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Re: Scholarly Publishing Principles -- Dan Lester Stephen D. Clark 13 Jun 2000 12:21 UTC

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Scholarly Publishing Principles -- Fred Jenkins
Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2000 13:59:27 -0600
From: Dan Lester <>
Reply-To: Dan Lester <>

Monday, June 12, 2000, 1:38:46 PM, you wrote:

> Higher administrations have numerous
> competing demands for funds aside from research support, many of which are
> mandated  by government agencies or the people who pay tuition and taxes to
> support  higher education.  Most people outside of higher education
> (at least in my experience) are much more concerned with the quality
> and affordability of undergraduate education; they tend to regard research
> as secondary unless they see it leading directly to economic development in
> their region.

This is absolutely correct.  Talk to the average taxpayer, and s/he
will tell you that research is fine for Harvard or Stanford, but that
it is of no importance to the typical state college or university
unless they can see a dollar return, and see it NOW.  Look at the
Golden Fleece Awards that some senator gives out all the time.
They're generally for some federally funded research at a university,
and for something valid, but not of value to Joe Citizen, like "Study
of the Reproductive Habits of the Spiral Purple Snail in the Podunk
River near Nowhere, Nebraska."  That would be a perfectly good
research topic, and might even lead to something of economic value
someday.  However, when you try to explain to Mary Public that
spending a hundred grand on it is a good thing, you'll hear about all
the other things that money could better be spent on.

> If colleges and universities were to follow Mr. Henderson's admonitions, I
> suspect we would soon be called to account by those who ultimately pay
> the bills.

We all are now, of course, and would be even more under that scenario.

> I find it difficult to explain five- and six-figure journal
> subscription prices to parents and students who are piling up large
> debts to pay tuition.

I've not seen any six figure prices yet, but it wouldn't surprise me
if they were to come along.  It is bad enough trying to explain the
cost of journals to faculty.  The line I regularly use with the
Chemistry and Physics faculties I work with is "Well, the ACS [or AIP,
etc.] is YOUR professional society, and not mine, so why not take it
up with them at your next annual conference."  Of course these society
publishers have become such entrenched bureaucracies with their own
goals to survive and expand, that the society members have almost no
real input to the business operations.

I'm not suggesting that society publishers are bad, just that they
should not really be separated from the mass of commercial publishers.


Dan Lester
3577 East Pecan, Boise, ID 83716-7115 USA