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February 8, 2001

Pitt group will consider how to fight threats to scholarly publishing

Printed scholarly journals may be priced out of existence within a decade or two, librarians and scholars warn.

In the meantime, published information in the sciences is increasing by 13 percent annually (7,000 new scientific journal articles are published daily), squeezing humanities journals out of library collections.

And, new copyright laws and reinterpretations of old ones are threatening traditional intellectual property rights of universities and individual scholars.

A new, provost-appointed committee will examine how Pitt can fight these and other threats to scholarly publishing, and how faculty can work through their professional organizations to tackle the problems at the national level.

Chairing the committee will be Rush Miller, Hillman University Librarian and director of Pitt's University Library System. Other members will include Ellen Detlefsen, chairperson of the University Senate's libraries committee; Cynthia Miller, director of the University of Pittsburgh Press; Donna Naples of the physics and astronomy department; Evelyn Rawski of the history department; Carol Redmond, a Graduate School of Public Health professor and vice president of the University Senate; Deane Root, professor of music and curator of Pitt's Stephen Foster Collection; Stephen Thomas, Philip Hallen Professor of Community Health and Social Justice in the public health school, and John Yates of the chemistry department. Provost Maher said another potential member has not yet replied to his invitation to serve on the committee.

Maher is asking the committee for recommendations by the end of June. "Depending on these recommendations, we'll have a better idea whether there will be a need for an ongoing committee," he said.

The provost said he is forming the committee as a followup to last fall's University Senate plenary session on "The Scholarly Communication Crisis."

The Senate session grew out of a historic, by-invitation conference in Tempe, Ariz., in March 2000, organized by the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). Among the conference's 36 participants were Maher and University Library System director Miller.

The AAU/ARL conferees issued a report arguing that increasing volume and costs of scholarly publications — particularly in the sciences, technology and medicine — are making it impossible for libraries to meet the research needs of faculty and students.

Moreover, pressure on library budgets from high-priced science, technology and medical publications has made it difficult for publishers in the humanities and social sciences to publish monographs or to afford moving to digital publishing systems, according to the AAU/ARL report.

The text of the report, "Principles for Emerging Systems of Scholarly Publishing" is available on-line at: See the Oct. 26, 2000 University Times for coverage of last fall's Senate session.

— Bruce Steele

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