[Air-l] Open access publishing (was a modest proposal)

Dr. W. Reid Cornwell wrc at tcfir.org
Mon Sep 11 15:10:55 PDT 2006


It is my understanding 17 USC 105 was amended to expand the scope. The
amendment was attached to another funding bill and I am trying to track that
down. I am aware that the "Public Information in Science Act" HR 2613 is
stuck in committee.

Peer review as I am suggesting would not be limited to a relatively small
group. I imagine that all publications could be vetted by use. That is to
say in an electronic format one could see precisely how many cites refer to
the article and for what points.

Another imaginative approach would be to publish everything and then let the
entire community of scholars vet it on several dimensions. Accuracy,
clarity, cohesiveness, grammar, point made, method etc.

Keep in mind I am brainstorming.

What would happen if everybody on the listserv were allowed to publish what
they select as there best work and then let the entire community rate it.

As to Einstein, No doubt, he was often his own enemy. However old world
prejudices kept his work out of circulation. It was only when they could no
longer ignore him that he got recognition. The history of science is replete
with stories like this. It appears that, the more revolutionary the
thinking, the greater the resistance.

Max Planck was fond of saying, to his colleagues and students "Do your own
thinking." He was saying always question scientific and intellectual
authority. He was saying that just because many people hold an idea doesn't
make it right. Current practices, in my view, give too much up to
conventional wisdom (even in intellectual circles). Social customs and
structures tend to impede innovation and creativity. Part of my irreverence
is that I understand the humanness of scientists and their jealousies and

Of course I can make these outstanding proposals because I am at the end of
my career. I don't have the same personal concerns.


-----Original Message-----
From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Alex Halavais
Sent: Monday, September 11, 2006 2:10 PM
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org; wrc at tcfir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Open access publishing (was a modest proposal)

On 9/11/06, Dr. W. Reid Cornwell <wrc at tcfir.org> wrote:
> Open access with regards to publicly funded research is the "Law." It
> includes "all" agencies that fund research including the
> labs like Sandia etc. (excluding those that are covered under official
> security restraints)

Sorry, but that's simply not the case in the US, at least. I think you
are thinking of 17 USC 105, which opens up documents produced by the
federal government. Among a host of other exceptions, when the federal
government contracts with private individuals or companies, the work
may be copyrighted, and usually is.

> This law preserves the peer reviewing process. I personally am in favor of
> scrapping peer review in favor an intellectual community rating system.

That's a good definition of peer review. Perhaps you are suggesting a
different way of doing peer review. There are lots of ways to provide
for such checking.

> Peer
> review has been used for too long as a mechanism of social control and
> exclusion.

That's its central function. And I don't think anyone can argue that
the internet means we have LESS need of filters. On the contrary, now
more than ever we need ways of verifying the work of others. Google is
also a mechanism of social control and exclusion. That's why we use

> I frequently think of Einstein and his travails at recognition until he
> a socially accepted champion.

That Einstein didn't happen to like peer review doesn't change its
relative effectiveness. (Indeed, there have been arguments that he
would have made progress more quickly had he more often engaged
critical reviewers comments.) At the same time, the ramblings tens of
thousands of ill-informed random quacks were filtered out. No one
claims that peer review is perfect; on the contrary, I think most
recognize it is broken in important respects. But it serves a vital
function, and until other social processes can improve on these
functions, it will continue to be employed.

Unfortunately, I suspect that one of the reasons open access has been
retarded so often is that many equate open access with scrapping the
social technologies (like peer review) that tend to work pretty well.

Note that this doesn't preclude efforts to make peer review better,
and I applaud efforts like Nature's to experiment with open review
(http://blogs.nature.com/nature/peerreview/trial/). And I think that
Wikipedia provides a model of how open peer-review can do pretty OK,
most of the time. Though Wikipedians are the first to note that it
needs to be done better. More on that shortly :).

- Alex

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