[linux-elitists] More sites targeted -- another view (fwd)

Eugen Leitl eugen@leitl.org
Sat Nov 16 02:34:50 PST 2002

I notice you picked up the same article, here's a followup on a 1300
strong list of librarians and (chemical) information professionals,
including government and private sector.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2002 08:16:02 -0800
Subject: More sites targeted -- another view

Personally, I'm tired of both sides of the PubScience debacle coloring the
facts and attempting to spin the issue.

Although I expressed my support during the comments period for the
continuation of PubScience, it was not a real research caliber database.
The database did not provide subject indexing comparable to PubMed or
INSPEC.  It did provide easy, free access to abstracts of journal articles
from multiple publishers in one place.  Convenient -- absolutely.

A couple of quotes in the FCW article Eugene Litl forwarded
<http://www.fcw.com/fcw/articles/2002/1111/web-science-11-13-02.asp> are
especially galling.  Emily Sheketoff, from ALA's Washington Office, is

She predicted that the elimination of PubScience will have a "big financial
impact" on research libraries.

The financial impact on research libraries, in point of fact, will be ZERO.
No research library, deserving of the "research" designation, was dependent
upon PubScience for subject access to the literature.  The database didn't
have the intellectual effort of a professional indexing staff behind it.
(Neither do Scirus or the other free commercial sector "indexes".)

The tragedy is a "tragedy of the commons"; the casual web surfer, the
independent scholar, students at smaller institutions are the ones who will
feel the loss most intensely.  Many public libraries, K-12, community
colleges, 4-year colleges do not have the wherewithal to provide unlimited
access to Compendex, INSPEC, and other major subject databases.  PubScience
was a free utility to help bridge that gap.

Susan Martin is identified in the article as a "Massachusetts-based academic
library consultant".  Her contention:

Closure of the site means that articles from several small scientific
publications "that aren't available anywhere else will no longer be
available," she said.

is equally disingenuous and laughable.  None of the publishers contributing
to PubScience, nor the DoE, were providing fulltext for free.  Pay per view
access to the articles was not an option in the PubScience service, either.
The articles were never available through PubScience.

If the issue is indexing, or visibility, the small society publishers very
likely did sustain a hit with the demise of PubScience.  The articles are
certainly available through ILL, just as they always have been to
nonsubscribing institutions.  The ability to identify these articles, at
minimal expense to the enduser is what has been diminished.

A truthful and honest discourse is the best recourse for librarians in
combating what may indeed be the first salvo in a long battle to keep public
sector information services in operation.

George S. Porter
Sherman Fairchild Library of Engineering & Applied Science
Caltech, 1-43
Pasadena, CA  91125-4300
Telephone (626) 395-3409 Fax (626) 431-2681

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