43.2 STATEMENT BY THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY AND THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS: GORDON AND BREACH PRESS RELEASE IS MISLEADING, Harry Lustig and Ken Ford
Gordon and Breach, Science Publishers, Inc. P.O. Box 786 Cooper Station, New York NY 10276 USA (212) 206-8900 TELEX: 236735 GOPUB UR Cable Address: SCIENCEPUB FAX: (212) 645-2459 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Judy Whittlesey July 30, 1992 Katy Corbet Phone: 202/775-8881 Fax: 202/775-8912
INACCURATE SURVEY STATISTICS IMPACT
QUALITY OF SCIENTIFIC DATA SELECTED BY LIBRARIES:
European Courts Reject Barschall's Comparison of Scientific Journals
NEW YORK, NY -- Publishers are expressing genuine concern regarding misleading statistics compiled by Dr. Henry Barschall, according to scientific publisher Gordon and Breach. The data provided by Dr. Barschall continues to be used despite its repudiation by European courts. Publishers and scientists are concerned that access to scientific information in US libraries will deteriorate if librarians rely on Barschall's incorrect information and discredited methodology in determining the size of their subscription collections.
"Barschall's comparative studies are unfortunate distractions from the real problem facing our libraries -- the government funding to their institutions and the disbursement of these funds," said Dr. Lewis Klien [sic] of the Physics Department of Howard University, Washington DC. "By comparing single, unrepresentative elements of scientific journals, the publishers of these studies (all non-profit society publishers) are plainly taking advantage of the deficit situation faced by libraries for their own commercial gain. The results of these studies appear to be inducements to authors to contribute to the society journals because of their lower prices -- prices that are artificially low because of their advantage of subsidized costs through page charges and non-profit status.
"Until more funds, including those from page charges, are diverted to library budgets, I fear that more specious comparative studies will have a deleterious impact on the availability of information needed for our research, which ultimately has impact that extends far beyond our research libraries and laboratories," concluded Dr. Klein.
Recent court rulings in Europe have reaffirmed the importance and the right of continued access to and availability of scientific journals to the scientific community. The courts of France and Switzerland have found that an article comparing physics journals of profit and nonprofit publishers was a thinly veiled attempt to influence the purchasing and publishing decisions of scientific researchers with misleading statistics. The courts' decisions assure the wide distribution and accessibility of scientific research to scientists, students, and the public.
Publisher Gordon and Breach's lawsuits in these countries have emphasized that Professor Henry H. Barschall, author of at least two surveys comparing physics journals, created the erroneous impression that Gordon and Breach journals are more expensive and less significant than those of scientific societies. The surveys included serious errors in data and fact. Barschall's faulty premise for these surveys is that the decision to buy or publish in a physics journal can be based on a formula which compares the number of characters per page in a journal, its price and the frequency with which its articles are cited elsewhere. The advice to purchase or publish based on this formula ignores the relative quality and specialization levels of different journals, and special pricing options for different publishers, all of which account for different costs. Professor Barschall also made significant mistakes in his calculations which we pointed out to him before any lawsuits were brought. He refused, however, to publish a correction of his errors.
The ruling in the French court confirms that Barschall's surveys constitute "unfair competition by illegal comparative advertising" with Gordon and Breach Science Publishers. The court concluded that the publishers of the physics journals, the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics, published the surveys "in scientific guise," with the "goal" being the "denigration of competing journals by presenting them as more expensive and less influential than those published by themselves."
The French court ordered the two societies to publish the French Court's decision in the next issues of _Physics Today_ and _Bulletin of the American Physical Society_, to be disseminated in France and that the societies for [sic] the cost of publishing the decision in the affected Gordon and Breach journals. The decision has been stayed under French law pending an appeal by the societies and Professor Barschall.
In a related proceeding in Switzerland, where Gordon and Breach's international headquarters is located, the Zurich District Court held that the same surveys were "deceptive and therefore unfair." The courts enjoined Professor Barschall from publishing in that country any future surveys of the cost of scientific journals unless he includes specified information on the selection, price and citation frequency criteria he uses. A second Swiss court has so far denied Gordon and Breach any relief.
A German appellate court last year also questioned the usefulness of Professor Barschall's method stating that a subscriber to scientific journals could not "deduce anything about the significant value" of a journal from such a study. Ironically, the court refrained from providing relief to Gordon and Breach because it believed that German physicists and librarians were too sophisticated to make purchasing decisions based on the quantity of words.
"We are pleased that the French court has vindicated our position that Professor Barschall's articles constitute unfair advertising because he compared incomparable journals based solely on page and price data without taking into account the quality of the journal or the specifics which can explain a higher cost. Comparative reviews of journals are only useful if they are finely balanced with these other factors. The hasty and ill-informed acceptance of articles like Barschall's which negatively affect library purchasing choices can be a contributing factor to the continued diminishment of library collections. These rulings will help preserve access to and availability of research for the scientific community and the general public," said Martin Gordon, Chairman of Gordon and Breach.
43.2 STATEMENT BY THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY AND THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS: GORDON AND BREACH PRESS RELEASE IS MISLEADING Harry Lustig, Treasurer, APS; Kenneth Ford, Executive Director, AIP; email@example.com.
Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, Inc. recently issued a press release in which it claimed that European courts have decided to "reject" a survey of the prices of physics journals by Professor Henry Barschall that was published by The American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics. The statement is so blatantly erroneous that one suspects that either Gordon and Breach did not share all the facts with its public relations representative or that the firm simply was unable to get the facts straight.
Professor Henry Barschall, an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) who was a member of the physics department's library committee, some years ago became concerned with the increasing costs of maintaining the library's collection of physics journals. In order to understand the problem, Barschall and an assistant collected information concerning the cost per thousand characters and the ratio of that cost to citation frequency for a wide variety of physics journals. The results showed that the cost per thousand characters varied over a range of about 80 and the ratio of that cost to citation frequency varied over a range of about 850. An article describing the survey and the crisis confronting academic libraries was published in _Physics Today_ (July 1988, p.56), and the entire survey was published in the _Bulletin of The American Physical Society_ (v. 33, p. 1437, 1988). Although several surveys reaching similar results have been published by others, the survey was deemed of sufficient value that the Association of Research Libraries issued Barschall an award.
Gordon and Breach's journals fared poorly by the measures applied by Barschall -- the Gordon and Breach journals on average were over 30 times more expensive on a cost-per-thousand-character basis than those of the least expensive publisher and were nearly twice as expensive on this basis than those of any other publisher. (Twenty-four publishers were included in the survey.) Gordon and Breach claimed that the survey was inaccurate and misleading. Barschall and the Societies examined the Gordon and Breach claims and found that the alleged errors were either non-existent or insignificant. The Societies offered to publish a letter from Gordon and Breach in which it could state its claims, while providing Barschall a right to respond, but Gordon and Breach refused this offer.
Gordon and Breach's Campaign to Discredit the Survey
Rather than participating in a public debate concerning the survey before the scientific community, Gordon and Breach decided to attempt to discredit the survey through multiple foreign lawsuits. Although the survey dealt with the costs of physics journals to American academic libraries and was published in journals that are circulated predominantly in the United States, Gordon and Breach filed suit in Germany, Switzerland, and France. These countries do not have constitutional protections of freedom of speech, but they do have laws that declare comparative advertising, which is commonplace in the United States, to be illegal. Gordon and Breach claimed falsely in Europe that Barschall had been paid to prepare the survey by the Societies -- in fact the survey was unsolicited -- and asserted the survey constituted illegal comparative advertising.
Contrary to the Gordon and Breach claims in its press statement, the survey has not been "repudiated" by the European courts:
GERMANY. The German trial court completely dismissed Gordon and Breach's case. In 1990 the German intermediate appellate court affirmed the dismissal of the suit, stating that Gordon and Breach's suit was "materially without merit."[FOOTNOTE: On October 31,1990, Gordon and Breach issued a press release that is in some respects similar to the instant release. In that release Gordon and Breach claimed that the appellate court had given credence to its substantive claims that the survey was false and misleading, but had dismissed the case because the distribution in Germany was too limited. The Gordon and Breach press release was completely wrong. The court in fact found it had jurisdiction, and dismissed the case on its merits.] Gordon and Breach sought to obtain further review from the German Supreme Court, but review was summarily denied on the basis, among other grounds, that the appeal had no prospect of success. The case in Germany is thus at an end and the Societies and Barschall were completely vindicated. Gordon and Breach has made a payment of costs to the defendants.
SWITZERLAND. Gordon and Breach claims that the Swiss courts have concluded that the survey was an effort to influence researchers with "misleading statistics." In fact, in October 1991 the court in the suit against Barschall found that "no objection could be lodged against the methods used by [Barschall]," and that his application of those methods "cannot be charged with errors." The court did order Barschall to provide further information about the survey in any further circulations in Switzerland, but it specifically examined, discussed, and rejected Gordon and Breach's challenges to the accuracy of the survey. The court directed Gordon and Breach to pay 29/30ths of the costs of the litigation and an indemnity of 22,400 Swiss francs, which perhaps best reflects the court's assessment of the extent to which Gordon and Breach's claims were substantiated. The case against Barschall is now on appeal (both sides sought review), and a decision in a separate case brought against the Societies is expected soon.
FRANCE. In November 1991 a French trial court issued a brief decision in which it found the survey to violate French law. The decision did not include any analysis of Gordon and Breach's claims of error; the court apparently felt compelled to follow a stringent interpretation of French law forbidding comparisons of non-identical products. The case is now pending on appeal and the Societies are optimistic of obtaining a reversal.
The Basic Issue
Gordon and Breach is pursuing its commercial interests through threats and lawsuits against those who conduct or publish studies that provide information about its journals' prices and through its press campaign to discredit such studies. The Societies believe that they are serving the interests ofthe entire scholarly community in standing up to Gordon and Breach. Accordingly, although the Societies have been unwillingly drawn into these suits, they intend to defend themselves vigorously. Moreover, contrary to Gordon and Breach's claims, the Societies have been substantially vindicated by the courts in their efforts to resist the misguided efforts by Gordon and Breach to censor the flow of information.
In the Societies' view, Gordon and Breach should consider spending less of its money on law firms and publicity campaigns. If Gordon and Breach were to pass along to its customers the amounts it could save by foregoing such expenses, perhaps its need to seek to suppress information about its journal prices would diminish.