[UPS] Story in the Dec. 3 Chronicle

Paul Ginsparg ginsparg@qfwfq.lanl.gov
Tue, 30 Nov 1999 20:14:30 -0700

i am still busily catching on a large backlog collected during travel.
i'll have comments on some of the other issues within a few days, but first
on some other recent unpleasantness...

in late october, there was some discussion of some UPS "news" articles
on this list. it is important to remember that the reporters have very mixed
goals in this, not always possible for us to fathom (though we're ever reminded
"never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence") --
the best one can hope for is no major errors, and never expect useful technical
information or any other subtleties to be conveyed properly.
in rare cases, one might hope the publicity to serve some useful purpose --
but in the case of this group there was already wide agreement in response to
my mention of the nature query that this is not yet such an enterprise.
we have far better ways of getting correct information to the people to whom we
really wish to communicate, and there's *certainly* no reason in the world to
be going out of our way to solicit or initiate such articles.

with that said,

> From: Eric Celeste <efc@MIT.EDU>
> To: ups@vole.lanl.gov
> Subject: [UPS] Story in the Dec. 3 Chronicle
> Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 12:05:32 -0500
> FYI, the 12/3 Chronicle of Higher Education includes an article on 
> the Open Archives initiative...
>     http://www.chronicle.com/free/v46/i15/15a04301.htm

this article yet another sad example of slanted reporting and multiple
factual errors -- first and most glaring, it identifies Stevan Harnad as
"an organizer" of this particular initiative, most assuredly false,
and potentially problematic for us (see below).
i've already been in touch with the author of this article, vincent kiernan,
complaining about all the factual errors, and together with the actual
organizers of this meeting (herbert vds and rick l), will be drafting a
brief correction letter (this sort of damage control such a wonderful use of
our ever copious spare time...), explaining the actual technical objectives
this group was constituted to consider, and dispensing with the polemic,
which is not the goal of this group.
kiernan concedes that while stevan did not explicitly claim to be an organizer,
he did "send out the UPS press release to several (?) Chron staff members by
e-mail, in a fashion in which he seemed to be acting on behalf of the
initiative." sigh ... we all know it's a thrill to see one's name in print,
but doesn't it get old after a while? does actively soliciting another silly
chronicle article really further any near-term technical objectives?

someone also forwarded me from the times higher ed supp 12 nov 1999:
"Harnad, who attended the Santa Fe meeting, said all conference participants
agreed that scientific and scholarly publishing was being 'held hostage' and
needed to be freed. 'They all felt ... . Most wanted...'"
i don't remember anyone saying anything about hostages (though i did miss the
end of the first day) -- isn't it demagoguery to impute words and sentiments?
isn't it intellectually dishonest (as well as insulting to the intelligence of
its other members) to use the group's umbrella cover to convey credibility,
authority, and legitimacy to one's own comments?
would this be acceptable in any scholarly forum?

we took a known risk here, because indeed mention of stevan can be very
polarizing (anything from great consternation to sighs of resignation),
and may even have cost us early participation from some prominent non-attendees
("we're serious here, we don't have time for all the crackpot histrionics"
--- yes, believe it or not some very intelligent, highly reflective,
and technically proficient people take offense at some of the heavy-handed
rhetorical methods, even if they agree on the ultimate technical and
sociological goals.) and we don't want this initiative to be clumsily grouped
into the same dull "this is the only possible path" bludgeon,
or by association to be delayed or dismissed in consideration by very
serious people, many of whom have thought equally long and hard about scholarly
publication in all its various manifestations, and its future, and how to get
there -- *no one* has a monopoly on this.
[why this polarizing phenomenon? some have suggested the "broken record"
effect, the same message repeated too often, frequently in need of constructive
editing to remove repetition and reduce length (many intelligent people believe
it or not can be alienated rather than persuaded by excessive repetition, even
of ultimately correct arguments), frequently overly CC'd, or the (overlapping)
handling of the recent american scientist forum, still "ongoing" though should
have been dissolved or restructured long ago, instead of remaining as a
caricature of academic "interchange".
(hint: the best forum moderator is essentially invisible; a worse moderator is
one who feels compelled to comment each and every message with the pravda
version, frequently before any other reader has had a chance to think or
reflect; and the worst moderator stifles all reasoned discussion, hijacks the
forum as a soapbox, and later perversely points to it as an example 
of having achieved consensus.) not my words, just feedback from the ether...]

anyway after discussing with a few people both inside and outside this group,
the consensus has encouraged the following "direct" approach:
stevan, of course you should continue to proceed in whatever directions you
decide are best to achieve the collectively held objectives, and to continue
participating in discussions here, and to moderate any forum of your own
as you see fit.
**BUT** in any further communications to reporters (at your or their
solicitation), e-mail messages to mailing lists, meetings with representatives
of library or other societies in which Open Achives come up, or in offers of
vapor/software, make it explicitly clear that you are speaking as an interested
party, but certainly not as an organizer of this particular initiative; and
that you are speaking and acting on your own behalf, not on behalf of this
group. (there's no wiggle room here, don't even try -- instead just use
something like
"DISCLAIMER: In this mention of the "Open Archives" initiative, I am speaking,
writing, and acting entirely on my own behalf, not on behalf of the organizers
or current members of this initiative.")

i apologize for using this list for this communication; but from what a number
have communicated to me privately, it is useful to get this definitely
behind us with some resolution. so now end of "discussion",
and back to the regularly scheduled technical discusion.
herbert is getting closer with the openarchives.org webpages...