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Re: Clarification of "parasitism" and copyright (Dan Lester) Marcia Tuttle 11 Feb 2002 22:18 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 10:41:09 -0700
From: Dan Lester <>
Subject: Re: Clarification of "parasitism" and copyright (Albert Henderson)

Friday, February 08, 2002, 9:36:00 AM, you wrote:
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 19:39:57 -0500
> From: Albert Henderson <chessNIC@COMPUSERVE.COM>
> Subject: Clarification of "parasitism" and copyright (Stevan Harnad)
>         What Stevan will never admit is that university
>         managers have plundered library budgets since the
>         1970s in anticipation of windfall savings from
>         interlibrary photocopying. Any windfalls go right

I've been a librarian since the 1960s, and will be among the first to
bemoan the cuts in library budgets that have occurred since then. My
own institution is now undergoing a 13 percent budget cut due to the
poor economy, low tax receipts, and so forth.

However, if Mr. Henderson ever investigated the costs of "interlibrary
photocopying" he'd see that it is hardly a panacea in either service
or fiscal manners.  Yes, there are journals that are little used, and
for which the library can pay $50 each for the ten articles a year
that are needed from it for a fraction of the $3,000 per year it costs
to subscribe, plus hundreds more for handling, binding, and storage.
But there have always been such journals, even before the advent of
cheap and easy photocopying.  In "the olden days" scholars simply
visited another library to get the information they needed.  Many
scholars still do.

All that being said, I'm renewing my challenge to Mr. Henderson to
cite even ONE example of a profitable university that is supported by
taxpayers.  I don't know whether Harvard or Yale have larger or
smaller endowments than they had in the past, although I'd assume
they're larger.  I won't, however, presume to tell those private
institutions how they should spend their funds.

>         to the bottom line. University profitability has
>         never been greater. Doubling library spending
>         would not harm any academic program.

Since our current budget cuts of ten million dollars or so will
probably not only force the cancellation of some journals, but also
the termination of some untenured faculty members, I'd like to know
how ading a couple million to the library materials budget, plus some
staff to handle the extra expenditures, would not harm any academic

>         In spite of strong opposition from faculty senates
>         and individual researchers, the cancellation
>         projects proceeded.

Of course they objected.  So did librarians.

>         Libraries now have half the
>         share of academic spending that they enjoyed in the
>         1960s. Impoverishment impacts not only collections
>         but staff.

No argument. Library staff are particularly impoverished in Idaho.

>         The profession of academic librarianship
>         is at risk. Stevan's proposals would replace
>         libraries and librarians with computers -- many off
>         campus.

The profession as we've traditionally known it is no more. It will
change even more in the future. However, that isn't just due to issues
with budgets that can't afford every scholarly journal that a couple
of professors wish we had. The changes mirror those in our society and
would still be occurring even if we were able to subscribe to every
journal anyone ever asked for.  Even in that perfect world, we'd still
be dealing with issues of electronic vs. print journals, serving
remote users, learning to deal with computers and the internet, and so
forth.  I can assure you that libraries as physical spaces will not
disappear in the lifetime of anyone reading SERIALST.  They will
change in many ways and they will provide many more services at a
distance; they may even change to some new trendy term like
"Information Commons" (remember when some of us worked in Information
Resource Centers, Learning Materials Centers, et. al.?), but they'll
still be providing what we've traditionally known as "library
services", getting the information needed to the person who needs it,
in the most efficient and expeditious manner possible.

>         Moreover, researchers have never faced such an
>         impossible challenge to acquire and digest new
>         knowledge as they do today. Because of poor library
>         collections, many research projects have their own
>         subscriptions, paid by grants and unavailable to
>         library patrons.

Where those situations occur there are either poor policies, or poor
enforcement of existing policies.  Libraries should be working with
researchers to get funding put into grant proposals so that some
monies could come to the library to subscribe to the journals in
question.  Of course, that might be disadvantageous to Mr. Henderson's
backers, as those would then be available to another library by the
evil method of interlibrary loan, perhaps eliminating another $5,000
subscription from the publisher's bank account.

>         Preprints are not considered "archival," as journals
>         are. They have the aroma of conference papers and
>         abstracts. Steven's solution promises to serve up
>         sewage to researchers now drowning in peer-reviewed
>         information.

I'll carefully ignore all references to sewage and the question of who
is serving it up.  My opinion on the matter is probably clear enough.

>         He fails to admit that the oxymoronic
>         "preprint archives" proposed for biomedicine and social
>         sciences will attract trash, quackery, and fraud mixed
>         in with papers of value. NIH's e-Biomed program was
>         soundly rejected by the scientific community largely
>         for this reason. What works in relatively small and
>         mathematically-oriented fields would stumble badle
>         elsewhere.

I seem to recall some papers on "cold fusion" that were published in
referreed journals a decade or so ago. Other examples abound. Part of
the work of science is to get new ideas and theories out into the
marketplace of ideas, and for others to take shots at them. Wasn't
"continental drift" considered crazy in the not too distant past? And
what about "racial superiority" or "evolution"?  There will always be
some "crazy ideas" and even some frauds that will make their way into
the referreed literature, if for no other reason than that the
reviewers are human.

As to what will stumble badly and where, I believe the marketplace
will make that decision.  Could it be we're nearing the end of the
road for some very rich journal publishing empires rather than the end
of some impoverished universities?


Dan Lester, Data Wrangler 208-283-7711
3577 East Pecan, Boise, Idaho  83716-7115 USA  Stop Global Whining!