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

From: Albert Henderson <>
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2004 14:31:36 +0000

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

    [MODERATOR'S NOTE: This is to confirm that I am (yet again) invoking
    cloture on Albert Henderson's (AH's) recurrent theme. Since the
    inception of this Forum in 1996, this theme has already derailed
    discussion many times. It is easily stated:

       "Give More Money to Libraries (Out of the Money that Someone,
       Somewhere, is Wantonly Withholding)"

    This has been used to argue that there is no serials crisis (just
    the wanton withholding of money by someone, somewhere) and now it is
    being used to argue that there is no access problem (just the wanton
    withholding of money by someone, somwhere). The argument invariably
    becomes intemperate after a while, usually against that shadowy
    someone, somewhere (see posting below).

    On this occasion, the very real and important question of the
    affordability of OA journal author-charges today by authors
    in developing countries is again being diverted towards the
    conspiratorial notion that someone, somewhere, is withholding the
    requisite money.

    Until AH specifies the unused pot from which the money can be taken so
    that every university and research institution on the planet can pay
    whatever tolls are charged by all of the planet's 24,000 journals so
    that every one of its researchers has toll-free access to ever one of
    the articles published therein (*and* the further money to ensure that
    all institutionally unaffiliated researchers worldwide likewise have
    toll-free access to every one of those articles) the posting below
    will be AH's last word on this thread. Rebuttals to AH will also
    not be posted, so please reply to him off-line. You may
    still continue to receive his postings, because AH maintains an
    "" list to which he branches them,
    in case cloture is re-invoked.

    (I don't doubt that new threads will emerge in the future where this
    same refrain will be re-introduced, and hence that this will not
    be the last time I have to re-invoke cloture! The interested
    historian should do a google search on:
    " amsci henderson cloture" )
    --- S.H ]

on 2/10/2004 4:43 PM Jean-Claude Guedon, wrote:

> > > In response to Albert Henderson, let me stress the following points:
> > >
> > > 1. The trend I was referring to was the growing support of a growing
> > > number of various granting agencies for financial support for the OA
> > > business plan as exemplified by BioMed Central and by PLos;
> >
> > This is a miniscule movement compared to library and R&D spending
> > trends. I feel the big picture must be taken into account.
> Miniscule? Have you looked at the list of granting agencies involved in the
> Berlin declaration? Miniscule? Do you know how much money the Wellcome Trust
> spends on research each year.

Such spending is hardly comparable to billions total spending on
libraries, cuts in library spending or, more significantly, the cost
of reading (estimated by King et al at 6.4 times libraries and over 5
times the cost of authors).

> > > 2. If we look at the growing number of open access journals and the
> > > growing number of open access repositories, including OAI compliant
> > > personal pages, and if we look at OA harvesters, I would say that
> > > movement is still a minority movement but that it is growing well and
> > > even fast. I would add that the growing frustration of a number of
> > > academics with the behaviour of various publishing houses is leading
> > > to an interesting revolt. The latter does not always coincide with
> > > open access, at least not yet, but it certainly gets one step closer;
> >
> > The frustration is rooted in the failure of universities to meet their
> > obligations to support research and education with decent libraries. The
> > universities have campaigned long and hard using myths and slogans as
> > the core of propaganda aimed at shifing blame to publishers. Only the
> > most naive and trusting could accept any of it.
> No, the frustration is the kind of frustration you witness when whole
> editorial boards move to create a new, alternate solutions to the absurd and
> obscenely - yes, I insist on the word (see below) - price commercial
> journals.

My impression has been that such revolts are based on misinformation
spread by university managers and competitors. I recently read an
incredibly ignorant editorial, for example, by Tony Delamothe and Richard
Smith "Open access publishing takes off" [BMJ 2004; 328: 1-3]. The fact
that BMJ accepted it for publication only demonstrates how scientists
fail to use their intelligence outside their disciplines.

> > > 3. The OA movement may be commercial, but it does not have to be.
> > > Comparing it to a is inaccurate at best;
> >
> > OA so far has shown little success in the real world as Stevan has
> > repeatedly pointed out in this forum.
> Your answer does not correspond to my comment. I do not know what it is doing
> here.

Sorry. It should be no mystery. The fact that sponsors keep pumping
subsidies into OA is simply a denial of the fact that authors are staying
away in droves.

> > > 4. If there is one way to increase scientific productivity, it is with
> > > open access. Impact figures that begin to trickle in show much greater
> > > use of OA literature and, of course, OA literature allows much greater
> > > numbers of scientists to get involved in current debates, even in poor
> > > countries;
> >
> > Better preparation is needed, not more sources -- many unrefereed --
> > and the possibility of researchers presuming they can get by without
> > access to the reviews and information services that are available only
> > through institutional connections.
> Better preparation and OA are not incompatible, quite the contrary. Stop
> conflating OA with cheap, vanity presses as this is not accurate.

Good preparation cannot be based solely on OA sources. The hopes of
researchers with inadequate or no institutional resources are futile. OA
offers small portions of the current literature -- and nearly none of the
scientific record. It leaves these people no better off than they were
before. Moreover, the door opened to self-archived quackery is chilling.

> > > 5. How one could ever conflate OA with "every researcher for himself" is
> > > beyond my understanding. OA involves a great deal of distribution, but it
> > > also rests on a great amount of coordination, standardization and
> > > interoperability.
> >
> > The task of reading and evaluating cannot be done alone or by reliance on
> > what has been released to OA. Many scientific fields require a task force
> > and an excellent library to evaluate the literature. This is also true
> > of much technology and social sciences but not so much in the Humanities.
> PLoS is OA and yet the peer review is done just as rigorously as with a
> comemrcial scientific journal, if not better. What is this talk about a "task
> force"? What journal has a "task force" to evalute incoming articles? What
> distinguishes peer review in an OA context from peer review in a toll-gated
> contest?

PLoS hardly represents the universe of OA. No peer review is required for
self-archiving. OA includes preprints that have not been refereed. The
reader, having read preprints, must then check to see if the works
survived review and if so, how they were revised.

For quite some time, there have been too many articles to read in
many fields. Many or most are bad science or obsolete. For example,
it took more than 20 specialists to pare down and evaluate the medical
literature on whiplash related injuries. They found that, among the
handful of studies on point, the majority were poorly prepared. Any
individual attempting this task in preparation of further study would
have been quickly swamped.

Clearly I was referring to task forces of readers who may release their
findings to a review journal or keep them in-house as 'trade secrets.'

> > > 6. Claiming some (obscure) link between OA and isolation from
> > > institutions is also very strange : universities themselves are setting
> > > up facilities to help faculty set up individual web sites...
> >
> > You must not be speaking of readers who hope to bypass their inadequate
> > and nonexistent library collections.
> Again, I do not undertand your comment.

Sorry. I am concerned about readers.

> > This said, I have yet to meet a colleague who wants to bypass the local
> > library resources. He/she may want to complete these resources through some
> > other means, but bypass? This would be silly

Information science has considered user behavior. Michael Buckland
observed, "Since a user considers that the library is unlikely to
hold a given item, then he may not bother to seek it in the library. ..
failure caused by the collection being inadequate or irrelevant is likely
to be underestimated." He also wrote, "The measure of service adopted
has been book availability ... in terms of the probability that users
will find what they seek when they seek it." [Book Availability and the
Library User. 1975]

This would apply equally to 'journal' availability.

> > > 7. If toll provide tools, we should also ask: can tools be financed in
> > > ways other than tolls and do we get the best tools with tolls. The answer
> > > is yes on both counts;
> >
> > Charging authors is a toll, is it not?
> I obviously made a mistake in my last remark: of course we could finance tools
> in ways other than tolls and, of course we do *not* get the best tools with
> the present system of tolls.

Why "of course?" The present system has produced not only journals but
information abstracts, citation indexes, full-text services, as well as
comprehensive reference sources. There are some fine journals produced
with alternatives, such as advertising. But these are exceptions that must
limit their coverage and possibly cow-tow to the interests of advertisers.

> > Charging authors (or some other financing source such as a granting agency) is
> > indeed a kind of toll and the questions I raised remain true with regard to
> > it. In this case, however, the answer is that a number of tools are
> > unmistakably better : preservations and interlinking are easier to achieve.
> > Teaching can be irrigated better and more widely in the world. etc. etc.
> >
> > > 8. As for Albert Henderson's mantra about raising library budgets, the
> > > answer remains the same: of course, so long as it will not allow a number
> > > of publishers simply to increase their profit margin beyond the already
> > > obscene levels that have been repeatedly observed.
> >
> > Have you actually read the public operating statements of any
> > publisher? Profits are hardly 'obscene' by any standard. This is what
> > I mean when I speak of myths and slogans. If publishers' profits were
> > 'obscene,' you and everyone else would own shares. Publishers' profits
> > have never come close to profits reported by private research universities
> > in the United States.
> I stick to my characterization: I find the profit levels of some large
> international publishers perfectly obscene. And it was interesting to see how
> people were praising Elsevier's performance at the time when the stock market
> was plunging lower and lower. It was one of the darlings of the panicky
> gambling crowd.
> I forgot to add: personally, I don't play the stock market roulette.

'nuf said.

ON Wed, 11 Feb 2004 Suhail A. R. <> wrote:

> Albert Henderson:
> >
> > The frustration is rooted in the failure of universities to meet their
> > obligations to support research and education with decent libraries. The
> > universities have campaigned long and hard using myths and slogans as
> > the core of propaganda aimed at shifing blame to publishers. Only the
> > most naive and trusting could accept any of it.
> Jean-Claude Gu=E9don:
> >No, the frustration is the kind of frustration you witness when whole
> >editorial boards move to create a new, alternate solutions to the absurd and
> >obscenely - yes, I insist on the word (see below) - price commercial
> >journals.
> Suhail:
> I don't understand what point is being made here - OA journals are just as
> extremely commercial and just as obscenely priced (depends to whom) too!

The notion of "obscene" pricing is rooted in the fallacious comparison
of journal prices with consumer price index (CSI), i.e. general
inflation. CSI is based on the consumption of a static-size family.

In contrast, journal prices respond to R&D spending, which has doubled
every 15 years (in constant dollars) for a very long time. R&D spending
generates appropriate increased output in the form of journal production
and rising prices.

I continue to be amazed how many scientists are snookered by this fallacy.

Best wishes,

Albert Henderson
Pres., Chess Combination Inc.
Received on Thu Feb 12 2004 - 14:31:36 GMT

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