Just back from the Scholarly Communications Convocation. A whole day in one building is no fun, but the discussion which followed the lines that I am intensely interested in — open access, new ways of looking at copyright, service to the citizens, digital repositories and digital curation — made it all worthwhile.
Other SILS folks were very involved. Dean Griffiths as a reporter on the institutional repository session which was facilitated by Gary Marchionini. Much of the discussion involved Helen Tibbo’s ideas about digital curation. Brad Hemminger was there to talk about his experience with digital dissertations and his NeoRef project.
The whole of the faculty was well represented with good folks from many disciplines. Almost all expressed exasperation with commercialization of scholarly publishing and in particular with Reed-Elservier. This should be no surprise, but the extent of the exasperation was much greater than I had thought.
Additionally people seemed genuinely interested in open access and in the Creative Commons licenses in particular. The Science Commons was less well-known but since it was announced officially this month that’s to be expected. The overall good news is that the Commons idea seems to have broad support.
The need for an institutional repository was also widely recognized as a common need and a common good. Moreover the idea of digital curation was easily accepted as an obvious important step.
ibiblio got some very nice attention and props from folks like Vin Stephanitis, Lollie Gasaway, Judith Wagner and others there.
Let’s hope all these good things become action items.
Unfortunately there is a history of hollerin’ and not really acting that goes back over 20 years. Henry H. Barschall published a study called “The Cost-Effectiveness of Physics Journals” in Physics Today’s July 1988 issue (page 56) in which he showed that not-for-profit journals were consistantly a better economic bargin than commercial ones. This resulted in Barschall being sued by Gordon & Breach in a series of lawsuits in the U.S., German, Swiss, and French courts in an attempt to chill the discussion and to discredit him.
A decade later, the US courts finally found in his favor. But Barschall had died 6 months earlier in February 1997.
The University of Wisconsin conducted a 1998 study using Barschall’s methods and found them still to be true.
By the measures employed here, commercially published journals in all three fields [physics, economics, neuroscience] are significantly less cost-effective than journals published by not-for-profit enterprises.