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Think about the life cycle of most research in the world. For research that requires resources to conduct, you apply for money, which is usually public funds. If you don't apply for money, it is your salary, which is still mostly public funds.

After you conduct the research and discuss it ad hoc with other researchers, present it at conferences for general criticism, and otherwise solicit 'unofficial' criticism, you finally end up where you have to write a paper in order to justify the research. In the old days, AcademicJournal?s were actually letter-writing clubs. These days, they are very formal as they are considered the official stamp of approval for academic research.

To signify the research is valued, you have to publish it in the highest ranked journal possible. These journals are owned by publishers to whom you have to assign copyright. This was 'acceptable' since operating a press, paying editors and peer reviewers, and distributing the bound printed journals costs money, and so the copyright protects the capital investment of a printing press.

It was a bit weird for the public to pay so much for the research and for researchers to do all that work only to have to buy back their work from a third party who only showed up at the end. But at least you could do it at a reasonable cost, and you'd have it sitting on your library shelves for posterity. Problem solved.

Problem 1: The JournalCrisis

The first problem was the JournalCrisis. Because of the massive increase in researchers, and the major emphasis on publication metrics for tenure, grants, and promotions (as brought on by the advent of the ScientificCitationIndex? in 1963), we have a massive increase in journals. 30,000 new journals in the 80s alone. Purchasing that many journals (in paper) is very costly for any academic library.

The solution, so everyone thought, was to switch to electronic publication. Then the distribution and storage costs become vanishingly small. The trouble is that journal budgets have been exploding at several times the rate of inflation (something like 10% a year).


Copyright. The publishers you gave copyright to were bought out by electronic distributors who have created monopolies in the journal world. Elsevier, Springer Verlag, and others have a lock on the academic journals in the world.

Problem 2: Exponetial costs

The second problem was the rental model. Publishers and distributors have ceased providing paper copies of journals or at least made it very expensive. Digital copyright laws have made it feasible for them to sell access to the journals on a subscription basis. That means you now rent back the journals that you wrote. Universities have to pay year-on-year subscription fees to get access to the research their own employees have done.

Moreover, you cannot subscribe to one journal at a time. You subscribe to them all at once. This means that the average citizen cannot gain access to research they have paid for with their tax dollars.

Worse, since the companies are monopolies, subscription rates for some top journals now range in the tens of thousands of dollars a year, and no university can say no without compromising their research.

This is absurd. Academia has become locked out, and the public purse is being ransomed for access.

OpenAcademics seeks to undermine this distribution regime, the exact same way MP3s undermine the music industry's distribution regime and DivX? undermines the movie industry's distribution regime.

The solution has been hard fought. The end goal is that journals should be freely accessible on the Internet to everyone who wants to read them.

The interim solution is the OpenArchiveInitiative, where journals are either green or gold. Gold standard journals are available on the Internet for free (such as PLoS? One). Green journals, like the ACM, allow authors to self-publish their articles on their own website.

In some fields, such as Physics, publishing in open archives such as arxiv.org has become the de facto standard. In such cases, journals have no choice but to tolerate freely available preprint. This makes it possible for anyone to have free access to most research papers (in specific fields).

Problem 3: Public good

The third problem is that no one is reading journals today. ([daniel-lemire.com: I doubt this statement])

Because journals are so hard to gain access to, and so hard to search across, many articles are not even cited. The average citation rate is 0.8 per article ([ed: I was told this by a professor, but I cannot find the citation. My hunch this is the average citation rate in psychology, but I can't find the paper. --ss]) ([daniel-lemire.com: That's nonsense. The average citations per paper is exactly the average number of papers referenced in papers. So the average is closer to 15 but may vary depending on the field between 5 and 30. The median however can be quite low, often zero. There is no reason for the median to 0.8 as the number of citations is an integer.]) One argument, which is true at least in computer science, is that putting your papers on the Internet will lead to more citations. (See ["Free online availability substantially increases a paper's impact"] by Steve Lawrence, ["Online or Invisible?"] by Steve Lawrence ) ([daniel-lemire.com: That open access leads to more citations is a claim, but there are counterclaims as well, see for example http://www.ajnr.org/cgi/content/full/30/2/215. Some have said that citeable papers tend to be more widely available as open access. Bad papers are less likely to be offered as open access. So there is a selection problem. ])

The second part of this problem is that non-academics who don't have access to journals will never see what academics are doing. This makes academia irrelevant to society, and it leads to (arguably justified) funding cutbacks. ([daniel-lemire.com: a strong claim. 50 years ago, the average Joe did not have access to the journals, they were locked up in libraries. Why did we fund science back then?]] That is, if the public pays for something and gets nothing in return, the obvious conclusion is to cut public funding. ([daniel-lemire.com: the general public is unlikely to read journals in any case.]]

Problem 4: Private good

Even for privately funded academic research, academia is undermining its access to funding. By staying out of the information market, academics stays out of the capital markets that are decided by information gained from the information market.

If you look at why academia puts so much emphasis on AcademicPeerReview, tenure, and the hierarchy of authority is that academic research is very expensive, and there are fewer resources than researchers (cf. SocialConstructionOfScience). Only the 'best' researches will win grants or gain access to the $250 million dollar particle accelerators, for good reason.

However, business has the same problem. Too few resources for the number of businesses. The way the FreeMarket? works is that if you add some value to the market, the market will adapt by moving its flow through you. In the capital market this means you gain capital, and in the information market, this means that you gain information flow.

Capital markets today are increasingly organized by information gained on the information market. People decide to buy something because they feel like they know enough about it to limit the risk and assess the return.

Why real capital companies are sharing more and more information today on the Internet 'for free' is because they need to make potential customers depend so much on them as information sources, they can extract capital for services, products, or better and faster information.

So, the real question is what will push one faster to the top in one's field?

Consider how many fields thrive outside of academia, such as Internet development. How much do non-academics read academic output? Typically, the concern is not much at all. How much of that is because academia removes itself from the public conversation by hiding its outputs, and discouraging public interest with a pay-for-access model?

AcademicJournal?s are the conversation of academia, not the end result. There is no reason to keep the conversation hidden from a mass audience of readers, some of whom who have money they would like to spend on interesting research.

This idea is built out of several other pages.

Important initiatives

Important archives

Maybe should say something about the new Google initiative? : http://www.nooranch.com/synaesmedia/wiki/wiki.cgi?OnGoogle/EatsLibraries


Arms, W. Y. (2002). Quality control in scholarly publishing on the Web. The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 8(1). Retrieved December 17, 2004 from http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/08-01/arms.html

Brown, J. S. and Duguid, P. (2000). The social life of information. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Eisenstein, E. (1983). The printing revolution in early modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Glass, G. V. (2001) Education Policy Analysis Archives, 9(9). Available from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v9n9.html

Haskins, Ch. Chapter 1 (p. 1-93). In The Rise of Universities. 1923. Reprint. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984.

Havelock, E. A. (1963). Preface to plato. Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

McLuhan?, M. and McLuhan?, E. (1988). Laws of media: The new science. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Ong, W. (1982) Orality and literacy. The technologizing of the word. London: Routledge.

Reynolds, L. D. and Wilson, N. G. (1968). Scribes and scholars: A guide to the transmission of Greek and Latin literature. Oxford university press: Oxford.

Rhodes, N. and Sawday, J. (2000) "Paperworlds: Imagining the Renaissance computer." In N. Rhodes and J. Swift (Eds.) The Renaissance computer: Knowledge technology in the first age of print. London: Routledge.

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2001) Copyrights and copywrongs: The rise of intellectual property and how it threatens creativity. New York: New York University Press.

Westfall, R. S. (1995). "Chronology: European timeline." Galileo Project. Retrieved December 31, 2004 from http://galileo.rice.edu/chron/europe.html.


Since the invention of the printing press, and more so since World War II, academic research has become a major industry, propelling the academic publishing industry to become a massive enterprise that has overwhelmed researchers. In the 1980s alone, over 30 000 journals were created causing researchers to often complain of being overwhelmed with information. Consequently, experts no longer have time to properly peer review new articles. Errors published in articles go unfixed, or require the expense of new articles to correct. Existing research is often overlooked, leading to redundant work or missed linkages.

The press is only a relatively recent development, and the Internet is even newer. The Academy has undergone many changes in media in its history, from oral culture to literacy onward. This paper will perform a comparative historical analysis of changing media's impact on social practices in academia in order to extrapolate how academia will be re-organized in the age of the Internet.

This predictive framework will be applied to Stevan Harnard's valiant efforts to change academia. An attempt will be made to explain why his initiatives have gotten narrower and narrower over time after repeated false starts. Recommendations to how to more effectively achieve his goals will be offered.



As Latour (1987) describes, the social goal of learning is built around the Janus head of science and research. On one hand, science tells us what we already know; it is built of facts and presumptions that have withheld the test of criticism. On the other, research tentatively breaks news ground to learn more facts, but it is a process of an intense competition of ideas until only the best one stands. To support this goal, society has built the institution of the Academy over time. Changes in technology have induced structural alternations in institution to make it more effective.

As we move into the 21st century, the question raised then is how will the Academy adapt from a print-based institution to one that is natural to the Internet? This question is doubly pressing as academia is in a state of crisis at the moment, with the production of articles rapidly exceeding the capacity for peer review and literature review. Meanwhile, the exploding number of journals as well as the monopolization of the journal industry, has outstripped librarian budgets faster than inflation and left many unable to pay for these journals. Conventional answers such as the Open Access Initiative only seek to reproduce the existing publication infrastructure on the Internet, only taking advantage of the lower costs of distribution. Yet these approaches conservatively maintain the social organization of the Academy, choosing rather to bend the Internet to it rather than reorganize the Academy.

This attitude is to be expected in the early days of the Internet. As McLuhan's Fourth Law suggests, the content of any new medium is the old medium. But if we were to predict--or rather, choose--how the Academy will adapt in the future, we first have to look at the social institutions that constitute the Academy and where they came from. By exploring the circumstances that originated the pillars of the Academy, we can look at how those same critical problems can be solved more naturally with the Internet, and why approaches that merely translate print-based institutions onto the Internet fail.

As one English academic said to us when we suggested a new approach, "We've done things this way for the past 500 years; why should we change now?" The remark reminds us that universities are one of the few institutions that have been around throughout the last millenium. It also indicates why some doubt whether they will make it very far into the next. Peter Drucker, the management theorist, has given them thirty years. (Brown and Daguid, p. 208)

PrintCulture? academia encourages criticism rather than collaboration because a printed work is fixed, static, unchangeable. It therefore presents an authority not available in OralCulture academia. OralCultures, on the other hand, are traditional and conservative because of the necessity of strong social institutions to maintain the integrity of the knowledge. However, with no need for social institutions to preserve knowledge, nor for the status of printed text, the DigitalNetwork should encourage collaboration.

Collaboration itself is more efficient (see Management Science). Hence, use a wiki.


Latour argues that science / fact production is a process of social construction. This contrasts with Plato who thought of information as being Divine. But even Plato was forced to create a social environment to get access to his forms: TheAcademy. All in contrast to the poets and the Sophists, who were other social institutions used to preserve knowledge. TheAcademy was, rather, an institution to create knowledge.

However, this social institution has changed over time, primarily to reactions to changes in technology. Further, new secondary institutions have been created since then to augment the basic academy.

The Internet is another major technological change that affects knowledge production. In the so-called Knowledge Age or Information Age, it is very important to understand how we are going to create and preserve knowledge in the future. Thus, it is important to understand how the Internet is going to change us.

To do this, we need to look at what elements of academia are critical to its operations, what the structure of academia is today, and how much of that structure is vulnerable to changes brought on by the Internet. And then we can evaluate new approaches offered today to see how well they fit with this.



The parallels between the introduction of the printing press and the introduction of the Internet are staggering. Both have allowed a wider collection and distribution of texts, thus creating a new larger mass market for these texts, and faster communication of texts to this mass market. This makes it easy to make extrapolations that may seem futurist, but are really just "bigger and moreso" reprisals of earlier changes brought about by the printing press.

While publishing on the Internet and the printing press are both faster and better technologies, they differ significantly in the third vertex in the capital slogan of "faster, better, cheaper." The printing press was expensive, meaning only commercially viable (i.e. venal) texts could be printed, or those that were VanityPresses. Academia has always relied heavily on vanity presses as academic texts do not sell well, and so the accusation in some quarters that the Internet is a giant vanity press is strange. The difference is that academic presses are only subsidized, meaning the publishers have controlled quality in order to maximize their profits. It also has meant the construction of CopyrightLaw to capitalize the presses. But academics do not need copyright (cf. AcademicFairUse). They will be compelled to write clearly in order to be heard, and mechanical errors are easy to fix online. So why should a nearly costless press be a negative in the production of knowledge? For academics, it should be an obvious benefit as now they no longer have to convince a non-specialized third party to publish them. Further, the cost of the presses make publishers vulnerable to censorship. They cannot afford to be shut down or take risks, which is what made the Catholic Church's oppression of Copernican thought so effective. It did not stop Gallileo from writing, but it did stop him from being published in his native Italy. In short, by removing monetary biases to publishing, it stands to give increased control to academia on how they want to structure themselves. The only problem has been this vestigial belief in copyright, held onto due to fear of lost rewards (a laugh), which can only really be shaken by creating an even greater fear of not being heard. After all, academics make their money from grants, not from publishing. So, academia will have to wait until visionary first movers like TychoBrahe and StevanHarnad change everything.

Maybe an interesting overview: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA516819.html

Here's one more related link: http://www.scix.net/ --TonyArmani

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