Thursday, December 17, 2009

Economics 17/12/2009: The latest on our Knowledge Economy

I will be blogging on the latest story from the 'emerging' economy of Ireland - emerging, allegedly from the recession - in a few hours time, so stay tuned. But for now, while cooking the dinner for my 3-year old let me bring to you the latest news from the 'Knowledge' economy Ireland.

Now, as a researcher I must admit, I know first hand that electronic editions of scientific journals are the sole source of published refereed research material I consult on a daily basis. Physical copies are too hard to use in modern research and archiving. And they arrive with a significant delay. And are environmentally less sustainable than e-versions.

Thus, electronic journals access is a must for any modern research in any field.

And here comes a bomb: Access to e-journals might be dropped by Irish Universities in 2010. Courtesy of the Science and Research strategy from the Government that just a week ago was science and research as the main strategy for our economic revival.

Here are the details from a leaked memorandum... I suppress personal names...

"Dear Fellows and Fellows Emeriti,

This note has been prepared by Dr F.B. of ... (Academic Department).

...alerting all interested parties including students that the Irish Government is about to burn the books. The universities of a knowledge based society must have access to electronic journals.

signed DMcC
Chairman of ... (academic body)

Dear All

Last night the Librarian ...briefed the Fellows on the current state of play with regard to the IREL/ on-line journal access service.

The position is not good and could have serious implications for staff and students at all Irish universities.

Briefly and from memory, the facts are as follows.

The service costs about €8-€8.5 million a year. Up to now, about €4.5m of this has been paid by SFI for science technology and medicine titles, but SFI have always said that their commitment was in the form of seed money and are now withdrawing their support. The HEA, which paid €4 million for humanities and social sciences titles are also stretched. But they may come up with some money. The worst case scenario may be €2 million, the best €3.5 million all from the HEA.

The IUA have been approached about bridging the gap, but either cannot or will not provide the ~€5+ million needed.

...In the short end of the medium term it will cripple research activity and undermine teaching in most areas throughout the universities...

Signed: FB"

Let me give you my quick 5-cents on this. E-journals access in Ireland is already relatively restricted compared to the US & UK universities. Cutting what we do have access to will simply mean plunging our science into the dark age of physical print, slow mail and distant archiving. In the age when Google and Microsoft are racing each other to put libraries on line, and IDA is promoting Ireland as a knowledge and innovation campus for global business, the savings of some €5-6 million at the cost of disconnecting Irish science and students from the rest of the world is just mad.

1 comment:

Behind The Pale said...

There are many policies which this government has implemented that I do not agree with. There are also many other policies which I wish they had implemented.

However, from a simple cost/benefit point of view, and given the amount of rhetoric this government spouts regarding the "Smart Economy", this quite possibly takes the biscuit.

On a side note, although I am wholly in favour of it, I sometimes wonder if this government believes that we are the only country in the world with the foresight to persue this type of "Smart Economy"...

Well spotted, Dr. Gurdgiev.