S. Harnad, 5/11/99 to A. Smith, 5/10/99

Now back to quote/comment mode:

Arthur Smith <apsmith@APS.ORG>, Mon, 10 May 1999 distinguishes 3 alternatives, whereas in reality there are only two. What he describes below as the "Harnadian" (II) vs. the "Ginspargian" (III) system are in reality IDENTICAL! It is only his interpretation that is different.

System I, the traditional system, is one in which the journal literature is available only via S/L/P tolls. Systems II and III are identical. They simply make the same literature available online for free. The latter represents the optimum, as described above. The rest is optional, provisional or conditional. And no one knows what the eventual outcome will be.

AS> Let's consider 3 systems of payment for the peer review, selection, and presentation
AS> work that is what journals do:

AS> (I) The traditional system, where the author pays (let's say)
AS> nothing, transfers full copyright to the journal, and the reader pays
AS> all costs which can be artificially inflated because the journal
AS> has monopoly control over the article.

AS> (II) The "Harnadian" system, where the author or author's institution
AS> pays all costs, and readers have free access to all the literature.

No, the "Harnadian" system, is simply authors self-archiving to create a free online archive. The page-charge model is a conditional prediction on which the self-archiving initiative in no way depends. If I am wrong about the market, then page-charges will not be necessary, and a parallel S/L/P edition of the literature will continue to exist.


AS> (III) The "Ginspargian" system, which is the current situation in
AS> physics: the author pays nothing or a nominal page charge, transfers
AS> partial copyright to the journal, and the reader pays all journal costs
AS> which CANNOT be artificially inflated because the journal no longer has
AS> monopoly control: the author has also (at least optionally) posted the
AS> article to a free preprint archive. (Apologies to Paul Ginsparg if he
AS> doesn't actually believe in this system.)

No, the "Ginspargian" system is likewise simply authors self-archiving to create a free online archive. Paul and I have differed in our emphasis on local vs. global archiving, and on the archiving of preprints vs. reprints, but the "system" is exactly the same.

(The real difference, of course, and historians will take due note of this, is that whereas I simply preached and polemicized, Paul actually DID it, creating a self-archiving resource that was astoundingly successful, both providing and proving the way for us all. That is why I always characterize myself as merely playing John the Baptist to Ginsparg's Messiah.)

AS> The Harnadian system (II) solves the problem from the "author service"
AS> perspective, that readers run into barriers trying to read an article.
AS> This can happen in (I) and (III) where they, or their institution,
AS> cannot afford either a subscription or the specific one-time
AS> pay-per-view cost

Incorrect. Once every physicist is putting every published paper in the Physics archive, there is no barrier with III.

AS> (note that "barrier" is different from "totally inaccessible" - everything is available
AS> through interlibrary loans, or through the Copyright Clearance Center, although
AS> these generally constitute time and effort barriers, as well as monetary barriers).

Note that the L and the P in S/L/P stand for Site-License and Pay-Per-View, and that, exactly like Subscription (S), they constitute a financial firewall separating the literature from its readership. There is only paid access. (The fact that our institutions "subsidize" our access through S/L/P should not be allowed to obscure the fact that access is completely conditional on paying out the cash, and on the reader-end, whether individually or collectively.)

AS> However, note that under the Ginspargian system (III) readers can also
AS> get fee-less access to every article via eprint archives.

Indeed, and this is why II and III are identical. The difference you adduce is just in long-term predictions, on which the self-archiving principle in no way depends.

AS> And in reality, researchers wanting to read an article can generally
AS> get a free copy out of the author one way or another under any system
AS> (how many of us have fulfilled requests from developing countries, or
AS> even smaller colleges in the U.S., for reprints of our work?)

True, but what is your point? The online archive simply allows us to provide free reprints to anyone and everyone forever. Our history of taking pain to provide free copies the old, hard, expensive way should be taken as further evidence for the optimality of free self-archiving!

AS> But there is a serious problem with the Harnadian system from the
AS> "reader service" perspective: some authors or their institutions, and
AS> therefore some critically important work, may not be able to afford the
AS> monetary or other barriers associated with an author-pays system.
AS> Did Einstein have an "institution" or the means to pay substantial
AS> author charges in 1905?

Please! Are you saying that Einstein today would not have had access to the Web, to self-archive in LANL?

I don't think this is an argument against page-charges either (how much will it really cost? how many non-institutional authors are there? Will it not be cheap enough to make the obvious solution a slush fund for disenfranchised authors?).

But this is a false issue: It quarrels with prediction (4), above, which is in turn conditional on prediction (3). These may or may not turn out to be correct, but self-archiving should nevertheless proceed apace, as its optimality in no way depends on the outcome. In is an end in itself.

AS> Now it has been proposed that authors or institutions who cannot pay
AS> under the Harnadian system could receive subsidies of some sort.
AS> Fine - but many readers who cannot pay under systems I or III
AS> are also eligible for various subsidies, developing country journal
AS> discounts, free back-copies of journals, etc. Why would the subsidies
AS> be more effective under the Harnadian system?

Again mixing the optimal with the optional/conditional. Never mind. Let's self-archive and let the market decide the rest. With a free archive, there can't be any real losers (among authors, readers, and their institutions).

AS> Both Systems II and III of course allow authors to freely post their
AS> work on preprint servers. The problem from the "reader service"
AS> perspective under the Harnadian system is not access - it's that the
AS> journals (or whatever replaces them) are not serving the
AS> reader-oriented role of providing a prominent, official, authoritative
AS> place for important work. The enormous mass of "raw" author-provided
AS> material is what makes the journals worth money to readers, under the
AS> Ginspargian system.

This is only if we blur the distinction between self-archived (i) refereed papers, (ii) unrefereed papers, and (iii) the rest of the stuff on the Web. For the time being, clear self-tagging will be enough to sort these; later on we can worry about making the classification more formal and reliable. The simple truth latent in this is that (i) corresponds closely enough to the current refereed journal literature -- minus some page-based frills. The approximation can and will be tightened as usage grows.

And if the approximation is never close enough to put an end to all demand for the enhanced S/L/P version, and hence scaling down to page charges never becomes necessary, that is perfectly fine with me! My mission is not to downsize journal publishers but to free the refereed literature! If one can happen without the other, so be it!

AS> Also note that access is improving even under the traditional
AS> publication system, system I. Whether prices are improving is another
AS> matter, but electronic delivery on a pay-per-view basis should present
AS> a lower barrier for readers than a trip to the library, search of the
AS> stacks, and session at the photocopy machine, or especially relative to
AS> a $20-$30 document delivery fee and a two-week wait.
AS> And I think we'll see pay-per-view prices come down as electronic
AS> payment systems improve. At least where competition is available
AS> (the Ginspargian system).

Fine. I'm still betting that free will beat fee. But if some will always prefer what fees can by, there is nothing whatever wrong with that.

AS> Now, let's turn to the question of how a journal gets paid.
AS> I have argued earlier that, at least under systems II and III
AS> the total global cost is not going to be much different. Costs
AS> certainly should drop getting out of system I, and I think opening
AS> up preprint archives to other disciplines is a great idea. But
AS> it's already there in physics.

AS> Anyway, Harnad does not agree on system II/III costs being equal:

> sh> But that is not the only issue: As long as one is creating a product
> sh> with more features wrapped into it than necessary, the costs will be
> sh> higher than necessary. Quality control is the only essential service
> sh> that learned journal publishers will perform in the online era.
> sh> That is an author-end service.

AS> But a "quality-controlled" literature serves both authors and readers.
AS> And why should we deny those who read journals the opportunity
AS> to request enhanced services? As long as there is competition
AS> for access to specific articles (the Ginspargian system) let
AS> the market decide what is "necessary"!

You are absolutely right. I never contested this. (I simply predict that there will be no market left once the free version is available. And I don't mind in the least turning out to be wrong in that prediction. The mission is to free the literature. The economic future-casting is just amateurish speculation on my part.)

AS> And on payment, a practical problem crops up - how do you enforce the
AS> Harnadian system? With I and III it's easy: you don't allow access to
AS> the journal to readers who don't pay. With author-pays, especially if
AS> submission charges are not allowed, the journal has already sunk its
AS> costs in reviewing the article. How do you not reveal the fact that the
AS> article was accepted while expecting the author to send the publication
AS> charge? How do you prevent an author from not paying but then posting
AS> "Accepted for publication in the Journal of ..." along with the article
AS> on a preprint server?

Arthur, are you serious? Do you think you are dealing with the bootleg video market here? I edit a journal with an impact factor of 15. If I and my referees invest our time and effort into refereeing a paper, recommending revision, refereeing the revision, etc. etc. and then finally accept the paper, and the author withdraws it after all that and posts it as "Accepted for publication in...", do you have any doubts about what the outcome would be? The author would be blackballed from any further submissions to the journal, and everyone in the field would know of it, including the referees (who refereed it for free, and will never waste their efforts on work by that author again).

Please, keep the counterexamples realistic for this specific constituency and service, otherwise you cannot hope to have them taken seriously. (A delinquent author is not like a delinquent subscriber! This is reader-end thinking again...)

AS> How do you deal with authors and institutions who
AS> are clearly well-funded but claim poverty (as many do now on page
AS> charges - I wouldn't want to name a certain major institution near Lake
AS> Michigan would I? But maybe they've reformed since a decade ago when I
AS> first heard complaints.)

I think the costs of quality control will be so low, and institutions will be so much better off without their S/L/P expenses (and publication pressure and benefits will continue to be so high, if another incentive was wanted) that most will have no trouble or hesitation about covering up-front costs. But the self-archiving initiative in no way depends on my oracular powers in this regard.

AS> However, there is one area where the Harnadian system improves things -
AS> institutional payments (if they can be gotten out of the institutions)
AS> are fairer than under any current reader-pays system. By basing it on
AS> number of published articles, the payment becomes more closely
AS> proportional to actual research activity. Some such restructuring of
AS> payment based on institutional size or activity makes a lot of sense,
AS> but the Harnadian system is not necessarily the fairest. For example,
AS> it penalizes research institutions (particularly national laboratories)
AS> to the benefit of teaching-oriented institutions which may still make
AS> heavy use of current and archival journals in their instruction. The
AS> Harnadian system also makes the payment schedule very uneven for a
AS> small institution with widely variable numbers of publications each
AS> year. That was my thinking when I got into the following earlier
AS> discussion:

All depends on how much the no-frills service of quality control will really cost. Let's just concentrate on freeing the literature for now, though.

AS> > > A start towards this would be simply to change our pricing structure
AS> > > to scale prices in some way according to the number of authors or
AS> > > researchers at an institution - but we really don't want to
AS> > > go to direct usage based pricing, as that (institutionalized
AS> > > pay-per-view in a sense) discourages use, which is the opposite of what
AS> > > we all want. So some kind of "number of authors" based price makes a
AS> > > lot of sense.

> sh> This has become a Mobius strip! What on earth does "pay per view,"
> sh> which is a reader-end concept (the "P" in S/L/P), have to do with an
> sh> author-end service?

AS> I was simply thinking of how we could perhaps move to the fairer cost
AS> structure of the Harnadian system whether or not we actually make the
AS> journals free to all readers. Since the institution pays (not the
AS> author) either way according to Harnad, it really shouldn't matter how
AS> the journal figures out the charges, should it? As long as we have the
AS> competition of the Ginspargian system, the charge is not going to be
AS> excessive.

I can't really see why quality-control costs should be scaled to institutions, with lower costs per paper to more research-active institutions. Let's cross that bridge when we know we need to, and know what the real residual costs then will be. For now, let's just self-archive.

> sh> This is all reader-end, access-toll-based thinking: The tolls need to be
> sh> paid, or the papers are simply not accessible.

AS> No - they are accessible, even under the traditional system I, and much
AS> more so under the Ginspargian system III. Just because they aren't
AS> accessible freely from journal-controlled systems doesn't mean they are
AS> not accessible.

I completely agree that once the entire journal corpus is available free, it will be available free.

> sh > [... on costs being artificially high ...]
> sh > I have no paranoia whatsoever regarding APS, for example. I
> sh > simply believe that you need to be protected from yourselves: As long as
> sh > you persist in thinking in terms of providing a reader-end product,
> sh > your "g" will be needlessly (even if unwittingly) inflated by expenses
> sh > from inessentials wrapped into that product.

AS> Who will police costs under the Harnadian system? Or will institutions
AS> only allow their researchers to submit articles to journals with the
AS> lowest bid price? If prestige and reputation determines where articles
AS> get sent, then what is to keep the "best" journals from having
AS> artificially high author charges, and if it is not prestige and
AS> reputation, then on what will this competition between journals be
AS> based?

It will be based on the quality of each journal's peer review, authorship, contents, impact factor. Journals will attract both their authorship and their referee/editorship by their quality, just as they do now. I doubt that the better journals will want or need to charge more, but I would really rather not second-guess these contingencies. They will sort themselves out. It is self-archiving that we need now.

AS> As long as the journal monopoly is gone (the Ginspargian system, and of
AS> course that was Harnad's original subversive proposal) there should be
AS> very few "needless inessentials" that journals waste money on.

If journals can scale down S/L/P so that it can survive in co-existence with a free archive, without the need to switch cost-recovery to page-charges, I will still be at peace in my grave. The free literature is fee enough for me.


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/

SO17 1BJ UNITED KINGDOM ftp://ftp.princeton.edu/pub/harnad/