Dear Biomch-L readers,

While browsing in the databases of a number of psychology-oriented list-
servers, I came across a reference to the following, highly interesting

Stevan Harnad, Scholarly Skywriting and the Prepublication Continuum
of Scientific Inquiry (Psychological Science 1: 342-344, 1990).

As it happens, I recognized the author's name as the editor of another email
list, and Professor Harnad kindly emailed the original text to me a couple
of hours ago. Upon my query whether I might repost his article on Biomch-L,
he kindly consented and appended the note below which, because of its shorter
length, seems more appropriate for reposting. Those of you interested in the
original PS paper are welcome to ask me (or Professor Harnad) for an email

Regards -- Herman J. Woltring, Eindhoven/NL
oxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox oxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo
Date: Sun, 24 Mar 91 13:47:50 EST
From: Stevan Harnad
Subject: RE: Scholarly Skywriting
To: Herman J. Woltring

Yes you may report the Psychological Science article, as long as its source
(Psychological Science, Volume, Page, Date, etc.) is acknowledged.

Below is some more information about PSYCOLOQUY, which you may likewise
repost if you wish. -- Sincerely, Stevan Harnad


PSYCOLOQUY: A Peer Reviewed Forum for Current Research
and Critical Discussion

Stevan Harnad
Department of Psychology
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544, U.S.A.

Scholarly communication is currently undergoing revolutionary changes
comparable to the ones that resulted from the invention of the printing
press. It is now possible for scholars and scientists the world over to
report and discuss new ideas and findings globally, interactively, and
almost instantaneously.

Most of the world's universities and research institutions are linked
together by various international electronic networks such as Bitnet
and Internet (called, collectively, "the Net"). Electronic mail
("email") can be sent via the Net, usually within minutes, to London,
Budapest, Tel Aviv, Tokyo. But the feature that has the most remarkable
potential is multiple reciprocal email: Electronic groups in which every
message is immediately disseminated to all members.

These groups first formed themselves anarchically, on various networks,
the biggest of them called Usenet, and were devoted partly to technical
discussion about computers and information, the technologies that built
the net, and otherwise to "flaming": free-for-all back and forth
messages by anyone, on any topic under the sun. Then groups devoted to
specific topics (computers, politics, language, culture, sex) began to
form, and these in turn split into "unmoderated" and "moderated" groups.
Anyone with an email address whose institution was connected to Usenet
could post to an unmoderated group and the message would automatically
be sent to everyone who was "subscribed" to the group.

It was because most of the unmoderated groups were quite chaotic that
the moderated groups were formed. In these, all submissions had to be
channeled through a "moderator," but this was usually someone with no
special qualifications or expertise, so the quality of the information
on the moderated groups was still very uneven, and, with a few exceptions
(principally technical discussions about computing itself), the groups
were mostly havens for underinformed students and dilettantes rather than
respectable scholarly forums for learned specialists in the subject matter
under discussion, which by now ranged across the humanities, the social
sciences and the natural sciences.

This is not far from the current status quo on the Net -- a communication
medium with unprecedented intellectual potential so far being used mostly
as a global graffiti board for trivial pursuit in all fields other than
computing itself -- except that some concerted efforts are now underway
to channel the Net's possibilities in a more scholarly direction. One of
these projects, PSYCOLOQUY, is currently underway at Princeton and Rutgers
Universities and its progress to date has just been accorded recognition
in the annual survey of the Library Journal (to appear April 15, authored
by Bill Katz), which selected PSYCOLOQUY as one of the best new magazines
of 1990.

Originally initiated in 1985 by Bob Morecock of Houston University as
an electronic Bulletin Board called the "Bitnet Psychology Newsletter,"
PSYCOLOQUY was transformed in 1989 into a refereed electronic journal
and is now sponsored on an experimental basis by the Science Directorate
of the American Psychological Association. The Co-Editor for scientific
contributions is Stevan Harnad, Visiting Fellow in the Department of
Psychology at Princeton University, and the Co-Editor for clinical, applied
and professional contributions is Perry London, Dean of the Graduate School
of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University. One of
PSYCOLOQUY's principal scholarly objectives is to implement "peer review"
on the Net in psychology and its related fields (cognitive science, neuro-
science, behavioral biology, linguistics, philosophy).

All contributions are refereed by a member of PSYCOLOQUY's 35-member
Editorial Board, but the idea is not just to implement a conventional
journal in electronic form. PSYCOLOQUY is devoted to "Scholarly
Skywriting", a radically new form of communication in which authors
post to PSYCOLOQUY a brief account of current ideas and findings on
which they wish to elicit feedback from fellow-specialists as well as
experts from related disciplines the world over.

The refereeing of each original posting and each item of peer feedback
on it is done very quickly, sometimes within a few hours of receipt, so
as to maintain the momentum and interactiveness of this remarkable new
medium, just as if each contribution were being written in the sky, for
all peers to see and append to. Skywriting promises to bring the speed
of scholarly communication much closer to the speed of thought, while
adding to it a global scope and an interactive dimension that are without
precedent in human communication, all conducted through the discipline of
the written medium, monitored by peer review, and permanently archived
for future reference.

The idea of "Scholarly Skywriting" is derived from a feature of a more
conventional journal that Harnad has been editing for fifteen years,
Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS). BBS publishes "target articles"
on particularly important and controversial interdisciplinary topics
together with "Open Peer Commentary" from 15-25 scholars from across
specialties and around the world, followed by the author's response.
Open Peer Commentary has become quite a useful and influential service
in the biobehavioral sciences, but it is governed by the time constraints
of conventional publication. Scholarly Skywriting in PSYCOLOQUY is
intended for that prepublication "pilot" stage of scientific inquiry in
which peer communication and feedback are still critically shaping the
final outcome. Here is where the Net's speed, scope and interactiveness
offer the possibility of a quantum jump for scholarly inquiry.

PSYCOLOQUY appears in two forms. Its Usenet version, called
"sci.psychology.digest", is "gatewayed" to the Net from Princeton.
Its Bitnet version, formerly stored at Tulane University and archived
at the University of Houston, is now at Princeton too. To subscribe
(free), all you need to do is send the following one line email message
to listserv@pucc.bitnet: "sub psyc Firstname Lastname" (omitting quotes
and substituting your own first and last name); the message must
originate from the email address at which you wish to receive
PSYCOLOQUY. Subsequent postings are sent to psyc@pucc.bitnet or to

Back issues of PSYCOLOQUY are archived at Princeton and can be retrieved
from any Internet email address directly by a simple procedure called
"anonymous ftp." Princeton also has a feature called "bitftp" that allows
issues to be retrieved indirectly from Bitnet by email. Soon, with the
help of an experimental searchable data-base called PDB, kindly lent to
Princeton by Bellcore, it should be possible not only to retrieve items
but to do interactive full-text searches of the PSYCOLOQUY archive from
both Bitnet and Internet.

The Net is still an anarchic place. Almost all the work on PSYCOLOQUY
so far has been donated gratis by those involved in developing it. The
Co-Editors provide their services for free; Rutgers University and
Princeton University provide their computing resources for free; and
Bellcore has provided the data base for free. The modest subsidy from
the American Psychological Association is used exclusively to pay an
editorial assistant to maintain the email address list and bundle the
postings. All the parties involved are contributing their time and
resources for one reason only: to explore and develop what they all
feel is the vast potential of the Net in scholarly communication. The
selection of PSYCOLOQUY as one of the best new magazines of 1990 is a
welcome tribute to these pioneering efforts as well as to this promising
new medium.