The Public
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580-106-4 the public private issue in information the perspective from the national library of medicine two landmark documents formed an important part of my early education as director of the national library of medicine the first entitled improving the availability of scientific and technical information in the united states was issued in 1958 this is known as the baker report after dr william baker who was chairman of the president's science advisory committee panel that prepared the report dr baker was also on the panel of the committee when it issued in 1963 science government and informa tion the second report that was to influence my thinking about national science information policies this is the weinberg report prepared by a committee chaired by dr alvin m weinberg who at that time was director of the oak ridge national laboratory these two reports serve as the baseline for my discussion here today the baker report said our very progress in science is dependent upon the free flow of scientific information for the rate of scientific advance is determined in large measure by the speed with which research findings are disseminated among scientists who can use them in further research 1 few can quarrel with this statement 25 years after it was written presented by martin m cummings m d at the annual meeting of the american society for information science columbus ohio october 18 1982

Page  2 2 permit me now to quote the opening sentences of the weinberg report which state specifically who is responsible for seeing that this free flow of scientific information is maintained transfer of information is an inseparable part of research and development all those concerned with research and development individual scientists and engineers industrial and academic research establish ments technical societies government agencies must accept responsibility for the transfer of information in the same degree and spirit that they accept responsibility for research and development itself 2 the report goes on to point out since strong science and technology is a national necessity and adequate communication is a pre requisite for strong science and technology the health of the technical communication system must be a concern of government moreover since the internal agency information systems overlap with the non-government systems the government must pay attention to the latter as well as the former i have quoted extensively from these reports which have served as implied government policy because i believe the central points are worth restating flrst scientific communication is a sine qua non of all research in fact it is the end of the research process second

Page  3 3 scientific communication is the responsibility of all within the r and d community and third efficient scientific communication will require the cooperative efforts of both the public and private sectors the first two are axiomatic the third unfortunately is still problematic there are undeniably tensions between certain parts of the private information community and some elements of the public sector for example some of the information services of the national library of medicine have been challenged by a large dutch publishing company this issue has found its way into the literature 4 5 6 so i will not go into the specifics of the allegations made by registered foreign agents representing this firm nor will i present a detailed exposition of why we believe our practices to be reasonable and legitimate however i would like to relate our practices to the policies of the weinberg report which indicated that a federal agency in becoming a delegated agent for a given field must assume responsibilities beyond merely collecting abstracting and announcing relevant material the report suggested that agencies help establish and support specialized information centers sponsor worthy publications that would otherwise not receive support and generally become leaders to improve communications in the field both within and outside the government in addition to their statutory mandates the national institutes of health and the national library of medicine have accepted these recommendations and for two decades have provided such special support through grants and contracts to the biomedical and information industries in the last 10 years alone the

Page  4 4 national library of medicine has spent more than one hundred million dollars in the private information sector to create or maintain scientific information activities the dutch firm that now accuses us of unfair competition because of u s government subsidy the recent report of the national commission on libraries and information sciences entitled public sector/private sector interaction in providing information services attempts to define the roles and responsibilities of both public and private sector organizations involved in information services although it did not achieve consensus on all issues i believe it serves as a useful platform from which further accommodations may be sought the view that scientific information is exclusively a commodity to be sold for profit is the major reason for the present tension between the public and private sectors in this context the nclis task force has dealt wisely with the issue of government pricing policy one of its principles reads the federal government should set pricing policies for distributing information products and services that reflect the true cost of access and/or reproduction any specific prices to be subject to review by an independent authority we are in full agreement with this pricing principle it implies that the public should not be required to pay for the cost of agencies acquiring

Page  5 5 information whose creation has already been paid for by the taxpayer it clearly places the burden on the user to pay the full costs of access or reproduction only it is the congressionally mandated responsibility of the national library of medicine to collect index catalog and disseminate the biomedical literature an annual appropriation is provided for these tasks if the library were required to charge artificially inflated prices for access to these indexes catalogs and their related products this would result in our making a profit and more important would inhibit the flow of medical information needed for medical research education and health care we have no objection to the commercial information industry using our data bases for repackaging and resale for profit in fact we are pleased that several private commercial companies do this successfully now one is u s owned while the second is foreign owned together they represent about half of all medlars services provided from our databases as the nclis report makes clear there are roles appropriate to both the private and public sectors a vigorous information industry utilizing modern technology to provide new products and services is certainly in the nation's interest i believe there is a serious challenge to u s leadership in this area however from the japanese in electronics technology generally and computer hardware speci fically and from the europeans in vending information services i can cite as evidence the development and aggressive marketing of random access memory chips emi tter-coupled-logic lsi circuits and high capacity disk drives by japanese computer manufacturers

Page  6 6 it has been reported that from 1977 to 1980 the value of japanese shipments of computer memory devices increased by 65 of terminals by 85 and of printers by 430 in the european scene the president of euripa european information producers association announced his intent to have european companies capture a much larger share of the u-s information market it was reported recently that the government of france is levying higher customs duties on computer programs imported into france in an innovative twist the french are calculating the duties on software programs according to the value of the research they represent this protectionist measure according to one trade law expert is tantamount to putting a bigger duty on a record by the mormon tabernacle choir than on a record by a soloist because it cost so much more to train and assemble all those musicians the political systems of many of these countries permit in fact encourage close ties between their private information companies and their governments the japanese government for example has exempted their electronics industry from antimonopoly laws and provided direct subsidies for r and d grants for hardware and software development and low cost loans 12 in this climate i would suggest the american information industry would do better to look on u-s federal agencies as partners not competitors while some in the u.s information industry attack their own government an alarming number of american information companies have been acquired by large foreign firms i don't believe it is xenophobic to view this as an unhealthy trend

Page  7 7 just as i see a vigorous u s information industry as necessary to our nation's well-being so too are vigorous federal agencies like the national library of medicine ntis and others which carry out the responsibilities reposed in them by the congress and the american people damaging one side or the other would be inimical to the national interest surely the need for information resources and services to fuel the economy to support research and education and to advance public health and safety is sufficient to call for the best efforts of both government and the private sector

Page  8 references 1 improving the availability of scientific and technical information in the united states a report of the president's science advisory committee the white house december 7 1958 p 4 2 science government and information a report of the president's science advisory committee the white house january 10 1963 p l 3 ibid 4 cummings m m mehnert r b medlars services of the national library of medicine public resource or market commodity annals of internal medicine vol 96 no 6 june 1982 pp 772-774 5 davies n e the health-science information struggle special report new england journal of medicine july 15 1982 307201-204 6 cummings m m medical information services for public good or private profit the information society journal vol 1 no 3 1982 pp 249-260 7 public sector/private sector interaction in providing information services report to the nclis from the public sector/private sector task force national commission on libraries and informa tion science washington d c u s government printing office february 1982 p 51 8 incorportated in the public health service act title iii part i section 382 a 1 title 42 u s code section 276 9 davidson w e a note on the japanese computer industry amos tuck school dartmouth college 1981 p 4 10 ibid pp 8-9 11 france's software duties hit the washington post october 12 1982 p d-l . 12 davidson op cit p 2