e-Archiving Challenge

Stevan Harnad harnad at cogito.ecs.soton.ac.uk
Thu May 24 06:58:33 EST 2001

On Thu, 24 May 2001, Wentz, Reinhard wrote:

> This week's New Scientist (26.05.01), apart from being substantially about
> complementary medicine, contains a boxed article (p.53) by Stevan Harnad on
> e-archiving copyrighted, peer-reviewed research findings on the Web to make
> them more widely available for free to all fellow researchers. I think the
> article suggests that this will improve researchers' chances to achieve
> higher impact factors and better success in getting research grants and
> (eventually) tenured academic posts. 
> I believe the reasoning behind these conclusions contains at least one major
> fallacy and several sub-fallacies. 
> Can you spot them? I offer a book-token of £20.00 for the best suggestion. 
> P.S. Stevan Harnad knows about this challenge and has already claimed the
> prize money. So I may have to double it (£20.00 to him, £20.00 to AN Other)
> if I am satisfied with his explanations. If there are many contributions I
> may have to appoint un-biased assessors and anonymise the entries. Oh dear! 

For the record, my guess is that the putative fallacy and sub-fallacies
are all already itemized and fully resolved in the list of 23
prima-facie "worries" in:


In particular, my guess is that Reinhard is worried about (#10) copyright:


or about (#7) peer review:


or about (#8) paying the piper:


These are all standard questions, standard enough to have generated the
above FAQs by way of reply.

But I can also conjecture what some candidate nonstandard would-be
"fallacies" could be, specific to what Reinhard has singled out
concerning impact:

If everyone self-archives, thereby freeing access to every refereed
paper, then everyone's ABSOLUTE impact may increase (more readers, more
citations all round), but their RELATIVE impact may not. (So there
will be no added help with getting grants and tenure.)

My reply is that the primary beneficiary of maximizing research access,
and hence research impact, is research itself. If every researcher
becomes more productive, and every researcher has a greater impact,
then at the very least, science and scholarship and their beneficiaries
(all of us) are better off. Even if every researcher's individual
career does not enjoy proportionate benefits, the planet is still better

But the fact is that the powerful and varied new measures of impact
that this digital research corpus will spawn will also allow us to
assess the magnitude of individual contributions more fully and deeply.
So it will be possible to measure and reward relative impact in a much
more informed and sensitive way then before. See:

    Harnad, S. (2001) "Why I think research access, impact and
    assessment are linked." Times Higher Education Supplement 1487: p.
    16 (May 18, 2001). 
    longer version: 

For a demo of the new impact measures and ranking, see:


And for a discussion, see:


By the way, the New Scientist article was pathetically truncated to fit
the magazine's box. I'll bet the original, longer version, already
short-circuits some of Reinhard's fallacies:


I encourage all interested parties to follow the ongoing debate on this
topic in Nature and Science too:


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 & 01):


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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