EPUBs are an experimental feature, and may not work in all readers.

Published with permission from the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Proceedings of the 2002 Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, November 2002.

[See sidebar for definitions of terms]

The Internet is widely viewed as a potential facilitator of scholarly communication — including communication via research articles. There is considerable debate about which publishing models should organize these communications. Some often-proposed candidates include: field-wide e-print repositories (Harnad, 1999), free online access to all peer-reviewed literature,[1] peer-reviewed pure-electronic journals (Walker, 1998), hybrid paper-electronic journals (usually an electronic version of the paper journal), and authors posting their articles on their own Web sites (Okerson & O'Donnell, 1995). Several of these models, such as authors self-posting and e-print repositories (for example arXiv.org), have no direct paper precursors. There are now important examples of each of these practices. However, only one of these five major architectures has become dominant across variety of scholarly fields — the hybrid paper-electronic journal, which is a conservative extension of the traditional paper journal (Kling & McKim, 2000; Kling & Callahan, in press).

These five models dominate the published discussions about how the Internet may facilitate improved scholarly communication via research articles. But at least one other model, with important projects that illustrate its viability and value, is strangely missing from the current discussions. Our article examines this model, which is based on the practice of academic departments and research institutes publishing their own locally controlled series of working papers, technical reports, research memoranda, and occasional papers.

We believe that scholars will have a better chance to use Internet resources to improve their communications if more publishing models — both old and new — are available for new projects. The reliance on a narrow range of models yields less value than many have hoped for. For example, arXiv.org began in 1991 as an e-print server for high-energy physics, and expanded throughout the decade to include other fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, and chaos theory. It has become an important communication forum in some of those fields. It may seem like the best new publishing model for "the Internet era." However, a proposal by then-director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Harold Varmus, to develop an e-print server modeled after arXiv.org for biomedicine in 1999, was effectively opposed by some leading biomedical scientists (Kling, et al., 2001). The original proposal for an archive of e-prints that were posted by their authors was transformed into PubMed Central, where scientific societies and journal review boards decide which articles will be posted, and all of the posted materials must be substantively reviewed before they are posted.

The case of PubMed Central vividly illustrates that publishing models that work well in one field, such as high-energy physics, may not be viable in other fields, such as biomedicine. Further, the case of PubMed Central suggests that efforts to transfer a very open publishing model from one field to another may be much too ambitious when the prior publishing models in the second field use more stringent practices for credit assignment, quality indicators, etc.[2]

Scholars use various criteria to evaluate alternative models of scholarly communication including short- and long-term costs, speed of communication, accessibility to authors and readers, credit assignment, the strength of article quality indicators, readers' abilities to identify articles that are most relevant to their interests, ownership of intellectual property (and the relationship of a given electronic venue to other electronic or paper publishing venues), and long-term access to articles (archiving). Of these criteria, the strength of the quality indicators is the most important to individual authors and readers, and is most frequently cited as a barrier to the use of various new forms of publishing.

Paul Ginsparg (2000), founder of the arXiv.org repository and a noted enthusiast for centralized open e-print servers, poses this question about quality indicators: is there an obvious alternative to the false dichotomy of classical peer review versus no quality control at all? Our answer to the question is a resounding yes! We describe a publishing model that provides some indicators of article quality, more such indicators than does the arXiv.org exemplar[3], for example, and of a different kind than the traditional peer-reviewed journal model. Ironically, this model is currently part of the publishing practice of many different fields and is likely to be incrementally acceptable and usable by scholars in many other fields. However, being neither new nor grand in scale, it seems to be ignored most discussions of scholarly electronic publishing.

Approximately 250 computer science departments worldwide, and all of the major computer science departments within the United States, have research manuscript series (Computer Science Technical Report Archive Sites, 2002),[4] which are called technical report series. Every major experimental high-energy physics research institute has also organized a local research manuscript series that represents the publications of their research teams. The research manuscript series model is taken very seriously in these fields and some others (such as economics). However, this model is not yet taken seriously in the discussions of scholarly electronic publishing. Ironically, this model may have been overlooked as inconsequential, seeming mundane or frivolous in much the same way that e-mail was viewed (and the way the use of the telephone as a means of interpersonal communication was seen as frivolous).[5]

We refer to this model as guild publishing. It is based on the relatively well-understood concept of the research manuscript series sponsored by some academic departments and research institutes. As defined by WordNet (1.6, 1997 Princeton University) a guild is a formal association of people with similar interests. Academic departments and research institutes contain such groupings of people interested in, and working on, similar topics. They are formal, meaning that membership in academic departments and research institutes is well-defined and selective, based on experience, education, and other qualifications. In this article we use the term "research manuscript," or simply manuscript, to refer to what are diversely referred to as working papers, preprints, technical reports, and memoranda. For manuscripts in electronic form, we sometimes use the term "e-script." The nomenclature for research manuscripts in situ is quite diverse and thus we use the terms above in an attempt to clarify this discussion of scholarly communication. For a more detailed discussion of scholarly communication terminology, see the sidebar of this paper.

Ginsparg (1999) proposes that we develop publishing systems that are both entirely scientist-driven and flexible enough either to co-exist with the pre-existing publication system, or to help it evolve into something better able to meet researchers' needs. We see the Guild Publishing Model (GPM) as an important scholarly communication model that has been applied in many disciplines. We make no claim that the GPM will resolve all of the current major problems in scholarly communication, one of which is the serials crisis. Instead, we view the GPM as an important adjunct to journals and other forms of scholarly communications already in place.

Benefits of the GPM include:

  • rapid access to new research,
  • quality indicators through restricted guild membership,
  • localized, easy setup,
  • compatibility with other forms of online and journal publishing,
  • relatively low cost.

All these benefits will be examined in this article.

The Continuum of Publishing

The term "publishing" is used contextually, though often treated as binary; a research article is either published or not, in academic settings. A "publication" is often used as a commodity within academia. A publication is useful for academic career advancement, enhances the prestige of the author (and even the department of the author), is examined in grant funding, and increases the credibility of the author in the field. There are varying degrees of strength of publishing. Posting an article on a research manuscript series is one form of publishing, albeit a relatively weak form (Kling & McKim 2000, 1999). Once a manuscript is available on a research manuscript site, it is public, since it has become widely accessible to an appropriate audience.[6]

After a manuscript becomes public, it is "weakly" published. This degree of strength of publishing also implies that the author has relinquished control of the manuscript as it becomes accessible to potential readers, without the author's mediation. The strength of the publishing mode is dependent on more than the ease of publishing; it is also dependent on the ease with which others can readily locate and read the manuscript. Guild publishing series are typically easier for readers to locate than are manuscripts that are posted on authors' own Web sites. The ease of reading a manuscript can be influenced by criteria that would also apply to paper manuscripts, such as the author's expressive clarity and the document's layout. In an electronic environment, the ways that diagrams, pictures, and tables are technically integrated into a manuscript can also influence both the effort to download it and to read it on line or in a printed format. These nuances of locating and reading electronic documents can be clumped under the term accessibility. However, in practice, accessibility is affected both by some of the issues described above, as well as by the socio-technical environment in which readers seek electronic manuscripts.

Journals vary in their definition of publishing and their treatment of previously published manuscripts. Though posting a manuscript on one's own Web site is a relatively weak form of publishing, offering relatively low public visibility, the policies of some journals (for example, The New England Journal of Medicine (Kassirer & Angell 1995) and Science state that this level of publishing is sufficiently strong to preclude submitting such a manuscript to their journals. In contrast, some other journals do not let electronic publishing prevent publication in their venues. One intriguing example is Physical Review D, which actually instructs authors [instructions formerly found at http://publish.aps.org/esubs/guidelines.html] to post their submissions on arXiv.org, but states that they will not accept manuscripts that have been either previously published in other journals, or that are being considered for publication elsewhere. Many journal editors do not want to publish articles that have been widely circulated. Some fields, such as medicine and chemistry, generally have strong taboos against any form of prior publishing in order to submit research manuscripts to their key journals. The fields of computer science, physics, economics, and demography, on the other hand, do allow some forms of prior publication.

The Harvard Business Schools Working Paper site illustrates how some academic organizations want to distinguish their research manuscript series from real publishing:

A "working paper" summarizes original research in a narrow segment of a field of study, and is intended for publication within a period of one to three years. If the original assumptions are justified, the scope of the working paper may be expanded to a published book or article. (HBS Baker Library, 2001) [http://web.archive.org/web/20050810074340/http://www.library.hbs.edu/working_papers.html] (emphasis added)

The Semantics Archive differentiates between posting on their site and journal publishing, and has this disclaimer regarding publishing:

Archiving a paper is not considered a form of publication, but instead is analogous to circulating a manuscript, preprint, or offprint. Therefore it is not appropriate to cite a paper as appearing on the semantics archive. (Semantics Archive, n.d.).

There is much evidence to show that online access is not leading to the demise of journal publishing.[7] The journal publication system provides a valuable set of services: publicity, accessibility, ranking of interest and importance, editing, long term access, and legitimacy (see Kling & McKim, 1999). The scholarly journal remains a convenient package for many scholars. Thus, from a journal publisher's perspective, there is no legitimate reason why a manuscript that has been published in a research manuscript series should not be published (more strongly) in the journal.

"Our concept of guild publishing is defined inductively from examples of contemporary practice"

Some Examples of Guild Publishing

Since our concept of guild publishing is defined inductively from examples of contemporary practice, we will defer discussing a formal definition until after we have provided some vivid examples. These examples will be drawn from a few fields: economics, business, demography, and high-energy physics. However, there are other fields, for example computer science, mathematics, logic, economics, and information systems, in which guild publishing practices are also common in North American research universities and research institutes. In business and political science we have found some examples of the GPM; however, they are not as common in these two fields. All of the research manuscript series listed below are publicly accessible: many manuscripts are available free, and most published in the last five years are available on line.

Economics: Economics research is read by economists and non-economists. The field of economics has a history of sharing research manuscripts; economists realize that it benefits them to have a wide readership, including high-level policy-makers. The likelihood of continued support (and increased research funding) is increased with public knowledge of their contributions. The Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE) is a research institute that comprises faculty at the University of California at Berkeley and selected members from a few other elite universities. BRIE publishes its work in a number of forums including its own series of working and research papers. BRIE publications are free to download. The following passage, from the BRIE working paper series, notes who authors BRIE manuscripts, "All of the papers posted are written by BRIE members — or are from BRIE conferences" (BRIE, 2000).[8]

Business: An example of a business research manuscript series is at the Harvard Business School (HBS). The HBS research manuscript series is permanently archived at the HBS Baker Library. HBS manuscripts are exclusively authored or co-authored by HBS faculty.[9]

Demography: While there are many examples of demography research manuscript series, this one clearly illustrates the GPM. The University of Western Ontario's Population Studies Centre Discussion Paper Series, which began in 1987, with electronic versions beginning in 1994, has the latest five years of research manuscripts and is searchable by subject, title, and author. The print versions are available for five dollars (Canadian or U.S.) per copy. There is no internal review of the research manuscripts that are posted (Sheil, 2002). Authorship is limited to faculty and doctoral students in UWO's Population Studies Centre, and others if they are affiliated with UWO in some way (for example: hold honorary appointments, are emeritus professors, or are working on projects in conjunction with UWO staff).

High Energy Physics: Fermilab is a major experimental particle physics facility that supports over three dozen active collaborations. One major collaboration is DZero, which has its own Web site within the Fermilab Experiments and Projects site. The DZero Web site offers options for selecting published (appeared in print), accepted (accepted for publication), or submitted manuscripts. All of these manuscripts appear to be available online. According to Harry Weerts (1997), who was the top level science manager for the DZero collaboration, the general criterion for determining authorship on any publication is whether that collaborator is a "serious" participant in DZero. Weerts (1997) goes onto describe the criteria for a serious member of DZero:

To become eligible for authorship on a physics publication, a scientist is expected to contribute "significantly" to DZero for one year prior to the submission of that publication. To maintain good standing after the initial year (that is, to remain an active author), all scientists on the experiment are expected to continue to contribute the major fraction of their research time to DZero.

DZero has tightly controlled membership and restricts authorship to guild members, thus strong, quality research manuscripts are ensured. Many e-scripts from Fermilab are published in key high-energy physics journals such as Physical Review Letters and Physical Review D. Publication in a key journal is not a guarantee of quality, rather it is one of many quality indicators. Similarly, if an article is published in a lower-ranked journal, it is only one of many indicators of the article's quality. Within the Fermilab group, the nature of the journals that accept the articles is a quality indicator.

Another Fermilab collaboration that illustrates strict membership guidelines is BteV. The process of becoming a BTeV collaborator includes discussions with the membership committee, recommendation by the executive committee, and acceptance (by a two-thirds vote) of the full BTeV collaboration. The public portion of the BteV Document Database includes research manuscripts dating from June 1996 through December 2001, as well as a list of some conference proceedings, published manuscripts, abstracts, publication information, talks, figures, photographs, and reference information.

"The quality of research represented in these manuscript series relies on the professional status of the sponsoring guild"

Formal Characterization of the Guild Publishing Model

We derive the GPM from the formal research-manuscript series that are sponsored by academic departments and research institutes. In examining a number of such formal research-manuscript series, we have found that very few departments and institutes explicitly identify the relationship of their manuscript authors to the formal membership of the authors. In practice there occur several variations, which we will describe.

We will start with the simplest model — that of a department (or school) that limits publication in a manuscript series to its faculty. For example, the HBS Working Papers site restricts the ability to submit papers to current HBS faculty; there is no review before a working paper can be submitted to the HBS Working Papers Series; the Working Papers Web site reflects only working papers that have been submitted to the HBS Working Papers Series.[10] If someone wants to publish a research manuscript in the HBS series, she need only become a member of the HBS faculty!

In contrast, some major computer-science departments allow not only faculty but doctoral students who have faculty sponsorship to submit papers to their research-manuscript or technical-report series. Stanford University's computer science technical-report series has that more relaxed rule.

In both cases, the quality of research represented in these manuscript series relies on the professional status of the sponsoring guild. Like a medieval guild, the academic unit that sponsors the manuscript series is made up of people in the same trade who control access to producing marketable goods and services in that trade. Each academic guild controls its membership by the selectivity of its appointments and promotions for faculty (full guild members), its care in selecting and educating its Ph.D. students (partial guild members), and its care in review of students' manuscripts by sponsoring faculty. Our guild publishing metaphor is helpful since it carries some important connotations of the medieval guilds. But it is also a somewhat elastic usage.[11]

Faculty members are reviewed for appointment and promotion based on their entire career histories, and once they are approved, they may publish in local research manuscript series whenever they want, without substantial scrutiny. In contrast, those who submit articles to peer-reviewed journals are judged based on the article, and are not guaranteed future publication if their current articles are accepted. Thus the guild members are judged for their careers, while those who submit to peer-reviewed journals are judged by their peers based on the content of their current papers.

The choice of which series to read is often based on the quality of the research produced by that department or school. In short, the academic unit's reputation acts as a quality indicator. For example, if an artificial intelligence researcher does not trust the quality of research being published by MIT's computer science department, she can avoid reading their AI Memo series.

Many university-based research institutes are interdepartmental. This is common in fields like demography, where the major research institutes can draw faculty from their universities' departments of sociology, economics, anthropology, and health sciences. The full guild members — the institute's faculty participants — have undergone career reviews in their academic departments and schools that usually involve extramural evaluations. Some university-based research institutes also appoint faculty from other universities to their guilds. For example, The Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy includes faculty at its host institution — the University of California at Berkeley — and also a few selected members from other universities. Some research institutes are not university-based, but draw their guild members from universities. We have discussed the stringent reviews of Fermilab. In economics, the National Bureau of Economics Research draws faculty from many universities, and publishes a highly respected report series.

We have been using relatively elite examples to illustrate the ways in which guild publishing has been institutionalized in some fields at major universities. However, the Guild Model can work as well at all institutions. Readers will use their professional judgments in selecting which guilds to follow most closely.

Formal Conception: Economics of the GPM

The business model of the GPM is generally simple: GPM sites are typically free to readers and free to authors, with local sponsorship provided by individual departments or institutes.

However, many institutions are scared off by the economics of the most famous of the research-manuscript series, arXiv.org. Eleven years after its founding, arXiv.org contains approximately 180,000 articles under more than two dozen topic areas. Each topic allows users to choose new articles or recent articles, or to search the entire list of postings. arXiv.org has operated with about $300,000 in annual funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Now that Paul Ginsparg has moved to Cornell, Cornell and LANL will share the costs and services previously provided by LANL, since much key expertise will remain at the LANL library The existing LANL server will become a primary backup; the main server will move to Cornell.[12]

But these are not all the costs for arXiv.org. The total setup and development have cost millions of dollars since arXiv.org's inception. Further, many of the true costs of running arXiv.org are masked, since the technical support and technical facilities at Los Alamos National Labs are already excellent. While this may be an acceptable budget for a few elite institutions, the costs are prohibitive for most others.

The typical research university guild manuscript series is much smaller in scale than arXiv.org. In eleven years, a typical academic department or research institute might produce from fifty to a few hundred articles, not 180,000. And the typical guild manuscript series would not require the sophisticated search architecture that arXiv.org offers. The computer science, demography, and mathematics departments that have produced online research manuscript series typically are able to offer them without charge (in contrast to the paper series that sometimes had modest cost-recovery charges for printing and mailing). The Guild Publishing Model is within the budget and resources of many departments. While many large universities might spend millions of dollars to set up new guild sites, new guild sites may be set up for much more modest costs because they use pre-existing structures and student, rather than professional, labor rates. In our experience, the cost of establishing a very basic Web site with two days of student labor is approximately $200. Additional costs are proportional to the visual refinement of the site, number of e-scripts posted each year, the variety of formats in which they appear, and complexities put in place for searching the site.

The following estimates are based on six years of experience organizing and managing a GPM site in Social Informatics at Indiana University. If authors submit documents in a common word-processing system such as Word, the document can be tagged in HTML or converted to Adobe Acrobat, r the costs. A moderate site costs several thousand dollars to establish and maintain per year. Variations in the kind of sites, needs, and choices can alter the costs.

Formal Conception: Localized Sites and Access

Because the guild publishing model is based on the needs and resources of individual institutions, it can follow the thousand-flowers model, blooming wherever a research institute or academic department wants to establish it. It does not require field-wide adoption, standard formats, or rigid rules. Thus guild manuscript series could expand easily as institutions establish their own versions.

Formal Conception: Quality Indicators — Career Review and Guild Membership

Career review provides some indicators of the quality of the guilds manuscript series — but it is different in kind than (journal) peer review. The legitimacy of research manuscripts published via the GPM is conveyed as a function of the reputation of the sponsoring organization and of the entry barriers to membership in the organization (which are also usually correlated themselves). To be an effective indicator of quality, there must be some entry barriers to membership in the guild. The entry barriers may be relatively low, requiring only a membership fee and self-affiliation with a particular field. Or they may be extremely high, such as being appointed to the HBS faculty. The HBS research manuscript series accepts papers from faculty members without prior review, because that guild trusts that the career-review system is sufficient. The following statement from the HBS Baker Library (2001) site demonstrates the power of career review:

Harvard Business School working papers are popular among researchers for their strong focus on business and economic subjects, and because of HBS' (sic) academic reputation.

An academic department, scientific society, or school that sponsors a research manuscript series and restricts authorship to its regular faculty rather than review each submission assumes that the tenured faculty members have undergone career reviews that address the quality of their scholarly publications.

Even with career reviews, most GPM manuscripts receive a light review to protect the sponsoring organization from embarrassment (no organization wants to publish a physics research manuscript that reports a perpetual motion machine) or to protect intellectual property rights (Fermilab, for example, screens its research manuscripts for patentable ideas before allowing public access).

The reputation of a guild is as likely an indicator of the quality of the research manuscripts it publishes as the reputation of a journal is of the manuscripts it publishes. Many specialists would be more willing to trust the manuscripts in a publication series sponsored by an academic department that the National Research Council ranks at the top of its field than those from a publication series from a minor regional university.

"Career review differs from peer review in the granularity of the review"

The guild reputation is not the only measure of quality. In practice, a manuscript is marked with multiple indicators of its likely value and trustworthiness. The author's reputation and his research approach also influence the trust that readers place in a research manuscript, just as they do in influencing the trust that readers place in a journal manuscript. Furthermore, the reputation of the sponsoring department or institute can confer legitimacy on a manuscript from an unknown researcher or graduate student — just as the reputation of a journal can influence a reader's view of a journal author.

Career review differs from peer review in the granularity of the review. Journal peer review examines each article as a distinct unit. In contrast, the GPM enables authors who meet the standards for guild membership to publish with little or no review in the guild's manuscript series. While critics of peer review practices have noted that authors' scholarly reputations and institutional prestige can sometimes bias peer reviews, these are distortions of peer-review systems, not an essential feature of the review process. In principle, someone who has published numerous articles in a specific peer-reviewed journal cannot request that her next article be exempt from peer review because of her track record. Similarly, peer-reviewed journals cannot summarily reject articles for publication because an author has previously had numerous rejections, is unknown, or works for a minor university.

Why Should We Develop the GPM?

The Guild Publishing Model offers six major benefits and has three major limitations.


  • Localized sites: Research manuscript series in the GPM are set up by academic departments and research institutes, based on local interest and available resources. Local control, as we have shown in our examples, allows for significant variety for each guild site. Variations in reviews for full and partial guild members (from none to systematic internal reviews and revision process) can be set up according to each academic department's or research institution's preferences.
  • Relative ease of innovation: The GPM allows for incremental and strategic innovation. An individual researcher can be strategic, deciding what to publish in her guild series. Flexibility within each institution is supported; one research institute may set up a research-manuscript series, but others at the same institution may decline to do so.
  • Quality of guild research manuscripts: Career review provides a degree of gatekeeping in the GPM. Career review ascribes legitimacy to research manuscripts based on the reputation of the departments and research institutes that host the guild site. The authorship of research manuscripts in guilds is restricted to guild members, each guild in itself having different criteria for membership. Roberts (1999) states:

    This does not mean that exactly the same quality indicators as those employed with print journals will suffice (or be wanted) in all cases in electronic environments. Some kind of 'filtering' system will, however, be essential if the academic community is to have faith in the digital mode of scholarly publishing. (emphasis added)

    Career review provides one kind of filtering system and set of quality indicators that Roberts and others see as necessary.

  • Access: The ability for interested scholars to locate and maintain stable, long-term access to published materials is an essential dimension of a system of publication. Ginsparg (1994: 390-396) claims that arXiv.org "provides a paradigm for . . . changes in worldwide, discipline-wide scientific information exchange and [serves as] a model for electronic transmission of research and other information." Luzi (1998) views arXiv.org as "a model of rapid, direct and relatively cheap interaction in which researchers participate as producers, distributors and users of information. While these observations refer to an e-print repository, they also fit the GPM. The GPM provides rapid access and other desirable qualities listed by Luzi and Ginsparg. Full text of articles may be removed in some fields after journal publication — demography, but not physics or information science, for example.

    Before long-term access becomes an issue, the materials must be able to be found by interested scholars. While the guild publication series are by definition local, and perhaps not as readily located as global central repositories like arXiv.org, they still may be easily found by researchers, scholars, and students, for several reasons. First, research-active academics usually know where key work in their field is being done and by whom, and searches by author or institution will generally yield the guild site. Second, guild sites typically point to related sites, and all of these sites are linked from disciplinary resource lists. For example, the PrePRINT Network at Oak Ridge National Labs links together hundreds of physics, mathematics, and computer science guild sites that are seen as relevant to the U.S. Department of Energy's research programs. The Preprint Network does not claim to be complete. The Network's site does not explicitly indicate which criteria its developers use to select resources for inclusion. In this way it is no different from most academic disciplinary resource lists, where the organizer's unstated preferences influence the resources that they include.

    Wide accessibility allows students and faculty to use research manuscripts for teaching and research. The GPM gives people in academic departments and research institutes that lack extensive library resources access to a much wider and more current pool of literature than they would otherwise have. This allows smaller, less prestigious academic departments, research institutes, and individuals to gain wide readership, therefore enhancing possibilities of, and access to, career advancement. In many systems, authors may also track downloads of their manuscripts from the guild sites (an ability that is explicitly withheld from authors on arXiv.org!).

  • Economy: GPM costs are manageable for most research universities, but, as we discussed earlier, not negligible; cost structure varies considerably depending on the amount of pre-existing infrastructure (technical access, levels of technical abilities, and technical support at any given institution).
  • Compatibility with other publishing models: As we discussed in the section on the publishing continuum, we believe that the virtues of the existing journal system should not be discarded or undermined in a rush to electronic, anarchic self-publishing. In fields that do not maintain highly restrictive prior publishing standards regarding journal submissions, the GPM is an acceptable communication forum; it coexists nicely with the journal and other scholarly communication models. The GPM does not require an overhaul of existing publishing structures. The GPM is compatible with and coexists with journals, conference proceedings and e-print repositories. For example, physicists who publish in the Fermilab Dzero collaboration research manuscript series also publish those manuscripts in the arXiv.org repository, Physical Review Letters, and Physical Review. The CDF high energy physics collaboration at Fermilab, like Dzero, has a research manuscript series: CDF Publications and Preprints. We found that the majority of CDF research manuscripts posted from 1994 to 2000 were published in high-quality physics journals or conference proceedings as well as on the local guild site. It is clear that the GPM need not be a threat to journals, which can make it less frightening to supporters of the status quo.


  • Reputation reinforcing: As we noted earlier, readers select which research manuscript series they read, sometimes based on the reputation of the host research department or institute. Therefore a highly regarded academic department or institute may be more widely read than a less-well-known department or research institute. This makes high visibility less likely for those at the less prestigious institutes. The guild model reinforces these status distinctions and does not provide a ready mechanism for bringing interesting materials from scholars or institutions of lesser reputation to the attention of other scholars. Further reinforcing this difference, scholars working in small academic departments or research institutes, or those with very limited funding or computing resources, may not be able implement the GPM in their departments or institutes (though they may benefit from accessing online articles).
  • Access: Though an in-depth discussion of bibliographic control is beyond the scope of this paper, we believe it is a relevant topic. Bibliographic control refers to the process by which materials are indexed, described, analyzed, and classified. While an approximate and somewhat informal taxonomy of this important aspect of selection has been described (Calhoun, 2000), the process is by no means stable because of the fluid nature of electronic resources, as well as the built-in nature of the task. Not all online manuscripts need to be indexed, leaving librarians the difficult task of selecting which series, or parts of the series, to index. Then they must tackle the indexing process itself (Calhoun, 2000). There is a bias of online indexes to point to online material: not every field has such an index, nor does every field have its own paper index! Guilds, repositories and author self-posting (sometimes) share this reduced visibility. As guild series change URLs for administrative reasons, they may become hard to find, a common case of link rot.[13]
  • Prior publication limitations: In fields that have strict prohibitions against any form of prior publishing for submission to their key journals, this model is unlikely to be widely accepted. The relationship of the GPM to other venues sometimes precludes journal publication; therefore it is not acceptable in all fields today. Authors may strategically decide to publish some research manuscripts on their guild site and hold back others exclusively for journal publication in fields where prior publishing restrictions are not as flexible as in physics, mathematics, economics, business, and demography.

SIDEBAR: Defining Terms

Defining research manuscripts, manuscripts, e-scripts, research memoranda, memos, e-memos, preprints, grey literature, tech reports, e-prints, occasional papers, and working papers

The literatures of scholarly electronic communication rest on some key terms that various authors use with subtle but important differences in their meanings. These terms include: publication (which can range from a one-day posting on a Web site to appearing in print in a large circulation prestigious scientific journal), preprint (which can range from any article that a scholar circulates for comment to an article that has been submitted to a journal, accepted for publication, and that has not yet been formally published), and e-print, an electronic version of a manuscript that is used as an equivalent to an electronic preprint. Even in the paper world, publishing was viewed on a continuum. The Garvey-Griffith publishing model, based on careful empirical studies of research communications in the field of psychology, treats the appearance of an article in printed conference proceedings or in a journal as the only forms of communication that warrant the label "publication." In their model, preprints are distributed when an article has been submitted to a journal, and has been accepted for publication. The preprint precedes a formally published printed version. While many scholars believe that the trajectory of publication described by Garvey and Griffith fits many fields, there are important variations in sequence and nomenclature across disciplines. These differences in the nomenclature for research articles, such as, preprints by high energy physicists, working papers, memoranda, research manuscripts, and technical reports by others, continues today. Unfortunately, this diverse terminology clouds the discussions of alternative ways to organize Internet forums to support scholarly communication.

Unfortunately, physicists have casually used the term "preprint" to refer to manuscripts whose publication status is similar to that of what are sometimes called research memoranda, working papers and technical reports in other fields. For example, the PrePRINT Network at Oak Ridge National Laboratories states that: "preprints, or 'e-prints,' are manuscripts that have not yet been published, but may have been reviewed and accepted; submitted for publication; or intended for publication and being circulated for comment." The PrePRINT Network is a valuable service in the physical sciences; but its definition of preprint is so elastic that it can refer to any research manuscript, even one that is only posted on an author's personal Web site, and not subsequently published elsewhere. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a preprint as "something printed in advance; a portion of a work printed and issued before the publication of the whole." High-energy physicists gave their research manuscripts a status boost by referring to them as preprints before they were accepted for publication. For example, according to its official description, "Recently, fewer than 40 percent of submitted papers have been finally accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters." In our article we try to use terminology that works across disciplines. Consequently, we use the term "research manuscript" (or simply "manuscript" and "e-script") to refer to articles that have not yet been accepted for publication in a specific venue. We use the term "preprint" conservatively — to refer to manuscripts in the form in which they are likely to appear in a conference proceedings, journal, or book (whether in printed form, electronic form, or both).

Rob Kling is Professor of Information Science and Information Systems at Indiana University - Bloomington. He directs an interdisciplinary research center at IU, the Center for Social Informatics, and also directs the Master of Information Science degree program. Since the early 1970s he has studied the social opportunities and dilemmas of computerization for managers, professionals, workers, and the public. Dr. Kling examines computerization as a social process with technical elements. He has studied how intensive computerization transforms work and how computerization entails many social choices. He has also studied the ways that complex information systems and expert systems are integrated into the social life of organizations. He has conducted studies in numerous kinds of organizations, including local governments, insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, and hi-tech manufacturing firms. He has written about the value conflicts implicit in and social consequences of computerization which directly effects the public. He is currently studying the effective use of electronic media to support scholarly and professional communication. Since the mid-1990s, he has played a leading role integrating the research-based understanding of information technology and social change under the rubric of Social Informatics http://rkcsi.indiana.edu/index.php/about-social-informatics. In 2001, he was elected to be a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. You may reach him by e-mail at kling@indiana.edu.

Lisa Spector works as a research associate in the Center for Social Informatics at Indiana University. The current focus of her research and writing is the role of the Internet in facilitating scholarly communication. She received her Masters Degree in Social Work, and has worked as a therapist in many settings. Community change analysis and implementation has been an integral part of her life since the age of five. You may reach her by e-mail at lspector@indiana.edu.

Geoff McKim is a doctoral student at the Indiana University School of Library and Information Science. His research deals with the ways people in organizations adopt and shape new communications technologies to do their work, and, conversely, the ways in which the use of new communications technologies changes work. He is interested in exploring whether there really is revolutionary potential in new communications technologies, but as a recovering computing professional, he practices a healthy skepticism of technology-driven change. He has taught in a distance-learning environment and in the classroom. He also gives workshops on doing research on the Web, managing a Windows NT Local Area Network, intranetworking, and network security.

Links from this article

arXiv.org, http://arXiv.org

Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE), http://brie.berkeley.edu/~briewww

BTeV Project at Fermilab, http://www-btev.fnal.gov

CDF Publications and Preprints, http://www-cdf.fnal.gov/physics/preprints/index.html

DZero, http://www-d0.fnal.gov/www_buffer/pub/publications.html

Fermilab Experiments and Projects, http://www.fnal.gov/faw/fermilab_at_work.html

Harvard Business School Working Papers, http://www.hbs.edu/research/workingpapers.htm and http://web.archive.org/web/20050810074340/http://www.library.hbs.edu/working_papers.html

Physical Review Web Submission Guidelines, formerly http://publish.aps.org/esubs/guidelines.html

Population Studies Centre Discussion Paper Series, http://www.ssc.uwo.ca/sociology/popstudies/dp.html

PrePRINT Network at Oak Ridge National Labs, http://www.osti.gov/eprints/

Public BteV research manuscripts, http://www-btev.fnal.gov/cgi-bin/public/DocDB/DocumentDatabase

PubMed Central proposal, http://www.nih.gov/about/director/pubmedcentral/pubmedcentral.htm

Semantics Archive, http://semanticsarchive.net


    1. Some of the groups dedicated to the creation of free online access to all peer-reviewed research literature include: the American Scientist Forum (http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september98-forum.html), the Budapest Open Access Initiative (http://www.soros.org/openaccess), the Public Library of Science (http://www.publiclibraryofscience.org), and the Free Online Scholarship Movement (http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos).return to text

    2. High energy physics, for example, has a long history of making unpublished research manuscripts available for public access; many fields do not share this practice. For example, Valauskas (1997) noted that physicists communication practices do not transfer well to the discipline of law: In law, there are incredibly profound differences in the ways in which scholars communicate as compared to physicists. To argue that a digital methodology that works for physicists will work for academic legal researchers ignores the histories and social structures of both disciplines.return to text

    3. In 1991, Ginsparg, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), began an electronic preprint archives (e-print) of high-energy physics-theory research reports. Physicists have a tradition of sharing preprints with each other. Materials in the e-prints physics archives are not peer reviewed prior to electronic publication.return to text

    4. See the "TR Archive Sites List" of Computer Science Departmental technical report series, at http://eccc.uni-trier.de/eccc/info/ftp_sites.html.return to text

    5. As Peter Roberts (1999) notes: First, and perhaps of greatest importance for many subscribers to online services, there is e-mail. It is easy to overlook this aspect of cyberspatial life. Computer connectivity between nations has allowed a new form of correspondence to evolve, and, while we have seldom noticed this, our daily lives have changed as a result.return to text

    6. For a nuanced examination of scholarly publishing read: "Scholarly Communication and the Continuum of Electronic Publishing" (Kling & McKim, 1999).return to text

    7. For example, in a study of U.S. scholarly scientific journals from 1977 to 2001: the journal system has remained surprisingly stable. Scientists still depend on scholarly journals for reporting research results, obtaining information and as reference sources. Also, the number of articles published per scientist, the amount of reading, and the indicators of usefulness and value are virtually unchanged (Tenopir & King, 2001).return to text

    8. The BRIE research manuscripts are almost all available online beginning in 1996 (the site lists manuscripts from 1984 to 2001 at http://brie.berkeley.edu/~briewww/about/about.html).return to text

    9. Personal correspondence, Shear, Mandy, Division of Research, HBS, November 21, 2001return to text

    10. From an announcement regarding arXiv.org moving to Cornell: http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/July01/ginsparg.archive.ws.html.return to text

    11. Academic guilds differ in some important ways from medieval guilds. For example, medieval guilds, unlike academic guilds, established regional monopolies in some trades. This contrast is most visible in large metropolitan areas which can host numerous colleges and universities, each of which can have departments or even research centers in the same fields. The academic guild in one university usually has no influence on the composition of the faculty, curricula, and research programs of guilds in other universities in the same region.return to text

    12. For an in-depth discussion of the process of bibliographic control read: "Redesign of Library Workflows: Experimental Models for Electronic Resource Description" (Calhoun, 2000).return to text

    13. For further information about the frequency of link rot, and tools for finding and handling this problem, see "Rotten Links Hamper Learning" (Dean and Mayfield, 2002).return to text