Author's comments to Stevan Harnad, April 30, 1999

We would like to point out some features of the Scholar's Forum that are being overlooked or misinterpreted.

1. The Forum does not propose establishing one generic "journal" for all disciplines, or even a number of generic journals for different disciplines. It is a model for conducting scholarly discourse, not the name of one server somewhere. Each element of the Operational View flowchart stands for many such elements in practice, i.e. many editorial boards, panels of copy-editing technical writers, groups of referees, technical program committees, authors, and archives. The flowchart describes the relationships among various parts of the model. Arrows indicate communication or discussion channels; dotted lines indicate automated interaction with standards and protocols.

2. The preprint server is distinct from the archive. The Consortium makes a long-term commitment to transfer reviewed works (final versions) to permanent archives, both paper (for now) and electronic. It guarantees that as digital technology evolves, all electronic works will be converted in a timely and high quality manner.

We are adamant in our belief that "self-archiving" to a single pre-print server by authors when they submit a work is not building an archive. Archiving involves a commitment to retain and maintain a work in a secure, systematic fashion beyond the foreseeable future. The preprint server offers an author a venue for presenting a work openly, without restrictions, and obviates the author's need to maintain a personal server for this purpose. The Consortium will commit to providing on-going server maintenance and further archival retention including making conversions to new formats as network technology advances.

3. The purpose of the Forum is not to put established publishers out of business, nor to generate a parallel universe to what already exists. We agree that scholars do not need duplicative journals.

The Forum establishes a mechanism by which a society, group, conference committee, etc. may process and post their collected works without having to develop an infrastructure of their own. Once a standards and protocols platform is developed, it will be tested with people who have no established journals of their own before it is opened to general use.

There is no reason the Forum cannot entertain proposals from established journals to move their electronic collections onto Forum servers under the following important conditions:

a.) The Consortium will not support any S/L/P terms from anyone for access to the materials on the Consortium servers.

b.) To use a Forum server as its electronic distribution source, the publisher must freely accept the terms agreed to by all parties to the Consortium.

c.) Authors or their institutions retain copyright per the terms established by the Consortium (see the Model text).

4. The journal as a finite aggregation of vetted works will fade away. In its place, the Forum offers a strong set of value-added alternatives:
bulletSocieties or other groups may create and disseminate coherent, accessible virtual collections of links selected for their pertinence to members' interests. Thus, a society may announce the availability of a work of particular interest to members but that may be outside their usual focus or discipline.
bulletIn addition, this platform will enable individuals to establish their own subject profiles to create personal alerting services.

5. The Forum provides flexibility to authors:
bulletThe Forum supports choice on how widely a work may be made available prior to acceptance; authors may submit works directly to editorial boards or to conference planners without first announcing their work in a preprint server.
bulletAuthors do not have to relinquish their right to submit papers to established journals; the Forum represents one option for authors.

6. The Forum does not propose to change the peer review process. Peer review will continue to be conducted within the disciplines by referees selected for their expertise by their peers.
bulletEditorial Boards will continue to be established just as today by the scientific community, to serve the same critical needs. There may be an infinite number of such boards, and they may be broadly based or highly specialized, depending solely on their objectives and goals. They will continue to exercise exactly the same quality control function as for today's journals and they may compete in areas in which the scholarly community feels that competition is beneficial.

7. Copy-editing is a minor process. As Andrew Odlyzko recently pointed out, "The manuscripts prepared by authors have been improving, to the point that copy of diminished value."
bulletHowever, editorial boards may demand that any author have a work copy-edited to meet its quality standards. The Forum proposes that such copy-editing continues to be performed but that the author becomes responsible.
bulletThe Forum proposes to eliminate the need for an editorial board to contract with or become a publisher to accomplish copy-editing, by establishing lists of approved consultants or services to whom an author may take a work that needs to be brought up to the board's standards.
bulletIt is the prerogative of the editorial board to insist on receiving verification of required copy-editing from its approved list prior to final acceptance of a work.

8. The new management of copy-editing illustrates a central advantage of the Forum model: production cost is shifted from the reader/subscriber to the author/creator. Authors are given meaningful incentive to improve their writing skills and to submit quality copy at the outset which would certainly improve the lot of referees and editorial boards!

9. While journal publication may take time to displace or reconfigure, conference proceedings are expensive, limited publications that are difficult to access but contain many valuable works. They may provide an ideal arena for initial experimentation.

Conference organizers will have the opportunity to distribute abstracts or preliminary works prior to a conference without incurring the expense of printing and mailing, thus reducing the costs associated with publicizing a conference.

The Forum also provides a mechanism for conference organizers to announce programs and create indexes of submitted works. Full papers, reviewed or not, may be made available at a later time with links to the original program and possibly with added commentary from the conference itself. Refereed papers would be included in the archive, and could include links to standing editorial boards in addition to the conference links.

10. The Forum proposes to develop a dynamic alternative to deadening email discourse surrounding works in servers. By providing a hierarchical "threaded" discourse platform, comments may be linked in a coherent and logical manner. Readers will have access to the full discussion rather than to edited email commentary.

bulletAll prior comments will be available to each reader, in full, as submitted, without requiring compilation or intermediation.
bulletTo facilitate this new mode of discussion, the Forum will develop the mechanisms to support and retain linked commentary.
bulletThe author of a comment on a refereed work may also submit it directly to an appropriate editorial board for review and possible inclusion in the archival record.

11. A well-designed index to the scholarly record assures that present and future scholars may efficiently identify relevant work. Since the Forum's input protocols and standards platform will permit the creation of a body of works that carry consistent identification parameters, works may be sorted and retrieved by those parameters. Consistent identification parameters counterbalance the limitations of hyperlink-only retrieval or free text-only searching.

We submit that the Scholar's Forum, in its alpha-to-omega vision for advancing scholarly communication, addresses for the first time in one coherent model the wide range of needs and concerns of the academic and research community. The Scholar's Forum provides a framework for experimentation to develop the next paradigm for scholar discourse.

Anne Buck
University Librarian
California Institute of Technology