Re: Reasons for freeing the primary research literature

From: Albert Henderson <chessNIC_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 16:46:43 -0400

on Fri, 17 Aug 2001 Jim Till <till_at_UHNRES.UTORONTO.CA> wrote:
[jt]> As is his custom, Albert Henderson has focused his attention on his own
[jt]> perception of only one of the reasons (the "Library crisis") included in
[jt]> my short list of major reasons why the primary research literature should
[jt]> be freed (see below).
[jt]> So far, no novel reasons have been mentioned. Are there any?

        I am not getting through. I should have asked,

                Are there any valid reasons
                to justify massive self-archiving?


[jt]> 1. It should be done:
[jt]> - Information gap: Libraries and researchers in poor countries
[jt]> can't afford most of the journals that they need.
        Too bad. The talent must come to the resources. Those
        who have more resources -- including people -- and who
        use them well will generally lead the way in science
        and scholarship.
        [Merton, Robert K. 1968. The Matthew effect in science.
        Science. 159,3810 (5 January):56-63]

        The U.S. was once a "poor" country. To have an
        education, Americans had to go to Europe. Anyone
        unable to understand Latin, French and German was
        considered to be uneducated. WWII and Cold War
        competition changed that somewhat. Still, the
        majority of R&D authors are located outside the
        U.S. according to the National Science Board.

[jt]> - Library crisis: Libraries and researchers in rich countries
[jt]> can't afford some of the journals that they need.
        Nonsense. The myth of the library crisis was
        manufactured by the members of the Association of
        Research Libraries et al. These private research
        universities in the U.S. report profits averaging
        over 20% of revenue to the IRS. Public research
        universities also show considerable unexpended
        income in their reports to the Department of
        Education. Their financial hoards are in the
        billions of dollars. In short, the claim that they
        "can't afford some of the journals that they need"
        is a shameless lie. Don't believe it.

        Squeezing a profit point or two out of library
        spending is an outrage. Institutions that are not
        serious enough about their obligation to quality
        should get out of research and stop applying for
        grants. Sponsors of research should really demand
        better preparation and qualify their applicants
        better. Congress should stop earmarking research
        projects that lack the bona fides of peer review.

[jt]> - Public property: The results of publicly-funded research
[jt]> should be publicly-available.
        This will never fly. According to this theory,
        you must also demand that universities should
        give up all patents derived from taxpayer
        sponsored research. Public universities should
        own no patents at all.

        Policy headed in the other direction, supported
        by 1980 legislation. The number of US academic
        patents rose more than tenfold since the 1970s. By
        1997 university gross income from patents neared
        $500 million. The New York Times recently reported
        that U. Wisconsin, a public institution, now has a
        patent monopoly on stem cell research thanks to the
        Bush decision. Wisconsin licensed the patent for
        commercial exploitation to Geron Corporation of
        Menlo Park CA.

[jt]> - Academic freedom: Censorship based on cost rather than
[jt]> quality can't be justified.
        Wow. Taking this dictum at face value, I would
        conclude that universities "must" purchase all
        learned publications or explain why. (That is
        probably not what Till meant.) Many US
        institutions aimed for this goal until the
        photocopier, the expansion of "fair use," and
        the Mansfield Amendment provided excuses to
        shirk spending on academic excellence. Academic
        senates have had no luck in stalling this trend
        although many have desparately tried.

        Universities have been practicing "censorship
        based on cost," for 30 years. They claim they
        can't afford to pay not only for journals but
        for monographs, equipment, buildings, and
        personnel. Students and other researchers
        who lack their own resources to spend on
        travel, subscriptions, book purchases, and
        document delivery are out of luck.

        Academic freedom and related values -- such as
        tenure, accreditation, excellence in the
        classroom, effectiveness in the lab, and
        faculty governance -- are major thorns in the
        side of university managers. With apologies to
        the late CP Snow, I would add that the two
        cultures in academe appear to be (A) knowledge-
        oriented and (B) money-oriented. The latter
        "culture" controls the budget and would like
        to control everything else (as Veblen pointed
        out about 80 years ago). Its members hold
        markers from members of the former culture,
        often coercing them into passive acceptance of
        outragious behavior. They prefer to treat faculty
        as employees (until there is talk of organizing a
        union). Like the mafia, the "B" group meets
        criticism with stonewall silence, prevarication,
        glib evasions, sneers, deceptions, censorship, and
        insensitivity. Not long ago a university with $5
        billion financial assets wept to its librarian that
        it "had to borrow" to get by! Perhaps the members
        of "B" don't even grasp what "A" values are all


        Summing up, the only honest reason for "freeing the
        primary research literature" appears to be to relieve
        universities of the burden of library spending. The
        individuals who beg for better access would have it
        if their institutions were not such misers.

        This is not the "library crisis." It is the "war on
        faculty." Universities have already decimated their
        collections over the objections of faculty senates.
        A total replacement of journal collections with "author-
        archiving" not only promises to relieve them of journal
        subscriptions, it emasculates the financial power of
        faculty associations; It undermines the dependence of
        tenure committees on publications; It hurts the
        effectiveness of researchers and referees; and thus
        it perpetuates grant renewals. Under the claim of
        "liberation," the chaos of self-archiving will
        ultimately limit dissemination by overwhelming
        researchers with information too massive to digest,
        too unregulated to trust.

Thanks for helping me clarify my earlier comments.

Best wishes,

Albert Henderson

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

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