ePrint Repositories

Stevan Harnad harnad at cogito.ecs.soton.ac.uk
Fri Jan 26 18:20:23 EST 2001


Dear Art,

Before I reply, may I suggest that you and others on this list who
might be interested sign on to the American Scientist Forum, which
has been actively discussing these and related topics:

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

The issue of quackery and potential dangers to public health has been
extensively discussed, for example, in:

    (1) The ARCHIVE OF COMMENTS ON E-biomed: A Proposal for Electronic
    Publications in the Biomedical Sciences (May 5, 1999 DRAFT)
    http://www.nih.gov/about/director/ebiomed/comment.htm

    (2) Harnad, S. (2000) E-Knowledge: Freeing the Refereed Journal
    Corpus Online.  Computer Law & Security Report 16(2) 78-87.
    [Rebuttal to Bloom Editorial in Science and Relman Editorial in New
    England Journal of Medicine]
    http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Papers/Harnad/harnad00.scinejm.htm

    (3) Harnad, S. (2000) Ingelfinger Over-Ruled: The Role of the Web
    in the Future of Refereed Medical Journal Publishing. The Lancet
    Perspectives 256 (December Supplement): s16.
    http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Papers/Harnad/harnad00.lancet.htm

    (4) The American Scientist Forum (above)

The very same solution for quackery-minimization that evolved in the
Gutenberg (on-paper) era, namely, relying on certified, peer-reviewed
findings, is equally applicable in the PostGutenberg (on-line) era. Any
residual problem created by public on-line read-write access coalesces
with the problem of on-line pornography and xenophobic literature, the
policing of which is a much bigger problem, well beyond the remit of
learned journals, and more in the jurisdiction of institutional
consortia and government. This should be clearly kept in mind.

The protection of public health from quackery at the journal and Eprint
archive level is, in the first instance, accomplished by prominent
tagging of the peer-reviewed literature as such, just as it was done
on-paper. All OAI-compliant eprints.org archives have a "refereed" and
"journal-name" meta-data tag which can be used not only to restrict a
user's focus to the refereed literature (just as it was on-paper), but,
if deemed necessary for security reasons (I doubt this will be
necessary for some time, if ever), the metadata tags, like the papers'
full-texts themselves, could be uniquely authenticated by cryptographic
means.

In addition, the nonrefereed papers in Eprint Archives can not only
itself be pre-vetted for quackery, but it can be displayed with
prominent "health warnings", as as being done, for example, in the
British Medical Journal's experimental http://clinmed.netprints.org/

http://www.nih.gov/about/director/ebiomed/com0509.htm
http://www.nih.gov/about/director/ebiomed/com0627.htm

Nor should we forget that a good deal of biomedical literature is not
public-health-related; for that sector quackery is no more (or less) of
an issue there than in Physics or other disciplines.

--------------------------------------------------------------------
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           


On Fri, 26 Jan 2001, Art Huntley (Dermatology, UC Davis) wrote:

> >From our standpoint, the issue of putting unvetted material on the CDL
> Website relates to conflict of interest of the authors.  Probably not an
> issue for those in the physics world, but a traditional problem in
> medicine today.  
> 
> The existence of the printing press permitted the development of the
> journal and scientific format as we now know it.  As early as 1662, it was
> noted that medical knowledge needed to fulfill the Baconian criterion of
> being freely communicated and fairly criticized.  The printing press led
> to great communication of science, but a parallel advancement of quackery.
> I believe the existence of the Web has fertilized the quackery industry.  
> 
> We are concerned that allowing anyone to post material to the CDL, to be a
> recognized site, may result in hosting content that may be simply
> advertisement or, at worst, quackery.  This is one of the issues that will
> need to be sorted out before we have widespread acceptance by Academic
> Medicine.  







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