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June 27 2004: The 1994 "Subversive Proposal" at 10

                ** Apologies for cross-posting **


                   Stevan Harnad

Today, June 27 2004, is the 10th anniversary of the "Subversive Proposal"
which was first posted June 27 1994:


and then published as:

    Harnad, S. (1995) A Subversive Proposal. In: Ann
    Okerson & James O'Donnell (Eds.) Scholarly Journals
    at the Crossroads; A Subversive Proposal for Electronic
    Publishing. Washington, DC., Association of Research Libraries,
    June 1995.  http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/subvert.html

This seems a good moment to take a critical look at where the Proposal
stands today: where it was on target, and where it missed the mark:

>   I. OVERTURE: The Subversive Proposal
>   esoteric 213 aj .es-o-'ter-ik
>   1 a aj designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone
>   1 b aj of or relating to knowledge that is restricted to a small group
>   2 a aj limited to a small circle <~ pursuits>
>   2 b aj [mini PRIVATE], [mini CONFIDENTIAL] <an ~ purpose>
>   (From the networked Merriam Webster Dictionary at Princeton University)

This "esoteric/exoteric" distinction turns out to have been just an
out-of-focus first-approximation. The relevant distinction is not esoteric
vs. exoteric writing but *give-away vs. non-giveaway* writing (a better
approximation) and, in particular, peer-reviewed journal articles --
written solely for research impact, not for royalty outcome -- vs. most
other forms of writing.

That is what gradually came into focus in the ensuing years as the true
target of what eventually came to be called "Open Access" (OA).

>   We have heard many sanguine predictions about the demise of paper
>   publishing, but life is short and the inevitable day still seems a
>   long way off. 

Since then, just about all of peer-reviewed journal publishing has become
hybrid, with both a paper and an online edition (and a still-small but
growing number of online-only journals). But paper has not died yet. Nor
was converting to online-only the real issue: The real issue was (and
always had been) toll-free online access to the full-text of peer-reviewed
journal articles, i.e., Open Access (OA), in order to maximise their usage
and impact.

>   This is a subversive proposal that could radically hasten that day. It
>   is applicable only to ESOTERIC (non-trade, no-market) scientific and
>   scholarly publication (but that is the lion's share of the academic
>   corpus anyway), namely, that body of work for which the author does
>   not and never has expected to SELL the words.

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Many thanks]