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Math Science Your Rights Online

Mathematicians Aim To Take Publishers Out of Publishing 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the you've-been-subtracted dept.
ananyo writes "Mathematicians plan to launch a series of free open-access journals that will host their peer-reviewed articles on the preprint server arXiv. The project was publicly revealed in a blog post by Tim Gowers, a Fields Medal winner and mathematician at the University of Cambridge, UK. The initiative, called the Episciences Project, hopes to show that researchers can organize the peer review and publication of their work at minimal cost, without involving commercial publishers. 'It’s a global vision of how the research community should work: we want to offer an alternative to traditional mathematics journals,' says Jean-Pierre Demailly, a mathematician at the University of Grenoble, France, who is a leader in the effort. Backed by funding from the French government, the initiative may launch as early as April, he says."
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Mathematicians Aim To Take Publishers Out of Publishing

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  • Re:Disingenious (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @10:08AM (#42625069)

    I've reviewed several articles and I've never been paid. Nor has anyone I know. Reviewers work for nothing, it's considered part of the "service" portion of your employment contract - so I guess one could say that they're being paid by their employers, not the journals.

  • Re:Disingenious (Score:5, Informative)

    by magic maverick (2615475) on Friday January 18, 2013 @10:15AM (#42625127) Homepage Journal

    The same way as at present. Reviewers are not paid, they are basically volunteers.

    The traditional model works like this:
    1) a paper is written (no one gets paid)
    2) it's sent to a journal, where the editor (paid) looks and decides whether or not to pass it on to reviewers (only the journal staff are paid)
    3) the paper is sent to reviewers who make comments and suggest whether to publish or not (no one gets paid)
    4) if the paper is not-worthy it's sent back to the author/s who decided to revise and resubmit or whatever (no one gets paid)
    5) if the paper is accepted, the author has to sign over copyright (no one gets paid)
    6) the paper is published, and if the author wants more than the "complementary" copies, has to pay. If anyone else wants to see the article, they have to pay. The journal makes loads of money for very little work.

    Another model cuts out the last two steps, and the journal makes their money from ads, donations, grants or other sponsorship (e.g. from a university). Another model has volunteers all the way through. It's not difficult.

  • Re:Disingenious (Score:2, Informative)

    by mrsquid0 (1335303) on Friday January 18, 2013 @10:26AM (#42625195) Homepage

    Point (6) needs to be expanded to include the physical costs of printing and distributing the paper version of each issue. There are also costs associated with the servers needed to distribute the electronic version of the journal. These costs, particularly for the paper version, can be quite high. The high printing and distributing costs are a major reason why academia is (oh so slowly) moving towards publishing on-line instead of in traditional paper journals.

  • by TheMathemagician (2515102) on Friday January 18, 2013 @10:46AM (#42625337)
    You're probably unaware that the backstory to this development is the academic boycott of publishers Elsevier over their price-gouging tactics. They're not casualties - they're legitimate targets.
  • Re:Disingenious (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @10:57AM (#42625431)

    I worked as a research assistant for several years and I have never seen a paper on physical paper. I could have (universities tend to stockpile them) but who wants to? 5% of papers are even interesting to read beyond the abstract. So I better print the 5% (if i am so inclined) and have all of it digitally. Get over it: Journals and other publications on paper are slow, expensive and practically dead. Oh and I stopped like 3 years ago.

  • by WillAdams (45638) on Friday January 18, 2013 @10:59AM (#42625447) Homepage

    Things which typical on-line systems don't do which publishers do:

      - quality selection / control on articles (some do better on this than others)
      - editors (for some reason, people take the content of text more seriously when it's to be printed)
      - graphic artists to re-draw illustrations, colour correct and fix graphics (sure, you can just slap a .png on-line, but it's wasteful if instead it could be a nice re-drawn or re-created graph or chart done as a vector graphic)
      - designers to create pleasing layouts for a publication so that not everything written has a boring sameness and so that the layout is adapted to make for more efficient reading of a text.

    I look at raw author manuscripts pretty much all day, and believe me, the vast majority of them are _not_ something one would choose to read in their original, un-edited source form.

    Typography is the craft (or art) of setting type so as to honour the content.

    William

  • by rmstar (114746) on Friday January 18, 2013 @11:19AM (#42625607)

    Things which typical on-line systems don't do which publishers do:

        - quality selection / control on articles (some do better on this than others)
        - editors (for some reason, people take the content of text more seriously when it's to be printed)
        - graphic artists to re-draw illustrations, colour correct and fix graphics (sure, you can just slap a .png on-line, but it's wasteful if instead it could be a nice re-drawn or re-created graph or chart done as a vector graphic)

    Very little of this happens in maths journals, and when it happens, it is usually the editor that does it, and he does it for free. Or rather, payed by his employing institution, not by the publisher.

    When the plots look ugly, it's usually the author who gets to fix them.

    - designers to create pleasing layouts for a publication so that not everything written has a boring sameness and so that the layout is adapted to make for more efficient reading of a text.

    I don't think any of that has happened in ages in maths. Perhaps the publishers pay for the cover illustrations, and a secreatary for handling correspondence, but everything else is done by people who are not paid by the publisher.

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Friday January 18, 2013 @11:57AM (#42625905) Journal

    Perhaps you are talking about fiction and general publishing? Because in research publication, it's not the publishers who do all those things, it's the authors and fellow authors. And it's all gratis. Publishers really are not adding any value whatsoever.

    - quality selection / control on articles (some do better on this than others)

    Fellow experts in the field do this, because they're the only ones with the expertise to judge a submission, and spot mistakes. Even the editorial/management process of finding and choosing reviewers is done by fellow experts. This practice is so ingrained there's even a name for it: peer review.

    editors

    Authors are asked to do basic proofing themselves, so as not to waste peer reviewers' time on trivial errors such as typos.

    graphic artists to re-draw illustrations

    What illustrations? Perhaps biology uses illustrations, but an abstract science such as mathematics does not.

    designers to create pleasing layouts

    The typical journal spells out those details. They specify what font sizes authors must use, and often fonts as well. The onus is on the authors to follow the specifications to prepare camera ready documents. A typical research journal will have some variation between papers. Unless the journal has specified otherwise, most papers might be in a serif font, with a few in a sans serif font mixed in. There will be slight differences in the spacing of lines and other fine details. Not everyone uses LaTeX. Probably almost no one still uses a typewriter, but there is other software. Usually, there is no color. These are research papers, not glossy magazine articles. But with e-readers able to substitute on the fly whatever font at whatever size the user likes, these issues are quickly fading into irrelevance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @12:08PM (#42625991)

    Actually, mathematics often does use illustrations - I'm in graph theory and my next paper is going to have quite a few. They're entirely supplied by the authors, though, and the publisher doesn't change them at all.

  • Re:Editorial work? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @12:12PM (#42626023)

    I have had many articles published in several journals, including the maligned Elsevier. If publishers add any value they have not educating me on what it is. I write the paper. I typeset it (in LaTeX); text, figures, and all. They require me to sign away the copyright. They put it on a web server. They charge me (and University libraries) to gain access to my own work. And the kicker is THAT THEY DON'T EVEN EDIT ANYMORE. I haven't submitted revisions or check galley proofs since the late 1990s. In other words, the only thing that I can see that they do is host a web site (that incidentally is more complicated than it needs to be because of the pay wall). Bah, good riddance I say! And three cheers for the mathematicians.

  • Re:Editorial work? (Score:5, Informative)

    by LourensV (856614) on Friday January 18, 2013 @12:16PM (#42626063)

    Unfortunately the vast majority of posters have never had any work published and make the false assumption that its all gravy for the publishers. Editing anything - scientific papers, manuscripts, text books is a considerable effort, far more than spell check in word. Layout is also important to make best use of space and present the work clearly to the reader. So the text (including tables and figures) that the author sends to the publisher do not equate to editiorial review or layout work. All costs must also be spread over the expected readership of the journal, which in the case of most scientific journals is not a very large audience.

    Last time I had something published in a peer-reviewed (Elsevier) journal, I sent them a LaTeX file using their stylesheets, all formatted and ready to go (and boy are tables a b*tch in LaTeX!). They don't give you the actual styles they use to format papers, but presumably the ones they do make available are compatible, so there was very little work on their end. Then, I went and did it all a second time myself (the published styles are not very readable, and I wasn't sure about copyright issues), so that I could publish a readable version as a preprint for free access through my institution's repository (which is allowed). Granted, most people in my field will just send in Word files and some images, and someone has to arrange them neatly. That's not that big a job though, and they're certainly not going to make your pictures prettier (unless you pay them a hefty fee for that service) or do much more than running a spelling checker. If it's badly written, the peer reviewers will politely suggest you (note: not the publisher) get a native speaker to fix it up for you. I know several colleagues (none are native speakers) who have some or all of their papers checked for proper English by professional editors before submitting them, at their own expense.

    In the case proposed here, there is also the added need for peer review with checks and balances, not just peer review by the guy who has plenty of free time because he has nothing else going on. Who is going to run this process? Who is going to prod slow reviewers? What about the final decisions to accept or reject? The opporunity for bias in decision making is going to be far higher. While academics are involved in the process now, the publisher (in theory) acts as last guarantor of good behavior.

    The editor, like they do now? As far as I know, editors at least in the West generally do the job for the reputation capital and as a kind of community service, not for the money. I could see people volunteer some of their time as a (co-)editor just for the credits. Anyway, even an open access journal could charge a small submission fee to cover this, or it could be subsidised by bodies like the NSF.

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