EPRINTS = PREPRINTS (unrefereed) + POSTPRINTS (refereed)

Stevan Harnad harnad at cogito.ecs.soton.ac.uk
Fri May 19 10:21:24 EST 2000


On Fri, 19 May 2000, Steve Hitchcock wrote:

> The term "author self-archiving
> highlights the issues and agenda very clearly indeed. We are unlikely to
> sustain eprints = preprints + postprints unless it is based on author
> self-archiving.

No one could be more sanguine about author self-archiving than myself,
but it is not part of the definition of eprint. 

Eprints are online digital papers reporting scholarly/scientific
research. I'm sending you an eprint if I email you a draft of either
my unrefereed preprint or my refereed postprint. (When the digital
draft is just sitting inertly in my own machine, it's only trivially an
eprint, if an eprint at all.) A fortiori, it is an eprint if it is
archived on the Web. But surely it's just as much an eprint if it's
archived in a financially fire-walled proprietary archive that charges
tolls for access as it is if it is archived in a freely accessible,
interoperable open archive (or, for that matter, on the author's
home website).

The point of this thread was that the equation of "eprints" with
(unrefereed) "preprints," as in Declan Butler's Nature article, is
incorrect, arbitrary, and misleading. The source of this confusion is
multiple. Don't forget that the "Open Archive Initiative (OAi)" was
originally given the tentative name of the "Universal Preprint Service
(UPS)," and that the LANL Physics Archive (now arXiv.org) was originally
and often misdescribed as a "Physics Preprint Archive" and the like,
even though, almost from the very beginning (out of its admittedly
preprint origins), LANL has consisted of both pre- AND postprints. (Les
Carr will soon be writing up and documenting the embryology of eprints
along the scholarly skywriting continuum.)

    Harnad, S. (1990) Scholarly Skywriting and the Prepublication
    Continuum of Scientific Inquiry. Psychological Science 1: 342 - 343
    (reprinted in Current Contents 45: 9-13, November 11 1991).

So just as reserving the descriptor "eprints" for unrefereed preprints
would be arbitrarily and misleadingly restrictive and unrepresentative,
so reserving it for "self-archived papers" would be -- even though this
Forum (the American Scientist Forum on Freeing the Refereed Journal
Literature OnLine), as well as http://www.openarchives.org and
http://eprints.org are, all three particularly focused on the
self-archived literature.

So just as eprints are equally eprints whether they are preprints or
postprints, so they are equally eprints whether they are auto-archived or

There is nothing to prevent journals, for example, from adopting the
soon-to-be-released eprints.org open-archiving freeware to set up
interoperable, Santa-Fe-compliant open archives of their own, in which
the full-texts of all their eprints (postprints allo-archived by the
journal for their authors) are accessible only for a fee. It is just
that those archives have not been designed for that purpose, but rather
for adoption by universities and research institutions, so that their
authors can auto-archive their own eprints (preprints and postprints)
therein, thereby making them accessible to everyone for free.

The research community can then decide for itself whether it prefers to
use allo-archived eprints for-fee or auto-archived eprints for-free.

Indeed, that is the gist of the Subversive Proposal:

    Harnad, S. (1995) A Subversive Proposal. In: Ann Okerson & James
    O'Donnell (Eds.) Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads; A Subversive
    Proposal for Electronic Publishing. Washington, DC., Association of
    Research Libraries, June 1995.

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):


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Discussion can be posted to:

    september98-forum at amsci-forum.amsci.org 

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