The Craft (2000)

ISSN: 1029-6980

An Emerging System For Scholarly E-publishing:
How To Make The Cake Without Breaking The E-community Eggs

Plamen Gradinarov
Academic Resources Channel


In reply to ARL & SPARC creative change [1] encouragement to launch a broad discussion and to endorse a common understanding for the principles underlying any future system for scholarly publishing, Plamen Gradinarov provides running comments on the nine principles expounded in the Tempe Meet document [2] and outlines the prospects for the creation of a new scholarly communication model. He argues that all maintenance and publication costs for electronic journals can drastically be reduced - from 10 to 100 times - while dialectically preserving the value-adding features characteristic of the traditional models.

A former Professor at the Academy of Social Sciences and Management, Sofia, Plamen Gradinarov is the founder of the first private academic publishing house in Bulgaria. With 15 authored books, including English translations and commentaries on original Sanskrit logical and metaphysical works, he holds a Ph.D. degree from Moscow State University (1982) and a D.Sc. degree from the Russian Academy of Sciences (1990). In 1999, Dr. Gradinarov created Academic Resources Channel, and 15 months later, in the end of July 2000, launched the first set of 132 free electronic journals as an alternative to the soaring subscription prices for scholarly journals.


The aim of this case study is to bring additional evidence in support of the philosophical truism going back to Hegel and stating that a good theory is the best practice. Of course, I am far from suspecting the authors of the TM document in a priori constructivism, neither can I decide to what extent their principles have been derived from established and working models. For the most part, they possess the transcendental form of categorical imperatives, and when read by a scholarly publisher outside the jurisdiction of the illustrious signators, can easily be interpreted as unsolicited prescriptions.

Surprisingly, against all my initial drive to provide a critical feedback only, I am going to partially support these principles, because, though in a subliminal form, they express the core philosophy of the emerging system for scholarly e-publishing.

Part 1: Analytical

1. “The cost to the academy of published research should be contained so that access to relevant research publications for faculty and students can be maintained and even expanded.”

Any cost is a function of the expenditures. If the scholarly publishers keep clinging to the old standards, the result will be – and sadly, already is - an endless escalation of the subscription prices for scholarly journals. So, this first principle is a rather naïve re-formulation of the infantile desire to orally incorporate everything visible in the field of direct experience. It is the desire of the libraries to shelf-store all published material that should be contained and a new attitude adopted so that faculty, students, and research libraries could turn into a real subject of the scholarly publishing process.

The cost to the faculty, students, and any library around the world of our target research paper [3] is ZERO. No further reduction is possible, except for the case where authors would pay you to read their article. A system is being developed that will tackle this and similar problems. [cf.]

2. “Electronic capabilities should be used, among other things, to: provide wide access to scholarship, encourage interdisciplinary research, and enhance interoperability and searchability. Development of common standards will be particularly important in the electronic environment.”

The access to this article is universal. Rich and poor academics can equally access its full text. For, in materia academica, there is no segregation, no discrimination, no nation-based restrictions and misbillings. All pay-for-view solutions are basically sophistic in the derogative sense of this Greek word, and highly immoral when compared to the $100 monthly salary of an East European academic.

The Divorce article is an embodied example of interdisciplinary research. That’s why it has been SIMULTANEOUSLY published in FIVE electronic journals: (1) Economics, (2) Law, (3) Social Welfare and Justice, (4) Home Economics and Technology, and (5) Moral Philosophy, all with distinct ISSN. This is rather encouraging for authors with interdisciplinary bent.

Here we come to the interoperability and searchability issues. The second requirement is implemented in a set of digital science portals (DSP) to be activated in the Section column of the Journals table. Each DSP is a kind of intelligent agent that learns to search for similar resources with utmost degree of adequacy. DSP 40.30.370 searches for all resources dealing with bargaining - found 34 items; DSP 40.40.370 searches for family law - 17 items; DSP 40.60.170 returns more than 100 items for family studies and domestic violence; DSP 60.80.200 returned nothing, because the IA was instructed to search with a rather complex set of criteria, so it took me 30 seconds to provide different instructions - now it returns 41 relevant items for family economics; DSP 20.70.340 has been instructed to search for justice and injustice within the domain of ethics and moral philosophy - 12 items found; 40.60.001 looks for philosophy of welfare and justice and returned 25 resources; the last DSP - 40.60.007 - returned 47 relevant publications for social and economic justice. In sum, the Divorce article is cherishing a searchable multidisciplinary context of 276+ diversely interconnected academic resources.

Interoperability - this magic fund-raising word - implies integration of off-site resources into a stipulated classification bed and predefined set of metadata. But not only that. Interoperability means integration of different type of resources under one standard classification scheme. There are thousands of priceless individual homepages providing access to books, articles, and papers not indexed elsewhere; there are academic databases, bibliographies, and catalogs that should also have their presentation page accessible via one single search query. Searching a database of 5,000 records for a specialized archive, then going to it and perusing the individual articles ad hoc, is a much better alternative than learning to search for somewhat noumenal articles in 9 or 49.95 archives from one proto-protoplace. [4]

Opening any of the journals in which the Divorce paper has been published and going down to the contents of the particular issue, you will find a breakdown of 15 typologically organized online resources, from Articles, Books, and Reviews, to Electronic Theses and Dissertations, to Reference Material, Databases, etc., to Individual and Organization Homepages. This is the formal standard.

The content standard, or the material truth, as would say Kant, is represented in the Resource Distribution table. Here, access is granted to hierarchically built directories containing cross-referenced resources, all manually catalogued across the science pages of the Universal Preprint Directory. This is yet another way to explore interdisciplinary the whole range of interlinked resources, this time with the help of a rigorous classification scheme and expert, human-performed distribution. No superintelligent search engine will ever provide a substitute for the routine work of a subject librarian.

The classification scheme, or the Science Classification Index, implemented here contains 8,000 directories associated with science descriptors and intelligent search queries. The classification scheme is open to content development: there is a special public form for suggesting new call numbers along with their science descriptors - to fill in gaps or to create balanced presentation of individual science and research disciplines.

The Classification Management System allows of: (1) adding new call numbers at any appropriate place of the scheme; (2) editing all existing call numbers; (3) deleting unused or malfunctioning call numbers; (4) moving one call number - along with all resources referenced by it - from one science cluster to another, say, from 00.00 Cognitive Sciences to 00.10 Information Sciences, as, for instance, may soon happen to 00.00.339 - Metadata standardization and conversion; or from one science domain, 00 - Knowledge, to another domain, 06 - Technology. The system keeps track of all changes and does automatically generate updates of the classification at the moment the changes have been confirmed.

Because to err is human, this is the dreamed-of flexible standard. Changes of standard cease to affect past events and resource allocation - all past records and publications adapt automatically to the new standard.

3. “Scholarly publications must be archived in a secure manner so as to remain permanently available and, in the case of electronic works, a permanent identifier for citation and linking should be provided.”

This is a minor problem depending mainly on the disk space and bandwidth a digital library possesses of. In the case with our article, the access to its full text is secured in a triple way. First, as a presentation page (InfoBox) with permanent URL, second, as a Resource Location identifier which points to some remote location managed by the author, and, third, as an archived file hosted by the library. The authors can make current updates of both presentation page (InfoBox) and self-hosted work, but - for comparison and historical/copyright purposes - can never change the library-hosted archived work.

4. “The system of scholarly publication must continue to include processes for evaluating the quality of scholarly work and every publication should provide the reader with information about evaluation the work has undergone.”

The system alluded under point (1) and yet to be implemented provides a self-sustainable solution for all value-adding procedures in the electronic publishing of scholarly journals. It will give all authors the chance to select from a wide range of value-adding options: single and double peer review, rejoinders, arbitration, scholarly dispute resolution, copyright tracking numbers, etc. The reader has immediate access to all steps - if and when taken - in the evaluation of a particular publication. Moreover, the reviewing process transcends the caste boundaries set up hitherto by the publisher, and becomes open to all. Anyone can post a critical review.

But, to become part of the PR pool and get access to the original value-adding database, the prospective peer-reviewer will present a number of verifiable and traceable academic credentials. All articles will be assigned a pending copyright tracking number until they get reviewed by accredited peer-reviewers. Good or bad, extolling or deteriorating as it might be, the peer review will never prevent an article from being published.

With electronic publishing expanding to ever-new areas, the PR institution has to be radically changed. As a publisher, I do not have any more concerns about this or that article being interesting enough to be sold, ergo, I don’t need peer-reviewers to tell me what to publish.

Yet the peer-reviewers have to perform a new, even more important function. They should help readers and academic bodies make informed solutions (with an important addition: when the latter are not feeling at ease in their chosen domain of scientific expertise or are lacking access to substantial information). The publisher provides only the media and the conceptual setup in terms of internal structural organization, intuitive technology, and categorial architectonics.

The next five principles have little to do with fundamental matters; they address second-range and mutually agreed issues of copyright retention, provide negotiation tips for prospective faculty authors, call for substantial reduction of the time needed to process the submitted articles, and pose a most important – but in a rather different, philosophical context – question of the dialectical unity of quantity and quality. Point (6) is but principle (1) put in other words and from a slightly shifted perspective, while the concluding principle pertains to self-evident access security trivia. Even the first four principles can be reduced to one single volitive: “Keep up the great work and don’t worry about the costs: we will never ever pay you that much.” One comes to wonder how 36 university presidents and vice-presidents, provosts, deans, directors, and lab heads could have produced such an eclectic document. The only explanation is that it reflects the current North American practice of relying on unimaginable subsidies in developing new models for scholarly communication. When you have $4M to spend for developing a single digital library, you may easily miss the wood behind the trees.

The models I am going to discuss do not require millions to be implemented. They do not even require hundred times less. The only thing they require is international co-operation.

Part 2: The Real Cost Reduction

There are two models inherent in the self-publishing system developed at Academic Resources Channel:

1. The S3 Model implies Self-published, Self-archived, and Self-hosted research papers and monographs, including all diverse kinds of self-maintained academic resources.

Authors have to register their online work, providing a set of metadata: personal information, title, short description, expanded abstract with contents and occasional excerpts, up to 7 call numbers, and persistent URL. The information gets instantly published in select journals. In fact, this is a Universal Academic Review Service. Submissions are updated on a regular basis by the authors. All publications are open to review.

The basic worries here are about the quality control and the accessibility of remote resources. The practice of the last 12 months has shown that it is much easier to submit a bad paper to any traditional journal than to register a good one with Academic Resources Channel. The first obstacle any prospective author has to overcome is the electronic Cerberus that is the RealSci Classification System. If you are not able to find where your research paper belongs, your paper is not worth belonging there. The lack of systematic and intuitive thinking would prevent any candidate from being registered and eventually published. The Classification System is the major peer-reviewer clearly announcing to the world the difference between academic and non-academic. If I have lost my systematic and innovative thinking, I’d better publish in the good old journal I am part of the editorial board.

Second, in the most active day after the Journals have been launched in the end of July 2000, we had 50 successful submissions of research papers. It took me two days to review the submitted info, compare it to the core document, and assign additional call numbers (when necessary). The author, as a self-publishing subject and holder of the integral copyright, bears the sole responsibility for maintaining the paper’s URL persistent, or adequate. But this is not that important: the temporal or efficient non-accessibility or non-availability of the original paper, book, or bibliography does not affect in any way the academic and scholarly character of the electronic journal. I’ve never heard of somebody so fool that to ask the editors of Mind to provide access or make available all those books that have been reviewed on the pages of the journal.

Yes, there will be URL fluctuations for individually submitted resources. But, on a large scale, we are talking about papers hosted by academic libraries and registered from one single place, by specially appointed technical editors. Then all fluctuations will be minimized. We are talking about local archives that can be created by any librarian possessing the simple knowledge of “save this file as...” No need of metadata unification, no special programming skills, no searchable local databases depending on compatible networked software, no divergent categorization tools. Then part of the so envisaged network could be not some 50 privileged archives, but any archive, in any library, at any department, in any country of the world. And all of them will be enjoying the same electronic environment.

Will they loose their individuality?

Not at all. Suppose, you maintain a small departmental archive storing papers on kinship and social organizations. You can register all of them using as call number 40.06.305 and/or any other number across the classification index. Thus, every paper will be published in the Journal of Anthropology and/or any other journal, depending on the call numbers selected. But, you can also reserve the selfsame call number and ask us to convert it into the quarterly Journal of Kinship and Social Organization, provided you take the charge of the journal, apply for ISSN, and become its Editor. Then all papers you host in your archive and register with this call number will be displayed chronologically as separate issues of the new journal. The other submissions using the same call number will not be displayed in your journal, but, along with all your submissions, will be featured in the metajournal, i.e., the Journal of Anthropology. There are 8,000 call numbers with empty ISSN fields ready to be converted into individual journals. And there are thousands of other not yet activated call numbers left for your imagination.

How much does the S3 Model cost?

It is an accepted practice, when estimating the cost for a paper published in electronic journals, to leave aside all expenditures covering editorial work as it is done by enthusiasts or by parties interested in reducing the cost of the journal. With 132 journals and estimated 10,000 submissions, the cost for submission is $0.90 to keep the system working for the next two years.

2. The S4U Model is an enhanced replication of S3 and implies self-published and self-archived papers hosted only by Academic Resources Channel. Another substantial feature of the S4U Model is the integrated e-commerce solution.

Of course, this should be a flexible system, taking account of all individual motivation to get published. It will “Sell 4 You” the paper(s) you have self-published, providing expert and express document delivery service to academic comunities everywhere... There are still thousands of small departmental archives that will be glad to use this service and the instant electronic payments that go with it instead of the “Draft a Check to the Regents” never to be accepted invitation. Because to send your $8 check from an England-based bank, I should pay additional 10 pounds to issue the check.


It is quite natural to take on the road of e-commerce when there is no way to solve all those highly complicated inter-library, inter-university, interacademic, in short, interoperability issues. The university and academic divergences are so deeply rooted in the national psychology and material conditions of life that they will never be eradicated by adopting a common ecumenical policy towards scholarly publishing. The only true ecumenical approach in these matters is the economic one. The introduction of commercial mechanisms will stimulate individual scholars and organizations to better comprehend their own interests in the battle with the rising Leviathan of transnational content & knowledgebase providers. The model will cost as much as it deserves. In every particular case, the production cost for paper will be determined on the basis of strict fixed rules and easy to implement technological solutions. But one is for sure: it will never reach the black-hole rate of $3,000 per article, [5] as it is now with many respectable, yet old-fashioned and exposed to solipsism academic journals.

Citation Format

Gradinarov, Plamen. (2000). An Emerging System For Scholarly E-publishing: How To Make The Cake Without Breaking The E-community Eggs. The Craft: 2000 [iuicode:]

Table of Contents

** Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1. Part 1: Analytical
1.2. Part 2: the Real Cost Reduction
1.3. Will They Loose Their Individuality?
1.4. How Much Does the s3…
2. Conclusion