Skyreading and Skywriting for Researchers:
A PostGutenberg Anomaly and How to Resolve it
Department of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton
SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM
ABSTRACT: There will be a profound and fundamental dividing line in the PostGutenberg Galaxy, between non-give-away work (books, magazines, software, music) and give-away work (of which the most important representative is refereed scientific and scholarly research papers). It is the failure to make this distinction that causes so much confusion, and that is delaying the inevitable transition of the give-away work to what is the optimal solution for scholars and scientists: that the annual 2,000,000+ articles in all 20,000+ refereed journals across disciplines and languages and around the world should be freed online through author/institution self-archiving: http://www.eprints.org This paper tries to show how questions about
copyright, peer review and other controversial issues can be clarified if the give-away/non-give-away distinction is made.
1. A brand-new PhD recipient proudly tells his mother he has just published his first article. She asks him how much he was paid for it. He makes a face and tells her "nothing," and then begins a long, complicated explanation...
2. A fellow-researcher at that same university sees a reference to that same article. He goes to their library to get it: "It's not subscribed to here. We can't afford that journal. (Our subscription/license/loan/copy budget is already overspent)"
3. An undergraduate at that same university sees the same article cited on the Web. He clicks on it. The publisher's website demands a password: "Access Denied:Only pre-paid subscribing/licensed institutions have access to this journal."
4. The undergraduate loses patience, gets bored, and clicks on Napsterto grab an MP3 file of his favourite bootleg CD to console him in his sorrows.
5. Years later, the same PhD is being considered for tenure. His publications are good, but they're not cited enough; they have not made enough of a "research impact." Tenure denied.
6. Same thing happens when he tries to get a research grant: His research findings have not had enough of an impact: Not enough researchers have read, built upon and cited them. Funding denied.
7. He decides to write a book instead. Book publishers decline to publish it: "It wouldn't sell enough copies because not enough universities have enough money to pay for it. (Their purchasing budgets are tied up paying for their inflating annual journal subscription/license/loan costs...)"
8. He tries to put his articles up on the Web, free for all, to increase their impact. His publisher threatens to sue him and his server-provider for violation of copyright.
9. He asks his publisher: "Who is this copyright intended to protect?" His publisher replies: "You!"
What is wrong with this picture? (And why is the mother of the PhD whose give-away work people cannot steal, even though he wants them to, in the same boat as the mother of the recording artist whose non-give-away work they can and do steal, even though he does not want them to?)
In order to understand what is wrong with the picture, one must first make five critical distinctions. If one fails to make any one of these distinctions, it will be impossible to make sense of the picture or to resolve the anomaly, an anomaly completely unique to the online era of "Scholarly Skywriting" in the "PostGutenberg Galaxy".
The litmus test for whether a piece of writing falls in the small give-away sector of the literature or the much larger non-give-away sector is: "Does the author seek a royalty or fee in exchange for his writings?" If the answer is yes (as it is for virtually all books and newspaper or magazine articles), then the writing is non-give-away; if the answer is no,then it is give-away.
None of what follows here is applicable to non-give-away writing, but the non-give-away model is the one that most people have in mind for all of writing. So it is not surprising that that small fraction of writing that the more general model does not fit should seem anomalous.
As most institutions cannot afford the access-fees to most refereed research journals, this means that most research papers cannot be accessed by most researchers : Currently, all that potential impact and upake are simply lost.
Note that although researchers do not derive income from the sale of their refereed research papers ("imprint income"), they do derive income from the impact of those papers ("impact income").
The simple reason why researchers, unlike non-give-away authors, do not seek imprint-income for their refereed research is that the access-tolls for collecting imprint-income are barriers to impact-income (research grants, salaries, promotion, tenure, prizes), which is by far the more important reward for researchers, most of whose refereed papers are so esoteric as to have no imprint-income market at all.
Eprint archives, consisting of research papers self-archived online by their authors, are not, and have never been, merely "preprint archives" for unrefereed research. Authors can self-archive therein all the embryological stages of the research they wish to report, from pre-refereeing, through successive revisions, till the refereed, journal-certified postprint, and thence still further, to any subsequent corrected, revised, or otherwise updated drafts (post-postprints), as well as any commentaries or responses linked to them. These are all just way-stations along the scholarly skywriting continuum.
All of this will come to pass. The only real question is "How Soon?" Will we still be compos mentis and fit to benefit from it, or will it only be for the napster generation? Future historians, posterity, and our own still-born scholarly impact are already poised to chide us in hindsight.
- The entire full-text refereed corpus online
- On every researcher's desktop, everywhere
- 24 hours a day
- All papers citation-interlinked
- Fully searchable, navigable, retrievable
- For free, for all, forever
What can the research community do to hasten the optimal and inevitable? Here are some recent concepts that may help:
Beware of the language of obligatory "value-added," with which the peer-reviewed literature must, by implication, continue to be inextricably wrapped. The only essential service still provided by journal publishers (for this anomalous, author-give-away literature in the PostGutenberg era) is peer review itself.
The rest -- on-paper versions, PDF on-line page images, deluxe online enhancements -- are all potentially valuable features, to be sure, but only as take-it-or-leave-it options. In the on-line era there is no longer any necessity, hence no longer any justification whatsoever, for continuing to hold the refereed research itself hostage to S/L/P tolls and whatever add-ons they happen to pay for.
Beware also of any attempt to trade off S for L or L for P: Pick your poison, all three are access-barriers, hence impact-barriers, and hence all three must go -- or rather, they must all now become only the price-tags for the add-on, deluxe options that they buy for the researcher and his institution, but no longer also for the peer-reviewed essentials, which can now be self-archived for free for all.
But the peers who review it for the journals are the researchers themselves, and they review it for free, just as the researchers report it for free. So it must be made quite clear that the only real QC/C cost is that of implementing the peer review, not actually performing it.
1998) as well as the real experience of online-only journals (e.g.,
Journal of High Energy Physics http://jhep.cern.ch/;
http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psycoloquy/) have shown that the QC/C implementation cost is quite low -- about 10% of the total amount that the world's institutional libraries (or rather, the small subset of them that can afford any given journal at all!) are currently paying annually per article in S/L/P tolls .
Once the 90% S/L/P add-ons become optional, the essential 10% QC/C cost could easily be paid out of the 100% S/L/P savings -- if ever the world's libraries decide they no longer need the add-ons. (The other 90% savings can be used to buy other things, e.g., books, which are not, and never will be, author give-aways.)
All researchers can free their own refereed research now, virtually overnight, by taking the matter into their own hands; they can self-archive it in their institutional Eprint Archives: http://www.eprints.org. Access to the eprints of their refereed research is then immediately freed of all S/L/P barriers, forever.
Because of their OAI-compliance, the papers in all registered Eprints Archives can be harvested and searched by Open Archive Services such as Cite-Base http://cite-base.ecs.soton.ac.uk/help/index.php3 and the Cross Archive Searching Service http://arc.cs.odu.edu/, providing seamless access to all the eprints, across all the Eprint Archives, as if they were all in one global, virtual archive.
However, it is likely that there will be some changes as a consequence of the freeing of the literature by author/institution self-archiving. This is what those changes might be:
Note that it is quite possible that there will always continue to be a market for the S/L/P options (on-paper version, publisher's on-line PDF, deluxe enhancements) even though most users use the free versions. Nothing hangs on this.
If the S/L/P market stays large enough, nothing else need change.
But if publishers do need to abandon providing the S/L/P products and to scale down instead to providing only the QC/C service, then universities, having saved 100% of their annual S/L/P budgets, will have plenty of annual windfall savings from which to pay for their own researchers' continuing (and essential) annual journal-submission QC/C costs (10%); the rest of their savings (90%) they can spend as they like (e.g., on books -- plus a bit for Eprint Archive maintenance).
But the producers of refereed research reports do not wish to have protection from "theft" of this kind; on the contrary, they wish to encourage it. They have no royalties to gain from preventing it; they have only research impact to lose from access-blockage of any kind.
The producers of refereed research reports, in contrast, wish to give their work away; hence fair-use issues are moot for this special give-away literature.
(The intuitive model for this is advertisements: what advertiser wants to lose his right to give away his ads for free, diminishing their potential impact by charging for access to them!)
Well, there is no need for the authors of refereed research to worry about exercising their give-away rights, for they can do it, legally, even under the most restrictive copyright agreement, by using the following strategy.
[Note that some journals have, apart from copyright policies, which are a legal matter,"embargo policies," which are merely policy matters (nonlegal). Invoking the "Ingelfinger (Embargo) Rule," some journals state that they will not referee (let alone publish) papers that have previously been "made public" in any way, whether through conferences, press releases, or on-line self-archiving. The Ingelfinger Rule, apart from being directly at odds with the interests of research and researchers and having no intrinsic justification whatsoever -- other than as a way of protecting journals' current revenue streams -- is not a legal matter, and unenforceable. So researchers are best advised to ignore it completely, exactly as the authors of the 150,000 papers in the Physics Archive have been doing for 10 years now. The "Ingelfinger Rule" is under review by journals in any case; Nature has already dropped it, and there are indications that Science may soon follow suit too.]
Some publishers (about 10%) already explicitly allow self-archiving of the refereed postprint (e.g., the American Physical Society: ftp://aps.org/pub/jrnls/copy_trnsfr.asc). Most other publishers (perhaps 70%) will also accept this clause, but only if you explicitly propose it yourself (they will not formulate it on their own initiative).
Some journals (about 20%), however, will respond that they decline to publish your paper unless you sign their copyright transfer agreement verbatim. In such cases, sign their agreement and proceed to the next step:
Everyone chuckles at this point, but the reason it is so easy is that this is the author give-away literature. No non-give-away author would ever dream of doing such a thing (archiving the prepublication draft for free, along with the corrigenda). And copyright agreements (and copyright law) are designed and conceived to meet the much more representative interests of non-give-away authors and their much larger body of royalty/fee-based work. Hence this simple and legal expedient for the special, tiny, anomalous, give-away literature has no constituency anywhere else.
Yet this simple, risible strategy is also feasible, and legal (Oppenheim 2001) -- and sufficient to free the entire current refereed corpus of all access/impact barriers immediately!
This is why it is hoped that (with the help of the eprints.org institutional archive-creating software) distributed, institution-based self-archiving, as a powerful and natural complement to central, discipline-based self-archiving, will now broaden and accelerate the self-archiving initiative, putting us all over the top at last, with the entire distributed corpus integrated by the glue of interoperability (http://www.openarchives.org).
As to the past (retrospective) literature: The Harnad/Oppenheim preprint+corrigenda strategy will not work there, but as the retrospective journal literature brings virtually no revenue, most publishers will agree to author self-archiving after a sufficient period (6 months to 2 years) has elapsed. Moreover, for the really old literature, it is not clear that on-line self-archiving was covered by the old copyright agreements at all.
And if all else fails for the retrospective literature, a variant of the Harnad/Oppenheim strategy will still work: Simply do a revised 2nd edition! Update the references, rearrange the text (and add more text and data if you wish). For the record, the enhanced draft can be accompanied by a "de-corrigenda" file, stating which of the enhancements were not in the published version.
(And of course the starting point for the revised, enhanced 2nd edition, if you no longer have the digital text in your word processor, can be scanned and OCR'd from the journal; by thus distributing it, authors can do for their own work for-free what JSTOR http://www.jstor.org/ is only able to do for the work of others for-fee.)
For researchers who profess to be too busy, tired, old, or inexpert to self-archive their papers for themselves, a modest start-up budget to pay library experts or students to do it for them would be a small amount of money very well-invested. It will only be needed to get the first wave over the top; from then on, the momentum from the enhanced access and impact will maintain itself, and self-archiving will become as standard a practise as email.
But what needs energetic initial promotion and support is the first wave. If (i) the enhanced access of their own researchers to the research of others and (ii) the enhanced visibility (Lawrence 2001 )and the resulting enhanced impact of their own research on the research of others are not incentive enough for universities to promote and support the self-archiving initiative energetically, they should also consider that it will be an investment in (iii) a potential solution to their serials crisis and the possible recovery of 90% of their annual serials (S/L/P) budget.
(Note that the success of the self-archiving initiative is predicated on the same Golden Rule on which both refereeing and research themselves are predicated: If we all do our own part for one another, we all benefit from it. Give in order to receive...)
Libraries can also facilitate a stable transition through their collective, consortial power (SPARC: http://www.arl.org/sparc), providing leveraged support for publishers who are prepared to commit themselves to a timetable for downsizing to the essentials only (the peer review service, to the author/institution). And individually they can also be preparing in advance for the restructuring that will come if their S/L/P savings grow; about 10% of their annual savings will need to be redirected to cover their university's own authors' QC/C charges per paper. The remaining 90% is theirs to use in any way they see fit!
A much better policy is to concede on the optimal and inevitable for research, and plan on the possibility of separating the provision of the essential QC/C service to the author-institution (peer review implementation charges, per paper) from the provision of all other add-on products (e.g., on-paper version, on-line version, other added-values), which should be sold as options, rather than used to try to keep holding the essentials (the refereed final draft) hostage to S/L/P tolls.
There will still be a permanent niche for journal publishers. What remains to be seen is whether that will entail downsizing to QC/C service-provision alone, or whether there will also continue to be a market for S/L/P/-based add-ons even after the refereed drafts are available free through the Eprint Archives.
The beneficiaries will not just be research and researchers, but society itself, inasmuch as research is supported because of its potential benefits to society. Researchers in developing countries and at the less affluent universities and research institutions of developed countries will benefit even more from barrier-free access to the research literature than will the better-off institutions, but it is instructive to remind ourselves that even the most affluent institutional libraries cannot afford most of the refereed journals! None have access to more than a small subset of the entire annual corpus (http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/arl/index.html). So free access to it all will benefit all institutions (Odlyszko 1999a, 1999b).
And on the other side of barrier-free access to the work of others, all researchers, even the most affluent, will benefit from the barrier-free impact of their own work on the work of others. Moreover, a freed, interoperable, digital research literature will not only radically enhance access, navigation (e.g., citation-linking) and impact, hence research productivity and quality, but it will also spawn new ways of monitoring and measuring that impact, productivity and quality (e.g., download impact, links, immediacy, comments, and the higher-order dynamics of a citation-linked corpus that can be analyzed from preprint to post-postprint, to yield an "embryology of knowledge" (Harnad & Carr 2000).
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"Scholarly Skywriting" (1990)
Physics Archive (1991)
"PostGutenberg Galaxy" (1991)
"Interactive Publication" (1992)
Self-Archiving ("Subversive") Proposal (1994)
"Tragic Loss" (Odlyzko) (1995)
"Last Writes" (Hibbitts) (1996)
NCSTRL: Networked Computer Science Technical Reference Library (1996)
University Provosts' Initiative (1997)
CogPrints: Cognitive Sciences Archive (1998)
Journal of High Energy Physics (Refereed On-Line-Only Journal) (1998)
Science Policy Forum (1998)
American Scientist Forum (1998)
OpCit:Open Citation Linking Project (1999)
E-biomed: Varmus (NIH) Proposal (1999)
Open Archives Initiative (1999)
Cross-Archive Searching Service (2000)
Eprints: Free OAI-compliant Eprint-Archive-creating software (2001)
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