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Stevan Harnad harnad at cogito.ecs.soton.ac.uk
Wed Jun 30 05:38:00 EST 1999

On Wed, 30 Jun 1999, Juan Miguel Campanario wrote:

jc>> I am sending comments on EBIOMED. The EBIOMED idea is very similar to
jc>> an idea I have published before. I am sending an elaborated version
jc>> of my idea with references to THE SCIENTIST, the journal in which I
jc>> published it.
sh>Unfortunately, I cannot agree with your ideas about peer review.
sh>Please see:
sh>plus my critique of E-biomed:
> Dear Prof. Harnad:
> Thank you for your answer. I know your opinions concerning E-biomed 
> and concerning peer review.
> My main interest in E-biomed is that I propossed a very similar
> publishing outlet some time ago. The main diference between E-biomed and
> my idea is that, while in E-biomed authors are entitled to choose the journal
> to which referes are afiliated, in my proposal (a central database or
> metajournal) authors would submit an abstract or a full manuscript to the
> central facility or metajournal. Journal editorial boards would routinely
> scan the metajournal to locate potentially innovative manuscripts and/or
> papers of interest. Editors would then contact authors about publishing the
> article. If more than one offer is made, the author would choose the
> journal in which to publish. The task of shopping around could be
> eliminated and left totally in the hands of interested journals. The new
> system would inspire a new role in science: the journal scout or journal
> agent who would seek out manuscripts for journals.Journal scouts should be
> real experts in their fields and should be able to convice editors that
> candidate papers are worthy of publication. I strongly believe that when
> electronic publishing evolves, the
> publishing system will be similar to the above I dreamed. Now, I am interested
> in stating that a precedent to the idea of E-biomed was published by me some
> time ago.
> The Scientist,
> 1997, Vol 11, Iss 10, May 12, pag 9 (Internet:
> Juan Miguel Campanario
> Departamento de Fisica        http://www.uah.es/otrosweb/giac
> Universidad de Alcala         fscampanario at alcala.es
> 28871 Alcala de Henares       TEL 34-91-8854926 Fax 34-91-8854942
> ---------------------------------------------

Dear Prof Campanario,

The idea is interesting but has some problems.

(1) Peer-review is a "seller's" market and not a "buyer's" market (if
the "market" metaphor is applicable at all -- and I rather doubt it).
This means authors are trying to reach the acceptance threshold of the
highest quality journal they can reach. Quality-control is a FILTER, not a

(2) There is nothing whatsoever wrong with the current quality and
specialty hierarchy and network of journals -- except that access to it
is blocked (by the access-constraints of paper and the toll-barriers of
proprietary paper and online access) instead of being free.

(3) E-biomed's real mission (once the confusion about being, competing
with or collaborating with journals is resolved in favour of what the
archive should real be: none of these) is to provide a reliable,
permanent facility for authors to self-archive both their refereed
reprints and their unrefereed preprints, thereby freeing the journal
literature for one and all.

(4) Megajournals and peer-review reform having nothing whatsoever to do
with it. E-biomed will only come into focus when it dissociates itself
from such interesting but irrelevant and potentially derailing issues.


Stevan Harnad                     harnad at cogsci.soton.ac.uk
Professor of Cognitive Science    harnad at princeton.edu
Department of Electronics and     phone: +44 2380 592-582
Computer Science                  fax:   +44 2380 592-865
University of Southampton         http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/
Highfield, Southampton            http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/
SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM           ftp://ftp.princeton.edu/pub/harnad/

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