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14 July 2001














Cross Currents No 3 July 2001 

A digest of cross sectoral information management events, issues and ideas in organisations, libraries, archives and museums, with special emphasis on arts and the humanities.




Knowledge Nation Agenda


Scholarly Community Structures

Australia: a knowledge culture?

Arts and Humanities Hub


Reuters and AMN Partnership 











Collaboration, we all know, is a powerful social and creative force. It was the collaboration between FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela that brought apartheid to an end. Collaboration between Braque and Picasso produced Cubism. Denmark’s high gross national product is attributed in part to the economic collaboration of Nordic countries in facilitating communication and mobility.

This month, influenced by recent news and announcements, we feature collaborative ideas and action by government, scholarly communities, business and professional associations.


Knowledge Nation Agenda

The digital journey since the arrival of the Internet has been exposed to the vicissitudes of Government turnover, board and management churn and the seductive power of new software and hardware.

Creative Nation (1994), A Strategy for the Information Economy (1999) and Backing Australia’s Ability (2001) are indicative of experimentation with government cultural, research and educational policy in the burgeoning digital age. In June, Australia Council Chairman Margaret Sears, in her retirement talk to the National Press Club, reckoned that the culture industry was mysteriously absent from the innovation agenda and that education, as a core ingredient of creativity, had been undervalued.

The Australian Labor Party’s Knowledge Nation blueprint, released in July, addresses, at least on a rhetorical level, recent policy shortfalls in education, research and the arts. It seeks to encourage effective linkages between research organisations, promote humanities and other core enabling disciplines in schools and higher education, deliver an education system that encourages fundamental research and study in the humanities as well as applied knowledge, improve the position of the humanities, social sciences and the arts in Australia, increase funding to the Australian Research Council and other research bodies, and  commercialise ideas.

Significantly for the library and other information industry sectors, it also promotes the need for a national information policy to ensure access and equity in securing knowledge, to set out the rules by which information will be available for public good and commercial exploitation, and to provide the basis of public policy that will be applicable to new technological developments.

The Knowledge Nation Policy received a mauling by some in the press. Terry McCrann in The Australian (7-8 July 2001).dismissed it as motherhood stuff.  Although we need to be knowledge rich as a nation, there are, according to McCrann, three problems with the ALP vision. First, it is essentially centralised in government and the bureaucracy. Second, it will cost too much and/or result in higher taxes. And third, whatever the vision, ‘it will be implemented by bureaucracies and negotiated between interest groups’. Paul Kelly, in the same edition of The Australian, focusing on the central telecommunication ingredient of the plan, points to ‘the big gap between Labor’s vision and Telstra’s financial imperative’. The editorial in The Australian of 14-15 July predicted that the need for tax incentives, the political astuteness of the Coalition Government and the hip-pocket nerve would militate against the success of Labor's proposals. And comments of a more inane variety, promoted by Barry Jones' Spaghetti and Meatballs mind map, influenced the cartoonists for a number of days.

In contrast, the Sydney Morning Herald, in its editorial of 4 July, called it a ‘more holistic document than Backing Australia’s Ability. It 'succeeds in its main task of being a blueprint for possibilities' and ‘of providing Australians with a stronger idea of Labor’s plans to build knowledge and innovation into an economic prime mover’.  

Irrespective of the political hue of the Federal Government in 2002, it is likely that the pendulum will swing to a rounder view of culture, education, research, information management and technology policy over the next few years. 

Those interested in the subject may also turn to The Comparative Performance of Australia as a Knowledge Nation, a report to the Chifley Research Centre by Mark Considine, Simon Marginson and Peter Sheehan, with the Assistance of Margarita Kumnick (,, A Primer on the Knowledge Economy, prepared by John Houghton and Peter Sheehan (Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University), John Houghton’s Information Industries Update 2001 (Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University; (summary and order form at Librarians, in particular, should look at John Houghton's Economics of Scholarly Communication: a discussion paper, prepared for the Coalition for Innovation in Scholarly Communication (http:/

Professor Shalini Venturelli throws down the gauntlet in her essay From the Information Economy to the Creative Economy: Moving Culture to the Center of International Public Policy ( 

As the economics of ideas and expression are recognized to play a central and strategic role in everything we do, from politics to banking, from education to consumption, from the organization of the state and the socio-legal system to organization of culture and self- identity, it will become impossible to defend the current design of an information age grounded in industrial economics and traditional concepts of culture or knowledge. Whether answering the challenge and closing the gap takes a few years or a century, the historical pressures to revise our approach to these issues is a certainty. Now or in the future, we will one day find ourselves on the threshold of an international political settlement to resolve these fundamental principles of a Creative Economy and Information Society. Which nation will transform its domestic policy first and lead the international debate, and which will be surpassed in innovative capacities, forced to spend decades catching up through costly misjudgments?


Picking over the threads of these reports, no doubt, will be two round tables organised by the National Scholarly Communications Forum in August. 

Scholarly Community Structures in Australia

In the first, Grounds of Inquiry: Scholarly Communication Structures in Australia,  John Houghton will present his theoretical model of the information industries, building upon his paper Economics of Scholarly Communication, prepared for the Coalition for Innovation in Scholarly Communication and available at ( 

According to the seminar blurb, his presentation will offer new opportunities for, and challenges to, knowledge providers. The framework for the afternoon sessions will be the work undertaken by the AVCC's SCIP committees and the discussion will focus on the match between the model presented in the morning and initiatives currently planned or under way.

Speakers and Chairs: Dr Evan Head (Policy Research Branch, DETYA,) Tom Cochranen (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Information & Academic Services, Queensland University of Technology), Vic Elliott (University Librarian, University of Tasmania), Helen Hayes (Vice Principal Information, University of Melbourne; President, Council of Australian University Librarians), Professor John Houghton (Director of the Information Technologies and the Information Economy Program, Victoria University, Melbourne), Lois Jennings (Manager, Information Services Division and University Librarian, University of Canberra), Professor Angus Martin (Chair, National Scholarly Community Forum and McCaughey Professor of French, University of Sydney), Ann Okerson (Associate University Librarian for Collections and Technical Services, Yale. University), Dagmar Schmidmaier (State Librarian and Chief Executive, State Library of NSW) and Colin Steele (Director, Scholarly Information Services and University Librarian, ANU).

Attendees will be able to contribute their own experience and ideas on the best ways to meet present and future challenges to the research and information sectors.

Venue: Conference Room, National Library of Australia, Canberra. Date: 8 August 2001. To facilitate productive discussion, the Round Table will be limited to 50 participants. Details:

Australia: A Knowledge Culture?

The second round table, on the broader them, Australia: A Knowledge Culture?, to be held on 9 August 2001 in Old Canberra House, near the National Museum of  Australia in Canberra, will assess the role of knowledge in enabling Australia to face economic and social changes today and in the future. Topics include histories of the knowledge culture, valuing knowledge in Australian communities, investing in knowledge, Australian policy and the creation of a knowledge culture. Participants include: Mairead Browne, Malcolm Gillies, Ashley Goldsworthy, Brian Johns,  Simon Marginson, Oliver Mayo, Angus Martin, James J. O'Donnell and Sue Rowley. For details:

Arts and Humanities Hub

On the other side of the globe, the Resource Discovery Network in the UK, the free Internet service dedicated to providing effective access to high quality Internet resources for the learning, teaching and research community ( has announced the creation of three new hubs, including one on the Arts and Creative Industries. The Arts and Creative Industries Hub is being led by Manchester Metropolitan University on behalf of the Consortium of Academic Libraries in Manchester (CALIM). The other partners are The London Institute, South Cheshire College of Further Education and Manchester Computing. Work has begun on appointment of staff and liaison with projects, partners and user communities. The new hubs are expected to be launched sometime in 2002. [Source: Arts and Humanities Data Service]


Reuters & Art Museum Network Partnership 

Mark Lyons in The Third Sector: the Contribution of Non-Profit and Cooperative Enterprises in Australia (Allen & Unwin, 2001) highlights the potential decline of professional associations unless they are able to meet the challenges of organisation and leadership, use business techniques, increase capacity, become more accountable to a wider public, develop closer links with business, act in a concerted fashion, encourage growth of the sector and get the right mix between local and global ideas and action.

Last month, the Art Museum Network (AMN) and Reuters announced a project to establish an online fine arts information report in conjunction with the Whitney Museum of American Art, which hosts the AMN website. The joint project will provide access for journalists, other Reuters subscribers and the online public to the latest in art news to complement financial, general and specialty news services.

The Report will provide information on exhibitions and special events at fine arts museums around the world and will be marketed to any online publisher interested in providing readers with information about fine arts exhibits and events.

The agreement will unfold in two phases. In phase one, each museum belonging to AMN will provide press releases to Reuters, which will then redistribute the releases to online clients. For further information on each press release, the user will be able to go directly to In Phase Two, the Art Museum Network will create a database of all press releases for use by the online public. The database will be searchable by topic, institution, city, date, and other categories.

The Art Museum Network is the official website of a consortium of over 200 of the world's leading art  museums represented by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) - 170 North American members and 40 or so of the largest museums in Europe and Asia. Each museum furnishes up-to-date exhibition information on a daily basis, automatically made available on the Internet

Reuters supplies global financial markets and news media with a wide range of information products, including real-time financial data, collective investment data, news, graphics, news video and news pictures. In addition to supplying the financial markets, about 73 million unique visitors per month have access to Reuters content on some 1,400 Internet websites. Reuters has 2,157  journalists, photographers and camera operators in 190 bureaus, serving 151 countries. In 2000 the Group had revenues of £3.59 billion ($5.4 billion) and on December 31, 2000, the Group employed 18,082 staff in 204 cities in 100 countries [Source: NINCH-Announce].              

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This issue of Cross Currents compiled by Paul Bentley



The Wolanski Foundation would be grateful for feedback on the scope, format and content of this bulletin..


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