[Hi everyone, I don’t mean to hijack discussion, but I thought this message from Peter Reill was extremely relevant to the conversations we’ve been having here and on the Long 18th about the digital divide and the problems of unequal access to scholarly resources. If you feel strongly about this, please contact Peter at the email address listed below. Best, DM]
I am writing to ask for you help and guidance concerning an issue that is becoming increasingly important as the digital revolution in scholarship gathers momentum. I have been asked to attend a meeting hosted by the Mellon Foundation that addresses the question of the increasingly unequal access of scholars to digital resource databases that are critical to pursuing research in their fields. I have become more aware of this problem after a meeting of the ISECS executive meeting where our Japanese colleagues asked for help to access ECCO. And the more I talk with people newly hired at universities or colleges unable to afford the fees charged by specialist databases the more important this issue has become for me. As I ponder the implications of this tendency, it is clear that it’s solution is even more crucial for recent graduates who have yet to get a permanent position and independent scholars who cannot afford to subscribe to specialist databases.
It is a problem very few address. The Mellon meeting, which will be held in February asks us, members of societies “focused on clearly delineated areas and primarily concerned with advancing scholarship in their fields” to answer a number of queries that are both scholarly and organizational in character. I hope that those of you concerned with these issues would send me your thoughts about them. It is my plan to propose your ideas that I will outline in the next Newsletter, which will appear before the meeting, giving you another chance to express you views on the subject and any others relevant to the issue.
The questions the Mellon proposes are: “How important is access to commercial databases to scholars in your field, and how are scholars’
careers affected when they are at institutions that do not subscribe to those resources? Which databases are likely to be of greatest value to the broadest segment of your membership? How well situated is your society to serve as a conduit to these resources, and what would be required to make that possible?”
Are these questions sufficient? Are there any more issues I should be raising? What kinds of solutions do you propose?
I look forward to your responses and to using them to highlight an important issue for all of us.
My email address is;