Re: Online Self-Archiving: Distinguishing the Optimal from the Optional

From: Andrew Odlyzko <odlyzko_at_DTC.UMN.EDU>
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2002 07:30:49 -0600

> On Wed Dec 11, Arthur P. Smith wrote:


   Going back to my original question - does anybody have any numbers that
   might corroborate or refute the assertion that the cause of the "serials
   crisis" is the increase in world-wide research funding, and particularly
   (at least for physics) the increase outside the US? Is there some clear
   measure of total publication expense relative to research dollars that
   could be looked at? I'd be interested in seeing numbers, both for
   physics and other fields.


At a certain level, the "serials crisis" is definitely caused by
an increase in the volume of publications (which in turn is closely
correlated to the increase in the number of researchers). Since
1950, these numbers have gone up approximately 10-fold. (There
is a lot of data on this subject. I am traveling right now and
have limited access to email and to my data collections, but I do
present some statistics in my 1994 paper "Tragic loss or good
riddance? The impending demise of traditional scholarly journals,"
available at <>.)
However, the decline in the US share of worldwide research (and
publications) has not been dramatic. US alone had close to a
10-fold growth in its R&D establishment and publications.

There is also data showing that publication expenses have gone
down as a fraction of total R&D expenditures. (One can look
at the ARL statistics, for example, and compare them to the
figures compiled by NSF for total federal research funding, say,
both easily available online.) The issue is how to interpret
that. Here is a quote from "Tragic loss or good riddance ...":

  University libraries have already lost some of their importance.
  Spending on libraries has been increasing rapidly, much faster than
  inflation. Still, Albert Henderson has pointed out that over the last
  25 years, the fraction of budgets of research universities in the US
  that are devoted to libraries has declined from 6% to 3%. One could
  therefore argue that everything would be fine with scholarly
  publishing if only libraries regained their "rightful share" of
  university budgets. My opinion is that this is unrealistic, and that
  the decline in the relative share of resources devoted to libraries
  resulted from their decreasing importance. The increasing
  availability of phone, fax, email, interlibrary loan, and other
  methods of obtaining information, and the inability of any single
  library to satisfy scholars' needs, may mean that scholars do not need
  the library as much, and as a result do not fight for it. In the best
  of all possible worlds, there would be resources to acquire
  everything, but in practice, choices have to be made, and at some
  level in the university power structure, libraries compete for money
  with faculty salaries, student scholarships, and so on. That
  libraries have been losing this competition probably means that they
  have already lost some of their constituency, and will have to change.

Received on Wed Dec 11 2002 - 13:30:49 GMT

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