Re: Journals are Quality Certification Brand-Names

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1999 13:43:31 -0400

All these arguments about self-archiving are wonderful, but creating and
maintaining material to be publicly accessible on the web has costs, and
finding appropriate material has costs to the reader, and one
really should be analyzing the total system costs for any scheme, not just
local "costs" for author, library, institution, etc. Scholarly authors
and readers are actually supposed to be spending most of their time
DOING research and teaching, not publishing, archiving, and becoming
their own librarians. An interesting article looking at total costs
and benefits from this sort of angle appeared in the September 1998
issue of the Journal of Electronic Publishing:


the article, by Colin Day, is titled "Digital Alternatives:
Solving the Problem or Shifting the Costs". The subject was
academic monographs rather than journal articles, but I think many of the
same arguments apply in both cases. While I can't entirely
agree with everything he says, he has a lot of good points. A
couple of quotes:

> For example, the universities cut their library budgets, the libraries consequently cut their book
> purchases, and so demand for books falls. More academic manuscripts become uneconomic for
> publishers and are declined. The scholars, eager to get their work disseminated, turn to self
> publication or departmental publication. Those routes do not eliminate the costs of publication, they
> merely shift them and very often hide them in other university budgets. In fact they probably
> increase the total costs, as it is unlikely actually that the work will be done either as well or as
> cheaply as it would be by professional-publishing people -- the economic benefits of
> specialization are well-attested in every other industry, after all. But what is worse is that people
> who would otherwise be doing research and teaching, or who would otherwise be support staff
> enabling those crucial activities, are now engaged in the work of publishing to the detriment of the
> time available for teaching and research.

> As should already be clear, any systemwide evaluation must take account of the
> impact on the time of faculty members. Faculty time, both as teachers and researchers, is the most valuable resource in the
> university. Effective use of that time is crucial to the success of the university in fulfilling both its teaching and research
> missions. Thus time diverted from those activities to prepare and publish their own manuscripts, time spent to search for
> materials that are no longer available through well-established channels, time spent reading things that prove after an hour
> or two to be valueless, increased time spent evaluating their colleagues for tenure -- these are all costs, true costs, using
> the scarcest resources of the academy.
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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