Ethnographic work and scientists

I came across an interesting article yesterday: Exploring a New Model for Preprint Server: A Case Study of CSPO. The abstract says:

this paper describes the introduction of an open-access preprint server in China covering 43 disciplines. The system includes mandatory deposit for state-funded research and reports on the repository and its effectiveness and outlines a novel process of peer-review of preprints in the repository, which can be incorporated into the established system of promotion and tenure. This state-initiated innovation is considered to have been well incorporated into the established scientific communication system despite the sociological differences between the various disciplines served by the repository.

More about this paper in a minute.

The  first physics archive of preprint articles, arXiv, was originally developed by Paul Ginsparg, in 1991. It started out as a place to put preprints in physics, and now includes astronomy, mathematics, computer science, statistics and several other discliplines.

It first lived at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and is now hosted and operated by Cornell University.

The operation of arXiv is currently funded by Cornell University and by the National Science Foundation.

Last year, Cornell asked  institutions to make annual voluntary contributions based on the amount of downloading utilization by each institution. 

They put up a very helpful list at which details out the name of institutions, percentage of total institutional downloads, and number of article downloads. My institution did give a voluntary contribution, because it is the right thing to do, and they posted a nice branding message at the top right of arXiv page for local visitors that says, “We gratefully acknowledge support from Rice University.” I am proud of this, and happy that our users know that we support this great effort.

But, many of the high-use US state institutions were not able to contribute, either because of lack of funds, or because of procurement regulations.    Will Cornell move to a true subscription/controlled access model for ArXiv? What happens to those of us that DID send a check last year? Do we have to send another one?

So, back to the article: The Chinese preprint effort, CSPO, at, was set up in October 2003 by the Center for Science and Technology Development, an agency of the Ministry of Education in the Peoples’ Republic of China. According to the article, “CSPO serves as a platform for scientists to exchange their ideas and research results quickly and aims to minimize the loss caused by the time lag between research and publication. The server applies the Chinese National Standard GB/T1374-92, the Code and Classification for Disciplines, and currently accepts preprint drafts in 43 disciplines.” The system includes mandatory desposit for state-funded research and reports on the repository.

So, I am left with some questions and would love to start a study about information-seeking scientists revolving around preprint servers! Warning: I don’t have answers for these questions, at least not yet!

  • Will a global preprint server be possible at some point?
  • Do my physics/statistics/etc. scientists at my U.S. institution use only the arXiv, or do some of them also search in the preprint servers of other countries, like this one from China?
  • China seems to be more successful in rolling in support for publication in a preprint server into the promotion & tenure system-why is that?
  • Does the U.S. have a mandate to make sure that our scientific preprint servers continue to exist and thrive? (Ok, I say yes to this one.)






About effervescentlibrarian

UX Librarian at Rice University, Houston, Texas.
This entry was posted in Citations, ethnographicstudy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ethnographic work and scientists

  1. Another question, do your researchers post their work to a subject server arXiv or to an institutional server, Rice Univ?

    Can OAI-PMH be used to make the paper available in both places? If so, is it the responsibility of the author or someone else to make sure it appears in all the right places.

  2. effervescentlibrarian says:

    Good question! There are, of course, a few good studies about general IR’s, especially Nancy Foster and Susan Gibbons work.
    But, I think physicists and mathematicians tend to go directly to the arXiv. OAI-PMH may be an option. I personally think that it is the responsibility of the library/librarian/IR person in charge to lasso this stuff into the institutional IR. And, above that, to educate faculty that it is important to keep it local. Thoughts?

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