Harnad to Ransdell 5-7-99

jr> It still is not clear why [Scholars Forum] should put as much
jr> weight... on the self-archiving principle as you think
jr> they should... it is surely well within the power of
jr> such a Consortium to attract as many prestigious editors with their
jr> journals as they can accommodate, and to keep on doing so until they
jr> have brought on board every journal they think worth supporting, without
jr> having to depend upon the much slower results of relying on the
jr> self-archiving principle to work its results out gradually on the basis
jr> of marketplace considerations.

I think you are misunderstanding my critique of those components of the Scholars Forum proposal that I believe need to be dropped completely if the proposal is to succeed.

Yes, a consortium of the leading universities has enormous prestige with authors and readers. But unless it is advocating self-archiving (which would benefit from the consortium's prestige with authors), it is offering absolutely nothing to PUBLISHERS except the readiness to provide facilities to give away for free what they are currently selling. Think about it!

No, what the Forum offers is a revolutionary possibility for journal authors, and readers, and hence for research and researchers: the possibility of making available, for free for all, papers that they themselves have written and (among other things) given for free to their journals.

This possibility has been made available by LANL in Physics, and has been taken up in astounding numbers. Scholars' Forum could see to it that the same thing happens in all other disciplines.

This will induce a very rapid transition to preferential use of the free online literature across disciplines and around the world.

Once the effect of this on S/L/P revenues is felt or anticipated by journal publishers, it will induce them to find a stable alternative, and an Archive overlay may be one of the ways they can save costs in delivering the one remaining essential service to which (I believe) they will have to scale down, namely, quality control.

But to imagine that (because their authors might find the association prestigious?), journals will jump at the chance of an Archive overlay NOW, while their papers are still being accessed and paid for everywhere via S/L/P, is not, I think, very realistic at all, in fact it hardly makes sense.

The incentive for authors is free access to their papers. That is the one that needs to be addressed DIRECTLY, not via a tenuous connection involving lines of influence that somehow pass through universities, authors, and editorial boards to journal publishers.

jr> It would cost them something to set up
jr> the facilities, but then they must know that or they wouldn't be
jr> thinking of getting into this to begin with, and the expense might be
jr> recoverable from the money saved by the end of the dependence on
jr> commercial journals.

Yes, the cost of the Archive should be seen as an investment in eventual S/L/P savings but also in immediate freeing of the journal literature for the benefit research and researchers.

jr> Why would the journal editors and the contributors
jr> to and readers of the journals be unwilling to take advantage of the
jr> sort of arrangements and facilities the Consortium could provide if they
jr> were assured that their editorial policies were not interfered with and
jr> the papers published would be available at no charge? Sounds like a
jr> bold and quite practical solution on the face of it.

Yes, the editors, referees, authors and readers are us, but the journals and their current structure and implementations are in the hands of journal publishers. I can imagine circumstances that are sufficiently frustrating to make an editorial board bolt (it has happened occasionally), and perhaps still more frustrating circumstances might make many boards bolt en masse. But despite my fervent belief in the optimality and inevitability of a free online journal literature for authors, readers, referees, editors, research and researchers, I think their benefits first have to be FELT, before their absence can be expected to generate sufficient frustration.

Providing the facilities and the support for self-archiving will make these benefits felt, as they are already felt in Physics. Then we could bypass the need for frustration and the bolting of Boards entirely, for library S/L/P cancellations will awaken journal publishers to the need to scale down and restructure.

But at the moment, the thought that the mere creation of a prestigious Archive that invites publishers to restructure right now is a pipe dream, no matter how much prestige and academic weight stands behind it. Nor is it necessary, for self-archiving will gently achieve the same objective, and it could do it quite quickly too, if implemented in the right way. I hope that is what the Scholars Forum will realize its real mission is.

jr> they [could] decide that...
jr> the self-archiving principle doesn't actually make that much difference
jr> to them after all since they can accomplish the goal of getting
jr> everybody on-line that deserves to be on-line without having to wait for
jr> the eventual effects of free self-archiving.

This is a speculative hypothesis: We KNOW self-archiving works. And that's just about ALL we know that is pertinent to any of this.

jr> I don't attribute
jr> any of this to sinister forces. It could be simple oversight, for
jr> example, or sloppy thinking, though I am rather more inclined to
jr> interpret it charitably as an indicator that their present perspective
jr> on this doesn't make the importance of these things as obvious to them
jr> as it should.

I am delighted you said this. I agree. I will remind you if you sound as if you are forgetting again...


Stevan Harnad harnad@cogsci.soton.ac.uk

Professor of Cognitive Science harnad@princeton.edu

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

Computer Science fax: +44 1703 592-865

University of Southampton http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/

Highfield, Southampton http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/

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