Monday, November 2, 2009

No more research for hire at USAHEC?

Author disclaimer: This is not a rant and should not be taken as one. I simply learned of this privately recently and wanted to get the information out there for others like me who might be affected by it. If anyone knows more on this topic, I would love to hear about it.

I received some rather disturbing news recently concerning researchers for hire at USAHEC in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (formerly known as USAMHI). I had used a researcher for work there in the past, but was informed that person no longer conducts research for hire there. At one time, there was a webpage as part of the USAMHI site that listed outside researchers for hire for those who couldn't visit to conduct their research in person. Much to my chagrin, I couldn't find the page. Since I periodically have similar issues, I assumed I had done something wrong and contacted my former researcher again.

I was informed that new people were in charge at the center, and had determined that the researcher for hire listing provided too much personal information. A lot of military websites have reached this determination, and a good bit of web content has been removed as a result. Lists are not permitted to be sent out by mail or email for the same reason. Understandable.

The new regime also changed the rules for accessing the collections for outside researchers, possibly as the result of someone violating the rules. The system is now one of "pay as you go" for researchers, even for copies, so if one could find a researcher, that person would have to pay all costs up front at the time they accessed the information. If someone violated previously authorized privileges, then it is certainly understandable that these restrictions be tightened.

The results of said tightening, however, are now somewhat problematic. Assuming one doesn't live within convenient travelling distance of Carlisle, how does one access the information? If you can't go yourself, and what you need isn't available online, and there is no way to find a researcher for hire, what options are left?

One can make a research query online, and it will be addressed as time permits by the staff, generally with a wait of several weeks. This can be very limiting if one is in search of a large amount of research, however, since such queries need to be both specific and brief to enable busy employees to answer them.

I fear I've raised a problem without posing a solution in this case, as the only options I see at the moment are dividing research into many specific pieces and spreading over a several months or flying to Carlisle. This would be extremely enjoyable and something I hope to do someday, but really don't have the time for right now.

Ah well, if research was too easy everyone would do it, right?

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