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Free Global Virtual Scientific Library 113

Posted by kdawson
from the free-as-in-research dept.
Several readers wrote in with news of the momentum gathering behind free access to government-funded research. A petition "to create a freely available virtual scientific library available to the entire globe" garnered more than 20,000 signatures, including several Nobel prize winners and 750 education, research, and cultural organizations from around the world. The European Commission responded by committing more than $100 million towards support for open access journals and for the building of infrastructure needed to house institutional repositories able to store the millions of academic articles written each year. In the article Michael Geist discusses the open access movement and its critics.
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Free Global Virtual Scientific Library

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wikipedia!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by qbzzt (11136)
      Like Wikipedia, except for requiring proven education to get a grant or to review articles. Don't get me wrong, I love Wikipedia - but I hope my doctor doesn't rely on it when prescribing medication.
      • by Mirk (184717) <slashdot&miketaylor,org,uk> on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:51PM (#18196344) Homepage
        No, this is not at all like Wikipedia. It's about peer-reviewed research, created by professionals in the field, and it's about taking this publicly funded work out of the hands of private publishers and giving to back to the people who paid for it.
      • by eln (21727) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:52PM (#18196368) Homepage
        I had an appointment for next week so my doctor could prescribe me some medication he read about on Wikipedia, but he had to cancel it. Turns out he had to go on an emergency hunting expedition to Africa to try and help with the elephant overpopulation issues they've been dealing with lately.
      • by xtracto (837672)
        Don't get me wrong, I love Wikipedia - but I hope my doctor doesn't rely on it when prescribing medication.
        Dont know in USA, but in Mexico, doctors use something called Pharmaceutics Speciality Dictionary (or something similar) and the Mexico's University has it available for free . [facmed.unam.mx]

        Going on topic, The non availability of the research papers has always been frustrating for me. I am currently doing a PhD and fortunately my University has subscription to *lots* of journals and services like Scopus or eBrary.
    • by jakosc (649857) *
      ...PloS

      This is the whole idea behind the Public Library of Science [plos.org] which has really taken off in the last couple of years. It's peer reviewed, high quality research, and gives free online access to everyone.

      "PLoS is a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource."
  • Library purpose (Score:5, Informative)

    by saskboy (600063) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:33PM (#18196116) Homepage Journal
    The purpose of libraries in modern times may change to offer that sort of science service. My area's library has a list of online databases [lib.sk.ca] they pay for, and offer to everyone with a library card [which is free where I'm from] to access them. Perhaps ask your local library what databases and journals/periodicals they offer to you at no cost online.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      Actually, for many 'researchers', the purpose of libraries and journals is to bury information, not to spread it. A significant minority of people in academia have to publish to get their degree or maintain their position or maintain their funding, and they publish stuff that is trivial, irrelevant, or outright bullshit. They do not want the average person to be able to say "My taxes were spent on THIS???" They will be some of the strongest opponents of open access.
      • That is almost entirely wrong. It is true that the current system of evaluating research quality is based on paper counts and citation counts, rather than any real measure of quality (of which there aren't any, at least none that a bean counter could grok). And this tends to encourage people to publish a lot of papers, which are often at best minor advances to the field. But they certainly DO NOT want their publications to be buried: as useful as publications are to the bean counters, a paper that is CIT
        • I didn't state it as clearly as I should have. They want it to be buried where only their peers are likely to find it. Which describes the current system.
          • Well, the vast majority of papers are aimed at other experts in the field. How many non-experts have any chance of understanding even a well-written academic paper?

            The reason the system has grown into the monstrosity that it is, is precisely because non-experts have no way of distinguishing what is a good paper from what is not.

            • non-experts have no way of distinguishing what is a good paper from what is not.

              The experts sometimes can't distinguish a well written paper either. The physicist Alan Sokol wrote a pomo paper that was deliberate nonsense, and it got puiblished: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_Affair [wikipedia.org]

              I recommend reading the entire wiki; near the end is a reference to a computer-generated paper that got published.

              And previously on slashdot, a scientist claims that most scientific papers are wrong: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/08/3 0/2048236 [slashdot.org]

              And then there are the fakes, wh

              • by SEWilco (27983)
                And just last Sunday, Al Gore got peer review of one of his scientific studies. Why don't all peers award gold statues?
              • by TimFenn (924261)

                non-experts have no way of distinguishing what is a good paper from what is not.

                The experts sometimes can't distinguish a well written paper either. The physicist Alan Sokol wrote a pomo paper that was deliberate nonsense, and it got puiblished: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_Affair [wikipedia.org]

                Bad example: experts weren't consulted in the Sokal affair - Social Text didn't peer review the submission, so it was never evaluated by experts in the first place.

                And previously on slashdot, a scientist claims that most scientific papers are wrong: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/08/3 0/2048236 [slashdot.org]

                Thats the whole reason most of us science folk get involved in science: no theory is perfect, the interesting part is testing 'em out and fixing the parts that are broke. If most scientific papers were 100% correct, we wouldn't have anything to argue about, would we?

                And then there are the fakes, which get published despite outrageous claims, like the one about a year ago by Hwang Woo Suk who claimed major advances in stem cell research. After it was debunked, his peers said that it was obviously BS and should have been recognized as such.

                Again: no one said science was perfect, and neither is the peer review proces

                • The experts sometimes can't distinguish a well written paper either. The physicist Alan Sokol wrote a pomo paper that was deliberate nonsense, and it got puiblished: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_Affair [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]

                  Bad example: experts weren't consulted in the Sokal affair - Social Text didn't peer review the submission, so it was never evaluated by experts in the first place.

                  And, additionally, they had asked for some revisions, as they say in their reply after the hoax was announced:

                  Having established an interest in Sokal's article, we did ask him informally to revise the piece.[...] Judging from his response, it was clear that his article would appear as is, or not at all.

                  It was a bit of a trouble to find this article on the net, so here is the place [imsc.res.in] where one can find, apart from the Sokal's article, also the response of the editors of "Social Text" (neither wikipedia nor Sokal's home page nor many other sites covering this hoax have it).

          • Re: Not So. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by turkeyfish (950384) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:01PM (#18198250)
            This is hardly likely, except in a miniscule fraction of research libraries. Although there are reams of papers whose finding are essentially worthless, often what is worthless to one investigator is often of value to another. This is the case because research papers seldom contain a single relevant "finding". Often papes contain important and valuable data, but the interpretations or methods used to analyze it are faulty or poorly chosen.

            A much, much bigger problem is that the average Joe has no interest in reading ANY technical publications (on line or otherwise) and for many who try they really don't have a clue as to what it means. Just look at how the science of climate change is covered in the news and in print. The entire science is predicated largely on the solution of differential equations and numerical analysis. Just how many readers are really in a position to read and properly interpret such results? The percentage is extremely small.

            I have published "obscure papers" myself. I would love it if they were more widely available, read, and appreciated, but regardless of whether people would find them "useless" or "valuable" it seems unlikely that these will be even read, except by a few experts.

        • Re:Library purpose (Score:4, Insightful)

          by timeOday (582209) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @03:16PM (#18197578)

          It is true that the current system of evaluating research quality is based on paper counts and citation counts, rather than any real measure of quality (of which there aren't any, at least none that a bean counter could grok).
          I think citation counts are actually the best system available. Look at it this way, the WWW is under intense pressure from web spammers, and the best known way to select usable information is google's Page Rank, which is basically citations. Heh, maybe sometime soon researchers will be evaluated by their online publications' PageRank, just like web spammers are. "I'm the number one hit for post-arthroscopy subcutaneous emphysema! Tenure is mine!!!"
      • Do you think the average person would even search a science db in the first place? Judging from the reports on how ignorant most people are concerning science I doubt they'd be using it.

        Journalists and political activists on the other hand might ("Why is the government funding evolutionary biology research!?").
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by pfbram (1070364)
      I've worked IT at a Big-10 research library the past 7 years and GPL'd SourceForge project: http://libdata.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]. There's an excellent web site, dedicated to evangelizing open source software in libraries: http://oss4lib.org/ [oss4lib.org]. One progressive company that jumps to my mind in particular has bridged the open source paradigm with the basic necessity of earning an income. My hat goes off to these guys hailing from Denmark: http://www.indexdata.dk/ [indexdata.dk].

      That said, libraries exist mainly as governmen
  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:33PM (#18196118) Homepage Journal
    Is there really any reason why government-funded research shouldn't be made available to the masses? After all, wasn't it the masses who paid for the research?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Now they are making it even easier to access. I think this is a great move. however it will be an expensive undertaking. I just hope that they make this access to the public, not just global universities and research centers.
    • At least some of it is - if in the USA an institution publish anything it is public domain (for example NASA images).
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mochan_s (536939)

        I don't believe so.

        If you publish to a journal, the journal takes over the copyright. Your university's library has to pay the journal to get access to the article you wrote. And, of course, the price of journals have been skyrocketing lately ...

        • by Coryoth (254751) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @02:24PM (#18196808) Homepage Journal

          And, of course, the price of journals have been skyrocketing lately ...
          There has been some effort to fight this, for instance the formerly pretigious journal Topology has the entire editorial board resign after negotiations over lower pricing with the journal publisher, Elsevier, failed. The members of the editorial board then founded the Journal of Topology with the London Mathematical society as publisher with a much lower price. In general, however, you are correct - the price of journals has been increasing steadily. Historically expensive journals made some sense; there was significant cost in typesetting and printing, particularly for any articles that had significant mathematical content, since typesetting mathematics was considerably more difficult and expensive than plain text. Nowadays, however, journals can publish electronically, and article submissions are often required to be in TeX which reduces the formerly expensive task of typesetting to the relatively simple task of merging several TeX files into a consistent document. The high cost of journals really is no longer justified. Indeed, some of the most significant papers in mathematics in the last few years (Perelman's proof of the Poincare Conjecture) were not published in any journal but simply placed on arXiv.org as preprints.
          • What you say about journals is true, but the same is true of books in general now that reading electronic versions is becoming practical. (Still waiting for an e-ink book with pages, though.) There's money to be made in selling a physical object that's more expensive than it needs to be.

            Has anyone yet put together a physical artifact containing a few thousand key scientific papers, blueprints, engineers' memoirs, and raw data collections? Not that we have any real use for such a thing at the moment, but
        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I don't think he meant it that way. Any research from Federal institutions, like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation, and the like are freely accessible*. I may be mistaken, but I believe stuff done directly by the government (for example the excellent Image-J software from NIH, are public domain, not just available for free, not even BSD-type licensing). Many publications in the PubMed database are open. ISTR that the NIH is moving to require research that they fund and is
        • If most researchers are anything like me, the first thing they'll do after publishing is post the full text of their research on their own websites for dissemination, copyright infringement or no. We want research to be free; anyone truly devoted to advancing the state of human knowledge has a duty to make their research available.

          Not to mention that a copyright infringement case on one's own work, whatever the outcome, would probably be the fastest way to accelerate and publicize the open research moveme

    • by Mirk (184717) <slashdot&miketaylor,org,uk> on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:53PM (#18196378) Homepage

      Is there really any reason why government-funded research shouldn't be made available to the masses? After all, wasn't it the masses who paid for the research?

      Yes, there is a reason -- but not a good one. Very big publishing houses such as Elsevier have a huge financial interest in maintaining the status quo, whereby government-funded researchers donate their work for free to the publishers, who then make a large profit by printing and selling it. It is typical (though not universal) for the publishers also to take the copyright of the papers they publish. To add insult to injury, it's not ususual for the publishers to CHARGE THE AUTHORS for the privilege of donating their work -- usually a fixed amount per page above some predefined page limit.

      The whole academic publishing game is a racket of the most egregious kind, and the Open Access movement is a very badly needed antidote to the way things are. Scott Aaronson has written a scathing analogy [scottaaronson.com] to the current situation which I strongly encourage everyone to read (not least because it's funny).

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Oh good, you've reminded me to reiterate my annual grumble about the federal government's refusal to post an official tax filing website. It's the exact same problem: it would save both the government and taxpayers tons of money. But since companies like TurboTax thrive in the niche created by wasteful paper filing, these companies have thwarted every attempt to solve the problem. As a result, I file federal taxes via paper (it's not much trouble anyways). Even though I live in about the most backwards
      • by jmv (93421)
        Oh, and you forgot the fact that most of the work to get the paper in (once the paper's written) is done by the reviewers, which aren't paid either and don't even get to see the final paper. I'm not sure whether the associate editors are paid, but I would assume they're not.
      • It is typical (though not universal) for the publishers also to take the copyright of the papers they publish.

        Copyright is an inalianable human right. You could not give it up if you wanted to, but you can give someone else copyright too. For a publisher to say that an author is not allowed to make copies and distribute them in parallel to the publisher's own distributions is a violation of human rights by the publisher.

        Further, copyright is a HUMAN right. Companies are legal entities, but they are not huma

        • by Mirk (184717)

          Further, copyright is a HUMAN right. Companies are legal entities, but they are not human. How a company then can own a copyright confuses me.

          Well, yes ... you are confused :-)

          On an abstract ethical level, I more or less agree with you. But legally, you are dead wrong. Companies can, and do, take copyright from authors. Not just academic publishers, either. Many, perhaps most, publishers require you to sign an explicit disclaimer that transfers copyright to them. That's why, for example, my littl [miketaylor.org.uk]

          • Has the issue ever run its full course, human rights battling the law?
            • by Mirk (184717)

              Has the issue ever run its full course, human rights battling the law?

              I don't know. That would be interesting: an author having sold his copyright to a publisher, then asserting his human right to the copyright anyway. I've not heard of such a case, and I have no idea how it would turn out. My money would be on the publisher, though :-P

      • The whole academic publishing game is a racket of the most egregious kind, and the Open Access movement is a very badly needed antidote to the way things are.

        In some cases this is definitely true, in some cases not so. That makes it a bit difficult to figure this this out.

        Scott Aaronson has written a scathing analogy [scottaaronson.com] to the current situation which I strongly encourage everyone to read (not least because it's funny).

        Very interesting link. Perhaps it's a scathing analogy, funny too, perhaps it is also a review of the book, with analogies, paradoxes and ironies, some "fair enough" things, but in any case has self-referential paradoxes that are at the core of the problem (maybe I'm being too academical?). Let me quote a bit:

        This article is supposed to be a review of a book called The Access Principle by John Willinsky (MIT Press, 2006). So let me now turn to reviewing it. The Access Principle is a paradox: on the one hand, its stated goal is to make the case for open access to research and scholarship. Its thesis is that "a commitment to the value and quality of research carries with it a responsibility to extend the circulation of such work as far as possible and ideally to all who are interested in it and all who might profit by it" (p. xii). On the other hand, the book is printed in hardcover and sells for $34.95. Recognizing what he calls the "all-too-obvious irony," Willinsky explains that while much of the book's content is available for free online, he's chosen to collect it in book form, first, to reach a wider audience; second, because of his "admitted attachment to the book's becoming look and familiar feel"; and third, because "the book remains the medium that best serves the development of a wide-ranging and thoroughgoing treatment of an issue in a single sustained piece of writing" (p. xiv-xv). Fair enough -- in any case, my review copy was free.

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:59PM (#18196450) Journal
      FTFA:
      Indeed, soon after the launch of the European petition, Nature reported that publishers were preparing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to counter open access support with a message that equates public access to government censorship.

      The Nature article being referenced [nature.com]
      The Slashdot Story about the article [slashdot.org]

      "[Dezenhall the consultant] hinted that the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review"

      "Brian Crawford, a senior vice-president at the American Chemical Society and a member of the [Association of American Publishers] executive chair, says that Dezenhall's suggestions have been refined and that the publishers have not to his knowledge sought to work with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. On the censorship message, he adds: "When any government or funding agency houses and disseminates for public consumption only the work it itself funds, that constitutes a form of selection and self-promotion of that entity's interests""

      I don't really think that logic makes sense, but these guys are feeling a bit desperate, considering that their profit margin/business model could be legislated into oblivion.

      zCyl (14362) [slashdot.org]
      They're trying to insinuate that public access means a thing must be funded by the government, and thus subject to state control. This is a silly false dichotomy of course, but such is the nature of propaganda.
      • maybe publishers should look more at the "open source" model: providing services that access the free scientific database.
        specialized search programs,
        print and online mags that filter the mass of papers down to the "good" bunch in any one particular scientific area,
        initial publishing rights and subscriptions,
        commentary about the papers,
        etc, etc.
        there's still enough "value add" they could do to make good money, even after the storage of papers becomes public.
    • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @02:14PM (#18196636)

      Is there really any reason why government-funded research shouldn't be made available to the masses? After all, wasn't it the masses who paid for the research?

      Yes, but they don't pay to publish it, which isn't free. Also, many of the non-profit professional societies use subscription money to do rather a lot of good for K-12 and undergraduate education, so there's an effect there too.

      I'd like to see an open system too, but it's not as simple as it sounds, which is why it hasn't happened.

      • by darkwhite (139802)
        it's not as simple as it sounds, which is why it hasn't happened.

        It really is as simple as it sounds. It's called PLoS, and it's happening.
    • by pigphish (1070214)
      On the other side of the coin, I would think the journals provide some level of oversight as to what actually gets published. Meaning i wouldnt want any fool publishing his/her theories on the world. The government would have to compensate in this role and have specialists performing this function for every discipline.

      on another note, should the government regulate what is worthy of publication and who is worthy.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by notwrong (620413)

        On the other side of the coin, I would think the journals provide some level of oversight as to what actually gets published. Meaning i wouldnt want any fool publishing his/her theories on the world. The government would have to compensate in this role and have specialists performing this function for every discipline.

        on another note, should the government regulate what is worthy of publication and who is worthy.

        Specialists already provide the oversight about what is actually published. That's precisely what "peer-review" means. Amazing as it may seem, the privately-controlled, for-profit publishers get experts in the field to review every article for free. The reason that most journals have a low crackpot ratio is more due to the peer-review than vigilant editorship IMO.

        The editors/editorial boards do have a role, in that they make the initial decision about what is sent out for peer review (particularly for j

    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      Never confuse the mutually exclusive terms "taxes" and "rights", other then the fact that taxes and death are the only two rights we all share...
      • "taxes and death are the only two rights we all share"

        Seeing as attempting suicide is a crime then I'd say that taxes are our only right.
    • by mi (197448)

      Is there really any reason why government-funded research shouldn't be made available to the masses? After all, wasn't it the masses who paid for the research?

      Those were American masses, who paid for the research. The talk is about making the information available to the masses world-wide.

      The majority of them dislike America and Americans today (multi-polar world, et al.) — and some are actively hostile towards us. It may be nice of us to help them all out anyway, and it may even help improve our

    • by iminplaya (723125)
      A sufficient number of the masses have to give a damn first. Then they need to elect officials that actually represent their interests, instead of BIGCO's.
  • Yeah. We remember what happened to the LAST [wikipedia.org] "freely available virtual scientific library available to the entire globe".
  • what if somehow we find research data from Area 51 in this new library? I'd like to see that government research online. Don't bother telling me it doesn't exist or should be a secret still, I just would like to see what they have.
  • Google Research®
  • Follow the path of Wikipedia. In 1997 no one believed the biggest encyclopedia in the world would be free (both free as in freedom and free as in beer) in 10 years. You can do the same with science!

    I've heard how bad the situation is: Scientist publish their papers in scientific magazines without getting payed. Other scientist review those papers, without being paid either.. but buying those magazines is really expensive. Basically the magazines don't do anything useful for science... they just cost much...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I concur! This is idea is way overdue. Do y'all know how much these articles cost in the formally published form? Thousands of dollars a year. If libraries didn't feel compelled to purchase them (librarians are nice), then the journals would dry-up and blow away. With the 'Net there is not nearly as much need for journals. Let open access become the norm, not the exception. --A librarian
  • $5 says articles start vanishing as "certain" governments decide that previously unclassified materials are not secret ...
    • $5 says articles start vanishing as "certain" governments decide that previously unclassified materials are not secret ...

      Uhhhh.. The idea is to take articles that are publicly available (albeit expensive) and make them publicly available (and free). This is a non-event on any security dimension.

      • by ubrgeek (679399)
        Uhhh ... So are a number of previously public documents that were never classified which have since been pulled from library shelves and marked classified. Then there's the issue of studies that would not have received much attention because they were so esoteric and now someone smart and civic-minded publishes the results on something like /. And those results fly in the face of a position a particular government is advocating. Those studies could just as easily be removed from public scrutiny under the g
  • Democracy (Score:2, Insightful)

    "will last until the people discover they can vote themselves free bread."

    Having grown fat on free bread, the people will now vote themselves free information.

    Just saying.

    • Dumbassery (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... m ['hoo' in gap]> on Thursday March 01, 2007 @02:22PM (#18196776) Journal
      When you give someone bread, you have less bread. When you give someone information, you still have it.

      The article talks about government funded research. Why shouldn't the people who paid for it have access to it? Why should publishing companies, who often require transfer of copyright and cash payments from authors in order to publish, continue to get fat off public money?

      People who think that the public is not entitled to what it pays for, while some random company that adds nothing of value is, are dumbasses. Just saying.
      • "... while some random company that adds nothing of value is"

        Publishing books can hardly be seen as not adding value. Could you imagine how combersome and unworkable a system there would be if everyone just printed out
        or photocopied raw manuscripts? Plagarism would be rampant and citation would be next to impossible. Also publishing houses provide distribution, and often are the
        only outlets for many obscure works and often manage storage of unpurched volumes yet to be sold.

        Can web-based systems work? Ye
  • This is overdue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Denial93 (773403) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:52PM (#18196366)
    Scientific literature is now mainly published in digital form and all the infrastructure that paper copies require is increasingly obsolete. Now we still live in the ruins of the time when printing mattered: we have rivalling databases who charge money from "publishers" (just a guy with Office and Outlook Express, in some cases) who in turn charges money from authors. In many cases, having published at a particular journal before or knowing who's probably going to review you has entirely too much influence on what gets accepted. People still insist on distributing their papers as read-only PDFs. The whole system ceases to make sense as a market, and it never made sense as an infrastructure. If all of this luggage was finally done away with and replaced with a state-funded, largely automated, high capacity system that was available from anywhere, lots of highly competent people would have more time to devote to research. The difference such a system would make for scholars is akin to the difference that Wikipedia makes for laymen.

    I know what's suggested here wouldn't be quite that, but it'd be the second to last step before we arrive at a system where free application and publication, anonymous worldwide peer review and free access to all publications speed up research considerably.

    However, the advantage of this would be greatest for backwater scientific communities in second- and third-world countries. I could see a couple of legislators not want the Russian anthropologists, Kenyan mathematicians or Peruvian veterinarians to catch up on the guys in "their" universities...
  • Long time coming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kidcharles (908072) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @02:00PM (#18196456)
    I have been thinking about this for a long time. At my public university (in the US) I have heard librarians say that some journals have subscription fees of 10's of thousands of dollars a year. Multiply that by the enormous number of journals that the university library has to subscribe to each year and you are talking 10's of millions of dollars a year. Also, of course the access is restricted to students and faculty of the university; the general public cannot get web access to these journals. Given that the vast majority of the research published is funded by government agencies, this is outrageous. The fees have gotten so bad that the library has had to pick and choose. Just this year my online access to the journal Review of Scientific Instruments was limited to just the last 5 years or so, rather than the entire archive, due to fees. The kicker is that there are paper copies in the physical library that I can go photocopy, but I can't access the articles online because my university can't afford it. There must be reform regarding the publishing of scientific work funded by government agencies. My only concern is that the quality of peer-review must remain intact, but I see no reason for that to change since those who review papers don't get paid anyway.
  • by jfabermit (688258) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @02:00PM (#18196460)
    The arXiv system (www.arxiv.org) already hosts just about every preprint that comes out in high energy physics, astrophysics, and several related disciplines. Access is completely free, and they currently host 400,000 papers. Needless to say, people post there for a reason: it works really effectively to get research results out to the public quickly and efficiently, and as mentioned before, it's totally free for everyone involved. Open access isn't a theoretical question taking place in a vacuum, it's already underway, and it works just fine, and can even coexist with the refereed journal system, as the physics world has learned over the past decade.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kripkenstein (913150)
      arXiv is excellent. In fact I believe someone said that it was "the greatest contribution to humanity from string theory thus far" ;)

      It is interesting that physics is a pioneer in this field. It may have something to do with their research culture, I have been told; not being a physicist, I can't say. Yet, closer to my field, there is also some positive movement. The closed-access "Journal of Machine Learning" gained competition by the name of the "Journal of Machine Learning Research", where the latter
    • by neurostar (578917)

      There is a downside however... it's not peer reviewed.

      Although you can use the journals for that...

    • Needless to say people post to [the arXiv system (www.arxiv.org)] for a reason: it works really effectively to get research results out to the public quickly and efficiently, and as mentioned before, it's totally free for everyone involved

      Then let's say it: they post it for other reasons too, like to disseminate their findings to the scientific community. Now I suggest to you to pick pretty much any paper from the arXiv and read it: you'll soon realize that it refers to lots of other papers, from journals. This is where things get complicated for anyone interested in reading these articles, because he or she, be it layman or an expert, still cannot get full information. Now try to get other articles related to the subject of the article t

  • by kwieland in stl (830615) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @02:00PM (#18196466)
    I was wondering about this last year. Michele Irwin, International Programs Administrator at the APS Office of International Affairs provided this information:

    In 2006, the American Physical Society established a program that provides free on-line access to its journals for non-profit institutions located in eligible countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. This program is made available through the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI), http://www.inasp.info/peri/free.shtml [inasp.info]. PERI provides researchers in developing and transitional countries with access to international, scholarly literature from a wide range of disciplines.

    The APS began its participation in PERI by offering access to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now that this pilot program has operated successfully for one year, the APS is in the process of expanding access to other developing regions.

    The APS also supports the electronic Journals Delivery Service (eJDS), which is administered by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), http://sdu.ictp.it/ep/ejds.html [sdu.ictp.it]. This service is aimed at providing access to scientists at institutions in developing countries that do not have access to sufficient bandwidth, thus, making it impossible or too difficult to download material from the Internet. Through eJDS, scientists receive individual mathematics and physics journal articles via e-mail.

    In addition to the programs above, the APS is also one of many publishers that are partners in the Iraqi Virtual Science Library (IVSL), https://www.ivsl.org/ [ivsl.org]. IVSL provides free access to scientific journals to institutions in Iraq. The Society has also established multi-institutional agreements (consortia) in many countries to help broaden access to institutions that might otherwise be unable to afford or gain access.
    • by awfar (211405)
      "In 2006, the American Physical Society established a program that provides free on-line access to its journals for non-profit institutions located in eligible countries in Sub-Saharan Africa...."

      I am in rural America, an American, I can't get easy access to the "American Physical Society" or similar journals. No job, no longer college access, and local library are incompetent and callous.

      I don't want an institution to manage access for me.

      Anyone have links, pointers to access?
      • You could try the Arxiv (http://arxiv.org/). In some fields, authors post first on the arxiv before submitting to other peer review journals.

        Also, you can read almost all the "current" issues without a subscription. It depends on the journal though. What discipline are you interested in?
        • by awfar (211405)
          Thank You for the pointer; I looked at it in the past for some specific need, but will look again closer. I have an eclectic variety of interests and needs; ACM, IEEE and the specialty journals like Microwave, Electronics, etc. Also Journals of NMR, the APS, American Chemical Society ACS, various Instrumentation journals such as Review of Scientific Instruments.
  • www.doaj.org - directory of open access journals

    If only they could use this new initiative to pump up the number of journals and full-text index the whole thing, plus the physics/math/computer science index over at www.arxiv.org, you'd have a good start towards a single, comprehensive index.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Interesting, but what if I want to see papers from real science, not virtual science?

    ("Free Global Science Virtual Library" might have been a better choice.)
  • This is, probably, not enough to outweight the benefits, but is not anybody concerned about our sworn enemies using our scientific advances against us?

    They already do that, but they want more [boston.com]...

    • you even could look up the latest papers on paranoia, duh...

      did i miss the point where TFA mentioned publishing classified information? nobody wants to publish the construction plans of the latest AntiWeapenOfMassDestructionWeaponOfMassDestruction (AWOMDWOMD(tm)) ...
    • Personally, I feel safe enough from evil uses of the Poincare Conjecture...
    • by Beetle B. (516615)
      but is not anybody concerned about our sworn enemies using our scientific advances against us?

      Given the quality of papers, giving them access would really slow them down.

      Seriously, I know you stay up late at night worrying about how some religious fanatics will suddenly figure out how to use Fibonacci numbers to solve the Riemann Hypothesis and thus build their Gizmatron that will destroy all, but somehow, it doesn't bother me.

      And pray tell, who is this "our" in "our scientific advances"?
  • FTA: Notwithstanding the momentum toward open access, some barriers remain.
    First, many conventional publishers actively oppose open access, fearful that it will cut into their profitability.


    Pretty much sums it up.

    Indeed, soon after the launch of the European petition, Nature reported that publishers were preparing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to counter open access support with a message that equates public access to government censorship.

    Distortion and distraction. Can we expect anything else
  • by jomama717 (779243) <jomama717@gmail.com> on Thursday March 01, 2007 @03:01PM (#18197332) Journal
    I haven't seen that many adjectives in a row since my wife's last order at Starbucks...
  • by symes (835608) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:25PM (#18198656) Journal
    I'm all for greater access to academic publications. However, there is a problem which might be aggrevated. Good publications rely on good reviewers, the better the reviewers the better the output. Currently, the continuuing increase in academic publications is putting more and more pressure on reviewers and it is increasingly common for prospective reviewers to either ignore or refuse requests. If this Virtual Scientific Library increases capacity further then this may well undermine the integrity of peer reviewed research.

    Moreover, my concern is that a Virtual Scientific Library will will not emphasise where (i.e. which journal) a paper was published and therefore the rigour of the review process. Instead we'll end up with average research on an equal footing with research that deserves maximum respect.

    So, yes to a Virtual Scientific Library but can we have it based on Slashcode please but with moderation linked to expertise?

  • by Stuntmonkey (557875) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:19PM (#18199312)

    Nobody has yet mentioned the reason expensive journals persist in an era of cheap typesetting and distribution. It's because they provide two (inter-related) things to the science community:

    1. Quality control. For the good journals, when you submit an article it is typically reviewed (anonymously) by at least three of your peers, who make comments that are forwarded to you for response. You either argue your case against the reviewers or change your paper to accommodate. Then the reviewers see your counterarguments and/or changes and make further comments, etc. Sitting in the middle of this are 1-2 (very knowledgeable) editors refereeing the process, and your paper doesn't get published until they approve it. (This large amount of back-and-forth also contributes to high cost.) Sometimes this review process can take 6 months or longer to complete, which is why preprint sites like arXiv have flourished. ArXiv has taken many months out of the cycle time of the scientific process. But since anybody can post to arXiv, a lot of the papers there are frankly pretty kooky and would never make it through peer review.
    2. A reputational mechanism. Because of #1 it's a big deal to publish in a high-quality journal. Academics typically cannot directly evaluate their peers in different fields -- topics are very specialized in modern research -- but all physicists know that Physical Review Letters is a good journal, and if a colleague has published there several times it says something about his or her ability. By contrast, the number of preprints posted on arXiv carries no reputational value.

    I agree the current system is bad and needs to be changed. My point is that it isn't so simple a problem to solve as many Slashdotters might believe. We're talking here about one of the primary mechanisms influencing people's research careers (which jobs they get, whether they get grant funding, which awards they win). If the money gets sucked out of publishing and the peer review process that this funds goes away, something will need to take its place as a QC mechanism for science.

    • by Submarine (12319) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:35PM (#18199472) Homepage
      "Nobody has yet mentioned the reason expensive journals persist in an era of cheap typesetting and distribution. It's because they provide two (inter-related) things to the science community: Quality control. For the good journals, when you submit an article it is typically reviewed (anonymously) by at least three of your peers, who make comments that are forwarded to you for response. You either argue your case against the reviewers or change your paper to accommodate."

      Peer review has little to do with the price of the publications. Referees are not paid by the publisher of the journal (I know this because I've refereed a bunch of papers and never got anything more than a "thank you" note.)

      There are enormous price differences between peer-reviewed journals. Some first-class journals in computer science, such as the Journal of the ACM, cost about 200 a year, while some other journals cost as much as 5000. The difference is that the former are published by nonprofits (scientific or technical societies) while the latter are published by for-profit entities, who charge universities through their nose.

      A solution, yet unimplemented, would be to have editorial boards read and validate articles that are published on sites such as arXiv.org

      Repeat: what's important is the editorial board, not the publisher.

      (Shameless plug: the French research agency CNRS has a nice site for open publication: http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/index.php?langue=e n [archives-ouvertes.fr] )

      • A solution, yet unimplemented, would be to have editorial boards read and validate articles that are published on sites such as arXiv.org
        I am not sure I understand your solution: who would sit on these boards? Would that really be better than a peer-review system currently in place?
    • by Vireo (190514)
      An open, electronic journal could work with a moderation system not unlike Slashdot, or even better, Everything2 [everything2.org]. User could get registered, and acquire reputation by writing articles having good reviews. Moderation systems work well for comments and E2 nodes; why not for scientific articles?

      Citation and references would also offer a dizzying world of possibilities for moderating, ranking and following up on research. It would be trivial to automatically add to each article a list of articles that link ba

      • An open, electronic journal could work with a moderation system not unlike Slashdot, or even better, Everything2. User could get registered, and acquire reputation by writing articles having good reviews. Moderation systems work well for comments and E2 nodes; why not for scientific articles?

        Maybe a user-moderated system could work, but I'm skeptical that moderation done entirely by users will result in high overall quality. Then again maybe you don't care about maintaining high quality across all arti

  • Years ago this was already set in motion through the Berlin Declaration (http://oa.mpg.de/openaccess-berlin/berlindeclarat ion.html).

    Currently in the Netherlands almost all major universities have repositories for their papers, theses, et cetera. Typically runs software like DSpace (www.dspace.org) or others (Chesire3, et cetera).

    See http://www.opendoar.org/ [opendoar.org] for open access repositories.

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