Re: The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 6 Jul 1999 18:14:08 +0100

On Tue, 6 Jul 1999, J.W.T.Smith wrote:

 sh> Does the author (1) seek/get any revenue for his text (royalties,
 sh> fees) or does he instead (2) give it away, seeking only the
 sh> eyes/minds of readers?
 sh> If (1), it is trade, if (2) it is not.
> There are problems with this algorith.
> Applying it precisely would make review articles (for which the author
> received a small honorarium), some editorials and all commissioned
> surveys/reports (copies of which may be given away on request) 'trade' -

For 99% of the refereed literature this algorithm applies perfectly
well. The case of trivial honoraria was covered in the discussion of
the hybrid journals like Nature (below). The case of editorials is
trivial. Uncontested give-aways are irrelevant.

The point of raising these inconsequential details is not at all clear.

> while novels or poems published freely on the net would be 'non-trade'. I
> have nothing against novelists or poets but I don't think we mean to
> include their work with scholarly articles.

No one is including them amongst refereed journals. If other work also
fits the nontrade descriptor, so be it. (I suspect that poets/novelists
hope to be in the give-away phase only temporarily, to introduce their
work, but eventually to be paid for it; refereed journal authors are in
this give-away phase for life. Again, it is not clear why these
irrelevant details are being raised here.)

> Also the two categories are not absolutely mutually exclusive. For example
> an author of a commissioned review article might happily take the
> honorarium but his main impetus for undertaking the work involved might be
> the chance to reach a large number of readers.

The case was covered in the discussion of Nature; where the fee is a
token, and what the author wants is minds/eyes, so be it; abjure the
fee in favour of the give-away mode. Again, what is the point of
bringing up these trivial details? Nothing of substance depends on

  fr> points out that many scholarly journals have a far wider readership than
  fr> is necessarily indicated by their citation patterns.
 sh> Citation patterns are irrelevant to the trade/nontrade distinction. So
 sh> is the size of the readership, according to the new, more precise
 sh> algorithm above.
> The algorith may be precise but it is flawed (as pointed out above). It
> attempts to refute Fytton's argument by defining it out of existence - but
> the world isn't that simple.

Nothing is being defined out of existence. Please focus on the
substantive matter, which is the give-away literature where the author
wants only eyes/minds. The rest of the details are irrelevant.

 sh> The only open question... is: "Which are the
 sh> 'really esoteric journals' that fall into this category?". The answer
 sh> will be loud and clear: The ENTIRE REFEREED JOURNAL LITERATURE, which
 sh> the author gives away to his publisher for free, seeking only the
 sh> eyes/minds of readers in return.
  fr> At the other end of the scale, Nature, for example, is a very successful
  fr> commercial enterprise, and there is no way it will cease to be
  fr> "reader-pays" - but in any case, high circulations attract advertising
  fr> revenue and generally help to keep cover prices down.
 sh> Nature is hybrid. It has articles written by journalists for a fee, it
 sh> has some borderline cases in which scientists are paid a very modest
 sh> fee to provide commissioned articles, and it has the submitted, refereed
 sh> reports of new research. The solution is simple: The trade portions can
 sh> proceed apace, and the journal itself can continue to be sold via
 sh> S/L/P for as long as there is a market. But the REFEREED articles can
 sh> also be self-archived by authors for free for all.
> This solution actually circumvents the 'Rowland anomaly' (that *real*
> academic journals do not fall neatly into trade/non-trade categories) by
> moving from the journal to the article as the publishing unit and dividing
> these between 'trade' and 'non-trade'. It should be noted that this is
> done at the cost of weakening the concept of the 'journal' as a composite
> whole (i.e. that a journal is made up of parts, and that those parts
> *belong* together).

Perhaps. So what? The point is that the give-away refereed literature
need not and hence should not be held hostage to trade any longer.

> However the problem could be avoided altogether if a publishing model was
> adopted that separated the evaluation/quality control role from the
> publishing/archiving role (making available) from the distribution role
> (making aware). Strangely enough :-) this is the core of my Distributed
> Journal model

You have repeated this point a number of times and it would now be
useful to move on to matters of substance. The reply has in each
instance been that self-archiving is self-archiving; peer review is
peer review; there's the separation of function and that's all there is
to it.

Your own "model" introduces spurious (1) add-on quality markers (which
have to be paid for separately by the consumer) and (2) multiple
"journals" for the same article (a profligate use of a scarce resource:
peer reviewers). It does not clarify the trade/nontrade distinction.

The issue under discussion here is freeing the peer-reviewed journal
literature, such as it is, not untested reforms of peer review or
untested add-ons for purchase.

> The more one considers it the more this whole area looks like a paradigm
> shift in action. According to Kuhn paradigm shifts start when it becomes
> impossible to accept the anomalies in the current paradigm (or model). The
> unacceptable annomaly in the current academic publishing paradigm is that
> authors give their work away free and want to maximise access but their
> publishers charge high prices and want to restrict access. Rather than
> abandon a current paradigm completely the usual move is to tinker with it
> in an attempt to release the tension caused by the anomaly (in this case
> we are retaining the concept of the journal as set of articles whilst
> making these articles freely available separately from the journal, and at
> the same time trying to change the funding model for journals). However,
> if a real paradigm change is required all the tinkering does is to expose
> other anomalies. The 'Rowland anomaly' may be one such consequential
> anomaly. J. W. T. Smith

Let's not worry about paradigm shifts -- or even about changing funding
models. Let's just make sure all authors publicly self-archive all
their journal articles. The rest will take care of itself.

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 2380 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 2380 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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