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Open Access To Scientific Literature: Can It Work? 333

evilquaker writes "Nature is running a free web focus on the issue of open access to scientific literature. The current model of scientific publishing dates back to the seventeenth century and -- like the music industry -- is in serious danger of becoming irrelevant because of the rise of the internet. The main issue up for discussion is whether the author-pays/access-is-free model will supplant the author-pays-less/readers-pay-too model. "
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Open Access To Scientific Literature: Can It Work?

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  • I think it's great (Score:4, Interesting)

    by adulttoys ( 786815 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:29PM (#9378262) Homepage
    The more people are given open (free) access to information, the better.
    • Who's it for? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Pi_0's don't shower ( 741216 ) <ethan&isp,northwestern,edu> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:42PM (#9378454) Homepage Journal
      I have a question for people -- how many rich scientists do you know? Although I've never published in Nature, publishing in the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) costs ~$250 PER PAGE for the author... I'm sure Nature is at least as expensive.

      Furthermore, Nature is extremely stingy with their copyright laws -- i.e. they don't let you use graphs from their papers in other scientific journals, even if it is virtually essential to the science.

      I say, if you want to read it, then pay for it -- it's not fair to make people who aren't rich to begin with to foot the entire bill, especially when the information is clearly not "open to all" for use.
      • Re:Who's it for? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:56PM (#9378655)
        Well it's not like the scientists publishing in it get a cut of the overpriced bloated subscription fees.

        Anyways, whoever you are doing research for will foot the bill to get it published for the prestige of getting their guys name published. It's not like jo-bob amateur chemist is publishing scientific papers in his spare time after he gets home from the office.

        The biggest part of publishing is doing research worthy of being published. If you got something that can make it into a major journal you'll get the money from somewhere.

        Scientists don't live off royalties of papers they publish. They aren't novelists. They are researchers. Someone pays for their research and pays for their publishing.

        The current state of scientific or even better academic journals in general (because history, anthropology and area studies all suffer from it too) needs a real overhaul. It's a really antiquated system that has basically just become a big racket for the publishers.

        Publishing academics papers in peer-reviewed journals is totally different than publishing a collection of poems or a novel.

        And oh ya, all the scientist I know are very well paid, even the bums that haven't published squat in ages.

        Anyways, the whole point, which you apparently missed is this: You say "especially when the information is not open for all to use" well the idea is to make it open for all to use. Also the reason it costs money to publish these things is because someone with high level of expertise has to spend a lot of time reviewing the paper. So you are paying for it to be reviewed. Why paying someone to review it should mean that it's completely restricted use?
      • Re:Who's it for? (Score:4, Informative)

        by RayBender ( 525745 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:12PM (#9378860) Homepage
        Although I've never published in Nature, publishing in the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) costs ~$250 PER PAGE for the author... I'm sure Nature is at least as expensive.

        Actually, publishing in Nature is free, unless you have big color prints.

      • I agree with your comments wholeheartedly in spirit. I do want to add also that although you say scientists pay for their publishing fees, I believe that in actuality, all taxpayers are paying the publishing fee [], not just scientists. If you want to know how your tax dollars are used, read on and follow the link above.

        In essence grants are what pays scientists, and US grants are taken from your taxes. For a lot of the science that gets published, these publishers are in a way "double-dipping" the researcher
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:31PM (#9378280) Homepage Journal
    Support via ad revenue, with subscriptions available to suppress the ads. You know, kind of like a certain site we are all familiar with... You can also use the site to sell printed copies, and use the revenue from that to maintain the site. Nobody likes banner ads but I like it a lot more than paying to read and I don't think someone should be paying to publish scientific research. The whole point is that it should be available as readily as possible.
    • And even better, successfully duplicating someone else's research is considered a good thing in the world of science!
    • by nodwick ( 716348 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:45PM (#9378501)
      Funny that you should mention Slashdot, because there's a second issue that is being overlooked in this discussion that I think is even more important than cost, and that's moderation. IMO, the cost of my subscriptions (which currently cost me a few hundred bucks a year) is pretty negligible compared to the benefit of keeping me up to date on the newest research in the field. What's more important is that the publications themselves contain high-quality, useful material.

      The biggest challenge I find going through the technical literature today is information glut. If a publication or web site accepts just anyone's submissions, then it's going to be next to useless because it'll be so hard to dig out the gems from the chaff that it'll be totally useless. Imagine if you had to read through some of the bigger Slashdot discussions (1000+ comments) without the moderation system in place so that you at least have somewhere to start.

      Today, paper reviews that decide whether your paper gets admitted or not are typically seen by only ~3 reviewers. This leads to pretty big variance on the quality of reviews -- some reviewers just couldn't care less and rush through the reviews with non-committal comments, while more rarely there are others who'd prefer to suppress competing research. Poor papers may get in if they hit a few indifferent reviewers, and good papers may be bounced for similar reasons.

      I'd be curious about how well a public moderation system like Slashdot's would work in that context -- with more mods, review scores would be less vulnerable to manipulation by a small group of poor reviewers. That way, no one's work could be suppressed by negative reviewers, but the scoring system would help draw a reader's attention to the most popular articles.

      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:51PM (#9378588) Homepage Journal
        Only people who have submitted papers should be able to moderate. Further, moderation should be weighted, such that those who tend to be moderated positively will have more moderation power. This is simply a codification of the current peer review process, but with the shortcut of being implemented on a website instead of in the court of opinion over several years.
      • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:08PM (#9378816) Homepage Journal
        The biggest challenge I find going through the technical literature today is information glut. If a publication or web site accepts just anyone's submissions, then it's going to be next to useless because it'll be so hard to dig out the gems from the chaff that it'll be totally useless.

        Agreed. I recently checked out Barnes & Noble and Borders for technical books. Once upon a time, I could find the books on OS Design, Algorithms, Cryptology, Data Compression, Sound Theory, Game Programming, etc. You know what I found instead? EJB for dummies, UNIX for Dummies 3rd edition, Beginners Guide to Linux, J2EE for Business, etc. Talk about dumbed down material. Half of this stuff is useless crap intended for people who won't read specs (or at least tutorials). They simply add "purdy picturz" to a minor amount of information and call it a book.

        Maybe it's just me, but you know what I got for an anniversary present from my wife? A book on calculating sounds (i.e. synthesis of sounds produced by real objects) in real time. My wife pulled it from my wish list on Amazon. THAT is something I want on my shelf. Right next to the processor specs from Intel and AMD, Practical File System Design with BeOS, OS Design by Tanenbaum, Introduction to Advanced Data Structures, Tricks of the Game Programming Gurus, etc, etc, etc.

        I don't even have a Masters degree. What the hell are the people who DO have one reading?
        • I don't even have a Masters degree. What the hell are the people who DO have one reading?

          Books are mostly useless except as introductions to a topic and leads to
          papers/authors found in the bibliography (if a book doesn't give references,
          find a different book).

          In general, the first thing I do when I approach a topic is look through the
          bibliographies of any topical books and papers I find to see if there are any
          sources that are used by virtually everyone in the field. I then hunt down
          that source and other
          • Books are mostly useless except as introductions to a topic and leads to
            papers/authors found in the bibliography (if a book doesn't give references,
            find a different book).

            I have to disagree here. While the original papers are always best, it's often hard to get ahold of them. Take raytracing as an example. The original paper on the subject is still considered the definitive source for information on the topic. But that paper is 20+ years old and is almost impossible to find. (I don't have easy access to a
      • The problem with a /. like moderation system is having scientists in a non-field be able to comment on the article. I don't think the molecular biologists want the particle physicsists to down mod their articles because they just don't get it and vice versa. Papers that are submitted to scientific jornals, such as Nature, are pass along to those within the same field for peer review. Also, it's occasionally of interest to have papers passed along to those in your field, but NOT doing the same work. Ther
  • as a scientist... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:31PM (#9378293)
    This is something I always find bizarre. I support the rights of musicians to specify terms for the distribution of their work. Everybody gets paid, etc. But for science journals, the authors want the widest, freest distribution possible. The editors, reviewers, and authors are all unpaid--indeed the authors are often asked to pay. Why on earth do we still give journals the right to act as gatekeepers for our information, when they give us almost nothing (basically just a referral service) in return?
    • Depending on your field/place of employment, those additional lines on your curriculum vitae are necessary for merit increases and raises. Besides, isn't the point to be as widely published and read as possible? Fame and glory, my dear chap, fame and glory.
    • Re:as a scientist... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:44PM (#9378492) Homepage Journal
      As an ex-physicist, I'd say that perhaps your argument is just what the journals are afraid of. Back in grad school, it was pretty obvious that the hottest research was being circulated via preprints and later via the web long before anything showed up in a printed journal. The only thing the journals really have left are their names. They may talk about the value of peer review, but as you point out, none of these reviewers are really paid employees, so they are largely independent of the journals.

      In the future, I'd expect to see federations of scientists reviewing and disseminating research results independently of the established journals. For the current gatekeepers, this would be a death knell.

      • by geekee ( 591277 )
        "They may talk about the value of peer review, but as you point out, none of these reviewers are really paid employees, so they are largely independent of the journals."

        Peer review is the single most important feature of a journal. If you read a random paper you find on the internet, you have no idea whther it's true or not. With a reputable journal, you know people considered experts on the topic have looked at it and haven't found any obvious flaws with it.
        • by DarkMan ( 32280 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @06:27PM (#9382331) Journal
          ... if you are an expert in the field.

          That's really, really, crucial here. The people who gain from peer review are _not_ really the experts. Ok, there's a gain by a first winnowing, but that's not really that much, if you look at what does get published.

          For example, there is not a paper in my field (thin layer magnetism) where it matters one whit if it's been peer reviewed or not. Why? Because if it's a load of cobblers, I'll spot it. I don't need other peoples opinions.

          Now, outside my field, I'll accept that peer review has some merit to me. The most notable one for me is the mathematical proofs, to be checked by other mathematicians [0]. On the other hand, in the abscence of a formal peer review stage pre publication, any errors would result in a Comment publication in response. I accept that that's a time lag - but I don't think that that time lag would be any greater than the formal peer review stage as is.

          No, the people who gain from peer review are not the experts. They are the general public, and those learning, or branching out. A lack of a peer review step would make it more difficult for those people.

          You'll find that the drive to opening of papers is primarily driven by the experts. I think that replacing the peer review step with a structed system of comments, and keeping those comments accesable with the paper, would benefit.

          The counter point to this, is that by having greater access to papers, with comments, would give benefit to all, general public and experts alike. The end point would be a net gain for experts, and probably a gain for the general public - as more reading would be needed, but all that reading would be easily accessable.

          Let me close this by re-iterating that the experts don't need peer review - which is why and pre-prints are the stock in trade of many an expert.

          [0] There are, of course, similar sections of related research for all fields.
      • Current physics grad here! I'd like to add a few points here and there.

        I am currently studying a Phys. Rev. B article (which of course I will not disclose) that is full of typos, the kind of typos that are OBVIOUS to the eye, the kind of typos that any self-respecting editor should catch with no problem, let alone the referees that read the article (supposedly). This article got published!
        Additionally to the typos, there are formulas that are completely wrong (this is easily checked because the paper i
        • I quite agree with you, as I'm sure many readers of scientific journals do. This problem is perhaps one of the main weapons against the "peer review"=="quality" argument. It is quite easy to see why the problem exists when one considers that

          the journals get money for whatever they publish (it's not like you can get your money back by showing that the paper you wanted it crap)

          the reviewers have no financial incentive, nor an incentive based on reputation (due to the anonymous nature of the review process

    • Re:as a scientist... (Score:4, Informative)

      by beeplet ( 735701 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:46PM (#9378518) Journal
      In the case of music, there is no absolute judge of what is good music or bad music - it's a personal choice. But there is an objective difference between good science and bad science. Unfortunately, most people either don't have the qualification or the time to carefully judge the merit of every scientific paper - instead we rely on the peer review system of respected journals to make that distinction for us. And people are willing to pay for that service.

      If you want to read all the crazy ideas people want to print, there's already a medium for that - it's called the internet. Lots of things get submitted to the LANL arXiv ( that are "fringe" science.
    • by FattMattP ( 86246 )
      Why on earth do we still give journals the right to act as gatekeepers for our information, when they give us almost nothing (basically just a referral service) in return?
      Well, as a scientist you're the one creating the information that the journals publish. So you tell me. Just why are you still giving the journals that power? Publish your information whatever way you see fit.
      • by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:56PM (#9378653) Homepage Journal
        Just why are you still giving the journals that power? Publish your information whatever way you see fit.
        Because its the best system yet defined to get your work out to a wide audience along with the message "In the opinion of knowledgeable people in this field, this work is probably not wrong." Sticking a PDF on the web does the former; we're nowhere near finding a better way to perform the latter.
      • by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:23PM (#9379026) Journal
        I am not a scientist, but I can imagine that one reason they may want to publish in a known journal is reputation and audience.

        For example, Nature has a reputation for being a respectable scientific journal. You pretty much know that the people reading and reviewing your work published there will be other scientists and academics. So what other avenues does a scientist have to publish his work?

        Website? Book? If so, who is your audience (as in, who is actually reading it and not who you wrote it for) and how can they generate feedback for the peer review process to work? Also, what does that say about your credibility? Lots of kooks have websites and books about all sorts of bunk science. How is someone going to tell yours apart?

        Unless you already have a reputation, how do you publish something by yourself and still have people take you seriously? I think it's a fair question...
        • Unless you already have a reputation, how do you publish something by yourself and still have people take you seriously? I think it's a fair question...

          Absolutely, it's of particular importance to new people in the field.

          In the case of a Ph.D student for example whos name is the first on the paper the they do not have a "reputation" per se (since they have not published or are relatively unknown). Personally, and I don't think I am alone in this, I find the "reputation" aspect of the paper has far more

      • Re:as a scientist... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pclminion ( 145572 )
        Just why are you still giving the journals that power? Publish your information whatever way you see fit.

        Because any idiot can put a PDF on a website. The value of the journals is the extensive peer review prior to publication. This makes a publication in a highly respected journal a very valuable thing to get, because it proves to your scientific colleagues that your work has past the inspection of a diverse array of professionals in the same field.

        This concept is so ingrained into scientists' heads (

    • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:50PM (#9378574)
      Why on earth do we still give journals the right to act as gatekeepers for our information, when they give us almost nothing (basically just a referral service) in return?

      Well, to try and answer honestly --- submissions editors add value. If one goes to the library and picks up the New England Journal of Medicine, you know that the articles in there fought to get in. Lots of sub-par research and writing was tossed or picked up by lesser journals. It serves as a kind of filter. If scientists just start setting up websites ad-hoc and there is no structure to papers being released, we end up with an Internet full of PDFs. What happens then, honestly, is corporate control of science. As somebody interested in say, stem-cell research, you maybe try Google to find papers, but somebody like Phizer may have it all neatly organized for you. Except it's just research by scientists paid by them, promoting their agenda.

      Science is at a interesting point in history. It's primacy as technological and economic weapon is unchallenged. But there is a growing anti-secularism on the rise, in the both the West with Christianity and the middle east with Islam. People are attempting to "flood the airwaves" with pseudo-science or straight up bullshit science. Social structures to create peer review and weed out crap must exist somehow.
      • sounds a lot like ian malcolm's prediction from jurassic park.

        science is dying out, like alchemy before it, and we are heading to a new dark age of ignorance! stock up on ammo!
      • But I think a real argument can be made that one of the reasons pseudoscience has become so popular these days (to the level of informing at least two presidents) is that so much of real science is published in journals that you have to pay big bucks to read.

        If you're in college then you probably have free access through your institution, and you can probably afford it if you're working in the field, but there are a number of inquiring laymen, myself among them, who are interested in science and don't want
    • by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:06PM (#9378785)
      The editors, reviewers, and authors are all unpaid

      I believe that editors get paid quite well, and they earn every penny, but yes, reviewers and authors are unpaid, it comes with the job of being a scientist.

      ... the authors want the widest, freest distribution possible ... Why on earth do we still give journals the right to act as gatekeepers for our information, when they give us almost nothing (basically just a referral service) in return

      Nothing is stopping scientists from simply throwing their articles on a website somewhere. I can't think of a wider more free distribution method.

      The reason that we give journals the right to act as gatekeepers is because we want them to do it. A scientist knows that there are journals that have higher respect in a field, and it looks good on scientists' vitas to have publications in peer reviewed journals, especially the more respected ones. The peer review is essential, and that is what costs money. Any bozo can throw something on a website. Journals have very strict standards for the format of the paper, and the methods used in the science. As far as who pays? Someone is paying the scientist and funding the research. I would guess that any costs associated with publishing the research is much less than 1% of research itself.
      • Re:as a scientist... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by slipstick ( 579587 )

        Your last paragraph doesn't entirely jibe with your earlier statements.

        Specifically, if "reviewers & authors are unpaid" why this latter statement "The peer review is essential, and that is what costs money." Note I'm not disagreeing with you as to the value of journals, I'm just working on a thought.

        If reviewers are unpaid what are the actual costs in peer review? Not in publishing or other aspects of getting a paper in a journal, but rather the actual peer review, what are the costs the
  • It's working thus far with software :)

    Perhaps encouraging the spread of scientific knowledge will increase the general level of education of the population. I for one would be more willing to look at publications which I wouldn't have done if I had to pay...e.g., something which I have an interest in, but don't really have much knowledge/experience with.

    I would then probably be willing to donate to authors of particularly good books...a system which would also help promote high-quality literature. (al
  • by Paul Crowley ( 837 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:33PM (#9378304) Homepage Journal
    In my field, cryptography, most recent papers are available online on the author's website. Those that aren't you can often get with a polite email to the author. I went from knowing nothing about the field to publishing cryptanalysis at conference almost entirely through what I've learned from downloaded papers - my "dead tree" cryptographic bookshelf is very minimal. Much of this learning was done without access to an academic library, and would have been impossible in an earlier era.

    It's a crime that so many papers are still being published under licences that do not allow their free accessibility on the Web. Scientists of the future will wonder how science was even possible without such access.
    • most recent papers are available online on the author's website
      How did you know which papers were the seminal ones to read though? In my experience, you learn that by considering which journals they first appeared in.
      • More often by who wrote them and who cites them.
      • Authors who maintain web sites usually mention which articles were recently published in which journal; I don't know about you, but I wouldn't read an article on cryptography written by "Bubble Gum Jones," no matter how good his blog was.
      • by Donny Smith ( 567043 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:46PM (#9378519)
        Reputation is important but it can built.

        For example x years ago people would download many Linux distributions but now enterprises use very few - those few that have built good reputation.

        So if we started with x open source journals, within 2-3 years several good ones would take lead. It's just that money would be out of the game.

        Actually somewhere I read about this search engine that specializes in searching thru electronic scientific papers and journals - many customers pay lot of money 'cause thats the real value - find everything you need in 10th of time you'd need to the same on Google.
    • by Drakula ( 222725 ) <(gro.eeei) (ta) (revillot)> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:48PM (#9378555) Homepage Journal
      "I went from knowing nothing about the field to publishing cryptanalysis at conference almost entirely through what I've learned from downloaded papers - my "dead tree" cryptographic bookshelf is very minimal."

      You just described what every graduate student has to do in order to complete their work. If everything you need to do your thesis is in a book then it has already been done ad nauseum.

      Another quick note. There are free journals on line that are free to publish in as well as to read. The up keep can carried simply by ad revenue or donated by people in the field or a technical organization.
    • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:49PM (#9378565) Homepage
      The problems with giving talks at conferences, and just randomly posting stuff on the internet is that it hasn't had a level of peer review. Someone may have some great information out there, that everyone should read, and someone else might have a complete load of crap.

      The service that journals provide isn't so much the publishing, but the fact that skilled people in that profession have reviewed the papers, and have verified that it is accurate, and worthwhile [ie, not just some rewording of someone else's research].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:33PM (#9378310) disseminate knowledge and share it with the rest of the world? this area, much more so than music, is predestined for open, free publishing solutions (creative commons licensing, etc). but as usual, historical inertia and vested commercial interests are holding us back from adopting the obvious.
    • to disseminate knowledge and share it with the rest of the world?

      Not the whole point, no. Information dissemination is one of the two major goals accomplished by the current academic publication system. The second is peer review. Journal editors and their staffs manage the peer review process: they find reviewers (often a rather arduous process), disseminate submitted papers to them, receive and evaluate the reviews, and make the final editorial decision on the inclusion of the paper. All of this take
  • You know... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by brilinux ( 255400 )
    I think it is great to have access to this stuff if I wish to be able to research something quickly, and I know that in the past when I have tried to get stuff from Journals, it has been harder without a subscription. Now that I may being publishing, however, I fear that the cost may be prohibitive to get into a respected journal. Of course, the research institute will probably pick up some of the cost, but will this cause people to be more weary of publishing in journals?
  • If it is expensive to publish, then most publications would become "an organizational property" -- if you look at patents, the CEO puts his/her name even though he/she is not involved in it, and the patent will anyway be the property of the company.

    Same thing will probably happen to publications.

    • If it is expensive to publish, then most publications would become "an organizational property" -- if you look at patents, the CEO puts his/her name even though he/she is not involved in it, and the patent will anyway be the property of the company.

      With a fair number of journals, the author already pays. I am fairly certain that the author or institution has to pay for articles in the IEEE Transactions, and the ACM SIGs may be the same way. In most instances, articles are written by college researches

  • The Music Industry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:35PM (#9378346) Homepage Journal
    Compared to the music industry, scientific publications needs more structure in distribution. Tastes in music are pure subjectivity: You like AC/DC, I like Britney[0], live and let live.

    Journals per se have become a cash cow, but the structure and processes of peer review are important. It's how we tell Andrew Wiles and Murray Gell-Mann from the various witless kooks with a bogus proof or a crackpot theory. Without it, every worker in the field has to do her own comparative study of the merits of everyones work.

    Until we find a way to replicate that, journals are here to stay.

    [0] I don't actually, but you probably don't like AC/DC either.
    • Yes, but there are no fees involved in any of this. Everyboyd but the publisher pays for journals. The editor also gets a nominal amount of money, but this is nothing.
    • I like AC/DC!
    • by dpilot ( 134227 )
      I'll challenge you on this one, in an odd way.

      I agree with you on peer review on scientific journals. But I'll disagree with you on music. For the silly point, some rap fans are not 'live and let live,' they pack guns.

      For the more serious point, it's not AC/DC vs Britney[0], it's how the heck did we get to those two in the first place. How did the music industry focus on who gets to be stars, who gets promotion, who gets airplay, etc?

      IMHO, publishing industries have four main functions:
      1 - facilitate ori
  • Ulib (Score:4, Informative)

    by KrisCowboy ( 776288 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:35PM (#9378347) Journal
    Carnegie-Mellon University is in a process of setting up a Universal Digital Library []. Got an impressive list of partners, including the richest pilgrimage in the world [](no, it's not the Vactican). The pilot project is to scan a million books first.
  • P2P (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:35PM (#9378349)
    I'm an astrophysicist. I read tons of papers all the time. I would really love an easily searchable P2P app for distributing and organising my huge collection of papers and pre-prints. The current web services like ADS [] are really good but it doesn't a) tie in with papers I've already downloaded and b) allow people who can't afford to pay for papers to download them.
    We will still need journals for peer review, sadly.
    • Re:P2P (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:35PM (#9379193) Homepage Journal
      We will still need journals for peer review, sadly.

      BZZZZZZZZZZT! WRONG! We still need peer review, but what does that have to do with the journals?

      The editors are professors who are supported by their universities. Their editorship fulfills the ``service to the profession'' portion of their job requirements, and brings some prestige to their department. It's generally considered to be easier to get published in a journal if the editor's office is just down the hall from yours, and he's heard your presentation of your ideas at one of the faculty brown-bag lunches. In short, the Universities support the editors, not the journals.

      The reviewers are past and potential contributors. They work free of charge, and again, that's part of their university job description.

      Yes, I know that the journals do have some paid employees. They seem to be associated with the print side of the business: they deal with subscriptions and money and such. If you are a contributor, you deal with volunteers who have .edu email addresses.

      If Blackwell Publishers dumped Econometrica, the Econometric Society [], which is funded largely by personal membership [], could simply put its journal online, by subscription or free. Everything would continue as before: Eddie Deckel [] could still edit, the reviewers could still review, and the papers could still be made available with the imprimatur of the Society. They might lose out on some revenue from the journal, but I doubt that would be an insurmountable problem. I imagine that most of us could afford to double our dues, if we had to.

      You're an academic, and you know all this stuff, but I'm saying it for the slashdotters, most of whom figure that they'll get involved in some science, like java programming, when they finally get to college.

  • Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by abscondment ( 672321 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:35PM (#9378353) Homepage

    Free literature is great, but someone will always off the argument that making it free will discourage research.

    In distribution scheme where information is disseminated freely, it is obvious that the researchers need some insentive other than making money from publication of their research. Of course, most college professor will tell you that they make next to nothing on their publications--it all goes to the publishing companies.

    I personally wouldn't minde paying a little bit for really good research; on the other hand, my Computer Science class this quarter required two $90 texts. I'm not OK with that. Perhaps a balance between the two could be achieved--eliminate the middleman publishing company, and provide the information online for next-to-free.

    • I am quite certain that your second-term textbook is not "cutting-edge research".

      I think you are confusing two different things. The textbook is a collection of topics to help you, as a student, learn the area. The research articles in question are results and interpretations of experiments published in monthly/weekly journals.

      To write a good skill, you need to be a really good writer, and spend a lot of time polishing know topics. To write a curring edge research article, you have to be studying things n
  • Of course! (Score:2, Insightful)

    Open access to sci. lit. was bound to happen. What began during the Renaissance and continued into the scientific revolution and beyond was the opening of communication and transactions between scientists. Open access is just a continuation of that. And I think that eventually, publishing sci. lit. will be done for the funds that could be procured after people see the work that you do. So, basically, we will have totally open lit. (as in free) that will be published to garner funding for further study,
  • I hope so (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Safety Cap ( 253500 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:36PM (#9378358) Homepage Journal
    I recently let my membership lapse in a scientific organization [] because they went from dead tree journals to on-line access (dead trees can still be had for additional fee) without a cost reduction--for either readers or authors.

    My beef is that by going on-line only, their costs were significantly reduced (this was a hefty journal, often with color graphs 'n charts), but the savings were not passed on to the membership. My other issue centered around the fact that, like the infamous MS Assurance Program, once your membership lapsed so went your on-line journal access. At least the dead tree version ensured you had a viable resource until the acid paper disintegrated.

  • Open Online Journals (Score:5, Informative)

    by JamesD_UK ( 721413 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:36PM (#9378364) Homepage
    The Public Library of Science [] publishes the rather open, and rather lovely PLoS Biology Journal [] completely openly online.
    • by geomon ( 78680 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:01PM (#9378727) Homepage Journal
      The PLoS publications will be the litmus test of whether a different model of scientific publishing can exist.

      If the PLoS model proves unsuccessful, it will not be due to the lack of peer-review as some comments here have suggested. All of the submissions are subjected to the same rigorous peer process as subscription-based publications.

      The current system will eventually break under its own weight. Universities can ill afford to continue to see large increases in their subscription rates. As the prices increase, so does the number of titles being dropped. Scientific inquiry suffers as a result.

      Also, niche publications are often dropped by publishers due to the small number of subscribers. The effect on the groups who need that publication outlet is tremendous. Imagine new discoveries going unpublished, regardless of whether they are part of a 'high tech' science market.

      The fact remains, as outlets for research are pruned, so is the opportunity for scientific inquiry. I don't profess to have all the answers to this problem, but I do know that we need to push back on publishers to force a change in thinking.

      They exist to serve the scientific community, not the other way around.

    • by joib ( 70841 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:46PM (#9379308)
      I think that PLoS might very well be the model for how things are done in the future, now that the internet has essentially reduced the distribution costs to zero.

      Peer review is as good as any traditional journal. In theory at least; my field is physics so I haven't actually read any articles in the PLoS journals.

      With the author pays model, the articles can be distributed around the world, without restrictions. This is a big thing, for poor countries as well as people who have graduated but still wan't to keep up with their field. And we don't see the perversity were researchers need to assign the copyright to the journal and then pay to read their own words!

      As PLoS is a non-profit, the per-page costs are not that big as there is no need to fatten the wallets of any shareholders. Hell, per-page costs for PLoS are lower than for many traditional for-profit journals! Additionally, researchers from poor countries are allowed to publish for free. This combined with the fact that they can get the articles for free, is about the best we can do to help the third world to increase their knowledge base.

      I wish all the success to PLoS and hope that the same concept will be increasingly popular in other scientific fields as well.
    • The PLOS journals are indeed an interesting experiment. A couple of things to think about:

      1) Regardless of the business model, it is extremely hard to start a new journal in Biology these days. The market is flooded, and there really haven't been any new top-level journals (well, ones without the words Nature or Cell in the title) for a very long time. If you're a postdoc looking for a job, are you going to publish your paper in Nature, which goes a long way with a job search committee, or are

  • Knuth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gumbi west ( 610122 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:36PM (#9378365) Journal
    Here is what Knuth wrote on the topic for his journal. []

    It's long, but a good read.

  • by 14erCleaner ( 745600 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:36PM (#9378367) Homepage Journal
    Editting and peer review serve an important purpose in publishing; they are a way to filter incorrect or irrelevant information out so that they typical (less-informed) reader doesn't have to deal with it (or doesn't get misled by it).

    That said, it's also good to have channels that don't have any filters on them. The web is the best such channel ever invented. Anybody can publish given minimal resources. Whether anybody ever sees what you publish is a different problem, but it won't happen because it's been editted.

    In some sense, a Google pagerank rating is the ultimate in "reviewing" (if not exactly "peer review"), since it lets a large number of other web sites vote on how worthy your writing is. On the other hand, many high-ranked pages are from cranks, or are hate-speech (like Google's first hit for "Jew"). This is kind of thing would generally never happen in a peer-reviewed journal.

  • by L. VeGas ( 580015 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:37PM (#9378371) Homepage Journal
    If you have all this scientific information just kind of floating around, you have the very real danger of contaminating political agendas.
  • For an example... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cot ( 87677 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:37PM (#9378372)
    of why they're facing obsolescence, look at

    (not linked to prevent needless slashdoting)

    It's a pretty impressive resource, and not just because it's free and electronic.
  • by cybergibbons ( 554352 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:38PM (#9378381) Homepage
    90% of my research is in EE or computer science. And it is a rare occasion when I can't find a paper, even ones from the mid eighties or earlier. One of the many citeseer sites is a great help e.g. this one [].

    Sometimes papers are submitted to journals, and are hard to find elsewhere. Most of the time, an e-mail to the author will get a response, or it can be found using a search engine.

    It's been a long time since I have looked in a paper journal, yet I still know of universities who shun electronic access...

    • For those who aren't familiar with citeseer, it's a publicly-accessible database of scientific literature. There's a downloadable pdf available for most papers.

      The entry for every paper has links to papers it cites, links to similar papers (i.e. papers that cited this paper were also likely to cite these papers), and a citation count (which can be a good way to estimate the relative importance of a given paper - if something has been cited 300 times, its probably worth a read).


  • by beeplet ( 735701 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:38PM (#9378390) Journal
    As much as I think it would be great for scientific literature to be made freely available to everyone, I see a couple problems with the "author pays" model.

    1) Journals are businesses, and will inevitably cater to their source of income. Under the reader pays system, they have an incentive to deliver what the reader wants: quality research papers. Under the author pays system, they have an incentive to simply publish as much as possible.

    2) Publication of scientific research should be a meritocracy. Any system which puts large fees on publishing is going to impede smaller projects from publishing their results, no matter how worthy. Not all science is done with huge budgets.

    The answer to making research more publicly available is already here: libraries. In my opinion, all university libraries should be open to the public. If they start to move their collections online, they should have computer access from the library also. If libraries are underfunded, that is a different problem entirely...
    • You miss the point. People only pay attention to publications that have good referees (i.e. that carry to good stuff) and so the whole incentive argument doesn't work. Plus the reviewers normally don't work for the publisher.

      Secondly, the market has been taken over by one publisher and they are increasing all the prices so much that most universities and other similar organizations (national labs) are reducing their subscriptions!

  • Slashdot Model (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GrEp ( 89884 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:38PM (#9378391) Homepage Journal
    Nominate reviewers in the scientific community. Rate articles, and if they get a high enough score they are posted to the main page. The few with the highest scores each month are "Published" in a special monthly addition.

    Motivation is the gain for scientific knowledge. Reviews will be better because 50 eyes are better than 3. Funding for the server shouldn't be to hard. [] is already a good place for many scientists to publish their work. All that is needed is moderation.
    • Re:Slashdot Model (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gowen ( 141411 )

      All that is needed is moderation.

      Ahh. But getting expert moderation is not an easy task. An important skill of journal editors is knowing who the experts are in certain fields to review papers.

      Secondly, review is not *just* a moderation process, its a feedback process. The comments and corrections of reviewers are used to *improve* the original paper. Thats no small thing, and completely lost if you replace it with a "this is good / this is bad" button, or "(+5 Seminal)" rating scheme.

      • Re:Slashdot Model (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bsd4me ( 759597 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:05PM (#9378775)

        Secondly, review is not *just* a moderation process, its a feedback process.

        I just want to second this. I had an article published in an IEEE journal last year, and the comments from my editor were invaluable. I also helped review a textbook this winter, and I know some of the comments resulted in big rewrites of sections.

    • Motivation is the gain for scientific knowledge. Reviews will be better because 50 eyes are better than 3.

      I'm sorry, but that's simply not true. 50 people with mediocre knowledge of an area are next to useless compared to 3 experts, who can actually evaluate the work. Quantity does not beget quality (as even casual observation of /. readily demonstrates :).

      Nominate reviewers in the scientific community. Rate articles, and if they get a high enough score they are posted to the main page. The few with th
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:38PM (#9378393) Homepage
    The main reason remaining for paper publication in high-priced journals is prestige, in the academic "publish or perish" sense. Many academic journals expect authors and readers to pay them. They don't pay reviewers. Often, they don't even pay editors. Then they have subscription prices upwards of $1000 per year, so only libraries subscribe.

    Even big-name journals like Nature seem to be in decline. When Nature publishes articles that aren't about the biological sciences, they range from weak to totally bogus.

    A friend who writes for mass-market magazines was once talking to me about journal publication. When I described "page fees", which the author, or the author's institution, pays, she said "That's a vanity press". She's right.

    An academic journal is really just a blog with tough editors. Deal with it.

  • by Mochatsubo ( 201289 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:38PM (#9378398)
    I hope someone in the know could give us a better understanding on where the money goes in the production of a big time science journal such as "Nature" or "Science." Certainly we have many articles stating the costs to the readership (through library subscriptions) but how would less money going to the journals impact the quality of the journal?

    Of course I am assuming here that open accessibility will reduce the flow of money to the journals, and I realize that this doesn't have to be the case. Are journals a low profit or high profit enterprise? Would fewer or more inexperienced editors produce an inferior journal?
  • Access to articles is a great start, but for science to become "open" scientist must give up their zealous grip on the data itself. Anyone who's ever tried to develop a data exchange network knows that getting scientist to agree to share even the most non-proprietary data can require self-abasement, bribery and arm-bending in varying degrees. Long live XML!
  • IMHO it is important that there be multiple venues for publication. Technical journals and magazines that specialize in an area seem to complement each other.

    Some of my stuff has published in IEEE journals, other items in Electronic Design and EDN magazines. The writing style is totally different, and how you present things is totally different.

    Also, what a journal rejects, frequently the magazine loves to have.

    In both cases, the concept of "peer review" is important. (Although not perfect...) Out of con
  • by Positive Charge ( 592093 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:46PM (#9378523) Homepage
    There's no real reason that a free system can't be devised. The true value of a scientific journal is that it is a peer review process, something that isn't true of simply writing a paper and displaying it on your website.

    Someone has to pay for the time and effort of the reviewers and someone has to qualify the reviewers. On the other hand, humans have an inherrent need to compete and rise to the top of the heirarchy, so I expect that a non-economic system of pecking order based on status and recognition can supplant the economic model.

    Bloodthirsty politics is rampant in university acedemic settings with very little economic basis. The drive for that could be harnessed in this system.

    There are some experimental review systems in place for budding writers to review each others' work -- something similar (yet better working) could be designed for this purpose.
    • As a young scientist, I've had my turn at reviewing papers (and having been reviewed, also). Trust me, without a good peer review, there would be an incredible amount of crap put out there. The more stringent the review process tends to be, the better the journal.

      I have no problem shifting the economics, though. It is expensive to print a journal article for the authors as is. I believe that the last article I published cost almost $1000... and this was for a small 7 pager. ("Journal of Atmospheric Sc
  • by Pendersempai ( 625351 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:47PM (#9378540)
    The popular and prestigious journals add no value and incur no significant cost. They harvest papers from academics and redistrubute them to other academics, who peer review them for free. Then, a university pays ungodly sums to subscribe.

    So when a professor can publish by himself on the internet and not give up all sorts of rights to the paper, why doesn't he? When the journal asks a professor to dedicate tens of hours of highly-valued time to reviewing articles for free, why does he?

    Prestige. Professors make a name for themselves by being published in prestigious journals. They become better known in academia when they are a prominent peer reviewer for a prestigious journal.

    It's a pretty sweet deal for those top journals: output nothing but brand name prestige (which is entirely renewable and not really subject to typical economics) and rake in loads of cash.

    The sweetness of the deal for the journals comes at the expense of subscribing institutions: money paid for journals (which wouldn't have to be paid were it a competitive market) is money taken out of tuition and endowment revenues that could otherwise lower the outrageous price of college or add real value to the institution.

    The journals must die.
    • Prestige. Professors make a name for themselves by being published in prestigious journals. They become better known in academia when they are a prominent peer reviewer for a prestigious journal.

      It's a pretty sweet deal for those top journals: output nothing but brand name prestige (which is entirely renewable and not really subject to typical economics) and rake in loads of cash.

      I think we need a All that publically funded research should be open to every citizen to review. Odds are ve
    • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:34PM (#9379182)
      Some journals may be a waste of money, but many aren't.

      The whole point of journals is not dissemination---any monkey can put up a web page or archive---but quality improvement.

      Where is the added value?

      The journal editors do have to make decisions and more importantly they have to know the right people (harder than it sounds) to review, and they have to cajole people into writing the reviews.

      On the technical end of things, the published finished papers in journals DO look better, their figures are clearer, the references more complete and checked, and the language is better than preprints. This takes the labor of professional copywriters, who don't work for free.

      My papers have been improved by going through the publication process, both in presentation and in content.

      Journals don't stay or get prestigious unless they can reliably publish good papers and reliably reject---or fix---crappy papers.

      The system is hardly perfect---good papers get rejected and lousy papers do get published----but one has to consider if any alternative would have been any better.

      It is extremely naive to imagine that good scientific quality control could be managed by some kind of utopian 'free' on-line review and meta-review system like Slashdot. People's scientific output is a whole lot more important than slashdot posts like this.

      Professors do make a name for themselves publishing in prestigious journals. They don't become better known however for being a peer reviewer, as that service is usually anonymous. They do it because they feel they have a moral obligation to do so.

      Many societies publish journals as a service and are not-for-profit, e.g. the American Physical Society. And their journals are usually cheaper, and often better, than the pay journals put out by for-profit companies.

      I doubt the APS rakes in "loads of cash" without spending it back on fairly essential things.
  • But paper is good! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by r ( 13067 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:48PM (#9378547)
    Well, there's much good to be said about dead trees. :) On one hand, paper journals are great for archival purposes - you can go to your local library, and dig up publications from a hundred years ago. At the same time, the internet is entirely too impermanent - what if Springer Verlag publishes a journal, and then they go bankrupt in 10 years? The chances of the publications disappearing or becoming unavailable are pretty high. But endangering the access to all the accumulated knowledge simply because of economic accidents is not an acceptable risk in the scientific community.

    So a joint paper/electronic model seems like the right balance. Most journals do that already - libraries subscribe to dead tree versions, and individuals can access the papers online, usually through a school-related discount subscription. Seems to work quite well although, paradoxically, it increases the cost per unit (because now you're printing far fewer issues).

    But there's simply no incentive for publishing houses to make the online content completely free. Professional organizations can do it themselves (e.g. the AI Access Foundation []), where they publish online papers themselves, and contract with a publisher to print each entire volume as a book. Non-profits like these will probably be the harbingers of new method of distribution for scientific findings...
  • Profit Center (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HiThere ( 15173 ) * <charleshixsn@ea r t h l i n> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:48PM (#9378550)
    Since in the old model, publishers tended to turn the thing into a profit center, and recently started trying to control reprints of articles as well... this needs to be clearly avoided in the new model!!

    Perhaps publications should be in some variant of the GFDL, with the entire original article, including bibliography, being included in the invariant section. To me this seems more important than exactly which form of distribution is used. The forms of distribution will vary, and vary over time, but licenses can get dreadfully permanent, and copyrights appear to be forever.
  • See, I had thought that Apple should take over publication of journals.

    One problem is that you still need to make the paper copy--people like having them above their desks, and thumbing through them. but it would also be nice to have it online and searchable (i.e. google has access to the abstract AND the text).

    The problem is that the company that puts the articles on line won't make much money on it, so will have to do it to gain some other sort of capital. Enter Apple, increases their image among accademi

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Web was originally designed as a place to publish scientific articles. The very purpose of hyperlinks was to cite other papers. Sure would be nice to actually put all these papers on the web, instead of sticking them behind subscription barriers.

    And now that we have PageRank, a simple google for any topic would bring up the most-cited papers...
  • Hehe (Score:4, Informative)

    by afay ( 301708 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:56PM (#9378665)

    I find this somewhat funny that the link would be to Nature, which is part of the academic publishing "evil empire". For a good opinion on what is wrong with academic publishing in its current form see this []

    Also, if you're a scientist and would like to publish in an open format or you're interested in scientific papers, go to the Public Library of Science []

  • by Milo Fungus ( 232863 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @12:58PM (#9378699)

    I just finished reading Free Culture [], Lawrence Lessig's latest book. That was an interesting read, and I found it remarkably similar on some points to thoughts I've had on the subject lately [].

    The last few chapters discuss ways that individuals and governments can and should act to preserve free culture and prevent the culture cartels from gaining more influence. He gives several examples of proactive efforts to preserve freedoms that were lost as technology developed. The Free Software movement was the first example, and Lessig explained how the GPL proactively protects freedom to derivitize, use, and distribute software. It has taken a couple of decades, but there is now a healthy and vibrant ecology in the copyleft commons of software.

    He then listed several examples of using ideas from the FSF copyleft commons to proactively protect freedom of non-software things. The Public Library of Science [] was discussed, as well as the Creative Commons []. I remember reading the philosophy [] section of the GNU project website a few years ago and thinking, "You know, these guys are really on to something..." The ball is rolling, and with work and time we will have a free culture protected by copyleft, including art, literature, music, software, entertainment, and scientific discovery. This is not about communism. It's about FREEDOM, sweet FREEDOM.

  • I'm being published this month in a specialized IT technical journal. Its about a 10 page article and I'm being paid 2,000 USD for it. Who, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, are the people that are actually PAYING to get published? With a check for 2g due any day now, this truely boggles my mind. I tried to skim an article describing the scenario on the referenced web site, but could find no rational reasoning.
  • by EnsilZah ( 575600 ) <EnsilZah AT Gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:18PM (#9378950)

    And yet it moves (Score:-1, Flamebait)
    by Galileo Galilei...

    Theory of general relitivity (Score:3, Insightful)
    by Albert Einstein...

    Eureka! (Score:0, Offtopic)
  • by gearmonger ( 672422 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:24PM (#9379041)
    I'm an academic and a scientist (albeit a social scientist...hey, not everyone can be John Nash). Publishing in the scientific community is somewhat like the music and books biz, but unlike in other ways.

    LIKE artists, I have to publish to get paid. I'm in a research university, so if I don't publish, I don't get tenure and then I have to go get a real job.

    But, UNLIKE most artists, I don't get paid by selling my content. The only people who make money off of that are the journals, and most of them aren't making tons of money.

    In the end, access to scientific information should be as free and easy as possible -- making the world a better-informed place about this stuff helps everyone (you know, a rising tide lifts all boats, and all that).

    I'm all for freer access to scientific content. But to make it more freely available, we need to figure out who should be getting rich from it. Since we can't divorce our scientific community from our business community (that was tried, it was called communism), we need to figure out a model that rewards the scientist for his/her endeavors while also maximizing availability. The current system certainly doesn't do that.

  • by gringo_john ( 680811 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:25PM (#9379046) Journal
    They can preach all they want about open access but here's what our yearly subscription to Nature costs:

    in 2002: $1400 CAD
    in 2003: $1700 CAD (+21%)

    This is for an academic subscription in a Univeristy Library in Canada.

    Here's the irony. In scholarly publications, the contributions are mostly made from contributions from researchers who give the publisher the rights to publish their work. The publishers then turn around and sell this back to the universities for 100% profit. I remember back a few years ago, a subscription to Elsevier (the Microsoft of scholarly publishing) charged over $30K CAD for a subscription to Brain Research. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think there were 4 issues per year. That works out to $7500 per issue. The publishing model is that if a reasearcher wants to be recognized, they NEED to publish, and the better recognized the journal, the better chances they'll have of being cited. The more often their article is cited, the better their chances of receiving more research/grants/money/etc...

  • Slahsdot? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:28PM (#9379098) Journal
    Am I the only one who sees the irony in an article wondering about on-line peer reviewed papers being feasible being discussed on what is probably the ultimate instance of on-line peer reviewing of publications?

    All someone has to do is use slashcode, post the articles for review as articles and allow the reviewing, commenting and moderating, though I think the moderation names would need to be changed.

    If peer review is a good thing, I think an open and transparent peer review would be even better.

    The entity that runs the site could run on donations or subscription fees.
  • by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 ) <(gro.tserofed) (ta) (todhsals)> on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:37PM (#9379213)
    As a solar physicist, I have two "workhorse" journals of choice: Solar Physics [], published by Kluwer [], and
    the Astrophysical Journal [], published by the University of Chicago Press [] for the American Astronomical Society []. Both of them have
    respected peer review systems.

    Solar Physics is free to authors but quite expensive to subscribe to. ApJ is expensive to publish in, but is quite cheap to subscribe to (at least for AAS members).

    Perhaps in part because of the funding structure, Europeans seem to prefer publishing in Solar Physics while many Americans seem to prefer ApJ. It may have something to do with how science is funded: in the U.S. most of us are on soft money and budget page charges into our grants and/or overhead rates, while in Europe most folks are on fixed departmental budgets. But it's hard to say, because Solar Physics is published in Europe while ApJ is published in North America -- so it may just be the home team advantage in each case.

    I tend to alternate between the two.

  • Archiving (Score:4, Informative)

    by Irvu ( 248207 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:39PM (#9379233)
    The one worry that I have (and this is not necessarily an argument against open access) is archiving. A key service that academic libraries provide is archiving of old journals. The web by contrast is not as ideal for such things as websites are always changing and individual servers are always going down. Academic libraries on the other hand are experts at the cataloguing, storage and retreival of old information.

    I can see how this worry is being lost especially as it is somewhat orthagonal to the issues of access, but not entirely. Archiving costs money and that money has to come from somewhere. Most academic institutions fund this work but their archival models are built around books and journals. When a new journal comes in it is archived to shelves, microfiche, cd, etc. What are they to do with preprints on a website?

    Obviously of course this is something that tyhe libraries themselves would have to solve but it would be nice to hear more of it in the debate.

    One of the things that I worry about as the web grows is the loss of long-term institutional archiving. Such loss can often lead to unnecessarily repeated work or worse. I remember a professor of mine once told me about a paper that is regarded as "fundamental" in the Computer vision community. This paper is fairly old (circa 20+ years) and, unlike turing's work it is not assigned in basic cs courses. Once every few years he will attend a conference where some young student is presenting his/her latest discovery, a discovery that was already made 20+ years ago.

    One could argue that the student's did not make a sufficient literature search but my prof would disagree. According to him the paper is difficult to find because there is so much literature being generated in the Computer Vision community so quickly that the paper has been buried in a mass of archives.
  • by geekee ( 591277 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:57PM (#9379404)
    The idea of free journals sounds nice on the surface. However, there are a number of expenses that need to be paid. Web servers are not free. Professional editors cost money. People need to be hired for organization, administration, IT. Etc. Someone needs to pay these expenses. In the IEEE, for example, all journal and conference articles are online. The are not free to the public since it costs a lot of money to operate reputable journals and conferences. Hopefully the web will eliminate the printing costs, but as in the music industry, media costs are only a small fraction of overall expenses.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato