I notice that CBETs issued by CBAT have reverted to subscription-only viewing after a period of being freely available on-line.
As I understand it (correct me if I'm wrong), CBAT rely on subscriptions for a significant amount of their funding. This money allows them to continue their work as THE clearing house for astronomical information.
That being said, the information they disseminate is not theirs and has been freely provided by institutions and observers all over the world. Getting this information back is not cheap, with full subs for CBETs & IAUCs amounting to $US300/year, a fairly punitive rate for amateurs involved in comet, supernova & nova searches and the gamut of amateur involvement in observation submission to CBAT. Without a subscription, these people cannot see their own observations their final (or current) context or receive information that might be vital to on-going campaigns.
The old days of telegraph boys trudging through the snow to deliver a piece of paper to an observatory are long gone thanks to the www but of course there are still costs involved in CBAT's work. Subscriptions though effectively put a commercial value on observations. In simple terms, as an observer I have a product that has cost me time and money to produce (whether I'm an amateur or professional). I give it for free to an organisation who then on-sells it to third parties and will not even let me see my product in context unless I also pay. I'd have to think that it's a pretty poor deal, especially when I didn't sign over any intellectual property rights. A bit like the AAVSO charging for Alert/Special notices, or pay-per-view of the database. In scientific terms, systems which limit the availability of data are counter-productive.
As I see it, the problem is not CBAT which does a marvellous job with the resources available to it. The problem is the funding chain which forces CBAT to charge subscriptions. I'd be very interested to hear other's opinions. Is this something AAVSO could or would wish to play an advocacy role in?
Rob Kaufman (KBJ)
Bright, Victoria, Australia