Re: Self-archiving in Philosophy: Author-Give-Aways [AGAs] Or Not?

From: Ransdell, Joseph M. <ransdell_at_DOOR.NET>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 12:54:58 -0500

Thanks for the detailed response, Stevan. Let me respond in kind:

> Fundamental difference (or question): Is yours an author-give-away
> [AGA] (no-royalty, no-fee) literature or not? If not, the differences
> far outweigh any similarities.

It is all AGA (author-give-away) literature. There is hardly any other
kind in my area of specialization, and I have not concerned myself with
such as is not of that sort.

> > what I envisaged from the beginning was what we
> > now think of as a website that would provide access not only to the
> > document base mentioned but also to the secondary literature, including
> > as well links to all work relevant to it in other ways (as in citation
> > linking and the like, for example) and providing simultaneous seamless
> > access to communication with other researchers so that documents could
> > be worked with in common in real time.
> Same question: How much of this is firewall-free material, and how much
> is (and in many cases has to be) behind financial firewalls? The story
> is completely different for the two; conflating the two is neither
> workable nor instructive.
> "Liberating" the non-AGA literature by getting it online (for-fee
> [sic]) is certainly a very useful goal, but one that the learned and
> commercial providers are now aware of and pursuing. Accelerating and
> facilitating this (and perhaps putting some sparks under trouser-seats
> through pre-emptive self-archiving where movement is sluggish) is
> eminently worthy, but not the agenda under discussion here either.

That is right. It is not my agenda either.

> This is why SELF-ARCHIVING is key here: Because AGA material can be
> auto-archived by the author, But one can't give away what is not one's
> own! (And persuading others, e.g. copyright-holding publishers, to give
> away what they would rather sell, even if slow off the mark, is a
> rather quixotic mission!).

Not my mission.

JR> included a solution to the problem of copyright as well by including
JR> as a sixth member pro forma a representative from the Harvard
JR> department (an individual who holds the premier chair in philosophy
JR> this country), which owns copyright of the material.
SH> Not exactly a solution to the problem of copyright, and especially
SH> if this is potential royalty/fee material, mais passons...
JR> Defeat was snatched from the
JR> jaws of victory when two of the five members of the team announced
JR> changes had to be made which would, in effect, have converted it
from an
JR> open access project as described above into a scaled down in-house
JR> project that would benefit only the pre-existing paper-based
JR> project which one of them directed.
SH> Could this not, at base, have arisen from the fact that the material
SH> was non-AGA?

It is not non-AGA material. However, you are focusing here on a
different problem of copyright, which concerns primary source material
-- in this case a corpus of some 100,000 pages of manuscript material --
rather than secondary literature. My point in relating this was that I
began with a concern to free up primary resource material under
copyright, as distinct from concern with the journal literature, which
is secondary, and then moved to a concern with the secondary or journal
literature after the original copyright solution fell through for the
primary material. ("Primary literature" and "secondary literature" are
used here in the scholar's sense of that distinction. There are some
parallel factors for the two sorts of cases -- more than one might think
at first -- but I have not been much concerned with the primary
literature problem in recent years and I keep that separate in my
thinking from the problems associated with the secondary or journal
literature. Both are AGA, though.)

> You have unfortunately been very vague about the nature of the material
> in question here. But I would say there is OVERWHELMING evidence both that
> authors will self-archive and that readers will use (heavily) AGA
> material of a very specific kind (pre-refereeing preprints and
> post-refereeing reprints).

My evidence is directly to the contrary as regards the specific kind of
material you have mind, and I should also say that the people in my area
of specialization are diverse as regards disciplines, ranging from poets
to physicists, by no means exclusively people in philosophy in

> So far this has only happened in Physics and Mathematics, but I believe
> the rest of the disciplinary dominoes are ready to fall, starting with
> Cognitive/Computer Science, and, one hopes, soon Biomedical Science and
> then all the rest.

Time will tell, of course, but my experience leads me to the conclusion
that this is not so for most fields because the kind of work required to
do it simply isn't being done except by a few people who -- like me --
typically do not have the time or resources to do it as it should be

> Why the academic cavalry are taking so long to drink from the waters of
> the optimal will be an interesting question for future historians to
> investigate. It is already a historical fact that, thanks to Paul
> Ginsparg, Physicists were indisputably the first to figure it out and
> get to it.

It is an imperative question for the present, if we wish to be
successful. The slowness of change in spite of the obvious benefits is
symptomatic of some problem which is not yet being addressed. I don't
know whether you would regard it as germane to the Forum -- or are aware
of the fact (few seem to be) -- but the computer industry (meaning
chiefly Apple and IBM) decided quite consciously some ten years ago to
reduce their support for academic development and their presence on
campus to mere tokens out of frustration at establishing the kind of
market they knew SHOULD be there but which never seemed to be responsive
to their attempts to support development of it, though they both had
made real efforts to do so for a number of years. I think Steve Jobs'
failure to successfully launch his beautiful Black Box, which originally
targeted academic networking in particular, was the last straw. He
found that he had to abandon that quicly -- within a few months -- and,
shifting strategy rapidly, he tried for the commercial market instead,
but that was already sewn up by the other computer powers and the NEXT
machine just fizzled in spite of its excellence and avang garde
character. It was around that time that Apple and IBM decided to gave up
on academia for the time being, and they have never moved back to it as
a prima target because they still don't understand how to approach it
effectively. Jobs' attempt -- which I believed to be doomed to failure
as far as academe went from the first time I read about it in the
support mag he put out -- is part of what triggered my interest in
getting into network development when I did, since I thought and still
think that I know what the mistake was and still is. But I will go into
this only if you think it worthwhile.

> (Is it insensitivity, or simply recognising a spade as a spade? Why do
> authors provide reprints to those who ask?

Because they are asked.

> Why do they care whether the
> journal they appear in is prestigious, indexed, cited, and has a high
> impact factor? It's not coyness, it's simply the [momentary] failure to
> have put two and two together, as the Physicists did from the outset!
> Self-archiving is not self-advertising, any more -- or less -- than
> publishing itself is.)

I don't think coyness is quite the word for it, though it is close, but
i don't have a single description of it that seems to me quite to
capture it. Basically it is the desire not to seem to need attention,
which would be like a public confession of lack of prestige. People can
be gotten past this, to be sure, but it takes time and patience.

> > When people put something up on my website, I have to do it for them for
> > technical reasons.
> A big mistake, in my opinion.

I have no choice about that at present, but I agree that it is

> CogPrints began with a set of
> distinguished invitees for whom we did all the technical work, but once
> 100 papers were archived that way, the idea was that the rest would be
> in the authors' hands. The self-archiving procedure was designed to be
> as simple as possible -- as easy as emailing or downloading the text to
> someone -- but of course there was still the horse/water factor...

Yes, but you were in position to do this and I am not, and it is not
simply a matter of formal arrangements with the internet provider but of
money for free time and technical development work. My position is
typical because the people who put out the big bucks keep trying to
solve the problem with grand schemes instead of encouraging grass roots
JR> (3) To self-archive, authors require personal motives, not just
JR> principles about the need for a free literature.
SH> No general principles required at all, just the already present
SH> to have one's findings read, cited, built-upon (and rewarded,
SH> promotion, prizes, posterity). In short, the motives for public
SH> self-archiving are PRECISELY the same as the motives for
SH> simpliciter.
SH> (The puzzle is only why this is not patently obvious immediately;
SH> answer is, of course: human (and equine) nature, habits,
SH> inertia -- and a certain amount of conflict of interest, with
SH> interests vested in the status quo, as this Forum has been
SH> But it is clearly just a matter of time before the rest of the
SH> disciplines twig on the optimal and inevitable.)

My point is, though, that one must operate on the practices that channel
and circumscribe people's daily professional lives, not by attempting to
change them directly but by noticing real professional needs that are
not being met and making on-line arrangements of one kind and another
that address those needs and, in doing so, make clear in practice the
arbitrary constraints of the existing practices and the direction to
look for the solution. These constraints do not appear arbitrary to
people whose lives are built around them exclusively, as at present.

> Ahem, let us hope that, in the scheme of things, one's relentless
> attempts to explain, reply, and inform don't play a null causal role
> either...

I'm afraid that sort of activity is closer to the null cause than you
think, Stevan.

JR> Self-archiving will not occur in the way you hope for where
JR> there are no people like Paul who are willing and able to take time
JR> from their primary interest in their field to do the kind of careful
JR> work required, and Paul cannot do it for other fields.
SH> I don't see this at all. The wheel need only be invented once, and
SH> has already done it. Moreover Paul (and myself, and others) are
SH> actively involved in trying to generalize self-archiving to the rest
SH> the disciplines:

The wheel I am talking about has to be reinvented for every discipline
and every area of every discipline and, by and large, can only be done
by people in those disciplines and fields. Building facilities, like
the archive/server system, is only a part of it: I think Paul's own
accounts of this in his various papers and in a recent message here show
that very clearly. The transition from the prior limited-distribution
preprint system to the universal access system had to be nailed down
step by step in ways that made sense to the people in that tradition who
could move from the one to the other "seamlessly", from the user's point
of view. There are perhaps several fields now represented there to
which Paul's achievement in high energy theoretical physics proved to be
extensible. But there are also a number of fields represented there for
which this has not worked out and may never work out. It is hard to say
because the statistics of use do not track each field individually.

> This all seems rather vague to me, and I am much more optimistic. You
> may be overgeneralizing from the disappointing outcome of your own
> specific project (which, as I suggested, seems to have conflated AGA
> and non-AGA factors, probably to its own disadvantage, and certainly to
> the disadvantage of clarity about what is really at issue here).

My experience doesn't involve that conflation, Steven, and my point
seems vague to you, I believe, because you are looking for a general
solution where there must also be situationally specific solutions as
well. Your strategy is certainly an important part of what is needed --
which is why I have spoken so enthusiastically in support of it -- but
there is more to be done than that, or so I claim. To use the jargon
term, infrastructure must be built, but the archival infrastructure is
only a part of it, the rest of the needed infrastructure is in the
concrete traditions of practice in the various disciplines that have to
be constucted and modified by insiders in those fields.

One thing that may account for the difference in our view is that I work
within a tradition which is a complex of subtraditions of which some go
back to antiquity, whereas you have devoted much time to the development
of a new discipline -- cognitive science -- which is emerging from a
number of other traditional disciplines, and in developing its practices
you necessarily have had to abstract from much that is specific to this
field and that to avoid compromising the new field in advance. It seems
to me that we would be likely to differ, at least initially, on some
things in virtue of that difference in our experience. But of course
that doesn't count evidentially for anything.

> I too have related projects that have moved disappointingly so far:
> I founded an online journal of Open Peer Commentary 10 years ago that
> -- if there were any logic to the movements of the academic cavalry --
> should have overtaken the paper journal of Open Peer Commentary I
> founded 20 years ago (because the online medium is so much more
> suitable for Commentary), but it has not, yet.
> I founded a self-archive modelled on LANL that should have
> been well on the road to catching up to LANL, yet it has only
> gone 1/100,000 of the way so far!
> By the same token, my Subversive Proposal seems so far to have fallen
> on deaf ears (discounting the already-converted Physicists).

> And yet I am not a bit pessimistic. On the contrary, I see the recent
> E-biomed, Scholar's Forum, and other initiatives as signs that the
> optimal and inevitable hydration is nearing after all.

I am not pessimistic as regards the long run, but I see such a waste of
opportunity in the snail's pace of the present.

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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