Re: Recent Comments by Albert Henderson

From: Albert Henderson <chessNIC_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2001 18:42:35 -0500

on Fri, 26 Jan 2001 Greg Kuperberg <greg_at_MATH.UCDAVIS.EDU> wrote:

> There is a lesson in this trend for open archival. The readership in
> each discipline wants a giant electronic super-journal. The market
> is moving in that direction whether decision-makers like it or not.
> Should it be a subscription-based monopoly?

        Research universities have a monopoly on sponsored
        research contracts in the United States. Vannevar Bush
        made it clear that these universities were "charged with
        the responsibility to conserve" and disseminate knowledge.
        [SCIENCE THE ENDLESS FRONTIER] If the universities have
        failed to hold up their side of the social contract, should
        they retain their accreditation?

        The trend towards open archives is no more than a part of
        the wholesale downsizing and outsourcing that has replaced
        tenured faculty with part-timers maintaining videotape
        lecture courses -- distance and otherwise. The is little
        care for excellence, only the financial bottom line.

        Related to the idea of an electronic super-journal,
        Eugene Garfield proposed a brilliant idea about 50 years ago.
        (SCIENCE 122:108-111, 1955) His idea turned into the multi-
        disciplinary Science Citation Index which revealed the
        intellectual roots and connections supporting scientific
        discovery. It also enabled researchers to locate relevant
        sources that were beyond the scope of narrow bibliographies.
        Perhaps the most interesting use he proposed, a use that he
        emphasized, was to identify post-publication peer review,
        critical notes that countered poor research and
        unsubstantiated claims in earlier writings.

        It is unfortunate that the economic base of SCI, largely
        academic libraries, betrayed his concept, an assumption that
        the goals of scientific communication were axiomatic. The
        coverage of SCI has grown very little over the past 30
        years because it commands a subscription price that is
        high enough to attract many challenges. While the SCI
        continues to serve, it would probably serve better if it
        fully embraced the growing literature.

        There are rationales that less is more, that SCI covers
        the cream of science, that sources beyond SCI's coverage
        fail to meet some standard of excellence. In other words,
        we are told that the remainder is not worthy of our attention.
        To me, this reasoning must also conclude that most of the
        growth of financial input -- US academic R&D increased
        twelve-fold since 1970 -- is wasted.

        Moreover, and my point: if the fourfold increase in
        journal articles since 1970 is not worth our attention, then
        don't the unreviewed postings on free preprint servers risk
        a real waste of time for any reader who values his/her time
        and energy?

Albert Henderson

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

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