Re: Workshop on Open Archives Initiative in Europe

From: J.W.T.Smith <J.W.T.Smith_at_UKC.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000 15:13:01 +0000

Prof Harnad,

Comment in context below.

On Tue, 31 Oct 2000, Stevan Harnad wrote:

> On Mon, 30 Oct 2000, David Goodman wrote:
> > Instead of saying, as you do, that
> >
> >sh> Implementing peer review is not the province of archivists, nor of
> >sh> universities, research institutions nor libraries. And when Learned
> >sh> Societies do it, they do it in their capacity as Publishers.
> >
> > one could instead say that:
> >
> >dg> Implementing peer review is not the province of archivists, libraries,
> >dg> or publishers, but that of the scholars themselves, possibly as
> >dg> organized into universities, research institutions, learned societies,
> >dg> or otherwise into less formal groups such as open forums.
> >
> > What do publishers have to do with peer review, except for the
> > historical accident of having in the print era a limited number of
> > pages they can afford to print, and thus wanting the best of the
> > available material to put in those pages?
> >
> > If we freed peer review from the publishers, then this would almost
> > immediately free the distribution of the material from them as well.
> Your points are well-taken, but I think they contain one incorrect (or
> perhaps merely unexamined) assumption:
> What, in essence, IS a (refereed) journal publisher? What is the
> essential service a journal publisher performs, medium-independently,
> and independently of the cost-recovery model?
> A journal publisher is not a printer or a type-setter (if we are speaking
> medium-independently); nor is a publisher a marketer or a fulfiller
> (independently of the cost-recovery model).
> I think you will find that the only ESSENTIAL function that a refereed
> journal publisher performs (medium-independently) is quality-control
> and certification [QC/C]. That is, the journal IMPLEMENTS peer review
> (the peers themselves review for free), i.e. administers the soliciting
> of the expert feedback and the application of the feedback to the
> revision) and then CERTIFIES the accepted, revised final draft as
> appearing in the Journal (volume, issue, page, date).

You are being over-simplistic - choosing one activity of the publisher to
fit your thesis and ignoring the rest.

I would agree that one of the roles of the publisher is to organise
certification (I have argued this myself - elsewhere) but the publisher
currently also plays quality control (appearance, ie, copy-editing),
making available, and marketing (making known) roles. This is why my own
suggested model for networked based publishing (the Deconstructed Journal)

is so much more complex (I think you described it as 'confused').

I hold no brief for the preservation of the publisher and feel all the
roles played by the publisher could be played by others. In fact I think
that by preserving the ideas of the 'publisher' and 'journal' (albeit very
restricted interpretations of them) you are holding back the move to a
true network based form of academic publishing.

The half-way house model of articles in archives still being 'published'
in journals (ie, certified by journals) leaves us still connected by an
umbilical cord to the old model with articles 'belonging' to journals
(although not in the strict sense they do now). The certification agencies
can distribute a list of the articles they have certified but take full
advantage of the fleibility of the network there also needs to be an extra
set of players who sort, sift and make known articles certified by others
(true 'overlays on the archives') and this actvity also needs a name. Is
it a journal? A para-journal (paralleling/parisiting)? Your model has no
place for such an activity since it contains only archives and
certification agencies still called journals.

> So what do publishers have to do with peer review? Whether or not by
> historical accident, they are the ones, and the only ones, who have
> the track record in implementing it.

As you say - historical accident - but why need this be perpetrated into
the future? Barbers used to also pull teeth but we have moved on...


John Smith,
University of Kent at Canterbury.
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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