Re: Recent Comments by Albert Henderson

From: Albert Henderson <NobleStation_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 16:14:54 -0400

on 2 Oct 2000 david henige <dhenige_at_LIBRARY.WISC.EDU> picks up where
Ken Rouse left off and argues:
> Henderson begins his reply by describing "documented," "appropriate,"
> "logical," and "understandable" as "objective" notions. At the risk of
> seeming postmodern, I will have to argue that *not one of them* can be
> "objective" either in the sense that they mean the same thing to every
> observer or that they account for every consideration. The facile
> notion that "scientific" and "objective" are interchangeable terms is, I
> believe, no longer commonplace even in the scientific community.

        Thanks for reminding us about sociology and social
        constructs. Max Weber made some good points about
        bureaucrats riding roughshod over primary mission
        goals. Thorsten Veblen picked up on it and gave
        us THE HIGHER LEARNING IN AMERICA, providing some
        juicy phrases that apply to the abuse of libraries
        by modern managers of higher education.

        The social behavior of the community is an interesting
        issue, one that explains why associations splinter and
        lose the loyalty of emerging groups. The sociology of
        science should one day explain why there are so many
        successful commercial journals instead of a single
        hopper that filters and publishes everything.

        With respect to "scientific" and "objective," I
        believe that the goal of science and scientists is
        generally to use objective methods to make claims that
        are accepted by the community until better claims
        prevail. If you would like to believe something else,
        that is your right.

> The argument about economies of scale certainly has been bruited here,
> there, and everywhere, but pardon me if I find it nonsensical. For over
> twenty-five years I have edited a journal that has a circulation of less
> than 500; it runs to about 500 pages per annual issue and costs
> subscribers less than $40 an issue. Why? Simple; most of the
> preprinting work is provided FREE because of a belief the the
> dissemination of knowledge and argument should not be a bottom-line
> proposition.
> The real question is not economies of scale but economy AND scale. For
> instance, what are the costs that are debited to a particular journal
> and are they as low as they can be (which brings up other issues that I
> discuss below).
> As to the "relevance" of Barschall's conclusions, let that be determined
> by the varied and various reactions of interested parties.
> Henderson 's complaint is that Barschall "covertly" represented an
> interested party. Secrecy is a dangerously two-edged concept for the
> commercial publishers to bring into play here. For my part, and as a
> historian interested in why and how things happen, I would very much
> like to see following:
> 1/ financial details concerning the costs--necessary and otherwise--of
> all the higher-priced journals published in the commercial sphere

        You probably have their annual reports in your business
        library. SEC filings are also public disclosure of
        costs, revenues and accounts. It is up to you to find them.

        What is equally interesting is the public disclosure of
        profits increasing while spending on libraries fell over
        the last 25 years. Who has defended libraries against this?
        Have you?

> 2/ correspondence and 1099 forms (oh yes, they are neede!) for and
> between commercial publishers, editors, and members of editorial boards
> concerning remuneration in order to determine whether such expenses are
> appropriate and necessary--to use a couple of loaded terms.

        Would you demand the same of scientists who work
        with companies outside of publishing?

> 3/ the results--and the underlying methodology--of any tests carried out
> by commercial publishers, particularly any that have been subjected to
> the same scrutiny as Barschall's

        What tests did you have in mind? Why single out
        only commercial publishers?

> 4/ any internal correspondence dealing with any and all of these
> issues--similar to that, perhaps, uncovered in the investigations of
> tobacco companies

        Do you think journals are harmful to your health?

> Without these data, no one is able to use such terms as "covertly" and
> "parlayed" and "some old rivalry," however much they might suspect their
> reality. I'm pretty sure that not only historians but librarians would
> like some of these details in place of interminable assertions are to
> altruistic motives.
        You might try reading the testimony and looking
        closely at the main exhibits -- Barschall's 3

        Actually, the law suits had the effect of revealing
        through discovery and public testimony Barschall's
        role as a Director of AIP, responsible for its
        business affairs. I had not picked up on this for
        quite some time until it was admitted by Harry
        Lustig under direct examination. UMW had put the
        fox in charge of the chickens. This is not against
        the law unless Wisconsin has regulations against
        such conflict of interest by state employees. It
        was certainly a breach of ethical behavior and
        repugnant to me. I would have the same problem
        with any manufacturer advising a library against
        the interest of competitors.

        Read Harry Lustig's testimony about how APS forgot
        to raise prices one year and so needed to raise them
        even more the next. Read about the financial urgency
        of distracting the attention of librarians away from
        these price rises. Read about how the success of the
        first article led to the development of the second
        and third which were rushed into print in time for
        renewal decisions. Read about how reprints were
        distributed to librarians, about seminars conducted
        by Lustig himself. Read about how a mailing was
        suspended when it appeared it might get them into

> I don't doubt that innovators have problems in most fields. Just the
> same, the journal I began was--and is--non-mainstream, but I found no
> difficulties in securing the aegis of a professional organization back
> in the mid-1970s. Was I just lucky? Good? Or was it simply that there
> were no commercial publications knocking at my door with offers I
> couldn't refuse.
> The argument that universities failed to fund libraries adequately
> enough to subscribe without fuss to whatever journal at whatever price
> came down the road is sheer sophistry. Why should they have? Why
> should universites--especially public universities--support the notion
> of cost-sufficiency in a world otherwise dominated by marketplace
> values. True, it is not the fault of commercial publishers that
> librarians bit many bullets over many years and generally made no
> concerted efforts to apprise the contributor-users of the
> non-marketplace-priced journals. The addiction to complete runs and the
> reluctance to cancel standing orders--or publishers' gerrymandered
> series--meant that monographs became the victims, with all the
> implications.
        Vannevar Bush held research universities responsible for
        the conservation and dissemination of knowledge as an
        element of their partnership with government. (SCIENCE
        THE ENDLESS FRONTIER) Research overhead has also
        promised to cover full accountable costs. Thanks to
        mismanagement, library overhead has nothing to do
        with the use of libraries or the needs of researchers.
        Costs have been shifted by universities to readers.

> What strikes me as decidedly odd in all this is the postmortem fixation
> with the work of Henry Barschall. Henderson is determined to argue that
> Barschall came to his work with a predisposition to find what he did
> find. I for one agree entirely with that premise. But that is hardly
> the issue. No one--myself and Henderson included--does *not* come to a
> set of circumstances without a sense of what is to be accomplished and
> this is nowhere more true than when wielding numbers. The question
> though is to what degree such biases affect the outcome.
        Frankly I have been offended by repeated attempts by
        the UMW library and others to rehabilitate Barschall's
        cost-effectivness campaign with new studies and an
        article brazenly titled "Collection Development and
        Professional Ethics" in JOURNAL OF LIBRARY ADMINISTRATION
        (1999 28:33-47). In it K L Frazier refers to my August
        1997 telephone call to UMW Provost John Wiley. I had
        wished to learn whether Barschall's "alleged conflict
        of interest" had been investigated. It had not been
        investigated to Wiley's knowledge. Frazier gave no
        details of why I had called.
        publish correspondence, I posted my explanation on
        the STS-L newsgroup <> Frazier
        and I exchanged some further comments. Please read it.

> No work of quantitative that I know of has been subjected to more
> grueling and sustained scrutiny than Barschall's study. The result of
> all this scrutiny: he *demonstrated" what he set out to demonstrate.
> This can only lead us to conclude that the data he sought were there for
> the finding. In contrast, most such extended stdismally failed tests put
> to their work.

        The most offensive parts of Barschall's articles
        were excluded by the courts. His arithmetical
        errors were ignored when the judge ruled that his
        work was not 'false and misleading.'

        If Barschall had used government research funds
        -- another of my questions to the UMW provost --
        I believe that he would have been in serious trouble
        for being in breach of the norms of professional
        conduct. Wiley told me that Barschall was not using
        federal money.

> I don't know whether Barschall was paid for his work--nor for that
> matter whether Henderson is being paid for his--but again, payment is no
> *necessary* indication of biased results. In the early years of African
> historiograpohy, many ingenuous fieldworkers sought information from
> informants by paying for it. This was bad practice and could only
> impugn the flood of results. HOWEVER, if further scrutiny demonstrated
> that certain data were correct, the issue of payment then falls into the
> sociological rather than the epistemological domain.
        Scientists go for glory, according to sociologist
        R K Merton. Barschall certainly got plenty of glory
        from librarians and the business managers at AIP/APS.
        Frazier was elected president of Association of
        Research Libraries if I am not mistaken.

        Barschall was not the first to discover differences
        in unit prices of physics publications. The National
        Academy of Sciences had done it around 1970. I am
        certain anyone could 'discover' that similar ranges
        of unit pricing for music, fashion, cars, etc.

> Any number of similar examples might be adduced, but why pile Pelion
> upon Ossa? The point is simply that impugning Barshall's motives is
> wasted effort and a very poor substitute indeed for impugning his
> results.

        What were his results? In my opinion:

                Barschall and his organizations were sued and
                        their files were opened to discovery
                        and the shameful acts I described.

                Legal costs ran to the millions that would
                        have been better spent on dissemination.

                UMW wasted scarce resources confirming Barschall's
                        insipid hypothesis by replicating his work.

                AIP has been unable to explain to my satisfaction
                        why it has not addressed the failure of science
                        policy to address the impoverishment of the
                        university libraries used for government research.

                The idea of kilowords per dollar has become a dark joke.
                        I have been unable to get any librarian to admit
                        to using kilowords per dollar as an acquisitions tool.

Albert Henderson

Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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