Issue No. 22

July 5, 2002

Paula Kaufman, University Librarian


Editor’s note:  Two important reports are about to be released to their respective communities.  Because discussions of each are likely to engender much controversy, I have devoted this issue to lengthier-than-usual discussions of both.  Regular form of reporting will resume with the next issue, scheduled for publication in early August.



The president of the Modern Language Association, Stephen Greenblatt, recently sent a letter to all MLA members encouraging them to discuss within their departments issues in scholarly communication that are affecting the ability of junior faculty in the humanities to meet rising expectations for tenure.  Greenblatt identifies a number of issues: inadequate support for both library and university press budgets, library decrease in purchases of monographs as a result of skyrocketing STM journal prices, severe financial losses by presses as a result of lost library sales and a general decline in the book market, and the resultant cutback by university presses in the publication of works in some areas of language and literature.  He concludes that the careers of young scholars are in jeopardy and he asks departments to consider whether books and more of them are the only way to judge scholarly achievement.  The letter is based on a report by the MLA Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Scholarly Publishing and asks MLA members for suggestions on actions MLA and modern language and literature departments might take to help ease the situation.  From Greenblatt’s letter:

Some junior faculty members who will be reviewed for tenure in this academic year are anxiously waiting to hear from various university presses.  These faculty members find themselves in a maddening double bind.  They face a challenge — under inflexible time constraints and with very high stakes — that many of them may be unable to meeting successfully, no matter how strong or serious their scholarly achievement, because academic presses simply cannot afford to publish their books.  The situation is difficult for those in English and even more difficult for those in foreign languages.


We are concerned because people who have spent years of professional training — our students, our colleagues — are at risk.  Their careers are in jeopardy, and higher education stands to lose, or at least severely to damage, a generation of young scholars.  And, I repeat, the central issue is systemic….


The report makes a number of recommendations, some of which I’ve excerpted below:

For Departments:

For University Libraries:

For Publishers:

For University Administrations:

Although the report has not yet been distributed widely, you can obtain a paper copy by contacting my office at 3-0790 or e-mailing



The National Science Foundation Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure released the first draft of its report on April 19, 2002.  The panel envisions a new age in scientific and engineering research, driven by progress in computing and communications technology.  It expects that the amounts of calculation and the extent of information that can be stored and used will explode at a rate that should shake up assumptions throughout the research community.  In a few years, it predicts, the contents of the historic scientific literature will fit on a rack of disks, and a computer that fits in a small office will provide more computing than all the supercomputing centers together today.  In the future, the panel expects researchers to:

The panel thinks that these will not be realized unless NSF makes a major move at this time.  If it doesn’t,

The panel will recommend a new large initiative, the most fundamental goal of which will be to empower radical new ways of conducting science and engineering through the applications of information technology.  Read the draft of which is sure to be an important and influential report at