Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/201

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197
INSTRUMENTS AND METHODS OF RESEARCH

tools close by and within ready reach. He cannot afford to go to a distant library and then possibly find the book out. Private possession permits him, furthermore, to make marginal notes and references to enable him quickly to put his finger on the very thing needed.

Owing to these well-organized needs, there has grown up a courteous and friendly interchange of publications among coworkers and sympathizers in the same field that to my mind deserves the highest encouragement. The time has unfortunately gone when scientific investigators can write such delightful and voluminous letters as passed between the research workers of half a century and more ago. The present system of interchange of publications has necessarily taken the place, to a very large extent, of the early letter-writing. It is a system of gradual development along the lines of least resistance that it would be disadvantageous to contend against until some more effective means of intercommunication among scientific men has been devised.

But such free interchange of research publications can only be conducted to a limited extent and can embrace only certain kinds of publications, viz., generally reprints or those of which the original cost for publication has already been borne in some manner, be it by a journal or by some research foundation. Larger publications, however, because of their expensiveness, must generally be restricted, for one reason or another, in their general circulation, with the inevitable result that the persons directly reached may be entirely out of proportion to the importance of the work undertaken.

Scientific men and scientific bodies could well afford to pause and consider the tremendous cost of publication and the rather frequent waste of money incurred. Why is it, for example, that when an explorer gives an account of his travels in an unexplored region for the commercial press he finds it possible to say what he wishes in an attractive and handy octavo form, but when he is working for an endowed institution he feels compelled to present his matter in an expensive, ponderous, quarto form, inconvenient to handle?

It should he noted that it is as important to make research work known as to do it. To get our friends to read the contributions we may make to science requires nowadays no little skill and diplomacy and an attractiveness of literary style on the part of the author not so essential in the days of less frequent printed works. The original purposes of important and costly expeditions are sometimes well nigh defeated or superseded, because of the delay in publication, ensuing from the elaborateness of the plan adopted for the reduction of the field results and the form of publication decided upon.

Reduction in the pretentiousness, size and cost of scientific publications appears to me to he one of the greatest needs of research to-day.