Who's Gonna Pay for these Journals?

Town Hall Meeting: Who’s Gonna Pay for these Journals?

2:00-3:30 PM

Thurs., April 8, 2010

TMEC, Walter Amphitheater

Harvard Medical School

Scholarly Communication is broken.

Your access to articles in Brain Research, Tetrahedron Letters, Cell, Nature publications, and other leading journals in every discipline is paid for to the tune of millions of dollars per year by Harvard libraries.

Journal costs are skyrocketing and free market processes are failing to control costs--STM publishers can charge what they want without regard to value because they have a monopoly on the content that you have given them.  More and more you will be seeing "This article is not included in your organization's subscription " because libraries can no longer afford to buy back the content that has been freely given to the publishers. Commercial publishers make up to 40% profit on work produced here at Harvard and other research institutions. How can we establish some control over these costs and at the same time make it easier for you to regain control of your rights to use your own work?

Come to a Town Meeting and discuss what we can do to fix scholarly communication!


Free access app for open access content

We have just released a new iPhone application in collaboration with PloS Medicine and with the leadership of the Healthmap team (particularly John Brownstein) that allows you to read, browse and share content from PLoS Medicine including their features such as "collections". More to come in this vein from this and other knowledge sources in the near future.


Libraries can be catalysts for translational research

It's an open secret that most major academic health centers are lagging in providing their researchers with state of the art knowledge in the computational techniques required to analyze data sets with tens of thousands of variables. The exponential growth of the generation of these data sets over the last decade has far outstripped the ability of the average post-doctoral student to analyze them. With the advent of libraries whose curatorial taste and reference expertise now extends to vast biomedical data sets and their analysis, we are well positioned to catalyze the diffusion of bioinformatics expertise through the research community. One such example is heralded here at the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center.


Making new the old

In this era of fungible electronic sources of data, there remain unique sources of scholarly materials developed in the course of the conduct of biomedical research. One of these is the Countway's Center for the History of Medicine (CHoM) which has just inaugurated its new electronic public face. There, you can learn which of CHoM's holding have been recently featured in the Smithsonian Magazine, a new initiative for digitizing rare books, or the availability of a new important collection.

We will miss our book-filled bookshelves (at least for a while)

This article on the proliferation of incompatible electronic book formats and digital rights management (DRM) standards for book content is a stark reminder that much of what is digital is incompletely archived, if at all. This is particularly the case for our personal collections. I have some favorite novels and text books which I can still pick off my shelves in my office months or decades after I first purchased them. Until that unlikely day that all digital books are sold without DRM or that one DRM/encoding is adopted by all electronic book vendors, I will have to hope against hope that the vendor of the e-book I also use will remain in business. Otherwise, I will have to regularly repurchase all the books I purchased in electronic form every few years. Or just reread those older and less evanescent paper-based books.


the new conditions of the Harvard Medical School promise to be as nearly ideal as the forethought of man can plan

or so it says in this 1905 article from Popular Science now available to all through the Popular Science archive viewer (courtesy of Google). Worth reading also for many wonderful quotes including "A medical student so trained [ in regularly reading selected up-to-date publications] in the use of medical literature can hardly be content to depend on antiquated text-book knowledge in his practise in after years." Amen. But do our students currently know how to (and have the culture) get up to date genetic and genomic relevant knowledge from the web? Perhaps our libraries can continue to lead in this regard.