Re: The forgotten importance of editors

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Fri, 6 Aug 1999 14:48:09 -0400

On Fri, 6 Aug 1999 10:52:35 +0100, Stevan Harnad <> wrote:
> [...] Self-archiving does
>not require anyone to embark on any new vessels; it leaves current
>journals intact.

Stevan, this statement, that self-archiving leaves journals intact,
is simply not supported by what you say afterwards:

>(Only a resultant decline in the S/L/P market may
>require some downsizing and refinancing of current vessels.)
> [...]
>There is no new regime. Provosts are not running the show (except for
>paying the library serials S/L/P budgets).
> [...] ALL journals
>whose revenues are predicated on holding this give-away literature
>hostage to S/L/P access tolls are threatened by the optimal/inevitable,

If self-archiving succeeds as Harnad promotes, it is clear that
journals will have to change, and will be expected to.
They, and the editors who represent them, have every right to know
what to expect, and to have a say in how their journals respond.
Many have responded by not accepting papers that have
previously appeared on preprint servers, and/or by holding authors to
egregious copyright agreements that preclude subsequent self-archiving.
How do you get self-archiving started if nobody in a field does it,
and the journals are already online and accessible from most institutions
with researchers who might care?

> [...]
>> And to the extent editors have power, and feel
>> threatened, they will oppose the business
>And they will be answered, point for point. [...]
>But may I also express some doubt that Editors Bloom (Science) and Relman
>(NEJM) (see URLs above) are representative of scientific journal
>editors in general? [...]

I have some experience dealing with major scientific societies in
the U.S. and I can tell you that very few of them are comfortable with
the projected revenue loss they see coming from your predictions.
We who do not agree are definitely in the minority. In the U.S.
it is the physical society, the astronomical society, and with perhaps
some equivocation the mathematics society on one side, and everybody
else pretty much on the other. There are about a dozen physics-related
societies under the umbrella of the American Institute of Physics,
and only two of us (physics and astronomy) have been highly supportive
of author self-archiving. The AIP itself has been generally opposed (it
acts as publisher in a number of cross-disciplinary areas).

The British Medical Journal, which is partly sponsoring its own
author self-archive, is the only bio-medical publisher I have seen
that strongly advocates it.

And I have a hard time believing that Stevan's current arguments will
win more than a handful of converts from the opposition, given their
current entrenched positions.

> [...] Once self-archives prevail among users, as
>LANL did in Physics, official journal overlays will be implemented,
>just as they were with LANL in Physics.

Stevan keeps quoting these, but as I've said before, the numbers
are really not very convincing. LANL has grown at a pretty much linear
rate, handling probably 25,000 new submissions this year, 20,000 last
year, 15,000 the year before, etc. Projecting this linear growth
forward it will take another 10 or so years to capture all articles
published in pure physics (currently something like 1/3 of papers we
receive also appear on the archive), roughly 50 years to capture
both pure and applied physics, and at least 200 years to capture most
of scientific publishing. A lot can happen in 10 years, let alone 200.

And no successful physics journal can acurately be called an overlay
of the LANL archive at this point. I'm not sure what Stevan's talking
about. Our Phys Rev D is pretty close, but I don't think that's what
he and Paul Ginsparg have in mind speaking of overlays.

Anyway, the point is there is absolutely no guarantee that self-archiving
will prevail among authors, and there are good reasons to think existing
journal publishers and their editors will work against it. There are even
some communities who have expressed various unusual motivations in
opposition - see for example the recent debate in the electronic math
journals discussion forum available at:

where recent discussion has revolved around differences between
physicists and mathematicians and even between subfields of
mathematics - not that any of the arguments in opposition hold much
water, but they are there, and they are acting to prevent author
self-archiving from taking hold in that community.

Journals and their editors need to support this, or it will
not happen. The time is past for being subversive.
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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