Re: Invoking Cloture (Again) on "Serials Crisis = Library Underfunding"

From: Jan Velterop <>
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2002 22:08:59 +0100

    [Moderator's Note. As Jan Velterop is relatively new to this, I have
     to point out that cloture means that no more discussion will be
     posted on this topic. (This is no reflection on Jan's excellent
     commentary!) Albert Henderson's Library-Underfunding-Conspiracy
     Hypothesis has been discussed endlessly on this list and nothing new
     has been said by its proponent in years. The relentless repetition
     has lately only been relieved by a rise in intemperateness (towards
     university administrations) on Albert's (usually good-natured)
     part (as I, Charlie-Brown-like, keep relenting now and then on
     Albert's postings, which are not always obviously headed back to
     the perennial football). But experience has repeatedly confirmed
     that, unstanched, the flow takes over all bandwidth, and it's
     always back down to Library-Underfunding, irrespective of what new
     possibilities the online medium may offer. The past discussion is all
     there, permanently, in the Amsci Forum Archives. That's enough. There
     is no need to keep re-enacting it year after year. Out of courtesy
     to Jan, I will exceptionally post his unexceptionable comment this
     time, but please, no more on this topic! If anyone really wants to
     keep discussing the Library-Underfunding-Conspiracy with Albert,
     they can email him directly. He maintains a Blind CC list of some or
     all of the Amsci list anyway, so, under his auspices, those people
     will be spammed with his replies whether they like it or not, but
     at least it won't go to the official list, or be archived. But I
     can't keep approving comments unless I let Albert reply, regardless
     of how predicatble his reply may be! -- S.H.]

Jan Velterop <>:

According to Albert Henderson "...the profitability of higher education
institutions in the U.S. increased by exactly the same amount that was
ruthlessly cut from library spending". Is that *all* or most of US HE
institutions, Mr Henderson?

Fortunately, the world of science doesn't begin and end in the US. The
overwhelming majority of HE institutions elsewhere are not in profit, or
anywhere near, and just cannot afford sufficient access to the scientific
literature at current price levels, indeed sometimes not even to what could
be seen as the essential basic scientific information. Is Mr Henderson
implying that scientific pursuits, or even efforts to improve health, the
environment, education, et cetera should not be for those without the
requisite wealth?

Scientists are not only the generators of the scientific literature, but
also the main beneficiaries of their publications. Maximum dissemination is
in their direct interest. They gain in terms of citations, feedback,
recognition, acknowledgement and that enhances their career prospects and
the prospects of continuing their research. It is not for nothing that they
don't get paid for their published research articles. The value of research
results for scientists lies not in the saleability of the research articles.
If possible they would broadcast their results.

The point is that that it now is possible. Full open access to primary
research literature is wholly logical and the only reason why it wasn't
there in the past was its physical impossibility. That's now remedied by the
existence of the internet. The *only* reason why publishers exist is the
need for 'stratification' and certification of the literature (quality
control, labelling, whatever you call it). Publishers, with their journals,
are the organisers of that stratification and certification. And some may
also find a role in facilitating open access in a professional way. That's
what they should earn their money with, not with creating artificial
scarcity of the information and the subsequent high prices that are typical
for scarce commodities. Of course, as long as they can get away with it,
they will. But Mr Henderson's indignation over the emergence of desirable
alternatives is little short of absurd.

Jan Velterop
Publisher, BioMed Central
Received on Tue Sep 17 2002 - 22:08:59 BST

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