175.1 RESPONSE TO FRED FRIEND ON PRICING AND PUBLISHERS IN NO. 173
Robert Campbell, Blackwell Science Ltd., care of firstname.lastname@example.org; Albert Henderson, Publishing Research Quarterly, email@example.com; and Janet Webster, firstname.lastname@example.org
From Robert Campbell (received February 3, 1997):
Fred Friend writes as though the price of journals is a crisis for librarians that has developed recently. I quote from a report prepared for the Association of American Universities in 1927:
Librarians are suffering because of the increasing volume of publications and rapidly rising prices. Of special concern is the much larger number of periodicals that are available and that members of the faculty consider essential to the successful conduct of their work. Many instances were found in which science departments were obliged to use all their allotment of library purposes to purchase their periodical literature which was regarded as necessary for their work or the department.
On what evidence does Fred Friend base his claim that 80% of what is
published is not read? He is disregarding the research, for example, of
Tenopir and King. The Adonis document delivery service has recorded
remarkably flat usage across all articles rather than peaks and troughs.
From Al Henderson (received February 2, 1997):
Fred Friend complains that publishers' prices continue to rise faster than inflation and library budgets. "Why are we talking to publishers?" he says.
First, Friend's question is absolutely correct. Librarians talking to publishers has been a waste of time and energy. Publishers have no control over the allocation of resources to basic research which has generated the exponential increase in journal articles underlying the increases in prices. Publishers simply respond to the expressed needs of researchers. Research expenditures are controlled by sponsors and the folks who propose and encourage research investment -- the group that I describe as policy insiders. Talk to them.
Talk to university presidents, agency heads, the White House science advisor, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, legislators, and others who guide and control research policy. Ask why has financial support for libraries not kept pace with the growth of research? Ask how can lab and field research maintain cost-effectiveness without more library research and better preparation (a/k/a "evaluation and synthesis of research results"). Ask how can proposals be developed without the background afforded by review articles and library collections that are comprehensive enough to prepare them? Ask why must researchers travel to browse effectively? Ask how will future generations of researchers be trained without the support of experienced librarians and up-to-date collections? Ask how have universities justified, in terms of research productivity and educational effectiveness, their impoverishment of their libraries.
Talk to the associations that are chartered to represent the interests of scientists, engineers, physicians, and scholars -- such as the American Physical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, IEEE, etc. They have been aware of this problem for decades and mute -- a profound policy error in my eyes. Ask why have their science policy people been silent since 1969?
Talk to the government agencies who are responsible for major investments in science. Ask why do they fail to assess the information resources actually used by researchers -- university libraries -- in the formulation of proposals and reviews? Ask why are overhead reimbursements unrelated to actual use of library resources by government researchers and reviewers? Ask how can the U.S. compete in world science when it has been failing to import and disseminate foreign research? Ask what happened to the 1975 recommendations of the Senate subcommittee on the National Science Foundation.
The price of journals is insignificant compared to costs associated with the quality of research, the excellence of researchers, and the productivity of investments in science. The cost-effectiveness ingredient in research is knowledge. When the knowledge ingredient is ignored, poor or stale, the research fails -- as observed by Conyers Herring, W. D. Garvey, W. O. Spitzer, and others. In short, the decimination of library collections has probably cost far more than the policy of cost containment has saved.
Second, I challenge Friend's assertion, "80% of what they publish is never
read." Let's not return to the twilight zone marked by the notorious Pitt
study and ARL's economic consultants report. Serious research summarized
last year in LJ by Donald W. King and Carol Tenopir indicates not only that
journal articles are well read but that the importance of library
collections to scientists and engineers has increased steadily.
From Janet Webster (received February 10, 1997):
As the current president of the International Association of Aquatic
and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers, I recently sent
the following letter to the editors and publishers of our major
journals. I thought it appropriate in light of the current discussion
in the pricing newsletter. The pricing issue is not new, but IAMSLIC
agrees that we all need to talk more. IAMSLIC represents a cross-section of
libraries, from those associated with major universities to small,
independent field stations. Mr. Friend's letter and Ms. Whisler's reply are
both from the perspective of bigger institutions. I think IAMSLIC's letter
voices similar concerns from a different constituency.
January 20, 1997
To the Editors and Publishers of Marine and Aquatic Journals,
The International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC) is an association of more than 270 international members who manage libraries and information centers for aquatic, marine and oceanographic laboratories worldwide. On behalf of the IAMSLIC membership, I am writing to express our dismay over the current state of journal pricing. We believe the publishing and vending communities share our concern over the future of scientific information distribution. So, IAMSLIC would like to work with all concerned to find distribution methods that would fit within an economic model that all laboratories could afford while providing excellent access to students and researchers.
In 1888, the new director of the Marine Biological Laboratory, C.O. Whitman, wrote:
A library is a necessity in such a laboratory, and it must be provided for in one way or another....In addition to text-books and standard works or reference, we must have, at the minimum to begin with, all the important journals now printed in the four principal languages.
In fact, the library did begin to collect in more than 35 languages, and by the 1930's had one of the most complete basic biology and life science journal collections. Today, over one hundred years later, no one could dream of, or even propose, collecting at that level because of the current economic model publishers apply to libraries.
During the past few years, journal prices have escalated at a rate that outstrips any other single library resource that is purchased or supported on a regular basis. The two factors contributing to any increase or decrease in serials prices are: 1) the effect of an exchange rate, and 2) price increases introduced by the publisher. Exchange rates have not been favorable in the past few years for US libraries that buy subscriptions from foreign publishers. Publishers have added regular price increases covering their operating costs plus a percent for profit. In the new economic model, the practice of building in the cost of "canceled" journals for the remaining subscribers is probably the most troublesome for libraries.
Journal publishers have claimed numerous reasons for these increases, but the net result is their prices are higher, and libraries are canceling journal titles at an unprecedented rate. In this spiral, the publishers are faced with a declining subscriber base and libraries are...relying increasingly on interlibrary loan, document delivery services, and other means to fill the needed information gap. The main players, authors, scholars, and students, all lose in this scheme.
Most of the institutions represented in IAMSLIC, small and large, have always been able to commit to the "delivery" of scientific information published in the journal literature. This commitment is becoming just an empty sentiment. The price of scientific information is so out of reach for marine science libraries that future students and scholars will not be able to use the most needed tool for their research -- information.
We are very much aware that in the Digital Age, libraries will become the knowledge navigators, guiding on-line patrons to the information they seek. The only problem is, it will cost billions of dollars to put collections and facilities on-line, and the money has to come from somewhere. Publishers must look at libraries as partners and not as the funding source of their research and development efforts in this area. If we cannot afford the current print products, we are not going to be able to afford more expensive electronic versions.
The current situation of rising costs and cancellation of journals is not a model for success. We would like to know from the publishers of marine science and oceanographic journals what it is that we can do to make this work for all of us. Some publishers already regularly communicate with IAMSLIC through our annual conference. We would welcome others to that forum. We would also encourage a dialogue with any of the publishing and vending community via our print newsletter and listserv. This is a problem for all of us and the solution needs to come from all of us.
Statements of fact and opinion appearing in the _Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues_ are made on the responsibility of the authors alone, and do not imply the endorsement of the editor, the editorial board, or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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