Harnad to Margoshes, 5/4/99

> From: "Marvin Margoshes" <physchem@earthlink.net>

> ...somebody (better several somebodies) must try online models of
> scientific publishing to learn what works. (Theoretical physicists are
> allowed to try to do it by equations.)

I am perplexed by this remark. What on earth does Marvin Margoshes think empirical experimentation on online models of scientific publishing is, if the LANL Physics Archive is not precisely that, mirrored in 15 countries, with at least 35,000 "somebodies" using it daily! If that does not count as "working," and working resoundingly successfully, I don't know what does!


LANL has demonstrated the enormous utility of decoupling the archiving/access function from the quality control function. It remains to (1) generalize its benefits to the rest of the disciplines and to (2) test models for funding the quality control independent of the archiving/access.

I have proposed paying for the quality control out of author page charges funded from institutional S/L/P savings. There may well be other models.


The Institute of Physics has an experimental journal to which access will be free for all, funded from author page charges:


This experiment is to be wished well, but it may be premature. The pragmatic order of events is more likely to be:

(1) Making author self-archiving available

(1) Widespread author self-archiving

(2) Shift of the reader community to the free archives

(3) S/L/P cancellations

(4) Transition of journals to page-charges under the cancellation pressure

The reason it is probably premature to switch to page charges in a single journal now is that the usage and culture is not yet ready for it: Page charges still have a (justified) bad reputation, for in the paper era, when they were levied ON TOP OF S/L/P access-barriers, they amounted to adding insult to injury! They also still have a wrong-headed aura of "vanity press." And even physicists, with their heavy reliance on LANL, are unlikely to dare to cancel the S/L/P journals until other disciplines likewise become dependent on free online archives and are ready to follow suit.

All this will change under pressure from usage, but the usage must come first. Hence the importance of archiving initiatives such as the Scholars Forum, to generalize the empirical success of LANL to the rest of the disciplines.


Stevan Harnad harnad@cogsci.soton.ac.uk

Professor of Cognitive Science harnad@princeton.edu

Department of Electronics and phone: +44 1703 592-582

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