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Help : Re: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others (Simone Jerome) Marcia Tuttle 06 Dec 1999 20:50 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 02 Dec 1999 12:19:25 +0100
From: Simone JEROME <>
Subject: Help : Re: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others
    (Albert Henderson)

This time, Mr Henderson, you carry the things too far. If the
argumentation of the librarians are flawed, what does that say about

I am a librarian but I was educated as a chemist and although my
contribution is not a benchmark of science, I learned by experience that a
good library, and particularly a good librarian, is crucial to scientific
research.  In all your communications, you repeat the same arguments as a
leitmotiv : that periodicals are expensive but it is quite natural,
universities must increase part of their expenditures in libraries and
particularly in an ever growing number of ever more expensive scientific

I suppose it is realistic for the few wealthy private universities, the
only ones you seem to know.

But, Mr Henderson, the research world does not limit itself to some US
universities although I may agree they contribute for a large part to its
product. What do you know of the situation of universities in less wealthy
environment whether in the US or Europe, not to mention developing
countries, to which you seem not to concede the least right to science
education ?

You are right when you say that access to secondary information is
essential but you place greater value on the journal-based bibliographies
than on databases.

And that on economic argumentation which is not serious. Critical
literature is too valuable to be published in journals where it is diluted
in other less lasting information. Series are better suited to that sort
of papers, see for instance the highly praised series 'Methods in
Enzymology'.  As opposing the journal-based bibliographies as more
accessible to institutions who cannot afford database access, please
remember that, for instance, the 'Journal of Organometallic chemistry'
which offers many of those annual state-of-the-art papers costs more than
a quarter of the price of the 'Chemical Abstracts' which gives information
to about 700,000 chemical papers each year. Self explaining, I suppose.

Another dubious argument is your reference to the difficulty for end-users
to retrieve information from databases. The problem is true but its
solution has a name : it is education and not to introduce as many
journals in libraries and let the users find the information by mere
browsing. Are we going back to Lavoisier ?

So my fellow librarians who I know to be among the best in the profession,
are archive-minded, and in your eyes, it is not a quality.  They are when
it is necessary to recover data concealed in huge mountains of paper
padded with most contributions which are serving more the ego of their
authors than adding to the global knowledge of science. Modern librarians
in science are essentially data-minded, whether the information is written
on paper or stored as electronic bits is just a technological difference
not a conceptual one.  But publishers are paper-minded. Although they know
the paper media will soon be replaced by electronic media in journals
production, they try to transpose the quasi-monopolistic situation they
have created in the paper world in the new environment. They have to fight
hard because the new frontier is less secure for them as entrepreneurial
people can more easily publish information at low costs with a far less
basic investment than before.

Definitely, we, librarians, have to help people think, neither read nor
write but think their own. Then they will naturally be eager to know what
other people have said, proved or suggested and they will read. And when
they will be sure that what they have thought is sufficiently original,
they will write it.

So the problem of the growth and scattering of the scientific literature
is more a problem of authors than a problem of libraries.  It is not
astonishing that apart from some particularly responsive and courageous
editors who resigned from their positions, many resist any change in a
system which was created by the scientific community, is serving the
authors more than the readers, and can sustain itself only because authors
and readers are two in one, and the interests of the author are
predominant over the interests of the reader.  Too much emphasis is put on
authorship which is now compulsory for hiring, tuition, promotion,
award..., only because such information seems more objective when
comparison is necessary. Authors are to publishers what movie actors are
to show-agents. With some stars, as editors of course, and plenty of more
or less good writers, a publisher can make a fortune -- and they do.  As
writers are easily replacable and new stars appear to launch new journals,
the system can resist for a while.

A 08:04 26/11/99 -0500, vous avez �crit :
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 20:11:05 -0500
>From: Albert Henderson <NobleStation@COMPUSERVE.COM>
>Subject: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others (Jeanette
>On 23 Nov 1999 Jeanette Skwor  <skworj@UWGB.EDU> wrote:
>Subject: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others
>> For those of you with access to the online edition of the
>> _Chronicle of Higher Education_, the following article may
>> be of interest.  You do need to be a _Chronicle_ subscriber;
>> you will be asked for your institution's login and password.
>> Basically it says a team of ten librarians from leading
>> research universities have taken aim at the one journal
>> specifically, in the war against the high price of commercial
>> journals in the sciences, targeting the academicians that edit
>> the journals. They cite the "padded contents" of this
>> particular title and the fact that it has an "unimpressive
>> impact factor" regarding citations by fellow scholars.
>> An interesting turn in the ever ongoing war on pricing, methinks.
>The Chronicle also quoted the journal's editor, a Texas A&M
>chemistry professor, who said, "The librarians would do well
>to talk to people who are scholars, because their basic
>arguments are flawed." (XLVI,14:A24. Nov. 29)
>I agree with the editor. The major challenge to researchers
>is the growth and scattering of useful information. The
>answer is secondary publications, such as bibliographies
>that are specialized and inclusive. (cf Herring. C. Distill
>or drown. PHYSICS TODAY 21,9:27-33. Sept. 1968)
>On-line databases are not available to everyone, as the
>editor points out. Perhaps more important, they require
>special skills and determination. Some scientists cannot
>retrieve their own articles by keyword! (J. Hallmark.
>COLLEGE & RESEARCH LIBRARIES. 55:199-209. 1994) A good
>bibliography with a narrow, sharp focus may be a far
>better solution for current awareness than even SDI
>services that require a profile of soon-to-be obsolete
>The inclusion of conference papers is also very much in
>the interest of the audience for a specialized journal,
>since considerable research is never "published." The
>editors who attended the 1997 conference on peer review
>made it clear that they admit a bias against publishing
>negative results. (JAMA 15 July 1998). The conference
>also included a study (not the first) indicating
>considerable research activity aired at conferences is
>never reported in a journal. While researchers cannot go
>to every meeting, they can read and pick up the phone.
>Bibliographies, conference papers, comments, abstracts,
>and other news items typically not cited will dilute
>the impact factor. But then, information scientists have
>always cautioned that use of the impact factor by itself
>is unwise. If I recall correctly, a warning is posted
>right in the front of JOURNAL CITATION REPORTS.
>News is valued by serious researchers, even if it may
>be considered ephemeral by archive-minded librarians.
>In another interesting turn in the ever ongoing war on
>pricing, the same issue of the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER
>EDUCATION, revealed the huge profits of private
>universities. (A44+) Using its data, I determined that
>39 Research Universities' profits were up 4 points,
>about 25% of revenues -- at the expense of library
>spending and research productivity I believe. I note
>two ARL universities with hundreds of millions of
>dollars in profits chose to cut their library
>spending last year ...
>Albert Henderson

Simone JEROME, Librarian
University of Liege
Institute of chemistry B6
4000 Sart Tilman (Liege 1)

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