Re: preservation vs. Preservation

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2006 12:56:53 +0100 (BST)

Philip, there is a persistent and as yet uncorrected, and as yet even
undetected misunderstanding in this discussion about preservation and
Preservation, and for that reason we keep talking past one another.

Below, you quote me in full on a future-conditional: "If/when
S, then P" , where "P" happens to be "the small-p preservation problem
becomes identical with the big-P Preservation problem."

Now, logically speaking, I think you agree that the implications of this
future conditional depend entirely on what the antecedent "S" is. But S is
"If/when self-archiving ever reaches 100%".

Self-archiving is not only nowhere near 100% today (it's 15%), but one
of the (many) reasons it is not 100% is that there is no mandate to do
it, and without a mandate, researchers (apart from the spontaneous 15%)
simply are not doing it.

Why is there no mandate? Because there is no clear understanding of *why*
self-archiving needs to be done (and mandated). Instead, there is the
widespread, totally erroneous notion that self-archiving needs to be done
for the sake of Preservation. But there is *no Preservation problem* for
self-archived author final-drafts! So there is no point self-archiving
them (if the purpose of self-archiving them is Preservation): the
Preservation problem is not the problem of long-term Preservation of
authors' final drafts (which is what authors need to be self-archiving,
but aren't); it is the problem of the long-term Preservation of
publishers' and subscribing libraries' proprietary digital PDF/XML,
and, as always, that problem is still in the hands of publishers and
subscribing libraries (and deposit libraries), *not* the author (nor
the author's institution). Nor *should* it be in the hands of the author
(or the author's institution) *while the truth-value of S is F (False)*,
i.e., while not-S is true.

So not only are Preservationists giving the author the entirely wrong
idea (and the wrong, non-existent motivation) if they suggest that they
should self-archive for the sake of the long-term Preservation of their
final drafts (that is utter, unmitigated nonsense, and authors know it,
and rightly ignore it), but, even more important, inasmuch as librarians
are often in charge of IRs, and what they are used for, and how they are
promoted, as long as Preservationists keep focussing on the superfluous
and irrelevant Preservation agenda for their IRs, and neglecting their
real and urgent immediate purpose, which is immediate OA-provision,
Preservationists are *delaying* instead of facilitating S (i.e., the
fulfillment of the premise "If/when self-archiving ever reaches 100%".).

Meanwhile, of course, IRs are perfectly adequate for small-p preservation
(with many ongoing preservation projects, including the one Southampton is
actively involved in) and, keeping in step with preservation developments
and naturally updating practice and upgrading functionality as necessary
-- yet they remain 85% empty, in part because they are focussed on the
superfluous and irrelevant big-P Preservation at the cost of the urgent
and immediate big-C Content agenda: capturing 100% of annual research
article output, *now*.

The posting to which I was responding (on the topic thread "Formaldehyde
and Function") was asking whether there exists any evidence in support
of the hypothesis that authors are not-self-archiving today *because*
they are worried about Preservation! (I.e, asking whether there is any
evidence that "not-P causes not-S"). The answer is that not only is there
no evidence for it, but the hypothesis is absurd: Big-P Preservation is
not the reason authors need to self-archive, and if it *were* the reason,
then authors would (rightly) *never* self-archive, because the reason
is fallacious. There is no need whatsoever to Preserve their authors'
final drafts forever today (for those, small-p preservation is enough):
It is their publisher's proprietary PDF/XML that needs the large-P
Preservation today.

So -- although after so many rounds I despair of ever conveying the
logic of the misunderstanding, and feel we are doomed instead to keep
re-enacting the exchanges between Lewis Carrol's Achilles and the Tortoise -- here's another stab at it:

Yes, if/when S then P. But not-S, today. And S only if/when we forget about
P and focus on S for the sake of O, not P.

Meanwhile, p, and peace...

Stevan Harnad

PS I fully expect the next Carrolingian round to be focussed on the theme:
"Well then, what we should be encouraging authors to do is to
self-archive, not their final drafts, but their publisher's proprietary
PDF/XML, for the sake of Preservation; and for the sake of that, we
should also be encouraging copyright retention..." Lots of luck.
Preservationists, fixated on the long-term future, obviously have lots
of time on their hands. Meanwhile, research impact and progress continue
to be needlessly lost, daily, monthly, yearly... irreversibly (at least
for small-r researchers with finite life-spans).

On Fri, 31 Mar 2006, Philip J Hunter wrote:

> Stevan,
> On Sunday 5th of March you allowed the possibility, in a note to your
> extensive mail on 'preservation vs. Preservation'
> <>
> that, if we ever did reach 100% OA provision, this might 'cause radical
> changes in the journal publishing system, forcing publishers to
> down-size into becoming only peer-review service-providers and
> certifiers, rather than also being the analog and digital product
> access-providers, as they are now'. The corollary of this was also
> allowed, that this would force them 'to off-load access-provision and
> archiving onto their authors'
> Institutions'. And at that point 'authors' institutions will inherit the
> primary-content
> Preservation mission, and not just the supplementary-content
> preservation mission'.
> So big P preservation is an issue: it's just a question of when we
> address it. You think that we need address the issue only at the end
> time. Others think that we won't get to the end time unless we address
> preservation questions now.
> At the very least we should be open to the idea that the development of
> sustainable business models for repositories, as well as the creation of
> sustainable preservation and curation workflows and processes, might be
> the way we actually get to 100% open access provision.
> Philip
> *********************************
> Philip Hunter
> IRIScotland
> Digital Library Division
> Edinburgh University Library
> George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LJ
> Tel: +44 (0)131 651 3768
> *********************************
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Repositories discussion list
> [mailto:JISC-REPOSITORIES_at_JISCMAIL.AC.UK] On Behalf Of Stevan Harnad
> Sent: 30 March 2006 22:12
> Subject: Formaldehyde and Function
> On Thu, 30 Mar 2006, Helen Hockx-Yu wrote:
> > I should be grateful if anyone can provide me some evidence to back
> > the following statement:
> >
> > "Concern of longevity has contributed to the lack of active engagement
> > from many researchers [with institutional repositories]. Guarantee of
> > long-term preservation helps enhance a repository's trustworthiness by
> > giving authors confidence in the future accessibility and more
> > incentives to deposit content"
> >
> > I guess longevity here also applies to the financial sustainability of
> > the repository itself as a business operation, in addition to its
> > content.
> The statement is (1) not based on evidence at all, but pure speculation
> and (2) speculation not on the part of the content-providers (i.e., the
> authors who are presently only spontaneously self-archiving their
> published articles at about the 15% level) but on the part of others,
> whose a priori concept of an institutional repository is that it is for
> long-term preservation (rather than for immediate access-provision and
> impact maximisation)
> One pretty much gets out of such subjective speculations what one puts
> into them (including the requisite confirmatory moans from
> fellow-preservationists!).
> JISC author surveys have given the empirical answer as to why only about
> 15% of papers are being self-archived in all today (although 49% of
> authors have deposited at least once): Authors are too busy to do it
> until/unless their employers and or funders make it a priority by
> mandating it -- and then 95% of them will do it:
> Swan, A. (2005) Open access self-archiving: An Introduction.
> JISC/ Key Perspectives Technical Report.
> But it would be absolutely absurd of their employers and funders to
> mandate self-archiving for the sake of long-term preservation!
> Preservation of what, and why? Articles are published by journals. The
> preservation of the published version is the responsibility of the
> journals that publish it, the libraries that subscribe/license it, and
> the deposit libraries that archive it. None of that is the
> responsibility of the author or his institution, and never has been.
> Hence it is ridiculous to think the reason authors are *not*
> self-archiving today is because they are fretting about preservation!
> Nor is there the slightest evidence that the 15% that *has* been
> self-archived spontaneously in central or institutional repositories has
> vanished or is at risk! Arxiv content is still there today, a decade and
> a half since its inception in 1991, under nonstop use. CogPrints
> contents likewise, since its inception nearly a decade ago. Ditto for
> the IRs that have been up since GNU Eprints was released in 2001.
> The pertinent features of all
> of these archives (even the oldest and biggest) is the pathetically
> small proportion of their total annual *target* output -- for Arxiv, all
> of physics+, for CogPrints, all of cognitive science, for PubMed
> Central, all of biomedical science, and for institutional IRs, all of
> each institution's own annual research article output -- what a pathetic
> proportion of their respective target outputs they are actually
> capturing.
> But there are exceptions, and the biggest of them is CERN, which is far
> above the spontaneous 15% self-archiving baseline and rapidly
> approaching 100% for its current annual output (while making remarkable
> progress with its retroactive legacy output too):
> So is Southampton ECS, U. Minho, and QUT. And the reason is that these
> four institutions (3 institutions plus 1 institutional department) have
> *self-archiving mandates* for their own output. And the rationale for
> the mandates is not long-term preservation but immediate
> access-provision for the sake of maximising usage and impact before the
> authors' bones are in preservation (although of course these archives,
> like all IRs, are duly attending to the preservation of what contents
> they have!).
> So while preservationists lose themselves in speculation about the fact
> that maybe authors are not depositing because their secret yearnings for
> preservation are even more exacting than the preservationists', so they
> are abstaining until they can be absolutely assured of immortality for
> their works and their institutions, the reality is much simpler:
> They have (and should have) no special interest in preservation. They do
> have an interest in citations, but not enough to bother self-archiving
> until/unless their institutions and funders require it. Silly, and
> short-sighted (sic) but there we are.
> Let us hope that their institutions and funders will have the good sense
> to adopt policies that require (and reward) their researchers for doing
> what is in their own best interests (as well as the best interests of
> their institutions and funders) -- just as they already require and
> reward them to publish (or perish).
> Nor is the reward the imperishability of the authors' refereed final
> drafts that they will be self-archiving (not the publisher's proprietary
> PDF), but their own scientific immortality (which would slip away fast
> if they were to keep waiting to immortalise their publishers' PDFs
> instead, as the preservationists -- embalmers? -- are imagining they are
> doing).
> Do I sound impatient?
> Chrs, Stevan
Received on Fri Mar 31 2006 - 13:06:43 BST

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