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Unlike other authors, researchers are not interested in monetary incentives, but rather ResearchImpact?
. Refereed journals however curtail potential impact by imposing a barrier to access in the form of an AccessFee
. Although the journals argue the costs are required to pay for their services, much of the fee structure is bound up in non-essential costs, such as the physical production of the journal on paper and the production of camera-ready images for the press. These excess costs have an affect on total research impact. Most critically, universities in developing nations do not have access to much of this knowledge as they cannot afford the fees--but even Harvard University is struggling to pay. If a researcher doesn't have access to a required journal at his or her institution, he or she is unlikely to cite it, lower the impact. Further, it stands to the values of academia that the full production of academic knowledge should be accessible for free to the entire world's population. Therefore, the best solution will be to follow the example of arXiv for physics and Cogprints for cognitive science and self-archive preprints and refereed articles on the Internet, downloadable by anybody. The common misperceptions that self-archiving somehow lowers quality control have not been shown to bear out, at least quite demonstrably in the case of arXiv. After all, all these pre-prints are striving to be published in a refereed journal, and thus they maintain a level of quality. It may soon be the case that the journals will be reduced to their most important role: quality control. The cost of distribution and archiving can be best left to socialized forms such as public Internet archives.
However, in truth, centralized archiving has not been universally successful. The Cogprints archive has not been as successful as arXiv. It took three years to grow to 1000 articles, while arXiv adds over 30 000 articles a year. It seems rather more likely distributed self-archiving is more natural to the Internet. Harnad has proposed the OpenArchivesInitiative? (http://openarchives.org) to provide universal metadata that will allow a web-wide harvester (such as the new Google Scholar http://scholar.google.com) to discover all the academic pre-print literature published on individuals' homepages.
Harnad, S. (2001) Self-archiving initiative. Nature, 410, 1024-1025.