Sunday, August 12, 2007

this blog post: for you, $50.

I recently met a fellow who's working on a doctorate in literature, but his previous background is in Library ScienceW. I wasn't sure what the interesting problems in library science might be, so I wandered over to the wikipedia article and started falling through the links.

A few links out, I ran into the Serials Crisis article. Apparently (and Wikipedia articles close to the "Library Science" one are never wrong), the costs of subscribing to scholarly journals keep on going up -- libraries only have so much money for subscriptions, but there are ever-more academics and subfields, thus more journals. And if a given library cancels its subscription from a particular journal, that publisher's fixed costs are still fixed, so prices increase for the remaining subscribers.

The traditional academic journal system had seemed pretty shaky, especially in light of the Web; upsetting publisher websites (Springer, ACM Portal, IEEE's site...) seem like their sole purpose is to keep the enterprising students from reading an article. In light of how most of the science behind the articles is publicly funded in the first place, the articles seem like they should be public as well.

I wouldn't mind seeing companies like Springer just going away; universities seem totally capable of hosting journals -- over the web especially! There may be some compelling reason for the current system, and I'll try to find it out... but for the short term, tools like Google Scholar could go a little further out of their way to help us find the full text of an article!

The Serials Crisis: A White Paper for the UNC-Chapel Hill Scholarly Communications Convocation
The Crisis in Scholarly Publishing


Graham said...

Good post, good title.

Keeping students out is definitely one thing that publishers site do well.

I love Google Scholar. First, I use it to find the reference for a work and automatically import it into Zotero for my bibliographic database.

Next, I try to find a copy of the paper through the web. In many cases I'm stuck with logging into ACM or IEEE though the Gatech library, but as my academic affiliation is about to change perhaps that won't be an option without updating my memberships to both of them.

How do you manage? Does your workplace have institutional accounts?


Alex R. said...

Y'know, I think my current workplace does have some accounts... but I wish we didn't need them!

(truthfully, I haven't had occasion to read a lot of academic papers in the past few weeks -- more like documentation for particular packages, the management of which is another matter altogether...)

I hope UPF gives you the hookup like you deserve!