we're in trouble! - (2 points)

Paul Schlosser SCHLOSSER at ciit.org
Fri Jul 1 17:06:38 EST 1994

In <2v1iht$aas at apakabar.cc.columbia.edu>
dan at cubsps.bio.columbia.edu (Dan Zabetakis) writes:

:In article <199407011425.HAA19537 at net.bio.net>,
:Paul Schlosser <SCHLOSSER at ciit.org> wrote:
:>The purpose of copyrights is not to keep information secret, but to
:>assure that those who foot the bill for distributing information receive
:   Sounds good, but doesn't hold up. Journal make page charges to the
:grants of researchers. The journals are usually also supported by research
:organizations that have independant budgets. And there is the further
:source of income from ads and subscriptions which are fantastically high,
:particularly institutional subscriptions. The journals shouldn't have much
:difficulty remaining afloat.

This is not a high-volume market so the cost per copy will be much higher than 
a news-stand magazine.  Publishing in general has (I'm fairly certain) about
the lowest profit-margin of any industry, and I doubt that Cell makes more than
Sports Illustrated.  They may not have "much difficulty remaining afloat", but 
there isn't a lot of room for cost-cutting.

:  The copyright is retained bacuase they can generate additional income
:from selling the abstracts to companies that provide on-line search
:capability and such. 

Should the companies who provide on-line search capability get the information
for free?  If copyright where not retained, then subscription rates would
drop since everyone could then make unlimited use of photo-copiers.

:  The net effect is that they limit access to the information. 

Yes.  This is a choice between 'evils': limit access or limit the amount of
material published.  Currently there is an incredible volume of information
available (for a price); cut into the profits and you will almost certainly
cut the volume, which leads to fewer papers published/scientist/year.

:It would be more availible, 

Yes, that material that did get published would be available to all.
But how many scientists really have trouble getting at this info?

:more efficient, 

In what way?

:and cost less money (to government grants) 
:if medline and such were free services.

Ah, the real point.  Scenarios of high school students wanting to use
medline are probably unrealistic.  The type of information (format, detail,
etc.) that would be usefull/helpful to the public is generally not to be 
found in scientific journals.  Even if these services where free, very few 
but scientists would use them because the background required to make sense 
of them isn't there.

The real issue is that there is less money/scientist now available, so that
we wish these services where free, which would leave us more for lab supplies.
I doubt that making them "free" will do much to improve public attitude, and
doing so would probably mean that the cost would come directly out of NIH/NSF,
instead of via grants (*someone* has to pay for it and private organizations
aren't going to do it for free), so the net effect on researchers would 
probably be zero.

schlosser at beta.ciit.org

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