Self-Archiving and the reaction of publishers

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Mon Nov 6 13:33:13 EST 2000

On Mon, 6 Nov 2000, Thomas Bacher, Director, Purdue Press, wrote:

> This whole discussion misses the current trend of licensing that is becoming
> prevalent by information gatherers be they publishers, universities or other
> institutions. 

Not missing the trend at all. "Licensing" has always been the "L" in
S/L/P [Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View] -- all three are
needless access/impact barriers, all are contrary to the interests of
research and researchers. Pick your poison.

> With rights management systems, an organization can capture
> information and price it for use with guards against re-use even if the
> re-use constitutes fair use.

We are not talking about "information" in general, but about a very
small, special and anomalous subset of it: Refereed research papers.
The researcher is not interested in "pricing it for use" or in "guards
against re-use." The researcher is interested in maximizing his
refereed research's visibility, accessibility and impact. S/L/P
barriers are all impact-blockers.

Since this refereed research is and always has been an
author-give-way, "fair use" issues (such as those pertaining to
non-give-away literature such as monographs and textbooks) are
simply moot for this special literature:

> Also, all people are not writers and all systems do not distribute in an
> equitable way. Hence, we have entities called publishers.

I could not follow this point. But, yes, even for this anomalous,
give-away literature (the refereed research corpus), publishers do
provide an essential service to authors, namely,
Quality-Control/Certification [QC/C] (implementing peer review).
However, as the peers give away their review services for free, just as
the researchers give away their peer-reviewed research for free, the
costs of this essential service are considerably lower than the costs
of the inessential services (producing an on-paper and on-line text and
deluxe add-ons) to which they are currently being held hostage.

Those other products and services can be sold as add-on options as long
as there is a market; but the refereed research itself must be freed
(and can and will be, through author/institution self-archiving in
interoperable Eprint Archives):

> I do think that publishers will come to terms with e-prints and limited
> self-use by authors. However, there are factors that drive the current
> system.

I think so too. But unfortunately the points below are not signs of
coming to terms but are instead a litany of familiar red herrings, with no
causal connection to the revolutionary new possibility now within
researchers' reach, of freeing their entire give-away literature
through author/institution self-archiving:

> Prestige. Researchers like to see their work published in the most
> prestigious publication in their respective fields.

Correct. That is what the essential QC/C service provides. But why
should that prestige come at the price of impact-barriers? Let the true
cost of the QC/C service (and a fair return) be paid for out of the
S/L/P savings and the prestige remains intact. Until then, let authors
self-archive their prestigious refereed papers. The outcome is the

(There is, as usual, a causal quid-pro-quo link implied here that is in
reality non-existent.)

> Pay. Researchers do like to get paid for doing something, even if that pay
> is in the form of reprints.

Can this be meant seriously? As a compensation for allowing needless
impact-barriers (S/L/P) to be erected between my give-away refereed
research and its potential worldwide readership, I am supposed to
accept a finite quantity of paper reprints, so I can stamp and mail
them? When I can just as easily archive the eprint in an Eprint
Archive, free for all?

Are we to proceed, then, as if nothing whatsoever has changed, and
changed radically, with the brand-new possibilities that the new
PostGutenberg have opened up for research and researchers?

This does not sound like coming to terms, but like
status-quo-conservation at all costs -- to research and to common

> Power. Researchers like to reach points at which they are viewed as
> authorities in particular fields and can determine the worth of
> contributions to that field.

Correct. And that is precisely what peer review (QC/C) provides. Now
where is the causal link between that essential service and continuing
to hold this peer-reviewed literature behind S/L/P firewalls as it is

> Portability. You can say all that you might like to about electronic
> distribution, but currently paper is still king. How often do you print
> things to read?

Hard to believe that the causal connection has not been made between an
eprint archive and a printer, when one needs one...

> Process. Tenure still hangs on certain factors that discourage information
> distribution in certain ways.

Tenure hangs on publishing refereed research. That is QC/C again. It
does not hang on holding QC/C research hostage to S/L/P gate tolls.

To put it another way: In the PostGutenberg Era in which
author/institution self-archiving of refereed research has at last
become possible, we now need to see through these pseudo-causal
connections, which are no longer causal at all, and realize that QC/C
implementation is the only ESSENTIAL causal role that journal
publishing plays any more, in the online age (the rest is optional).
All the above connections are superstitions, based on past correlations,
from the Gutenberg Era, not on contemporary causality.

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

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