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Re: local/distributed vs global/unified archives
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: Re: local/distributed vs global/unified archives
- From: Stevan Harnad <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2008 19:35:41 EDT
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On Wed, 12 Mar 2008, Sandy Thatcher wrote:
Presumably, universities that set up their own IRs think they are going to gain some kind of additional prestige or score additional credit with the public by posting their faculty's work as soon as it is written, or at least as soon as it is peer reviewed. But consider what it is that is actually being posted: work that has not been copyedited.The purpose of OA self-archiving is not to showcase non-copy-edited work; it is to make peer-reviewed research accessible to all of its potential users, webwide, instead of just to those whose institutions can afford to subscribe to the journal in which it was published, as in the paper era.
Ask the countless researchers who cannot access articles they seek whether they would rather have a peer-reviewed but un-copy-edited copy or no copy at all.
And ask authors whether they would rather deny their access-denied potential users online access to their peer-reviewed research (and lose their usage and impact), as in the paper era, in order to protect them from having to use an un-copy-edited copy.
The answers to these questions are quite transparent to anyone who does not have a vested interest in something other than research usage and progress. I regret to say that although peer-reviewed journal publishing has a long tradition of performing an essential service to research in the paper era, it appears to have entirely lost its bearings in the online era, getting research and researchers' priorities so topsy-turvy as to sound almost absurd. Profoundly out of touch with reality is perhaps a more charitable and accurate a descriptor.
Sandy's specialty, however, is books, not give-away research articles, and there all OA bets are off for the time being.
PS Journal article copy-editing is not worth paying for twice. Universities will pay for it directly only if and when they are no longer paying for it through journal subscriptions that already cover its costs many times over (i.e., if and when journals downsize to becoming just online peer-review [+ copy-editing] service-providers, on the Gold OA cost-recovery model).
No one seems to place much importance on copyediting these days, but in my experience as a copyeditor early in my publishing career and as witness to plenty of poor writing as an acquiring editor over a nearly forty-year period, I am baffled by the eagerness of universities, like Harvard most recently, to show off such poor writing. Let me refer this list to an article titled "Sinners Well Edited" in the latest issue of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, vol. 39, no. 2 (January 2008), pp. 168-173. The author, Adam A.J. Deville, is an academic himself, but has spent much of his career editing "monograph, anthologies of articles, and thousands of pages of articles" for a journal in the humanities. Here is his verdict based on this experience: "Too much academic prose is...barbaric." He elaborates: "Senior academics, long tenured at major universities, regularly submit papers that I would never have dared to submit in an undergraduate course, much less a graduate course, and still less to a juried journal of my peers. Too many papers--including, most egregiously those from authors educated or teaching at Oxbridge or Ivy League schools--are rambling, repetitive, insufficiently researched, and badly argued. They ignore basic stylistic guidelines with an impunity that can only be regarded as arrogant. Basic punctuation can be used or withheld at will and whim. Footnotes can be subject to gross abuses--left insouciantly incomplete, used ostentatiously to demonstrate how much reading one has done on irrelevant topics, rendered according to no known style sheet (or a mishmash of several), or containing sources conjured out of thin air. Vast swaths of blatantly relevant literature...are regularly overlooked. Precious jargon and abstruse theory are preferred to clear and straightforward exposition....Sentences of Germanic length give rise to conglomerate paragraphs spasmodically swallowing several topics and running breathlessly on for two or more entire pages. Extraneous tangents destroy any sense of a paper's direction. Scholarly passion can be abruptly set aside for vengeful bouts of puerile point scoring and polemics, then just as abruptly resumed again." I can vouch for the accuracy of this description from my own copyediting experience, which included massively correcting the footnotes of at least one Harvard senior scholar. I can also testify that a Pulitzer Prize was won by one book through the heroic efforts of another copyeditor on the staff, who did so much as to deserve credit as co-author. So, why does a Harvard, or any university for that matter, want to expose such poor prose to the world at large, including the public? Among the latter might be, for example, state legislators asked to provide funding for the university, potential donors to capital campaigns, and high school seniors thinking about where to apply to college. Surely, revealing this dirty laundry is not going to help raise the university's esteem in anyone's eyes. Is the imperative to spread knowledge quickly so overwhelming, especially in the humanities, as to outweigh the potential damage--nay, even ridicule--that such exposure could bring? I could see Congress awarding a new "Golden Fleece" prize to the worst of such writing posted in IRs, and it would be subject to endless jibes from our late night show hosts and other satirists like Jon Stewart. To avoid this consequence, universities like Harvard will need to consider investing substantial money to have the work of its faculty edited before posting. Are they prepared to step up to the plate in that way? Have they even thought about this? I doubt it. Sandy Thatcher Penn Stte University Press