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Open Letter to Research Councils UK: Rebuttal of ALPSP Critique Albert Henderson 23 Aug 2005 13:07 UTC

Dear Serialst

While sharing a vision of open access to information by
researchers at no cost beyond belonging to a library, I
believe that the behavior of university budget managers
over the last 50 years contradicts the following claim:

> The disastrous scenario predicted by ALPSP is that an RCUK mandate would cause
> libraries to cancel subscriptions, which would in turn lead to the financial failure
> of scholarly journals, and so to the collapse of the quality control and peer review
> process that publishers manage.
> Not only are these claims unsubstantiated, but all the evidence to date
> shows the reverse to be true: not only do journals thrive and co-exist alongside
> author self-archiving, but they can actually benefit from it -- both in terms of
> more citations and more subscriptions.

The fact is that the four percent of academic libraries
that control 40% of spending provide an economic base
for the scientific record.

As soon as plain paper photocopies became available and
interlibrary borrowing became legal substitutes for
paid subscriptions, these major research universities
cut their library spending, systematically whittling it
by more than half. One engineering school, Stevens
Institute, bragged it had cut all subscriptions, intending
to exist on loans. LSU turned down the same path. Not only
have subscriptions been decimated, the viability of the
scholarly monograph has been called into question. Perhaps
the worst insult to libraries was the closing of its
historic school of library science by Columbia University,
on grounds of poor profitability.

The claim of finance managers to have no money is simply
bogus in very many cases. As a matter of public record,
the profitability of all higher education institutions
increased by roughly the same percentage as they saved
by cuts to library spending, as reported to the US
Department of Education (see upcoming AGAINST THE GRAIN).

Albert Henderson


More reading:

Henderson, Albert. 1999. Information science and information policy.
The use of constant dollars and other indicators to manage research
investments. Journal of the American Society for Information Science.
Online PDF version
DOI 10.1002/(SICI)1097-4571(1999)50:4<366::AID-ASI15>3.0.CO;2-3

Day, Colin. 1999. The economics of publishing: the consequences
of library and research copying. Journal of the American Society
for Information Science. 50(14):1346-1349.