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Re: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others (Albert Henderson) Marcia Tuttle 09 Dec 1999 14:03 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 9 Dec 1999 08:30:34 -0500
From: Albert Henderson <NobleStation@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: Re: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others  ...

on Wed, 8 Dec 1999 David Goodman <dgoodman@Princeton.EDU> wrote:

> Al, given that
> > the major research libraries stopped growing at the
> > same rate as R&D
> and although
> > It is an outrage
> how then should we cope? I do not think there is any way whatsoever to
> persuade the US funding agencies and academic organizations to significantly
> improve their library support; I have been advised that it is certainly true
> at my institution. Though of course you and others should keep trying, it
> would be hoping against all evidence to think that we will have more money in
> the future.

Attacking publishers and researchers rather than administrative ignorance
/arrogance and a dysfunctional policy has not helped. Hiding statistics
and ignoring credible studies of science communications and productivity
has not helped. As President Clinton pointed out in his press conference
yesterday, "most of life's greatest wounds ... are self-inflicted."

Such tactics have made your situation worse. They encourage university
managers to cut library spending. As long as administrators are told the
fault lies elsewhere, they will generously help themselves. Like the
bullies they are, they blame the victims. The record is fairly clear on

If you wish to reverse the funding trend, you must emphasize financial
parity of dissemination with R&D as an essential element of science
policy. You must abandon the insanity of "access not ownership" as not in
the interests of research and education. You must get behind faculty
senates. You must identify individual victims; take their stories to the
press and to your elected representatives. Post-Sputnik, Jesse Shera told
of $250,000 worth of research being wasted in duplication of a Soviet
report that was published but unknown to our investigators. Frank Sisco
reported it was easier to duplicate $100,000 worth of research rather than
to try to find it. These are the "$400 toilet seats" of Federal research

How many people are aware of university profits? Princeton's profit rose
from $268 million to $540 million according to figures in the CHRONICLE OF
HIGHER EDUCATION. In FY 97 it cut library spending $376 thousand --
certainly not out of need. On what basis does Princeton call itself a
university? It is a profit-seeking financial operation that produces
research and education _grudgingly._

I might add that Dept of Energy took 4 months to supply my FOIA request
regarding Princeton's library reimbursements under OMB A-21 (indirect
costs of research). (The law requires compliance in 10 days.) It finally
admitted that it had no separate library reimbursement at your
institution. Every other research university has taken advantage of it.
Can you justify this?

Incidentally, universities objected to my FOI requests for details of
library reimbursement on "privacy" grounds. Government agencies are now
reluctant to release detailed information to me. That's a good example of
what Max Weber called "administrative secrecy."

The library reimbursement formula is wacko, of course. It is based on
university populations rather than on the needs of research and researchers.

I realize that librarians champion better financial support of their
libraries. What is missing is leadership in the associations that claim to
represent the interests of researchers and the public.

For instance:

In 1975, the Congressional Research Service declared a "policy vacuum" on
scientific and technical information. A year later, the National Science
and Technology Policy, Organization, and Priorities Act of 1976 called for
PCST and OSTP to take an interest in dissemination. The Administration
ignored the law. NSF killed its research into science communications. The
word "library" is no longer used in science policy. The National Science
Board has trouble spelling the word "dissemination." I have detected no
objection to this huge lapse by any researcher or organization, including
Congress, other than myself.

ACLS's National Enquiry (1979) cited the 1976 Fry-White observation of the
slowing of library growth. It was sidetracked by academic politics, as
Richard Abel recently pointed out. (PRQ 15,1. 1999)

Richard Talbot made a similar observation of library growth in the BOWKER
ANNUAL 1984. ARL started collecting statistics on its members' library
funding as a percent of G&E around 1980. It took over a decade and some
provocation (thank you very much) to get them to cut loose a sample -- in
1993's Mellon report. Further statistics continue to be unpublished. Why?!

In 1989, 2 years after total academic library spending dipped by $110
million, ARL released its infamous SERIALS PRICES PROJECT REPORT, blaming
publishers and researchers for the crisis that was, in hindsight, clearly
manufactured by university managers.

1986 and 1989 saw the American Institute of Physics try to capitalize on
the crisis rather than to solve it. Here is a classic example of the
dominance of financial interest over editorial integrity. (THE SCIENTIST.
12,2 Jan 19, 1998) I believe it cost AIP/APS several million dollars in
legal fees.

In recent years, the librarian and faculty of the Scripps Institute of
Oceanography pleaded for better financial support for their library.
Rather than cite the disparity of R&D and library growth they blamed
publishers' prices. That gave the UC administration a moral out to ignore
the request.

Organizations like ACLS, ARL, AIP are chartered to promote dissemination.
Just because they dropped the ball doesn't mean they or other
organizations such as ACRL, ASIS, ACS, FASEB, APA, etc. can not pick it

> I see no long range solution except to drastically reduce the basic cost of
> the production and distribution of STM information. If this can be done within
> the existing structure of commercial and non-profit publishers of print and
> electronic journals, that would be very satisfactory. If it cannot, and the
> recent behavior of these organizations gives me no reason to think it can,
> another less expensive system must inevitably be adopted. Fortunately, there
> are proven practical models, with demonstrated low costs (xxx.lanl and
> others).

XXX.lanl is far from proven, 'tho its advocates will never admit it. It is
an informal exchange, not a bit in competition with the formal
communications of journals. It operates without organized peer review, for
instance. NIH's Harold Varmus was soundly rebuffed by the science
community when he suggested that NIH follow a similar plan.

More credible evidence is provided by the $12 million Mellon report just
released. My favorite quote:

 "The argument in favor of the wholesale adoption of the new information
 technology (IT) in universities, publishing houses, libraries, and
 scholarly communication rests on the hope -- INDEED THE DOGMA [my
 emphasis] -- that IT will substantially raise productivity...  It is
 difficult to escape the conclusion that IT has not delivered what the
 hype surrounding it has claimed." (R Quandt and R Ekman in TECHNOLOGY AND
 SCHOLARLY COMMUNICATION. U California Press. 1999. p. 2-3)

Surprisingly, one finds no reference to Baumol. This Princeton economist
indicated the "cost disease" in libraries is rooted in information
technology. Computerization and the falling prices of computer systems
were expected to reduce costs. Yet the decline of prices increased the
share of costly labor-intensive activities. (W.J. Baumol and S.A.B.
Blackman. JASIS 34,3:181-191 1983) Does this sound at all familiar?

Summing up, Newt Gingrich focused on the problem of dissemination when he
complained about the 'incoherence of science' and the incompetence of
bureaucrats to deal with it in his charge to the House Science Committee
on Oct 23, 1997. (see my article in SOCIETY 35,6:38-43 S/O 1998) Then he
self-destructed for unrelated reasons. Life's greatest wounds are

Thirty years of cutting library spending has savagely undermined the
productivity of research and the effectiveness of peer review. In terms of
duplication and error I have no doubt that it has cost the sponsors of
research 10 times the apparent "savings."

Maybe that's what the university managers love: their own "academic"
version of the $400 toilet seat.

Best wishes,

Albert Henderson