- 1 Open science and its codes: putting an unfinished revolution to the test
- 1.1 Abstract
- 1.2 State of the art
- 1.3 Detailed description of the project: methodology, targets and results that the project aims to achieve and their significance in terms of advancement of knowledge
- 1.3.1 The German debate (1773-1794) on the unauthorized reprinting of books and on the impact of technology on science communication
- 1.3.2 What formal and informal rules in terms of intellectual property and evaluation of scientific research would make the proposed new model of scientific communication conceivable?
- 1.3.3 The free software philosophy
- 1.3.4 The virtual research environment
- 1.4 Project development, with identification of the role of each research unit and research organizations involved, with regards to expected targets, and related modalities of integration and collaboration
- 1.4.1 Pisa research unit: The German debate (1773-1794) on the unauthorized reprinting of books and on the impact of technology on science communication
- 1.4.2 Trento research unit: formal and informal rules for a new model of science communication
- 1.4.3 Roma Tor Vergata research unit: free software, free knowledge and the future of knowledge
- 1.4.4 All units: preparing the future by recoding and reconnecting the past
- 1.5 Possibile application potentialities and scientific and/or technological and/or social and/or economic impact of the project
Open science and its codes: putting an unfinished revolution to the test
Open Science (OS) is an unfinished revolution.
In spite of a large consent on the benefits of OS in terms of progress of knowledge, innovation, pluralism, transparency and preservation, most scientific results are under the control of closed access publishing systems based on commercial databases protected by intellectual property (IP), contracts and technological protection measures. Moreover, the oligopolistic power of commercial publishers is stronger now than before the digital age. Probably, the main reason of the marginality of OS is the commodification of scientific and academic research in the last 40 years. Open science would require not only declarations, but also a framework of social and ethical norms, legal rules and technology,to which more attention should be paid.
Our project is focused on the link between publishing and open science, from an historical, philosophical and legal point of view, with a peculiar shift: the choice to emphasize the debate on old, new and future ways of publishing as interdisciplinary questions and the ambition to put the results of our debate to the test, by developing a J-C. Guédon's idea and by experimenting a new way of publishing - brachylogical, hyperlinked and interactive.
The free software movement - whose philosophical underpinnings deserve to be highlighted as well - shows that we would already be able to recognize authorship, to archive, to re-use and to comment our works and to produce different versions of them without constraining them into the article format. What would happen if a community of human and social scientists would try to publish short textual units, in a hypertextual environment in which they could be connected - physically and/or semantically - among them and even to longer units (e.g. primary sources, codes of law, secondary literature, raw and processed data) by means of hyperlinks?
To experiment such a post-journal we need an intellectual community sharing some common problems and questions, and relatively free from promotion concerns. The ideal candidates are scholars, like the participants in our project, who are open access advocates as well and who share a couple of questions:
- what formal and informal rules in terms of IP and research assessment would make the proposed new model of scientific communication conceivable? We need a model that understands the opening of science not only as a way of free accessing and reusing its results, but also as a transparent and pluralist communication system, in dialogue with the society and yet independent of both public and private sectors.
- could the German debate (1773-1794) on the unauthorized reprinting of books and on the impact of technology on science communication help us to understand to connection between research and communication technology?
The very debate about them could be the first object of our experimentum pericolosum in publishing: OS, to become more than a word, has to be build in the open.
State of the art
Open Science (OS) is an unfinished revolution.
In spite of a large consent on the benefits of OS in terms of progress of knowledge, innovation, pluralism, transparency and preservation, most part of scientific results is under the control of traditional closed access publishing systems based on commercial databases protected by intellectual property (IP), contracts and technological protection measures [Björk B.C. (2013) Open Access - Are the Barriers to Change Receding?, Publications 1, 2013, no. 1: 5-15].
Moreover, the oligopolistic power of commercial publishers is now stronger than before the digital age [Larivière V., Haustein S., Mongeon P. (2015) The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era. PLoS ONE 10(6)]. Why? Probably the main reason of the marginality of OS is the commodification of scientific and academic research in the last forty years [Radder H. (ed.) (2010) The Commodification of Academic Research: Science and the Modern University, Pittsburgh Pa., University of Pittsburgh Press].
Shaping the scientific and academic research on the market logic has in fact many side effects. Among the most significant ones, there is the idea that competition is a value in itself. For example, the “publish or perish” logic strengthened by bibliometric research assessment systems forces scientists to change their mentality. According to this logic, publications are not anymore the expression of a critical thinking but mere “products” [Pievatolo M.C. (2015) Publishing without perishing. Are there such things as “research products”? In: Aisa 1st annual conference - Nostra res agitur: open science as a social question, 22-23 ottobre 2015, Pisa,; Pievatolo, M.C. (2011) I. Kant, Sette scritti politici liberi, Firenze U.P., Introduzione; Pievatolo M.C. (2014), Il Bollettino telematico di filosofia politica: la via dell'overlay journal. Bibliotime, 17/3]. Unsurprisingly, this kind of competitive science reflects a strong system of power affecting referees, editorial boards, learned societies, commercial publishers and bibliometric databases providers (e.g. Thomson-Reuters - the former ISI - Web of Science and Scopus), universities and national agencies for quality assurance in higher education.
Nevertheless, it has to be reminded that science is not only competition: it is also a cooperative game. OS is essentially based on a cooperative action. In particular, OS Mertonian norm of “communism” is embedded in the digital technology. For example, institutional and disciplinary OA repositories based on a common interoperability standard (Open Access Initiative-Public Metadata Harvesting) are among best outcomes of the interaction between Mertonian social norm of communism and technology [see also Hess C. Ostrom E. (2007),Understanding knowledge as a commons: from theory to practice, MIT Press].
Until now OS has been driven by a bottom-up approach based on technological infrastructures and solemn declarations such as the Budapest, Bethesda and Berlin declarations, but more recently we are facing a new top-down approach based on legislative tools [Caso R. (2013) La legge italiana sull'accesso aperto agli articoli scientifici: prime note comparatistiche, Il diritto dell’informazione e dell’informatica 2013, n. 4/2013, p. 681-702; Pascuzzi G, Caso R. (2010). Il diritto d'autore dell'era digitale. In: Pascuzzi G. Il diritto dell'era digitale. pp. 199--249, Bologna, Italia: Società Editrice Il Mulino].
If we believe in the uprising of open science we should pay more attention to the interaction among social and ethical norms,legal rules and technology. Without a new approach centered on cooperation, OS will remain an unfinished revolution [Brembs B., Poynder R. (2014), Richard Poynder on the state of open access: Where are we? What still needs to be done? (interview published on 21st March 2014) See also Pievatolo, M.C. (2014), Richard Poynder: lo stato dell’accesso aperto, "Bollettino telematico di filosofia politica"]. As K.Fitzpatrick wrote in her unusual book [Fitzpatrick K. (2011), Planned Obsolescence. Publishing, Technology and the Future of Academy, New York, NYU Press See also Pievatolo, M.C. (2012), L'accademia dei morti viventi, "Bollettino telematico di filosofia politica"], our major danger is to continue to repeat practices that, although both technologically and economically meaningful in the age of the printing press, are now keeping us back in a kind of academy of the undead.
Detailed description of the project: methodology, targets and results that the project aims to achieve and their significance in terms of advancement of knowledge
This research project is focused on the link between publishing and open science, from an historical, philosophical and legal point of view, but with a peculiar shift: the choice to emphasize the debate on old, new and future ways of publishing as interdisciplinary questions, and the ambition to put the results of our debate to the test, by experimenting a new way of publishing - brachylogical, hyperlinked and interactive.
1. Publishing is, indeed, an interdisciplinary question: not only because every scientist and scholar is doomed to publish but also for another, less extrinsic, reason. According to our Enlightenment legacy, a scholar is more than a professional researcher: he is a human being making a public use of reason, or, in Kant's words "that use which someone makes of it as a scholar before the entire public of the world of readers" [Kant I. (1784), An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?, AK VIII, 37 transl. ]. In Kant's essay, a scholar making a public use of reason is addressing the whole "society of citizens of the world". Therefore, in Kant's wide, enlightened perspective, to be a scholar or a scientist, it is not enough to speak with one's own fellow scholars in some abridged disciplinary field: we have to image to address, virtually, each person that may answer to "the calling to think for herself". The ideal of an open, interdisciplinary science does not depend on the so-called digital revolution: it is ingrained in science itself, as it has been defined during the Modern Age [David P.A. (2007), The historical origins of 'open science ].
2. Just like the public sphere, texts and data are interdisciplinary as well. When Vannevar Bush, in his seminal 1945 essay As we may think, had to find an example of a research trail built with the help of his Memex, he chose an interdisciplinary track, interlinking history and mechanics. Seventy years later, while the web has made everyone familiar with hypertexts, most academic works are still just digitized prints. To quote K. Fitzpatrick [ Planned Obsolescence. Publishing, Technology and the Future of Academy ], research assessment systems rooted in the age of the printing press continue to push us to write books and articles as discrete units, to be evaluated within well limited disciplinary fields. Hence, while even a relatively old technology like the blogs would give us the possibility of linking, commenting and versioning and to think again research as a process and a conversation, we are still lagging in a kind of planned obsolescence.
3. In a recent debate [Guédon J-C., Jensen N. (2015), [ Crystals of Knowledge Production. An Intercontinental Conversation about Open Science and the Humanities, "Nordic Perspectives on Open Science" ], Guédon finds the main reason of such a planned obsolescence in the habit to put journals and articles beyond critical thinking and, hence, to suppose that the emerging digital world should emulate the printing world. However, the very possibility of linking, commenting and versioning offers us the opportunity to think, again, science as a brachylogical conversation which could be supported - among other things - by books and articles. The idea that textual units are ancillary is not new: "written words are [not] of any use except to remind him who knows the matter about which they are written" (Plato, Phaedrus, 275d). Plato was well aware that writing dissociates asynchronous interactions from the speed and synchronicity of interacting thoughts [Harnad S. (2003), Back to the Oral Tradition Through Skywriting at the Speed of Thought ]. In spite of that, the very possibility to preserve external records, outside our interacting but ephemeral minds, determined the success of writing and the freezing of living conversations in textual objects. Later, the invention of the printing press made writing stronger and stronger, by developing powerful, industrial means of preservation and dissemination. It is still the spell of the printing press that nurtures the widespread prejudice that publishing is still in need of an industrial organization, separated from the scholarly communities and their conversation - while the digital revolution is giving us mega-journals that can afford to publish every paper that is scientifically sound, "journals" like "Research Ideas & Outcomes" following all the steps of research processes, from their beginning to their end, on-line open access journals that can afford to be free both for readers and for writers, and odd commons like Wikipedia. We have also a working example of a scientific community that is both successful and productive without locking itself up into a walled garden: the free software developers, whose affinity with the academy has been pointed out by P.Himanen [Himanen P. (2001), The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age, New York, Ramdom House, ch.4].
According to Guédon, the free software movement shows us that we would be already able to recognize authorship, to archive, to re-use and to comment our works and to produce different versions of them without constraining them into the article format. What would happen if a community of human and social scientists would try to publish very short textual units, in a hypertextual environment in which they could be connected - physically and/or semantically - among them and even to longer units (for instance primary sources, codes of law, secondary literature, and even raw and processed data), by means of hyperlinks?
4. In the field of scientific publishing Hippocrates' aphorism "Vita brevis, ars longa, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile" is peculiarly true: to experiment such a post-journal we need an intellectual community sharing some common problems and questions, and relatively free from promotion concerns. The ideal candidates are scholars, like the participants in our research project, who are open access advocates as well. They, as such, are also willing to join their forces to try the "experimentum periculosum" to go where no humanist has gone before.
Our common set of questions is the following:
- Open science could become again a synonymous of science only on the basis of legal and ethical rules (about copyright and about research assessment), infrastructures and new communication practices, financing and business models, as well as of teaching and educational projects. The construction of them could not be buried into articles and books: open science, to become open, has to be build in the open. The very debate about them could be the first object of an "experimentum pericolosum" in publishing.
- From a theoretical perspective, we need to find past terms of comparison to understand the connection between research and communication technology. The research units have selected some topics detailed below.
An unexplored part of the German debate (1773-1794) on the unauthorized reprinting of books will be studied and reused as a guide to understand the German Enlightenment debate on the impact of technology (printing) on science communication and, more in general, on the definition of knowledge. This project aims to examine the issues discussed by the German intellectuals within the context of the current debate on Digital Science: the relation between theoretical and practical approaches, i.e. how the research object itself has been modified by the application of computer-based technologies to traditional domains; how to involve a wider non-specialized public; how to evaluate new methodologies and scientific products. All these issues are part of a wider question regarding how to stimulate innovation in Digital Science, and, in particular, in the Social Sciences and Humanities domain. The research is aimed at “recoding” Digital Science by adopting an experimental methodology. The research teams will equip themselves with a Virtual Research Environment based on advanced tools for collaborative work, data treatment and visualization, and blending technology and philosophy.
What formal and informal rules in terms of intellectual property and evaluation of scientific research would make the proposed new model of scientific communication conceivable?
We need a model that understands the opening of science not only as a way of free accessing and reusing the search results, but also as a transparent, democratic, pluralist communication system, in dialogue with the society and yet independent of both the public and the private sectors [Fecher B., Friesike S. (2013), Open Science: One Term, Five Schools of Thought, SSRN: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2272036].
The purported formal and informal rules interact with technology and market [Lessig L. (1999), Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, New York, Basic Books] fostering, thus allowing, depending on the case, either the preservation of the status quo or innovation and progress.
The current framework of formal and informal rules on intellectual property and research assessment is largely aimed at maintaining the status quo, that is a model of scientific communication which, in some ways, emulates the printing press and, under other perspectives, harnesses the power of "centralized control" (or "closed access") of digital technologies hence creating science oligopolies.
Indeed, scientists are encouraged to produce articles and books that mainly address peers and not the whole society. Upstream of the process of scientific communication, there is an inflamed competition between individuals and research groups. Competitive pressure, even stronger in countries where public financing for basic research declines and scientists must publish in order to attract private funds, triggers, at least, two side effects. First, a significant part of the scientific production is largely designed for the purpose of career advancement or the fulfillment of market goals rather than for the advancement of knowledge. Second, such competitiveness increases the frequency of scientific misconduct, e.g. plagiarism, fabrication and falsification of results [e.g. Carofoli E. (2015), Scientific Misconduct: the Dark Side of Science, Rend. Fis. Acc. Lincei 26:369–382, DOI 10.1007/s12210-015-0415-4].
Downstream of the process of scientific communication, most of the scientific production is in the hands of few market actors (oligopoly) that - by means of intellectual property legislation, contracts and technological protection measures - remain in control of the databases that contain, in addition to publications, data for bibliometric evaluation [Reichman J.H., Okediji R. (2012), When Copyright Law and Science Collide: Empowering Digitally Integrated Research Methods on a Global Scale, in "Minnesota Law Review", 96, 4; Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper 12-54, SSRN]. Formerly, the market of scientific publications has assumed an oligopolistic structure especially concerning the so-called “hard sciences”, where English is the dominant language and the use of scientific journals as a means of dissemination of research results predominates. Besides, in recent years databases of large commercial publishers tend to incorporate the production of humanities and social sciences. In these scientific areas, indeed, the use of English, the digitization of books and the use of bibliometric have also increased.
In conclusion, to enable full development and deployment of the new communication infrastructure of open science it appears necessary to rethink intellectual property laws, research evaluation procedures and methods. If we take into account the interaction between formal and informal rules, we have to answer the following questions:
- What essential changes in the laws on intellectual property, in particular with reference to copyright and patent law, must be carried out?
- What changes should be done in the rules and practices of research evaluation?
The free software philosophy
The CC licenses, which are widely used in the field of open science, have been inspired by the free software GPL licenses. R.Stallman’s GNU Manifesto (1985), shows a link, albeit not always declared, with philosophical questions: when Socrates stresses that truth is a ‘common good’ and therefore its discovery is a victory for all, he is fighting against the sophistic competitive model. Episteme, as an intellectual good, avoids the property laws on material things and is inherently collaborative. Plato’s criticism against demokratia is based on its depiction as a triumph of a competitive model in which the care for knowledge and truth is abandoned in favor of personal success. Plato, in other words, is worth studying as unintentionally laying the basis for a ‘democracy of knowledge’ founded upon public research and sharing.
The virtual research environment
The research Infrastructure will make reuse of Open Source and Free Software applications for Digital Libraries and knowledge management and adopt W3C standards. It will be structured to ensure data compliance with OAI-PMH guidelines and its compatibility for data sharing on the Linked Data cloud, in accordance with the Linked Data guidelines. Compliance with Europeana Data Model (EDM) will be also guaranteed. The processing and data input will be carried out using XML-Text Encoding Initiative P5 standards.The front-end of the RI will be designed following an iterative design process. Through the RI front-end the general public and specific targeted audiences will access: - manuscripts, transcriptions, metadata; - visualizations; - publications (articles, blog posts, presentations, books, posters, video, guided paths, bibliographies); - the documentation of the whole project. The platform will focus on the development of scientific open collaborative tools to enhance future-oriented scientific skills, and improve science-society interaction. In addition, in order to share the project’s methodology as well as its results and tools, a documentation area of the research infrastructure, published with open content licenses, will include: a data management outline, which will describe the initial planning for managing, storing and sharing digital research data and related metadata; all the editorial criteria; the documentation on the project methodology; and the technical documentation. The outermost layer of our VRE will be a very simple public space, designed to enhance a brachylogical but deeply connected conversation.
The German debate will be analyzed starting from a digitized but not yet deeply analyzed treatise on the unauthorized reprinting of books [Gräff E.M. (1794), Versuch einer einleuchtenden Darstellung des Eigenthums und der Eigenthumsrechte des Schriftstellers und Verlegers und ihrer gegenseitigen Rechte und Verbindlichkeiten, Leipzig]. Its interest lies in the fact that, although apparently focused on a specific technical issue, i.e. unauthorized reprinting, its main focus is the impact of technologies on the philosophical debate on the status of knowledge, its means and institutions. The concept of the “publicity of knowledge”, which was formulated by Kant through the idea of “public use of reason”, is both subjective (freedom of thought and expression) and objective (openness of information): its transparency, accessibility and reusability are preconditions for the full development of human society.
The modern idea of the right to free expression originated in the 18th century through a complex European debate which included the discordant voices of authors, administrators, printers, booksellers and censors. These voices collided in the search for a stabler balance between the independence of the public use of reason, the search for economic profit and the need to ensure the stability of institutions. A central theme of this debate concerns the communication media: the relationship between intellectuals and the press, the role of political and scientific journals, the problem of reprints, the issue of accreditation and evaluation of scientific knowledge, the arising of “authorship” and copyright concepts.
These issues were addressed in different ways in various European states and in specific communities of practice. In the German states, the publication of Klopstock’s Die deutsche Gelehrtenrepublik. Ihre Einrichtung. Ihre Gesetze. Geschichte des letzten Landtags (1774) led to a debate, concerning:
- the internal relationships between disciplines [Bohm A. (1988), Ancients and Moderns in Wieland's “Process um des Esels Schatten”, Modern Language Notes 103, 3, German Issue, pp. 652-71; Bosse H. (1997), Die gelehrte Republik, in Hans-Wolf Jäger (ed.), “Öffentlichkeit“ im 18. Jahrhundert, Göttingen, pp. 51-76];
- the relationship between basic and applied research, c) the publicity of knowledge and its intellectual autonomy from politics [Clarke M. (1997), Kant's Rhetoric of Enlightenment, The Review of Politics, 59, 1, pp. 53-73; O'Neill O. (1989), Constructions of Reason, Cambridge). Closely related to the Enlightenment movement and to its demands, the discussion involved important intellectuals, including Kant, Lessing, Mendelssohn, Wieland. They all reflected on the principles and conditions of the Republic of Letters, i.e. on the status of science.
Regarding the discussion of the German Enlightenment on whether or not to allow unauthorized reprints, we will focus on a debate in which technological, legal, economic, social and philosophical issues are intertwined. The debate was inflamed by the answer to Klopstock’s proposal of the bookseller Philip Reich, who in his Zufällige Gedanken eines Buchhändlers über Herrn Klopstocks Anzeige einer gelehrten Republik (1793) invited the community of scholars (Gelehrter) to cooperate with booksellers in requesting the German princes for a common jurisdiction against the reprinting of books. Reich addressed the problem of the so-called piracy and feared the dangers of a science carried out by a few people for their own friends. Besides, he pointed out that deciding the value of a scientific work is up to the readers, and not to a small number of scholars. This debate developed between 1773 and 1794, and involved printers, booksellers and lawyers (Phillip Erasmus Reich, Joachim Heinrich Campe, Johann Stephan Putter, and Johann Jakob Cella).
A collection of reviews of these contributions was immediately published in a volume by Ernst Martin Gräff, which includes reviews of over sixty publications on the reprinting of books. It is a dense treatise on ideas and links with the wider debate mentioned above, which, to date, has not yet been explored. The Wittmann works mainly concern the book market and touch lightly on the main points of the debate. Although mentioned by Martha Woodmansee in a reflection on the emergence of authorship concept [Woodmansee M. (1984), The Genius and the Copyright: Economic and Legal Conditions of the Emergency of the 'Author, ”Eighteenth-Century Studies, 17/IV, pp. 425-448], there is no recent literature attempting to contextualize it within the wider debate on the German republic of Letters, and in particular on the impact of technology on the political philosophical principles defining the conditions and the status of science.
We will begin from the treatise of E.M. Gräff, which reviews 25 of the separate publications and 35 of the essays written over the twenty-years period leading up to its appearance in 1794. This corpus of texts will be transcribed, edited and published in new forms on a research platform. The research team will then expand the original corpus to relevant documents of the same period, starting from the collection on the History of Copyright of Cambridge University, and extending it to further relevant sources through a search within the debate on the periodicals of that period. We will start with websites collecting digitized journals of the second half of 18th century, such as Retrospektive Digitalisierung wissenschaftlicher Rezensionsorgane und Literaturzeitschriften des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem deutschen Sprachraum 11, with a search engine for 160 Periodicals, 118.250 Articles, ca. 967,000 pages.
As a starting point for the research on the selected corpus of sources, the project focuses on the following preliminary research questions:
- How was conceived the role of communication technologies in producing and spreading knowledge?
- How was the relationship conceived between the philosophical, juridical and economic statute of scientific publications and the collective representation of the German Republic of Letters (Gelehrtenrepublik) proposed by Klopstock?
- How was the role and task of scholars in society conceived, what was their relationship with the reading public, and what connection was envisaged between research and teaching?
- What were the evaluation and validation criteria of scientific knowledge? Were these criteria discussed taking into account the impact on technology in their definition?
Trento research unit: formal and informal rules for a new model of science communication
The Trento research unit aims to investigate what formal and informal rules in terms of intellectual property and evaluation of scientific research would make the proposed new model of scientific communication conceivable. Such a model should understand the opening of science not only as a way of free accessing and reusing the search results, but also as a transparent, democratic, pluralist communication system, in dialogue with the society and yet independent of both the public and the private sectors, to enable a full development and deployment of the new communication infrastructure of open science: to build it, it is necessary to rethink intellectual property laws, research evaluation procedures and methods. To this end, the Trento unit, taking into account the interaction between formal and informal rules, intends to answer the following questions:
- What essential changes in the laws on intellectual property, in particular with reference to copyright and patent law, must be carried out?
- What are the needed changes in terms of the rules and practices of research evaluation?
Roma Tor Vergata research unit: free software, free knowledge and the future of knowledge
Free software did not abolish copyright: it deliberately put it at the service of research freedom. Its very success, if understood from a philosophical point of view, might - or might it not? - suggest us a model both for open science and open knowledge society. What are the analogies and the differences among free software, open science and open society, from an interdisciplinary perspective?
All units: preparing the future by recoding and reconnecting the past
Implementation of the Virtual Research Environment (see B.2, point D). Its experimental aim is to put to the test a kind of fluid, brachylogic journal in which we can briefly reconnect and compare our findings, while leaving readers the possibility to dive in a longer, in-depth analysis of their - macrologic - basis.
Ralf Schimmer [Schimmer R. (2015), How to make open access the natural choice for researchers, "Research Europe" ], in a very recent article illustrating the project explained in the MPG White Paper Disrupting the subscription journals’ business model for the necessary large-scale transformation to open access [Schimmer R., Geschuhn, K. K., Vogler, A. (2015), doi:10.17617/1.3.], wrote
The beauty of this idea is that the disruption would be perceptible only in the organisational domain in which the money is managed; since this side of business is typically hidden from researchers, authors would not experience any disturbance to their ordinary publishing activity.
The - widely debated - MPG project can be summarized in two principles:
- retaining the existing journal system;
- re-purposing the money currently locked in the journal subscription system for open access publishing services.
In such a scheme, researchers do not need to be involved, even if their very behavior has been among the causes of the so-called serial prices crisis [Guédon, J.-C. (2001) In Oldenburg’s Long Shadow: Librarians, Research Scientists, Publishers, and the Control of Scientific Publishing, In Creating the Digital Future: Association of Research Libraries 138th Annual Meeting, Toronto, Ontario (Canada) ]: publishing is just an administrative question, to be managed by librarians and publishers. On the other hand, the Enlightenment debate on copyright and publishing shows a different perspective: just as Plato felt the need to come to terms with his age ongoing media revolution in the dialogue "Phaedrus", many 18th century major philosophers and writers did grapple with the philosophical, legal, social and economical questions raised by the printing press technology and by the weakening of the royal prerogative on printing.
Today, human and social sciences scholars with a background experience in the theory and practice of open access publishing are in the best position to put alternative ways of publishing to the test. As SSH are difficult to evaluate by bibliometric means and have hardly any "core-journal" [Moed H.F. (2005), Citation analysis in research evaluation, Dordrecht, Springer, 2.3], they have also nothing to lose in experimenting a virtual research infrastructure, whose impact might be multifaceted:
- it could free SSH scholarly writing from the prison of monographs, without sacrificing any long text, by connecting texts and data among themselves and, above all, to an outermost, brachylogic, layer, so that they could become more accessible to everyone;
- it could help to weaken the effects of the serial crisis, by showing that scholars could do without publishers, if they dare;
- it could also help to eliminate the very root of the serial crisis, by raising awareness among scholars;
- it could help to disseminate a culture of copyright among laymen;
- if could help to foster interdisciplinary conversations.
While the Max Planck Gesellschaft is trying to achieve an open access publishing system by bypassing authors, our research project, on the other hand, will attempt to do the same by bypassing publishers. It is an idea worth experimenting: academic authors have the potentiality to be far less predatory than publishers and far more useful to the society at large, if left free to develop their peculiar skills: the skill of recoding and reconnecting - to make, as Benedetto Croce used to say [Croce B. (1938), La storia come pensiero e come azione, 1.II; English transl. by S. Sprigge, p.19], all history contemporary history.