Harnad, S. (2001) The (Refereed) Literature-Liberation Movement. The New Scientist.
http:/ /www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Tp/newsci2.htm

The (Refereed) Literature-Liberation Movement

Stevan Harnad
Intelligence/Agents/Multimedia Research Group
Electronics and Computer Science Department
Southampton University
Highfield, Southampton
United Kingdom SO17 1BJ



 What's wrong with this Picture?

           1. A brand-new PhD recipient proudly tells his mother he has just
        published his first refereed journal article. She asks him how much he was paid for it. 
        He makes a face and tells her "nothing," and then begins a long, complicated explanation... 

           2. A fellow-researcher at that same university sees a reference to that same
        article. He goes to their library to get it: "It's not subscribed to here. We can't
        afford that journal. (Our subscription/license/loan/copy budget is already

           3. An undergraduate at that same university sees the same article cited on
        the Web. He clicks on it. The publisher's website demands a password:
        "Access Denied:Only pre-paid, subscribing/licensed institutions have access to
        this journal." 

           4. The undergraduate loses patience, gets bored, and clicks on Napster to
        grab an MP3 file of his favourite bootleg CD to console him in his sorrows. 

           5. Years later, the same PhD is being considered for tenure. His
        publications are good, but they're not cited enough; they have not made enough
        of a "research impact." Tenure denied. 

           6. Same thing happens when he tries to get a research grant: His research
        findings have not had enough of an impact: Not enough researchers have read,
        built upon and cited them. Funding denied. 

           7. He decides to write a book instead. Book publishers decline to publish
        it: "It wouldn't sell enough copies because not enough universities have enough
        money to pay for it. (Their purchasing budgets are tied up paying for their
        inflating annual journal subscription/license/loan/copy costs...)" 

           8. He tries to put his articles up on the Web, free for all, to increase their
        impact. His publisher threatens to sue him and his server-provider for violation
        of copyright. 

           9. He asks his publisher: "Who is this copyright intended to protect?" His
        publisher replies:  "You!" 

 What's wrong with this picture?
           (And why is the mother of the PhD whose give-away work people cannot
        steal, even though he wants them to, in the same boat as the mother of the
        recording artist whose non-give-away work they can and do steal, even though
        he does not want them to?) 

What is wrong is that this special, anomalous subset of the literature (refereed journals), so different from the rest (books, newspapers, magazines), is and always has been an author-giveaway, written for research impact, not royalties or fees.

In the Gutenberg Galaxy, the true costs of print-on-paper left no way to liberate this anomalous literature from the counterproductive access/impact-blocking tolls. But in the PostGutenberg Galaxy of open on-line archiving this has at last become feasible. The mounting frustration of scholars and scientists with the status quo has lately given rise to a cacophony of literature-liberation scenarios  -- ranging from the far-fetched utopian ("Give up submitting your work to non-giveaway journals") to the frankly crack-pot ("Give up peer review [refereeing] and journals altogether") to the outright cop-out ("Settle for the public freeing of access to your findings only 6-12 months after you have published them").

Amidst this confusion of conflicting proposals, which risk keeping the research community balkanized and hence paralyzed for another decade, only one is swift and certain, tried and true, well within reach and long overdue: the self-archiving initiative http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Tp/resolution.htm.

All authors need do to free every last bit of this giveaway corpus (the refereed scientific and scholarly journal literature) virtually overnight is to self-archive their own portion of it online in their own institution's web archive. Free archive-creating software is available from http://www.eprints.org to make all institutional eprint archives "interoperable" (http://www.openarchives.org) and hence "harvestable" into one global virtual archive (e.g. http://cite-base.ecs.soton.ac.uk/cgi-bin/search), citation-linked and free for everyone, everywhere, forever.

Copyright is no obstacle: The pre-refereeing preprint can already be self-archived before submission for refereeing; if the publisher's copyright agreement does not allow the refereed postprint to be self-archived too, simply link a list of "corrigenda" to the archived preprint.

Nor is peer review ever compromised by self-archiving: Referees have always refereed for free, and there is an obvious way to cover the minimal refereeing implementation costs (10% of what is currently paid in subscription/license fees) once subscription revenues can no longer do so: as per-paper peer-review certification charges to the author-institution, paid for out of 10% of their annual 100% windfall savings on subscription/license fees. Journal titles from publishers who are not able or willing to downsize to become peer-review service providers can migrate to other publishers (such as Learned Societies or http://www.biomedcentral.com) who are.

See the current ongoing discussion of liberating the refereed literature at:
Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/index.html
Science: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/eletters/291/5512/2318b
American Scientist: http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september98-forum.html