The Australian | 7 December 2005
By Greg Roberts
THE nation’s second-oldest magazine is set to become the latest casualty of a push by the Australian Museum to put financial accountability ahead of scientific research.
A meeting of the museum trust in Sydney tomorrow night is expected to vote to close Nature Australia after 84 years of publication.
The move will be proposed by museum assistant director Janet Carding with the support of director Frank Howarth. Former museum director Michael Archer was bitterly disappointed with the move.
“When I was director I believed it was very important to continue the only significant museum journal in the country,” said Professor Archer, head of science at the University of NSW. “The magazine has done wonderful work over many years and it should not be just disappearing.” He said the magazine was widely respected by scientific institutions around the world. “This has an impact on our reputation worldwide.”
Professor Archer feared economic rationalism had won out over the museum’s more traditional goals. “There are things such as a commitment to research and service to the public which do not have a dollar value attached.”
Wilson da Silva, editor of Cosmos magazine, said his company was one of several publishers that put in bids for Nature Australia when the museum advertised for tenders several months ago.
“We thought it was commercially viable and that it would be terrible to see the end of such a high-quality product with a loyal readership,” da Silva said. He said he understood the museum had rejected all the offers it had received.
Museum sources said the magazine was losing money, and the administration had reached the conclusion it could not become commercially viable. The magazine was taken off the stands of newsagents last year and very little has been spent in recent years on marketing or generating subscriptions.
The move follows other cost-cutting measures in research since Mr Howarth became director last year, including the disbandment of a project initiated by Professor Archer to bring to life the Tasmania tiger through DNA cloning. Mr Howarth and Ms Carding declined to comment yesterday. Their spokesman said it was inappropriate to comment before the trust meeting.