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

From: Ransdell, Joseph M. <ransdell_at_DOOR.NET>
Date: Sun, 25 Apr 1999 17:57:50 -0500


Thanks for the response, as it gives me an opportunity to insert an
explanation of something which could help us avoid fruitless argument
about motives and keep the focus here on issues. But first let me raise
a question for purposes of clarification.

You refer to the Proposal as the "Caltech Proposal", and that is of
course correct as regards the affiliation of its authors. However, I
understand the Proposal to be representing more than the thinking at
Caltech, if not officially at least implicitly, since it seems clearly
to be the present result of a cooperative attempt of administrators of
the major research universities in this country, beginning several years
ago, to come to grips with the challenge of networked communication.
This much seems implicit in the references given in the text of the
Proposal itself:

Indeed, if I am not mistaken, it is actually a sort of filled-in version
of the idea that Phelps of Rochester floated a couple of years ago (see
second reference above), which has usually been recognized as reflecting
the thinking of the research university provosts in general and not
identified simply as an idea being kicked around at Caltech. Moreover,
the proposal is put forth by people seemingly in position to speak
confidently of the possibility of forming a Consortium empowered to
regulate scholarly and scientific communication on this grand scale, and
that sort of thing is not within the scope of Caltech's powers. Since
the proposal is grand, and unprecedented in this country, it is
certainly questionable prima facie. Hence if it is to be taken
seriously as a draft of a proposal, it must be on the assumption that
the upper administration of the research universities in general is
somehow represented in or by the document. Otherwise it is just too
wild to be taken seriously AS A DRAFT OF A PROPOSAL. Your own response
to it suggests that you regard it as a proposal undergoing revision
rather than as a mere idea that might be explored for feasibility.
Could you provide some clarification about who its proponents actually
are and to whom it is to be proposed?

Second, you should understand that my concern in my analysis was not
with people at Caltech or anywhere else, as regards their personal
motives, but with what is implicit in the document being analyzed. When
I suggest that there is something amiss in the document because of
inconsistencies of implicit intent, I am talking about what is implicit
in the document, not what is happening in the minds of people at Caltech
or anywhere else. I don't know anybody at Caltech and have no basis for
any such opinion even if it were relevant, which it is not. And when I
suggest, as I do suggest in that message, that the plan put forth is one
that obviously reflects much work and therefore much commitment, and
that it envisages a system of control that might have uses for the
administrator far beyond what we are directly concerned with here, I am
still talking about what one can infer from that document as something
put forth for consideration. To conclude from this, as I do, that its
proponents are likely not to be dissuaded easily because they may well
see in the Consortium the solution to other administrative problems as
well is just a common sense inference that I would expect anyone to see
as reasonable even if mistaken. If one cannot analyze proposals for
practical action for what is implicit in them in this way, one is poorly
positioned to make intelligent decisions about whether to support them
or not.

Thus your characterization of what I said as suggesting a "veiled
attempt to find new chains for the refereed journal literature" is
mistaken, and does not seem plausible to me in any case. I am not
talking about anybody's veiled attempts at anything but about what is
implicit in a document. I wouldn't bother to insist on this if it
weren't that in a previous conversation elsewhere on a closely related
theme another party to our conversation used this sort of thing as the
occasion for some rhetoric that was perilously close to character
defamation, and I don't want this sort of rhetoric to be triggered
inadvertently here. It is completely off the point and dangerous as
well. My criticisms are not concerned with individual motives, about
which I know nothing whatever.

Best regards,
Joseph Ransdell

Joseph Ransdell  <> or <>
Dept of Philosophy   Texas Tech Univ.  Lubbock TX 79409
(806)  742-3158 office    797-2592 home    742-0730 fax
ARISBE:Peirce Telecommunity
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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