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Scientists Demand Open Access to Research 272

An AC sent in: "15,817 scientists have threatened to boycott all journals that refuse to provide free public online access to their articles within 6 months of publication. After all, the scientists provide the articles free of charge. What's the excuse the journals use? They claim that public archives introduce errors into the articles, making them unreliable!" We've run stories about the journal debate before; see this one or this one or this one. But it sounds like scientists are getting a bit peeved now - good for them. The lesson that "No, you don't have to give up all your rights to your work in exchange for publication anymore" is one that musicians could stand to learn as well. I guess the scientists are faster learners.
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Scientists Demand Open Access to Research

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  • This issue is exactly the reason that I am no longer an IEEE member. I wrote a paper that was accepted into one of their journals, which I thought was great (it was my first journal-published paper). I didn't think it was great when they sent me a copyright assignment form. That's right, they wanted the copyright to the work, not just permission to publish it. I would no longer have the freedom to even photocopy my own paper or put a copy on my web site. I declined to publish it in the journal and have not been an IEEE member ever since.

    I have published a few papers in restrictive journals since that time, but that's because I was not the primary author and the major authors had different priorities than I -- academic careers, for example!

    It's sad to see these organizations stray from their mission for furthering the art and science and instead becoming a business. Don't get me wrong, businesses are great for some kinds of human and economic activities, but federations of scientists should not be profit-oriented because the profit motive conflicts with the mission of science that they allegedly embrace.

    The paper is on my LibStroke [] web site. It's admittedly not one of the most significant works of scientific literature of the past century, but I felt that it was useful enough to people interested in LibStroke that it shouldn't rot on dead tree or be available to IEEE union members only.

  • Photogrametric Engineering & Remote Sensing isn't likely to have a wide readership. Regardless of how important its work may be to people in the remote sensing field.

    In cases like that, perhaps a community supported cooperative model would make more sense than a capitalist one?

    At the least, those who want to continue with their capitalist model would do well to find a way to make the customer and contributor happy.

  • if that's the case, then I would like to formally submit my paper on the mating habits of the penis-bird. . .

    'nuff said?
  • naw, it's a great comparison,

    For instance, in the music industry, new music is peer-reviewed by talent scouts and agents, who are widely respected in their fields as experts in determining which new, up and coming musicians give the best head.
  • actually, if you buy coke at the soda fountain (Mc Donalds, etc.) they use the water that comes out of the tap at that location.

    Remember, Evian is naive spelled backwards.
  • The question is not how important it is. Windows has a large circulation, despite being irrelevent to everyone.

    Steven Hawking's book "Brief History of Time" is the only physics text-book ever to reach the best-sellers list in one country, never mind two continents.

    This wasn't because your average person could understand it, or see how the work applied to their lives. It was because it made a GREAT coffee-table book, was just unpretentious enough that virtually anyone could have a copy & not look stupid, and because the title was reasonably catchy.

    (For anyone who -could- understand it, it was also a great book on the -inside-, and the revised version even better, but I'm not even going to hope that even half ever read his introduction.)

    The same would be true of the journal you mentioned. So what if "Photogrametric Engineering & Remote Sensing" isn't the sexiest field in existance? Trim the price, put copies in the New Age section (where Remote Sensing is definitely a popular subject - albeit a different KIND of remote sensing) and watch the circulation sky-rocket! It's ALL about perception.

    That's also why good engineers make lousy managers. They know how to make things work, not look good. Skillful managers are the ones who can sell defective ice-cubes to eskimos and have the eskimos convinced they got a bargain.

    Am I suggesting magazines start hyping themselves up? No. I'm suggesting that if magazines don't want to price themselves out of existance, they need to remember that even the most obsessive of scientists is still a person, and people are alergic to boring, stale, over-priced products that you can't even find if you -do- want them.

    Wireless World had =plenty= of dry, straight, technically-fanatic articles, and the number of people who go out and build their own TV sets is definitely limited. They still sold in large volume. (At least, comparitively.) Why? Because they also had a few slightly-more relaxed writers ("Free Grid" and "Cathode Ray" being the pen-names I can remember), which turned the tech-mag into a coffee-table mag. And that made it possible for older kids to discover the wonderful world of electronics and radio communication.

    The last thing that makes-or-breaks a magazine is its policy with shops. Especially with low-circulation mags, shops aren't going to gamble on titles that aren't on a sale-or-return basis. They stand to lose too much money. This makes spontaneous buying impossible. If it's not sold by your big chain-stores, it's not visible. And if it's not visible, it WILL have a limited circulation. It's self-limiting! Cos the only ones who know about it are the ones who already buy it!

    Secret Cabals of readers might work fine for mystical societies, but it is a sure-fire way of killing a journal.

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @07:01AM (#268481) Homepage Journal
    The scientists, who spend vast sums of money on their research, and who either get no renumeration or (sometimes) even have to PAY the journal to publish, and who's credibility (and therefore food supply) depends on being read & cited, are complaining because the poor, impoverished journals can't afford to maintain a reliable online archive...

    The poor journals, with their $150 - $450 subscription costs have such poor circulation, that their bank accounts are suffering. All the digits (but one) are zero! You can't get any worse than that!

    For those who can't spell "satire", I have absolutely no sympathy for any journal that really DOES have financial problems. The problems are of their own making. Price the rag out of the reach of readers, and you won't =HAVE= readers! Duh! True, you can't keep reducing prices forever. It follows a Gaussian distribution, and the "ideal", from the rag's perspective, is to find the maximum. But, as they have all the monetary wisdom of a whelk, you can't expect intelligence to play any part in things.

    The archives, furthermore, increase mind-share. And, as any Microsoft dweeb knows, mind-share is market-share. You can't sell to people who don't know (or care) that you exist. Convince Joe and Jane Average that hand-held fusion reactors are vital to know about, and make good conversation pieces, and you're talking a circulation increase in orders of magnitude.

    It's WORTH risking 10% of sales, if there's a better than average chance of acquiring 10,000% additional ones.

    I may not be an accounting wizard, but even I know that 10,000 is bigger than 10.

  • Not only did you pay a buck for it (a buck-sixty in Canada!), if it's that ever=present Dasani water, you've just paid for processed tap water!

    Dasani is a Coca-Cola product. It is, I'm reasonably certain, just the processed tap water they use for their soda pop products. Instead of adding a tablespoon of sEkRiT iNgReDiEnT, they just bottle it straight.

    Massive friggin' profit for them. Wish I'd thought to do it first...

  • Yes, published papers tend to be reasonably well-written and logically constructed. Notwithstanding the gifts of the people that write them, there is a very good reason why that's the case, though - time and effort. A scientific paper takes many times longer to write, per word, than a slashdot comment.

    Additionally, even before they enter the formal peer review process, if the research is collaborative everybody who is listed as an author will have contributed to improving the paper, which picks up many errors and help ensure clarity of expression.

    Go you big red fire engine!

  • We pay the peer reviewers.

    Not in any journal I've ever heard of! Referees are expected to work for no charge. (Maybe this varies between fields, though.)

    That said, the editors, typesetters, printers, and distributers clearly expend a lot of resources in making journal articles available.

  • Their objection to the on-line publication is about as valid as would be their objection to the use of a photocopier. A dirty thumb-print on a poor photocopy can be just as disastrous.

    Digital media is inherently more reproducible WITHOUT error.

    Find a better excuse. Greed makes for bad science and secrets for the sake of secrets.

    That costs us all.

    The worst part is that what it costs can't even be properly quantified. It inherently falls outside the realm of the quantifiable. Sort of the application of the generalized uncertainty principle in real-life.
  • From the article:

    It all started last fall, when an advocacy group called the Public Library of Science distributed an electronic open letter urging scientific publishers to hand over all research articles from their journals to public online archives for free within six months of publication.
    The authors of the letter feel they have every right to make these demands. After all, it is the scientists who supply the journals with their products--the manuscripts--for free.

    I don't get it. If they send the articles **FOR FREE** to the publishers, what's preventing them from **ALSO** sending them to the " public online archives "??? Don't tell me that when you send **FOR FREE** a manuscript to a publisher, you immediately forfeit all copyright to the article to the publisher????


  • After all, how often has scientific work been duplicated because the second (or third+) scientist didn't know what the first had done?

    Oh, you mean like Pons & Fleischmann's work???


  • All the scientists I know make somewhere in the $30 to $100k ranges. Most musicians I know make between $17 and $40k a year - usually only with the augmentation of other incomes. Where do I get this information (before some uninformed person asks), I'm a researcher for Indiana University by day managing a development office doing psychometric shtuff. At night, I do music and technology consultation.

    Anywho, Michael is just posting more dumb fuck commentary. Is this a troll? Or is this a comment from someone that seems to make a decent living within the music areas? Ya'll will probably say troll, but I gotta say Michael is either a dumbfuck or completely uninformed.

    First, 'scientists' and other academics usually need to produce and be published to continue with their research. Are they getting paid for the publications? Not usually, but few of us will ever get any grants without publications. We probably won't keep our jobs for very long - Publish or Perish. Most importantly, we won't have the respect of our peers if we didn't publish. Want to do it yer way, start a rival publication, offer it free over the internet, and work to get it accedited and accepted. These other journals have all done that and if you want to be at the same level as they are, yer gonna have to woodshed it for a while.

    Musicians - Their livelyhood is based on several things. Some musicians can make money simply by touring and selling merchandice. I've got a freidn touring Europe right now with a band that few have heard of, but they always sell out. They don't have big CD Sales, but their touring makes up for that quite a bit. I've got other friends where they sell a lot of CDs but getting folks together for a concert is like pulling teeth. They don't like touring and their audience is a pop in the CD and listen to audience.

    Having said that, I encourage most musicians to post their works online. Its good advertisement, but in some genres it works against ya. To think that others a faster learners is an insult to the artist and implies you know more than they do about the work they are performing. If it were that fucking simple, why isn't every artist a millionaire? Oh yeah, /. thinks they are and they think that the labels only want to screw them so its alright to steal.


    clif marsiglio
  • A couple points:

    Firstly, you, and so many other slashdot posters, underestimate the importance of the music industry in producing today's music. To put it in as few words as possible, what sets the major labels apart from the myriad of other methods is CAPITAL and MARKETING. If merely delivering music from point A to point B were the sole objective, any artist today can do this online for next to nothing. Never mind independent labels, physically printing and mailing CDs, etc.

    Secondly, the only way this protest will help scientists is IF this proposal does, indeed, make economic sense. This may well not be the case.

    Thirdly, I would argue that the difference in RELEVANT accessability between expensive publication to scientists and free access to the public online is probably rather nominal. Most of these journals have quite narrow focus and deal with matters in such details that the vast majority of them really do not concern the person that does not specialize in that field. Those that do can simply afford to pay the subscription price. If any particular article or study is of great relevance to the outside world, the chances are that it will get picked up by the greater media. In addition, many of these journals can be picked up at university libraries and through like means.
  • The same holds true for scientific research.
    A reasonably educated lay person can at least hope to READ legal documents and gain some understanding, the same cannot be said for many scientific journals. Legal decisions also have a direct effect on the public. Not to mention the fact that it is GOVERNMENT, not private industry, that follows this rule.

    We value the pursuit of scientific knowledge because it is a worthwhile human endeavor, not (solely) because it provides industry with better mousetraps. A large part of the benefit of scientific research is that any sufficiently literate person can avail themselves of the best research in the world.
    I never said the only value was direct economic benefit. However, I do think it is the biggest concern. We don't spend billions of dollars a year subsidizing scientific research so that academics and a handful of people that actually venture to read the journals can enjoy themselves. Now this is to say that it must be direct, easily measurable, or even necessarily economic, but it must be more than just enlightenment and/or entertainment for those individuals. Although the enlightenment of even a few individuals may be a worthy goal, it must be weighed against other equally worthy objectives.

    An informed citizen is a citizen that can participate in a rational way. Elitists, mandarins and aristocrats thrive on secrecy. Their political power depends on keeping the people in a state of ignorance.
    And your point is?

    I find your sentiments to be profoundly undemocratic.
    Since when is democracy founded on the principle that everything must be free and easy? If the only means to achieve this nominal "democracy" is the destruction of that which you wish to democratize, then you are doing more harm than good. Yes, it may be good if you can increase actual readership by 10%, but if that comes at the cost of quality or even the publication itself, then it is not worth it. It seems to me that, what is at issue here is convenience, since most motivated people in this country can gain access to the material through libraries and such. So let's put this in perspective, this is truely no less democratic (not that it is technically a democracy) than our system of governance; you actually have to leave your house to get some thing that you want.

    That said, I'm not necessarily arguing against it, I'm just playing devil's advocate. The finances are terribly important to this question and neither of us knows them.
  • It's easy to say that "most motivated people in this country can gain access to the material through libraries and such". It's a bit harder to defend when you read that university libraries are currently slashing their subscriptions, precisely because the "traditional" model of publishing results in spiraling costs and diminishing returns.
    Libraries change their subscriptions all the time, that does not mean there is a massive trend of cancellation or that these journals are too unavailable. Can you honestly tell me otherwise? Furthermore, if the subscription prices are rising this may well be the result of increased costs that have NOTHING to do with their business model. In other words, it may be completely irrelevant to the question.

    I ask, "What good is the current model if it forces university libraries -- forget about individual researchers -- to drop the publication entirely?"
    You have not established that that is really the case. Nor have you established that this business model in the cause. Nor have you established that any other methods are superior. The fact of the matter is that it costs money to produce these journals, someone either pays or it is subsidized, or both. The odds are that if the universities cannot afford to pay subscriptions (doubtful), then they cannot afford to subsidize the actual costs of publishing either.

    Now if these scientists wish to strike out on their own, let them, it is their own work afterall. However, that does not mean they're right or that they really fully understand the problem. Only once they've established a viable and superior alternative will their case truely be proven.
  • Your sample is skewed by considering only "widely recognized" artists. Obviously under current market conditions, one would *expect* that almost all widely known artists are under contract with major labels. The major labels made them well known. The major labels have a large degree of control over what is or isn't widely known.
    None of this contradicts my point, that the real function and value of the labels is not distribution per se, it's capital and marketing. If anything it bolsters it, only those that recieve the benefit of the the label's functions become known, despite the presence of numerous alternative distribution channels. So what is your point?

    The general gist of the publishers' argument is that closed markets are a requisite of intellectual production: limiting the supply of intellectual goods increases their value encouraging inferior (inefficient) producers to enter the market, thereby increasing the supply. So we have to restrict the supply in order to increase the supply. As unintuitive as this sounds, even if I accept it (which I probably would) as an accurate description of how things work, a description in no way implies a prescription -- in no way implies a vision of how things *ought* to work. While I can't just pull ideas out of thin air, discussions of what-ought-to-be need not be restricted to what-is.
    Ok, besides the fact that the very nature of intellectual property is extraneous to my argument, with the existence of intellectual property laws as they stand today, the artists choose freely to sign with the labels, rather than any other "free" or "open" system. You may argue (although I would definetely contradict) that the artist's own self interest lies contrary to the general public's, but it is unreasonable and improbable to assume that the elimination of IP would somehow give the artist a better choice.

    What do you mean by economically viable? If you mean viable in the more limited sense of "capable of being produced through private ownership for profit" then I agree that the scientists' demands are non-viable. But a publicly (sp?) funded system can be considered economically viable if the citizens who pay taxes can agree that scientific research is important enough to justify the required expenditure.

    As an example of the narrowness of your definition of "viable", look at public education. The public education system is not economically viable in the sense of being profitable, but people (taxpayers) value the services provided by schools enough that they are willing to pay a non-profit body to run them. Privately owned profit-generating activities are not the only economically viable endeavors. Something is viable if people are willing to support it. If there are too many public initiatives, then there will not be sufficient revenue derived from taxes to pay for the public initiatives and the public will refuse to pay higher taxes. If there are not enough public initiatives -- as is now the case -- then people will begin to see civil infrastructure begin to crumble. This is indeed what is happening in most developed nations.
    No where did I say that economic viability somehow excluded public subsidies. However, the fact of the matter is that if the companies are not economically viable and the public is unwilling to pay (quite probable) then the scientists are indeed SOL. What's more, government subsidized entities have a well established record of operating vastly less efficiently than private industry. In other words, it is very possible that the public would pay far more on aggregate to a subsidized publisher for the same (or less) end result, than the existing publisher's customers pay.

    Yes, that's exactly my point. The more these essential sources of information are privately controlled, the higher the barriers to access. Thomson Corp, for instance, owns WestLaw, which is the exclusive source for Federal court transcripts in the United States (If i am not mistaken). Thomson is a Canadian company. Is it fair that Americans have to pay a Canadian to look at transcripts of their own court proceedings? The fact that Lexis/Nexis make a great deal of money from selling public records is more evidence for my side of the argument. They are not engaging in entrepreneurship of any kind. They are taking the output of a public institution and repackaging it for private sale. What benefit does the free market bring to this activity other than higher costs, less intellectual freedom, and more corporate secrecy?
    No, although they may be the exclusive electronic provider, they do not have monopoly access to the documents themselves. They take PUBLIC information and essentially repackage and distribute it electronically in searchable databases and such. This adds value and it costs money to provide. The only thing they own is their resulting product, not the court documents themselves. In other words, you can still get them, and other competing corporations are free to create their own databases, they just can't pirate off the existing services.

  • by FallLine ( 12211 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @12:29PM (#268502)
    If your goal is to mass-produce and distribute music by building "brand recognition", then you are correct in suggesting that capital and marketing on the scale provided by the major labels is required. If on the other hand you believe that the enjoyment of music doesn't require brand recognition, then good distribution systems can be built with very little capital. You must be one of those who prefers music in a can to music in the flesh. So "merely delivering music from point A to point B" is a very worthy objective.
    You miss the point. The point is that artists consistently choose to sign with the labels under, what many regard as, tough contracts, not because it is the only way they can get music to interested parties [as i pointed out, there are many other ways that would allow them more control and larger profits per CD sold], but because the labels offer capital and marketing as their chief offerings. Now say of market success what you will, but it is no coincidence that the vast majority of widely recognized artists choose to sign, despite the presence of supposedly equal or superior distribution alternatives. To merely write it off as the product of a monopoly on distribution is intellectually dishonest.

    This is a very narrow view of what benefits scientists. You are assuming that you know better what is in their interest than they do.
    Again, you miss the point. My point is not that the scientists care for the publishers' financial well being; my point is that the artists clearly want those publishing functions and if their demands make the act of publishing economically un-viable, then no one wins, not the scientists, not the greater public, and certainly not the publishers. Put simply, I do not need to know precisely what their objectives are to reasonably this.

    Court transcripts are not of concern to lay people either, but they are part of the public record because public trust in the justice system depends on the principle of public access to the evidence and arguments presented in court. The same holds true for scientific research. We value the pursuit of scientific knowledge because it is a worthwhile human endeavor, not (solely) because it provides industry with better mousetraps. A large part of the benefit of scientific research is that any sufficiently literate person can avail themselves of the best research in the world. An informed citizen is a citizen that can participate in a rational way. Elitists, mandarins and aristocrats thrive on secrecy. Their political power depends on keeping the people in a state of ignorance. I find your sentiments to be profoundly undemocratic.
    I would argue that the barriers to court records are truely not that much lower. Although the courts may make them available, they are not all accessible online by any means. In fact, Lexis/Nexis and numerous other services make a great deal of money because they are the only effective way to get to them electronically. With a little effort in both cases though, virtually any motivated person can gain access without shelling out a small fortune. (e.g., universities, public libraries, etc.)
  • ACM has an online archive [] for its own publications (ACM members only).

  • No, open source is as old as computing. Nobody even thought of keeping other people from seeing the source for quite some time. After all, most early computing was academic, except for the military (which I guess is an exception, but it's a little different from closing the source for commercial reasons). The scientific culture, which is, as you say, much older than computing, transferred naturally to computers. Freedom is the basis of learning, so it didn't occur to anyone to keep knowledge away from others.
  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @06:32AM (#268507) Homepage
    It isn't that academic research scientists are learning this lesson faster, it is a matter of the economics of their work vs. that of recording musicians. In the recording industry, a musician can be pushed into relative obscurity if the labels don't publish their music. There are many musicians out there and the recording labels have demonstrated a willingness to push lesser quality music and the public has shown a willingness to listen to it. So musicians do not have a lot of leverage to work with.

    For scientists, their livelihoods are sponsored by universities, not directly through the act of publishing. Publishing is used as a benchmark of academic reputation, and although academic researchers are expected to publish, universities are much more understanding about this sort of protest than the landlord of a starving young musician. Such a protest serves to further the academic reputations of the scientists involved, by demonstrating their loyalty to the ideals that have driven scientific research to date. Also, if the protest is successful, the universities benefit through greater access to the materials provided by those journals, so why wouldn't they back the protest.


  • They claim that public archives introduce errors into the articles, making them unreliable!
    If this is a real issue, the solution is for the journal to either digitally sign the archives, or publish a hash of the online version(s) in the paper copy. Anyone concerned that the online version has been changed since the publication date can checksum for themselves.

  • You forgot to mention that there also are science indexes which are volumes full of indexes to these articles in the various journals. I'm sure those companies don't appreciate the efforts of the general Web search engines -- although the smart companies are becoming online services also.
  • Why not PKI?

    Every researchers has a key pair

    Every article is signed by the researcher *and by all the peer reviewers*

    It would be then trivial to check the signatures to find out that the electronic copy you downloaded it's the real thing.

    This would probably also streamline the peer review process quite a bit, since a peer reviewer will be sure that the copy that was peer reviewed will be the actual copy that gets published without any changes you weren't aware of.
  • As others have rightfully pointed out, the real question here is economic, and its hard to get economic data on publishing costs.

    Mike Rosenzweig was Editor-in-chief of the journal Evolutionary Ecology until he got fed up with his corporate publisher. So he (and his editorial board) left and founded their own journal: Evolutionary Ecology Research []. The journal has a variety of progressive policies regarding pricing and ownership. Importantly, he has written a great deal about them- check out this paper [] (its a .pdf) or others on the site [] where he breaks down the money issues.

  • If anyone is interested in mathematics or computer science and hasn't checked out Citeseer [] yet, go there now! The sheer quantity and quality of papers it indexes and stores is amazing -- and the intelligent cross referencing is the best I've seen.

    Here's an example that I was looking at earlier this week. Want to read the paper where Biham and Shamir rediscover differential cryptanalysis? Here it is []. It reports 115 citations of this paper, and if you click on the link, you can see the context it was cited, and then go on to download and read those papers. From browsing the citations, you might notice that linear cryptanalysis is another recently discovered technique. Citeseer doesn't include the original paper for this, but from the citation page [] we can see the papers which reference it, including this interesting one from the Australasian Journal of Combinatorics [].

    This is the way paper hunting should be done.

  • I'm sure there are a plenty of "scientists" who are working on things that pay - more so than being "real science"

    yep. these people work in industry. the stuff they develop is owned by the corporation that they work for and they generally don't publish the truely revolutionary... although private organizations _do_ accomplish alot, we will not see it because it is owned. that is until it has been patiented or rediscovered in academia.

    use LaTeX? want an online reference manager that
  • Are you sure you've understood the reviewer's role right?

    I've reviewed scientifically brilliant but grammatically hideous papers

    Note my previous comment about incorrect facts in /. articles. I'd reject a paper for that in a heartbeat. I've seen gramatically hideous papers that I've tried to fix (or indicate they should be sent to someone who can fix them), but I've also gotten some which simply aren't understandable. I'll reject those as well. Papers should be reviewed first on content, of course, but also on understandability.

    In general, compare the writing in even the worst published paper to a typical +5 slashdot comment. There's no contest: the academic paper will be better written, in part because good reviewers take time to point out bad English. It also has a much better chance of being correct, have the conclusions follow the data and the like.


  • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @07:31AM (#268529) Journal

    Myabe they could learn from /.'s moderation system?

    Dear God, let's hope not.

    Academic peer review bears no resemblance to /.'s. A decent reviewer will go over a paper with a fine tooth comb: I've taken well over a full day to review papers before, adding numerous comments, correcting mistakes, making suggestions to add citations and the like. /. reviewers might take 30 seconds, if that. The horrible grammar, bad spelling and incorrect facts that litter /. articles never seem to prevent them from being modded to +5. An academic reviewer would return such articles with "Do not publish" written all over them.

    Academic reviewers are also experts in their field. You don't get to review until your grad advisor thinks you should, and you probably won't get much until you have a publication record that other scientists respect. Here, I can make comments about articles I don't even understand and get modded up if I agree with the majority.


  • to defend an increase in page charges by saying it's paid for by researchers' grants

    And we all know that researchers have unlimited grants, which they can spend freely and without thinking.

  • Indeed, some of these journals cost a small fortune for subscriptions. But aside from library and corporate sales, they don't sell many subscriptions.

    It is apparently outrageous when viewed in some ways ($0 for content, no meaningful advertising, etc.) to think that they rely on CCC and on-line fees as their mode of collecting fees for reprint distribution.

    On the other hand, what are, in fact, the economics of the journal business. Do these companies make lots of money, as return on investment, or not? Clearly, they provide an important and significant service -- were there no journal publishers, managing and mediating substantive editorial panels, supervising publication and editorial deadlines, and so forth, we might be much less well off. So we want publishers to exist.

    So, are they making money? Are they making enough money that it makes sense for them to keep doing it, rather than publishing something else?

    While it is nice to say that these guys owe us a living, they don't. They are businessmen, pure and simple, and will only stay in the business if it makes them a buck. We don't want scientists to step into that breach, involving themselves even more deeply into the mechanics of publishing, because we want scientists to practice their sciences -- beyond peer review and reviewing their own galleys, I am quite certain I don't want our best minds dedicated to anything other than their research.
  • How easy is it to obtain a six-month old copy of a journal? Go to the library, find the issue in question, and photocopy the article. Does the publisher make any more money from this? Even a one-day old issue will not earn any additional money when used this way.

    Actually, post-issue publication copies are a strong source of revenues.

    Depending upon the purposes for which the copy is used, such practice may well violate copyright. It is infringement to make and maintain files of "personal copies" of journal articles without a license, even for purposes in support of academic research.

    Most corporate entities, and many academic research facilities subscribe to an organization called the "CCC," which provides a means for licensing individual copies for "personal files."
  • MI>Exactly. However, nothing says that they are entitled to obscene profit margins. In fact, nothing says that they are entitled to preservation of a business model.

    That's why I asked the question. What are the economics. Are these guys making obscene profit margins, as you seem to be suggesting, or are they barely breaking even, as others have suggested?
  • Rupert Murdoch, media baron, began his career by buying a publishing business based on academic journals. The aggregate business of these journals is very profitable.

    I'll presume the first sentence is true. Why does the second sentence follow therefrom? Is there any documentary evidence, one way or the other, in this regard?
  • While I agree with the scientist's anger, I find the comparison of peer-reviewed articles to contracted copyrighted music entirely ludicrious.

    Even technically, music can be copyrighted a number of ways. One person (or more than one) can write the song and the lyrics, and be registered for it under ASCAP. Then, someone can PERFORM it, and the record labels can have a copyright on THAT. Then there's derivative works, etc...

    Let's not go to the lengths to say that science research - meant to further the human race - is in any way comparable to Britney Spears - meant to move us in the other direction while mesmerizing us with jiggly boobies moving across the stage.

    Oh, by the way, there IS a reason researchers LICENSE FOR FREE their articles to journal publishers... so they can get them peer-reviewed, not just printed somewhere. And although the journal does not pay them for the rights to the article, certainly the journal doesn't have the rights to the artcle when all is said and done... and neither does anyone else in the world, as plagarism would be a copyright violation.

    But I understand. It's morning, and you need more coffee. So do I.
  • 10,000 may be bigger than 10, but what if that is your total, possible, worldwide distribution? Sure, if you're publishing Nature, you can count upon tens of thousands of readers. But a journal such as, say, Photogrametric Engineering & Remote Sensing [] isn't likely to have a wide readership. Regardless of how important its work may be to people in the remote sensing field.
  • In Europe (and the US military) the date format is dd/mm/yyyy. In the US, for civilians, it's mm/dd/yyyy.
  • Has anyone thought about adapting one of the napster clones - like OpenNAP - for use with scientific publications? That would be an incredibly useful resource. Another system that would work, or possibly even better, would be to take something like SlashCode or Zope (or any of the other weblog engines) and publish papers by category just like we do articles now. This would allow for moderated in depth peer review, and eliminate the lack of access to scientific research that IS hurting the comunity.

    Some examples: When I was in university, I had access to research on astrophysics research papers. One example of this was using plasmas as an RF antenna - a pretty nifty idea that I never would have been exposed to otherwise, and that I'm experimenting with now. There's a lot of REALLY good info not available to the Open Source (could there be open research, too?) community as a result of the stratospheric fees charged. The rational for the fees is that they have to pay for peer review, but my counter would be that it's not that difficult to rate (moderate) someone's credentials and past work on a forum like slashdot.

    To flip things around the other way, there are a lot of lay people who might have good ideas and even research that they can't get peer reviewed at all. I've seen some really good ideas for antennas and other RF devices that might be odd at first, but will never get in depth review or analysis because there's no access to that community.

    Here's to the scientists.. maybe some journal will take the initiative and get a open system running for publication. If it's done well, and people start using it, then it doesn't matter what the "established" journals say - good science is good science, if it's here or in Russia, or India, or China. Hell, THAT'S another good point - how many ideas have to be reinvented because of poor or nonexistance international communications in the research field?

    Just some thoughts..

  • Except you don't get independant third review if the guy publishing the paper is the guy who owns the web site, right.. that's the problem with the 10001 science sites out there. Lack of a third party review system.

  • For some journals, you have to pay a hefty publishing fee per page. I believe the figure was $60 a page for my most recent article.

    So no, the journals don't get the material for free, they *get* paid for it and then turn around and charge us money to read it. We get screwed on both ends.

    I'd be curious to hear about the bottom line of a notable scientific journal if someone can bring it up here, I expect it's fairly cozy.

  • Coincidentally, I just launched a web app that is almost exactly this. It is called Oomind []. It is actually meant to bring research and education back together. People can post articles, papers, essays, stories, in any topic, and they are reviewed. Then there are also quiz questions which can be purchased (you pay for the accademic credit :).

    Of course, I'm hoping that this will be the new model for education: everyone is a leraner, an educator, and an accreditor. And therefore anyone who thinks they have a good idea can publish, and it is peer-reviewed to determine quality along a number of attributes.

    Check it out:

    PS. Yes this is blatant self promotion. Still, I think it is totally apropriate.

  • you're also missing a key point:

    the "level of public distribution" is the most important part. getting their research published generally means that it can be found in a searchable database, in libraries, etc. -- otherwise there would often be no point in the research.

    what they're arguing for as a whole is wider publication precisely for this reason.
  • We pay the peer reviewers.
    WTF? I have reviewed dozens of scientific papers and never received a dime! Most scientific journals don't pay their reviewers. Scientists publish, review articles, write chapters or whole books because it's their job. And for once, they would like to have access to the information for doing things like text data mining which is close to impossible right now.

  • I took a look, and it is nice, but it is still small and somewhat obscure. What happens when such things get huge, go back fifty years, and are easily found and often used by everyone who has a reason? Imagine the load this thing would draw in November and May as college kids worldwide start slapping term papers together?

    Going be time means getting slammed big time. I think it can be done, people just need to be aware that this will not be as simple as tossing journal articles onto a extra PC running apache.
  • by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @08:38AM (#268558)
    Who will pay to put this stuff online? Such web sites would require huge servers, as they would almost instanteously become common research tools for students, journalists, scientists, and science enthusiasts worldwide.

    You don't host that sort of thing on tiny intel boxes running Linux or NT/2K. This will take big servers, and big bandwitdth. That stuff is NOT cheap.

    Beyond that are the setup costs. All of the articles will need to be entered into text or PDF format. Easy for new papers, but what about the thousands of old ones? And what about the costs of setting it all up? Sure open software can be used for most of it, but someone still has to set it up.

    This kind of thing will require loads of funding from outside sources. Hopefully the government could get involved. Perhaps the universities of world will foot part of the bill, as their students, professors, and researchers could benefit immensely from such a tool.

    I hope the scientists are willing to work on getting this the funding it deserves. Hell, if they can just get things rolling I am sure that many people will be glad to call or email senators.

    anyway, this is running on too long.

  • The situations aren't even REMOTELY related! I know you kiddies feel the need to involve the RIAA or Microsoft in every article but there are some situations out there where the comparisons are irrelevant.

    Scientists don't directly make any money off their publications. There is no market for pirated or bootlegged versions of publications because they are not sold for revenues. Scientists publish for the reputation, research grants, acknowledgement, etc. that it brings. The more people read their articles, the better it is for them. Period.

    Musicians, on the other hand, tend to work for profit. Musicians benefit from the SALES of their music. If all music was free, it would be the musicians who'd suffer from it. Musicians have little or no interest in seeing the big bad RIAA give their music away for free. Yes, there are a few musicians who'd like the free publicity in the hopes that it will boost sales of their records and concert tickets but by and large the ones that are the most successful don't want it to happen (regardless of what they say in public because they don't want to piss off their fan-base).
  • At least for now, this Economics journal [] is freely accessible online.
  • "all, the scientists provide the articles free of charge. What's the excuse the journals use?"

    Since publications in peer reviewed journal is a large factor in hiring, tenure, etc. decisions, even though scientists provide articles for free, they are still compensated for doing so (though not by the journals in question).
  • >>You don't host that sort of thing on tiny intel boxes running Linux or NT/2K. This will take big servers, and big bandwitdth. That stuff is NOT cheap.

    Perhaps something huge like or or or or Big servers like that?

    Oh wait... I guess all those websites use w2k or linux.

  • .. ad it does to me.

    "The lesson that "No, you don't have to give up all your rights to your work in exchange for publication anymore" is one that musicians could stand to learn as well"

    The direct parallel ofcourse being individual "file sharers" ripping off musicians' music as those are the only times the musician actually loses his/her rights.

    (Legitimate publishers buy negotiated rights, the musuician retains all rights they don't agree to sell.)
  • Newton and Leibniz(sp?) came up with calculus at about the same time. The NSA hardened DES against differential cryptanalysis in the early 1970's, and then Eli Biham and Adi Shamir invented it a bit before 1990.

    I don't know how frequent it is, but reinvention is more frequent when secrets are being kept.
  • by mattorb ( 109142 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @07:08PM (#268576)
    Did you notice the little bit in the SciAm article about increasing page charges? This seems to be the "solution" some publishers are considering to the backlash against high subscription fees, their rationale being that it's better to charge the authors than the readers.

    It's easy to see that they'll have a lot of support for this, from a lot of people -- vastly more people might have an occasional interest in reading, say, the Astrophysical Journal than have an interest in writing an article for it. And the publishers are able to defend an increase in page charges by saying it's paid for by researchers' grants, not by the researchers themselves.

    I'm a co-author on a paper which will be submitted to the ApJ in the next few weeks; the page charges will be several thousand dollars. We haven't really bothered about it too much, because there's no real way to avoid paying it, and besides the grant money is there. It should also be mentioned that this paper is a somewhat extreme case -- around 20 pages, with a number of color figures (which are, I think, $600 for the first and $150 thereafter, but which are also unfortunately necessary). ApJ charges around $130 a page, IIRC, so you can do the math.

    Does this strike you as absurd? It does me. $3000 is more than a trip to a great conference costs, more than the cost of supporting an observing run, more than a lot of things. It's only bearable because I happen to be doing space-based astronomy, where grants are big enough to support these kinds of outlays. But the problem is that a lot of research doesn't need big grants, or shouldn't -- I know plenty of people who do pure analytical theory which doesn't even require applying for supercomputer time. Admittedly, faculty at many institutions have to apply for grant money to pay their summer salary, so it's not totally indefensible, but still : a thousand bucks can take a pretty healthy chunk out of many grants. Some journals allow "hardship exemptions," whereby page charges are waived, but I don't know how easy/difficult it is to get them.

    I've often suspected that a major driver behind page charges is their action as a "gatekeeper": ApJ probably doesn't get a lot of cranks submitting wacko stuff, b/c who the hell would be willing to pay a thousand bucks of their own money to see their article printed there? But I think page charges have the unpleasant tendency to constrain good research as well. Other things do this -- ie, there is already a tendency to work in areas where you know the money is easy to come by -- but that doesn't make it defensible.

    As with all interesting things, there are no easy answers here. I don't think the ApJ (to keep using the same example) is an evil institution -- it's a publication of the American Astronomical Society, which is a non-profit organization that does many good things. And I'd be very surprised if the AAS didn't derive an appreciable fraction of its operating budget from ApJ-related charges; making the journal charge less overall would probably mean fewer activities funded by the AAS. It's also worth noting that astronomy/astrophysics journals (ApJ, AJ, A and A) are perhaps unusual in that they have no ads, so that's not a potential source of income. Note, also, that currently issues of ApJ more than three years old are available online without a subscription -- but see aforementioned bits about how much we pay for this privilege.

    The point of my (absurdly long) diatribe is this: if researchers are able to "convince" publishers to supply online versions of everything for free with no negative repurcussions, great. But if the publishers recoup some of their lost subscription charges by increasing page charges, well, maybe that ain't so great. I don't know what page charges are for biosciences journals are these days, and I don't know enough about the culture of research in that field to know whether dramatic increases in those charges would have a seriously detrimental effect. If the current charges are low, would these folks be willing to accept charges similar to those "enjoyed" in the astro community? Would they be willing to accept charges running into the several thousand dollar range? I don't know, but I suspect we may find out.

  • These abstract "businessmen" you speak of have absolutely no god-given right to parasitic profit from the free expression of others. They add no value. Period.

    Either you're a troll or completely unaware of the publication process.

    The biggest service journals offer is the coordination of peer review. So, in any decent journal, you can be sure that every article has been read, understood, and criticized by a few independent scientists in the particular discipline. It takes a lot of time to send copies of every submission to 2-3 reviewers (often identifying the reviewer in the first place), pester the reviewers to respond, meta-review the reviews and decide whether to publish or not. That process provides credibility and is why I pay more attention to, say the AJP [] than the AJC []. They have these costs independent of whether they put out a paper product or not and it is an enormous added value.

    Nor are most journals the official organs of academic societies. 50 years ago, maybe, but not now. Take a look at Academic Press, Kluwer, Wilkins... Some of their titles are society journals, but the explosion of academic journals has been mostly the for-profit variety

  • That too. :)

    Which also adds to the expense.
  • You're missing the key point in his argument. The services provided by the recording industry are wider and more important to recording artists than the services provided by the scientific publication industry are to scientists.

    In the scientific community, journals provide a number of services. They provide editorial support, referreeing support, and a level of public distribution. Those are all important, to a degree, but that degree is quite limited. Assistant editors (the scientists that refer papers out to referrees) aren't payed for their time, so they don't care about the journal's redistribution policy. Referrees aren't payed for their time, so they don't care about the journal's redistribution policy. The consuming public would rather have the paper sooner and freely distributable to their classes, so they don't care about the journal's redistribution policy.

    The recording industry provides another important service, and that service has no parallel in the scientific publication industry: publicity. I knew almost all of the names of the people who published in my field, and more than that, they knew mine. There's a standard method by which a newbie became established. I might miss a paper or two from a new star, but I could be confident that I'd know about them "soon enough". I don't know about all the bands I'd be likely to be interested in. That's a facility that the recording industry provides.
  • Surprisingly, the bottom line isn't all that good. I was closely associated with one of the Pergamon Press majors (one of the Math Psych journals) a few years ago. The page costs covered the cost of typesetting and figure pressing. The journal made its money off the subscription fee libraries payed for it, pure and simple.
  • Actually, no, I'd hear through two means: word of mouth (getting an e-mail saying "Hey, did you see ..."), or by the author sending me an unsolicited reprint. More often than not, I'd have been one of the author's referrees anyway. Like I said, there's a standard means for self-promotion; it's not like that's a new problem in the scientific community!

    Science is a REALLY small world. You need to realize is that there were perhaps ten people in the world whose papers I "needed" to read as a specialist, and perhaps five other papers a year I needed to read to maintain general knowledge of my field. That's not a terribly unusual number.
  • But the journals aren't actually doing the peer review themselves. The reviews are done on a volunteer basis by other scientists in the field, as is the editing in many cases. Top scientists will receive dozens of papers to review every year and are expected to do so without any compensation. This is actually one of the major threats that the signers of the letter are making; they're not just going to refuse to buy or publish in the journals but also to review papers for them. The journals are going to find it quite tough when they no longer get free content and editorial work.

  • by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <> on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @10:10AM (#268598) Homepage

    Touche. I'll admit that education is an important role of an academic scientist, and there are even some schools (mostly of the 4 year Undergraduate only type) where teaching is the primary factor used in judging their effectiveness. That was a big mistake on my part and I should have written it better.

    The distinction that I wanted to make was between a pure researcher, who is investigating phenomena in the pursuit of abstract knowledge, and an applied researcher who works in industry. For the "abstract knowledge" type of researcher publication of results is a critical part of the overall research effort and not just an afterthought as some people seem to think. Work that is not published, or is published somewhere so obscure that nobody ever hears about it, is essentially useless. The strong emphasis on publication as a measure of productivity is an accurate reflection of its importance. Publication is the product of a research scientist in the same way that tangible goods are the product of an engineer. The effort put into the research is wasted if it's not published in exactly the same way that the effort of designing a product is wasted if it's never built.

  • For scientists, their livelihoods are sponsored by universities, not directly through the act of publishing. Publishing is used as a benchmark of academic reputation, and although academic researchers are expected to publish, universities are much more understanding about this sort of protest than the landlord of a starving young musician.

    Spoken like a non-scientist. Publication is not just the measure by which scientists are judged, it is in a real sense the only truly valuable activity that academic scientists do. Research that is carried out an never published is wasted; it's the sharing of that knowledge with the rest of the world that makes the process worthwhile. And while the Universities that are the scientists' nominal employers are fairly tolerant, they aren't really the ones who pay the bills. The government granting agencies are the ones who pay the bills, and they are quite unlikely to give grants to anyone without a publication record to justify their trust. Promotions are also very heavily based on publication track record, so anyone without tenure who tries this is seriously risking his career; if you don't get tenure your first time around you're not likely to be given a second shot by anyone. An artist who doesn't sell any work for a few years is normal and won't suffer from it later in his career; an academic scientist who doesn't publish anything for a few years is pretty much through with his career. The situation is quite harsh.

  • ...and society is still trying to figure out what the fsck is up. This applies to scientific journals, music, and movies.

    Once upon a time, publishing was exclusively done with dead trees, and was 'hard'. Therefore publishers came into being, so that they could become good at it. They do the hard part of publishing for me, putting it on dead trees. We do the hard part of content creation for them, giving them something to put on their dead trees. A wonderfully synergistic relationship that worked for hundreds of years.

    But now we're moving away from dead trees. Publishing has quit being 'hard', and we don't need many aspects of those publishing specialists as much as we used to. But these people have a big chunk of turf, and don't want to lose it.

    At present, as copyright assignees, publishers, be it books, music, movies, etc, are licensed government monopolies. Whether that's the only thing keeping them in business is anyone's guess. At present, I would argue that we have a counter-productive situation.

    I don't advocate getting rid of publishers alltogether, merely that we attempt to refine the meaning of publishing and IP as they relate to an electronic age. Today legislation is trying to extend the past. Besides merely condemning SBCA and DMCA, we should try to arrive at sensible counterproposals. Ones that allow the publishing industries a decent continued existance are more likely to get a hearing.
  • Well, there's always two sides to each story, of course.

    I work for one of the publishers who refused to be interviewed. One crucial point that was missed was the matter of editorial quality control and peer review. One of the factors that gives aparticular journal its credibility is the mechanism to filter submissions, the moderaton if you like.

    When we get a new article, the editor (usually one of an editorial board) takes a look at it and if it's reasonably credible, it goes out for review to several eminent practitioners for peer review, and only after this does it stand any chance of getting published.

    We pay the editors. We pay the peer reviewers. We provide them with the necessary equipment (PC's, software, connectivity and so forth) to do the job. We also, later in the process, pay for the SGML markup, proofing, printing, distribution, administration of the subscriptions, protecting the authors' copyright when necessary. Then there's the webservers (in our case a cluster of s/370's with a large team writing assembler for them - we get a LOT of hits requesting very large responses - fulltext with a lot of illustrations) when the electronic versions are released, of course.

    This stuff is far from cheap. And it's also worth remembering( this is a legalistic point, not a moral one as I tend to disagree with it on moral grounds somewhat) - we're a listed company, and like it or not we are legally obliged to maximise revenue for our shareholders, so if we were to make an arbitrary decision to free up material with over 49 years of copyright outstanding, it would be only right that our directors would go straight to jail.

    But it's mainly the peer review that costs. If you want quality peer reviewers, you'll find they're very busy and in short supply.


  • Blockquoth the poster:
    We value the pursuit of scientific knowledge because it is a worthwhile human endeavor, not (solely) because it provides industry with better mousetraps.
    Amen to that. We seem, lately, to see everything as worthwhile only if it ends in material profit... if, at the end of the day, we can buy more widgets. But focusing solely on physical satisfaction leads to an extremely hollow and unsatisfying life, ironically enough. Not all value is economic value.

    And humans have done tremendous things for long periods of time even when they didn't make cold-hearted "economic sense".

    In responding to a post one level up, sure, most people most of the time will have little interest in the arcana of any particular field. But free access is still important, because at least it leaves that choice -- be informed or not -- in the hands of the average citizen. Not in the publishers' hands. Not in the hands of MegaMultiContentMediaCorp. In the hands of the people who might be affected.

    Why doesn't anyone seem to trust the citizenry any more? We're not the ones who broke faith.

  • Blockquoth the poster:
    Yes, it may be good if you can increase actual readership by 10%, but if that comes at the cost of quality or even the publication itself, then it is not worth it
    It's easy to say that "most motivated people in this country can gain access to the material through libraries and such". It's a bit harder to defend when you read that university libraries are currently slashing their subscriptions, precisely because the "traditional" model of publishing results in spiraling costs and diminishing returns.

    You say, "It's not enough to increase readership by 10% if it destroys the publication." I ask, "What good is the current model if it forces university libraries -- forget about individual researchers -- to drop the publication entirely?"

  • Don't tell me that when you send **FOR FREE** a manuscript to a publisher, you immediately forfeit all copyright to the article to the publisher????
    Pretty much. All the journals and conferences I've dealt with require you to sign a copyright form assigning them some kind of exclusive rights, including in some cases online reprint rights. In practice, this is subject to negotiation (e.g., my old employer required me to sign and send in their own copyright form, not the publisher's one), and the journals sometimes aren't very good about checking that a form even came back with the camera-ready copy. Also, some publishers have more liberal copyright agreements - I seem to recall that the IEEE allowed the author to provide online reprints of the articles in their journals, as long as proper credit was given to the IEEE on the Web page containing the reprint.
  • Duplication isn't necessarily a bad thing. An experiment performed twice with the same results is much more convincing than an experiment performed once. Further, it is unrealistic to think that scientists often *unknowingly* do the same work simultaneously as other scientists. The truth is scientists communicate with each other, especially those in the same field of research, and they generally know what kind of research is going on. In my experience talking with various researchers, they can often say with certainty if anyone else is doing similar work and who they are.

  • An AC made this point already, but I'm afraid he won't be heard.

    "Publication is not just the measure by which scientists are judged, it is in a real sense the only truly valuable activity that academic scientists do."

    If that's the "real" sense, in what sense should we view the role of academic scientist as Educator? Granted, full profs at very large universities may have little contact with the undergrads, but that's hardly representative of the entire spectrum of "academic scientist," and anyway, that same professor is probably teaching something to someone, if not in a classroom then to his grad students in the lab.

    Those grad students are also, I think, "academic scientists," since they participate in the research, get their names on papers, etc. (and they're the ones teaching bio 100). And of course, there are all those "academic scientists" at smaller schools who do actively teach, and are probably at those smaller schools because they view themselves as equal parts educator and scientist in many cases.

    The whole publish-or-perish thing is romantically tragic and all, but it fails to describe things as fully as you would like us to believe. Don't sell out all of the fabulous science educators out there (who do research, who publish stuff, but who also fulfill the role of the university as a place of learning) in pursuit of your cynicism. :)

  • People selling free stuff for money???
    Take a look at that bottled water on your desk.

    "The world is 80% water, but you just paid a buck for that little bottle!"
    --Dennis Miller
  • Does anybody seriously believe scientists, or even most businessmen, seek to stop 'the clock of history'?

    Certainly scientists don't, but there's a fair bit of evidence that businesses do. The repeated extensions of copyright terms at the behest of Corporate America leaps to mind. Some would argue that the primary purpose of DVDs is to erect a series technological and legal barriers to maintain the status quo (or maybe even tilt things further in the MPAA's favor). Ask Napster if the RIAA, when threatened with obsolescence, wanted to stop "the clock of history". And depending on where your loyalties lie, you can buy Microsoft's argument that the anti-trust trial was just Netscape trying to maintain its market share.

    You'll get no argument from me about Heinlein being "the zealot's zealot", but that fact alone doesn't refute his claims.

  • 1) Scientist puts up research on his own website.
    2) Scientist includes MD5 checksum of file (maybe one MD5 for the ps version, another for the html.gz version etc.)
    3) Scientist publishes MD5 and article title in some print media (maybe university journal), to further increase reliability
    4) Everyone in the world can put it up for public access reliably. If it matches the published MD5, it's The Real Thing (TM).
    5) Copyright negotiation can run in parallel. Reliability isn't an issue anymore.
  • The current business model for the journals is not likely the same that it would be for Slime Magazine. Again, this is the same kind of thinking that causes a hoarding mentality, which puts a slow down on the research.

    Then again, there is the flip side of the coin, of how do you turn a profit when you give away your valued goods?

    This is the problem of the music industry, who has turned it into the question "how do you turn an obscene profit while giving away your goods"

    And then you have the people who always want a free lunch, and say that you a criminally negligent if you do not give them the shirt of your back.

    The problem is that there is no agreement on what would be "Fair Exchange". Many people on various sides of the issue think that the best ratio is "One for you, 100 for me" This is a problem because the argument is also made that "and if you don't agree, you are a moral moron"

    Given the situation, I would probably suggest that the content be made availble for free online after one year. Anyone who is in the business should be subscribing. But this is still timely enough for students, etc without totally giving up the cutting edge material.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • $500/year for cheesy-but-essential journal X. They acquire the copyright to articles published therein. They require submitters to also serve as unpaid peer review. Every page of an article submitted costs the author $100. Every reprint (minimum 50) costs $10. No, you can't print the PDF you submitted to the journal - that infringes THEIR copyright.

    I was pointing out the need for fair exchange, at least so I thought. But it is Monday, and so I may have been less coherent or something.

    It is no surprise to me that abuse exists. Everyone has to work towards the idea of Fair exchange, where it is something that everyone can live with, instead of acting out the idea of unfair, or criminal exchange (ie,we'll just legally steal this from you).

    Sometimes Fair Exchange is not purely monetary. In a friendship, for example. But the monetray aspect is not a bad place to inspect for abuse.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • As someone who likes to review papers, I believe there are two _REALLY_ good reasons to do it:

    1) Keep the crap out. A large number of papers submitted for publication are rehashes of old work, incorrect, incomplete, make bad assumptions, and/or make bad conclusions. To have these types of papers in the written record of the field can make it impossible for the good ideas to be heard and recognized.

    I have seen the effects of incorrect papers published causing government agencies to spend extra millions of dollars on a non-existent problem and significantly reducing the scientific progress in the field. Never underestimate the problems that a poor paper can cause...if the idea in the paper is really good, it can always be published at a later date when the author gets their act together, but the moment it is in the written record, it can be accepted almost as fact (even in the face of contradictory evidence published in another journal that might not be easily found. A good argument for a comprehensive index).

    2) To improve your own work. By reviewing and editing other people's work, you learn what is really good and what is really bad. You might dislike a portion of a paper and then realize that you sometimes write the same errors or type of poor writing. Or you might find in someone else's papers the best way to present your data in the future or the best way to explain some complex subject. Plus you get early access to data that you might find helpful in your own research.

    Editing and reviewing papers is a teaching tool that is as valuable to the teacher as the student in many cases.
  • > The lesson that "No, you don't have to give
    > up all your rights to your work in exchange
    > for publication anymore" is one that
    > musicians could stand to learn as well.
    FYI, the GNUArt Project which consists of GPL'ing Art has become reality on [] (charter) and [] (gallery) on January 1st, 2001.
    It is still being translated to english at the moment but you have the fish [] until then.
    The charter was co-written with Richard Stallman.
  • It seems to me we've had this debate recently. I am all for unrestricted access to info that's old. I hate the fact that my research and my writing will belong to someone else just because they have a reputation and I don't. That's really all the peer reviewed journals are able to offer in the days of self publishing internet world.
  • They do go on tour to promote their research. They're called conferences and they usually take place at the same location every year and focus on a specific topic in science. The result of this is that I learn more about advances in my field in a couple of days then I could learn by sifting through several dozen journals in a dusty corner of the library.

    To publish in a journal it needs to be a solid piece of work. At a conference 2 scientists can talk about specific peices of their work that may or may not be fully fleshed out. They can get ideas from each other and not have to worry about how the work looks or if it fits the context of the journal.

  • You know what? I'm a fairly smart guy. I do my research on machines paid for by the taxpayer. (Being an undergrad, I paid for almost all of my research out of my own pocket.) Maybe it'll be published this summer. Maybe not. I'd love to be a published undergrad. I could walk into almost any lab to pick up a PhD.

    If Joe Sixpack Taxpayer doesn't want to pay for my research next year then there will be a pretty smart and pretty bored person running around. Given my talent for organic synthesis Joe Sixpack Taxpayer will be paying for my prison cell the year after that.

    Now is the common man going to understand my research? No EF IN way! In fact Bio professors were all scared off my research at the undergrad poster session yesterday. I had graphs and figures and scary chemistry terms like gas chromatography. If PhD's dont understand my work then poor Joe is going to be lost. Am I trying to insult the source of my bread and butter? No but they better get used to the idea of paying for me one way or the other.

    Of course I'm trolling here. Mods can open fire I probably have it coming.

  • I'm not saying the public is limited to Joe Sixpack but he does outnumber us 100:1 (statistic made up) and it is they who fund our research up to the point it becomes profitable then we go private at the last minute and patent and collect liscencing fees on our IP so that our lawyers don't go hungry! Nice run on sentance! Anyway if the govment doesn't give me some nice taxpayer pork so that I can study the effect of laser induced fluoresence on capilary ion exchange resins in an inert atmosphere using an argon laser... well I'll just have to take my science skills to the market place. Whatever I end up doing will definately come back hard and fast and get on top of Joe Sixpack either in the form of incaceration or hazmat or maybe just in the form of disgruntled ranting on small websites. Either way it won't be pretty.
  • ...also, and there is where I wonder if the boycott is going to gain any traction, where you publish is as important as if you publish. It's easy to make threats (how many boycotts are Taco and Hemos supposedly participating in?) but for scientists to refuse to publish in an ultra-high-profile journal like Nature or Cell and go to PNAS or the other "acceptable" journals is going to have a huge impact on their careers.

    I think the market is eventually going to settle this. People read journals that they can afford and easily access*, and they forget the others exist. But that will take a few years, until you get a new generation of researchers who refuse to leave their computers to read a paper.

    * To the IP-obsessed mind of a Slashdot editor, this is about "rights." No, I've never heard anyone complaining about that. The objection here is about providing free access to readers.

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • ...scientists want the access available.

    After all, how often has scientific work been duplicated because the second (or third+) scientist didn't know what the first had done?
  • "After all, the scientists provide the articles free of charge"

    Actually you misspelt "After all, the scientists PAY to provide their articles". It can cost thousands of dollars (color figures) to be published in a respectable journal.

  • The lesson that "No, you don't have to give up all your rights to your work in exchange for publication anymore" is one that musicians could stand to learn as well.

    Sure, those idiots, why can't they just see, it's so simple! Why don't they boycott the monolith that feeds them? Or they could sign with a minor label with no distribution or advertising budget. It's just so simple to fix.

    It's a little easier to protest when you've got tenure.

  • The fact that most scientists are snooty, eletist bastards who have incredible opinions of themselves and most musicians with contracts have been taught from line one that they would be nothing without their distributors and agents and should never question the wisdom of large corporations.

    Now, the scientists in our audience shouldn't take this as a flame because it's precisely the reason why they can pull off a boycott of their 'distributors' and make it work while all the artists, musicians and singers can't quite manage.
  • Well, I wanted to talk about personality rather than productivity, but you have a valid point here. There was only one Einstein. There is only one Hawking. Before you are gone, you will see at least a dozen Britney Spears and NSYNC. Actually, these two aren't the first in the queue. Let's go back and Talk about Tiffany and New Kids on the Block if we're going to talk about corporate clones.
  • The article briefly mentions many factors contributing to paying the over-all cost of publication. For many journals (e.g. J. of the American Ceramic Society), peer review is not a cost, as it is distributed amongst the community. Further, page charges have been in effect for years, ranging from $75-150 per page. Add this to $0.5-3k anually for a subscription, plus the cost of reprents for the author(s) (several more hundred $ for ~100 reprints). For the younger generation of researchers (of which I consider myself a part), print dissemination is burdensome. PDF files would save the journals a bundle of costs, and leave it to the reader to print out a copy for him or herself. Heck, 50% of the articles I request through our Library's database subscription arrive in PDF, and I only print out ~5 of 50/month for in depth review. Until the younger generation earns high positions in the archival/peer review publishing community, the 'old school' will resist change, for the most part. Not looking forward to getting old, myself.
  • Logic just might dictate, though, that this wouldn't be much of a story if US15.817 scientists threatened a boycott.

  • Since this is about peer-reviewed scientific journals, I think what you will see is the growth of non-profit groups like AMS [] (in Math) and ACM [], IEEE [] (in Computer Science) who already do a serious amount of publishing in the journals (Transactions on ...) and conferences SIGGRAPH of high quality.

    Since these journals are being reviewed by peers, publishing by such non-profit groups can work. Both the submitter and review wants the highest quality publication since it helps their respective reputations, the reviewer does not need a hugh amount of cash, just enough to cover expensives or pay for the costs of their next paper.

    Smaller topics in mathematics, computer science, and physics already have free pre-print services (, and more than a few online peer reviewed publications. These areas have quickly adapted because they already use electronic submissions of "camera-ready" papers in TeX format.

    I think the important point is that these speciality publications are for a small community not for a general audience. The numbers are small, and most participates main income comes from elsewhere.

    I didn't even say peer2peer once.

  • In any academic circle the publication date is the date that a researcher sets his/her claim on the findings.

    If someone else publishes before you, even if they stole your work, it's very hard to demonstrate that the discovery really was yours.

    But why do scientists care if they are credited with the discovery? Well, besides the simply fact that we all like to be rewarded for our work, most Professors (which is what most scientists are) are expected to keep up a publication rate as part of their job. Failure to do research (i.e. publish research) usualy won't result in being fired (the joys of tenure) but can result in loss of raises etc.

    So what scientists want is a way to publish their work in a manner that dates it and garuntees recognition of publication by an outside authority. They also want to have these papers, which they provided, available in a small number of searchable formats to allow for quick access without thousands of bulky journals filling their offices.

    Just a clairification... Sounds like the parrent poster got screwed over by a Prof... so perhaps this is a litte less biased

    This has been another useless post from....
  • Has anyone thought about adapting one of the napster clones - like OpenNAP - for use with scientific publications?

    Are you suggesting an open solution that the scientists could adopt to self-publish their future work, or a way to get around the copyrights and license fees of the existing papers? If you're talking about the former, p2p is really unnecessary to share legally published scientific works (just set up a website.) If it's the latter, then maybe it's an idea... Albeit, not a terrifically legal one, and I can't see anyone going to the trouble of OCRing all the documents and setting it up, considering the small demand for many journals and their availability in libraries. I'm particularly curious how far these journals would go to crack down on illegal bootlegging?

    Another system that would work, or possibly even better, would be to take something like SlashCode or Zope

    That'd be a neat project. But would probably have to be a lot more sophisticated... Maybe a little bit more like SourceForge. It'd be an interesting project for a group of universities to tackle-- I wouldn't count on writing the code yourself and convincing anyone to actually use it, though.

  • The parallel is far from exact (musicians get about 10% of the retail price, scientists often have to pay to get published), but there are similarities. Few musicians live on their royalties -- around $1.50 in royalties from each CD has to be split several ways, and few of them willingly stick to the modest lifestyle that will pay for. The CD's and air time enrich the record companies, and give the musicians publicity so their live concerts can pack them in, and this is where the successful ones make real money. Scientists publish papers to build a reputation that lets them move to more prominent positions, or to get more and larger research grants. They would consider it crude to describe that as "garnering publicity so they can get pay raises" -- but I don't see the difference.
  • In some countries, the functions of the dot and comma within numbers are the opposite. That is, in the US it's 15,817.00, elsewhere it might be 15.817,00. Except we've probably corrupted them so they are never sure which system is in use anymore...
  • The one problem is that the journals do one vital service -- they run the peer review system that filters out the garbage. Find a way to do that on zero budget, and persuade the universities that "publication" does not require dead trees, and the scientists would quite happily FTP their articles into an on-line database instead of messing with the journals.

    Myabe they could learn from /.'s moderation system?
  • We also, later in the process, pay for the SGML markup, proofing, printing, distribution, administration of the subscriptions

    As I understand it, most scientific papers are submitted electronically in printable form (Tex, or formatted word processor documents), and scientific journals do not need a lot of fancy formatting. For the rest -- that's the cost of your inefficient, dead-tree based process, not the intrinsic cost of publication.

    Web servers do have to be paid for, of course, but they are a lot cheaper than dead trees. And someone has to be paid to run the peer review process -- but I thought the reviewers themselves were unpaid.
  • I think the physicists did this 10 years ago.
  • That is, the reviewers are more carefully selected from a pool of better people, and they take the job more seriously... Duh, I know that. No offense meant to anyone except first-posters and the goat.sxe nuts, but /. is a toy system where half the contributors are idiots. That doesn't mean it might not be a usable prototype for a serious system.

    Suppose you tweaked the parameters by awarding "karma" within particular areas of expertise, requiring lots of karma to do any reviewing, and giving the reviewers unlimited mod points restricted to their particular area. Also enable reviewers to mark up a paper and send it back for changes. Start the system off by picking some eminent scientists to review each area. Then their ratings eventually elevate other top people into reviewers, etc. Would it ultimately be any different than the present peer-review system?

    One thing I don't understand though -- what motivates the reviewers to work that hard? As I understand it, most aren't paid.
  • There's no permanence, no durable record, in Online Publishing. That's true, and I am quite familiar with these issues from struggling to keep CAD drawing files usable for just 5 to 10 years. But dead-trees are only marginally better -- because no one can store even 10% of all the publications that exist now. The stamped CD and DVD formats are about as permanent as good paper, and far more compact, but that requires as much investment in tooling to stamp a disk as in typesetting a printed publication. What is needed is some sort of laser-etched-on-platinum disk.

    Until then, the lack of a good long term storage solution for the few articles that are going to be useful in thirty years is no reason for not improving immediate access to scientific articles -- most of which have ephemeral value at best. I wonder how much work is needlessly duplicated while the articles are waiting at the printers? And if you don't trust the on-line archive and do have storage space, print the key articles out on acid-free paper, it will cost far less than trying to subscribe to all the printed journals.
  • by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @06:26AM (#268715)
    Scientists working for universities use these journals to exchange information and to build their reputations. That is, they write up the results of an experiment, a study, or (very rarely) a new discovery, and send it off to a journal covering that field. The journal gets other scientists to "peer review" it, that is to check for errors and to rate how interesting it is. (Sort of like /. modding conducted by snail mail.) If it passes, then eventually it is printed on dead trees and mailed out. At salary review time (or the academic equivalent, whatever that is), the scientist points to published papers as evidence that he has done some worthwhile science. And now and then, who sent a paper in first becomes critical in deciding who gets the Nobel prize.

    Other scientists refer to these journals so they will be building on work already done rather than duplicating it. However, a relevant article may have been published in one of dozens of different journals, so indexing journals and searching for prior work are difficult, time-consuming, and error-prone jobs. And once you have located possibly interesting articles in the indexes, you still have to obtain the articles themselves. University libraries are not able to buy or to store all the dead-tree journals, so you have to try to borrow journals from somewhere else, or pay for reprints.

    By putting whole articles into an on-line database, the scientists can do a full-text search if necessary, can download interesting articles immediately, and scientific research should progress just a little faster. The authors also benefit from better exposure. (At least the better articles get better exposure, whether this is a benefit for a particular scientist or not depends...)

    However, the journals fear that this will bite them in the pocketbook. The specialized journals get some advertising revenue, but not nearly as much as news magazines. So they depend on subscriptions to cover part of the editorial and peer review expenses as well as printing and postage. And so the subscription prices are high, and if the same articles will soon be appearing on-line, many people will save their money and wait. And of course the journals also lose those reprint fees, and fees for when they re-issue last years 12 issues on a roll of microfilm, etc. On the other hand, journals get the scientific articles free, aside from editing and peer review which only cost about 10% of their budget. While I understand the journals' financial concerns, I think that ultimately the on-line articles are going to be far more significant than the dead tree issues; somehow journals are going to have to adjust or else perish.

    And it's a good thing to see authors of any sort banding together and insisting on keeping control of their work.
  • ... allthough experimental, and only for computer science material that is freely available via the web anyway. But it's a great example of what can be done if the material is available via the web, and to me at least Research Index [] has been an invaluable resource.

    The source for the system is even available (though restricted).

    The only thing it really lacks is a feed of articles from assorted print media, in addition to what it robot indexes from the web.

    If you're doing computer science work, you should really take a look at it. And if you're not, but are interested in seeing a good stab at automatic indexing and archival of material, go look anyway.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.