Financial Times Article on Self-Archiving: 23 July 2001 Albert Henderson 24 Jul 2001 21:42 UTC

on 24 Jul 2001 Stevan Harnad <harnad@COGLIT.ECS.SOTON.AC.UK> wrote:

> Here are some comments on today's Financial Times article on
> self-archiving:
> > Financial Times; Jul 24, 2001 By RICHARD POYNDER
> > A mission to free scientific ideas:


        Harnad wants to have his cake and eat it too ...

> >   championing do-it-yourself scholarly publishing using the internet
> Nothing of the sort. And calling it "self-publishing" instead of the
> SELF-ARCHIVING (of refereed, PUBLISHED research) that it is simply
> perpetuates one of those trivial but persisting misunderstandings that
> is holding us back from the optimal and inevitable.
> Self-publishing is vanity-press; it bypasses peer review; and it would
> put the quality of the entire refereed research literature in question
> and at risk. I am and always have been a staunch opponent of
> self-publishing (of unrefereed research).


> This widespread but incorrect and misleading confusion of
> self-archiving with self-publication stems from another persistent
> error: the incorrect notion that the Los Alamos Physics archive is or
> ever has been merely an archive for the self-archiving of unrefereed
> preprints: Yes, this earlier embryological stage of research is often
> self-archived there TOO, and if so it is invariably self-archived first
> (because it comes earlier in time).
> But virtually all of the self-archived preprints in arxiv are
> submitted to refereed journals, revised in accordance with the referees'
> recommendations, and if the author judges the changes substantive, the
> corrected final draft is self-archived too; otherwise, the reference is
> merely updated to make it the formal journal bibliographic citation.

        "virtually" doesn't make it so. Garvey and Griffith found
        "two thirds of the technical reports produced in 1962 had
        not achieved journal publication by 1965, and, apparently,
        the contents of the vast majority of these reports were
        never submitted for journal publication. Many authors of
        such reports indicated that 'no further dissemination of
        the information was necessary.' ... This raises some
        questions about the ultimate value of the information in
        these reports and its relevance to the established body
        of scientific knowledge." [from Garvey, COMMUNICATION:
        THE ESSENCE OF SCIENCE. Pergamon 1979]

        A recent study produced similarities to this data and
        also called into question the value of citing informal
        papers as if they were a part of the formal literature.
        [Callaham, M.L., et al. J A M A 1998. 280:254-257]

        I don't think it is fair to the student, the young
        researcher (and research sponsors) to encourage the study
        of preprints that may never be submitted, much less
        published, in the same breath that demands preparation
        carefully rooted in the formal literature.

Albert Henderson