Culture Machine, Vol 2 (2000)

CM2000 Article: Harnard

Academic Publishing in the Online Era: What Will Be For-Fee and What Will Be For-Free?

Stevan Harnard, Hal Varian and Bob Parks

The following exchange took place between 10 and 13 July 1999 as a self-contained module of the American Scientist Forum (a final postscript being added on 23 November, 1999).

http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september98-forum.html

The main participants in the exchange were Stevan Harnad of the University of Southampton and Hal Varian, of the University of California, Berkeley, with Bob Parks of Washington University providing an additional comment toward the end.

The origins of the discussion lie with a thesis Harnad has expounded in a number of recent publications. Put very quickly, Harnad maintains that academics working in the esoteric fields of scientific and scholarly research journal publication do not produce their written work with a view to selling it; they merely wish to have it read and used by their peers. This being the case, Harnad makes the 'subversive proposal' that such scholars, in addition to submitting their work to journals for peer review and publication, should self-archive it publicly on the Web -- both the preprint and the peer-reviewed, published final draft.

'For centuries, it was only out of reluctant necessity that authors of esoteric publications entered into the Faustian bargain of allowing a price-tag to be erected as a barrier between their work and its (tiny) intended readership, for that was the only way they could make their work public at all during the age when paper publication (and its substantial real expenses) was the only option. But today there is another way, and that is PUBLIC FTP [now WWW].'

http://www.arl.org/scomm/subversive/toc.html

The public archiving of the research literature would have a number of extremely significant consequences, Harnad contends. Perhaps most important, it would free this give-away research literature for all scholars and scientists the world over. As a recent article in the Times Higher Educational Supplement has explained, author self-archiving can legally get round any copyright restrictions in the following manner:

First the author publicly archives a preprint of the paper on the web. Then they submit the paper to a refereed journal. The author makes amendments in light of referees' and editors' comments, then signs the publisher's copyright agreement

The author then posts a note onto the web pre-print, pointing out where areas of correction might need to be made, in effect turning the pre-print into a version of the draft refereed paper. (Patel, K. (2000) 'Team Finds Way Round Copyright', The Times Higher Education Supplement (February 12): 12)

http://listserver.sigmaxi.org/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind00&L=september98-forum&F=l&S=&P=7694

Putting everything on-line in this way would thus make access to academic research freely available to everyone, twenty-four hours a day, everywhere, forever.

The exchange between Harnad and Varian included here focuses on the problematic issue - crucial to Harnad's thesis - of the extent to which academic authors are prepared to give their work away by making it freely available, without charge, on the Net. Although the exchange has been edited slightly to make the discussion easier to follow, it seemed appropriate, given the subject matter, to retain it in its original quote/comment form. Harnad begins by emphasising 11 of his argument's main points, and by providing addresses for the various locations on the Net where the relevant publications can be found.

For more on electronic academic publishing, see Tenopir, C. & King, D.W. (2000) Towards Electronic Journals: Realities for Scientists, Librarians and Publishers. Special Libraries Association (SLA) Publishing - soon to be according online multiple book review in Psycoloquy

http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/cgi/psyc/newpsy

HARNAD:

(1) I am speaking ONLY about refereed journal articles, not books or magazines.

http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/THES/thes.html

(2) The authors of this research literature, which is unlike all other literature, write their papers solely to report their ideas and findings, not to make money from the sale of their texts. All they want is to reach the eyes and minds of a maximum number of fellow researchers, present and future, once their findings have passed peer review.

http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/nature2.html

(3) They accordingly give their papers away for free as preprints to their publishers, and, after peer review, they give away the final, refereed, published drafts for free as reprints to all requesters.

http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september98-forum.html

(4) Online self-archiving now makes it possible for authors of this special kind to give away their refereed reprints to one and all forever on the broadest possible scale.

http://www.arl.org/scomm/subversive/toc.html

(5) Publishers should in no way to attempt to prevent free self-archiving by such authors by trying to forbid it through restrictive copyright agreements, deigned for the NON-giveaway literature. This is the eye of the storm. See:

http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/science.html http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Papers/Harnad/harnad00.scinejm.htm

(6) The American Physical Society has already provided a model copyright policy: Authors may self-archive both the unrefereed pre-print and the refereed reprint for free for all. The Publisher retains all rights to SELL either the paper or online version of the journal.

http://cogprints.soton.ac.uk/help/copyright.html

(7) The effect of online author self-archiving will be a transition of the reader/user community to the free online versions.

http://xxx.lanl.gov/cgi-bin/show_monthly_submissionshttp://xxx.lanl.gov/cgi-bin/show_weekly_graph

(8) Eventually this will produce subscription cancellation pressure (although it has not done so yet in Physics, where it is most advanced). If/when it does, my prediction is that publishers will have to restructure and down-size so as to provide only the service of quality control and certification (QC/C) [peer review, editing, tagging as accepted by Journal X].

http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/nature.html

(9) The much reduced cost of providing solely this service will be recoverable from author-institution publication charges, which will in turn be recoverable from institutional savings from cancelling Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View (S/L/P).

http://www.dlib.org/dlib/december99/12harnad.html

(10) The critical difference is that reader-institution-end payment (S/L/P) is access-blocking, whereas author-institution-end payment is not. But as long as author self-archiving rights are guaranteed (5,6), the market can decide whether or not S/L/P can survive alongside it (and how long).

(11) The infrastructure for self-archiving is emerging as we speak, led by Los Alamos, soon to be followed by E-biomed, and then all the other disciplines.

http://www.openarchives.org/ http://www.nih.gov/welcome/director/ebiomed/ebiomed.htm http://library.caltech.edu/publications/ScholarsForum/ http://cogprints.soton.ac.uk/ http://www.eprints.org/index.html

The self-archiving initiative in this very special subdomain of literature -- the give-away refereed research literature -- is unstoppable, because ethics, pragmatics, and logic, as well as the inherent interests of research itself and hence of all of society, are all behind it. Its progress can only be slowed temporarily by playing on confusions and uncertainties in people's minds, simply because it is all so new and they have not yet thought it through. It would be to publishers' long-term advantage to try instead to see ahead, and restructure accordingly, rather than to try to hold the literature hostage to the status quo. They must come to terms with what is in the best interests of research and researchers in the new online world, and must design a new niche for themselves in the PostGutenberg Galaxy.

A tide-over consortial subsidy out of windfall S/L/P savings to smooth the transition from reader-institution-end cost-recovery via S/L/P to author-institution-end cost-recovery via quality-control/certification charges would be worth planning out with the library-institution and research-funding community in advance.

Stevan Harnad


VARIAN:

Harnad: (2) The authors of this research literature, unlike all other literature, write their papers solely to report their ideas and findings, not to make money from the sale of their texts. All they want is to reach the eyes and minds of a maximum number of fellow researchers, present and future, once their findings have passed peer review.

I think that this point is wrong. I would claim that most authors write to present their ideas and visions, not to make money. The evidence is the highly skewed distribution of income from writing. Like artists and actors, only a very, very small fraction of trade authors make money from their writing. I conjecture that their motivation is more often glory or recognition, just like academics.

By way of evidence, let me point you towards the US Dept of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, writers and editors section, where it is asserted that the average starting salary for writers and editorial assistants in 1996 was $21,000. Writers with more than 5 years of experience make more than 'more than $30,000'. These are not substantial sums for highly educated workers! Freelance writers earn much, much less on average than professional authors; they can't be in it for the money.

However, I don't think that this claim has any impact on the rest of your argument. After all, all you need to assert is that academic authors aren't in it for the money---whether other authors are or not is irrelevant to your claims. It does suggest that if the rest of your argument is right it will apply more broadly than just to academic authors.

Hal Varian


HARNAD:

Varian: ...I would claim that most authors write to present their ideas and visions, not to make money... ...only a very, very small fraction of trade authors make money from their writing. I conjecture that their motivation is more often glory or recognition, just like academics.... Freelance writers earn much, much less on average than professional authors; they can't be in it for the money.

Eppur, eppur... And yet I doubt that they would want to lock themselves into giving it away for life! To start with, by way of promotion, perhaps, but forever? Is that really what you think? (Where there's life, there's hope!)

Whereas refereed journal article authors do not have the slightest desire to deter a single pair of potential eye-balls for their findings on the off-chance there might be gate-receipts to be made! They never have, and they never will. There is a profound and significant divide here, despite the statistics on the earnings and success of the average trade author.

Varian:

...if the rest of your argument is right it will apply more broadly than just to academic authors.

Online self-archiving may be a means for authors to launch their trade, but I doubt you'll find many for whom it's an end in itself (apart from the ones who were only destined for a Vanity Press anyway)...

Stevan Harnad


VARIAN:

Harnad: Eppur, eppur ... And yet I doubt that they would want to lock themselves into giving it away for life! To start with, by way of promo, perhaps, but forever? Is that really what you think? (Where there's life, there's hope!)

Look at the data---hardly any authors actually make their living from writing. And the ones that do make a very poor living. I conclude that even for trade authors, economic compensation is not the primary factor leading them to write. Undoubtedly, they would be happy to be paid for writing, but academic authors would be happy to be paid for their writing too.

Harnad: Whereas refereed journal article authors do not have the slightest desire to deter a single pair of potential eye-balls for their findings on the off-chance there might be gate-receipts to be made! They never have, and they never will. There is a profound and significant divide here, despite the statistics on the earnings and success of the average trade author.

No author wants to deter eyeballs, even trade authors. Some are willing to do so because they are compensated monetarily. If academic authors were sufficiently compensated for deterring eyeballs, I expect many would be happy to do so. If a referred journal offered you payment for an article, would you turn it down? (Several refereed journals in business and medicine do pay for articles, by the way.)

Furthermore, even academic authors make money from their publications, albeit indirectly. If you regress earnings on publications and citations you find a large and significant coefficient on refereed journal publications and citations. Academic authors who publish more are paid more, and part of the motivation for academic publishing is the prospect of academic advancement and higher salaries.

Harnad:

Online self-archiving may be a means for authors to launch their trade, but I doubt you'll find many for whom it's an end in itself (apart from the ones who were only destined for a Vanity Press anyway) ...

Well, there is an awful lot of vanity publishing on the Web. Of course these authors would love to be paid for their writing, but I suspect they will continue to write, paid or not.

The point of my note is that motivations are not as far apart as you claim: there is an (indirect) financial motivation in publication for academic authors and there is a large component of desire to communicate in trade authors. There is certainly a difference in the economic model in the two industries, but the divide in the motivations of the authors is not as 'profound and significant' as you claim.

But again, I don't think this point makes much difference for the rest of your argument.

Hal Varian


HARNAD:

Varian: Undoubtedly, [trade authors] would be happy to be paid for writing, but academic authors would be happy to be paid for their writing too.

I'm afraid I have to disagree. The answer is 'yes' when the academic authors are wearing their trade hats (writing books or magazine articles) but the answer is 'no' when they are reporting their research in peer-reviewed journals.

Varian:

No author wants to deter eyeballs, even trade authors.

You might as well say no producer of any product wants to deter greater consumption of their product (it's just that they would like to get paid for it -- and the price-tag's an implicit deterrent!).

Varian: If academic authors were sufficiently compensated for deterring eyeballs, I expect many would be happy to do so. If a referred journal offered you payment for an article, would you turn it down? (Several refereed journals in business and medicine do pay for articles, by the way.)

I'm afraid I have to disagree again: It would require a MONSTROUSLY large amount of money to make a research author trade off his potential impact on research for the impact on his pocketbook. (And many scientists and scholars, still recalling why they chose the leaner path of Learned Inquiry rather than heading straight for the junk-bond market in the first place, would decline even that!)

But no peer reviewed journal could (or would) afford to make it worth an author's while anyway.

Here's a test: How much would (should) the author of a refereed journal article accept to SELL his self-archiving rights to his publisher?

(My guess: a lot more than any publisher could ever afford to offer! This is not an exoteric, big-market literature we're talking about! It's esoteric, and that's the point!)

http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/THES/thes.html

Varian: Furthermore, even academic authors make money from their publications, albeit indirectly. If you regress earnings on publications and citations you find a large and significant coefficient on refereed journal publications and citations. Academic authors who publish more are paid more, and part of the motivation for academic publishing is the prospect of academic advancement and higher salaries.

Correct, but TOTALLY irrelevant! The author is not being paid out of the access-blocking toll-gate receipts from the sale of his papers by S/L/P!

On the contrary, if you properly regressed THOSE on earnings, you would find that they REDUCE impact and hence earnings! (The unavoidable deterrent effect of any price-tag.)

This is a completely spurious, non-causal correlation, and the simple act of self-archiving shows it to be so. (Have the 100,000 authors who have self-archived in Los Alamos reduced or enhanced their impacts and incomes?)

http://xxx.lanl.gov/cgi-bin/show_monthly_submissions

Varian:

The point of my note is that motivations are not as far apart as you claim: there is an (indirect) financial motivation in publication for academic authors and there is a large component of desire to communicate in trade authors. There is certainly a difference in the economic model in the two industries, but the divide in the motivations of the authors is not as 'profound and significant' as you claim.

But again, I don't think this point makes much difference for the rest of your argument.

I'm afraid I have to disagree; I do think it makes a great difference. The similarities between the two populations [refereed-journal-article vs. trade authors] are partial, superficial and, in the present context, misleading. The deep differences are in the means/ends: For most trade authors, self-archiving their work free for all is only a temporary means to an end (hopeful, eventual compensation); for (most?) refereed journal authors it IS the end (widest possible access to their findings for peer eyes/mind, present and future).

The reason stressing the similarities between the trade and non-trade literatures here is misleading is that the self-archiving model I have been advocating for refereed journal papers is decidedly NOT the right model for the rest of the literature, and conflating the two simply blurs the critical insight at the core of all this.

But this can be settled empirically: Let a line be drawn in Cyberspace, and let those who are interested in giving away their products (whatever they are) as freebies in perpetuo step to the left of it (say), and let those who are not step to the right.

The entire refereed journal authorship will be on the left. Perhaps some others will be too. Let's wait and see who. I'm predicting that most book and magazine authors will not (and note that I said 'in perpetuo', not in 'pro-tem promo'!).

In any case, that is the literature I am dedicated to freeing (from its hostage-hood to the trade model and S/L/P) -- not every product of the human mind!

Stevan Harnad


VARIAN:

Harnad:

Varian: No author wants to deter eyeballs, even trade authors.

You might as well say no producer of any product wants to deter greater consumption of their product (it's just that they would like to get paid for it!).

Indeed. You've now stated the correct principle: authors (academic and trade) are happy to be paid for their work. There is no difference in their motivation in this regard. The primary motivation for each group is visibility, but neither group disdains monetary compensation.

Harnad: I'm afraid I have to disagree again: It would require a MONSTROUSLY large amount of money to make a research author trade off his potential impact on research for the impact on his pocketbook. (And many scientists and scholars, still recalling why they chose the leaner path of Learned Inquiry rather than heading straight for the junk-bond market in the first place, would decline even that!)

The evidence contradicts you. Many academics choose to devote part of their time to writing textbooks, trade books, consulting and other such compensated pursuits. They could be spending this time doing academic research. It appears that they are choosing to trade off some research output and recognition for some financial gains.

Harnad:

Correct, but TOTALLY irrelevant! The author is not being paid out of the access-blocking toll-gate receipts from the sale of his papers by S/L/P!

That's true enough, but that wasn't your original assertion. Your original claim was:

Harnad: '(2) The authors of this research literature, unlike all other literature, write their papers solely to report their ideas and findings, not to make money from the sale of their texts. All they want is to reach the eyes and minds of a maximum number of fellow researchers, present and future, once their findings have passed peer review.'

I asserted that this statement is not entirely true: part of the motivation of academic authors is economic, due to the relationship between rank, publication, and salary. I agree that academics would prefer to make more money without reducing the number of readers, but this is trivial and obvious: the same is true of non-academic authors.

Harnad:

This is a completely spurious, non-causal correlation, and the simple act of self-archiving shows it to be so. (Have the 100,000 authors who have self-archived in Los Alamos reduced or enhanced their impacts and incomes?)

Increased them, I would claim, since by increasing their visibility they have, indirectly, enhanced their income.

Harnad:

I'm afraid I have to disagree; I do think it makes a great difference. The similarities between the two populations [refereed-journal-article vs. trade authors] are partial, superficial and, in the present context, misleading. The deep differences are in the means/ends: For most trade authors, self-archiving their work free for all is only a temporary means to an end (hopeful, eventual compensation); for (most?) refereed journal authors it IS the end (widest possible access to their findings for peer eyes/mind, present and future).

Suppose you cut all linkages between compensation and publication and had a rigid formula between years-on-the job and academic salary. Don't you think that academic publication rates would go down? (As they do in countries with such rigid academic compensation systems.)

Suppose you offered publication to trade authors with minimal financial compensation. Don't you think a lot of people would take you up on this? I submit the answer is yes since very little trade publication is compensated to any great degree even now. In fact, it could easily be the case that the average academic author makes more from publishing a book (via the impact on promotion and salary) than the average trade author makes from publishing a book (via royalties).

Harnad:

The reason stressing the similarities between the trade and non-trade literatures here is misleading is that the self-archiving model I have been advocating for refereed journal papers is decidedly NOT the right model for the rest of the literature, and conflating the two simply blurs the critical insight at the core of all this.

I guess I don't know what 'right' means here. If you mean 'economically sustainable' I would argue that self-archiving is sustainable in both environments, since the cost of self-archiving is so low.

Harnad

But this can be settled empirically: Let a line be drawn in Cyberspace, and let those who are interested in giving away their products (whatever they are) as freebies in perpetuo step to the left of it (say), and let those who are not step to the right.

The entire refereed journal authorship will be on the left. Perhaps some others will be too. Let's see wait and see who. I'm predicting that most book and magazine authors will not (and note that I said 'in perpetuo', not in 'pro-tem promo'!).

Look at the non-academic textual content on the WWW. The vast majority of it is available for free. Some of this free material involves compensation for the author, some doesn't. I would argue that fundamental economic forces will keep it that way. So the left side of your line will be heavily populated by both academic and non-academic authors.

Harnad:

In any case, that is the literature I am dedicated to freeing (from its hostage-hood to the trade model and S/L/P) -- not every product of the human mind!

I don't disagree with the rest of your argument. I just think that your story about why academic publishing differs from trade publishing is wrong. You argue that there is a fundamental difference in motivation between academic authors and trade authors: academic authors seek readers, and trade authors seek money. In reality, academic authors and trade authors both seek money and readership. And, in each case, readership is the primary driver.

The real difference between the economics of academic and trade publishing is not due to having an entirely different set of motivations as you claim, but rather in the nature of the academic research process. Academic articles are both an input to research and an output of research, which is rather different from trade publications. (Compare citation patterns in the two literatures.)

Because the literature is both an inputs and an output, up until the last decade or so, it made sense for researchers to pay an intermediary to organize the selection, beautification, production, and distribution of academic research. But now that the costs of beautification, production and distribution have declined so dramatically, the role of the intermediary has been dramatically changed, and it may make sense for authors to take on much more of the intermediary's role. But the primary reason for this is due to the change in technology and the associated change in costs---it isn't due primarily to the difference in motivations, as you assert.

Hal Varian


HARNAD:

Varian:

Harnad: It would require a MONSTROUSLY large amount of money to make a research author trade off his potential impact on research for the impact on his pocketbook.

The evidence contradicts you. Many academics choose to devote part of their time to writing textbooks, trade books, consulting and other such compensated pursuits. They could be spending this time doing academic research. It appears that they are choosing to trade off some research output and recognition for some financial gains.

Yes, but the question was whether they would trade it off for their refereed journal articles, not for their books and other activities.

(It would have been absurd of me to suggest that the authors of refereed journal articles don't care about making money at all: It's just that they don't want to make money by selling THOSE articles.)

Varian:

Harnad: The author is not being paid out of the access-blocking toll-gate receipts from the sale of his papers by S/L/P!

That's true enough, but that wasn't your original assertion. Your original claim was:

Harnad: '(2) The authors of this research literature, unlike all other literature, write their papers solely to report their ideas and findings, not to make money from the sale of their texts. All they want is to reach the eyes and minds of a maximum number of fellow researchers, present and future, once their findings have passed peer review.'

Perhaps the meaning of 'make money on their texts' was not entirely clear the first time. I hope that now it is: It is the blockage of free access to THOSE texts (and not other texts they may write, or other things they may do with their time, that we are discussing here).

Varian:

I asserted that this statement is not entirely true: part of the motivation of academic authors is economic, due to the relationship between rank, publication, and salary. I agree that academics would prefer to make more money without reducing the number of readers, but this is trivial and obvious: the same is true of non-academic authors.

I said something stronger, and I repeat it: The authors of refereed journal articles are not interested in making money on THOSE texts at all.

Varian:

Harnad: This is a completely spurious, non-causal correlation, and the simple act of self-archiving shows it to be so. (Have the 100,000 authors who have self-archived in Los Alamos reduced or enhanced their impacts and incomes?)

Increased them, I would claim, since by increasing their visibility they have, indirectly, enhanced their income.

Fine, but you alas seem to be missing a rather fundamental point, repeatedly: The income from the sale of THOSE texts is not the income of the author! And if the income from the sale of THOSE texts plays any causal role at all in the author's visibility and hence income, then that is a negative role: The fact that access is denied till tolls are paid REDUCES the author's visibility, hence his income.

And self-archiving (i.e., making those texts available for free for all) enhances their visibility, hence (if you wish) the author's income. Now is the dissociation (and even opposition) between the two incomes clear? This is not the case when the income to the AUTHOR comes from the sale of the text.

The conclusion is that in the case of the refereed journal literature only, the author has an interest in there being NO INCOME (to anyone) from sale of his texts, because income means price-tags means access-blockage. Free access is also in the interest of the author's institution, which likewise gains kudos (and grant income) from the impact of his research (not to mention their savings from S/L/P cancellations!)

So with refereed journals it makes sense (and with books it does not) that costs should be paid for at the author-institution end (yielding free access for all) rather than the reader-institution end (blocking access, impact, income).

I don't think that the DISanalogy could be any more complete than this.

Varian:

Suppose you cut all linkages between compensation and publication and had a rigid formula between years-on-the job and academic salary. Don't you think that academic publication rates would go down? (As they do in countries with such rigid academic compensation systems.)

Sure they would, but so what? That still would not connect the author's income CAUSALLY to the income from the sale of his (refereed-journal) texts. (And, to simplify, if we say directly that it is impact/visibility, and not publication, on which the income ladder depends, then the NEGATIVE causal relation between S/L/P access barriers and author/institution income becomes even clearer.)

Varian:

Suppose you offered publication to trade authors with minimal financial compensation. Don't you think a lot of people would take you up on this? I submit the answer is yes since very little trade publication is compensated to any great degree even now. In fact, it could easily be the case that the average academic author makes more from publishing a book (via the impact on promotion and salary) than the average trade author makes from publishing a book (via royalties).

I agree, insofar as esoteric monographs are concerned. Those no-market speciality items have always been more like journal articles than more mainstream academic or non-academic books; their royalties are often a joke, and many do not even succeed in finding a publisher.

But that happens to be the very subset of the non-journal literature that I have always said fits the give-away formula too! It is in no way representative of the book market, however, being at least as esoteric as, and even more minoritarian than, the refereed journal literature itself.

And your hypothetical situation above simply amounts to speculating about what it would be like if more books were more like journals in this way for academic authors: But one gets out of such a hypothesis exactly what one puts into it: If more books did fit the esoteric, give-away formula, then they too would fall on the left of that figurative line in Cyberspace I invoked in the prior posting (quoted again below)!

And if your point was only that online self-archiving will make it possible to publish more no- or low-market esoteric monographs online than has been possible in paper, that is certainly true too. (It is an interesting empirical question what proportion of current scholarly monographs would have voluntarily gone the royalty-renunciation route in exchange for the enhanced reach! I don't doubt it would be a non-negligible number.)

Varian:

Harnad:

The reason stressing the similarities between the trade and non-trade literatures here is misleading is that the self-archiving model I have been advocating for refereed journal papers is decidedly NOT the right model for the rest of the literature, and conflating the two simply blurs the critical insight at the core of all this.

I guess I don't know what 'right' means here. If you mean "economically sustainable" I would argue that self-archiving is sustainable in both environments, since the cost of self-archiving is so low.

The trade/non-trade divide is fairly represented by the desire for and the expectation of revenue directly from the sale of the text. The trade model continues to be the right one for most books (and for salary-, fee-, or royalty-based magazine and newspaper journalism); and it does not help, in trying to bring out the anomalous state of affairs on the non-trade, give-away side (where refereed journal articles are representative), to dwell on similarities with esoteric monographs (which are NOT representative of the trade side and never have been).

Most people (authors, publishers, readers, economists) think of texts as products that authors, jointly with their publishers, SELL to the readers (or reader-institutions). It is this reader/consumer intuition that prevents them from seeing that this reader-end market is the wrong one for refereed journal articles, which authors have always wanted to give away, but have been prevented from doing by the economics of paper.

These economics change in the online medium, radically, for these anomalous authors. Their institutions (which paid the costs anyway already, at the reader-institution end) can now pay much lower costs at the author-institution end, freeing this literature at last.

http://www.dlib.org/dlib/december99/12harnad.html

But this author-end market does NOT generalize to most books, which will continue to be bought and sold on the old, trade model. To blur this crucial distinction in either direction is to miss the fundamental development that the old, trade model, which was 'right' for ALL texts before, is no longer right for refereed journals.

How much else it is also no longer right for is an empirical question, and the boundary lines are not nearly as clear or illuminating, though I expect that the algorithm I've proposed:

'Does the author (1) seek/get any revenue for his text (royalties, fees) or does he instead (2) give it away, seeking only the eyes/minds of readers? If (1), it is trade, if (2) it is not.'

probably still captures it.

http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind99&L=september-forum&F=lf&S=&P=15054

Varian:

Harnad:

But this can be settled empirically: Let a line be drawn in Cyberspace, and let those who are interested in giving away their products (whatever they are) as freebies in perpetuo step to the left of it (say), and let those who are not step to the right.

Look at the non-academic textual content on the WWW. The vast majority of it is available for free. Some of this free material involves compensation for the author, some doesn't. I would argue that fundamental economic forces will keep it that way. So the left side of your line will be heavily populated by both academic and non-academic authors.

Fine. I'm actually losing my grip on what we are disagreeing about ...

But just as thinking in terms of the reader-end trade model for publication has been an obstacle to people's realizing where the refereed journal literature is headed, so has thinking in terms of freeware and the general give-away spirit of the Net!

For freebies are then associated with the vanity press, without quality control (peer review). From this it becomes clear that SOMETHING still has to be paid for here, and that is the IMPLEMENTATION of the quality control (for referees referee for free). That is what leads to the unintuitive shift from a reader-institution market to an author-institution market for the SERVICE of quality control and certification [QC/C] (instead of the PRODUCT of a text).

http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/nature2.html

Again, the give-away spirit of the Net is no guide in any of this. Net freebies are not quality controlled or certified!

Varian:

Harnad:

In any case, that is the literature I am dedicated to freeing (from its hostage-hood to the trade model and S/L/P) -- not every product of the human mind!

I don't disagree with the rest of your argument. I just think that your story about why academic publishing differs from trade publishing is wrong. You argue that there is a fundamental difference in motivation between academic authors and trade authors: academic authors seek readers, and trade authors seek money. In reality, academic authors and trade authors both seek money and readership. And, in each case, readership is the primary driver.

It's not academic vs. trade authors! It's academics when they wear their refereed-journal-author hats and every other author, including themselves, when wearing their book-author hats (except in the case of esoteric monographs): give-way mode vs. non-give-away mode.

Varian:

The real difference between the economics of academic and trade publishing is not due to having an entirely different set of motivations as you claim, but rather in the nature of the academic research process. Academic articles are both an input to research and an output of research, which is rather different from trade publications. (Compare citation patterns in the two literatures.)

This is all no doubt true. But exoteric books, academic and non-academic, can in principle bring direct, nontrivial incomes to their authors, and esoteric journal articles can't, and that's the point.

Varian: Because the literature is both an input and an output, up until the last decade or so, it made sense for researchers to pay an intermediary to organize the selection, beautification, production, and distribution of academic research. But now that the costs of beautification, production and distribution have declined so dramatically, the role of the intermediary has been dramatically changed, and it may make sense for authors to take on much more of the intermediary's role. But the primary reason for this is due to the change in technology and the associated change in costs---it isn't due primarily to the difference in motivations, as you assert.

What you say about beautification and self-beautification applies indifferently to all texts, but nothing follows from it. There are still texts that the author wants to sell. Let's call those trade (and they're mostly books) and texts the author wants to give away (let's call them non-trade, and ALL refereed journal articles fall into that category -- from their author's viewpoint).

And there is one critical piece of 'beautification' that an author cannot do all on his own, and that is peer review. That is a service another 'provider' will have to continue to provide. In the case of scholarly books, its cost can be wrapped into the cost of publication, recovered from sales of the text; in the case of refereed journal articles, it, and it alone, can be recovered another way, eliminating the need for all sales barriers (to the eternal benefit, if you like, of the author's and the author's institution's 'visibility', and hence the indirect income accrued therefrom).

Stevan Harnad


VARIAN:

Harnad:

Yes, but the question was whether they would trade it off for their refereed journal articles, not for their books and other activities.

But of course they do---the time spent writing textbooks, consulting, and so on takes away from time spent writing and publishing academic articles.

Harnad:

(It would have been absurd of me to suggest that the authors of refereed journal articles don't care about making money at all: It's just that they don't want to make money by selling THOSE articles.)

I agree that under the current system they don't expect to make money, but if they were offered a payment for academic articles, few would turn it down.

Harnad:

Perhaps the meaning of 'make money on their texts' was not entirely clear the first time. I hope that now it is: It is the blockage of free access to THOSE texts (and not other texts they may write, or other things they may do with their time, that we are discussing here).

This is a very, very limited sense of 'make money on their texts'. Obviously academics make money on their works since they are paid, in part, to publish them. Perhaps you meant to say that academic authors would prefer to maximize the readership of their works. I agree that this is true. But it is also true of non-academic authors.

Harnad:

I said something stronger, and I repeat it: The authors of refereed journal articles are not interested in making money on THOSE texts at all.

I submit they would be happy to make money on those texts, as long as it didn't dramatically reduce the readership. You have implicitly assumed that the only way to 'make money on those texts' is to charge people to read them, thereby limiting access. I think this is a very narrow view, and limits the kinds of business models you might consider for information industries.

Harnad: The conclusion is that in the case of the refereed journal literature only, the author has an interest in there being NO INCOME (to anyone) from sale of his texts, because income means access-blockage. This is also in the interest of the author's institution, which likewise gains kudos (and grant income) from the impact of his research (not to mention their savings from S/L/P cancellations!)

Here is where your confusion lies. It is false (as an economic proposition) that there is a direct relationship between 'no income' and 'access blockage'. Consider a field where there is an economic demand for the research (engineering, medicine, finance, etc.) It is common to see research produced in these fields where publication is delayed. It is first made available for a high price via consultancies, newsletters, affiliates, etc., and later made available to the academic world at large. This way the authors have their cake and eat it too---make money, and still make the research available to all. Obviously this practice can be abused, but that is beside the point. The point is that income can be made even while providing broad access.

A similar example is JSTOR, where back issues journal articles are available at zero marginal price to subscribing institutions.

Indeed, this model is becoming somewhat common in the for-profit trade literature. An author first publishes a book, then 2 or 3 years puts the text up on his or her web site.

This is 'second degree temporal price discrimination' and presents one interesting business model for information goods. See various papers at:

http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/~hal/people/hal/papers.html

for other examples. Or see my trade book at:

http://www.inforules.com

Or either of my textbooks at:

http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/~hal/people/hal/books.html.

They all tell the same story with respect to this issue, simply directed at different audience.

Harnad: So with refereed journals it makes sense (and with books it does not) that costs should be paid for at the author-institution end (yielding free access for all) rather than the reader-institution end (blocking access, impact, income).

The conclusion has some merit, but I disagree with the analysis. I claim that the fundamental force is not the difference in motivation of the authors (since trade authors and academic authors like both money and readers) but in the nature of the production process of research, and, in particular, that the producers and consumers are the same people. To see why, look at another genre with this characteristic---fanzines for hobbiests (science fiction, collectors, etc.). In the print fanzine world authors were not paid and the readers paid for zine via subscription, just as in the academic genre. Now most of the hardcopy zines have moved to the Web where they are freely available. I think you are right that this will happen with academic journals, but it isn't because academic authors wouldn't like to get paid for their texts.

Harnad: Sure they would, but so what? That still would not connect the author's income CAUSALLY to the income from the sale of his (refereed-journal) texts. (And, to simplify, if we say directly that it is impact/visibility, and not publication, on which the income ladder depends, then the NEGATIVE causal relation between S/L/P access barriers and author/institution income becomes even clearer.)

Well, we could quarrel about the metaphysics of 'cause', I guess, but I would say that there is a pretty direct causal relationship between the number of readers of one's refereed articles and one's academic salary in the US. (This differs, of course, from field to field.)

Harnad: The trade/non-trade divide is fairly represented by the desire for and expectation of revenue directly from the sale of the text.

This is simply wrong. Most trade books make very little money for the author directly from royalty revenues. You only have to look at the statistics on authors' incomes. The National Writers Union publishes such a survey and the numbers are strikingly small.

Harnad: ...prevents seeing that this reader-end market is the wrong one for refereed journal articles, which authors have always wanted to give away, but have been prevented from doing so by the economics of paper.

Again you are making the leap from 'maximize the readership of' to 'give away'. I agree with the former motivation (at least to the first order) but I deny that it immediately follows that the content must be given away. This is one tool, but not the only one.

Harnad: But this author-end market does NOT generalize to most books, which will continue to be bought and sold on the old, trade model. To blur this crucial distinction in either direction is to miss the fundamental development that the old, trade model, which was 'right' for ALL texts before, is no longer right for refereed journals.

Well, I can hardly dispute the claim that '[physical] books will be bought and sold on the old trade model', but the more interesting question is how 'writing' will be distributed. I claim that a smaller and smaller fraction of total written works will be sold in the trade model. The majority of written work will be given away on the Web (in fact, that is probably true today).

Harnad: Fine. I'm actually losing my grip on what we are disagreeing about...

The only substantive point on which we disagree is that I claim that the stark distinction between trade publication and academic publication that you make is overstated. I say this from the perspective of an author who has written:

1) journal articles that are read by thousands of people each year (according to the Social Science Citation Index); 2) textbooks that are read by tens of thousands of people each year (according to my royalty statements); 3) technical trade books that are read by a thousand or so people each year); and 4) a non-technical trade book that has sales in the many tens of thousands.

I've also edited an academic journal read by tens of thousands of people a year, and have self-archived many of my publications online for 10 years using gopher, ftp and the Web.

In my experience, most publication is a mixture of economic and non-economic motivations. My textbooks and trade book were successful because my academic papers were widely read. The visibility resulting from the academic, text, and trade books leads to more offers for speeches and consulting. I don't see the stark division that you describe.

Harnad: For freebies are then associated with the vanity press, without quality control (peer review). From this it becomes clear that SOMETHING still has to be paid for here, and that is the IMPLEMENTATION of the quality control (for referees referee for free). That is what leads to the unintuitive shift from a reader-institution market to an author-institution market for the SERVICE of quality control and certification [QC/C] (instead of the PRODUCT of a text).

I agree that the filtering is what need to be paid for. (A quibble: some referees are paid, though typically not a sum that covers the time cost.)

Harnad: It's not academic vs. trade authors! It's academics when they wear their refereed-journal-author hats and every other author, including themselves, when wearing their book-author hats (except in the case of esoteric monographs).

Hmm. So academic authors like money when they write trade books and don't like money when they write trade books? This seems rather strange. A more accurate account is that they like money and readership whichever hat they are wearing.

The real difference is not at the level of the author, but at the level of the industry. In the trade book industry the authors and the readers are quite distinct, whereas in the academic publishing industry the authors and readers are, by and large, the same people. The academic publications are both an input to and an output of the research process. Other publishing industries where authors and readers are the same people had similar business models, and, I suggest will have similar dynamics in their move to the Web. (The apparent necessity of paying for the refereeing overhead makes things a bit more complicated in the academic markets.)

Harnad: This is all no doubt true. But books, academic and non-academic, can in principle bring direct incomes to their authors, and journal articles can't, and that's the point.

I agree that journal articles don't bring direct income to the authors under the current business model, but that is a rather obvious observation. Whether they 'can't' or not could be disputed. But the more interesting observation is that trade books generally don't bring much direct income to authors either. Authors publish trade books because of glory they get, for the most part, some of which can be translated into money.

Harnad: There are still texts that the author wants to sell. Let's call those trade (and they're mostly books) and texts the author wants to give away (let's call them non-trade, and ALL refereed journal articles fall into that category -- from their author's viewpoint).

You are simply making the same false claim over and over again. Authors would be happy to make money from their journal articles, it's just that few publishers offer them this option. So it is not the motivation of the authors that is relevant, but rather the business model for the industry.

I don't have substantive quarrels with the rest of your argument, or with your understanding of the academic publishing industry. I just think that you don't understand the economics of the trade publishing industry. The simple fact is that very, very few authors make any substantial sum of money in the trade industry, and their motivation for publishing trade books is more complex than you assert.

Hal Varian


HARNAD:

An intrinsically interesting side-issue is emerging from the exchanges with Hal Varian. Nothing substantive hinges on it for the purposes of the strategy and outcome I happen to advocate -- what I have taken to calling the 'optimal and inevitable' one for the refereed journal literature:

...freeing the literature online for everyone, everywhere, forever, through (1) universal public self-archiving of all refereed journal papers, and, when the time comes, (2) a downsizing of journals to roviders of the service of quality control and certification, paid for on the author-institution out of S/L/P savings rather than at the reader-institution end via access-blocking S/L/P.

Our disagreement is only about whether I am exaggerating the difference between the motivations of refereed-journal papers-authors (regarding THOSE papers) and authors in general -- of books, magazine articles, etc. -- in suggesting that the former are, and have always been, interested ONLY in giving those papers away, whereas other authors (as well as themselves, when wearing other hats) have at least the hope of some direct revenue from the sale of their texts.

If I AM exaggerating this difference, then Hal's view would be that the 'optimal and inevitable' for the refereed journal literature may well prove to be the optimal and inevitable for much of the rest of the literature too.

Let me declare my cards at this point: I consider myself quite expert on many aspects of the refereed journal literature (having edited one major refereed paper journal for over two decades and one of the first refereed online-only journals for nearly a decade, having provided an online public archive for the self-archiving of unrefereed and refereed papers over two years now, and having written a number of articles on peer review and online journal publication); but I do NOT consider myself expert on any other forms of publication (nor on ANY kind of economics!).

So I am taking up the gauntlet here for one reason only: That if I should happen to be right and Hal should happen to be wrong about the reality of the fundamental motivational difference between refereed-journal authors and (just about) all others, then it is important to sort this out, because it is only too easy otherwise to dismiss self-archiving initiatives as naive and Quixotic, tilting at the very Windmills of Capitalism, rather than as bringing out a profound though little-known home-truth about a small, anomalous subset of the published corpus, a home-truth with radical implications (but for that small literature only).

There have been several repeated points of misunderstanding in our exchange so far. One has been that I am clearly not claiming that refereed-paper authors don't care about money! Nor that if there were some hypothetical, counterfactual way that they could have their cake and eat it too -- i.e., if everyone everywhere could and would have free access to their esoteric papers in perpetuo AND some entity were also prepared to pay them (the authors) for it -- then they would quite happily accept the eyes/minds AND the cash!

The trouble is, that in reality there is a trade-off: If money must change hands in exchange for access, this entails that access is reduced. Moreover (again, in reality), none of the money that changes hands in exchange for access to the refereed journal corpus actually ever reaches its authors! So they get the worst of both worlds from the present system: Fewer (much fewer) eyes/minds, and no cash! Nor would the cash that IS made from the toll-booths be nearly enough to compensate them for the trade-off, even if it WERE passed on to the authors.

Now what I contend is that this non-optimal paradigm simply does not fit book publishing in general (nor even scholarly/academic book publishing in general -- although I agree that it may fit the special case of esoteric scholarly monographs with only the hope of a 'succes d'estime', or perhaps no hope of publication at all).

So it is not saintliness about potential direct revenue from these papers, if revenue could drop like Manna from heaven, that sets these authors (when wearing these hats) apart. It is the reality of the trade-off, which means revenue here could only come at the expense of access barriers, and there isn't faintly enough potential revenue to make it even thinkable to embrace that trade-off.

So much for potential misunderstandings about DIRECT revenue, from the sale of the papers themselves. There is no contest on the subject of INDIRECT revenue, from the IMPACT of the papers, and the way that that can enhance the incomes of their authors and their authors' institutions. Here too, refereed-paper authors are anything but saintly.

But there IS a persisting misunderstanding about the CONTINGENCY (or causal relation) between the direct and indirect revenues: My point is that (since we have established that the direct S/L/P revenue (a) does not go into the author's pocket in any case -- and (b) it would not be nearly large enough to compensate for the trade-off of eyes/minds for cash even if it did) it follows that for this special literature the fact that ANY DIRECT INCOME AT ALL is being made by ANYONE from charging S/L/P tolls for access to the papers is actually NEGATIVELY correlated with the INDIRECT-revenue benefits to the authors.

And causality is indeed the issue, rather than just correlation, for Hal is merely pointing to the overall positive correlation between publication/sales and impact/income: {more publication, more sales} -- {more impact, more income}. Sure! But if there were no sales-barriers, the impact/income would be still higher (MUCH higher, by my lights)!

Now here comes my ignorance about the rest of the literature: I feel, intuitively and anecdotally, that this paradigm does not fit it, as it does the refereed journal literature. It's certainly true that all authors' (and especially academic authors') careers are likewise enhanced, the more they are read. And that if their books were given away for free, they would certainly be read more. I'm even ready to believe that their indirect income (from being read) outweighs their direct income (from the gate-receipts) in some cases (especially for beginning authors, vanity authors, and authors who, for whatever reason, are not destined to have many readers -- I have already conceded the authors of esoteric academic monographs as a special case).

But (and it is hard to put this in formal terms), I still feel that that this is not the PARADIGMATIC case for books, as it IS for refereed papers; with books, is not the 'name of the game', and hence it would be misleading to treat it as such.

But that's my best shot. I have no stronger arguments. So I now proceed to quote/comment mode with someone who is clearly far more expert in such matters than myself:

Varian:

Harnad: Yes, but the question was whether they would trade it off for their refereed journal articles, not for their books and other activities.

But of course they do---the time spent writing textbooks, consulting, and so on takes away from time spent writing and publishing academic articles.

This is a misunderstanding I have tried twice to correct! I am talking about trading off (a) the collection of gate receipts for a given article, and even the receipt by the author of all revenue therefrom, in exchange for (b) the loss of eyes/minds therefrom (because of the deterrent effect of the price-tag on those who cannot or will not pay).

In other words, it's about whether they would rather have the eyes or the cash (even if the cash were forthcoming -- which in this literature it is not!), NOT about how they trade off the rest of their timetable of activities.

I can't understand why Hal's alternative, irrelevant and arbitrary trade-off keeps being swapped for the relevant one I had singled out from the outset. We are talking about the trade-off between selling it and giving it away; and in this special literature (papers) -- as opposed to the rest (books) -- there is simply NO CONTEST!

Perhaps the direct/indirect trade-off would be resolved the same way for some no- or low-market books too, or at some early embryonic stages of their authors' careers, but those would be case-by-case decisions, whereas for the refereed literature it is, as they say, an open and shut case, paradigmatic. It is not written with a view to giving it away.

(Or am I the only one who continues to see a profound disanalogy here, where direct revenue could at least in principle, if not always in practise, offset the trade-off in the one case, but not even in principle in the other?)

Varian:

Harnad: Perhaps the meaning of 'make money on their texts' was not entirely clear the first time. I hope that now it is: It is the blockage of free access to THOSE texts (and not other texts they may write, or other things they may do with their time, that we are discussing here).

This is a very, very limited sense of 'make money on their texts'. Obviously academics make money on their works since they are paid, in part, to publish them. Perhaps you meant to say that academic authors would prefer to maximize the readership of their works. I agree that this is true. But it is also true of non-academic authors.

Let's just talk in terms of the direct/indirect income trade-off (direct = sales royalty income; indirect = income from impact); it encapsulates it all. And let's even throw out the red herring of the non-academic author. So henceforth we are only talking about academic authors. And let's drop the polysemous trade/non-trade vocabulary (because academics write both 'trade' and 'scholarly' books).

So it's just about journal-papers vs. books (by academics). And my contention is that, because of the direct/indirect trade-off, the PARADIGM for journal-papers is give-away and the paradigm for the rest is not (although there are exceptions, such as esoteric monographs). <

Varian:

Harnad: I said something stronger, and I repeat it: The authors of refereed journal articles are not interested in making money on THOSE texts at all.

I submit they would be happy to make money on those texts, as long as it didn't dramatically reduce the readership. You have implicitly assumed that the only way to 'make money on those texts' is to charge people to read them, thereby limiting access. I think this is a very narrow view, and limits the kinds of business models you might consider for information industries.

Insofar as my refereed journal articles are concerned, For-Fee or For-Free ARE the only pertinent options. (I will get to the putative alternative 'business models' presently; to let the cat out of the bag, though: the story does not change one bit if one introduces a 'delay' variable 'fee now, free later: the trade-off is the same, and so is the outcome; besides, the author doesn't get the fee anyway, and even if he did, it wouldn't be worth his while, now or later; and research authors want immediacy as well as impact for their work!)

Varian:

Harnad: The conclusion is that in the case of the refereed journal literature only, the author has an interest in there being NO INCOME (to anyone) from sale of his texts, because income means access-blockage. This is also in the interest of the author's institution, which likewise gains kudos (and grant income) from the impact of his research (not to mention their savings from S/L/P cancellations!)

Here is where your confusion lies. It is false (as an economic proposition) that there is a direct relationship between 'no income' and 'access blockage'. Consider a field where there is an economic demand for the research (engineering, medicine, finance, etc.) It is common to see research produced in these fields where publication is delayed. It is first made available for a high price via consultancies, newsletters, affiliates, etc., and later made available to the academic world at large. This way the authors have their cake and eat it too---make money, and still make the research available to all. Obviously this practice can be abused, but that is beside the point. The point is that income can be made even while providing broad access.

Good case in point: The reply, insofar as my refereed journal papers are concerned, is loud and clear: Forget about the pennies I could make from the gate by denying or delaying access. Let everyone have it for free NOW. There aren't pennies enough in the (realistic) world to make me change my mind.

No, offering the author a cut of the gate receipts will NOT cut it, in this peculiar literature; and if that's the alternative 'business model', it's a non-starter here. (And hence the analogies where it may work are simply irrelevant, again.)

Varian: A similar example is JSTOR, where back issues journal articles are available at zero marginal price to subscribing institutions.

Yes, IF (equals where, and when) the subscription is paid. Tell that to all my potential readers who are NOT lucky enough to be at an institution that can afford the subscription!

(The weasel-word was 'marginal price', because it glosses over the S/L/P barrier itself. Nor is an author happy about having his retrospective journal publications held hostage to S/L/P either: why should he be?)

Remember, the alternative to each of these cases is self-archiving (which authors can do retrospectively too!).

http://www.arl.org/scomm/subversive/toc.html http://www.openarchives.org/ http://www.eprints.org/index.html

Varian: Indeed, this model is becoming somewhat common in the for-profit trade literature. An author first publishes a book, then 2 or 3 years puts the text up on his or her web site.

Interesting, but its relevance to the journal literature is unclear, for the reasons mentioned above.

(Moreover, short-half-life print runs and the actuarial statistics behind them are probably behind the practise you mention, as is the current inconvenience of on-screen discursive reading for book-length materials: Immediacy, and constant on-line accessibility and navigability are assets peculiar to the journal literature.)

http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/citation.html

Varian: This is 'second degree temporal price discrimination' and presents one interesting business model for information goods.

Might be useful to a journal publisher looking for add-ons to help preserve an S/L/P market, but the author wants immediate visibility, so it is a minus, not a plus for him, with or without the pennies.

Varian:

Harnad: So with refereed journals it makes sense (and with books it does not) that costs should be paid for at the author-institution end (yielding free access for all) rather than the reader-institution end (blocking access, impact income).

The conclusion has some merit, but I disagree with the analysis. I claim that the fundamental force is not the difference in motivation of the authors (since trade authors and academic authors like both money and readers) but in the nature of the production process of research, and, in particular, that the producers and consumers are the same people.

I'm afraid I can't entirely agree. First, the trade/academic distinction is a red herring here; it's journal-papers by academics vs. books by academics that we are focusing on now.

It is true that both of these have a smaller and more inbred constituency than the non-academic book authorship/readership, but even in the former it is not literally true that the producers and consumers of any given work are the same (not even to the extent that it is true that contemporary composers compose only for one another!). It may very well be that a large proportion of the readers of my refereed journal articles are themselves authors of refereed journal articles, but so what? And so what if (when) it is true that most of the buyers of a book by an academic author are themselves authors of refereed journal articles? (The buyers can't be mostly book-authors -- not enough to go 'round -- except in the special case of those esoteric monographs for a narrow circle of peers only, which are again non-representative.)

I don't think any principles follow from this inbredness -- except for that last special case where fellow-specialists are the only ones willing to shell out for an esoteric volume in their own speciality. The academic community is simply too large to be treated as just a peer market for one another's work.

I think a potentially much more important side-effect of this inbredness, though, is peer review itself, and here again, the implications are different, and much more profound, for journals: For we are not only the authors and the consumers of the refereed literature, we are also its referees: WE do the quality controlling, and we do it for free, motivated, when all is said and done, by the Golden Rule, intrinsic interest (and perhaps some superstition and sometimes worse) more than anything else.

http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/nature2.html

The fact that even the quality controllers are us means that if journal publishers should prove (as I hope they will not) to be inclined to try to hold the literature hostage to access-tolls by trying to prevent us, through regressive copyright agreements, from self-archiving, then editorial boards are certainly in a position to bolt (as they have already done -- or threatened to do -- in a few cases)...

http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Papers/Harnad/harnad00.scinejm.htm http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/science.html

Varian: To see why, look at another genre with this characteristic---fanzines for hobbiests (science fiction, collectors, etc.). In the print fanzine world authors were not paid and the readers paid for zine via subscription, just as in the academic genre. Now most of the hardcopy zines have moved to the Web where they are freely available. I think you are right that this will happen with academic journals, but it isn't because academic authors wouldn't like to get paid for their texts.

This is the general Net freeware/vanity-press analogy, and I'm afraid I still don't find it helpful: Yes, refereed journal articles are give-aways, like fanzines, but they are quality-controlled, certified give-aways, hence not vanity press (and they still require an economic model for covering the essential costs of quality/control/certification).

http://helix.nature.com/webmatters/invisible/invisible.html

Varian: Well, we could quarrel about the metaphysics of 'cause', I guess, but I would say that there is a pretty direct causal relationship between the number of readers of one's refereed articles and one's academic salary in the US.

Please see above for a more fine-grained causal analysis of the causal structure of that correlation!

Varian:

Harnad: The trade/non-trade divide is fairly represented by the desire for and expectation of revenue directly from the sale of the text.

This is simply wrong. Most trade books make very little money for the author directly from royalty revenues. You only have to look at the statistics on authors' incomes. The National Writers Union publishes such a survey and the numbers are strikingly small.

Are those figures adjusted for time-lines? At any given time, there must be a large number of authors at the earliest embryonic stages, where their output is not matched by income. And perhaps the profession also contains a large proportion of failures. But surely no writer's desires and expectations are based on the actuarial facts about starters and failures!

There is a counterpart in refereed-journal writing too, though. Most articles are read by few and cited by none (except the author himself). Does this restore the analogy? Hardly, for the dream of the researcher is of making an important finding and thereby making an important impact on further research (and, yes, its indirect income-enhancing consequences); what is the non-academic writer's dream, if not being widely read?

(I made a mistake when I wrote earlier that reaching a maximum number of eyes/minds was an end in itself for the researcher, rather than just a means of making money from the sales of the texts: the end is actually reaching the RIGHT minds, the ones that will understand, build upon, and, yes, cite their work. What is the non-academic author's counterpart for this?)

We had agreed we would only speak of academic authors' though: DO academic authors write books with motivations so different from those of non-academic authors? Are they really primarily after the indirect benefits rather than the direct ones from sales? It would be interesting to see the statistics for that specific literature (and controlled for cumulative life-cycle effects -- and perhaps even culled for esoteric 'failures')... But remember that 'desire and expectation' does refer to motivation (dreams), and not actuarial realism ...

Varian:

Harnad: ...this reader-end market is the wrong one for refereed journal articles, which authors have always wanted to give away, but have been prevented from doing by the economics of paper.

Again you are making the leap from 'maximize the readership of' to 'give away'. I agree with the former motivation (at least to the first order) but I deny that it immediately follows that the content must be given away. This is one tool, but not the only one.

Would you not say that the long-standing practise of distributing free (paper) reprints to reprint-requesters tends in my direction? As does the absence of a corresponding tendency with books (except in the case of Vanity Press)? (Publishers are always happy to pay royalties to an author in the form of free copies of his book: Why is this not taken up more by authors, in lieu of cash?)

I would be interested to know what would be a BETTER 'tool' for maximizing access to my papers than making them available online for free for all forever. For self-archiving is within reach of one and all. Paul Ginsparg has led us to the water, and all we need do now is drink...

Varian: I claim that a smaller and smaller fraction of total written works will be sold in the trade model. The majority of written work will be given away on the Web (in fact, that is probably true today).

Would you say that the rising success of Amazon Books was evidence for or against your prediction?

Varian: In my experience, most publication is a mixture of economic and non-economic motivations. My textbooks and trade book were successful because my academic papers were widely read. The visibility resulting from the academic, text, and trade books leads to more offers for speeches and consulting. I don't see the stark division that you describe.

Uncontested. And still the papers are give-aways whereas the rest are not.

Varian: I agree that the filtering is what need to be paid for. (A quibble: some referees are paid, though typically not a sum that covers the time cost.)

A propos, from a previous posting:

'There is another Harnad, not myself, but a mathematical physicist by the name of John Harnad (and the one who first drew my attention to the Ginsparg Archive way back in the early '90s). J. Harnad has some further recommendations on the subject of referee answerability and compensation: He recommends that (a) all referees should be paid to referee papers; (b) payment for a rejected paper should be minimal (say, $200), but payment for an accepted paper should be commensurate with the effort of seeing it through the successive revisions (say, $2000) to successful publication; and, to avoid the potential abuse discussed above, (c) if a paper is accepted, the name of the accepting referee(s) should be co-published with it, to share the responsibility, praise or blame. He feels this would raise the quality of the refereeing and make the entire process much more answerable, hence effective, than it is now.

'Obviously this proposal is compatible with the transition from reader-institution-end payment to author-institution-end payment, but it is an as yet untested peer-review reform proposal; all such reform proposals need to be tested empirically and practically before being implemented on any scale. Hence it should not detain us on the road to freeing the CURRENT refereed literature, such as it is.

'(I also think that there is not enough money in the world to pay fairly for the precious time that referees steal from their own research in order to do the mostly thankless task of peer review; hence the Golden Rule is probably the only one we can continue to rely on! SUBMISSION charges, creditable toward PUBLICATION charges should the paper be accepted, may not be a bad idea to levy on authors, though, with or without referee payment, for it too might help raise submission-standards and even revision-conscientiousness, thereby perhaps even lightening some of the burden on the work-horse referees; but this too would need pre-testing.)'

Varian:

Harnad: It's not academic vs. trade authors! It's academics when they wear their refereed-journal-author hats and every other author, including themselves, when wearing their book-author hats (except in the case of esoteric monographs).

Hmm. So academic authors like money when they write trade books and don't like money when they write [journal papers]?

Correct. Vide supra.

Varian: The real difference is not at the level of the author, but at the level of the industry. In the trade book industry the authors and the readers are quite distinct, whereas in the academic publishing industry the authors and readers are, by and large, the same people. The academic publications are both an input to and an output of the research process. Other publishing industries where authors and readers are the same people had similar business models, and, I suggest will have similar dynamics in their move to the Web.

This again conflates books/journals and separates academic/non-academic, which I think are the wrong fault lines. (I have tried to discuss the inbred issue above.) Perhaps you could give another example (besides esoteric monographs) that fits the give-away algorithm of refereed papers?

Varian: (The apparent necessity of paying for the refereeing overhead makes things a bit more complicated in the academic markets.)

Vide supra.

Varian:

Harnad: This is all no doubt true. But books, academic and non-academic, can in principle bring direct incomes to their authors, and journal articles can't, and that's the point.

I agree that journal articles don't bring direct income to the authors under the current business model, but that is a rather obvious observation. Whether they 'can't' or not could be disputed.

I'd like to hear a realistic scheme for this! To my mind it founders on the following: Journal papers average next to no readers/citers (with the access barriers of both paper and S/L/P). Going on-line is one step forward; bypassing S/L/P through self-archiving is a second. Can you think of a better way?

Varian: But the more interesting observation is that trade books generally don't bring much direct income to authors either. Authors publish trade books because of glory they get, for the most part, some of which can be translated into money.

So how do most trade authors make their fortunes? Is it all appearances and movie rights now?

Varian: You are simply making the same false claim over and over again. Authors would be happy to make money from their journal articles, it's just that few publishers offer them this option. So it is not the motivation of the authors that is relevant, but rather the business model for the industry.

By what business model would authors make money from their journal articles? How much? And how do you think that would fare against self-archiving? (Another way to put it -- I think I've already asked this once: How much money would the publisher of my refereed paper have to pay me so that I relinquish my self-archiving right? And where would he get enough money for that?)

Varian: I don't have substantive quarrels with the rest of your argument, or with your understanding of the academic publishing industry. I just think that you don't understand the economics of the trade publishing industry. The simple fact is that very, very few authors make any substantial sum of money in the trade industry, and their motivation for publishing trade books is more complex than you assert.

If none of my comments so far bears on how this is to be interpreted or applied, then I acquiesce to your much more extensive knowledge on that subject!

Stevan Harnad


VARIAN:

Harnad: Our disagreement is only about whether I am exaggerating the difference between the motivations of refereed-journal papers-authors (regarding THOSE papers) and authors in general -- of books, magazine articles, etc. -- in suggesting that the former are, and have always been, interested ONLY in giving those papers away, whereas other authors (as well as themselves, when wearing other hats) have at least the hope of some direct revenue from the sale of their texts.

If I AM exaggerating this difference, then Hal's view would be that the 'optimal and inevitable' for the refereed journal literature may well prove to be the optimal and inevitable for much of the rest of the literature too.

Yes, I think that this is correct---we will certainly see much more 'author pays' production of literature, now that the Web has lowered the costs of distribution so dramatically. Indeed, we already see a huge amount of writing on the Web that has no (direct) compensation at all.

The big question, as you have rightly identified, is the role of the editors/referees/filterers of information. What is the economic model for this activity, in both the academic and the non-academic literature? You argue that the author should pay for this filtering role. Perhaps that is right, but one could also make a case that the reader should pay since he is the direct beneficiary of the filtering, and that is the real value added in the publication process, especially now that the other costs have been driven so low.

Harnad: There have been several repeated points of misunderstanding. One has been that I am clearly not claiming that refereed-paper authors don't care about money! Nor that if there were some hypothetical, counterfactual way that they could have their cake and eat it too -- i.e., if everyone everywhere could and would have free access to their esoteric papers in perpetuo AND some entity were also prepared to pay them (the authors) for it -- then they would quite happily accept the eyes/minds AND the cash!

I would say that this 'counterfactual' is exactly what the system of government research funding agencies & university libraries does: the funding agencies pay researchers to produce papers which are sent to journals to be evaluated and, in most cases, published, which are then purchased by libraries for the free use of the researchers. Indeed, I would claim that it is the role of intermediaries that has got us into the current mess; if the authors/researchers faced the true costs of the current publication system, they would find a way to reform it quite quickly!

Harnad: So it is not saintliness about potential direct revenue from these papers, if revenue could drop like Manna from heaven, that sets these authors (when wearing these hats) apart. It is the reality of the trade-off, which means revenue here could only come at the expense of access barriers, and there isn't faintly enough potential revenue to make it even thinkable to embrace that trade-off.

There is something of a trade-off, but perhaps less than you think. There are ways to vary access and recover costs from customers. Even now you can purchase a journal subscription directly or go access it 'for free' in your library. Here are two different kinds of access, one more convenient than the other, and they are priced accordingly. So it isn't 'access' vs. 'no access' but different degrees of access. The same can be done in the online world; whether this is desirable or not is a different question.

Harnad: And causality is indeed the issue, rather than mere correlation, for Hal is merely pointing to the overall positive correlation between publication/sales and impact/income: {more publication, more sales} -- {more impact, more income}. Sure! But if there were no sales, the impact/income would be still higher (MUCH higher, by my lights)!

This may be correct, but then we come back to the issue of filtering. I can self-archive/publish for free on the Web, but I probably end up with more readers (of my technical articles) by publishing in a journal, since the articles are vetted by peer review. You argue that author charges could pay for peer review. This maybe correct, but I worry about the incentives in such a system. Under reader pays, the publisher has an incentive to keep quality high in order to attract readers. Under author pays, the publisher has an incentive to get as many authors to pay as possible, and other mechanisms must be used to maintain quality.

Harnad: But (and it is hard to put this in formal terms), I still feel that that this is not the PARADIGMATIC case for books, as it IS for refereed papers; with books, is not the 'name of the game', and hence it would be misleading to treat it as such.

I think a lot depends on how you average in creating your paradigm. Most books don't make much money, if any. A few books make a lot. The same goes for authors. The primary motive for authors, I think, is to be read. They would like to be paid for this activity, but only a few manage to do so.

I turn now to the direct responses, limiting myself only to those where something new can be said.

Harnad: Yes, IF (equals where, and when) the subscription is paid. Tell that to all my potential readers who are NOT lucky enough to be at an institution that can afford the subscription!

JSTOR price discriminates as well---large organizations pay more than small ones. In general, the savings in shelf space vastly outweighs the cost of JSTOR. So if an organization 'can't afford' access, it is likely an accounting illusion rather than actual lack of money.

Harnad: It may very well be that a large proportion of the readers of my refereed journal articles are themselves authors of refereed journal articles, but so what?

I don't think any principles follow from this inbredness ...

The important principle is that the readers are willing to pay something for the filtering services provided by the journal. And it is this willingness-to-pay that supports the current business model. You could be right that 'author pays' is superior for the reasons you cite. But my worry is that the economic incentives to provide value to the reader (via filtering) are weakened.

Harnad: This is the general Net freeware/vanity-press analogy, and I'm afraid I still don't find it helpful: Yes, refereed journal articles are give-aways, like fanzines, but they are quality-controlled, certified give-aways, hence not vanity press (and they still require an economic model for covering the essential costs of quality/control/certification). http://helix.nature.com/webmatters/invisible/invisible.html

We are, I think, agreed on this point---that the costs of quality control must still be covered by someone. The issue is, should it be the author or the reader? I maintain that the reader gets substantial value from the quality control, which is as argument for making the reader pay. This doesn't negate your argument---I perfectly agree that the author gets value from having his works published, which is an argument for making the author pay. I just don't know what the net of these two effects is.

Harnad: And perhaps the profession also contains a large proportion of failures. But surely no writer's desires and expectations are based on the actuarial facts about starters and failures!

There is a counterpart in refereed-journal writing too, though. Most articles are read by few and cited by none (except the author himself). Does this restore the analogy? Hardly, for the dream of the researcher is of making an important finding and thereby making an important impact on further research (and, yes, its indirect income-enhancing consequences); what is the non academic writer's dream, if not being widely read?

This is a fair point---it may be that authors of book want to make money, but few of them do. And, as you say, authors of journal articles want to be read, but few of them are.

Harnad: Would you not say that the long-standing practise of distributing free (paper) reprints to reprint-requesters tends in my direction? As does the absence of a corresponding tendency with books (except in the case of Vanity Press)? (Publishers are always happy to pay royalties to an author in the form of free copies of his book: Why is this not taken up more by authors?)

I would say that paper reprints are provided to me for free, or at least can be purchased via a grant. But copies of my book have to be purchased out of my own pocket. I don't find it remarkable that authors give away for free something that they receive for free, but wish to charge for something they have to pay for.

Harnad:

Varian: I claim that a smaller and smaller fraction of total written works will be sold in the trade model. The majority of written work will be given away on the Web (in fact, that is probably true today).

Would you say that the rising success of Amazon Books was evidence for or against your prediction?

Last year the aggregate sales of books in the US fell by 2%, after several years of increase. Amazon's success is coming at the expense of other vendors, not from an increase in the total sales of books.

Harnad: By what business model would authors make money from their journal articles? how much? and how do you think that would fare against self-archiving? (Another way to put it -- I think I've already asked this once: How much money would the publisher of my refereed paper have to pay me so that I relinquish my self-archiving right? And where would he get enough money for that?)

Remember, the real question at issue here is not whether the author gets paid or not---the debate started when I asserted that authors of trade books don't get paid much either. The question that is of primary concern to you is whether readers pay. You argue that authors derive the most value from publication, therefore it makes sense for them to pay for the costs of publishing. This may be right, but another argument is that readers benefit the most from the filtering, so they should pay for the costs.

Hal Varian


HARNAD:

The exchange with Hal Varian has been very interesting, but in the interests of hastening convergence, I will be more telegraphic in my quote/commenting in this round, but first a summary:

The only two substantive issues now are (1) an error (about 'author charges') and (2) a disagreement (about who should pay for peer review).

(1) Hal speaks of AUTHOR charges, and I keep speaking of AUTHOR-INSTITUTION charges. The annual costs for quality control/certification (QC/C) (less than 1/3 of the total institutional S/L/P costs for full paper and online publication in the present, obsolete system) will not and should not come from authors' pockets but from (less than 1/3 of) author-institution's annual S/L/P savings from total S/L/P cancellation.

The rest of the (marginally vanishing) costs of periodical publication in the new system are to be borne by centralized self-archiving facilities (Los Alamos, E-biomed, CogPrints, Scholar's Forum), backed up by distributed institutional self-archives,

http://www.eprints.org/index.html

plus the increased off-loading of word-processing (and soon tagging/mark-up) onto authoring software (which is on the rise anyway).

(2) Hal acknowledges the trade-off between direct benefits (royalty income) from the sale of texts and indirect benefits ('impact' income). (I put this in crass income terms just for the sake of simplicity.) The trade-off is that charging for access (royalty income) means loss of access to those who can't/won't pay (impact income). (I won't even mention that journal authors don't even get the pennies from the royalty income!)

Yet, despite acknowledging this loss of potential readership (hence indirect revenue) caused by S/L/P barriers, and despite agreeing that self-archiving may even be the way for many books, let alone journals, when it comes to the question of how to recover the much lower residual costs of quality control/certification [QC/C], Hal regresses on the S/L/P trade model, seemingly forgetting both the trade-off and the self-archiving option!

Part of this misunderstanding may revolve around institutional S/L/P, which currently SUBSIDIZES readers (at those lucky institutions); Hal contrasts this with PERSONAL (out-of-pocket or out-of-grant) payment of author charges in the proposed system, whereas the most natural way to think of it is simply as rechannelling what is already an institutional subsidy from S/L/P costs to the much lower up-front QC/C costs!

If you must think in terms of who the 'consumer' is and how he benefits, the consumer is the author-institution in both cases, the benefit in the former case (reader-institution end S/L/P) being to buy in SOME of the journal literature for the use of its scholars and scientists (to enhance their research impact), the benefit in the latter case (author-institution end QC/C) being to buy in ALL of the journal literature for the use of ALL scholars and scientists (thereby enhancing everyone's potential impact) -- and at less than 1/3 of the price!.

When you speak of retaining S/L/P from the author-institution's point of view, always keep in mind their lost potential impact on the eyes/minds of the many institutions and countries that cannot afford that particular journal...

In fact, the best intuition pump I have found for why charging S/L/P for access makes no sense for the refereed research literature is that it is for exactly the same reason that charging for access to advertisements would make no sense!

Now to (telegraphic) quote/comment mode:

Varian: ... You argue that the author should pay for this filtering role. Perhaps that is right, but one could also make a case that the reader should pay since he is the direct beneficiary of the filtering, ...now that the other costs have been driven so low.

But this makes the author and author-institution the LOSER of all those potential eyes/minds (and impact income) -- and PARTICULARLY considering how low those 'filtering' (QC/C) costs really are!

Varian: ... the funding agencies pay researchers to produce papers which are sent to journals to be evaluated and, in most cases, published, which are then purchased by libraries for the free use of the researchers. ... it is the role of intermediaries that has got us into the current mess; if the authors/researchers faced the true costs of the current publication system, they would find a way to reform it quite quickly!

Indeed they would, but it would not be by simply lowering S/L/P barriers, but by eliminating them completely, through author-institution end QC/C payment out of 1/3 of S/P/P savings, plus author self-archiving.

Varian: There is something of a trade-off, but perhaps less than you think. There are ways to vary access and recover costs from customers. Even now you can purchase a journal subscription directly or go access it 'for free' in your library. Here are two different kinds of access, one more convenient than the other, and they are priced accordingly. So it isn't 'access' vs 'no access' but different degrees of access. The same can be done in the online world; whether this is desirable or not is a different question.

And what about the many countries and institutions that can't afford either form of access? (And re-calculate that at least 14,000 times for each of the refereed journals in Ulrich's that some institutional author's work might appear in.)

'It is easy to say what would be the ideal online resource for scholars and scientists: all papers in all fields, systematically interconnected, effortlessly accessible and rationally navigable from any researcher's desk world-wide.' http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/citation.html

As an author, how many potential readers of my work would I like to deprive of this resource -- in the interests of a reader-end S/L/P model (from which I do not make a penny, and which costs my institution at least twice as much as barrier-free QC/C would)?

And what is the counterpart of personal vs. library access in the desk-top, networked world?

Varian: You argue that author charges could pay for peer review. This maybe correct, but I worry about the incentives in such a system. Under reader pays, the publisher has an incentive to keep quality high in order to attract readers. Under author pays, the publisher has an incentive to get as many authors to pay as possible, and other mechanisms must be used to maintain quality.

I have already replied to this, in response to Frank Norman at the National Institute for Medical Research. This 'vanity press' model of author-pays profoundly misunderstands peer review!

'Nothing like this will happen; it is based on a misunderstanding of peer review -- and of what it is that makes the prestigious journals prestigious, and hence makes authors prefer to submit to them rather than elsewhere:

'The prestige of the top journals is based on their quality, which in turn depends on their quality-control standards: They only accept the very best papers (and their typically high citation impact factors reflect this). (They are not "designer labels", for the patina of which a "consumer" is willing to pay more!)

'The way that high standards of quality are maintained is through rigorous peer review: One cannot BUY success in that process; authors must EARN it (by doing high quality work). Otherwise the prestigious journals would simply lose their prestige (and be replaced by other, more rigorously refereed journals, that recapture their standards, and THEREBY the best papers. [And, no, they will not LOWER their charges to capture to higher-prestige authors either! This sort of market thinking is all based on the wrong, old, reader/consumer-end model: or, to put it another way, the "competition" in this non-trade literature is for high-quality papers, not for author-dollars.]).

'On the contrary, it is much lower down in the peer review hierarchy, as one approaches the vanity press, that some abuse of the author-end system is conceivable: Authors may try to buy their way into the pages of low-quality journals when they have failed to earn their way into the high-quality ones. But, frankly, I don't find this at all worrisome! Vanity publications are apparent to everyone; they wear the result (low quality) on their sleeves (and their contents, their authorships, and their impact factors); and such journals already exist today, where the "subsidy" currently comes on the reader-institution end rather than the author-institution end -- everyone knows which ones they are, and that caveat emptor prevails when it comes to deciding whether to read them or rely on what they report.'

And don't forget: The peers review for free ... QC/C costs are only for IMPLEMENTING refereeing, not for the referees themselves (who, like the author, contribute for free). Vide supra.

Varian: if an organization 'can't afford' access, it is likely an accounting illusion rather than actual lack of money.

I'd like to see the data for that, not even for all 14K journals in Ulrichs, but just, say, the top 6.5K indexed by the ISI. And please tell me the figures per journal, per institution, per country. As an author/advertiser, I would like to know how many potential customers I am really LOSING if I endorse the SELLING of my papers/ads, instead of having my institution pay up front to GIVE them away to one and all...

Varian: The important principle is that the readers are willing to pay something for the filtering services provided by the journal. And it is this willingness-to-pay that supports the current business model. You could be right that 'author pays' is superior for the reasons you cite. But my worry is that the economic incentives to provide value to the reader (via filtering) are weakened.

Vide supra. Peer review will take care of itself (money is not involved in refereeing); focus on my POTENTIAL readers whose institutions CANNOT pay...

Stevan Harnad


VARIAN:

Harnad: The only two substantive issues now are (1) an error (about 'author charges') and (2) a disagreement (about who should pay for peer review).

(1) Hal speaks of AUTHOR charges, and I keep speaking of AUTHOR-INSTITUTION charges.

No problem there; I just shortened the phrase in the interests of my weary fingers.

Harnad: If you must think in terms of who the 'consumer' is and how he benefits, the consumer is the author-institution in both cases

Completely agreed. In fact, you will remember that I argued that it is this point (that the readers and the authors are by-and-large the same) is the critical aspect of academic publishing that differentiates it from the trade press, as opposed to the different motivations of the authors that you emphasize. (Perhaps it is not surprising that a psychologist emphasizes motivations and economist emphasizes industry structure.)

Harnad: When you speak of retaining S/L/P from the author-institution's point of view, always keep in mind their lost potential impact on the eyes/minds of the many institutions and countries that cannot afford that particular journal...

I agree that S/L/P, as currently implemented, reduces readership. However, that's not the end of the story. I think you need to look at why and how S/L/P was created and survived for many years. You may end up being right that S/L/P is no longer appropriate given the change in costs. If it was so inefficient, how could it have survived for so long? This very fact calls for a deeper analysis of the economic forces that kept it alive in the face of the inefficiency you describe.

Harnad:

Varian: There is something of a trade-off, but perhaps less than you think. There are ways to vary access and recover costs from customers. Even now you can purchase a journal subscription directly or go access it 'for free' in your library ....

And what about the many countries and institutions that can't afford either form of access? (And re-calculate that at least 14,000 times for each of the refereed journals in Ulrich's that some institutional author's work might appear in.)

And what about countries and institutions that can't afford submission fees? In the long run, the same costs have to be paid. Your argument is that the author-institution pays system covers the costs and allows for broader readership, an observation with which I agree. However, there is a more subtle issue. An economic system tends to favor those who pay. If the authors pay, then the system will lean towards the author's goal (getting published) whereas if the readers pay the system will lean towards the reader's goal (effective filtering.)

I'm not sure which effect is larger. But, of course, there is no reason why both sides couldn't pay, if that turned out to be the appropriate way to align incentives.

Harnad:

'It is easy to say what would be the ideal online resource for scholars and scientists: all papers in all fields, systematically interconnected, effortlessly accessible and rationally navigable from any researcher's desk world-wide.' http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/citation.html

As an author, how many potential readers of my work would I like to deprive of this resource -- in the interests of a reader-end S/L/P model (from which I do not make a penny, and which costs my institution at least twice as much as barrier-free QC/C would)?

The publication system shouldn't be designed only to serve authors---it has to serve the needs of readers as well (especially if they are the same people!). One might add terms like 'all meritorious papers, systematically evaluated and vetted' to your 'ideal online resource'. (I realize that you acknowledge elsewhere that refereeing is a critical part of academic publication, even though it ends up being missing as a desideratum here.)

Harnad: I have already replied to this, in response to Frank Norman at the National Institute for Medical Research. This 'vanity press' model of author-pays profoundly misunderstands peer review!

'The prestige of the top journals is based on their quality, which in turn depends on their quality-control standards: They only accept the very best papers (and their typically high citation impact factors reflect this). (They are not "designer labels", for the patina of which a "consumer" is willing to pay more!)'

I think that your subsequent analysis is a more-or-less correct analysis of the pressures for quality in the current system. Essentially, low quality journals are cancelled since their benefits aren't worth their costs. But in your proposed system, the reader bears no costs, so this particular feedback is eliminated.

You may well respond that authors will want to submit to quality journals, a point I accept. But what does 'submit' really mean in this world? I have argued elsewhere that when publication costs were expensive, it made sense to evaluate ex ante. Now that publication costs are cheap, it makes sense to evaluate ex post. Furthermore, there is no reason to use a 0-1, publish/don't publish scale any more---much more sophisticated systems could be used.

One scenario is for public-archiving and self-archiving as the publication mechanism and an essentially separate system of cataloguing/ranking/peer reviewing as the filtering system. The question then is who should pay for the peer reviewing? I submit that it may well be the readers, due to the incentive effects described above.

Harnad:

Varian: if an organization 'can't afford' access, it is likely an accounting illusion rather than actual lack of money.

I'd like to see the data for that, not even for all 14K journals in Ulrichs, but just, say, the top 6.5K indexed by the ISI. And please tell me the figures per journal, per institution, per country.

See Lemberg, Richard, 1996 thesis on costs of digitization, UC Berkeley. JSTOR did some calculations with the same conclusion, which are reported in part by a speech from Bill Bowen, which, I believe, is available on the JSTOR Web site.

Hal Varian


HARNAD:

Varian: You may end up being right that S/L/P is no longer appropriate given the change in costs. If it was so inefficient, how could it have survived for so long?

The answer couldn't be simpler: Because of the technology and economics of print-on-paper! In that medium, S/L/P was the only viable option if one wanted to be published at all.

In the PostGutenberg, online-only era, for refereed journals, the days of S/L/P are over!

But S/L/P is STILL fine for the trade literature (books, magazines). It's only the anomalous, give-away literature that has been freed at last of the 'Faustian Bargain' that held it hostage to S/L/P tolls until now.

Varian:

Harnad: And what about the many countries and institutions that can't afford either form of access? (And re-calculate that at least 14,000 times for each of the refereed journals in Ulrich's that some institutional author's work might appear in.)

And what about countries and institutions that can't afford submission fees? In the long run, the same costs have to be paid.

I knew, as I wrote that, that this would be the come-back!

The answer is:

(1) Those disenfranchised institutions are currently NET CONSUMERS of the literature (they aspire only to READ it, if they could only afford it!). They are not net providers (they are not publishing much). They could not afford most of the journals under the S/L/P system. So their researchers had much less basis for publishing anything either, being starved of access to the literature.

In the up-front system, these institutions will simply get a free ride from the NET PROVIDERS (research-active, high publishing-rate institutions), but no one will lose as a result of this. (Stealing my paper to read is a victimless crime in the post-print-photocopy age! Among other things, this is the end of the 'Copyright Clearance Center' for the journal literature, which is merely a variant of the 'P' in S/L/P -- justified in the Gutenberg era, but not not in the PostGutenberg Galaxy).

It should still average out to less than 1/3 of every institution's prior S/L/P budget being rechannelled toward up-front costs.

And as the institutions that were disenfranchised by S/L/P barriers begin to become more research-active as a result of free access to the literature, their research productivity and income should rise, as should their publication rate, and the resulting revenue available for covering those increasing publication costs. (Research and research-impact revenue should always be ahead of QC/C costs by at least a factor of two, if my 1/3 figure holds.)

(2) What about institutionally unaffiliated scholars? I think a modest slush fund should be able to cover that minoritarian need quite adequately.

Varian: Your argument is that the author-institution pays system covers the costs and allows for broader readership, an observation with which I agree. However, there is a more subtle issue. An economic system tends to favor those who pay. If the authors pay, then the system will lean towards the author's goal (getting published) whereas if the readers pay the system will lean towards the reader's goal (effective filtering.)

This is the vanity-press argument again. Reply: Peer Review. The peer community will continue to maintain the standards, as always, for free! It is only the IMPLEMENTATION of peer review that needs to be paid for, not referee time/effort. And journal rejection-rates and impact-factors will continue to be the marks of quality (and the magnet for authors), not the money exchanged for implementing peer review!

Varian: I'm not sure which effect is larger. But, of course, there is no reason why both sides couldn't pay, if that turned out to be the appropriate way to align incentives.

Heaven forfend! The worst of all possible worlds! You have to pay to read AND you have to pay to be published! Insult upon Injury!

Varian:

Harnad:

'It is easy to say what would be the ideal online resource for scholars and scientists: all papers in all fields, systematically interconnected, effortlessly accessible and rationally navigable from any researcher's desk world-wide' http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/citation.html

As an author, how many potential readers of my work would I like to deprive of this resource -- in the interests of a reader-end S/L/P model (from which I do not make a penny, and which costs my institution at least twice as much as barrier-free QC/C would)?

The publication system shouldn't be designed only to serve authors---it has to serve the needs of readers as well (especially if they are the same people!). One might add terms like 'all meritorious papers, systematically evaluated and vetted' to your 'ideal online resource'. (I realize that you acknowledge elsewhere that refereeing is a critical part of academic publication, even though it ends up being missing as a desideratum here.)

Precisely. It is and always has been the freeing of the REFEREED JOURNAL LITERATURE to which all these efforts have been directed. And as far as I can tell, that completely nullifies your objection here!

Varian:

Harnad: This 'vanity press' model of author-pays profoundly misunderstands peer review! The prestige of the top journals is based on their quality, which in turn depends on their quality-control standards: They only accept the very best papers (and their typically high citation impact factors reflect this). (They are not 'designer labels', for the patina of which a 'consumer' is willing to pay more!)

I think that your subsequent analysis is a more-or-less correct analysis of the pressures for quality in the current system. Essentially, low quality journals are cancelled since their benefits aren't worth their costs. But in your proposed system, the reader bears no costs, so this particular feedback is eliminated.

The way for a reader to vote is not with his (institution's) S/L/P dollars, but with his eyes, his citations, his refereeing, and his research! This is not commerce we are talking about, but Learned Inquiry.

Varian: You may well respond that authors will want to submit to quality journals, a point I accept. But what does 'submit' really mean in this world? I have argued elsewhere that when publication costs were expensive, it made sense to evaluate ex ante. Now that publication costs are cheap, it makes sense to evaluate ex post.

Untested speculations about replacing peer review by post-publication peer commentary are a can of worms on which I've written before:

Excerpt from:

Harnad, S. (1998) The invisible hand of peer review. Nature [online] (5 Nov. 1998) http://helix.nature.com/webmatters/invisible.html Peer Commentary vs. Peer Review

'And is peer commentary (even if we can settle the vexed "peer" question) really peer review? Will I say publicly about someone who might be refereeing my next grant application or tenure review what I really think are the flaws of his latest raw manuscript? (Should we then be publishing our names alongside our votes in civic elections too, without fear or favour?) Will I put into a public commentary -- alongside who knows how many other such commentaries, to be put to who knows what use by who knows whom -- the time and effort that I would put into a referee report for an editor I know to be turning specifically to me and a few other specialists for our expertise on a specific paper?

'If there is anyone on this planet who is in a position to attest to the functional difference between peer review and peer commentary (Harnad 1982, 1984), it is surely the author of the present article, who has been umpiring a peer-reviewed paper journal of Open Peer Commentary (Behavioral and Brain Scienceshttp://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/bbs.html, published by Cambridge University Press) for over 2 decades (Harnad 1979), as well as a peer-reviewed online-only journal of Open Peer Commentary (Psycoloquy, sponsored by the American Psychological Association, http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/psyc.html for what will soon be a decade too).

'Both journals are rigorously refereed; only those papers that have successfully passed through the peer review filter go on to run the gauntlet of open peer commentary, an extremely powerful and important SUPPLEMENT to peer review, but certainly no SUBSTITUTE for it. Indeed, no one but the editor sees [or should have to see] the population of raw, unrefereed submissions, consisting of manuscripts eventually destined to be revised and accepted after peer review, but also (with a journal like BBS, with a 75% rejection rate) many manuscripts not destined to appear in that particular journal at all. Referee reports, some written for my eyes only, all written for at most the author and fellow referees, are nothing like public commentaries for the eyes of the entire learned community, and vice versa. Nor do 75% of the submissions justify soliciting public commentary, or at least not commentary at the BBS level of the hierarchy.'

http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/nature2.html

Food for thought: Would you rather have an ailing relative treated on the basis of the traditionally peer-reviewed biomedical literature, with referees selected and their reports adjudicated by a qualified, answerable Editor, or on the basis of navigating a Netnews chatgroup peppered with 'articles' and 'comments' by God knows who (guided by hit rates?).

[cf. http://www.bmj.com/cgi/shtml/misc/peer/index.shtml]

Varian: Furthermore, there is no reason to use a 0-1, publish/don't publish scale any more---much more sophisticated systems could be used.

On this topic, see:

http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september-forum.html 1999 Thread: Independent scientific publication - Why have journals at all?

Short answer: Peer review is not 0/1, red/green light. It is an interactive, iterative feedback cycle that sometimes leads to a paper that passes the threshold for THAT journal in the hierarchy (everything gets published SOMEWHERE eventually). But referees are a scarce resource, and journal quality is equivalent to referee quality and rigour (and rejection rate).

Varian: One scenario is for public-archiving and self-archiving as the publication mechanism and an essentially separate system of cataloguing/ranking/peer reviewing as the filtering system.

This is already covered by the dichotomy: 'U' unrefereed pre-print vs. 'R' refereed reprint (+ journal name 'JX'). BOTH can be self-archived (and suitably tagged).

Varian: The question then is who should pay for the peer reviewing? I submit that it may well be the readers, due to the incentive effects described above.

No, the readers need merely CHOOSE to search only on items tagged 'R' in the free Eprint Archive. The refereeing can be provided by peer review (which ain't broke, hence don't need fixin' -- let alone replacing by untested alternatives).

Varian: if an organization 'can't afford' access, it is likely an accounting illusion rather than actual lack of money.

Harnad: I'd like to see the data for that, not even for all 14K journals in Ulrichs, but just, say, the top 6.5K indexed by the ISI. And please tell me the figures per journal, per institution, per country.

See Lemberg, Richard, 1996 thesis on costs of digitization, UC Berkeley. JSTOR did some calculations with the same conclusion, which are reported in part by a speech from Bill Bowen, which, I believe, is available on the JSTOR Web site.

That does not answer my question: We are not talking about the costs of digitization, current or retrospective. We are talking about how many institutions/countries can and do afford how many journals!

You focus on capturing the available money (via S/L/P), whereas I ask 'Why not give it away for free for all, and pay the small remaining cost -- quality control -- out of the S/L/P SAVINGS?'

If there is no other way to free your intuitions from reader-end market thinking, run your whole argument through on advertisements: Why shouldn't advertisers give their ads only to those who can afford to pay for it?

Answer: Ads are not the right PRODUCT to think of! It is ad companies' SERVICES that advertisers want to pay for. (But before this segues into the vanity-press argument again, note that it's only an analogy; for something closer to a homology, you would have to make it the services of a quality-controller/certifier (the FDA?), and one in which the quality assessment itself is done by independent and incorruptible -- because unpaid! -- assessors [referees]!)

Stevan Harnad


VARIAN:

Harnad: In the PostGutenberg, online-only era, for refereed journals, the days of S/L/P are over!

But S/L/P is STILL fine for the trade literature (books, magazines). It's only the anomalous, give-away literature that has been freed at last of the 'Faustian Bargain' that held it hostage to S/L/P tolls until now.

This is what strikes me as peculiar in your position. You argue that the dramatic change in costs will have a big effect on the academic publishing model, and yet the same S/L/P model 'is still fine' for the trade literature.

Doesn't it seem strange that the same change in costs will have such a big effect in one area and a tiny effect in another? I argue that the change in costs will also have a dramatic effect in the trade literature with lots of free publication of unvetted material (see the Web) with people paying for filtering/vetting. Hence the business model for the two literatures will tend to become more similar.

Harnad:

Varian: An economic system tends to favor those who pay. If the authors pay, then the system will lean towards the author's goal (getting published) whereas if the readers pay the system will lean towards the reader's goal (effective filtering.)

This is the vanity-press argument again. Reply: Peer Review. The peer community will continue to maintain the standards, as always, for free! It is only the IMPLEMENTATION of peer review that needs to be paid for, not referee time/effort. And journal rejection-rates and impact-factors will continue to be the marks of quality (and the magnet for authors), not the money exchanged for implementing peer review!

But, as you well know, peer review varies dramatically in its quality. There are good journals (which tend to be more selective) and bad journals (which tend to be less selective) under the current system. If authors pay to get published, there will be a natural tendency to increase the amount published and reduce average quality.

Harnad:

Varian: I'm not sure which effect is larger. But, of course, there is no reason why both sides couldn't pay, if that turned out to be the appropriate way to align incentives.

Heaven forfend! The worst of all possible worlds! You have to pay to read AND you have to pay to be published! Insult upon Injury!

But you are paying for different things: authors are paying for the hosting, readers are paying for the filtering. This makes sense since the authors value being published (as you repeatedly emphasize) and the readers value selectivity. I think that your 1/3 figure for refereeing process is about right (I have made the same estimates in my papers), so it's the same total amount paid, by essentially the same people, in either case.

And if there are those that don't want to pay for filtering, they are welcome to go out and search for the material they want on their own, spending time rather than money. But if there are those that want to pay money to have the searching and filtering done for them, why should you object?

Harnad: Precisely. It is and always has been the freeing of the REFEREED JOURNAL LITERATURE to which all these efforts have been directed. And as far as I can tell, that completely nullifies your objection here!

My argument is that you seem to think that you can take the existing refereed journal literature, reverse the payment system, and have nothing else change. To a social scientist, this is highly unlikely. The existing payment system influences incentives, and changing the payment system will change the incentives.

Harnad: The way for a reader to vote is not with his (institution's) S/L/P dollars, but with his eyes, his citations, his refereeing, and his research! This is not commerce we are talking about, but Learned Inquiry.

Hmm. I thought we were talking about the economics of learned inquiry.

Harnad:

Varian: You may well respond that authors will want to submit to quality journals, a point I accept. But what does 'submit' really mean in this world? I have argued elsewhere that when publication costs were expensive, it made sense to evaluate ex ante. Now that publication costs are cheap, it makes sense to evaluate ex post.

Untested speculations about replacing peer review by post-publication peer commentary are a can of worms on which I've written before:

I'm not talking about post-publication peer commentary; I'm talking about post-publication peer review, just as you describe in the following excerpt:

Harnad: This is already covered by the dichotomy: 'U' unrefereed pre-print vs. 'R' refereed reprint (+ journal name 'JX'). BOTH can be self-archived (and suitably tagged).

Varian: The question then is who should pay for the peer reviewing? I submit that it may well be the readers, due to the incentive effects described above.

No, the readers need merely CHOOSE to search only on items tagged 'R' in the free Eprint Archive. The refereeing can be provided by peer review (which ain't broke, hence don't need fixin' -- let alone replacing by untested alternatives).

Here, I think, is a difference in our conceptions. You think of the 'R' and 'U' as being bound to the archive. But that seems rather limited. Why not have different organizations providing the 'R's and 'U's with pointers to the archive? This way you get competition for rating services, with the appropriate incentives for keeping quality up and price down. Some reviewing services may charge for their services and some not; let the users decide what they want.

Harnad: I'd like to see the data for that, not even for all 14K journals in Ulrichs, but just, say, the top 6.5K indexed by the ISI. And please tell me the figures per journal, per institution, per country.

Varian: See Lemberg, Richard, 1996 thesis on costs of digitization, UC Berkeley. JSTOR did some calculations with the same conclusion, which are reported in part by a speech from Bill Bowen, which, I believe, is available on the JSTOR Web site.

That does not answer my question: We are not talking about the costs of digitization, current or retrospective. We are talking about how many institutions/countries can and do afford how many journals!

Part of the thesis dealt with the costs of shelving, costs of Web hosting, etc. Certainly figuring out which institutions can afford journals involves looking at how much they are paying now vs. how much they would have to pay for online access.

Harnad: You focus on capturing the available money (via S/L/P), whereas I ask 'Why not give it away for free for all, and pay the small remaining cost -- quality control -- out of the S/L/P SAVINGS?'

This is a misreading of my claim. I don't have any quarrel with giving the writing away for free, and having the authors pay for posting. (Remember, my original argument was precisely that this is what most authors want, not just academic authors.) The question is who will pay for the filtering? Just as the authors benefit from being published, and will pay to do so, the readers benefit from filtering and will pay for high quality filtering.

Of course, if the authors are willing to pay for the filtering (as you assume), there is no need for the readers to pay. But the incentives are poor in that system---I think that it would tend to degenerate into the vanity press you correctly deride.

Harnad: If there is no other way to free your intuitions from reader-end market thinking, run your whole argument through on advertisements: Why shouldn't advertisers give their ads only to those who can afford to pay for it?

Answer: Ads are not the right PRODUCT to think of! It is ad companies' SERVICES that advertisers want to pay for. (But before this segues into the vanity-press argument again, note that it's only an analogy; for something closer to a homology, you would have to make it the services of a quality-controller/certifier (the FDA?), and one in which the quality assessment itself is done by independent and incorruptible -- because unpaid! -- assessors [referees]!)

In your system, the authors pay the journals to have their papers published. The analogy is that the drug companies would pay the FDA to have their drugs approved. Do you see a problem with the latter business model?

[This isn't to say the current FDA model is right, either. There is a lot of evidence that the incentives in the FDA are bad---if a bureaucrat delays a good drug no one knows. If they approve a bad drug, they loose their job. This leads to a possibly overly conservative approval process. But the costs of bad drugs are very different from those of bad papers, so I hesitate to extend the analogy!]

Hal Varian


HARNAD:

Varian: This is what strikes me as peculiar in your position. You argue that the dramatic change in costs will have a big effect on the academic publishing model, and yet the same S/L/P model 'is still fine' for the trade literature. Doesn't it seem strange that the same change in costs will have such a big effect in one area and a tiny effect in another?

(It's not academic vs. trade publishing, but refereed journal papers vs. everything else: including books -- both academic and trade -- and magazine articles.)

I think it has become clear why this disagreement persists. I can't bring myself to believe that books are really a give-away literature, in the way journal-papers always have been (for their authors).

The data you adduce in support of your position consist of the statistics on how little it is that book authors ACTUALLY make for their texts, on average, and I do not contest that, but I don't think it's the decisive evidence (and NOT just because I am a psychologist, concerned only with authors' hopes!).

I think the fact that books have always been commissioned with contracts specifying royalty payments (even if in most cases the royalties are tiny or never materialize at all), whereas refereed journal articles never have been, is evidence in my favour.

So too, I believe, would be the results of the following 3 thought experiments:

How many (1) book authors would have instead signed contracts that promised them limitless public archiving in perpetuo on the Web, in exchange for signing away all royalty rights? -- compared to (2) journal article authors offered the same proposition? [Prediction: (1) few; (2) all]

How many (1) book authors would be willing to PAY (and how much) to ADD to their existing, royalty-based contracts the right to self-archive in perpetuo? -- compared to (2) journal article authors offered the same proposition? [Prediction: (1) few (and little); (2) most (and surprisingly much)]

How much would book authors demand to be PAID in order to alter their existing, royalty-based contracts, so as to add a clause that this work can NEVER be archived free for all? -- compared to (2) journal article authors offered the same proposition? [Prediction: (1) surpassingly little; (2) (more than it is realistic to imagine anyone could ever afford to offer)]

Varian: I argue that the change in costs will also have a dramatic effect in the trade literature with lots of free publication of unvetted material (see the Web) with people paying for filtering/vetting. Hence the business model for the two literatures will tend to become more similar.

I accept that an increasing number of things, including texts, will be (and are being) given away on the Web for free, over and above refereed journal papers!

But we are talking about conditional probability here, not raw probability: What is the probability that an item will be a Web give-away-wannabe, GIVEN that it is a book, vs. the probability that it will be a Web give-away-wannabe, GIVEN that it is a refereed-journal paper?

I predict that the latter will be 100% whereas the former will be much, much lower (and even if we don't add the 'in perpetuo' clause, allowing temporary web-archiving for promotional purposes); and when electronic book technology becomes more friendly to linear bed/bath/beach reading, the discrepancy will become bigger, not smaller!

As to modular 'vetting' -- I haven't a clear enough case in mind, other than peer review, so I'm not sure what would be on sale here: movie reviews?

Varian: But, as you well know, peer review varies dramatically in its quality. There are good journals (which tend to be more selective) and bad journals (which tend to be less selective) under the current system. If authors pay to get published, there will be a natural tendency to increase the amount published and reduce average quality.

Please see prior postings on peer review: The journal quality hierarchy will remain in place. Their respective peers will continue to perform (independently, and for free) as now. High rejection rates will continue to prevail at the top; vanity-press, pay-your-way-in at the bottom. And everyone will continue to know the difference, as they do now.

So the effects you describe will only be felt at the bottom of the hierarchy, where they already are now.

Varian:

Harnad: Heaven forfend! The worst of all possible worlds! You have to pay to read AND you have to pay to be published! Insult upon Injury!

But you are paying for different things: authors are paying for the hosting, readers are paying for the filtering.

Hosting expenses have not even come up. They are part of the academic infrastructure already. I don't reckon the pennies it costs to archive my papers on my institutional server any more than I reckon the pennies it would cost to archive my personal photo albums there (as many do). Same is true with self-archiving on Los Alamos, E-Biomed or CogPrints. The marginal cost per paper is negligible. Hosting costs are a red herring (for academics).

The ONLY author (institution) costs I have ever mentioned have been those of quality control/certification (QC/C).

I don't believe for a minute in reader-end QC/C costs: QC/C costs are like the Cheshire cat's smile. They are all that is left of journal publication costs once production and dissemination are off-loaded on public Archives. It is not at all clear what the READER would be buying if he wanted to buy THAT! It's a service (to the author-institution); its OUTPUT -- the refereed paper -- is already in the public archive for free!

Varian: This makes sense since the authors value being published (as you repeatedly emphasize) and the readers value selectivity.

I'm afraid this doesn't make sense to me at all! I know what the author-institutions are buying: the vetting and certification of their 'product'. But what are the reader-institutions supposed to be buying, given that that 'product' is archived for free for all?

Yes, readers value selectivity. And it is (in part) because readers value selectivity that authors value the service of QC/C!

Varian: I think that your 1/3 figure for refereeing process is about right (I have made the same estimates in my papers), so it's the same total amount paid, by essentially the same people, in either case.

Yes, but if that same 1/3 amount is paid at the reader-institution end, then only the readers at THAT institution get access, whereas if it is paid at the author-institution end, ALL readers get access (including those at less solvent institutions). And, as we agreed, that enhanced visibility is a benefit to author-institutions! And since we're talking about the same institutions spending the same 1/3 in both cases, it seems to be a choice between spending it the access-blocking vs. the access-enhancing way. What possible advantage can there be to the former? (Please don't revert to the vanity-press argument!)

Varian: And if there are those that don't want to pay for filtering, they are welcome to go out and search for the material they want on their own, spending time rather than money. But if there are those that want to pay money to have the searching and filtering done for them, why should you object?

You keep imagining, basically, a refereed literature, paid by S/L/P, plus a free unrefereed literature, whereas what I am advocating is a refereed literature (first) FREED by self-archiving (of refereed papers) and then, when S/L/P revenue dwindles because users prefer the free archive, QC/C FUNDED up-front out of 1/3 of the S/L/P savings.

Your view is simply reader-centred. You keep seeing the text as the PRODUCT instead of seeing it as like a free ad, with the quality-control/certification being the SERVICE to be paid for.

And as we saw, the only dividend of continuing to see it your way is that the very same 1/3 expenditure, paid by the very same institution, is, on your model, paid for BLOCKING access to everyone outside the author's institution who cannot pay, whereas on my model, it is paid for OPENING access to everyone outside the author's institution who cannot pay.

Varian: My argument is that you seem to think that you can take the existing refereed journal literature, reverse the payment system, and have nothing else change. To a social scientist, this is highly unlikely. The existing payment system influences incentives, and changing the payment system will change the incentives.

That would certainly be true if referees were paid, but they are not! The payment is just for implementing the refereeing system.

And the implementation is ultimately answerable to objective quality indicators constraining QC/C such as impact factors; so we agree that journals that dropped standards (selected less rigorous referees, for example) would soon be caught out and would lose their place in the quality hierarchy to more rigorously refereed journals. (So much for the vanity-press argument.)

[I am conscious that I come up for a drubbing below over what I said about Learned Inquiry and commercial factors, so let me say more carefully here that QC/C implementation is not 'directly' influenced by '1st order' commercial factors -- such as maximizing the number of author-institutions paying the publication fees, or even of maximizing the publication fees themselves; it's more like a museum trying to maintain its standards by collecting only the very best art -- in a system where the best artists also want their art to go into the very best museums. -- Except that they GIVE it to them rather than SELLING it!]

But I am not saying that there may not be some surprises in the transition from S/L/P to up-front QC/C. That's why I think it needs to be planned in advance. See the thread 'The Urgent Need to Plan a Stable Transition' in the 1998 file of:

http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september-forum.html

Varian:

Harnad: The way for a reader to vote is not with his (institution's) S/L/P dollars, but with his eyes, his citations, his refereeing, and his research!

This is not commerce we are talking about, but Learned Inquiry.

Hmm. I thought we were talking about the economics of learned inquiry.

You got me on that one. (I'm just a psychologist!)

Varian: I'm not talking about post-publication peer commentary; I'm talking about post-publication peer review, just as you describe in the following excerpt...

But my point in the prior excerpt was that post-publication 'peer review' (which I called, I think quite correctly, peer commentary, because that's what it is!) is not a viable substitute for prepublication peer review!

It's as if all the food is put on the market and then people have to listen to the cacophony of consumers to decide what's safe to eat! I'd rather sell (and buy) my eggs already graded by reliable experts!

Varian: Here, I think, is a difference in our conceptions. You think of the 'R' [Tag for 'Refereed'] and 'U' [Tag for 'Unrefereed'] as being bound to the archive. But that seems rather limited. Why not have different organizations providing the 'R's and 'U's with pointers to the archive?

See the analogy above. I'd rather have my eggs graded by reliable experts, ONCE. Otherwise who will grade the "experts"?

Varian: This way you get competition for rating services, with the appropriate incentives for keeping quality up and price down. Some reviewing services may charge for their services and some not; let the users decide what they want.

But then who will rate the services for me? And meanwhile, what do I do about treating my ailing grandmother, or just getting eggs for tonight's omelette?

I think the current QC/C, though it could stand some improvement, is good enough so I would be satisfied with freeing the current journal literature SUCH AS IT IS now. QC/C reform schemes can be tested empirically, but for now, I want to stick with the current egg-grading methods ...

Varian: Certainly figuring out which institutions can afford journals involves looking at how much they are paying now vs. how much they would have to pay for online access.

Correct, but we have already agreed provisionally on the 1/3 of current S/L/P expenditure figure and we know the bottom line: That SOME won't be able to afford it. But if those who can afford it pay it up-front, instead of as S/L/P, then all the have-nots will get the access anyway, and everyone will be better off.

Varian:

Harnad: You focus on capturing the available money (via S/L/P), whereas I ask "Why not give it away for free for all, and pay the small remaining cost -- quality control -- out of the S/L/P SAVINGS?"

This is misreading of my claim. I don't have any quarrel with giving the writing away for free, and having the authors pay for posting. ... The question is who will pay for the filtering?

Posting WHAT? I am talking about posting (self-archiving) the REFEREED (= 'filtered') papers. (And there is no cost to speak of for the self-archiving, just for the refereeing QC/C.)

Varian: Just as the authors benefit from being published, and will pay to do so, the readers benefit from filtering and will pay for high quality filtering.

(Let me first lay to rest the author 'payment' for self-archiving, because there isn't any. )

Now, self-archiving WHAT? Unrefereed pre-prints? Fine. But why would I want to stop there? What do I want everyone, everywhere to see: just the raw draft, or the accepted, certified final draft? The latter, of course.

Now it's true that readers prefer the final draft too, and it's true that the QC/C will cost 1/3 of current S/L/P and will be paid by my institution either way. But if it is paid up-front, I, the author (and my institution), get the further benefit of infinite reach for my work. Whereas the only advantage to keeping payment on the S/L/P end is some hypothetical one that I can't even quite articulate! (Again, it sounds like no contest to me!)

Varian: Of course, if the authors are willing to pay for the filtering (as you assume), there is no need for the readers to pay. But the incentives are poor in that system---I think that it would tend to degenerate into the vanity press you correctly deride.

I think that is as far as we will get with this one, I'm afraid. We agree on the amount. We agree on who pays (the author's institution either way). But if it is paid up front I claim that it frees the literature for all without loss of quality, whereas you claim that it will compromise quality.

I think this can only be settled empirically. I will continue to try to promote self-archiving (of both unrefereed pre-prints AND refereed reprints). I expect you will want to be cautioning against the latter...

Varian: In your system, the authors pay the journals to have their papers published. The analogy is that the drug companies would pay the FDA to have their drugs approved. Do you see a problem with the latter business model?

I actually have no idea how the FDA works; perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it. It was just meant to be an example of a (reliable?) quality controller. But I do know how peer review works, and I know referees are not paid, and as long as they are not, they are incorruptible (incorruptible by how the implementation of peer review is funded: I am not claiming peer review is perfect, or could not be improved).

Peer review is what it says: Specialised work is reviewed by qualified fellow specialists with no financial incentive. I would have hoped that was how drugs were reviewed too, but of course there is a critical difference there: Drugs (like books, and unlike journal articles) are produced to be SOLD not to be given away. If you want to look to a source of corruption, look there!

Stevan Harnad


VARIAN:

Harnad: I think that is as far as we will get with this one, I'm afraid. We agree on the amount. We agree on who pays (the author's institution either way). But if it is paid up front I claim that it frees the literature for all without loss of quality, whereas you claim that it will compromise quality.

I think this can only be settled empirically.

I agree that this is the fundamental difference, though I would prefer to say the 'authors/readers institution, either way'. But, as you say the question can only be settled empirically. The issue is whether the (possible) diminution in quality is outweighed by the increased access. Clearly this depends on the magnitude of the effects and the relative weight attached to the evaluation of them.

Hal Varian


BOB PARKS

Harnad: An intrinsically interesting side-issue is emerging from the exchanges with Hal Varian. Nothing substantive hinges on it for the purposes of the strategy and outcome I happen to advocate -- what I have taken to calling the 'optimal and inevitable' one for the refereed journal literature:

'freeing the literature online for everyone, everywhere, forever, through (1) universal public self-archiving of all refereed journal papers, and, when the time comes, (2) a downsizing of journals to providers of the service of quality control and certification, paid for on the author-institution out of S/L/P savings rather than at the reader-institution end via access-blocking S/L/P.'

Our disagreement is only about whether I am exaggerating the difference between the motivations of refereed-journal papers-authors (regarding THOSE papers) and authors in general -- of books, magazine articles, etc. -- in suggesting that the former are, and have always been, interested ONLY in giving those papers away, whereas other authors (as well as themselves, when wearing other hats) have at least the hope of some direct revenue from the sale of their texts.

I don't know of any study that has formally determined why we academics do what we do, and how much of it we do. What I think is relevant is whether 'free access archiving' of scientific literature will reduce the quality of that literature, whatever the goals are of those who write it.

1. xxx.lanl.gov has about 100,000 papers and that archive does not seem to have reduced the number of journals in physics, nor the quality of the scientific literature. Hence we have at least one strong piece of evidence that 'free access archiving' will not lower the quality. I don't know of any evidence showing that quality has been lowered in physics or elsewhere.

2. 'free access archiving' allows the largest audience for scientific work - the most readers can see the most articles. This then means that a) the wheel will not be invented quite as often as it is now; b) the possibility of citation is increased. How that affects the quality of scientific literature is unknown (to me at least).

3. xxx.lanl.gov seems to have conditioned its audience to 'filter' relevant articles from the large number of submissions. I would guess that works much like the usual filtering process that any academics use for 'hard copy working papers'. I would guess that Harnad and Varian get a very large number of hard copy working papers and each has some way of filtering through them - that filter might depend on reputation of the author, but those reputations are not solely determined from journals.

4. When we have citation-linking for all scientific literature http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/citation.html it will be natural and easy to 'value' writing - namely by the number of citations (and possibly the 'quality' of citations). Such citation criteria are already used in promotions and salary (at least in my small biased sample). One can argue whether quality is better determined from citations than from knowing that two or three referees and an associate editor have passed judgement.

5. As an economist, I would have to argue that the resources devoted to refereeing are misallocated because they are not compensated directly. In the current journal model, there may be too much refereeing (or there may be too little). If 'free access archiving' means the end of journal refereeing as we know it, I am not sure whether I (at least) could argue that there is a social gain or loss. Referees might spend their time writing/reading rather than refereeing, which could result in better scientific literature than what exists with their time spent refereeing. I am not arguing that refereeing has no value, only that we do not know what that value is, and that whatever that value is, it is not compensated (directly at least).

Harnad: So I am taking up the gauntlet here for one reason only: That if I should happen to be right and Hal should happen to be wrong about the reality of the fundamental motivational difference between refereed-journal authors and (just about) all others, then it is important to sort this out, because it is only too easy otherwise to

IMHO, the only reason to sort it out is to determine, given the goals of the esoteric author (a term I like), whether 'free access archiving' will lower or raise the quality of scientific literature. (To wit, I do not know why I write these words.)

Varian:

Harnad: Yes, but the question was whether they would trade it off for their refereed journal articles, not for their books and other activities.

But of course they do---the time spent writing textbooks, consulting, and so on takes away from time spent writing and publishing academic articles.

Again, the point should be whether the quality of the scientific literature is harmed by 'free access archiving'. So we can argue about whether academic authors would write given that there were no journals. I suspect yes. We all start with the dissertation which is mostly unpublished and uncited. Then we turn to gaining fortune and fame (read promotion and tenure, text book contracts, consulting, invited conferences at attractive locations, etc.). We do this by writing (in part). In the NO-JOURNALS world of 'free access archiving' we write to attract others attention, and citation. Rather than writing for three people (two referees and an editor) we now have to write for a larger audience and have to write to attract a readership (rather than attract an editor/referee). I don't see that deters us writing. The goals of fortune and fame remain, its just the journals no longer have a Faustian GRIP on us.

Varian:

Harnad: I said something stronger, and I repeat it: The authors of refereed journal articles are not interested in making money on THOSE texts at all.

I submit they would be happy to make money on those texts, as long as it didn't dramatically reduce the readership. You have implicitly assumed that the only way to 'make money on those texts' is to charge people to read them, thereby limiting access. I think this is a very narrow view, and limits the kinds of business models you might consider for information industries.

The current business 'model' for scientific literature is, well, absurd. Editors are mostly not directly compensated, and those who are are not compensated at the market value of their time. Referees are not compensated ($35 or $50 is not compensation). Authors are not compensated at all directly. So the university pays us to author/edit/referee and then buys our product back from a 'publisher'. Resources must be misallocated in that model. If our current world was a 'free access archiving' with citation valuations (rather than journal valuations), proposing such a business model would, well, be absurd. We need to unshackle ourselves from the current journal Faustian Grip, from that mental model of the world, and proceed ahead. Nor should we consider that scientific literature fits into other 'information' products.

Harnad: The conclusion is that in the case of the refereed journal literature only, the author has an interest in there being NO INCOME (to anyone) from sale of his texts, because income means access-blockage. This is also in the interest of the author's institution, which likewise gains kudos (and grant income) from the impact of his research (not to mention their savings from S/L/P cancellations!)

Varian: Here is where your confusion lies. It is false (as an economic proposition) that there is a direct relationship between 'no income' and 'access blockage'. Consider a field where there is an economic demand for the research (engineering, medicine, finance, etc.) It is common to see research produced in these fields where publication is delayed. It is first made available for a high price via consultancies, newsletters, affiliates, etc., and later made available to the academic world at large. This way the authors have their cake and eat it too---make money, and still make the research available to all. Obviously this practice can be abused, but that is beside the point. The point is that income can be made even while providing broad access.

Good case in point: The reply, insofar as my refereed journal papers are concerned, is loud and clear: Forget about the pennies I could make from the gate by denying or delaying access. Let everyone have it for free NOW. There aren't pennies enough in the (realistic) world to make me change my mind.

Where there is economic demand for the product (research), generally the product (research) does not get published directly into scientific journals. But this begs the issue of research-for-profit and research-for-academics. The 'free access archiving' does not mean that Monsanto should have its chemists do it.

Few of us 'publish' our research in high price places, few of us ever get any direct compensation for our writing. For those pieces which we do get compensation, we don't 'free access archive' and for the rest, we do 'free access archive'. That seems to me is the point.

Much of the discussion between Hal and Stevan side steps into business models (ignoring any further words on motivations of authors). So what is the business that requires a model? Production of (quality) scientific literature. Must that be tied to the elsevier et al (I use elsevier in lower case as a generic for profit and non-profit presses)? elsevier does not pay the authors, nor the referees nor the editors which is 95% to 99.9% of the real cost of producing the literature. In the 'free access archiving' world, we do not need to worry about whether elsevier survives. We do need to worry about the quality of the scientific literature, and elsevier itself does not provide that quality control. Editors and referees do. Citations do.

Whether universities are willing to compensate us for editing and refereeing without the elsevier label is an open question (especially if the citation linking proposal becomes fact). In fact it is a question which should be asked - how much refereeing should be done? If we have citations, do we need refereeing and editing? It is not that refereeing and editing do not increase the value of an article, it is whether the correct amount of resources are devoted to that activity, and whether citations (or similar) would be a more cost effective way to discern the quality (for promotion, tenure, etc.).

Imagine a world with 'free access archiving' without journals. How does one get promoted? Citations and review letters. Citation analysis would be free, and universities would have to compensate for outside review letters. Would that really change the quality of scientific literature - for the worse? Not in my mind.

Bob Parks


HARNAD:

Parks: 1. xxx.lanl.gov has about 100,000 papers and that archive does not seem to have reduced the number of journals in physics, nor the quality of the scientific literature. Hence we have at least one strong piece of evidence that 'free access archiving' will not lower the quality. I don't know of any evidence showing that quality has been lowered in physics or elsewhere.

3. xxx.lanl.gov seems to have conditioned its audience to 'filter' relevent articles from the large number of submissions. I would guess that works much like the usual filtering process that any academics use for 'hard copy working papers'.

The filter is even simpler than that: 'R' (refereed journal, and perhaps journal name 'JX') and 'Author Name'.

The peer review proficiency of the journals in question takes care of the rest.

Parks: 4. When we have citation-linking for all scientific literature http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/citation.html it will be natural and easy to 'value' writing - namely by the number of citations (and possibly the 'quality' of citations). Such citation criteria are already used in promotions and salary (at least in my small biased sample). One can argue whether quality is better determined from citations than from knowing that two or three referees and an associate editor have passed judgement.

Fallacy: Apart from the limitations of citation metrics, the validity they do have is COMPLETELY parasitic on the fact that the papers in question are published in peer reviewed journals. The invisible hand of peer review is behind them. Hence they would implode if that hand were withdrawn.

Impact factors (like peer commentary) are a SUPPLEMENT TO, not a SUBSTITUTE FOR, peer review. (And peer review is not a go/no-go filter; it is an interactive, iterative, corrective process of submission, feedback, revision, resubmission, etc. between author and peer reviewers, adjudicated by a competent, answerable peer Editor: This is no passive numerical filter or box score on any blind metric.)

Harnad, S. (1998) The invisible hand of peer review. Nature [online] (5 Nov. 1998) http://helix.nature.com/webmatters/invisible/invisible.html http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/nature2.html

Parks: 5. As an economist, I would have to argue that the resources devoted to refereeing are misallocated because they are not compensated directly. In the current journal model, there may be too much refereeing (or there may be too little).

Peer review, like democracy, is not without its imperfections. And no doubt there exist ways to improve it. But those ways must first be found and tested and demonstrated to improve it -- especially the most radical one, of abandoning it entirely, in favour of self-archiving of unrefereed pre-prints alone.

Note that I do NOT advocate the latter: I have always aimed (subversively) at the self-archiving of the REFEREED paper, not just the unrefereed one. That will be tantamount to freeing the current peer-reviewed literature, SUCH AS IT IS (warts and all).

http://www.arl.org/scomm/subversive/toc.html

We can worry about ways of fixing the warts independently; but the powerful and proven benefits of self-archiving should NOT be linked in any way to speculative and untested notions for improving peer review -- least of all abandoning it altogether.

Parks: If 'free access archiving' means the end of journal refereeing as we know it, I am not sure whether I (at least) could argue that there is a social gain or loss.

There is every reason to believe it would be an enormous loss, throwing the baby (a reliable research literature) out with the bathwater (access barriers to that very literature).

To put it another way, it's READER-ACCESS barriers that have to go; AUTHOR-ACCESS barriers (into the certified refereed corpus) must stay.

Parks: Referees might spend their time writing/reading rather than refereeing, which could result in better scientific literature than what exists with their time spent refereeing. I am not arguing that refereeing has no value, only that we do not know what that value is, and that whatever that value is, it is not compensated (directly at least).

We know the value of the refereed literature, such as it is; every editor knows what raw submitted manuscripts look like (90% of which will be rejected, if it is a high quality journal; and most of the 10% that are finally accepted will look nothing like their initial drafts, for they will have gone through the iterative corrective feedback cycle of peer review mentioned above).

It is the difference between these two literatures that is at issue (and the difference is even greater than that, because even those raw submissions are prepared with the PRESUMPTION of answerability to peer review -- yet another manifestation of its 'invisible hand').

No, human nature being what it is, without answerability it quickly regresses toward the anarchic levels of the chat-groups NetNews, that Global Graffiti Board for Trivial Pursuit. (And neither the Pandemonium of post hoc 'peer' commentary nor the still poster-hoc feedback from 'citations' can provide that answerability. Pity the reader who has to navigate a chaotic corpus like that.)

Parks: IMHO, the only reason to sort it out is to determine, given the goals of the esoteric author (a term I like), whether 'free access archiving' will lower or raise the quality of scientific literature.

IMHO, it would not be good empirical practise to test whether the FDA is really protecting our healths by scrapping it and seeing what happens!

The goal of self-archiving is to free the refereed literature from access barriers, not to free it from refereeing!

The way to test variants on or alternatives to peer review is locally, not globally: Do you know of any local experiments? I do, and as far as I know, it is not yet faring too well!

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/shtml/misc/peer/index.shtml

Parks: Again, the point should be whether the quality of the scientific literature is harmed by 'free access archiving'.... In the NO-JOURNALS world of 'free access archiving' we write to attract others attention, and citation. Rather than writing for three people (two referees and an editor) we now have to write for a larger audience and have to write to attract a readership (rather than attract an editor/referee). I don't see that deters us writing. The goals of fortune and fame remain, its just the journals no longer have a Faustian GRIP on us.

And it all becomes a vanity press, with no sign-posts for the poor reader and user as to what, in all this unregulated soup, is fit for consumption!

Parks: The current business 'model' for scientific literature is, well, absurd. Editors are mostly not directly compensated, and those who are are not compensated at the market value of their time. Referees are not compensated ($35 or $50 is not compensation). Authors are not compensated at all directly.

Correct. But it is also what vouchsafes us our current refereed literature, such as it is. Let us free THAT before toying with any notional improvements -- INCLUDING referee payment, which is potentially corruptive: They referee for free now, and that's just part of the system, such as it is.

The system, with its authors giving their papers away free, and its referees giving away their services for free, is best described as ANOMALOUS, not ABSURD. What is absurd is to continue treating it according to the access-blocking trade-model, instead of freeing it (from S/L/P) for the reader as well.

Here is an argument that could be invoked against me, but I don't think it's valid:

'Fine, I take you at your word. "Don't tamper with the system, just free it." Now I will show that that admonition is self-contradictory: I agree that altering or abandoning refereeing would be tampering, and would put quality at risk. I agree that paying referees would be tampering, and would put quality at risk. But then, isn't author self-archiving tampering too, and putting quality at risk? Might it not bring down the entire system, destroying the revenue base on which the quality control is built? Is it, therefore, not one of those untested "reforms" of peer review against which you always inveigh? Q.E.D.'

My reply is simple: Authors have always given away reprints of their papers for free. Self-archiving simply increases the scale of this. And the waters HAVE been tested, for close to a decade now, by Los Alamos, and no sign of diminished quality has emerged (as Bob notes above).

http://xxx.lanl.gov/cgi-bin/show_monthly_submissions

So the free waters are safe for peer review. (And if and when another revenue source must be found for continuing to fund it, the up-front redirection of 1/3 of S/L/P savings to institutional publication costs is ready as a natural source for it.)

Hal Varian's worries about possible knock-on effects elsewhere in the quality control system are not entirely without basis, but there doesn't seem any compelling reason for alarm either. Let self-archiving proceed apace.

Parks: So the university pays us to author/edit/referee and then buys our product back from a 'publisher'. Resources must be misallocated in that model. If our current world was a 'free access archiving' with citation valuations (rather than journal valuations), proposing such a business model would, well, be absurd. We need to unshackle ourselves from the current journal Faustian Grip, from that mental model of the world, and proceed ahead. Nor should we consider that scientific literature fits into other 'information' products.

This seems a bit garbled to me, because it conflates freeing the refereed literature form S/L/P with freeing the literature from refereeing.

Parks: Much of the discussion between Hal and Stevan side steps into business models (ignoring any further words on motivations of authors). So what is the business that requires a model? Production of (quality) scientific literature.

Actually, the 'business' is making an impact on research with one's research. The literature is just a means, not an end. Hence my analogy with ads.

Parks: Must that be tied to the elsevier et al (I use elsevier in lower case as a generic for profit and non-profit presses)? elsevier does not pay the authors, nor the referees nor the editors which is 95% to 99.9% of the real cost of producing the literature. In the 'free access archiving' world, we do not need to worry about whether elsevier survives. We do need to worry about the quality of the scientific literature, and elsevier itself does not provide that quality control. Editors and referees do. Citations do.

Peer review does; citations do not! Elsevier (and others) implement peer review. That will always cost something -- but nothing like what the whole papyrocentric, S/L/P-based system costs now.

Parks: Whether universities are willing to compensate us for editing and refereeing without the elsevier label is an open question (especially if the citation linking proposal becomes fact). In fact it is a question which should be asked - how much refereeing should be done? If we have citations, do we need refereeing and editing? It is not that refereeing and editing do not increase the value of an article, it is whether the correct amount of resources are devoted to that activity, and whether citations (or similar) would be a more cost effective way to discern the quality (for promotion, tenure, etc.).

Vide supra. It seems to me naive in the extreme to imagine that delayed post-hoc citations can substitute for the substantive, interactive, quality-control process of peer review.

Parks: Imagine a world with 'free access archiving' without journals. How does one get promoted? Citations and review letters. Citation analysis would be free, and universities would have to compensate for outside review letters. Would that really change the quality of scientific literature - for the worse? Not in my mind.

Have a peek at Usenet/Netnews for a glimpse of where things would head, human nature being what it is ...

Stevan Harnad


HARNAD:

Anonymous:

Harnad: Note that we are not talking about 'the publishing of articles' in the Open Archive: It is the self-archiving of (published and unpublished) articles ...

Yes.. I know. What I am interested in ADDITION to the self-archiving, is the idea of 'publishing' in the sense that we have lecturers here who have written text books, had them published, then got into trouble with the publishers for distributing electronic copies of their own work to their students of the work ... So if the information was 'published' electronically locally, then they would be able to make it available to their own students for no cost other than the cost of printing etc.. This is something else that we are working on here. i.e. the idea of print on demand. I am working on a prototype system ... to allow 'information providers' to place information on, 'information consumers' to retrieve information and will tie together the various resources such as Prospero (Ariel Documents), web pages, documents the idea of print on demand. I am working on a prototype system to place online, electronic articles etc. etc. so that a 'publication' can be created and then downloaded as a PDF file (generated on the fly) or printed and bound at the local on-campus book-shop at a cost less than Photostatting.

I would of course like the Archive to be a resource that would tie into this system..

Be careful because you may needlessly be running afoul of some natural and potentially helpful fault-lines here:

The monograph and textbook literature is FUNDAMENTALLY different from the refereed journal literature. In the case of the former, authors are SELLING their words; in the latter, they are GIVING them away.

Book authors want royalties, and that's why they sign over copyright. They do not want their work pirated by others, because that steals from their potential revenue. This is not true of journal-article authors.

Hence journal-article authors want to give their papers away free for all; book authors do not.

The special case of using one's own books to teach one's own course can be handled by placing the book in a hidden, password-protected local, closed-archive, and providing the URL and password only to the students on one's course; this is exactly the same as Xeroxing it for one's own students -- a practise that falls within an author's 'fair use' guidelines for his own work.

But such a book could not and should not be put in an Open Archive, of the kind we are discussing for pre-prints and journal reprints. For if it were, it would not only violate copyright but it would undercut sales of the book.

On the other hand, Open Archives are perfectly fine as a place to publish (sic) a book openly (INSTEAD of conventional publication): that is, without a publisher, without royalties.

The updated CogPrints Archive and its genericized Eprints Archive counterpart (and indeed the present CogPrints Archive) are all capable of publishing monographs in this way, if that's what their authors wish to do.

Moreover, I don't doubt that once the Open Archives become the mainstay, there will be (non-vanity) publisher 'overlays' for monographs that are of high enough quality to merit a prestigious publisher's imprimatur (after formal peer review and acceptance by the publisher), but are unlikely to have enough of a market to warrant trying to sell it, either on paper or online.

These book accreditation 'overlays' will work much as the refereed-journal accreditation overlays will work (once refereed journals have down-sized to becoming quality-controller/certifiers only, and not distributors).

Stevan Harnad


NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of 'Freeing the Refereed Journal Literature Through Online Self-Archiving' is available at the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99):

http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september98-forum.html

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