What is wrong with this picture? (Refereed Journal Publishing)

Stevan Harnad harnad at cogito.ecs.soton.ac.uk
Mon Jun 19 13:02:17 EST 2000


On Mon, 19 Jun 2000, Bernard Naylor, Southampton University Library
Director, wrote:

> I suppose one thing that's wrong with the picture is that 
> it makes no allowance for the supply of documents by 
> inter-library loan/document supply - which currently 
> usually means the supply of a photocopy of an article, 
> typically within about five working days in the UK, and 
> will be effected increasingly by electronic means in 
> future, thereby significantly shortening supply times.  
> This University Library supplied between 30,000 and 40,000 
> documents last year by this method, notwithstanding 
> financial constraints. Shouldn't this feature in your 
> picture?

In my little allegory, I used the familiar word "subscribe" because I
wanted to avoid the "S/L/P" acronym
(Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View) that I had been
ritualistically incanting in my non-allegorical postings.

But now you see why I need to keep writing it out long-hand after all:
There is a finite "access-fee" budget for any institution, and it
doesn't matter how you distribute it among S, L and P! It's finite
access-funds any way you cut the cake! And it is those access-fees that
are at issue here. It is precisely the inability of any institution to
pay any of those access-fees (for any one of the articles in the, say,
14K refereed journals in Ulrich's, or even the 7K indexed by ISI) that
results in the access-denial that my allegory was meant to highlight.

The point is that neither those access-fees, nor the access-denial
that the inability to pay them entails, is any longer necessary in the
online era of open archiving of refereed research.

I have deliberately turned the familiar picture upside-down in order to
help researchers and their institutions re-think refereed publication
as the SERVICE to the author-institution --
Quality-Control/Certification [QC/C] -- that it really is, and always
has been, rather than the PRODUCT (the paper) to the reader-institution
that it is usually thought to be, on the basis of an untenable analogy
with trade publication (hence the "napster" disanalogy).

The access-denial in question should accordingly be seen from the
author-institution's (NOT the reader-institution's) point of view:

How many researchers' eyes/minds, at how many institutions, has our own
institution's research failed to access as a consequence of the
access-barriers of S/L/P? For it is that lost research IMPACT (in terms
of recognition, citation, and the building of further research on the
findings) that then results in lost career and further-funding
opportunities, and, ultimately, lost further research progress.

It is natural for a Library Director to think in terms of providing
S/L/P access for his institutional readers. And that is the right model
for all literature that fits the trade model (royalty-based books,
fee-based magazine articles) in which the author makes common cause
with his publisher to sell his words, and deny access to those who do
not pay. But the refereed research literature does not fit that trade
model -- and never has! It was merely forced to cohabit with it because
of the economics of paper publication -- the only option in the
Gutenberg Era. That is what I've dubbed the "Faustian Bargain" (with
Gutenberg).

And that is why such a huge conflict of interest is now becoming
apparent between refereed-research authors and their publishers in the
PostGutenberg Era. Whereas book-authors (and CD-recording artists), are
united with their publishers in not wishing to have their work
ripped-off, napster-style, research authors are, and always have been,
eager to give it away! (Their refereed research has always been far
more like a give-away advertisement than a for-sale product.)

But as long as that work is treated as a (joint) for-sale PRODUCT by
its publisher, S/L/P tolls will block access to it. As soon as the
publisher's essential contribution is seen to be the QC/C SERVICE it in
reality is, and as soon as it is seen that the rest of the publisher's
former service, in the Gutenberg era, is no longer necessary for this
special, anomalous literature, the conflict of interest will be
resolved. For the refereed, accepted, QC-certified research can then be
self-archived by the author-institution, in interoperable institutional
Open Archives, providing free access for all (and thereby maximizing
the research impact in a way that was impossible in the era of S/L/P
access-barriers): http://www.eprints.org

THAT (and not a spurious trade-off among S, L and P sub-budgets) is
what is wrong with the picture I described. To see it, simply
substitute "S/L/P budget" for "subscription budget" in the allegory.

--------------------------------------------------------------------
Stevan Harnad                     harnad at cogsci.soton.ac.uk
Professor of Cognitive Science    harnad at princeton.edu
Department of Electronics and     phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science     fax:   +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton         http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/
Highfield, Southampton            http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/
SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM           

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

    http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september98-forum.html

You may join the list at the site above.

Discussion can be posted to:

    september98-forum at amsci-forum.amsci.org 







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