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The Almighty Buck United States Science

Bill to Require Open Access to Scientific Papers 213

Posted by samzenpus
from the share-your-answers dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "Congress is expected to vote this week on a bill requiring investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to publish research papers only in journals that are made freely available within one year of publication. Until now, repeated efforts to legislate such a mandate have failed under pressure from the well-heeled journal publishing industry and some nonprofit scientific societies whose educational activities are supported by the profits from journals that they publish. Scientists assert that open access will speed innovation by making it easier for them to share and build on each other's findings. The measure is contained in a spending bill that boosts the biomedical agency's effective budget by 3.1%, to $29.8 billion in 2008. The open-access requirement in the bill would apply only during fiscal year 2008; it would need to be renewed in yearly spending bills in the future."
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Bill to Require Open Access to Scientific Papers

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  • Bill to Require Open Access to Scientific Papers

    Oh, they'll give you free access to all the papers you want. But nobody said anything about charging for the ink.
    • Re:clever wording (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mrbluze (1034940) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @07:44PM (#21275399) Journal

      Oh, they'll give you free access to all the papers you want. But nobody said anything about charging for the ink.
      All of the journals I read are published online as well as in print form. Some (such as the BMJ) already open up their papers after a period, but enforcing this to happen within 1 year of publication is _fantastic_ news, because, even if I am 12 months behind my boss who paid for his articles, I am still 4 or 5 years ahead of my juniors who have only just finished reading their textbook.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Genda (560240)

        I love the idea that this might happen...

        My only concern is that publicly available scientific material might cause the cerebrally challenged (as frequents the Bush Whitehouse), to be more inclined to censor scientific material paid for by public funds before they even get to be displayed. They've made it perfectly clear that when the truth is either incovenient, or embarassing to their religious affiliations, or whichever corporate interest that owns them this week, they haven't the slightest discomfort i

  • Gives them time to file patents.

    Having access to papers is one step, but surely any fruits of this research should also be placed in the public domain.

  • Not so easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by smoondog (85133) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @07:53PM (#21275477)
    As a search scientist, I am a huge fan of open access and I have published and promoted its use in the past. However, there are more issues than just making it law. For example, PLOS Biology charges $2750 US for a single paper [plos.org]. Right now, a budget of $2-3k per year for publication is a reasonable cost, if that were to rise to $2-3k per paper, it could get very expensive, at tax payer cost and at the expense of research activity. How are we going to bring down the cost of open access, perhpas the feds should get into publishing? I am personally a fan of looking at other, perhaps less expensive options, such as creating open data repositories that are publicly funded or focusing on community driven knowledgebases that are in the public domain. Lots of papers aren't very interesting, requiring those authors to pay open access costs is a recipe for useless expense.
    • Re:Not so easy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by backwardMechanic (959818) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @08:35PM (#21275971) Homepage
      Yes, but what are the costs? You write the paper for free, and deliver it in electronic form half-way ready for publication, draw the figures, etc. It's reviewed by your peers for free. It can now be published purely in electronic form (not free, but cheap). Journal publishing houses might as well be printing money - the model needs shaking up.
      • by dhart (1261) *
        I'd like Google Scholar to offer services for hosting and review of scientific papers. Perhaps then we'd see some truer-to-life cost figures possible with state-of-the-art technology. It would also be interesting if Google disclosed advertising revenue for this tiny fraction of their business.
      • Re:Not so easy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ahaile (147873) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @09:59PM (#21276771)
        You've obviously never served on a journal board or seen one's budget. Most journals barely break even. The reviewers might be "free" volunteers, but the cost of that is that you're 5th or 6th or 37th on their list of priorities, so you need a lot of paid staff hours to get them to stick to a non-glacial timeframe. And every author believes that their papers are ready for publication until you show them that half their citations are wrong or missing, that the chart they whipped up in Excel forgot to include the critical data, etc etc etc. Scientists are good at being scientists, as they should be, but they're not always good at being writers. If your overriding goal is to publish the best science, you can't just kick out the papers with these kinds of errors. You need paid people to do that kind of grunt work, and that costs money.
        • Re:Not so easy (Score:5, Informative)

          by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:20PM (#21276985)
          Honestly, I've given up on this debate around here (and for the record I fully support these open access policies). I used to work at a nonprofit scientific journal (small 3 person office, 15 AEs, ~45 review board members). Our print run was a little over 20,000. Our operating budget was a bit less than 1M a year. We barely broke even each year, and any extra that was made was funneled back into the next year's operating budget. We were all making average salaries and could easily have been making more in the for-profit world. Slashdotters are all convinced that they know how to run a publication for absolutely nothing. Save your breath. They simply don't want to understand that regularly producing a quality journal has costs, time, and effort associated with it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Hobbex (41473)

            Slashdotters are all convinced that they know how to run a publication for absolutely nothing. Save your breath. They simply don't want to understand that regularly producing a quality journal has costs, time, and effort associated with it.

            Here is a completely free journal [washington.edu] that is among the most reputable in its field. I guess it doesn't exist.

            Elsevier made a profit of 850 million USD off academic publishing last year, a more than 25% profit margin.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by epine (68316)
            I don't understand your point at all. For the most part, all the costs of the existing model already come out the NIH budget, the only question is when: on the publication side (at the expense of the person publishing a new result), or the journal subscription side of the fence (overhead to the institution which supports the research scientist, and probably already comes out of the NIH grant money flagged as overhead).

            If all the costs are moved to the publication side, then the finished result can be read
          • In the world of computer science, statistics, and related areas, many of us have put our volunteer effort where our ideology is and actually do run top journals in the field, completely for free. Some generous assistance is provided by sponsoring institutions in most cases, which isn't hard to get if you just ask, as many institutions are keen to get their name associated with a journal.

            Exhibit A [washington.edu]
            Exhibit B [mit.edu]
            Exhibit C [www.ine.pt]
            etc.

            In fact, you can just take a look at this directory [doaj.org] and scan for the entries that say "Publ
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by iabervon (1971)
            $1M/year is absolutely nothing compared to what for-profit journals gross, and they don't have huge costs that you didn't. If anything, the better-known the journal, the less trouble it will be to put together, because reviewers will care more.

            And $1M/year is not all that much to raise from a group of research institutions, even without providing a tangibly different benefit to those that pay versus those that don't. Divide it among the institutions that regularly publish in your journal, and have them mark
        • True, I've never served on a journal board. I just see things from the other side. It appears to me that production costs should have reduced. The manuscripts we provide, while not perfect, are almost ready to run (not produced on a typewriter with hand drawn diagrams). Electronic distribution isn't free, but is cheaper than paper. But the cost keeps going up. That money has to go somewhere. If someone can give me an explanation of where it goes I'd be truly interested.
        • by kabocox (199019)
          Scientists are good at being scientists, as they should be, but they're not always good at being writers. If your overriding goal is to publish the best science, you can't just kick out the papers with these kinds of errors. You need paid people to do that kind of grunt work, and that costs money.

          The evil overlord part of my brain is saying that this is a job for all those English majors. Let's see the universities start requiring the English department to start proofreading and "editing" all the papers th
    • by squidfood (149212)
      perhpas the feds should get into publishing?

      The agency I work for has... it has a scientific report series that solicits peer-reviews among experts (not just agency insiders), performs editorial tasks, and then publishes online. Quite cost-effective, I'm told (I haven't seen the bill except for paper reprint printing costs). Problem is, it's just not "big name" so despite having similar quality in scientific content to any mid-range journal out there, and being freely available online, it's still not co

    • PLoS Biology has an insanely high impact factor. If I got a paper accepted in a journal with an impact factor of 14.1 I'd be an instant star in my department, and my department head would certainly have no problem finding the money. It is really a small amount compared to the price of doing research. A Danish university researcher cost about 100.000 USD per year including overheads, so it would be 3% of the budget for dissemination of the research results. Not that bad. (They would probably like us to
  • Preprints (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jmcharry (608079)
    Unless things have changed since I was a grad student, scientific papers are circulated as preprints to others active on the subject matter. I have read that lately preprints are often hosted on PCs in the authors' lab. While this is often cited as being unfair to less well known researchers, one of my advisers pointed out that he sent out significantly more preprints than the number of people actually likely to be able to build on his work. Still, it does seem if the government is paying for the research,
    • We still see pre-prints occasionally. And we do sometimes read journals. But the vast majority of the articles we read are results from online search queries.

      It is probably more extreme here than elsewhere, because we make models that integrate many different disciplines, but I suggest that the trend is universal. There are simply too many papers published in too many journals for you to even skim, so you rely on search.

      Open Access journals obviously score high this way, as we are not dependent on our in
      • You've made an important point. Apart from the open/closed journal argument, there are too many papers published. It's become a bit self-serving. As scientists we are judged by how many publications we produce. So, we write lots of them. The journal publishers are happy, they get to print more. We're happy, we get a longer publication list. But the overall significance and quality is going down. It's far to common to split a good piece of work into three or four papers, when it would make one really solid p
    • In physics, it's now standard practice to digitally publish preprints on arxiv.org [arxiv.org], which is where everyone gets their new results. It serves as an informal peer-review process, since people peruse and comment on new results as they come out. By the time something hits a journal, most people doing relevant work have already seen the preprint, so the journal is basically just a way of archiving the no-longer-new results. Or at least that's especially true in some parts of physics.

      In many areas of computer sc
  • This needs support (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitalderbs (718388) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @07:56PM (#21275517)
    Publishers make cash from advertisers, from readers (subscription costs) and even the authors (charges for publications, color figures). As an academic and NIH scientist, I find it appalling that NIH funded research isn't openly accessible to the public -- I further believe that all academic publications should be free, but that's a different topic. NIH and NSF (National Science Foundation) research is really the property of the people that pay for it -- the public -- and authors have been somewhat powerless to change this broken system. We're required to adhere to the policies of high-impact journals as well as sign over copyrights in many cases.

    I hope this is the beginning of new open policy for academic reports. At the very least it belongs to the US public (or whichever gov't funds the research), and at best, it belongs to the public in general. With digital costs being a fraction of printed costs, there's really no reason this shouldn't happen.
    • uh, economics? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Quadraginta (902985)
      I'm really sympathetic to this idea. Personally, it'd be great. When I was on a university faculty, I never thought twice about access to papers. If the journal had an online version, it was pretty much guaranteed that the university had a subscription and (thanks the magic of IP mapped subscription) I could just access the stuff from my office computer.

      Now, in private industry, it's a whole 'nother ballgame. If I don't want to trudge down to the God-damned library to read papers, which is very expensiv
      • It's not a simple problem, I agree, but I don't think the solution has to be very complicated either. For example, the NIH has much experience in maintaining large, secure, open databases.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez [nih.gov]

        I do think the scientific community would get behind an NIH initiative to publish papers through the NIH. The NIH employs tens of thousands of people, and thousands of IT people.

        More importantly, tons of profitable websites exist that disseminate information that costs a l
  • by damneinstien (939730) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @07:56PM (#21275521)
    I have modpoints, but I just had to post here.

    Though in theory the idea sounds great, the issue becomes that there aren't too many open-access journals that are prestigious. This is partly because of the high cost of maintaining scientific peer review. Anybody managing a journal must keep enlist reviewers, make sure reviewers review, edit, do layout, maintain a highly dynamic website and a bunch of other expensive tasks. It makes sense then that there should be a way for journals to recoup their expenses. I don't think forcing top authors to publish in lesser known journals is the way.

    A better solution, I feel, would be to ensure that the (NIH grant winning) authors pay an up-front cost to ensure open-access for their articles. Most of the big name publishing groups I'm familiar with (i.e. Science, Nature, Elsevier, etc.) allow this. The cost is usually not prohibitive (~1000 USD) and would be a better solution for ensuring that the science paid for by government agencies is open to everyone.
    • by neapolitan (1100101) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @08:10PM (#21275695)
      I'm a researching physician -- You did not take your own points to the logical conclusion:

      A great deal (almost all) research has an NIH component of funding. Thus, if the bill goes through, *all journals will open their access* rather than have the scientists publish in lesser known journals, which will instantly become prestigious. The only articles that a 'closed' journal could publish would be those from industry or private/semiprivate funding sources (e.g. HHMI).

      This is an indirect way of forcing open access to journals, which is a *great* thing.

      Many journals have already opened up archive access. For instance, the New England Journal of Medicine http://nejm.org/ [nejm.org] has its archive with free access, and also releases "important" or widely read articles for free immediately.

      For the average scientist (including me) at a large institution, this has no effect. All of the hospital / university computers are whitelisted for almost all major journals by IP given the hospital / institution subscription. This will still occur, as I need journal access for articles when they come out, but this open archive access will benefit those not tied to major universities or private doctors out in the community.

      Of note, it is an unspoken agreement in science that researchers at major institutions help others. Rarely we will receive an email from a doctor / researcher in Bumbletown, Argentina asking "Can you send me article from 1997 in X journal, they want $399 USD for an archive copy," I have a patient with this reported disease, etc.

      They get a .pdf attachment in reply.
      • Rarely we will receive an email from a doctor / researcher in Bumbletown, Argentina asking "Can you send me article from 1997 in X journal, they want $399 USD for an archive copy," I have a patient with this reported disease, etc.

        They get a .pdf attachment in reply.
        Expect a call from the JIAA's lawyers shortly.
    • by Hays (409837)
      What's preventing your "better solution" based on the wording of this bill?

      I am a scientist and I very strongly support this requirement. I (and most other computer scientists) already put our papers online for free, but that's not true in some peripheral research fields that interest me. It's stupid for taxpayer funded research not to be available to everyone.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Etherwalk (681268)
      > ensuring that the science paid for by government agencies US taxpayers is open to everyone.

      fixed that for you.
    • by benna (614220)
      How is your solution not perfectly acceptable under provisions of the bill? I don't believe it requires that the research be published in a journal that give open access to all of the articles it publishes, but rather just to the NIH research itself.
    • by Hatta (162192)
      Anybody managing a journal must keep enlist reviewers, make sure reviewers review, edit, do layout, maintain a highly dynamic website and a bunch of other expensive tasks. It makes sense then that there should be a way for journals to recoup their expenses.

      Gee, I dunno... Maybe they could get a grant?! If we're willing to spend billions on research don't you think we can find a couple million to help get the results of that research to people who need it? The money the publishers make is coming from the
    • bullshit (Score:2, Informative)

      by m2943 (1140797)
      Though in theory the idea sounds great, the issue becomes that there aren't too many open-access journals that are prestigious.

      Well, and this legislation fixes that by forcing prestigious journals to either become open access or go out of business.

      This is partly because of the high cost of maintaining scientific peer review. Anybody managing a journal must keep enlist reviewers, make sure reviewers review, edit,

      Peer review, editing, and peer review management are handled by unpaid volunteers.

      do layout

      Even i
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by damneinstien (939730)
        Well, you must not have worked on a journal before. I am on the board for only an open access college journal and though we only publish ~10 articles per year, we still need a big staff doing all the tasks I mentioned and more And we have a fairly high budget. If my university's general funds and outside grants didn't cover our costs, our journal would disappear instantly. You seem to suggest that Nature (only an example because I happened to be reading something from there), which has over 50 journals to
        • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

          by m2943 (1140797) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @04:28AM (#21279047)
          You seem to suggest that Nature (only an example because I happened to be reading something from there), which has over 50 journals to manage, 1000s of reviews to track, 1000s of articles to edit, 1000s of authors to communicate with, servers to host, "standard software packages" to customize and deploy, advertising to attract, subscriptions to manage and keep track of, among other things, costs can be accomplished through a "1/2 admin position" and a "cost of $50k/year!" And you were modded informative?

          I said "$50k per journal". And, no, of course there is no way that Nature could get by with $50k/per journal; that's because Nature spends a lot of money on things unrelated to the core function of a scientific journal: they are spending money on increasing their ranking and citation index, they are spending money on making things better for authors (at least the ones that are accepted), they finance a big staff of journalists, etc.

          But those are really abuses of scientific publishing. Not only is it unnecessary for Nature's function as a scientific journal to do any of the other, expensive stuff, it artificially distorts the importance and reputation of the journal.

          The costs needed to maintain these journals, however, will have to come out of somewhere.

          Or, alternatively, the journals will simply have to focus on the essentials: reviewing and distributing, essentials that can be provided at minimal cost. If behemoths like Nature can't be financed that way, all the better. Nature is a fun and interesting journal, but people should pay for the "fun and interesting" part separately from the peer reviewed journal paper part.

          I am on the board for only an open access college journal and though we only publish ~10 articles per year, we still need a big staff doing all the tasks I mentioned and more

          So am I. If you need a "big staff" for publishing 10 articles a year, you are doing something wrong and deserve to go out of business.
  • Well, if they can do this with our gov. sponsered research (and they can), then why not require network neutrality for all networks that are based on monopolies? For example, comcast has the local monopoly for coax (and I believe fiber). The feds can require that they have network neutrality as a means of having the monopoly. If they give up the monopoly, then they should be free to do what they want.
    • by benna (614220)
      While I agree with you, I think the link between network neutrality and this article is tenuous at best.
      • this is about a comprimise. It basically says that if the publishers are using OUR research to feed from, then we want it back after a certain period. Basically, it says that if you are feeding at the public trough, then the public should get some back. What I was suggesting was the same. Yeah, slightly different subject, but in the end, same idea.
    • by m2943 (1140797)
      when why not require network neutrality

      Because reasonable governments don't go around interfering in free markets willy-nilly. The argument for open access scientific journals apparently is compelling to Congress. The argument for network neutrality apparently is not compelling to Congress yet.

      One can argue about whether Congress is right or wrong, but they get to make the call on this; that's what we elect them for.
      • Actually, the publishing is far more free-market than is telecom here. As I suggested earlier, gov should ONLY interfere if they were granted a monopoly. If they have no monopoly, then they should be free to do as they wish.
        • by m2943 (1140797)
          Actually, the publishing is far more free-market than is telecom here. As I suggested earlier, gov should ONLY interfere if they were granted a monopoly. If they have no monopoly, then they should be free to do as they wish.

          The journals are "free to do as they wish". But so is the government--it's just another participant in the free market. Since the government is paying for this research, the government has a right not to do business with these journals unless the journals publish in a way that the gove
  • Speaking as one who has had occasion to do research, there is a choice of ways to find research, but they're all mediocre at best. It's so easy for them all to be a lot better.

    Libraries suck. To be fair, many of the reasons why they suck are beyond their control. They've still got the old card catalogs, which aren't too bad considering the obvious limitations. Nowadays they tend to have a few computers with various quirky proprietary search programs and data that are of course not available over the I

    • by raddan (519638)
      What kind of library are you talking about? Your hometown public library? Virtually every college or university with a halfway respectable science program will have access to a huge number of scientific publications, either online or in print (and in many cases, both). Card catalogs? IIRC, my alma mater had them, but it was mostly because they either hadn't finished indexing their collection electronically, or because they hadn't bothered to throw them out yet. Real libraries, and especially real libra
  • If a scientific journal wants a piece of my tax dollar, they should be thanking me that they get ANY taste of the proceeds. Beyond the cost of production (editing, reviewing, web serving, rainy day reserve, and limited printings), they have no business being "well heeled" on the public dollar.

    Funding their other endeavors on the profits is great, but in that case they're gonna have to sell Congress on the width and breadth of what are in fact publicly financed activities. How nice are their offices? How muc
    • Well heeled my ass. At least in the life sciences, those journals are non-profit organizations with slim margins. Yes, some of the biggest ones turn a profit, but the vast majority barely hang on, being supported by their parent organization.

      Oh, and many of them don't have offices. Its just a collection of people who do the work mostly by email and snail mail, and then send the proofs to a publishing company to print and mail. They have about as much in common with DoD contractors as Saddam did with WMD.
    • Yes, I did fly off the handle. No, I did not take the time to cite the sources of my grumpiness. In almost any industry, when something comes along that might cut into the big boys' action, they trot out the little guys in whichever trade association. It's like watching the US GOP cry about family farms, when what they're really trying to protect is ADM's stockholders, when they cut estate taxes.

      In academic publishing, as with publishing in general, there's been a lot of consolidation. As a result, what we'
  • Most university researchers probably don't have a problem. Most of the major journals I can get through the university library, even online access from home via the university library.

    They don't get everything, but they get a pretty large chunk of what's out there. I've rarely had problems finding stuff I need.

    I suspect most companies doing research can afford access to these as well. While not cheap, by any means, it's certainly within the reach of most moderate sized companies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Secrity (742221)
      I am so happy for you that you and people like you in your ivory towers have access to ALL the major journals. Not all of us have that sort of access to those articles, even though our tax money paid for the research that allowed them to be written.
    • Researchers, amazingly, aren't the only people who might be able to make use of research. For example, I once posted the text from an article from the New England Journal of Medicine to a cancer mailing list I'm on because it contained important information that could help people make treatment decisions, but only those of us with access to the journal would be able to see it. Another possibility: I do educational research. Gee, it sure would be great if teachers could actually read it and use it improve th
    • Most university researchers probably don't have a problem.
      I'm a university researcher and I have a problem.

      About 70% percent of the papers I go looking for are under lock and key, with the key being upwards $30 per paper. This is just for an electronic, windows only, pdf file, which I download from an automated site. Precisely why papers cost this much is beyond me, as most are poorly written and not very useful. You're essentially playing lucky dip, looking for that paper that will be of use to you. The difference is that you're paying $30 a pop.

      Strictly speaking, I had a problem. I have in fact simply given up on restricted content, and if my university doesn't have a subscription to a journal, and I see a "give us money" splash page, I just regard the paper as "lost" or "unavailable" and move on. It's not really much of an impediment to research, though there are drawbacks. The drawbacks are however significantly less that blowing $300 in one day on mostly useless pdf files.

      Basically, if I can't get my hands on your paper, I'm not citing it, and frankly that's your problem, not mine. If people insist on publishing in restricted journals, they'll have to accept the consequences. In this digital age, online pay per view content may as well not exist.
  • Yearly? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoshJ (1009085) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @08:41PM (#21276027) Journal
    What the hell is the point of making it require yearly renewal? If it's a good law, it should be permanent; if it's a bad law it shouldn't be passed at all. In this case, making it require yearly renewal means universities and such can't depend on the journals remaining open.
    • by bhalter80 (916317)
      The point is that the law may require fine tuning once passed and by making it sunset after a year requires the topic to be revisited for a variety of reasons including implimentability, unintended side effects, etc... Personally I think that all laws should sunset 3 years after initially passed and again at 50 years so that if there is no interest in renewing them they find their way off the books which avoids stupid laws like one in MA requiring all adult males to carry weapons to church. While I have fa
  • by raddan (519638) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @08:56PM (#21276181)
    I work for a publishing company that shall remain unnamed, but has a rather large stake in scientific publishing. Several years ago, our company president commented, in reference to state legislation that was being pushed to control the cost of college textbooks, that "campaign contributions just don't have the effect they used to anymore" and that the state PIRGs were just a bunch of fearmongers. While it it true that the cost of textbooks has gone up, because our customers are demanding more and more elaborate kinds of books, it is also true that our profit margins have remained the same: very large. His comment simply disgusted me. You can't go from talking about how "sudoku books are pure profit" to bemoaning the fact that people don't want to pay $200 for their intro psych book. Obviously, I don't want to bite the hand that feeds me, nor do I think this is a bad company to work for (quite the contrary), however this kind of shortsightedness is exactly what is wrong with the world. I expect them to fight this legislation with equal vigor.
    • Now, textbook companies, that's who they REALLY need to go after. The price gouging, the constant "new editions" that are just rearranged so you can't buy used, it's insane. And it's not like most textbook authors exactly get rich with them. I've often wondered why more prominent researchers don't write intro textbooks and self-publish or go with a smaller publishing house; they could get a bigger chunk of the profits while charging students less. But then, a lot of people who are prominent enough to get a
  • by ahaile (147873) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @09:41PM (#21276607)
    I was on the board of a small scientific journal deciding whether to go open access. We decided not to for two main reasons. First, though, you need to realize that peer reviewed journals are expensive, especially the "nichey" ones like us. The peer reviewers themselves are volunteers, but precisely because they're volunteers, you need a lot of paid staff hours to make sure everybody's got what they need and is getting it turned over in a reasonable timeframe. Most small journals barely break even. So why didn't we go open access?

    1) "Open access" sounds great, but you have to realize that "open access" means "author pays." Someone has to cover the journal expenses. Right now, it's largely the library budgets of research universities that fund journals, as they take out expensive institutional subscriptions. (Individual subscriptions generally lose money, by comparison.) Once a journal goes open access, the libraries drop their subscriptions and journal revenue plummets. To make up that money, journals have to raise the publication fees they charge authors dramatically. So "open access" just moves the barrier from access to publication. We have interests in attracting more international authors, and when we told these authors, particularly those from developing countries, what it would cost to publish in an open access journal, they said there was no way.

    2) There's a perception that open access is cheap, because a lot of journals are only charging around $1000 or so to make a single article open access. But the fact is that those journals are radically underpricing open access. They can do that because right now, only a few of the articles in each issue are open access, so the research libraries aren't dropping their institutional subscriptions just yet. So at the moment, that $1k is just gravy for the journal. But if you actually price out what it costs to publish a journal article, it's 3-10 times what they're charging. So once the scientific publishing world really shifts to open access, those journals are either going to sink or have to boost drastically their open access fees.

  • Even if there is open access to the articles, that will hardly change much. Few people skip on reading pertinent articles in the current setting. What is missing is access to data. Most "scientific" articles do not publish their experimental data. So there is no way to check their conclusions without trying to reproduce the experiments and then running the same analysis methods. If experimental data were required to be published, it would be possible to mine for information that original investigators
  • Slashdot is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gillbates (106458) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @09:58PM (#21276769) Homepage Journal

    A peer reviewed journal for geeks. What we need is to take the same approach to the peer reviewed scientific journals. Currently, they leech off the authors, and turn around and charge exorbitant fees to the readers to boot!

    Example: Just today, I needed some information on a relatively esoteric mathematical topic: maximal count linear feedback shift registers. I'm interested in relatively fast ways of finding dense polynomials, without doing the brute force try and see approach. However, most of the articles returned by Google were either to simple - they just discussed the general theory - or they were pay to view. Not only is the abstract uninformative, I have to pay in advance to read, which means that even if I should fork over the exorbitant fee, I might still end up with an article which reveals little more than Wikipedia. To folks like me, who do need this knowledge for professional work, even the peer-reviewed articles are worthless to me if I have to pay for them in advance, without a preview. I can't help but wonder how someone supposedly well-versed in math can't figure out the economics of publishing: that if they pay to have their article published, and the publisher charges readers a fee, that their article isn't likely to be read by anyone of consequence. Because I do professional work in this field, such an article would be of great interest to me; however, those who go the pay-to-publish route literally work themselves into obscurity.

    Honestly, I don't understand why the prestigious research institutions don't offer their grant-funded research for free. Rather than publish in a little-read, expensive, journal, they could publish on the net and let advertising pay their editorial costs. Instead of hiring experts, articles could be rated by experts across the world, using digital signatures to verify the authenticity of not just the author, but the moderator as well. Readers could choose articles for reading based on their endorsements by recognized authorities in the field, rather than the selections of a few ivory-tower types.

    Some might say that top research journals must be pay-to-publish in order to retain editors who are experts in their field. However, this argument doesn't really hold that much weight in light of the Alan Sokal Affair [nyu.edu] in which a peer-reviewed journal published rubbish that was easily recognizable as rubbish to even the most casual reader.

    Interestingly, names like Schneier, Daemen, etc... are well known because their work is widely available, without a fee. I can't help but wonder if paying to publish in one of these peer-reviewed journals actually does anyone any good - because they are generally ignored by both industry and the public at large.

  • Bottom line: journals that publish freely online will be quoted more often than those that don't. This works, because several highly respected journals currently publish online. So it's self-reinforcing. So I guess I don't care if congress passes a law or not -- I think it's inevitable. Closing thought: a year ago I was searching all available libraries to get a copy of paper X, which was published in the 60s -- way before the www or internet. Finally I found it online! Someone had scanned it. And I'm
  • Folks who do not publish in scientific, refereed journals may not realize this but authors pay a lot in Publication charges [entsoc.org]. There are some that are open and free for the author [insectscience.org] but they are few. I suspect if this bill passes page charges in many of our higher-end journals (e.g., Science, Nature, PNAS, Cell, Virology) are going to increase. Now if this happens researchers will need to allocate more money from there NIH grants to cover higher page charges. And where does the funding for NIH come from? Federa
  • Great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arrrrg (902404) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:52PM (#21277231)
    Maybe this will cause more journals to go the way of Machine Learning, which IMO would be awesome.

    From wiki [wikipedia.org]: The [Journal of Machine Learning Research] was founded as an open-access alternative to the journal Machine Learning. In 2001, forty editors of Machine Learning resigned in order to support JMLR, saying that in the era of the internet, it was detrimental for researchers to continue publishing their papers in expensive journals with pay-access archives. Instead, they wrote, they supported the model of JMLR, in which authors retained copyright over their papers and archives were freely available on the internet.
    • by Plutonite (999141)
      I wish the IEEE in particular would go this path, instead of charging poor grad students (who are the main audience) silly amounts for material they clearly won't buy. My CS department told me it cost $275,000 for access to I think 3 sections on the IEEE website. So much for the age of enlightenment.

      Brighter side: most authors have the right to publish anything pre-final (which is usually just the same sans format particulars) on their own respective websites, for free. So once more, Google is your friend.
  • by line-bundle (235965) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @11:33PM (#21277543) Homepage Journal
    Researchers, particularly young ones, do not have much of an option in deciding where to publish. Their tenure, funding, life depends on them publishing in a prestigious journal.

    It's not really their choice. The people who can make tenure decisions are deans, but deans tend beancounters who only look at the historical prestige of a journal.

    been there, done that.
  • I see this as a potentially very bad thing, but I might be mistaken. Tell me where I'm wrong here.

    1. NIH requires articles be published in journals that are free after a year.
    2. Since NIH funds a TON of stuff, basically ALL journals must go free after a year.
    3. Very small institutions and groups drop their subscriptions to journals because hey, they get the articles free now.
    4. Those journals have to raise subscription prices to make up for the lost customers (because despite the summary's tone, I get the f
    • May I put some ideas in here.

      At the moment Publishers get a good deal. The big costs are 'doing the research' and writing it up in an article, this takes time, expertise and money, most of which is from a University's own budget or a funding agency such as NIH, NSF (or say the Research Councils here in the UK). The key part of academic publishing is peer-review. This is done again with no cost to the publisher, by other academics (who are being paid by Universities). There will also be a Editor (and perhaps
  • Who's this "Bill" guy and why does he want open access to papers?
  • They're certainly a big enough institution to just put out a quarterly or monthly "proceedings of the NIH".

    -jcr

  • Researchers have a job, and their job is to research things. That's how they earn their living.

    Free software developers usually have jobs as well, many times as programmers. That's how they earn their living, but when they get home they start hacking free software projects and contribute to the free software communities.

    I see no reason why a researcher couldn't do the same if they wanted: Keep their day jobs and when they get home start doing some research for free, network with other like-minded indi

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