Differences in International Arrangements for Financial Support of Information Services
This paper1 endeavours to show that there is no one formula for laying down the responsibilities of Government bodies, professional associations, universities, and research and industrial organizations to provide improved information services and to promote research in documentation. These responsibilities depend on the scientific standing of nations and individuals, on the geographical surroundings, on whether widely or little known languages are used, and on a number of other factors difficult to identify.
Equally, there is no one formula for laying down conditions constituting agreements for financial support to information and documentation services. They differ because of such varying factors as: (a) the level of organisation to be sponsored, (b) the scientific subject matter, (c) the financial capacity of the sponsor, (d) the legal status of the sponsored as well as of the sponsoring organisation.
Arrangements to develop new or support existing information and documentation services may therefore range from: (a) the unconditioned grant, to (b) semi-conditioned aid, or (c) conditioned aid, and to (d) technical assistance excluding financial support.
Many new international organisations have been created since the end of the second World War. Their tasks and objectives are different but their methods very similar, in particular, those connected with the information and documentation responsibilities which they have to fulfil.
The United Nations and the U.N. Specialised Agencies such as UNESCO,
N.F.GRELL Technical Information Section, European Productivity Agency, Paris.
WHO, and ILO have undoubtedly given a great stimulus to documentation and information services all over the world, and regional organisations such as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation and its branches, or the Communities of the “Six” in Europe, have had considerable effects which will now be enlarged by the creation of the Common Market and Euratom.
Apart from the information and documentation services which these organisations developed inside their own headquarters and which are run by their permanent staffs, outside bodies were used or even created to carry out special documentation tasks or to render continuing services. Considerable funds are thus being spent, and it is not always at all easy to find the forms and conditions of execution which will produce the highest dividends.
International organisations, as well as national bodies, are continually faced with this problem of how to ensure the best results when they go about subsidising documentation activities, or entering into agreements for the promotion of documentation, collecting of information, or whatever the particular objective may be.
Unfortunately very little has been published so far on this matter; on the contrary, there is much unnecessary secrecy about conditions of aids and forms of agreements. It seems all the more advisable, therefore, to open discussion on this matter, as this can only contribute to better solutions for the future.
Approach by case study method
The author had the opportunity to study about twenty-five cases of agreements between supporting organisations (S.O.) and supported services, institutes or individuals (S.I.). Experience is thus obviously limited, both by the number of cases and by the fact that they cover only two international organisations.
All the cases studied relate to work carried out outside the supporting organisations on the basis of “agreements.” Information and documentation services performed by staffs of international organisations have not been incorporated in this study. The case studies covered the origin and history of “projects,”2 the elements of the agreements, results obtained and “comments.”
For the sake of brevity, no full report on the individual studies will be given here, but rather a summary of the “lessons” obtained, together with suggestions for provisions to be foreseen when concluding agreements of this kind.
It is well understood by the author that the conclusion and formulation of
contracts or agreements are legal questions, and of concern to lawyers. The latter, however, can render their beneficial services only upon a clear definition of what is wanted; they must therefore be given all the elements necessary. It is the aim of this paper to describe these elements on the basis of personal experience, for eventual use by other people working in similar positions.
Although the author essentially focusses his arguments on the provisions of the various agreements, he has endeavoured to include in his considerations other factors affecting results, both at the pre-contract stage, for example, the selection of partners, or after the signing of the agreement, such as inspection of progress of work, or final utilisation of reports.
Principal provisions to be established in agreements
When money is available for supporting information and documentation work or services, attention may be focussed on the provisions outlined below, which should be reflected in the agreements accordingly. Prior to the conclusion of the agreement, the selection of the S.I. is an intrinsic question; from the cases studied, one would be in favour of institutes or associations rather than private individuals generally. Excessive overheads charged by such institutes may, however, make other solutions preferable.
1. DEFINITION OF OBJECTIVE
This is a responsibility of the S.O., unless support is given in the nature of an unconditional grant or aid. Where the objective is a more general one, for example, improvement of bibliographical services, the more immediate goal, e.g., preparation of a manuscript on…, should be specified. In any case, it should be clearly stated whether the main objective is to produce a report, possibly for publication, or whether the report is considered to be a by-product only, as may be the case with seminars or training projects. This provision should help to prevent uncertainty about the results expected, and induce both partners to think ahead before concluding their agreement. In cases where it is difficult to estimate the scope of the project beforehand, it may be useful to split up the project into two parts with separate and independent agreements, the first project serving mainly to explore the total work involved.
2. DESCRIPTION OF WORK
This should be laid down by the S.O., after consultation and in agreement with the S.I., in considerable detail. It may in fact represent the planning of the work, methods of execution, provisional dates for parts of the work, provisions for sub-contracting, if applicable, together with form and contents of
the final report, date of delivery and number of copies. This provision should help to avoid differences of opinion regarding the method of execution, scope of work, and possible achievements during the execution period.
3. GUIDANCE BY S.O. OR AN ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Responsible administrators of the S.O. should assist and supervise the execution of work continuously, particularly from the procedural side, so that they may detect delays or obvious time failures. Where they are not in a position to do this, the S.O. might appoint an advisory committee. This provision should help to avoid delays in the completion of work, a frequent complaint in documentation and information projects.
4. APPROVAL OF WORK PERFORMED
The S.O. normally retains the right to approve or disapprove of work performed, i.e., accepts or rejects manuscripts, reports, or services. In cases, however, where outside specialised bodies may be in a better position to judge the value of work carried out, it may be preferable to appoint, in agreement with the S.I., a body such as an arbiter, whose decision would be accepted as final by both the S.O. and the S.I.
Such a provision might be more practical than arbitration clauses relating to disagreements of another nature, such as financial disputes to be settled by the Court, a provision which is unlikely to be taken up and which might therefore be dispensed with.
Many of the kinds of agreements used are more elaborate in respect of protecting the S.O. against all kinds of moral or financial consequences, than in respect of guiding the S.I. towards the best ways of reaching the desired objective. Thus (1) to (4) above seem to deserve particular attention.
5. ROYALTIES OR OTHER WAYS OF PROFIT SHARING
One may wonder why S.I.’s are almost never offered some share of potential income. The inclusion of some sort of provision for profits might contribute to an interest on the part of S.I.’s to complete the work in time.
The provisions discussed below are, in fact, foreseen in most agreements, and they are listed here for the sake of completeness and for the expression of some observations.
6. CALCULATION OF FEES
The size of the sum to be paid to the S.I. has frequently given rise to very controversial opinions. In fact there is no solution applicable to every case. Some devices for calculating the amount corresponding to the work per-
formed are: estimate of manhours spent and paid for at rates comparable to those paid in the S.O. for a corresponding grade. With aids or unconditional grants: equivalent or percentage of the amount raised by the S.I. itself, or general appreciation of the goals attained by the S.I. In cases of non-conditioned aid or subventions, funds are often split up for the support of numerous small projects; it would seem preferable, however, to concentrate on fewer and bigger projects. Dependance of the amount to be paid on the length of the report or the number of days worked (without direct supervision by the S.O.) seems to be a doubtful method of calculation because it neither measures the real efforts invested nor the quality of the product. It seems to be most useful to obtain the advice of administrators who have been dealing with a great number of cases, watching their financial balance, and are therefore in a position to compare amounts spent in the past for individual projects.
When calculating fees, a breakdown between items is advisable, distinguishing between fees for experts and secretarial help, purchase of material, travel, and daily allowances, etc.
Where the agreement provides for sub-contracts, it is advisable to determine the repartition of the money to be spent.
7. CONDITIONS OF PAYMENT
In principle they should be attractive enough to appeal but cautious enough to prevent losses. Conditions will always vary according to the negotiations of individual cases. Normally not more than one third should be advanced, and possibly two thirds after approval of the work performed. Exceptions should be made only when close and continuous inspection of progress of work has been arranged.
8. OTHER PROVISIONS
Other provisions drawn from existing contract forms and which could usefully be included in agreements where appropriate are as follows:
The S.I. shall bear any expenses occurring in the carrying out of its work.
The S.O. acquires sole copyright in all countries and languages.
The S.O. is entitled to publish the results of the project, in whole or in part, or to adapt the manuscript at its discretion.
The S.I. is responsible for obtaining permission from owners of copyright on material which had been previously published, if S.I. desires to incorporate such material.
The S.I. warrants that it has the right to grant the copyright of material and illustrations supplied by it under the agreement.
The S.I.’s corrections to proofs in excess of 10% of the cost of setting will
be charged to it; proofs to be returned without undue delay.
The S.O. shall not be bound to publish the manuscript.
The S.I. is not to be considered as an agent or member of the staff of the S.O., is not entitled to any privileges, immunities, etc., nor authorised to commit the S.O. to any expenditure or obligation.
The S.I. is responsible for any insurance which might be necessary.
The inclusion in agreements of all the provisos listed above, or others assembled from more sources, will not entirely preclude bad results; they may, however, contribute towards reducing the number of such cases.
Bearing in mind the provisions mentioned will certainly assist the planning of projects and concluding of agreements on which their execution is based.
The nature and form of agreements has a vital influence on the success or failure of information and documentation projects, and is not simply a medium to protect the interests of the S.O.’s. Precise provisions should therefore also be made relating to guidance during the execution of work.
It seems worthwhile to undertake a study of this kind on a larger scale, collecting information from more than two sources and extending the number of case studies.
Free discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of various contract forms for the support of information and documentation services, as well as the morale or policy behind them, should lead to a better identification of this problem, and might eventually result in a more enlightened attitude of governmental (and private) sponsors in respect of subsidising information and documentation activities.