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Re: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others (Albert Henderson) Marcia Tuttle 10 Dec 1999 16:25 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 08:56:39 -0500
From: Albert Henderson <NobleStation@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: Re: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others (Frieda              Rosenberg)

on Thu, 9 Dec 1999 Frieda Rosenberg <friedat@EMAIL.UNC.EDU> wrote:

> Mr. Henderson,
> Do you think you're winning favor with us by pitting us against our
> employers?

        The most valued employees are those who can convince
        their bosses to change their minds, saving them from
        making huge errors.

        When NIH Director Harold Varmus announced his E-Biomed
        proposal, most of the bioscience community supplied him
        with detailed objections. I was one of the first. Some of
        the news accounts noted that some editors feared that
        Varmus might retaliate to criticism through his power to
        influence grants. I do not believe that he did this. He
        had planned to step down after 6 years, and step down he
        did. Perhaps E-Biomed fulfilled some dark campaign promise.
        It didn't fly of course. What's left is a runtish shadow
        of the utopian dream he offered.

> You seem to think that your money is in our pocket and that we are not
> doing enough to fill our pocket.  You will give us the daggers and robe of
> holiness to go out and get the money.  For this service you see yourself
> as a savvy fairy godmother with a rather slow Cinderella.  You shout at us
> "Don't you GET it?"

        I am waiting to hear a good reason why university profits
        should rise at the expense of effectiveness in the classroom
        and the laboratory. The dramatic shift in policy was done in
        secret, or it would have been challenged by others, as I am
        doing now, 30 years ago. Eventually, the error will be
        widely recognized and many universities will suffer a loss of
        confidence and respect in R&D as they have already in
        the quality of education.

        The major error of the policy was its anticipation of savings
        by fiat rather than basing policy on studies of communications.
        To compound the error, NSF, PCST, and OSTP abandoned interest in
        dissemination in defiance of the law. I believe they did this
        because they knew that further studies would expose the policy
        defects that I often cite.

> The value of the Mellon report to you is that it cost $12m, *and* proves
> your point.  Otherwise it would have been a gigantic waste of money.

        The report has value because it demonstrates the error
        of, "the dogma -- that IT will substantially raise
        productivity," meaning reducing costs. The value of the
        prior Mellon report, which embraced "the dogma" was in its
        release of previously unpublished data on the downward
        spiral of library funding.

        The major failure of both reports was to ignore the evidence
        of information science already published. If I had been a
        referee in their proposal review, I might have saved quite a
        lot. But then, maybe it is good they learned the hard way
        and are now possibly convinced of the error of "the dogma."

> Your market is telling you that your added value is
> overpriced--particularly in science, where the major proof of scientific
> validity is not peer review, but the replication of the finds by other
> researchers. Fast, the way the e-archives allow it to be done.

        Peer review never purported to prove scientific validity,
        only to provide constructive criticism and recognition of
        appropriate methods, materials, and so on. The more
        important role of peer review is in the evaluation of grant
        proposals. Publication is part of a social ritual that
        acknowledges credible workmanship, even if the hypothosis
        is tentative and is eventually proven wrong. What's more
        important about peer review, perhaps, is the assignment of
        referees as a part of their training, participation, and
        recognition. R K Merton has written about evaluation processes
        extensively in THE SOCIOLOGY OF SCIENCE.[U Chicago Press. 1973]

        Apologists for library impoverishment supplied lots of rhetoric,
        including blaming publishers and researchers and promising
        financial savings from IT. They failed in the area of solid
        evidence which indicates, for instance, databases cutting their
        coverage in order to meet demands for "affordable prices." In
        contrast, the research literature on science communications
        demonstrates how rich information resouces contributes to
        productivity by eliminating duplication and error.

        The mistake made by "the dogma" was to confuse IT with mechanical
        technology that reduces human labor and cost. Productivity with
        information comes in better output, rather than reduced input. IT
        encourages more labor-time, not less, to take advantage of new
        features not possible before! It's not just about making copies. IT
        also requires a considerable investment in hardware, software,
        upgrades, administration, training, and so on. You have obsolescence,
        which was never a factor in print and paper. The simple renewal of a
        subscription now requires expensive legal advice. Good HTML requires
        technical professionals in addition to the author and editor. Readers
        must all buy or have access to connectivity, workstations and printers
        that are far more expensive than 4 years' worth of textbooks.

        The "productivity paradox," the failure of IT to save money, is most
        evident in administrative spending, according to the National
        PRODUCTIVITY PARADOX. National Academy Press. 1994] Oddly, university
        managers _never_ cut administrative spending, as they did library
        spending, in anticipation of the economies of IT!!

> University administrators are finally demanding some quality in published
> research, which trend in previous messages you have repeatedly disparaged.

        What do they know of "quality?" The quality of research
        starts in "the laboratory" so to speak. Publishers and
        librarians bring order out of the chaos of findings.
        If dissemination is blocked, quality is compromised by
        avoidable duplication and error.

        The output of research -- publications -- grows at the same
        pace as its basic input, the financial investment (in constant
        dollars to remove the effects of inflation). Since 1960 US
        Academic R&D grew 7 times while spending on major libraries
        grew about 4 times. (JASIS 50:366-379. 1999) "Something,"
        as Dr. Henry Lee might testify when Alma Mater goes on trial
        for the murder of Minerva, "is wrong."

        By blocking dissemination, administrators have contributed more
        than anyone to the deterioration of quality in the laboratory
        and in published findings. Perhaps universities should be
        held accountable and forced to refund grants that were  not
        productive in terms of discovery. That would clear up the
        quality problem, wouldn't it?

> If quality increases while decreasing cost outlay and increasing
> university profits, this is a plus to them as administrators.  JUST AS IT

        Please explain how the decimation of library collections
        increased the quality of research and education. The faculty
        don't seem to think so. According to Harold Varmus, many
        researchers even use their grant money for subscriptions.

        "Just in time," turned out to average 16 days, according to
        a 1997 ARL study. It should be called, "Far too late."
        Referees, for instance, are often asked to report within
        two weeks. Obviously, they have no way to check unfamiliar
        references and be "just in time."

>                                    Tell us, isn't that the motive for your
> messages as well??

        I was provoked to investigate and speak out by the ARL
        Serials Prices Project Report in 1989. It was so far off
        the mark I got angry. I was further irritated when it
        became clear that "libraries" and "dissemination" were
        taken off the science policy table without so much as a
        word to the press. I have been at it ever since.

        I started in learned publishing in 1964 as a reprint editor
        under the tutelage of Walter J. Johnson. At the time I worked
        with top scholars including Henry Steele Commager, Harry Woolf,
        Paul Henry Lang, B.A. Botkin, Weston LaBarre, and others. I
        worked with top publishers and booksellers as well. At the time,
        there was a sense of close cooperation between publishers and
        librarians. I joined ALA and SLA and developed an in-house
        library for editorial research. I studied AACR to perfect my
        cataloging skills. I was among the first editors to join the
        Library of Congress CIP program.

        If anything, I seek a restoration of that collegiality. I don't
        believe this can be done without a candid dialog. Thanks
        for joining in.

Best wishes,

Albert Henderson