Varmus (fwd)

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Fri Oct 8 06:04:03 EST 1999

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1999 22:24:26 +0100 (BST)
From: Stevan Harnad <harnad at>
To: september98-forum at
Subject: Re: Varmus

On Thu, 7 Oct 1999, Vincent Kiernan wrote:

> Dr. Harnad,
> We're working on a story about the announcement that Harold Varmus is
> leaving NIH, and we're gathering comment and reaction. I was wondering if
> you have any thoughts about the impact of Varmus' E-biomed proposal and its
> prognosis in the wake of his departure?
> Thanks in advance
> Vince Kiernan
> Senior writer, The Chronicle of Higher Education
> kiernan at

I of course hope that E-biomed (now PubMed Central) will come into
being and have an influence despite Harold's departure, but it is
certainly true that his personal initiative was a very important
factor. If his successor does not support it with equal conviction, it
will be a historic setback for the world scientific community's course
toward the optimal and the inevitable: the freeing of the refereed
journal literature for one and all, online.

There had already been a bit too much of a compromise in the decision
to design PubMed Central for organization-based rather than individual
self-archiving, but this might evolve toward individual self-archiving
if there are enough high-quality participating journals from the outset. 

PubMed Central opens in January. It should soon become apparent to what
extent the commitment behind it was NIH's and to what extent it was
Harold's own laudable personal crusade.

Either way, the self-archiving initiative will grow. At issue is only
the historic question of whether or not NIH's causal role will prove to
have been a critical one.

Other initiatives are materializing. Perhaps the most important of
these currently is the UPS in 2 weeks, spearheaded,
characteristically, by Paul Ginsparg, but joined this time by
substantial representation from the other disciplines:

Physicists are clearly smarter than the rest of us, and way ahead in
all this, but the rest of us will catch up, sooner or later. The
question here is only whether or not the biomedical sciences will prove
to be #2 through the finish gate.

Stevan Harnad                     harnad at
Professor of Cognitive Science    harnad at
Department of Electronics and     phone: +44 23-80 592-582
Computer Science                  fax:   +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton  
SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM           

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of "Freeing the
Refereed Journal Literature Through Online Self-Archiving" is available
at the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99):

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