Academic, Info Tech

In an e-mail discussion about Congress’ efforts to make funding for area studies conditional on loyalty”, someone alerted me to a story from back in April that seems to have gotten far too little attention:

Since its beginning in 1966, the venerable ERIC education megabase…has derived its million-plus records through the networked contributions of 16 clearinghouses and 10 adjunct clearinghouses located at academic institutions around the country. Following a sweeping reorganization of the U.S. Department of Education begun in 2002, a new Draft Statement of Work (SOW) was issued on April 10 for the contracts that control the production of the ERIC database and the document delivery operations of the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS).

What does this mean? It means that ERIC is being privatized and that the venerable AskEric database will probably fall by the wayside…

Specifications for the new contract omit requirements to support most of the customer services conducted by the clearinghouses, including the production of the popular digests, toll-free phone assistance, and the 6-million-hits-a-week AskERIC service. The clearinghouses and their supporters have started a campaign to revise the draft SOW, but the date set for receiving public comments ends on May 9.

May 9th is obviously a long time ago, but perhaps it isn’t too late to save ERIC? In any case, it seems that many were relieved that the entire archives weren’t dumped. These day’s academics are grateful for small things…