Re: ACS meeting comments on e-prints

From: David Goodman <dgoodman_at_PRINCETON.EDU>
Date: Wed, 5 Apr 2000 10:55:50 -0400

It should be obvious that the role of information centers 40 years ago is not
the same as now.

   Information centers are already close to a monopoly in each subject area,
   which is not true for the examples quoted.

   Scientific information is a public good, which is not true for the examples quoted.

   The acquisition and distribution of scientific information is paid in large
   part by public funds, which is not true of the examples quoted.

   The need for centralization for coordination of electronic resources
   is not present for the examples quoted.

   The adequacy of private enterprise to meeting the need is not really that
   unlike the example quoted.

Certainly government is not the only agency that can run such a service. And
certainly there does not need to be, and probably shouldn't be, one single
interdisciplinary service.

It's odd that Al cites Medline.

Medline is a better information service for its purpose than any
noncommercial, commercial, or for that matter government sponsored indexing
service. Its speed of updating is so fast that it has just had to add an
indicator "[epub ahead of print]" for those articles listed before regular
publication. The quality of the indexing and general accuracy is superlative.
The available public interfaces in many ways outdoes any other for its target
audience (which is not information scientists). It's not perfect. But its the
best that our profession has been able to do so far.

It is not the case that Medline or its precursors ever covered or attempted to
cover the "entire field of biomedicine." No one index does that or ever did;
my idea of a really comprehensive approach I know of is: Medline + Excerpta
Medica + Biosis Previews + Zoological Record + Agricola + CAB + Chemical
Abstracts + Science Citation Index (and undoubtedly other indexes I don't
regularly use). Some of these are government; some non-profit; some

Medline doesn't cover (and never did) botany, agriculture, natural resources,
most of zoology, etc. etc. It doesn't even attempt to cover all of medicine:
it does not attempt to cover, and never did, most non-English language
specialty journals or local non-US medical societies. I'm glad we have
Excerpta Medica for that; I'm glad we have the other services. I think the
introduction of eprint servers and their associated apparatus will increase
diversity, allow for experimentation, and improve service. I hope NIH
continues to take an active role. From the discussion on this list and
elsewhere, there's no danger that this will prevent many others from doing so too.

Albert Henderson wrote:

> [snip]
> Floyd E Bloom quoted a Senate advisory panel's
> observation from 40 years ago: "The case for a
> Government-operated, highly centralized type of
> center can be no better defended for scientific
> information services than it could be for
> automobile agencies, delicatessens, or barber
> shops." (Science 285:197 1999)
> The point is that scientists exchange their
> work for dissemination and recognition by
> their peers. It is best done in the private
> sector. Government management always looses
> any hint of excellence, particularly in the
> information area. Look, for instance, at
> Index Medicus. Coverage originally took in the
> entire field of biomedicine. Now it covers about
> 10 percent according to its own estimates. Or
> look at the stagnating database used by the
> National Science Board to create tables for
> in the world it is supposed to indicate. Or see
> how the government has run NTIS into the ground.
> Albert Henderson
> <>
> .
> .
> .

David Goodman
Biology Librarian, and
Co-Chair, Electronic Journals Task Force
Princeton University Library
phone: 609-258-3235            fax: 609-258-2627
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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