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Re: Scholarly Publishing Principles -- 2 messages Stephen D. Clark 14 Jun 2000 13:25 UTC

2 messages:


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Scholarly Publishing Principles -- Fred Jenkins
Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 16:20:31 -0400
From: Albert Henderson <>

on 12 Jun 2000 Fred Jenkins <> wrote

> Mr. Henderson raises some dubious propositions in his latest.
> Among other things, as I understand his arguments, libraries
> should be a transfer agent providing operating subsidies to
> learned societies.

The learned societies receive their operating subsidies from
taxpayers, donors, and grants -- much like colleges and
universities. Since the societies are chartered for the purpose
of dissemination, there is no reason why one dissemination
activity, such as the sale of publications, should not support
others, such as scholarships, meetings, etc. Libraries have
played a separate economic role, providing a market for
publications in the course of selecting, disseminating, and
preserving in appropriate ways. In contrast, universities
chartered for the purposes of education, research, and public
service have no excuse for acquiring commercial real estate
and hoarding financial assets while letting their libraries
go to pot.

I fault the scientific and scholarly associations for tacitly
standing by, well aware that universities were degrading their
libraries (as pointed out by the National Enquiry on Scholarly
Communication in 1979). By remaining silent on library quality
the associations failed to protect their members' interests or
their missions of promoting the dissemination of knowedge in
their various disciplines.

>                      Regardless of the theoretical correctness
> of his assertions, which are debatable, this is really a
> fruitless argument.  Librarians are pretty much restricted to
> maximizing limited funds.  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.

Many colleges now calling themselves "universities"
never should have ventured beyond the 4-year degree.
Moreover, those that are run like ag-voc-trade schools
should probably stop pretending to be something that
they are not. Most troubling are the shameless efforts
to bypass peer review to obtain science grants. With
no basis for quality, such grants are the worst kind
of political pork -- cynical and shameless.

> 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.  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.

Yes. Explanations ARE due the sponsors of research. As a
taxpayer, I am calling research universities to account
now. I hope that the same organizations that investigated
the abuses of indirect costs and tuition price fixing
take notice.

> By the way,  I never knew that Vannevar Bush had been fully
> empowered to set the agenda for higher education for generations
> to  come.  Thanks for enlightening me.

Bush may have been called the "prophet of the Information
Age" in part because he appreciated the value of good
resources ... Little did he expect that his blueprint for
our national investment in science and education would be
perverted into a smorgasbord where universities would
graze like small children and shirk all responsibility for
balancing their diets or for making a mess. Maybe Bush
expected this to happen. His biographer wrote:

        His great failure and his enduring triumph was
        his realization that the course of modern
        history would be shaped by large hierarchical
        institutions, making plans and settling scores
        behind closed doors, working best when insulated
        from public opinion. That these institutions lost
        their energy and legitimacy as the 20th century
        waned would not have surprised Bush.
        [G P Zachary. ENDLESS FRONTIER. NY Free Press,
        1997 p. 8]

Thanks for some excellent comments.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Scholarly Publishing Principles -- David Goodman
Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 23:30:52 -0400
From: Albert Henderson <>

on 13 Jun 2000 David Goodman <> wrote:


> the administrators of that typical state college do not see it that
> way. I am cynical enough to suggest that this is because of the
> need of these administrators, when confronted with the inconsistent
> and unreliable funding of these institutions, to find all possible
> excuses for denying tenure.
> To some extent, the legislatures and trustees responsible for the
> funding of these institutions are at fault for requiring a higher
> (or at least more expensive) standard of work than they are willing
> to pay for.

> Not that all who want to should not do research--we merely need a
> radically less expensive way of publishing it. We now have such a
> way. So the remaining step is for academic institutions to accept
> peer reviewed publications regardless of format, and accept other
> modes of peer review than that by journal referees, and thus judge
> work by the quality of the work, not by the expense put into the
> publication of the results.

Of course, just as the awarding of grants can
bypass that tiresome peer review, cut thru
expensive red tape, and get the money flowing
where it is needed. This means what scientists
need to establish their competence and advance
their career is the other mode of review:

         lobbyists and soft money!

Albert Henderson