A Note of Caution About "Reforming the System"

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_coglit.ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 09:10:59 +0000

On Thu, 15 Feb 2001, Greg Kuperberg wrote:

> On Thu, Feb 15, 2001 at 03:00:27PM -0400, David Goodman wrote:
> >
> > There is also a difference bewteen the various fields about how much work
> > justifies a separate publication. This is sometimes called the LPU, "Least
> > Publishable Unit."
> Yes, when I went up for promotion, I had one paper which I thought
> was very good, so I argued that it was equivalent to 5-10 LPUs.
> I'm only half joking about this. As I pointed out before, promotion is
> the main sustainer of the otherwise obselete journal system in
> many areas of physics and some areas of math.

I would just like to sound a note of caution about mixing the agenda,
to combine it with other kinds of crusades to "reform the system."

Yes, the trend towards LPUs is regrettable. Yes the system of tenure
evaluation could stand with a good deal of improvement. Peer review
itself could no doubt benefit from empirical testing and an application
of the positive findings, if any, to reforming and optimizing it.

By the same token, there are problems with the funding of research,
with the quality and funding of education, and health, and the overall
quality of life on the planet.

But that is not the mandate of this Forum! This Forum is concerned with
righting just one palpable wrong, one that is clearly in focus, and one
whose righting is clearly within our reach, and is indeed overdue,
namely, the freeing of the refereed research literature, which is and
always has been an author give-away, from all access tolls (and hence
impact barriers) online.

This outcome is clearly optimal for research and researchers (and hence
all of society). It is also attainable, and inevitable; but it has been
very slow in coming. Why it has been so slow is a bit of a mystery. But
in any case, the ice-flow at last seems to be showing some signs of
breaking and momentum of at last picking up (perhaps owing to the new
possibilities opened up by OAI interoperability and distributed
University-based self-archiving).

Please, let us not clog up the flow again by linking the (refereed)
"literature liberation" movement with any of these other (worthy)
causes, for which there are, alas, no solutions within reach, and which
can only re-cloud a picture that is at last coming into focus.

Stevan Harnad harnad_at_cogsci.soton.ac.uk
Professor of Cognitive Science harnad_at_princeton.edu
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/
Highfield, Southampton http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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