The Forrest Project arose from an Internet investigation of the genealogy of Admiral Arthur Forrest in the 18th century and his great-grandson, the artist Haughton Forrest. The study was commenced in the early 1960s by Peter Forrest, then by his daughter Jane Forrest (Hyland) and since 2009, by Jacqueline Shepard, Douglas Forrest, Barbara Forrest (Troth), Geoff Ayling, John Innes and Ian Smith (Malik).
From the outset, Peter and Jane Forrest researched records utilising traditional approaches, principally through correspondence with information sources and by travelling to the UK to search and photocopy records. From 2009 researching was undertaken with advantages made possible by the computer and Internet. In the latter phase of the Project more detailed information, often not previously available, was able to be rapidly sourced.
The genealogical study led to the compilation of Admiral Arthur Forrest (c1716-1770), an extensive volume of textual information which included a large number of illustrations. Such a large record was clearly beyond the financial limitations of the conventional publishing process. Its size would also have precluded the production of bound volumes. An electronic format appeared to be eminently suitable as a means of publishing and distributing such a record.
A further document, the Catalogue of Paintings by Haughton Forrest (1826-1925), was also made possible as a result of advantages afforded by the computer and Internet. More than 1400 records of paintings from the 19th century press were recorded, together with over 600 images via the Internet. Again, it was clear that this task could never have been undertaken using conventional pre-computer approaches.
It was resolved following this two-year task that continuation of The Forrest Project should be undertaken through a formally structured organisation and corporate entity. A philanthropic organisation would be formed to provide ex gratis assistance to those interested to learn to utilise the advantageous techniques that are now available. A commercial corporate function would recover costs incurred in managing the organisation and operating the web-site. It was agreed by the researchers that the new organisation would in addition, explore further much-needed research services afforded by the computer and Internet. Researching information and assembling electronic records are only two illustrations of the advantages afforded by this combination of technologies.
The researchers were particularly interested in The Forrest Project exploring unique and advantageous functions afforded by the Internet, rather than simply using the Internet in ways that were possible prior to its appearance.
It was further decided to apply the same method of operating, which for two years had proven practicable. From the outset there had been no paper used or hard copy reports generated. This was a necessity because Project members were located in different countries, from one of which postal communications required nearly two weeks to reach an overseas destination. It was realised that a corporate organisation which operated in this way would be futuristic and therefore, advantageous in many ways.
For a commercial organisation, this meant that there could be direct access to and from potential users and hence, no need for an extensive network of multilevel providers. Marketing and communications between provider and client could be direct and instantaneous. The numbers of potential clients need not be limited by the availability of the provider’s staff, plant and equipment. Cash transactions could be instantaneous and if designed properly, free of payment default. The relative locations of producers and clients would likewise be irrelevant.
These criteria should enable an Internet-based organization to have major advantages over non-Internet marketers, manufacturers and traders. A good illustration of the way in which a traditional commercial organisation might be superseded can be seen from the way a traditional publishing company operates. Major publishing houses have over many years built up large networks, acquiring greater market share in the process. However, by 2011 some large chains of publishers’ retail outlets had begun closing. This suggested that publishing houses may already have realised that there was a need to trade direct with the public without wholesalers and retailers’ shop fronts.
Traditional corporate structures of publishing houses, intended to yield maximised returns on investments, might also be superseded. This has for decades resulted in an inequitable distribution of returns in favour of publishing houses rather than authors, who in fact provide the majority of the input both intellectually and in man-hours. It had as a consequence become accepted that an author should not hope to receive more than about 10 percent of the retail price paid for a book. As well, in order to maximise the return to investors, books have been priced as high as the market of a developed country was considered likely to pay. This has tended to put books on sale in economically advanced nations beyond the reach of readers in developing countries, thereby limiting distribution.
Most damaging to many fields of research has been the tendency of publishing houses to restrict what is published, to subjects considered of interest only to the mainstream buyer. Specialised fields have for generations been ignored and where publication has occurred, the onus has often rested upon the dedicated author, who has been able to bear the costs charged by a printing house. A situation occurred in the 2000s where the winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, Professor Barry Marshall, was unable for some years to be able to publish his research on the origin and treatment of gastric ulcers, simply because his findings went against the mainstream of current thought. Publishing houses were to some extent responsible because they did not want to go against the mainstream, proven wrong by this research. There are known to be further instances of valuable research which continues to be ignored, a result of the commercial agenda of publishing houses.
Strategic use of the computer and Internet may yet occur to rectify the deplorable situation in the publishing world. It is considered that if publication and distribution occur electronically, then a price structure might be arrived at where the author can receive the major proportion. The price of an electronic book might also be reduced so that it is within the reach of many potential purchasers of developing countries. A greater number of sales may also be possible because there is no need for transportation, warehousing or retail sales outlets. Publishing in several languages could just as easily be undertaken if the author were prepared to work with a translator. Boutique publishers using the computer and Internet might in this way supersede an international publishing house.
This plan also provides for publishing in the education sector, which has been poorly served by traditional publishing houses. Guaranteed sales of school and university textbooks have for decades been regarded as a good source of income, even though advanced texts have tended to be exorbitantly priced. Much needed illustrations in colour have typically been minimised because of cost. This Project offers to publish electronic textbooks, year-long courses of lectures and school lessons, written by the teacher with as many colour illustrations as needed, with almost no limitation on length. There is no publishing cost for a school or university. The student user, whether in an economically advanced or a developing country, needs only to pay around A$5 to download a complete course of lectures onto a portable storage device
Similarly, a classical concert musician might through such a website be able to sell recorded performances direct to interested clients, without the involvement of a chain of producers, wholesalers and retail outlets, who take the major share of the price paid for a performance.
This latter initiative is put forward as a serious attempt to overcome the risk of entrepreneurs copying and marketing the intellectual property of others. The price at which such a valuable download is offered is so low that The Forrest Project sends the pirate copier a message, Go for your life.
The advantages of the computer and Internet, illustrated through this Project, may well be found to revolutionise other fields as well. The plan considers several possible areas of Project activity
- Cataloguing art works
- Genealogical research
- Historical research
- Fostering socially and economically important innovations, such as the transformative education of adolescents.