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Re: Flashback to 1971: formalizing informal communication channels

Dear Phil,

There are many important aspects of informal communication that 
have changed since 1970, but almost none of them are directly 
connected with open access; as Mark says, open access affects 
only the formal communication system, the part after publication 
of the results. The only exception is if you choose to regard the 
distribution of reprints as part of the informal system, rather 
than as a supplementary pat of the formal.

The part of reprint distribution that affected scientists in 
major institutions occurred during the 1960s, not the 1970s: the 
development of high quality copiers. In mid 1960s those of us who 
wanted high quality copies of journal articles, especially those 
with half-tone illustrations, needed to obtain by requesting 
reprints--or by being within the circle of associates to whom 
reprints were sent as a matter of course; by the 1970s, one could 
make them directly--and usually did, to avoid the delay and 

Outside the circle of institutions that held subscriptions, and 
in areas such as the Soviet Union where copiers were unavailable, 
one was dependent on such reprints, often making use of the 
system developed by the Institute of Scientific Information to 
know about them and request them. This was at the expense and 
courtesy of the author, and the cost of this in real terms could 
approach what is now asked in publication cost for open-access 
journals. Only well funded laboratories could distribute copies 
to large numbers of requestors-- but only major laboratories were 
likely to publish papers generating large numbers of requests.

This is the one area where open access has made and will be 
making a difference--thee will no longer be the necessity of 
doing this for anyone in any institution. But this applies, of 
course, only to the informal distribution of formally published 

we usually think of the information communication system as 
affecting pre-publication information, and the informal 
discussion of material after publication. this has certainly been 
revolutionized since the 1970s, but it is by the internet, not 
open access. A small pat of this does rely on the structure of 
open access, where publishers or repositories choose to let the 
same structures that serve for the distribution of post 
publication formal copies serve also pre-publication for the 
preliminary versions. So in this sense there is a minor 
effect--one need not use a different method--if one distributes 
accepted manuscripts through arXiv after publication to provide 
open access, the same channel and deposit will serve for the 
communication of them as preprints. So in that sense it can be 
thought of as encouraging their distribution pre-publication and 
increases the use of the informal channel.

But this effect is small, since most scientists in fields served 
by repositories made use of these pre-publication quite 
regardless of open access. It is the informal channel that thus 
facilitates the open access. that is the direction of the 
influence: the existence of repositories made practical the rapid 
development of their use for "green" open access--it has not been 
necessary to develop a new infrastructure from scratch. The 
effect is the other way round. The informal channels that have 
developed are what makes practical the immediate rapid expansion 
of open access.

David Goodman, Ph.D., M.L.S.
Bibliographer and Research Librarian
Princeton University Library


----- Original Message -----
From: Mark Funk <mefunk@med.cornell.edu>
Date: Monday, March 24, 2008 7:29 pm
Subject: Re: Flashback to 1971: formalizing informal communication channels
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu

> I hardly see how requiring the deposit of manuscripts into 
> PubMed Central or an institutional repository *AFTER* the 
> formal refereeing and publication acceptance process is in any 
> way "formalizIng the informal." Nobody is mandating that 
> scientists deposit their preliminary results. These 
> post-acceptance deposits in no way affect the traditional 
> informal communication channels that scientists use.
> Anyway, has arXiv.org "dismantled the institution of science as 
> we know it today?" "Today," of course being 1971 -- the embryo 
> years of the internet, pre-web, mainframe computers, and three 
> television networks. Communication has changed just a bit in 
> the last 37 years, and applying old pre-internet communication 
> research to today may not be very useful.
> Mark Funk
> Head, Resource Management - Collections
> Weill Cornell Medical Library
> New York, NY 10065-4805
> mefunk@med.cornell.edu
>> From: owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
>> Sent: Friday, March 21, 2008 9:22 PM
>> To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
>> Subject: Flashback to 1971: formalizing informal communication
>> channels
>> In the early 1970s, the American Psychological Association
>> entrusted two psychologists, William D. Garvey and Belver C.
>> Griffith to make sense of the "crisis in scholarly
>> communication."  In doing so, they embarked on research to
>> first better understand the communication processes of
>> researchers -- both the *informal* where most of the
>> communication among peers is done, and the *formal* which
>> describes the traditional journal and book publication process.
>> In one of their first published reports [1], the psychologists
>> warn about formalizing the informal communication channels.
>> They write,
>> "accelerating the flow of scientific information in the
>> informal domain and expanding its dissemination is a problem
>> precisely because it occurs in systems that obscure the
>> boundary between the informal and formal domains. This boundary
>> is one that science has deliberately erected to curtail,
>> temporarily, the flow of information until the information has
>> been examined against the current state of knowledge in a
>> discipline. Non-scientists view procedure of curtailment as
>> ultra-conservative; experienced, practicing scientists perceive
>> it as the essential feature of science....The long judicious
>> procedure by which this conversion is made is unique to
>> science. To reorganize it for the sake of speed, or for open
>> communication with other spheres of intellectual endeavor,
>> would almost certainly dismantle the institution of science as
>> we know it today." (p.362)
>> Manuscript depositing mandates (e.g. Harvard, NIH, etc.) could
>> be seen as essentially formalizing the informal. Most of the
>> discussion surrounding the debates have been on immediate
>> effects (the time and resources devoted to archiving, the
>> mechanisms required to streamline the process). Little has been
>> devoted to possible unintended consequences of such mandates.
>> Unintended consequences are not necessarily negative [2], and I
>> don't want to imply that I'm implying an argument against
>> institutional archiving. Still, is there reason to argue (like
>> Garvey and Griffith) that we should strive to keep the informal
>> and formal communication processes separate?
>> --Phil Davis
>> [If these graduate student ramblings are tiresome, I'm happy to
>> return to more pedestrian dialogs].
>> [1] Garvey, W. D., & Griffith, B. C. (1971). Scientific
>> communication: Its role in the conduct of research and creation
>> of knowledge. American Psychologist, 26(4), 350-362.
>> [2] Merton, R. K. (1936). The Unanticipated Consequences of
>> Purposive Social Action. American Sociological Review, 1(6),
>> 894-904.