Re: Zeno's Paradox and the Road to the Optimal/Inevitable

From: ransdell, joseph m. <ransdell_at_DOOR.NET>
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 2000 21:29:01 -0700

In response to my description of your plan:

> > Your plan for achieving your goal ["to free the refereed literature online"]
> > ... is [1] to encourage self-archiving of
> > professional papers, including functional equivalents of papers already
> > published or being published in the refereed journals, thus [2] initiating
> > an economically determined process which you believe will inevitably
> > result in the elimination of such fees in due time.

you say:

> There is a profound misapprehension here which it would probably be
> useful to clear up in the minds of anyone who might have fallen prey to
> it:
> The refereed literature is already freed by [1]! The rest [2] is merely
> a prediction. There remains the possibility that even when the refereed
> literature is freed by [1], there will still be add-ons that
> individuals and institutions are willing to pay fees for. That is not
> pertinent to the goal of this Forum, which is to free the refereed
> literature, which will have been realized. The refereed literature will
> no longer be held hostage to those add-ons.

[1] is the first part of your plan, and it has freed nothing thus far.
What could you possibly mean in saying that the literature is already
freed by [1]? You go right ahead in the next sentence to speak about
what is possible when it happens!!

> You are conflating [1, freeing the refereed literature] and [2, the
> probable economic restructuring that may follow from 1].

Urging people to self-archive, making hardware and software available to
them for that purpose, etc., is not freeing anything. Would that it
were that easy! But apparently that is precisely how you view it,
otherwise what your are saying would be unintelligible.

> The University
> is an ally in establishing Open Archives in which its researchers can
> self-archive their preprints and postprints (
> That is all that is needed for attaining [1].

And this seems to verify that this is what you mean. But self-archiving
has been available to people for years, without any help from the
university or from you, as far as that goes.

As regards your scenario about what is in the universities' interests
(which I omit), that is something which will not be determined by any
such a priori reasoning as you proceed to lay out but by whatever the
business men running them come up with as the bottom line at a given
time -- the one that starts with $$ -- and they have very different ways
of arriving at that than you and I might think appropriate or
reasonable. But let's not waste our time on that.

> As regards [2] (on which [1] is not contingent, and which it need not
> and should not, indeed cannot await in advance, Zeno-style), it is an
> arithmetic fact that IF the economic consequence of [1] is that
> universities' readers prefer the free version of the literature (rather
> than just that portion of it that their university can afford via S/L/P
> fees), and hence that their annual S/L/P fees need no longer be paid,
> THEN there will be many times more than enough to pay for the tiny
> remaining peer-review costs out of the annual savings. The universities
> need to have their research peer-certified for the same reasons their
> researchers' do -- for the "credibility" of their "ads" -- so it is in
> both their interests to use a bit of the annual wind-fall savings to
> pay for the quality-control.
> But ignore prediction [2] if you like, because [1] is not contingent on
> it! Self-archiving, eo ipso, frees the literature for everyone,
> everywhere, forever, even if the universities continue to pay for the
> fire-walled version the old way!

But Stevan, you did not invent self-archiving. Self-archiving existed
long before this forum began. The problem is to get people to do it,
isn't it? It is supposedly the self-archiving which sets the economic
process in motion. You have argued this countless times. Have you
always meant that the mere possibility of self-archiving sets the
economic process in motion? If wishes were horses . . .!

> ... (I am, by the way, Hungarian born; a Canadian citizen, and
> lived and worked in the US until 1994...)

Sorry for the professional misidentification.

The crux of my argument in this particular message is here:

> > The weakness... is in the description of the motive, which
> > everybody agrees with but which says much less than it seems to say
> > because it does not take into account the realities of communication,
> > one of which is that in order to say something to somebody it is not
> > enough to utter the words and make them public: the person addressed
> > must be in position to hear them and be willing to listen to them
> > attentively, especially when the words are in the form of lengthy and
> > difficult scientific reports.

To which you respond:

> This question might have been raised in the era before Gutenberg and
> before peer review. The answer is, one does not say ones words, one
> publishes them. And one does not publish them in a Vanity Press, but in
> the highest-standard peer-reviewed journal that will accept and certify
> them as having met its standards.

One publishes them by whatever means are available for communicating
one's research claims to one's research peers, the act of doing so is
the act of primary publication, and the Ginsparg Archive has shown that
this can occur via a preprint server.

> And a "peer" is merely a qualified
> fellow-expert in the domain of expertise in question.

A peer is a presumptive equal and all persons whom one respects as
capable of assessing one's work critically are one's peers or
presumptive equals. The word "merely" is inappropriately used in
qualification of the term "peer". If space permitted I would be glad to
explain why critical control in the sciences and in scholarship is peer
based, but I don't see that there should be any need for that here.

> > Now we come to the point: what the research author wants is not
> > merely to write his or her results in the sky but to press them upon a
> > targeted readership -- his or her research peers -- in the special form
> > of research claims, the communicational vehicle of which is the primary
> > research publication. Why? Because the researcher aims at making a
> > contribution to his or her field, and the way you make a contribution
> > is to make a research claim and have it accepted by your research
> > peers.
> Correct. And that is precisely why one self-archives both the
> pre-refereeing preprint and the post-refereeing postprint. The
> journal's peer-review tag is then the certification of having met the
> quality standards of the peers at that level.

You miss the point. Acceptance of a research claim is a completely
different thing than "certification of having met the quality standards
of the peers at that level." Perhaps we could ask Paul Ginsparg whether
the people in his research field hand out certification notices whenever
they accept a colleague's claim, which is typically long before journal

> > Now acceptance of a research claim is something that occurs
> > when and only when what the researcher has concluded and presents in
> > the form of a claim is in fact taken up and actually used by others as
> > something taken for granted by them in their own work.
> Correct. And this second phase, after peer-review certification, is
> called IMPACT. And it is precisely to maximize the potential impact of
> research that we are trying to free the peer-reviewed papers from
> obsolete access-barriers (= impact-barriers) online.

Have you told Ginsparg about this? He seems terribly confused about
this and keeps on talking as if acceptance, when it occurs, occurs
without peer review certification.

> > It seems to me, Stevan, that in your zeal for the protection of peer
> > review practices you have lost sight of why people want to publish.
> > According to you, in one of many statements to the same effect:
> >
> > SH > Authors work hard for recognition and certification
> > SH > by their PEERS, and it is the service of peer-review
> > SH > (refereeing) that a refereed journal implements (the
> > SH > peers review for free too!).
> >
> > The first half of the sentence is clearly intended to convey that it is
> > the approval of peer reviewers -- as distinct from acceptance by one's
> > research peers generally -- that motivates normal publication
> I'm afraid I couldn't follow this: The peer-reviewers selected by the
> editor are indeed intended to be a valid and representative sample of
> the relevant peer expertise in general.

A representative sample? You are saying that peer reviewers are
selected by a formal inductive process? That's a new concept.

> Apart from that, Joseph seems to be confusing the first, filtering
> stage of IMPRIMATUR (Quality-Control & Certification [QC/C] through
> peer review), which sign-posts the published literature, with the
> second stage, IMPACT, something that only comes after publication, as
> the peers navigate this sign-posted literature and try to build on it.

The term "imprimatur" has its home in the context of practices such as
Church censorship, referring to the affixing of the seal of approval or
"nihil obstat", testifying that there is nothing objectionable. If you
intend this as a metaphor I think you should explain what exactly the
metaphor is.

> > since the
> > fictitious office of certification could only be imputed to peer
> > reviewers or editors; and the second part of the sentence characterizes
> > the research function of refereed journals as being that of
> > "implementing" this bogus act of certification.
> Strong words. But note that they could just as well have been spoken in
> the paper era. Joseph is dissatisfied with peer review: Fine. Let him
> find and test something better, something that gives us a literature
> that is of at least the same level of quality as the one we have, and
> then we can talk about implementing his system.

No, I am not concerned with the reform of peer review. It has a
function, but it doesn't have the sacerdotal function you are imputing
to it, and it is NOT the primary principle of critical control in
science, which is located in the routine practices of criticism which
are ubiquitous in scientific life when it is being conducted properly
and which occurs in a peculiarly intensive form in connection with
primary publication, wherever it occurs, when research claims are
seriously made and seriously regarded, whether it be in an article
appearing in the NEJM or a preprint deposited in the Ginsparg Archive.
Peer review is a popgun of criticism compared to the real thing.
> Till then his animus against refereeing is completely irrelevant to the
> objective of freeing the current refereed literature from needless
> impact barriers. It is merely a red herring.

Sorry, not my view. My animus is against the obscuring of what critical
control actually is by treating the popgun fired behind the scenes
before the research claim has even be made as if it were superior to the
real critical control process that occurs AFTER publication has occurred
and in consequence of it. Our disagreement is that I am saying that it
is the communicational process, critically controlled as it occurs, that
is the life of science as a social collaborative process, whereas you
think of research as having completed itself when and if one manages to
get their results published. "Look, Ma, I'm certified!" As far as you
are concerned the communicational process is not itself a part of
science as inquiry but only something that happens after inquiry. That
is what happens when you misidentify peer review as the paradigm of
critical control instead of being the somewhat lame type of peer
criticism which it actually is.

> The "invisible hand argument" follows from a very simple fact (not a
> hypothesis) about the Ginsparg Archive: From the very beginning (and
> still earlier), all those papers were and still are destined for peer
> reviewed journals. They are written with the expectation of being
> answerable to peer review. There has been no change in that respect.
> The Archive is not, and never was, a publisher, or an alternative to
> publishing. And publishing in Physics (and in all other academic
> disciplines) does not refer to vanity-press self-publication, but
> refereed publication. Self-archiving, in other words, is not
> self-publication and never has been. The journal hierarchy continues to
> exist, as it did before the Archive existed; the only difference is
> that now the peer community has access to both the pre-refereeing
> preprints and the post-refereeing postprints for free (and earlier).
> Those are the facts. The speculative part is about what would happen if
> the invisible hand of peer review were actually removed -- if the
> journals all vanished, for some reason. Joseph thinks everything would
> stay pretty much the same, whereas I think they would dip toward Usenet
> -- until we re-invented peer review.

The question is whether or not quality control in research using the
Ginsparg archive is dependent on a merely possible review by an unknown
reviewer in the future or not. I explained why it is not and you are
not answering my argument.

> Nothing much hinges on that speculation for me, for I am merely
> advocating freeing the peer-reviewed literature from impact-barriers
> through self-archiving -- which is precisely what the Ginsparg Archive
> is doing for Physics; hence this is a proven principle. Joseph, in
> contrast, seems to be advocating freeing the literature from peer
> review, through self-publication.

Not my view.

> But post-publication "open peer
> commentary" is not to be confused with pre-publication peer review.

I said nothing about "post-publication open peer review". I am talking
about the routine critical practices of scientists when they respond to
a colleagues' research claim, not about some lame version of what is
already a lamed critical practice.

> For
> the peer commentary is transpiring in a filtered, quality-controlled,
> sign-posted, and hence navigable published literature; the peer review,
> in contrast, is operating on the raw, unfiltered substrate which, even
> with the help of the Invisible Hand, is something the
> community-at-large needs to be spared having to navigate unaided, given
> the unspeakable (let alone readable) volume that is being written.

Protecting peers from peers, in other words.

> Only Editors, paid to do the job, and referees, stealing from their
> precious research time at the behest of those Editors [and the Golden
> Rule], should ever have to contend with those raw first drafts:

Like those the people who do physics from preprints have to put up with,
I guess. What kind of a journal wastes its time with reading first
drafts, by the way?

I skip down a couple of pages based on the misconstruing of my view as
being an attack on peer review, to pick up on another important point.

> (By the same
> token, paper preprints, which were always disseminated earlier than
> final drafts and journal offprints, were never a new form of "primary
> research publication" but merely a faster way of disseminating papers.)

A primary research publication occurs whenever a research claim is
seriously made and is taken seriously as a claim and treated
accordingly. You are seriously underestimating the importance of what
Ginsparg accomplished when you refuse to recognize that the Archive is a
place of primary publication. Whether or not primary publication occurs
or not is verifiable by the way in which the research claim is treated.
I think it is quite clear from the quotes from Ginsparg that his aim was
always and quite consciously to insure that the Archive would be a place
of primary publication in exactly the same sense in which, say, the NEJM
is a place of primary publication. Yet after my explanation of the
things he did to insure that it would function as that you say:

> What has been provided is a self-archiving system. Try to remove the
> layers of interpretation and see it factually for what it is. It will
> not be a place of primary publication until the REAL place of primary
> publication (the journal, and its all-refereeing QC/C) are out of the
> loop. Or is this just a play-of-words on "place": for I certainly agree
> that the "locus classicus" of the papers has become the virtual locus,
> rather than the real locus: yet the citations are invariably to the
> journal-published version, as soon as it is available...)

A play on words? Let me repeat. A primary publication is a research
claim. When something is asserted as a claim and responded to as a
claim it IS a claim, and that makes it a primary publication. That is
the nub of our disagreement about the Ginsparg Archive, and I am content
to have established that this is our disagreement since much of the rest
of what I have to say follows from that.
Joseph Ransdell
Dept of Philosophy  806 742-3275  Home: 806 797-2592
Texas Tech University - Lubbock, Texas 79409   USA (Peirce Gateway website)
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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