Public Archiving

From: Albert Henderson <> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Sat, 19 Sep 1998 08:43:27 -0400

On 17 Sep 1998 Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK> wrote:

 ah> If you wish to claim value for ejournals, you must use
 ah> recognized measures and submit to reasonable comparisons.

sh> And one must use comparable baselines. Right now, all inferences
sh> about e-journals are really just inferences about new-journals
sh> (and initial reactions to new-media). That's why xxx-usage statistics
sh> are much more representative and informative than e-journal citation
sh> data in 1998 about actual practises and preferences. (Having said that,
sh> e-journal citation data are not doing badly either.)

Xxx-usage shows me only unassessable types of activity, hardly
comparable to citation data. E-journal citation data are not
doing well at all, according to the authoritative study
recapped below.

Harter's most recent citation study (JASIS 49:507-516, 1998)
used only journals that started in 1993 or earlier. He noted
that most peer-reviewed electronic journals have been around
for only a decade.

He also noted that in spite of the theoretical arguments forwarded
by you, Andy Odlyzko and Ann Okerson, there is little evidence to
support their effectiveness. In fact he quoted Okerson's worry that
E-Js won't work without "authors" (i.e. important content).

The e-journals most highly cited (and their cites) in 1994 are:

         Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (>1500),
         Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials (36),
         Public Access Computer Systems Review (7),
         Digital Technical Journal 7), and
         Psycholoquy (5).

The first is, of course, produced in both print and online since 1992.
Some volumes of PACSR were printed later. DTJ has a print counterpart.
Because the print editions adulterate the sample, you might wish to
eliminate those 3 titles from consideration.

Harter also provides some additional analyses to put these a related
figures in the context of appropriate disciplines. He also responds
to criticisms like yours, that his earlier studies should have compared
ejournals to startups rather than well-established print journals.

Harter notes reservations about citation and citation impact
studies. Many criticisms have been leveled. Yet, the appearance of a
citation, better the appearance of many citations, is evidence of
significant formal acknowledgements of importance, indicators of

He also noted that OJCCT, PACSR, and Psycholoquy ranked poorly in
total numbers of articles published, compared with other journals
in their respective fields! If EJ can't attract authors and valuable
articles, EJ can not survive.

 ah> Does a 'hit' measure value? Or does it signify a 'browse." These are
 ah> preprints, right?

sh> It signifies USE in the new medium, everything from reading a full
sh> article to checking a reference. But note that I also said citations.
sh> The CITATION rate for papers in xxx is doing very well -- and why
sh> shouldn't it? That's the literature!

I looked at I saw hourly,
daily, weekly, connections and monthly submissions. Where are the
citation rates?

sh> The market and indicator changes too: No use reckoning the advantages
sh> of motor cars in terms of savings on hay. After the shift to
sh> page-charges, the S/SL/PPV "market" vanishes like the Cheshire Cat's
sh> smile.

Yes, the smile was the last part to disappear!:) ! ) )
What do you predict will disappear first?

The trend of associations has been to reduce page charges and,
to offset the loss of page charge revenue, to raise prices to
libraries (see for instance Physics Today July 1986:51-57). Your
theory seems to work in the opposite direction!

sh> This is the late 1990's and we are discussing state-of-the-art projects
sh> and proposals; we mustn't tar it all with the blinkered brush of
sh> ill-conceived misadventures like Red Sage and TULIP.

They are the most adventuresome and courageous in a marketplace
that is impoverished and invisible to science policy. Red Sage
was a great success on campus but ultimately considered not viable.
University of California reported, "After 3 years of significant
hardware and maintenance costs, UCSF has concluded that storage
at their institution is not practical." Elsevier continues with
electronic publication parallel to print in spite of negative
findings from TULIP. Academic Press has followed suit, with its
own array of electronic options.

What do you mean by "ill conceived?"

sh> Like Red Sage and TULIP, the OJCT was a nonstarter for a very simple
sh> reason (indeed the same reason in all three cases): It was predicated on
sh> S/SL/PPV. Hence a lot of money was put into making a paper-like
sh> "product," and then trying to sell it the old way, through S/SL/PPV.

sh> So OJCT is ailing/failing because of S/SL/PPV, not because it is
sh> online. Only tide-over subsidy till culture and practise are ready for
sh> author page-charges will keep OJCT afloat.

sh> It's odd that as an advocate of a medium that is much less accessible
sh> (for both physical and economic reasons) you should be the spokesman
sh> for access for ALL. In any case, the 65K xxx hits daily certainly don't
sh> sound like a resounding "no" to me...

I think that Future Libraries, by Crawford and Gorman (American Library
Association, 1995) puts electronic and paper options in their proper
relationship. They are complementary and not, as you seem to argue so
dogmatically, mutually exclusive.

 ah> [Odlyzko] also suffers from his association with Bell Labs which has been
 ah> promoting the electronic alternative since the late 1960s with no
 ah> success. They have an apparent agenda. ATT, after all, is a major
 ah> provider of related technology.

sh> This is nonsense, I'm afraid, and symptomatic of the kind of desperate
sh> conspiratorial scattershot that is needed to defend an indefensible
sh> paradigm. Odlyzko is a world-renowned mathematician in the old Bell
sh> Labs tradition that couldn't give two figs for selling phones or
sh> services. He moonlights in electronic publishing for the same reason
sh> others of us -- e.g., Paul Ginsparg, Elliott Lieb and myself -- do:
sh> precisely because we do NOT have any financial interests or conflicts,
sh> and hence can fight for what we think is optimal for scholars and
sh> scholarship.

This is not math, it's publishing: the investment of resources in
dissemination. The enthusiasm of the ATT crowd for techno-solutions to
dissemination that are out of touch with reality can be documented
going back more than 30 years. It's not their official policy. It's
their corporate culture and yes, ATT is making money and profits from
this technology.

I have no objection with anyone making profits or even with Mertonian
pursuit of fame. I just think we should recognize these things for what
they are and not kid that self-interest is not at odds with

Your own enthusiasm is well known. I believe that it is cooly
manipulated by the Assn of American Universities crowd that wants to
dump their libraries. Your idea of having authors page-charges replace
publishers and the expense of libraries fits right in to their

 ah> An electronic version of Astrophysical Journal was
 ah> unable to achieve savings suggested by Harnad without dropping
 ah> editorial standards. Costs eliminated by author keyboarding were
 ah> replaced by costs of online editing. The authors also note that the
 ah> strong demand to continue publication in paper form will double many
 ah> make-ready costs of production and distribution.

sh> I would like to hear the facts from the editors/publishers of the
sh> journal in question; this sounds a bit too partisan to me...

Did I not supply the reference? Oh, there it is:

 ah> With all due respect I am more impressed by actual experience in dual
 ah> publishing related by Peter B. Boyce and Heather Dalterio. (1996.
 ah> Electronic publishing of scientific journals. Physics Today.
 ah> 49,1(Jan.):42-47).

You had deleted the cite.

Best wishes,

Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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