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Re: Random thoughts on scholarly communication

I think Anthony misunderstood Colin's use of the term "public good".  
don't think he meant "the public understanding of science", referring to
the gereal public.  I think we all here understand that the scholarly
literature is very specialised (Stevan Harnad used to use the term
"esoteric") and that most members of the general public cannot understand
it. Academics themselves ourselves are of course members of the general
public when reading outside their own specialised field.

However, "public good" in Colin's usage means (I think - he'll correct me
if I'm wrong) the good of the world as a whole, or in the Australian
context, Australia as a whole.  It is not necessary for scholarly
communication to be to the individual good of every single person; if it
advances knowledge, and indirectly commerce, then even people who do not
understand the content may benefit from it.

Fytton Rowland,. Loughborough University, UK.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Anthony Watkinson" <anthony.watkinson@btopenworld.com>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 6:28 AM
Subject: Re: Random thoughts on scholarly communication

> I do find that what Colin writes is (as usual) thought provoking and I
> agree with much of his analysis but I am puzzled by his emphasis on
> "public good". Scholarly communication is about communication between
> scholars. Scholarly publication is the formal part of scholarly
> communication (or at least part of the formal part) and involves scholars
> writing messages to one another and to scholars in the future, which are
> composed in such a way that very few members of the public can understand
> these messages. It is not the purpose of this exercise.
> Scholars know this. The CIBER survey (mentioned by Colin) uses the term
> narrowcasting in commenting on the results from one of the questions
> specifically aimed at elucidating this point. The URL for this survey
> seems to be moving around but currently I can reach it at
> http://ciber.soi.city.ac.uk/ciber-pa-report.pdf. I would guess that most
> scholars are keen on the "public" understanding what they are doing but
> this is a different business from scholarly communication. It requires
> explanation and interpretation and there is more of this about than there
> once was - at least that it my impression.
> To my mind the "public good" is best served if scholars are allowed to get
> on with their scholarship and not have "solutions" foisted on them by
> those who serve them and facilitate what they are doing. If you asked
> almost any scholar I am certain that they would rather librarians spent
> their money on materials than on educating them. Does anyone disagree?
> I know that I shall have ordure heaped on my head when I suggest (as I do)
> that the purpose of the journal as we know it is not to give access to the
> general public and that there is no moral imperative (as Colin seems to
> assume without question) to provide this access.
> Anthony Watkinson