Re: Authors "Victorious" in UnCover Copyright Suit

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 08:27:16 +0100

> On Sat, 12 Aug 2000, Ian Ross wrote:
> To Stevan... the important quality of the vehicle (ie "journal" - or
> website) is that it be accessible. Hence it makes no difference whether
> it be the authors website or that of an online "journal".

I am afraid there is a profound misunderstanding here. Mine is a
SELF-ARCHIVING proposal, not a SELF-PUBLICATION proposal. What the
author self-archives is the refereed journal article,
Quality-Controlled and Certified [QC/C]. Websites do not become
journals, they become free, interoperable ACCESS POINTS to the contents
of all journals.

This is why the proposal is "subversive": Authors have their
(refereed-journal) cake and eat it too (by freeing it through

    Harnad, S. (1995) Universal FTP Archives for Esoteric Science and
    Scholarship: A Subversive Proposal. In: Ann Okerson & James
    O'Donnell (Eds.) Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads; A Subversive
    Proposal for Electronic Publishing. Washington, DC., Association of
    Research Libraries, June 1995.

    Harnad, S. (1999) Free at Last: The Future of Peer-Reviewed
    Journals. D-Lib Magazine 5(12) December 1999

> To Albert it's ...
> [1] a bit like advertising...
> [2] a benchmark [for] quality...
> [3] an access point for the abstracting services...
> [4] a stable archive... a reliable point of access...
> [5] a nicely formatted end product... an official imprimatur...

(1) I've always argued that give-away refereed research reports are
indeed more like self-advertising than anything else (but it
accordingly follows that it makes no more sense that readers should be
charged for access to them than it does to charge for access to any
other ad!).

(2) I've likewise always argued that the QC/C "benchmark" must be
retained (with the true costs of its implementation fairly paid for --
bearing in mind that the referees referee for free).

(3) QC/C service-provision will always be a niche (albeit a scaled-down
one) for the primary journal publishers; I'm not sure what niche will
remain for the secondaries (abstractors, indexers, alerters), once all
full-texts are freely accessible online in interoperable open archives
(, but they are welcome to try to create

(4) There is no stability, reliability, access or preservation problem
whatsoever for Open Archives.

(5) My bet is that the PDF "look" of a peer-reviewed, QC-certified article
will matter less and less, but as long as people are willing to pay
extra for it, so be it -- as long as the free version is available
too (and free)...

The refereed literature, in short, must no longer be held hostage to
optional add-ons. The only part that is not optional, is QC/C, but that
is cheap to implement, and easily paid for out of the much larger
institutional access-cost savings.

> Naturally the truth is somewhere in between...: as long as journal
> names are shorthand benchmarks for tagging the quality of one's work,
> Albert's view also has some force.

But they perform precisely the same tagging function with a freed,
self-archived literature! The QC/C service is simply paid for up-front
(out of a small fraction of the annual institutional
Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View savings).

> Until some other generally acceptable measure of quality becomes
> available, journal names will continue to be important.

No new measures of quality needed, as the journal-name tag will perdure
in the freed archive. But new quality metrics to supplement citation
impact factors will certainly evolve once the corpus is online,
interoperable and citation-interlinked (

> it will take some time for conservative biological scientists to be
> convinced that other mechanisms have the required permanance for them
> to be trusted. Few of them will trust their precious work to an
> "experimental" system except those who (by reason of long publishing
> history and/or impeachable global reputation and recognition) no longer
> NEED the peer recognition.

The subversive proposal does not require giving up anything: Continue
to submit all work to the refereed journal of your choice. But ALSO
self-archive it on-line. The rest will take care of itself. This is not
about switching allegiances from established paper journals to new
online-only journals (that's the BiomedCentral strategy); nor is it
about vanity-press self-publishing on-line instead of refereed
publishing in-journals; it is about publicly self-archiving one's refereed
journal publications on-line: Making one's give-away, certified "ads"
available free for all, as they were always meant to be.

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 providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

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Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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