Re: Financial Times Article on Self-Archiving: 23 July 2001

From: George Lundberg <GLundberg_at_MEDSCAPEINC.COM>
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2001 12:13:40 -0400

Question to Stevan regarding the expected actual functioning of the
scientific literature in your "self-archiving world".

        i know from long editorial experience, as i am sure you do also,
that the majority of papers in the biomedical sciences submitted to the
journals of the authors' first choice are rejected for a wide variety of
reasons. No one knows how many of the rejected manuscripts are ultimately
published in some form in "lesser" journals and how many simply never are
published anywhere. And those that are published in either the journal of
first choice or some later choice have almost always been altered
substantially by the peer review process, revision, and editing.
        Thus, in your world of self-archiving, how is the reader of a
self-archived article(or for that matter a "regularly published" article) to
know whether that article has or has not been published(archived) somewhere
and where and when, and what differences there are(or are not) between the
self-archived article and the one in some journal? In your proposed
system, whose job is it to note to all readers of each version of an article
what is different or the same. And for those papers that never get formally
published by some recognized journal for whatever reason, such as faulty
methodology, author tedium, conclusions not justified by the data,
fabrication, plagiarism, redundancy, or whatever, how would the reader of
the self-archived article be informed of that fact of "non-publication for
        In my opinion, for noone to inform the reader of known material
differences or recognized flaws between versions would be outrageous
scientific misconduct, and very likely litigatable liability if harm
resulted from this failure to inform. And to set up a system that would
inform the reader regularly and in a timely and trustworthy manner of the
status of the various publication processes at work in parallel and attempt
to draw interpretive understanding from likely divergence of substance
between competing versions of the same manuscript would be a compliance
nightmare, would require audit oversight by some authority(?some "world
scientific literature truth czar") and beastly expensive(who would pay?).
        There are many real barriers betwixt a concept intended to make
right a wrong (no matter how intriguing) and successful implementation in
the public interest.
george lundberg

-----Original Message-----
From: Albert Henderson [mailto:chessNIC_at_COMPUSERVE.COM]
Sent: Tuesday, July 31, 2001 8:58 AM
Subject: Re: Financial Times Article on Self-Archiving: 23 July 2001

on 31 Jul 2001 Fytton Rowland <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK> commented:

> From the recent Harnad/henderson controversy (sorry about the late
> response, I've been on vacation):
> > "virtually" doesn't make it so. Garvey and Griffith found
> > "two thirds of the technical reports produced in 1962 had
> > not achieved journal publication by 1965, and, apparently,
> > the contents of the vast majority of these reports were
> > never submitted for journal publication. Many authors of
> > such reports indicated that 'no further dissemination of
> > the information was necessary.' ... This raises some
> > questions about the ultimate value of the information in
> > these reports and its relevance to the established body
> > of scientific knowledge." [from Garvey, COMMUNICATION:
> > THE ESSENCE OF SCIENCE. Pergamon 1979]
> The Garvey & Griffith study was a seminal piece of information science
> research in its time, and is still worthy of respect today as part of the
> historical context. This particular paragraph from it, however, was
> talking about technical reports, the grey literature, not the published
> refereed journals. Many technical reports are still produced, especially
> by companies in the science-based industries, often for internal use only
> for reasons of commercial confidentiality. Sometimes these become openly
> available years later, once their content has (for example) been protected
> by patenting. They are useful sources of scientific information, and
> certificate of quality is, in effect, the name of the company producing
> them. Various projects around the world (e.g. the MAGIC project in the
> are working on improving electronic access to grey-literature information.
> But this is a different literature from the refereed journal literature,
> whose authors are predominantly from academic and other not-for-profit
> institutions, and different arguments apply.

        The quotation is pointed directly at the continued use of
        the mislabeled "archive" of physics/math preprints, just
        moved into the private sector, as a very modern model of
        successful self-archiving.

        My comment also quoted and directly followed Harnad's passage

> But virtually all of the self-archived preprints in arxiv are
> submitted to refereed journals, revised in accordance with the referees'
> recommendations, and if the author judges the changes substantive, the
> corrected final draft is self-archived too; otherwise, the reference is
> merely updated to make it the formal journal bibliographic citation.

        Garvey and Griffith's first findings of the disconnection between
        informal and formal publication was in the area of psychology,
        where industrial activity is minimal. A more recent study, of
        biomedical conference proceedings, also found many papers never
        submitted, never published.

        I also cited a recent study of medical research:

> A recent study produced similarities to this data and
> also called into question the value of citing informal
> papers as if they were a part of the formal literature.
> [Callaham, M.L., et al. J A M A 1998. 280:254-257]

        Thanks for helping me clarify that studies of historical
        significance continue to be relevant.

        Why not produce hard evidence that Harnad's above claim
        is true:

> But virtually all of the self-archived preprints in arxiv are
> submitted to refereed journals, revised in accordance with the referees'

        and applies to the science literature generally???

        Best wishes,

Albert Henderson


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