[linux-elitists] arXiv moving (fwd)

Jay Sulzberger jays@panix.com
Sat Jul 28 09:24:53 PDT 2001

Nature: 05 July 2001 Volume 412 No. 6842

Los Alamos loses physics archive as preprint pioneer heads east

Declan Butler

The Los Alamos preprint server, which has established itself as
physicists' favourite place for early circulation of their research, is
leaving the New Mexico laboratory to set up shop at Cornell University in
New York state.

Paul Ginsparg, who founded the server now known as arXiv 10 years ago, is
leaving the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to take up a faculty
position at Cornell, and the server will move with him. Cornell plans to
expand arXiv's reach into other disciplines, and to use it as a test bed
for research into digital libraries.

Ginsparg says growing dissatisfaction with LANL is a major reason for his
departure, citing a lack of enthusiasm for the archive among senior staff.
Only his former group leader Geoffrey West and library director Rick Luce
gave the archive strong support, he says. He adds that the nuclear-weapons
laboratory has been shifting its support towards large groups at the
expense of individual investigators, and is suffering from declining
morale in the wake of recent security scandals.

Los Alamos experienced a painful security clamp-down after Wen Ho Lee, a
Taiwanese-born engineer at the laboratory, was arrested two years ago on
espionage charges and then released (see below). The loss of the
prestigious server delivers another blow to the laboratory's standing in
the scientific community.

William Press, deputy director of the laboratory, says: ``We're sorry to
see Paul go, but Cornell has created a very unique opportunity for him. We
are very proud to have been the incubator of this revolution in scientific
publishing.'' He adds that senior laboratory staff have strongly supported
the archive activity, but admits that it was sometimes ``a struggle to see
where it would fit in'' with the laboratory's other activities.

The archive currently receives around $300,000 in annual funding from the
National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, which runs the lab,
and LANL itself. Ginsparg says that consultation with the archive's
advisory board, funding agencies and the American Physical Society,
produced a consensus that the operation would enjoy more secure funding
and stronger intellectual support at a university than at LANL.

But for Ginsparg, the last straw was his recent salary review, which, he
says, described him as ``a strictly average performer by overall lab
standards; with no particular computer skills contributing to lab
programs; easily replaced, and moreover overpaid, according to an external
market survey''.

LANL officials declined to comment on Ginsparg's case, but said that some
recent salary increases at the laboratory have been available only to
certain combinations of programmes and individual skills. Peter Lepage,
chair of Cornell's physics department, notes wryly of the LANL assessment:
``Evidently their form didn't have a box for: `completely transformed the
nature and reach of scientific information in physics and other fields'.''


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