Re: Disappearing microform titles (Albert Henderson) Marcia Tuttle 18 Sep 2001 19:59 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 20:01:33 -0400
From: Albert Henderson <chessNIC@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: Re: Disappearing microform titles (Peter Picerno)

on Fri, 14 Sep 2001 Peter Picerno <ppicerno@UTMEM.EDU> wrote:

> I would respectfully suggest that in your use of such phrases as:
>         ...When Congress cut research funding around 1969,
>         payment of publishers' page charges was the first
>         thing to go ...
>         ... Universities are doing their best to dislodge the
>         scholarly publishing industry ... the influence
>         of associations on academic matters ...
>         the importance of publications to individual faculty ...
> you could be interpreted as expecting that academia be held accountable to
> the publishing industry for something. I'm sure, however, that in your
> experience and wisdom, you know that the scholarly publishing industry is a
> service industry. It arose as a convenient mechanism for disseminating
> information for the use of others and for expediting scholarly
> communication. As such, the publishing industry has no place, right, or
> privilege to have expectations or to make demands of academia -- the very
> institution which the industry serves. It does have the right to make a
> profit and to sustain its profit-making activity so long as its product is
> of use to academia.

        My point was not clear. Uuniversity managers have made
        "publishing" a tactical battleground in their war
        against faculty. Tenure, the influence of individual
        researchers and their associations, and the financial
        power of associations are all tied to publishing. By
        cutting library spending, university managers add to
        profitability while undermining faculty authorship,
        influence, "shared governance," and the finances of
        faculty associations.

>         The dictates of free trade and consumerism will be the determining factors
> as to the continuation of commercial scholarly publication. For example, if
> the products which the publishing industry markets are perceived to be of
> poor quality, or to be of a value which is not consistent with their pricing
> structures, they, like any other consumer items, will be discontinued by
> their consumers. That would seem to imply that in the case of publications
> which are so very much more expensive for institutional than for individual
> subscriptions, that some of those publications might be among the first ones
> to be very carefully scrutinized as to their value and their usefulness. It
> is even possible that some enterprising libraries might go so far as to pay
> departments or individuals in departments to subscribe as individuals rather
> than to burden the library with an inordinately expensive institutional
> subscription.

        The libraries that tried that trick in the 1970s wound up
        with staggering claims problems -- chasing faculty rather
        than publishers. Moreover, many associations' membership
        agreements require their members to not cooperate.

        Re free market thoughts, I would certainly support -- as I
        have in the pages of SOCIETY and elsewhere -- a government
        re-evaluation of the product of academic research programs.
        [38,2:47-54 J/F 2001) By focusing on whether research projects
        take into account the entirety of the published literature,
        thereby avoiding duplication, bias, and error, we will soon
        see which research is well prepared and which is not. I
        wonder whether many Congressional earmarks would stand
        up under such scrutiny. The present administration is
        very critical of the current state of R&D, expressed in
        THE PRESIDENT'S MANAGEMENT AGENDA just released by
        the White House []

        I am also encouraging US WORLD REPORT etc. to look more
        closely at the collection failure quotient of library
        collections. That's the ratio of interlibrary borrowing
        to collection size. I would think any student wanting an
        excellent education would like to have access to materials
        without waiting two or more weeks.

>         The fact is that we now have the technology to communicate more widely and
> more quickly than ever before. This unprecedented facility of communication
> means, perhaps, that scholarly communication will revert to its most ancient
> form -- where the intellectual property remained in the purview and control
> of its author or a sympathetic host such as an academic or university
> publisher. There is no reason that an author -- or his or her host
> institution -- cannot, for example, generate a website to publish and store
> scholarly information or research. There is every possibility for such web
> sites to be maintained in perpetuity, as in the manner of some of the recent
> university-based journal ventures. Such information and communication can
> even be peer-reviewed either before, or as a part of, the 'publication'
> process, again reverting back to a 'purer' form of scholarly communication
> (which suggests ongoing dialogue rather than static statement). It is not
> inconceivable that scholars will find that they have, at their own
> fingertips, the ability to communicate their research in a way which could
> bypass the need for traditional journals and the traditional delays in
> getting information accepted, printed, and distributed. Isn't that what
> this, and many many other listservs, are doing? For example this debate,
> which would take months or years of 'letters to the editor' in print form
> can be carried out in mere days.
>         With the immediacy and comprehensiveness of electronic forms of
> communicaion, the prestige of a particular publication or title will quite
> possibly become an irrelevancy as the primacy of information, research, or
> scholarship becomes the important issue (as it should have been all along).
> And where should such information reside? In academia, of course, where it
> rightfully belongs. Perhaps once this model is more completely grasped and
> accepted, academic libraries will become the generating hosts and the
> repositories of the 'new' form of scholarly communication. This will
> increase the status and importance of libraries and it will be found that
> their purpose will have changed very little: only the tools and containers
> will be different. But the important difference is that academia will once
> again become the generator, supplier, communicator, and keeper of scholarly
> communication and information which has been part of its role from its
> medieval origin. There are many initiatives under way which indicate that
> this model may be more fully realized in the not too distant future.
>         With this in mind, then, returning to your above statements: you stated
> that " ...When Congress cut research funding around 1969, payment of
> publishers' page charges was the first thing to go ...," but why should a scholar
> pay a per-page charge to a publisher when it is possible to disseminate
> information through a more effective medium?

        Why? The page charges in question were supported by
        Federal research grants. It was not the authors
        but the university managers who decided to withhold
        payment. [Koch, H. W. Physics Today. 21,12:126-127 1968]

        Moreover, page charges have been offered as the financial
        salvation for the 'free' electronic journals that you
        like so much.

        The National Enquiry on Scholarly Communications, which
        noted the deline in library spending -- and called
        inadequate collections the most serious problem facing
        scholars -- suggested production grants might save the
        monograph. (1979) It is a shame, of course, that the
        university misers would not fund this idea any more than
        they would the libraries themselves. Richard Abel provided
        a 20/20 look at this panel and  the political pressures
        it suffered in PUBLISHING RESEARCH QUARTERLY [15,1: 3-19.

> You state that "  ... Universities are doing their best to
> dislodge the scholarly publishing industry ..." when, in fact, universities
> may only be reclaiming what is their logical and 'rightful' place and duty
> as the host for scholarly communication.

        The first scholarly journals were founded by entrepreneurs,
        not by academics, certainly not by anything looking
        remotely like a modern university manager. The first
        monographs and school books were printed by entrepreneurs,
        starting with Gutenburg who went bankrupt printing that
        famous Bible ... The oldest university presses came only
        after 100 years of commercial publishing.

        Moreover, the university presses are clearly another set of
        victims of the war against faculty -- casualties of
        "friendly fire."

>                                       Your allusion to "... the influence
> of associations on academic matters ..." begs the question as to why an
> academic association -- which is of necessity narcissistic and self-centered
> in order to maintain its focus and purpose -- should have any influence over
> the entirety of academia or over any body but that of its membership?

        Certainly associations should be able to evaluate
        and accredit programs and resources at colleges and
        universities. The power of university administrators
        should be checked and balanced by faculty senates,
        the AAUP, and by the faculty press. The tenure process
        is based largely on judgments made by peer-review
        publishing, much of which is done by associations.

>                                                                         Your
> statement about "the importance of publications to individual faculty ..."
> leads to the accepted assumption that publications -- in any form -- will
> always be important to faculty. But why should a library -- which must serve
> the breadth and depth of an entire academic community of thousands of
> students and faculty -- be expected to pay thousands and thousands of
> dollars for a publication which is of critical importance to a small
> percentage of the members of its academic community when those same members
> can purchase individual subscriptions at a fraction of the cost to a
> library?

        Several reasons. (1) Libraries serve future researchers.
        (2) Many researchers need articles published in a wide
        array of journals, more than any individual could handle.
        (3) Many researchers seek library copies of articles
        that they discarded not realizing they would need them
        later. (4) Libraries serve students who pay for the
        library's resources as part of their tuition. (5)
        Government research expects universities to be responsible
        for "conserving the knowledge of the past ..." (V Bush.
        SCIENCE -- THE ENDLESS FRONTIER. 1945) etc.

>         For a decade or so we were told repeatedly that the CD-ROM was a
> transitional technology. That statement, it turned out, was true. It may
> very well be that the scholarly journal, as we know it, is also a
> transitional technology.

        Publishers work constantly to improve not only their
        production capacity but content and coverage as well.

        Thanks for helping me clarify my contribution.

        Best wishes,

Albert Henderson