Re: Science 4 September on Copyright

From: Albert Henderson <> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 14:12:21 -0400

Albert Henderson <>:

 ah> The Bachrach et al. proposal is not about authors and publishers.

> Incorrect. It is about authors retaining the right to give away for
> free to readers what they already give away for free to publishers.

It is about shifting the cost of the library to the author and user.
It appears to me to aim at saving a few bucks at the expense of
researchers and the underwriters of research.

 ah> It requires every researcher to have the use
 ah> of expensive equipment and supplies of energy and paper.

> Incorrect. It requires no more than what is rapidly becoming the
> norm anyway, and it is a way of accelerating it.

You have a very strange idea about what is a 'norm' in science and what
is not. The Bachrach proposal seeks to change norms by fiat and
politicial influence, rather than by consensus among researchers. If
carried to an extreme, it would shift all costs from universities to
researchers. By destablizing the security of copyright, and promoting
the unpaid use of copyrighted properties, it would eliminate publishers
and libraries. I don't see the good in that.

> If "electronic novelties" refers to Eprint archives like
> xxx, these are indeed subsidised by the quality control currently
> provided by S/SL/PPV-based paper journals, but these in turn are
> subsidized by the S/SL/PPV-tolls paid by the authors' libraries.

What's your point?

> The learned community (authors and readers alike) would clearly be
> better off if there were a way that these costs could be reduced by 2/3
> and the remainder covered in such a way as to make the refereed
> literature available for free for all. There is a way, and the author's
> right to publicly archive his refereed journal articles as proposed by
> Bachrach et al. is the first and most important step along that path to
> the optimal and inevitable.

Library costs have already been reduced by half. Instead of the 6 to 7%
of university spending they have needed, they have been cut to less
than 3%. Bachrach would cut it more without providing for the quality
control you acknowledge above.

Who will invest in reviews and reference works when there are
no libraries? Why won't abstracts and indexes pack it in?

> One of the "handful of electronic novelties" in question has 65,000
> daily:
> That's quite a "market."

"Browsing" does not make a market.

> Paper was always a loss-leader insofar as
> the optimal dissemination of the refereed literature (for free for all)
> was concerned. Not so for free electronic dissemination, which is
> sustainable, rational and involves converging, common interests.

You are saying the medium is the message? The medium improves content?

> In the papyrocentric
> era, no alternative existed, bootleg photo-copying was indeed a
> parasite that could have destroyed the entire refereed journal corpus
> by leeching out its legitimate source of revenue.

Your tense should be "began to destroy." The journal publishers survive
by raising prices. However, the libraries are neither up-to-date nor
comprehensive, nor as useful as they were 30 years ago. Even Columbia
University, according to a faculty member writing in the Chronicle of
Higher Education a few months ago, appears to have a second-rate
library now.

The major challenge to the quality of research is the massive
growth of undisseminated research (National Enquiry on Scholarly
Communication, 1979; National Academy of Sciences committee on
scientific and technical communication, 1969). Bachrach does not
begin to address this. Nor do you.

> page charges for recovering the remaining costs of quality control

Who will pay?

> Is Henderson suggesting that the learned community should abjure this
> so as to prevent the "decimation of university [refereed serials]
> collections"? Should we be spamming the 65K daily users of xxx to let
> them know they are behaving irresponsibly?

Users of xxx can do what they want. I think the economics of producing
high quality peer reviewed journals, reviews, monographs, reference
works, A&I services, and other services provided by publishers and
librarians demands a substantial market committed to the conservation
and dissemination of knowledge. I think Bachrach et al. aim to see the
end of library collections as a university expenditure.

> As to the "elimination of libraries entirely," let us remember that
> all of this applies only to the always-freely-given refereed serials
> literature. Not to books, not to trade magazines. (But, apart from
> that, are we not forgetting that the scholar's library is there in
> the service of the scholar, and not the other way around?)

A half-empty library serves poorly. The average research university
(125 in the U.S.) contributes well below one percent of the world's
science articles. To do quality research, however, they must have
access to them all. They must pay. I don't believe a <1% contribution
reasonable entitles them to 100% free access.

 ah> The Association of College and Research Libraries recommended that
 ah> schools spend six percent of their budget on their libraries. They have
 ah> instead spent less

> And what on earth has that got to do with anything we are discussing
> here, since the measures at issue will lead to greater saving rather
> than greater spending by libraries?

Learn from the past. University administrators will cut spending on
infrastructure the minute they need the money. No grant that I ever
heard of is good forever.

> Is there some law of nature that says
> expenses and technologies from which we have suffered in the past we
> are wedded to till doomsday?

The point is that universities' administrators have exhibited neither
interest in nor commitment to the conservation and dissemation of
knowledge. Until that problem is under control, "forget about it" (as
they say in the movies).

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

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