AMERICAN SCIENTIST, published by SIGMA XI, the Scientific Research Society
invites you to contribute to an On-Line Forum On:
Free Internet Access to Traditional Journals
Walker, T.J. (1998) American Scientist 86(5)
Cognitive Sciences Center
Department of Electronics and Computer Science
SO17 1BJ United Kingdom
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See also: Stefano Ghirlanda's Free Science Campaign
(Please don't just read this, but the Walker target article too.)
FOR WHOM THE GATE TOLLS?
FREE THE ON-LINE-ONLY REFEREED JOURNAL LITERATURE
It is a foregone conclusion that the refereed journal corpus will
all soon be available on-line. The question is: Will access to it have
to continue to be blocked by financial firewalls as in the era of paper
This is not just a matter of marginal conveniences or utopian details:
The difference between free and fee-based access is the difference
between a seamless, completely interlinked learned literature at the
fingertips of every scholar and scientist in the world and a
jerry-rigged agglomeration of toll-ridden proprietary packages -- the
on-line counterparts of exactly what we have now in the trade world of
scholarly paper journals, funded through Subscriptions, Site-Licenses
and Pay-Per-View (tear-sheets, photocopy, interlibrary loan)
And for the author, the difference is even greater than for the reader,
for it is the difference between free versus toll-gated access
to one's work, work that one has submitted to the journal for free
with the express wish of having it certified and then made public.
What will the true cost of certification and publication be once
everything is on-line-only? In other words, what will be the cost of
quality control for content (refereeing/editing) and form
(copy-editing/mark-up) once all expenses associated with paper
production are gone? Paper publishers say they will not be much lower
(30% at most), but today's brave new on-line-only publishers are
finding otherwise (70% at least). If the latter are right, then it will
no longer make sense to recover those reduced costs from S/SL/PPV, with
its attendant restrictions on access: Author pages charges, funded by
University savings from journal subscription cancellations, could cover
them up-front, and all authors, readers, and Learned Inquiry itself
would be the beneficiaries.
Suppose we agree that this outcome would be the best one: How do we
get there (page-charge-based free access to all) from here (access
restricted by S/SL/PPV)?
Thomas Walker (1998) recognises that making the refereed journal
literature in all disciplines on-line and free for all, with no
financial firewalls, is the optimal and inevitable solution for science
and scholarship, and he proposes the following transition scenario: Let
journals -- immediately, while we are still in the hybrid paper/on-line
era -- finance free access to on-line reprints out of author
page-charges (for about the same price as paper reprints currently).
The work of authors who pay appears instantly; those who do not pay
must wait a year for their work to appear publicly on-line; until then,
toll-based paper is the only means of access.
This would be responsive to the need and desire of authors for instant
free access to their work today, and it would hasten reader addiction
to this new mode of access, thereby hastening the day when paper, and
its expenses, and the S/SL/PPV tolls that needed to be levied to cover
them, can all be jettisoned and author page charges take over entirely,
making the entire literature free for all.
The only problem with this scenario is that, human nature being what it
is, people will not part with their money unless there is no
alternative. And there IS an alternative for providing free on-line
access to one's work in the paper era: Authors can put their papers
on-line themselves -- on their institutional home servers or in
centralised ones such as
http://xxx.lanl.gov, the NSF/DOE-supported
Physics Eprint Archive at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The outcome would be the same as the one sought by Walker: Reader
demand for the free on-line versions would rise (xxx has 70,000 hits
daily, and new papers are archived at the rate of 100 per weekday),
demand for the paper versions would fall, library subscriptions would
be cancelled, paper publishers would be forced to restructure as
on-line-only publishers, costs would scale down to on-line-only, and
THEN (when costs approached those of today's paper reprints) authors
would be willing to pay page charges, not for the electronic archiving,
which they could do at least as well for themselves, but for the
quality control and subsequent certification that journals have always
provided. Publishing being the imperishable mark of productivity that
it is, Universities will find the resources out of their library
windfall savings to cover the relative pittance it will cost to reap
the benefits of the optimal and the inevitable.
Does that settle it then? Not quite. There are still some controversial
issues that have only been glossed over here, and it is hoped that the
discussion will focus on these. They are at the heart of the
controversy about the future course of refereed journal publishing.
(1) What IS the true cost of on-line-only publication of a mainstream
(2) What is the current status of copyright agreements in relation to
public on-line archiving of one's own work? More important, what
justification is there for attempting to restrict such author
archiving in domains where authors neither seek nor receive fees or
royalties, but only maximal accessibility to their work?
(3) How can chaos be avoided in the unstable period of journal
cancellations, while S/SL/PPV-supported paper is not yet phased out,
costs are not yet down to online-only levels, and author page-charges
are not yet phased in?
Please read the Walker target article and then post your comments to
or link to:
Some relevant background links:
Bachrach, S., Berry, S.R., Blume, M., von Foerster, T.,
Fowler, A., Ginsparg, P., Heller, S., Kestner, N.,
Odlyzko, A., Okerson, A., Wigington, R., & Moffat, A. (1998)
Intellectual Property: Who Should Own Scientific Papers?
Science 281 (5382): 1459-1460. September 4 1998.
Bloom, F. (1998)
EDITORIAL: The Rightness of Copyright.
Science 281 (5382): 1451. September 4 1998.
Ginsparg, P. (1996) Winners and Losers in the Global research Village.
Invited contribution, UNESCO Conference HQ, Paris, 19-23 Feb 1996.
Ginsparg, P. (1994) First Steps Towards Electronic Research
Communication. Computers in Physics. (August, American Institute of
Physics). 8(4): 390-396.
Harnad, S. (1990) Scholarly Skywriting and the Prepublication Continuum
of Scientific Inquiry. Psychological Science 1: 342 - 343
Harnad, S. (1991) Post-Gutenberg Galaxy: The Fourth Revolution in the
Means of Production of Knowledge. Public-Access Computer Systems Review
2 (1): 39 - 53
Harnad, S. (1992) Interactive Publication: Extending the
American Physical Society's Discipline-Specific Model for Electronic
Publishing. Serials Review, Special Issue on Economics Models for
Electronic Publishing, pp. 58 - 61.
Harnad, S. (1995) Electronic Scholarly Publication: Quo Vadis?
Serials Review 21(1) 78-80 (Reprinted in Managing Information
2(3) 31-33 1995)
Harnad, S. (1995) Universal FTP Archives for Esoteric Science and
Scholarship: A Subversive Proposal. In: Ann Okerson & James O'Donnell
(Eds.) Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads; A Subversive Proposal for
Electronic Publishing. Washington, DC., Association of Research
Libraries, June 1995.
Harnad, S. (1995) Interactive Cognition: Exploring the Potential of
Electronic Quote/Commenting. In: B. Gorayska & J.L. Mey (Eds.) Cognitive
Technology: In Search of a Humane Interface. Elsevier. Pp. 397-414.
Harnad, S. (1996) Implementing Peer Review on the Net:
Scientific Quality Control in Scholarly Electronic Journals. In:
Peek, R. & Newby, G. (Eds.) Scholarly Publishing: The Electronic
Frontier. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. Pp. 103-118.
Harnad, S. (1997) How to Fast-Forward Serials to the Inevitable and
the Optimal for Scholars and Scientists. Serials Librarian 30: 73-81.
Harnad, S. (1997) The Paper House of Cards (And Why It Is Taking So Long
To Collapse). Ariadne 8: 6-7.
Harnad, S. (1997) Learned Inquiry and the Net:
The Role of Peer Review, Peer Commentary and Copyright.
Antiquity 71: 1042-1048
Harnad, S. (1998) On-Line Journals and Financial Fire-Walls. Nature
Harnad, S. & Hemus, M. (1997) All Or None: No Stable Hybrid
or Half-Way Solutions for Launching the Learned Periodical Literature
into the PostGutenberg Galaxy. In Butterworth, I. (Ed.)
The Impact of Electronic Publishing on the Academic Community.
London: Portland Press. Pp 18-27.
Hitchcock, S., Carr, L., Harris, S., Hey, J. M. N., and Hall, W. (1997)
Citation Linking: Improving Access to Online Journals.
Proceedings of the 2nd ACM International Conference on
Digital Libraries, edited by Robert B. Allen and Edie Rasmussen
(New York, USA: Association for Computing Machinery), pp. 115-122.
Hitchcock, S., Quek, F., Carr, L., Hall, W., Witbrock, A.,
and Tarr, I. (1997) Linking Everything to Everything: Journal
Publishing Myth or Reality? ICCC/IFIP conference on
Electronic Publishing 97: New Models and Opportunities, Canterbury,UK, April.
Odlyzko, A.M. (1998) The economics of electronic journals. In: Ekman
R. and Quandt, R. (Eds) Technology and Scholarly Communication Univ.
Calif. Press, 1998.
Odlyzko, A.M. (1997) The slow evolution of electronic publishing. In
Electronic Publishing - New Models and Opportunities, A. J. Meadows and
F. Rowland, eds., ICCC Press, 1997.
Odlyzko, A.M. (1995) Tragic loss or good riddance? The impending
demise of traditional scholarly journals, International Journal of
Human-Computer Studies (formerly International Journal of Man-Machine
Studies), 42 (1995), 71-122.
Okerson A. & O'Donnell, J. (Eds.) (1995) Scholarly Journals at the
Crossroads; A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing.
Washington, DC., Association of Research Libraries, June 1995.
Walker, T.J. (1998) Free Internet Access to Traditional Journals.
American Scientist 86(5)