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Re: Stevan Harnad: CogPrints: Archive of Articles in Psychology...

Pierre Divenyi wrote:
>How beautiful and Platonic an idea: an electronic preprint archive where

> everybody could post his/her new opus within minutes, to be read by tens of
> thousands of pairs of interested eyes!
> Unfortunately, as long as our own mainstream auditory journals oppose
> on-line dissemination of pre-publications, and enforce their opposition
> through automatic rejection of papers disseminated this way, and as long as
> our mainstream granting agencies insist on peer-reviewed publications as
> representing the major (if not the sole) proof of scientific productivity,
> Professor Harnad is putting the cart before the horses. Moreover, even a
> cursory visit at the web sites he suggests makes it clear that, should an
> unsuspecting colleague except his offer and post his/her paper on the
> preprint archive, he/she may shoot him/herself in both feet at once.

This kind of short-term, individualistic rationale distresses me.

If we all shoot, then the bullets may not reach our feet but,
hopefully, the heart (or rather the wallet) of the sharks of scientific

True: If only a small proportion of us follows Harnad's lead, we might end up in
It is a case of the well-know prisoners' game: if we cooperate, we all win
(maybe less than if we play alone), but if we don't cooperate, some,
maybe the majority, will lose a lot.

It doesn't take a complex demonstration to be convinced that now that the
cost of publishing scientific results has dramatically dropped, the
existence of publishers who charge huge prices and prevent widespread
dissemination of the papers, is an anomaly.

It seems obvious that a very small amount of the funds that are devoted
to research could be invested in paying the few people needed to
maintain scientific electronic journals, which content could be accessed
freely by anyone. I am not against private enterprise and indeed, this
job might very well be done by private publishers, if they can offer a
better service than public agencies. (Why not have the source, that is
the author(s) pay a reasonable amount to have the paper published. The
price would pay for the few hours (or less) of work needed to format the
paper for electronic publication, and maintain servers).

Note that in this scheme, there is of course no reasons why the
reviewing process should be any different for these journals than for
the ones we currently have.

I am unsure whether this will ever happen: current publishers don't want
to lose the goose with the golden eggs, and are fighting hard to prevent
this from happening. Rather, some of them try to install a kind a
pay-per-view system. This makes me sick...

At this point, we have the choice between two attitudes:

1) an egoistic attitude: putting our career
before our scientific ideals, and not caring about this issue:
just compete to publish in the "best" journals.
The tax-payers will pay the costs, and what's the problem if our
colleagues can't access the information?...

2) a responsible attitude:
  - refuse to submit or review papers in journals handled by publishers
that refuse to allow free access to the papers (either on the authors'
web site or on their own).
  - fight to convince journals editors to change publishers: why a journal
couldn't move to cogprints? The journal may consists of a web page
with links to the accepted papers.

If, as an author, this is impractical right now, the correct stance is to
*disobey inane copyright laws* (and convince your peers to do so):
publish accepted papers on servers like cogprints.
It is only if the scientific community does this massively
that we have a chance to prevent the pay-per-view system
to win.

By the way: a few month ago, there were (apparently serious) rumors
about the intention of Microsoft to buy Elsevier. Does this surprise
you? Would you like this to happen?

They are people who try to make a better world happen. Why not take the
example of the Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org) to create
a Free Science Foundation?


Christophe Pallier