Re: ALPSP statement on BOAI

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2002 19:23:40 +0100

On Mon, 22 Apr 2002, David Goodman wrote:

> ...the insistence of some
> administrative bodies that the publications be in formal conventional
> journals, sometimes even requiring that they be in print format...
> ...has nothing to do with peer review, one way or another. I agree
> with Stevan on this...

Let us put this in context, and sort out some of the conflations:

FACT 1: Virtually all of the important established peer-reviewed
journals today have an online version too. So "online vs. print" in
this sense is clearly not the issue, for "administrative bodies."

FACT 2: Among the new peer-reviewed journal start-ups in the past
several years -- i.e., among the UNestablished journals -- a
significant proportion have been online-only (i.e., they have not
bothered to produce a print version at all, anticipating the future,
and in order to minimize needless costs).

FACT 3: Established journals are weighted more heavily by "administrative
bodies" in academic standing reviews for the very valid reason that they
are established, they have reputations, track-records, impact-factors.
There is a known, reliable way of inferring what their quality-standards
are, hence of what the likely quality of accepted papers will be.

FACT 4: Papers in new journals in general do not have the above,
regardless of whether the journals are are print-only, online-only, or
both. (There are, however, some notable exceptions: Journal of High
Energy Physics JHEP is online-only and was
established only four years ago, but rose to a very high impact factor
within a year or two of its inception.)

As a consequence, based on the empirical data, it makes eminently good
sense that universities, in evaluating the research output of
their faculty, should place much greater weight on journals with
established quality-standards than on those without them. The odds are
accordingly that they will place less weight on online-only journals for
the simple statistical reason that (a) virtually all of them will be new
start-ups rather than established journals and (b) JHEP is the exception
rather than the rule (but a clear enough exception so that we can be
certain that JHEP authors are receiving due credit for their JHEP
publications, by whatever their university happens to be).

As to the bureaucratic requirement that the copies of the published papers
that are physically submitted for assessment to the "administrative
bodies" must be in "print format" -- that arbitrary and inefficient
constraint is just too silly and trivial for us to waste time on here.
We have rather more serious things to worry about than whether
bureaucrats happen to want our documents in triplicate rather than
duplicate. The UK's RAE had such a requirement
last time; I trust that they will be much more sensible next time (if
there is a next time):

One thing is sure: None of this has anything to do with the goal
of the American Scientist Forum , the
Budapest Open Access Initiative , the
Public Library of Science or the
Free Online Scholarship Movement ,
all of which are dedicated to ushering in at last the long overdue era
of toll-free online access to the entire peer-reviewed research
literature. The fact that this literature is online rather than just
in-print is taken for granted in all of this. That foregone conclusion
is no longer even a matter worth mentioning.

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):

Discussion can be posted to:

See also the Budapest Open Access Initiative:

and the Free Online Scholarship Movement:
Received on Mon Apr 22 2002 - 19:25:05 BST

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