Re: Self-Archiving vs. Self-Publishing FAQ

From: Bernard Naylor <>
Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2000 18:59:41 +0000

I think Stevan Harnad is seriously underestimating the
importance of "prior discovery", which may be established
by the date attached to the placement of an unrefereed
article on an open electronic repository.

Anyone else coming along later to a journal editor and
inviting referees to consider a draft article saying
substantially the same thing must at least be prepared to
be told: "What you are saying is not new; there is an
article lodged on a publicly accessible electronic
repository some months or years ago which says this." They
may even face an accusation of plagiarism, than which there
is little more serious in the world of academe.

In the race to establish "prior discovery", which is
academically very important in some fields, electronic
article repositories are potentially an extremely important
and relatively new factor, and likely to have great
significance for how the cvs of some academics are built up
and evaluated. And they do therefore raise crucial
questions, for academic careers and on a number of other
counts, about what constitutes "publication", questions
which will need to be settled sooner or later.

Bernard Naylor

Bernard Naylor Email:
University Librarian Tel: 023 8059 2677
University of Southampton Fax: 023 8059 5451
Southampton, SO17 1BJ

On Tue, 1 Feb 2000 14:30:10 +0000 (GMT) Stevan Harnad
<> wrote:

> Bernard Naylor's corrections about the legal definition of publication
> are no doubt correct, but I think they miss the points at issue.
> When academics ask about public archiving vs. publication, what they
> have in mind is not the technical or legal definition of "publication,"
> but something closer to what the word has meant all along for the
> academic, in the "Publish-or-Perish" (PoP)sense.
> It has never been sufficient (in the PoP sense) merely to put vanity
> press publications on one's CV. Promotion/tenure review committees
> weigh publications in the "peer-review" sense of the word: refereed
> journal articles or monographs accepted by distinguished journals or
> publishing houses, known for their quality-control standards, not
> merely texts that have somehow contrived to be publicized.
> So what was at issue in the query to which I was replying (and that was
> why I referred to "preconceptions") was, I believe, PoP publication,
> with CV value.
> There is the further issue of priority for ideas and findings, which is
> semi-independent of this: If I am the first to (correctly) prove
> Fermat's Last Theorem, it matters less to me when or whether it appears
> in a refereed journal than it does that I should get the credit for
> having done it first. For this form of priority, presenting the
> findings orally at a learned conference, or sending multiple dated
> copies to peers would be the critical factor. (But I do so at my risk,
> because my unrefereed proof could also be wrong, and then the only
> priority I have is in making a fool of myself.)
> These are, I think, what academics really have in mind when they
> wonder about the relation between public online self-archiving and
> classical PoP publication.
> Now some quote/commentary on Bernard's corrections:
> On Tue, 1 Feb 2000, Bernard Naylor wrote:
> > > ap> I have some problems understanding your message.
> > > ap> I have to know if this site is an archiving one
> > > ap> or a publishing one via Internet.
> > >
> >sh> There are too many preconceptions in your question. There is not an
> >sh> "either/or" relation between archiving and publishing (and publishing
> >sh> has more than one meaning).
> >sh>
> >sh> (1) Everything that appears on the Internet (or on paper,
> >sh> for that matter, even once), counts legally as "publication."
> >
> > This is not true in the domain of paper. If I write to one
> > individual claiming that the earth is flat, that is not a publication.
> Correct, but also not at issue here, as it would not have been listed
> in an academic's CV as a publication either.
> > If I write a short paper purporting to prove that the earth is flat and
> > circulate it to a number of my friends on a restricted basis, that is
> > not a publication. In both of those instances, I do create a document
> > in which there is copyright but I do not create a publication.
> Again correct, but again not at issue. See point about Fermat and
> priority. (I believe, by the way, that one has copyright, hence
> intellectual ownership, even if one sets one's text to paper once --
> but I'm not sure, and nothing at all depends on whether that is or is
> not the case.)
> > If I write such a paper and circulate it to my friends and make it
> > clear that it can be circulated as widely as anyone may desire, then I
> > have probably published it. At least, I suspect the courts might think
> > so.
> But as far as its PoP CV value is concerned, this case is no better
> than the preceding one, in which priority and intellectual ownership
> have been asserted by making one's words public, but nothing more.
> > On the Internet, however, the distinction between "conversation" (in
> > which I assert something to a chosen, limited number of other parties)
> > and "publication" (in which I volunteer my assertion for scrutiny by
> > the whole world) is much more difficult to define and I think the
> > courts might have a field day. Perhaps they already have.
> I think unrefereed papers and discussion on the Internet fall in
> exactly the same category as the above: Good for establishing priority
> and intellectual ownership, for publicizing and eliciting feedback, but
> no PoP CV value eo ipso (except if the ideas and findings themselves
> prove to be new, correct and important, which is of course a greater
> value than mere PoP value).
> > sh> But that, I
> > sh> assume, is NOT what you mean by publication here. You mean:
> > sh>
> > sh> (2) Journal publication (or what used to be meant by journal
> > sh> publication: acceptance by and appearance in a refereed journal).
> >
> > The question of whether something has been refereed or not has nothing
> > to do with whether it is published. If I publish (that is, offer to the
> > public at large) an unrefereed pamphlet on 1 January, setting out a
> > proof that the earth is flat, and someone publishes a refereed article
> > in a scholarly journal six months later setting out the same proof, I
> > would have strong grounds (at the least) to claim "prior discovery".
> Again, you are conflating (i) publicizing, (ii) priority and (iii) PoP
> value (publication): Ideas and findings that prove to be new, correct
> and important have an intrinsic academic value that transcends PoP
> value, a fortiori. For these, whether or not they appear in refereed
> journals is superfluous (they could just as well be announced on TV).
> But most of what scholars and scientists do does not pass this high
> threshold. Hence it is only peer review that takes the measure of its
> value. Without that quality-control certification, they are simply
> self-publicizing; caveat emptor.
> Harnad, S. (1998) The invisible hand of peer review. Nature [online]
> (5 Nov. 1998)
> <
> > Hence I think the jury has to be "still out" on the status of an
> > article lying in an electronic repository and therefore available to
> > the whole world - but not refereed. Suppose somebody writes a highly
> > controversial article (for example, proving that the earth is flat) and
> > finds that no refereed journal will publish it, I think that if such an
> > article is lodged in an electronic repository on a recorded date, a
> > case for "prior discovery" would quite likely stand up because I think
> > that reasonable people might conclude that, refereed or not, the proof
> > has been published. I therefore think that the relationship between the
> > unrefereed article in the electronic repository and the identical
> > article, subsequently refereed, in a paper or electronic journal is
> > quite ambiguous and still needs definition. My guess is that, whatever
> > we might wish to assert, the first occasion on which the article is
> > offered on unrestricted circulation to the world at large will be
> > deemed to be the moment of publication. I doubt very much whether the
> > question of whether it has been refereed or not at some stage will be
> > found particularly significant in the determination of the matter.
> I do not believe that academics who are wondering about the status of
> a paper they self-archive online in an Open Archive like CogPrints are
> concerned about questions like these. They want to know whether it
> counts for their CVs, as journal publication does. And the answer is:
> No (unless what they are self-archiving IS a refereed journal article).
> If the self-archived paper is brilliant and original, despite being
> unrefereed, that may get the recognition and reward it deserves (if it
> is not competing with too much unrefereed sludge to be detected)
> without the help of refereed publication, but I would not recommend
> taking that as the paradigmatic case.
> So the summary is: refereed publication is still refereed publication,
> and vanity publication is still vanity publication. Just as both forms
> existed on paper, they will continue to exist online -- and the
> distinction will continue to be noted and made. Caveat Emptor.
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
> Stevan Harnad
> Professor of Cognitive Science
> Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
> Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
> University of Southampton
> Highfield, Southampton
> NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of "Freeing the
> Refereed Journal Literature Through Online Self-Archiving" is available
> at the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99):
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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