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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2002

Conference Reports

STS Program
ALA Annual Conference, June 17, 2002

Victoria Mitchell
Head, Science Library
University of Oregon

Three panelists spoke in Atlanta at the Science and Technology Section Program "Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue: Science and Technology Intellectual Property Issues in the Digital Age." Dr. Alan Covich, Professor, Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology, Colorado State University, presented good news and bad news. The good news was that librarians are making progress in getting the message about intellectual property issues to his colleagues. The bad news was that there is still a lot of work to do -- only a small fraction of scholars and scientists understand the issues. Most scientists are unaware of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Dr. Covich listed "what researchers want" from libraries:

Researchers are both producers and consumers of information. Researchers --

Dr. Covich advised librarians to meet with groups of faculty responsible for promotion and tenure, and to form partnerships with societies. He stated that the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) never would have thought of approaching ARL to create BioOne.

Dr. Covich also is concerned about database protection legislation and fair use. He brought up the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2001 (TEACH), which passed the Senate, and was sent to the House, asking if anyone knew where it stood now (no one did.) It is hard to define databases. "Creativity", "synthetic data", and "data aggregation" are current legal issues in North America and Europe. Legislation that would "copyright" data is in direct conflict with NSF grants that require that data is made freely and rapidly available. Scientists want to be able to publish from data. "Time is not on our side," he warned.

Dr. Linda Dobb, the former University Librarian of Bowling Green State University and currently Executive Vice President, opened the second presentation with the disclaimer that her speech was "not endorsed by anyone." Dr. Dobb reviewed the facts of the so-called serials crisis: the spiraling annual increases in serials costs, particularly in the sciences, with the consequent decrease in serial and monograph titles purchased by libraries. She addressed what contributes to this situation: fear, political lobbying, legal issues -- i.e., licensing, etc.

She reviewed what Fair Use is: a limitation on the exclusive rights of copyright owners, determined by the purpose and character of the use, and the nature of the work. Fair Use is being supplanted by:

Referring to an article by Steven Gass (2001), and to the "scholar's revolt", she posed the question: will a contest ensue over evaluators of scientific information? She encouraged the audience to:

The third speaker was Carrie Russell, Copyright Specialist, American Library Association. Her concern is with the privatization of research and the shift to privacy. After a quick review of copyright and patents rights, emphasizing that they are limited, statutory rights developed to benefit society, she spoke about what she sees as a modern "enclosure" movement, and questioned whether the "right of first sale" applies in the digital age. As evidence for enclosure, she cited:

Patents, in her opinion, are diminishing the public domain -- discoveries are hidden in order to get a competitive edge; patents lock up findings and prevent further research. Now, basic research can be patented. Since the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, universities retain private ownership of research, from which they can profit directly, and are partners with corporations. This can lead to withholding of information. The audience was referred to a handout "Reasons Cited for Withholding Post-Publication Information" (2002). She believes librarians should:

Questions following the talks included:

Q. Was ALA wrong to support the Tasini case?
A. No, because it gave ALA credibility regarding its stance on respecting authors. There is a way to compensate the freelance writers without being overly expensive, but the publishers don't want to pay.

Q. How do you talk about copyright and related issues to faculty, without talking about promotion and tenure?
A. (Covich) You shouldn't. Tenure and promotion are very important to faculty and must be included in these conversations. (Dobb) It is very tough. Tenure and promotion should constantly be reviewed to take into account electronic information and publication. (Covich) There are court cases re: tenure denial for publications in new formats.

Q. (To Dr. Covich) Would you encourage a young scientist to publish in a new, alternative journal, e.g., Journal of Insect Biology?
A. Would not ask pre-tenure faculty to take such a risk, but tenured faculty should be publishing in these types of journals. "That's what tenure's for."

Q. Explain/elaborate on corporate investment in university research.
A. ( Dobb) "not allowed to comment." (Covich) He is concerned about limiting the dissemination of information, yet resources are scarce. The important thing is to try to maintain a balance.

Comment: Elsevier sponsored this program.
A. We're their primary customers and there is disagreement among commercial publishers on these issues.


Campbell, Eric, et al. 2002. Data withholding in academic genetics. JAMA 287(4): 473-480.

Gass, Steven. 2001. Transforming scientific communication for the 21st century. Two new models: e-print moderator and shifting costs from reader to author. Science & Technology Libraries 19(3/4): 3-18.

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