Economist article + Faustian bargain

From: Simon Buckingham Shum <S.Buckingham.Shum_at_OPEN.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 10:06:09 +0100

At 4:44 pm -0400 15/5/00, Albert Henderson wrote:
>on Fri, 12 May 2000 Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGLIT.ECS.SOTON.AC.UK> wrote:
><snip>
> > Researchers are not journalists selling their words, they are scientists
>> and scholars reporting their findings. Their rewards do not come from
>> tolls charged for access to their texts; they come from accessing
>> and making an impact on the minds and the research of other researchers.
>
>Not so. Researchers make an economic exchange valued
>more than cash, for recognition and dissemination
>services that will reach their intended audiences,
>present and future. Publishers bring order out of
>chaos, setting standards for quality and objectivity.

Quality of RESEARCH is managed by the editor and reviewers.
Leaping this hurdle is what gains recognition, not being published by
XXX Press.

Quality of DOCUMENT PRODUCTION and other ADMINISTRATION is what
publishers manage. This is important, but how important compared to
getting the document in a readable form NOW?

>They channel information to the readers who may use it.

There may well be a role for publishers in devising services that
people are willing to pay for, to deliver the right stuff to the
right people. The publisher's role may increasingly be in adding
value to raw digital archives that become free: agents, alerting
services, visualizations, smarter retrieval, ensuring archives... On
the other hand, many of these technologies are already becoming open
source, an accepted part of the evolving scholarly infrastructure.

>Research papers are not ads. Nothing is "given away"
>by either researcher or publisher.

No, I do give away my work. You can download it now.
No publisher ever paid me for my papers.

>Thanks to libraries
>and librarians, scientific discoveries and theories are
>preserved and disseminated for the future, often long
>after the authors and publishers have disappeared.

Yes, the archiving role played by libraries and publishers is one
that most academics are happy to leave to others.

> > The access-blocking tolls are hence working AGAINST these rewards, not
> > for them. (Charging for access to their research makes about as much
> > sense for researchers as charging for access to their ads would make
> > sense to the advertisers of commercial products.)
>
>Not so. Starting with PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS, which
>was founded as a for-profit venture by Henry Oldenburg,

the economics were a little different in his day...

>journal publishing has been a win-win arrangement for over
>300 years. It is widely supported by researchers and
>considered an important source of financial support for
>other activities that might include policy positions and
>accreditation.

But researchers are now setting their sights higher. What used to
count as a "win" now looks increasingly like "lose" - we can do the
publishing and review process without publishers (e.g.
http://www-jime.open.ac.uk), relying on the net and community
networks for publicity and dissemination.

Working within the establishment always has its benefits, whatever
the domain. But we're now in transition as it becomes easier to flow
with the new grain.

> > In the papyrocentric era, such give-away authors had no choice but
> > to make the Faustian bargain (with Gutenberg)
><snip>
>
>Not so. The Faustian bargain was made when academic
>senates gave up control of policy to administrators so
>that faculty could be free to pursue intellectual goals.
>Unfortunately, the quest for knowledge has been undermined
>by the financial priorities and petty ambitions of the
>new bureaucracy.

This may well add a new spin on the Faustian bargain, painting a more
complex picture, but ceding control to others over things like the
proper archiving of paper seems to be a 'second order' bargain that
follows from the primary problem of having no way to disseminate work.

Simon Buckingham Shum
--
  
  Dr Simon Buckingham Shum              Knowledge  Media  Institute
  The Open University                   Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA,  UK
  Mailto:sbs_at_acm.org
  http://kmi.open.ac.uk/sbs/            Tel: +44 (0)1908-655723
  eFax: +44 (0)870-122-8765 (personal)  +44 (0)1908-653169 (office)
  Jnl. Interactive Media in Education:  http://www-jime.open.ac.uk
  
  "What gets measured is not always important,
       and what is important cannot always be measured" A. Einstein
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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