Re: Recent Comments by Albert Henderson

From: Albert Henderson <chessNIC_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2001 18:42:28 -0500

on Fri, 26 Jan 2001 Ken Rouse <krouse_at_LIBRARY.WISC.EDU> wrote:
> I believe we might be in a better position to assess the validity of
> Hendersons's argument if we had a more concrete sense of its fiscal
> implications. Let's assume for the moment that he had gotten his wish,
> and libraries had been given enough money to continue purchasing all of
> the journals deemed appropriate for their collections-or at least
> funding indexed to the increases in expenditures for academic research
> in the last few decades. What might a typical, ARL-size science
> library's budget look like today? If he could give us a ballpark idea,
> it could serve as a reality-check of his give-the-librarians-all-the-money-they-need-solution
> to our problem.

        Thanks for asking. I suggested the solution in my
        article on the use of constant dollars and other
        indicators to manage research investments [JASIS,
        50,4:366-379 1999]

        If research libraries kept abreast of world R&D, their
        budgets -- in constant dollars -- should probably
        maintain parity with the output of journal articles.
        Derek de Solla Price observed a constant doubling
        of journal articles every 15 years or so. He also noted
        Rider's observation that Ivy League library collections
        also doubled at this rate from Colonial times to before
        World War II.

        Using constant dollars we see that the University of
        Wisconsin increased its library spending by a factor
        of 2.0 between 1970 and 1999. Academic R&D increased
        by a factor of 3.0. The output of journal articles
        increased by a factor of 4, exactly double the growth
        permitted the library in Wisconsin. During the 1960s,
        spending on the average U.S. research university library
        kept pace with academic R&D and the growth of research
        articles published.

        There is another aspect to the calculus of information
        management, discussed in my article on the library collection
        failure quotient. [Journal of Academic Librarianship. 26,3:159-170.
        2000] That has to do with reconciling changes in the university
        program and may begin with the percentage of spending devoted
        to the library. In other words, library spending may grow at
        the same pace as academic R&D but not keep up with the needs
        of new research programs (probably put in place simply to
        attract the lucrative overhead of research grants).

        In other words, library spending at Wisconsin at at
        other research university libraries probably should
        have grown to be double their present allocations -- more
        or less -- to maintain the service quality of their
        collections as defined by patrons getting what they
        want when they want it.

        If that had been the case, publishers' prices would
        have not been devastated by thousands of cancellations.
        Prices would have risen only as much as needed to
        accomodate increases in pages published, inflation, and
        for foreign publishers the fall of the dollar.

        Dwight D Eisenhower, who had been president of Columbia
        University, forsaw the general problem in his 1961
        farewell address. He said, "the free university, historically
        the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has
        experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly
        because of the huge costs involved, a government contract
        becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity."

        Near 40 years later, I was able to quote Newt Gingrich on the
        consequences of these misguided policies when he pointed out
        to the House Science Committee how incoherent science had
        become. (SOCIETY. 35,6: 38-43 Sept./Oct.,1998)

        For decades, libraries have been a specific part of research
        overhead regulations ordered in Circular A-21 of the Office
        of Management and Budget. It seems this is the only use of
        the word "library" in modern science policy. At one point,
        Princeton even deleted the word "library" from its overhead
        contract with the Department of Energy. Unfortunately
        for the research community, library overhead reimbursements
        have been treated as an administrative slush fund. The
        practice of reimbursement formulas and negotiations has
        nothing to do with the library, its patrons, or its effect
        on the research sponsored by taxpayers.

        The National Science and Technology Policy, Organization, and
        Priorities Act of 1976 mandated attention to dissemination.
        Unexplicably, the law has been disregarded by every administration
        as I describe in "Undermining Peer Review" (SOCIETY 38,2:47-54.
        Jan./Feb. 2001) while the President's Committee of Advisors on
        Science & Technology has been dominated by industrial interests.

        Best wishes,

Albert Henderson
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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