Re: Nature 10 September on Public Archiving

From: Albert Henderson <> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 1998 07:49:04 -0400

On Fri, 11 Sep 1998, Arthur Smith wrote:

> What I have said previously is we could easily cut our costs by a factor
> of three or more OVER THE NEXT DECADE through automation improvements
> and forcing/educating authors into better practices. Some of
> the required technology does not even exist yet although I believe it
> is close (current TeX from xxx is not good or consistent enough for much
> automation on the editorial side here).

Savings at the production level are one thing. Real savings are another.

I think one should take into account the cost of this transition to
research and its underwriters. There has been a tremendous investment
in new technology and systems over recent decades. (No one has any idea
how much money has been invested in technology that obsolesces every 3
years or so.) It still, as Arthur Smith writes above, is no more than
"close." Outside the U. S. -- where 2/3 science articles originate --
they are not so automated and enthusiastic. "Forcing/educating authors
into better practices" is more than a decade away.

In spite of the buzz we hear constantly, the effect of ejournals to
date in terms of citation studies has been minimal. (S.P. Harter. 1998.
Scholarly Communication and Electronic Journals. JASIS: Journal of the
American Society for Information Science. 49(6):507-516).

Unlike the electronic-only journal, most publications must run two
distributions. Many readers lack the infrastructure required to
participate in epublishing. Associations like AAAS, with members who
prefer their paper copy, are particularly hard pressed to cut out
print. So epublishing while appearing to provide economies actually
becomes an extra burden that demands extra investments in technology,
human resources, etc.

There are more pressing problems flowing from the poor productivity of
research. Even Newt Gingrich complains about the poor dissemination and
synthesis of scientific results. The taxpayer is not getting his/her
money's worth. The researcher is insulated from important information.
Going electronic offers no solution to this.

British Library consultant David J Brown indicates the new media will
not survive if the economic market is not large enough. (ELECTRONIC
PUBLISHING AND LIBRARIES. London: Bowker-Saur 1996) He also points out
that library growth has not been sufficient to absorb the growth of
research. I would add, nor is library growth able to disseminate what
it cannot absorb. In my eyes this is due to universities diverting
library finances to support administrative growth.

A solution to the problems of dissemination would be easily derived by
financial support of library growth that would keep up with research.
University provosts and presidents would have to give up some of the
advantages they gained in the last 30 years. But then I wonder what
administrators contribute to the effectiveness of instruction and
research -- compared to good library collections.

Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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