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

From: Albert Henderson <chessNIC_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2002 10:01:52 -0500

on Tue, 10 Dec 2002 Arthur P. Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG> 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.

        Derek de Solla Price overcame the challenge of
        dealing with dozens of world currencies by
        relating input/output factors, the number of
        authors to the numbers of articles published.
        The continued rise of numbers of articles tells
        us that authorship has risen, indicating a
        growth of sponsorship. Price used Physics
        Abstracts as an example of exponential growth in
        scientific output from 1918 to 1950, reflecting
        world-wide activity.

        I used such numbers in my articles, "Growth of
        the printed literature in the 20th century" and
        "Diversity and the growth of serious / scholarly /
        scientific journals" which appear in SCHOLARLY
        PUBLISHING [Wiley 2002]. I added:

        "The growth of learned journals actually
        demonstrated by Price's measures contradicts
        his sensational predictions of growth leveling
        off during the late twentieth century. Spectacular
        growth can be found in biology, mathematics,
        and physics, which, respectively, doubled on
        average in periods of 12.5, 11, and 9 years. The
        annual production of Chemical Abstracts service
        continued to double, three times between 1940
        and 1990, at the same fifteen-year rate that it
        maintained for decades before. EI (founded as
        Engineering Index with ten journals in 1884)
        took seventy years to reach its first million
        records, thirty years to reach its second
        million, and passed the third million ahead of
        schedule." [p. 10] And so on.

        Further evidence of the serials crisis may be
        found in skyrocketing interlibrary borrowing and
        document delivery statistics. The ratio of
        borrowing to collection size has doubled in major
        universities over the last 20 years. Moreover, US
        libraries now rely on foreign libraries as major
        sources for photocopies, a circumstance that
        would have been easily called against our national
        security and interest not too long ago. Today it
        seems to be politically tolerable.

        On the other hand, one of the tacitly tolerated
        effects of the serials crisis has been the capping
        of production growth of many bibliographic services
        in math, biology, medicine, and other learned
        disciplines (I am not sure about physics). For
        example, the publishers of Mathematical Reviews
        decided in 1989 to keep the level of future reviews
        at 1989 levels. The reason given was that market
        resistance to rate increases made it necessary to
        contain costs. For other publishers, such as the
        National Library of Medicine, the restrictions
        started much earlier as a result of bureaucratic
        management rather than market forces.

        Such restrictions are rarely publicized, although
        SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN described the complaints of
        Latin American publishers at some length. If a
        bibliography becomes a mere sample rather than the
        comprehensive coverage of the Physics Abstracts
        consulted by Price, then it can not serve as a
        reliable indicator of world R&D activity. It also
        becomes a poorer source of information for
        authors, referees, students, and other researchers.
        (Again, I am not sure about recent activity of
        Physics Abstracts.) I haven't tracked these sources
        after the early 1990s. Many of them can be found,
        with their details of historical growth data, in

        In contrast, the financial inputs of R&D have
        continued to rise apace in the US with Washington
        predicting a robust future for most disciplines.
        Unless the libraries that support publishing are
        recognized as a part of R&D spending, the serials
        crisis must continue to undermine the quality of
        research and education.

        Best wishes,

Albert Henderson

Received on Thu Dec 12 2002 - 15:01:52 GMT

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