Letter to the Editor                                                                        6 September 1999

Journal of the American Society for Information Science                rev. 20 Sept. 1999

Baton Rouge, LA 70803


Dear Editor:


I was surprised to read the following in the JASIS anniversary issue:

For 50 years JASIS has reflected the modern information era when scholars sought tenure by publishing in paper journals, and universities paid twice for scholarly products (once as academic salaries, and again as subscriptions to academic serials). (Brooks, 1999)

The text does not support the claim of universities paying twice for “scholarly products.” Appearing in the article’s abstract, it appears as a self-evident truth. Having heard this literary image used to justify attacks on library spending, copyright, authorship, publishers, and tenure, I feel that it deserves a vigorous challenge:

No university produces all knowledge. It cannot have “paid twice” for knowledge produced by other universities, government, industry, etc. In many cases, it does not even pay once. I would make five points to support this view: 1. The average U.S. research university produces less than one percent of total knowledge, meaning it must acquire, paid or otherwise, the remaining >99%.  2. The U.S. contributes only a third of the world science literature, with the academic establishment responsible for 71% of that. That brings the portion not produced to >99.75%.  3. Of academic R&D, universities pay for less than 20%. Other sponsors pay for the rest. 4. Federal agencies reimburse library spending that supports their research.  5. Universities cannot have paid for what they have not purchased.  The difference between academic R&D and library growth is edging toward a 5 to 1 ratio.

I was also surprised to read, in a passage concerning preprints, the following:

Impatient scholars developed the scholarly journal to be a speedier communications channel than the book. (Brooks, 1999)

The book is not relevant to preprints. To my knowledge, journals never replaced it. Most historians feel that journals improved on (but never were faster than or replaced) the letter. The claim that LANL is, “the primary means of disseminating physics information,” is the unsupportable hyperbole of its newspaper source.

Another surprise, perhaps supportable but surely out of date, follows:

University libraries and university administrators recognize that the digital revolution will reduce their costs. (Brooks, 1999)

Considerable experience shows no financial savings in learned communications from the digital revolution and photocopying. Thirty years of cutting library spending expanded university profits; It also increased library performance failures and played havoc with researchers’ costs and cost-effectiveness. Library and university managers will eventually face the blame for this in the “Postmodern” era.

Sincerely,                                                                     Albert Henderson

Editor, Publishing Research Quarterly

P O Box 2423, Bridgeport CT 06608-0423.

FAX 203-370-1703

Email 70244.1532@compuserve.com

phone 203-380-0021 or 203-367-1555 (msgs.)

Literature Cited:

Brooks, T. A. (1999) Postmodern information science and its “journal.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science. 50, 1030-1031.