BMJ/Stanford Archive vs. E-biomed Archive Stevan Harnad 30 Jun 1999 22:05 UTC

        The BMJ/Stanford Self-Archiving Initiative

        British Medical Journal (1999) 318:1637-1639

The BMJ/Stanford initiative is a welcome one, but make no mistake about
the fact that it differs from the E-biomed proposal in one very critical
respect: It is only intended for author self-archiving of unrefereed
preprints, whereas E-biomed is also intended for author self-archiving
of refereed reprints too.

This difference is like night and day (apart from one little
slippery-slope factor to be mentioned in a moment), for the E-biomed
Archive would free the journal literature for one and all, whereas the
BMJ/Stanford Archive would only broaden preprint distribution.

Let 1000 flowers bloom, however; all self-archiving initiatives are
welcome, as they will eventually subvert the access-barriers that hold
the literature hostage at the moment, one way or the other:

    Ann Okerson & James O'Donnell (Eds.) Scholarly Journals at the
    Crossroads: A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing.
    Washington, DC., Association of Research Libraries, June 1995.

Moreover, BMJ/Stanford may get off the mark faster than NIH/E-biomed
(which presently seems enmired in endless discussion):

Successful innovations rarely await prior consensus; they lead the way,
which Los Alamos has already done:

The Scholars Forum Archive needs to move into high gear too:


Now the slippery-slope that could turn the BMJ/Stanford Archive into one
that helps free the refereed journal literature after all:

Where is the point of no return on the continuum from the unrefereed
preprint to the refereed reprint? Will any rational author want to
reserve the power of free public self-archiving for the unrefereed side
of that continuum alone?

And where do copyright agreements stand on this? The Los Alamos Physics
Archive, which began as an unrefereed-preprint Archive now contains
more and more refereed drafts, just as predicted in the Subversive
Proposal above. And why not? The outcome (note: not the prior cause) is
that the American Physical Society, the publisher of the highest
quality and impact journals in Physics, now has the most progressive
copyright policy, a model for all other publishers. No attempt is made
to prevent authors from self-archiving the refereed version. (In whose
interests would that have been? Certainly not in those of authors or
readers, nor of research itself, hence of the rest of society.)

Let me close with a plug for another brave new Archive, for the
interdisciplinary field consisting of the Cognitive Sciences
(Psychology, Neuroscience, Computer Science, Biology [sic], Philosophy,
and Linguistics) which has quietly been following the Los Alamos model
for over a year now:

The academic thoroughbreds have been led to the water; history will
record how long it takes them to drink...

Stevan Harnad           
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and     phone: +44 2380 592-582
Computer Science                  fax:   +44 2380 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton