Central vs. Distributed Archives

Stevan Harnad harnad at cogito.ecs.soton.ac.uk
Thu Nov 9 14:16:47 EST 2000


On Thu, 9 Nov 2000, Greg Kuperberg wrote:

> Entirely aside from whether your proposals are the best ones, you have
> previously described them as being nothing other than the "Ginsparg
> model".  Well I think of myself as devoted to the Ginsparg model,
> but my interpretation of it is significantly different from the one
> that you give here.  In 1997 my thinking was much more like yours,
> but three years of direct experience with the arXiv has changed it.

I used to think our models were the same (with one putting more
emphasis on central archiving and the other on distributed archiving).
I assumed that the ends were the same, and the difference between the
means relatively trivial: whatever gets the research literature up
there, online and free, and preferably yesterday, is welcome.

But there has always been a disagreement on the subject of peer review
(pre- vs. post-prints, if you like). My "invisible hand" hypothesis was
formulated in response to the notion that the meaning of preprint
self-archiving was that peer-review and journals would go, and
"preprint archives" would take their place. Not even an epsilon of a shift
in this direction has occurred, even in Physics, with the growth of
self-archiving. Nor, by my lights, would it be at all a good thing if
it did. See:

    Harnad, S. (1998/2000) The invisible hand of peer review. Nature
    [online] (5 Nov. 1998)
    http://helix.nature.com/webmatters/invisible/invisible.html 
    Longer version in Exploit Interactive 5 (2000):
    http://www.exploit-lib.org/issue5/peer-review/
    http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/nature2.html

But I was always convinced (and still am) that this difference of
opinion about the present and future causal role of peer review was
irrelevant, because authors were self-archiving both pre-peer-review
preprints and post-peer-review postprints all along anyway, and
virtually all the papers in arXiv eventually end up published in
peer-reviewed journals (or conference-proceedings).

So when I launched CogPrints, I explicitly announced that it was intended
for eventual subsumption under arXiv (then under its prior name).

But that was all predicated on continuing accelerated growth in
self-archiving. Now, there has been growth, but it has not been nearly
fast enough, either in arXiv (where it is still linear, and will not
capture the entire Physics literature for another decade at this rate)
or in CogPrints, where it is not even linear.

So, with the Open Archive Initiative, and the new prospect of
interoperability between distributed OAI-compliant Eprint Archives, I
returned to my 1994 "subversive proposal" as a way to help speed things
up, and commissioned the upgrading of the CogPrints software into
generic institutional, OAI-compliant Eprint archive-creating software:
http://www.eprints.org

    Harnad, S. (1995) Universal FTP Archives for Esoteric Science and
    Scholarship: 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.
    http://cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/subvert.html
    ftp://ftp.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/pub/psycoloquy/Subversive.Proposal/
    http://www.arl.org/scomm/subversive/toc.html

> My creed is, build a large, integrated, immortal archive now, and the
> e-prints will come tomorrow.  

My creed is to get the eprints up there now (it's already late in the
day, relative to the time it has been within reach), and let the
immortality take care of itself (as it most certainly will do, and
easily).

> I won't insist that this approach is right for your discipline, because
> maybe you know your own community better than I do.  But I do feel
> strongly that it is right for my discipline.

It's not about disciplines (and I'm not just trying to liberate the
cognitive science literature but the refereed literature in all
disciplines). And I don't think sublinear or linear growth is right for
your discipline (maths) either...

> In general your liberation terminology doesn't sit so well with me.

It's a pity, because that is what it's about. Right now, sitting behind
toll-gates, is an author-give-away literature, one that has always been
author-give-away, but was prevented, by Gutenberg-era costs and
constraints, from being given away on the scale authors would have
liked all along, because the only mass-distribution means (on-paper)
had to have its (high) costs met, or else there could be no
distribution at all.

That literature can at last be freed from those unnecessary
access-barriers. If that is not what you are working to achieve,
what are you working to achieve? The journals are virtually all on-line
now, so the medium is not the problem. 

Could it again be this sticking point about PREprints? But don't you
see that it amounts to the same thing? Preprints are and always have
been the earlier embryonic stages of postprints, and people who free
their preprints tend to free their postprints too!

> You have also correctly picked up that I don't accept the dichotomy
> between preprints and postprints.  My view is that the preprint
> and the postprint are Tweedledum and Tweedledee.  

Fine. Now let's get back to getting them all up there, free for all.

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

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

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