Eprint Archives vs. Journals

D. R. Forsdyke forsdyke at post.queensu.ca
Sun Apr 18 11:21:04 EST 1999

Stevan Harnad wrote:
> On Mon, 12 Apr 1999, Donald Forsdyke wrote:

> > Dr. Harnad,
> >            Thank you for this great proposal for bringing electronic
> > publication to the biological sciences. Could you briefly tell us what
> > steps are being taken to ensure that material, once deposited, is not
> > interfered with.

> Your concern is legitimate, but the situation is in some ways more
> complicated and in some ways simpler than you seem to be envisioning.
> I have described the overall pattern in my writings
> <http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/intpub.html>, so I will only give the
> pertinent gist here:
> Don't confuse eprint archives with journals at this point. Eventually
> they will coalesce, but right now it is critical to distinguish them.
> Self-archiving by authors in free, public Eprint Archives (like Los
> Alamos, and CogPrints <http://cogprints.soton.ac.uk>) is NOT meant as a
> substitute for journals: Journals provide peer review and
> certification. Archives merely provide access, and in this case, access
> to texts that their depositors "certify" are their own; and, where
> appropriate, authors also "certify" that they have appeared, verbatim,
> in the journal they indicate.
> That is all that Eprint Archives need to provide at this time. It is
> journals themselves that continue to provide the peer review, and that
> certify the final, accepted draft as published. Hence, for now, the only
> "authentic" draft is the paper (or online) one provided by the publisher
> (the online version can be encrypted, finger-printed,
> password-protected, you name it).
 The text retrieved from the free archive might be corrupted (if
> the depositor has been careless) or it might even be false (if the depositor
> has been dishonest, say, falsely claiming that it has been published in
> journal X, volume Y). To be sure of authorship and authenticity, one
> would still have to check the "authenticated" version, 

Dr. Harnad,
           Yes, "at this point in time". But you seem to retain the idea
that papers MUST be accredited so that the poor reader will not have to
sift through all the garbage, and that this MUST be retained as a
function for the regular paper journals. In fact, if an author NEEDS
accreditation (i.e. his/her "good" name in the field is not enough),
then the professional "Societies" are the logical orchestraters of
quality certification; there is no need for the publishing house "middle
men" to do this.

   Actually, I find journal peer-review as currently practiced more akin
to censorship than quality control. With search engines of various
kinds, indexes of citations, indexes of professional pedigrees, etc.
most readers in the electronic media will have all they need to find
what is worth reading. There is a splendid opportunity for the
publishers to provide services in this respect, something like the
Current Topics Series put out by one publishing house.

   Finally, you seem hooked on the idea of one final "authenticated"
copy. Darwin and Hooker engaged in correspondence, which is now
published. The correspondence was dated and by various tests does not
appear to be forged. Their views changed later, and so that these do not
always correspond with what was in the correspondence. However, from the
point of view of the historical record, their work was first. ANY form
of record does this. There are plenty of busy people out there who do
not read the early literature, rediscover the wheel, and then claim
credit for it. Sometimes Nobel prizes (and the associated power and
influence) follow (e.g. see N. Jerne's recapitulation of Ehrlich's work
in immunology). The matter is not trivial.   

Sincerely, Donald Forsdyke, Discussion Leader (Bionet.journals.note)

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