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Re: Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Critique of PRC Study
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- Subject: Re: Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Critique of PRC Study
- From: "Jim O'Donnell" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sun, 20 May 2007 21:09:06 EDT
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David, I have considerable difficulties with the vision of the research university you outline below, but I'm going to get at it in a roundabout way, by talking about champagne.
We just finished Commencement at Georgetown, and after the ceremonies for the School of Continuing Studies yesterday, we had a reception for graduates and families, with champagne (inexpensive) in plastic glasses, sandwiches, and mini-pastries. In a University, there is always someone who will say that such expenditure does not square with our highest and noblest missions and we could save money on the frivolity and apply it to the core business. Surely, we can reallocate!
As it happens, receptions after Commencement for us, however, are highly strategic, and will help us build our next new badly-needed science building. Not because we expect tipsy and replete donors to write large checks, but because every new building we build must pass a stringent examination from local government, heavily influenced by the immediate, quite prosperous, and quite congested Georgetown neighborhood, who worry about traffic, congestion, pollution, and drunken students. Managing Commencement day with thousands of families flooding the neighborhood is a challenge. By providing "treats," we keep those hordes on campus a while longer, scatter them to the breezes in a more irregular pattern that eases traffic, and do not send them pounding down the pavement into overcrowded cafes and jammed streets looking for a quick bite to eat. And the neighbors are a little less riled up at us and a little more willing to listen to the next proposal.
That's a very small metaphor for the way the concerns of any given research institution are many and intertwined. I admire and am grateful for your high estimation of our nobility of purpose, and I share it as aspiration. But with the inevitably limited resources at our disposal, we must make choices, feed many competing demands that are *all* integral to our success, and cope with the fact that the ambitions of faculty quite reasonably continue to expand and to challenge any attempt to bring budgets into equilibrium. It's just that bursting-at-the-seams quality that most richly demonstrates our ambition and energy, but we're always scrabbling. Everybody is, even Harvard.
Now the implicit communism of your "from each according to its ability to do and to pay" must be seen in that light. Research loses money for every institution that undertakes it, every single one of them. The indirect cost rates from our most generous givers do not cover all the indirect costs of research, and many funders do not pay anywhere near close to the federal rate; and nobody pays to build or significantly renovate buildings. There is no money to spare.
All that I would think both true and obvious on a moment's reflection.
When we come to the question of "who pays" for scientific publication, the situation is hardly less clear as a result. If we lived in a magical world where one new funding model (author pays, let's say) would instantaneously replace an old world (library pays for subscriptions, let's say), and where the costs in the new funding model equaled *or fell short* or the costs in the old model, then as Provost I could be almost indifferent to the change of model -- might not even notice it.
But that is not what is happening around us. New demands for support come from OA journals; new needs express themselves for institutional and other repositories for data; and well-established journals continue to be unavoidable.
I particularly want to say that the scariest straw in the wind these last months has been repositories and preservation: the first great generation of exciting and worthy digitization projects has matured and I know several that are now looking about for the generous institution that will offer to look after them forever -- with no financial support available to do so. I hope they (in particular the ones I have a personal history in helping shape and support) succeed, but I don't know what I'd say if they came to me at Georgetown. That need will only grow. I know it makes some OA folks cranky when the librarians pose a price tag for an institutional repository that seems to be beyond what is immediately needed; but it is the mark of a canny administrator at any level to be skating to where the puck will be, not where it is, and to plan for the needs that we know will be there, before they crush us.
So, alas, we don't live in a magical world, and I can't "just" throw a switch and declare rainwater to be beer or information to be free for all users. And I'm not waiting for the federal government to step up to the plate, either: they know how to do mandates, they're less good at long-range assured funding. I know one nationally important library project that took a direct hit amidships on federal funding this past winter, when the Dems took over and started imposing fiscal discipline on the federal budget. They survived, but they know the cannons are still out there, pointed in their direction.
In such an environment, it behooves us all to proceed with intelligent ambition (to make the new) and caution (to preserve the necessary) and think about complex transition strategies towards a world of more widely available scientific and scholarly information. I know no one who does not want the audiences to grow; but there is no One Way, not green, not gold, not paved with yellow bricks.
On 5/20/07, David Goodman <email@example.com> wrote:
Research universities do not exist for their own self-aggrandizement. Even for their beneficial effect upon their students is not the primary purpose, although such benefit is real. They exist in order to promote research, and are directly and indirectly funded for the purpose. Research is done not primarily for the benefit to the researcher, although this benefit is also real. Nor is it done for the benefit of the institution. It is done for the advancement of basic science and scholarship, in the expectation that this will bring material and intellectual benefit to society as a whole.
This has been true from even the beginnings: Lawyers and physicians and theologians were educated not so they would be rich, but for the perceived benefit to the security, well being, and values of the community. Today it is the same: an individual researcher may work for his personal intellectual satisfaction, but he is not supported for that end. Knowledge is attained so it may be published and used.
The rich institutions are rich so they may have the resources to do the research, to teach it, and to diffuse it, in the realisation that progress depends upon no one institution. The money they have is to be spent for these purposes. The cost for the effective publication of research is proportional the amount and quality of the research, and the grants and internal funding used for this can support the publishing as a necessary and in most fields relatively inexpensive part. From each according to its ability both to do, and to pay.
David Goodman, Ph.D., M.L.S.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Joseph J. Esposito" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Friday, May 18, 2007 6:33 pm
Subject: Re: Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Critique of PRC Study
The library budgets are funded by multiple sources. Send a kid to college and see. It seems very hard to make the point that OA is not in the interest of research universities, but that is the critical point. Phil Davis notes that 200 institutions produce 85% of all research. Allowing for the reasonable objection that we need to know how that 85% figure was derived, it nonetheless seems to me that the intriguing question is what percentage the top 25 institutions produce. It's going to be a big number. Why would the top 25 give this away? They are all (with the exception of the 2-3 with endowments that would awe Croesus) struggling to finance their operations, and they are to give away these riches? Why is it that McGraw-Hill and Thomson can make money with publications based on research, but the University of Illinois, Tufts, and the University of Michigan cannot (taking as my examples three outstanding institutions that nonetheless lack the cachet of a handful of others)? The top research institutions should take control of their intellectual property and commercialize it, not for the good of the world but to benefit themselves. Consider the alternatives: A university president could take a huge gift from a pharmaceutical company, a grant that comes with strings attached. Or a donor could fund a new program, slowly nudging university research into areas that appeal to the fancies of the rich. Shall we spend a moment on grants from the Department of Defense? Proprietary publishing, aka toll-access publishing, when placed in the hands of the universities themselves (where, it must be said, it absolutely does NOT currently reside), would provide a mechanism for funding research by distributing the costs to the users, the beneficiaries of that information. It would enable institutions to pursue their own research agendas. And that is for the good of the world. Joe Esposito
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