Refereed Research Archiving and Data Archiving

From: Arthur Smith <>
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 18:05:43 -0400

is an interesting article on recent successes in asteroid hunting (the
count of asteroids with confirmed orbits is now over 30,000); the
article however also mentions troubles at the "Minor Planet Center"
which coordinates these discoveries and publishes information about

"Marsden is confident that his small crew can keep an eye on things for
now, but he says more funding is required to hire two more people, as
well as someone to maintain the sometimes-glitchy computer system that
processes asteroid data and supplies the follow-up observers with the
data they need to go hunting.

"Delays of 24 hours or more have occasionally occurred in the past,
Marsden said, due either to computer problems or the fact that he and
his two colleagues are putting in seven-day weeks in an effort to keep

"The growing workload has begun to generate tension and cause workers to
snap at each other -- something that never used to happen, Marsden said.

"Meanwhile, the Minor Planet Center's funding is dropping. The bulk of
its money has traditionally come from subscriptions to its publications
of asteroid data. [***] But with the transformation from printed to
electronic publishing, fewer research institutions, libraries and
individual astronomers are willing to pay for the data. [***]

"NASA provides about half of the center's budget (Marsden's own salary
comes from his position with the Smithsonian Institution). Yet it is
NASA that funds many of the major search programs that generate the data
that pours into the Minor Planet Center."


This seems a clear example on a small scale of what we all are seeing...
Researchers and funding agencies are happy to pay for the creation of
information, but have become more and more reluctant to pay for
organizing that information into useful forms. Why is this? What's
behind it? Is it really true that publishers (such as the Minor Planet
Center) no longer provide any useful value?

                        Arthur Smith (
Received on Fri Oct 19 2001 - 23:17:22 BST

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