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The Real Reason Journal Articles Should Be Free 193

Bennett Haselton writes "The U.S. government recently announced that academic papers on federally-funded research should become freely available online within one year of publication in a journal. But the real question is why academics don't simply publish most papers freely anyway. If the problem is that traditional journals have a monopoly on the kind of prestige that can only be conferred by having your paper appear in their hallowed pages, that monopoly can easily be broken, because there's no reason why open-access journals can't confer the same imprimatur of quality." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts on the great free-access debate.

Around the time of the tragic suicide of Aaron Swartz, who lobbied tirelessly for free access to academic articles (in his sometimes grey-hat manner, which ultimately got him in trouble), I admitted to some friends that I didn't understand how this became a problem. Why aren't all journal articles free, all the time?

I don't mean that I didn't know why the journal publishers charged exorbitant fees for their subscriptions. If academic researchers have to have access to journal articles in order to do their jobs, then you can expect the journals to gouge academic libraries on the prices. What I didn't understand was: Why do academics even publish in journals that demand exclusive publishing rights for their work, and then charge readers huge fees to read it?

Well actually, we know the answer to that too: academics want the prestige of publishing in big-name journals that have established reputations, and as a result, those well-known journals are in a position to dictate the terms of the contract. A professor might genuinely want to publish their paper in a journal where it can be read for free by all, but they can hardly be blamed for thinking of their own career path first.

Here's the question I really wanted answered: If "prestige" only exists in the minds of other academics within a field, then why don't the academics within a given field just agree to confer "prestige" on papers published in open-access journals, if they can see for themselves that the quality is equivalent to what would be published in the old-guard journals that charge an arm and a leg? And then make hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions accordingly?

I don't mean that the papers published in an open-access journal would bypass the peer-review process, and that everyone in the field would have to judge the papers for themselves without any prior certification of their quality. One of the points that Peter Suber makes repeatedly in his book Open Access is that open access is not about skipping peer review and dumping papers directly onto the web. Rather, the process would work similarly to peer review for a traditional journal:

  1. Author submits a paper to journal XYZ.

  2. Journal XYZ selects one or more peer reviewers from among their list of people they consider qualified to review the paper. The peer reviewers send back their usual suggestions and some consensus is reached as to whether or not to publish.

  3. If Journal XYZ publishes the paper, then they have certified that the paper passed the quality controls in step #2, and the author can now legitimately claim that they had a paper published in Journal XYZ.

  4. If people in the field know that Journal XYZ is not skimping on the quality controls in step #2 — that Journal XYZ is sending the papers to the same academics who would do peer review for one of the old-guard journals, and who are holding the papers to the same standard — then they should respect the paper just as much as if it were published in a traditional journal. If a person has never heard of Journal XYZ, then it should only take a minute to explain to them how it works (and crucially, that Journal XYZ is just as strict about quality as the old-guard journals that everybody has heard of).

Each step in this process should cost the journal virtually nothing. The "hard cost," the part that consumes the time of people with unique skills, is the peer review step, but peer reviewers are usually paid by universities and consider peer review for academic journals to be part of their job description. At a minimum, all the editors really have to do is maintain the list of people they consider qualified to do the peer review, and send the submitted papers off to them.

Moreover, the entire process should be fast. Again, the "hard cost" in time is the peer review, but there's no reason that the delays between submission and publication should be in the range of months or years.

(I'm assuming that the article authors would want their writings to be widely read, or at least would not be opposed to it. That may not be the case if, for example, the authors were commissioned by a pharmaceutical company for a study that cast their drug in a favorable light, but the authors realize that their research methods contained errors and want to minimize the number of eyes on their paper, to reduce the chances of their chicanery being caught. Ben Goldacre's Bad Pharma documents these types of problems very thoroughly, but I'm sidestepping that issue for now.)

So, with that in mind as the ideal, I asked my friends, including many current and former academics, why this essentially wasn't the model that was used. Several mentioned the Public Library of Science, which publishes all articles in its journals under a Creative Commons Attribution License (free for anyone to read and reproduce in full, as long as the original author is cited), and finances its operations through publication fees. These fees are in the $2,000-$3,000 range, heavily discounted for low-income countries and authors, and in any case most academic authors pay the fees out of their research grants and not out of their own pockets. That sounded much better than the traditional model, I thought, but I still didn't understand why the costs weren't even closer to zero. Another friend pointed out that PLOS costs cover the expenses for many of their other activities — which are all noble goals, to be sure, but at the same time, why isn't anybody operating a more bare-bones model which minimizes all expenses, and charges almost nothing for publication or subscription?

This, it turns out, appears to be the approach of the PeerJ project, which aims to let authors pay a one-time fee of $99 at article submission time for the right to publish one article per year — or, if you prefer to pay only if your article is accepted for publication, you can pay $129 "on acceptance" (explained here). And the author of the Techdirt piece mentions that he submitted a paper which was published in the inaugural edition of one of PeerJ's journals, 10 weeks after the submission date. This is cheap and fast enough that I'd call it a validation of the theoretical model which predicts the whole process should be able to be done for almost no cost in almost no time. In other words, I think PeerJ will succeed, but even if it does fail, it will only be because of some anomalous business snafu, not because the hard costs of the service they're providing are greater than the dirt-cheap price they're charging for it. If for any reason PeerJ doesn't happen to get it right the first time, they or some other company should keep trying until someone makes it work.

The basic algorithm at work here — taking a piece of content, submitting it to one or more suitably qualified reviewers, and then certifying the content based on the feedback of the reviewers — is something I've advocated in many contexts over the years, for many different types of problems. In one article I argued that we could make success in the music industry into much more of a meritocracy, with far less arbitrariness in determining who succeeds and fails, if a suitably popular site like Pandora simply took new submissions from artists, had the content "rated" by a random sample of listeners interested in that type of music, and if enough of them liked it, push the content out to all of the fans of that genre. In "Crowdsourcing the Censors" I suggested that Facebook's complaint review process should use the same principle: If a given page received enough complaints, have the page contents reviewed by a random subset of Facebook users who had signed up to be "abusive content" reviewers, and then only flag the page for removal if a high enough percentage of those users voted that the page had indeed violated Facebook's guidelines. This year I argued that "We The People", the White House's online petition-drive-organizing website, should rate ideas based on what a random subset of users think of each idea, rather than allowing users to organize mobs of their friends and followers to vote their own ideas to the top of the pile (which, in case you missed it, is how 4chan gave us this). Or, if you think the general public is not qualified to rate ideas according to how they should be prioritized by the White House (and I'd be inclined to agree), you could have the ideas rated by a random subset of, say, the nation's economics professors.

Of course, I haven't heard of any plans to implement this algorithm in any of those contexts. Not that I expected the key power players to be reading my articles, but it's a little surprising that none of them ever came up with this idea independently, either. (To this day, the only website I'm aware of that ever implemented random-sample voting correctly, was, where users could rate members' pictures by attractiveness — but each picture's rating was determined by showing it to a random subset of the site's visitors. That system is gone, since the site has made itself over into a date-finding service.)

But academia in general, and science specifically, is different from other arenas in a number of key ways which could help this algorithm succeed:

  • Academia, uniquely, is comprised of many professionals whose love of knowledge and intellectual inquiry, is greater than their desire for money. That's not to say that I don't think the same algorithm could work just as well in a business like the music industry, where most of the stakeholders are in it for the money. But even if Pandora did successfully implement the algorithm, it would meet a lot of resistance from entrenched interests in the music industry, who make their money by finding and promoting and managing talent and would not be happy about a new system that threatened to make them irrelevant. In academia, by contrast, it's quite plausible that even the "entrenched interests" — the people who had become superstars under the old system — would see the new system's great potential for disseminating free knowledge, and would welcome it even if it gave scrappy new upstart academics a chance to dethrone them. Not everybody in academia loves knowledge more than they love their own prestige, but I know more people like that in academia than anywhere else.

  • In academia, even among people who do care primarily about their own prestige, many of them have tenure and guaranteed job security, a situation that does not exist in most other industries. This gives them the freedom to experiment with new models, such as submitting papers to upstart PeerJ journals. But more importantly for our purposes, it means they can announce that in their department's hiring and promotion decisions, they will count PeerJ-published papers as legitimate professional accomplishments, for the benefit of non-tenured faculty members who do have to worry about their resume.

  • Academics, particularly in maths and sciences, are more prone to the kind of thinking that would lead a person naturally in the direction of the kind of system that PeerJ embodies. First, think of a theoretical model (like the kind I described near the beginning of the article). This model predicts that, ideally, it should be possible to publish papers at very low cost with quick turnaround times, without sacrificing peer-review quality assurance. Now, try to approximate that model as closely as possible in the real world. (In most other industries that I've worked in, there's much more inertia around the existing way of doing things, and far less willingness to entertain any discussion about whether a theoretical model can show how we could accomplish the same thing with vastly less overhead.)

And that, in the end, is the real reason journal articles should be free. Not because the U.S. government is making it a condition for taxpayer-funded research, although that is a welcome development. But because there's no part of the process that should cost very much to begin with, if article authors and peer reviewers are already being paid by their employers. The last piece of the puzzle is that enough academics and faculty departments have to agree to confer "prestige" on articles published in open-access journals, equivalent to the level of prestige that they would accord for an article published in a traditional journal of the same quality. If they won't do that, then the old-guard journals will maintain their monopoly on conferring "prestige", and don't be surprised if journal prices keep growing to the point where even Harvard can't pay for them.

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The Real Reason Journal Articles Should Be Free

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  • The harsh reality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:21PM (#43046599)

    Most academics are publishing to advance their careers/reputations/chances-at-tenure, not as a community service. So publishing in "Bob's Open Source Mathematics Journal/Blog" is NOT the same as publishing in Annals of Mathematics to them. You may be able to talk them into *republishing* their articles in some open-source repository at some later date (and that seems to be the President's goal), but you can forget asking them to forgo the prestige of established print journals for idealism. It's hard enough to get tenure today even with a list of publications in prestigious journals, much less with a long list of publications in fly-by-night open-source journals that your review committee may not have even heard of.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Then we need to make the open source one most prestigious journal.

      There is no need for an open source journal to be fly by night.

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:24PM (#43046635) Homepage Journal

      The harsh reality is that you didn't RTFA. Congratulations, you have just described the problem. The article describes one potential solution.

      • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:30PM (#43046747)

        The "potential solution" he seems to be advancing is "We should just all agree that open-source journals shall be as prestigious as the print ones." But that's never gonna happen, for the reason I described.

        • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @02:08PM (#43047161)

          You didn't list any actual reasons why an open journal could not become prestigous. You just said that they aren't prestigous enough right now. From what I read, you don't seem to think it is the fact that they are open, just that they are not established enough.

          But if the government mandated that all research that is even partially funded by the federal government must be in open journals, those journals would become the prestigous ones overnight. While I sometimes read research papers written purely by entities like Microsoft Research, even many of those papers still have some professor from a University as a contributer as well.

          • But if the government mandated that all research that is even partially funded by the federal government must be in open journals, those journals would become the prestigous ones overnight.

            No, you just explained why they would NOT. As soon as the government is mandating that a journal publish "all research that is even partially funded by the federal government", then you make it a lower class medium. Sure, good articles from good researchers will appear there, but so will a plethora of junk from everyone who is fulfilling the government mandate. Respected journals are respected because they don't publish everything they get, they publish what passes peer review and contains content.

            I used

            • No, he's saying that he wants the government to mandate that the scientists who's work was paid for with public funds chose open journals to publish in. He is not saying that the open journals always chose to accept those scientist's work and publish it. The open journals would use the same peer review process that the overpriced ones are using now. These are not the same sites were you read your crappy e-books nor would they become that.

              If the public pays for the research shouldn't the public get a chance

            • No, you just explained why they would NOT. As soon as the government is mandating that a journal publish "all research that is even partially funded by the federal government", then you make it a lower class medium.

              Well, not really, as you can have multiple open-access journals -- which is the exact situation that we have at the moment. (There are actually a fair number of open-access journals out there, just not all of them have the same reputation as the PLoS stable. Pity the author of the /. article didn't do his/her research before writing a long and mostly uninformed diatribe.) There's even a new open access journal (eLife) which is trying to set itself up as the Nature/Science of open-access, only taking pape

            • But if the government mandated that all research that is even partially funded by the federal government must be in open journals, those journals would become the prestigous ones overnight.

              No, you just explained why they would NOT. As soon as the government is mandating that a journal publish "all research that is even partially funded by the federal government", then you make it a lower class medium. Sure, good articles from good researchers will appear there, but so will a plethora of junk from everyone who is fulfilling the government mandate. Respected journals are respected because they don't publish everything they get, they publish what passes peer review and contains content.

              I think there's a misunderstanding here. I infer from the article that the government mandate is to make all papers that result from government-subsidized research that are published in the existing professional journals publicly available—the mandate is not to publish everything that is submitted regardless of its quality, as you and the guy you're arguing with seem to think. In any case, Bennett Haselton's main concern is to change the way academic articles are published. He wants academics to move

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's clearly a chicken and egg problem. The established papers have allot of credibility and allot of money and the two maintain themselves: with sufficient income you can pay competent reviewers, have a decent editorial process, advertise, distribute promotional copies, organize conferences etc. This in turn allows you to maintain a high perceived quality, get a high "impact factor" on various scales used to measure academic papers, and thus attract quality articles.

          I don't agree that reviewers are free; t

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Something sounds off, as that doesn't sound much like the review process in my field.

            they are free only for established journals because those either have some sort of bilateral relationship with the reviewer's employer or they can offer to the reviewer the unique recognition of being a reviewer for a famous journal.

            I've never been offered anything from a publisher for reviewing, including recognition since it is all done anonymously anyways. It is not like I put reviewing requests on my resume either, as it is typically a consequence of having published with the same journal before, and my publications are already listed. There is no agreement with my employer (a public university) beyond my bosses are ok with me doing it since it n

        • by Zcar ( 756484 )

          So how did Physical Review become prestigious when Annalen der Physik had been around in some form for a century?

          An open source journal won't have immediate prestige, but it can gain it as it established a track record of quality.

      • I think he read it fine. The problem is that an "open an free" journal should prove itself just as reputable and worthy as the privately operated peer-review journals.

        I'm all for an open and free alternative peer reviewed journal, but I should want to use it because of its overall value and reputation not because I was forced to do it or because "open and free" magically equate to the traditional journals. The private journals had to prove their worth when they started, the open journals are just going to

        • I can understand why you don't want to lose the choice of where you publish 'your' research. But as a taxpayer why should I be funding 'your' project if I don't even get to see the results? If you want to lock your work in an ivory tower then that is your right but don't expect me to pay for it!

          • I think you are confusing two issues.

            Issue #1: Open and free journals vs. traditional for fee journals
            I think open and free journals have a place. However I don't think they should instantly be elevated to the level of creditability that the traditional journals currently enjoy without proving their worth. I don't think anyone who is not employed by a traditional journal is dismissing the possibility of a free and open journal. In fact, I know some colleagues who are looking forward to them. However it wi

      • by cozziewozzie ( 344246 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @09:01PM (#43051201)

        The article describes one potential solution.

        I didn't see any solutions, to be honest. Just the standard theoretical solution to the tune of "If ALL top scientists in some field ALL jump ship at the SAME TIME to a few select open journals.....", which sound so nice in theory.

        I have invested 25 years in my education and sacrificed everything for that one chance of becoming a scientist and doing what I really wanted when I was a kid. My friends drive fancy cars, have houses, I have a guitar, a used car, bills, and an 80-hour week, no holidays, constant stress to the point of impaired short-term memory. All for that one shot of becoming a professor.

        Imagine that I get a nice, important result. I have two choices -- publish it in the most prestigious journal imaginable, or go with the feel-good factor and a more open journal. If I make the wrong choice, I'll be flipping burgers for the rest of my life because nobody wants someone like me: old, overqualified, no work experience, no interest in anything but science.

        The way I see it: I have a couple of years to land some important papers. Can I do something to make the open journals more prestigious than the best ones in the field? No. So it's an easy decision.

        Things are changing, but it's a slow process, because prestige and contacts have a lot of inertia. I hope that things are different in 10 or 20 years. Right now anyone can email me and get a copy of any paper they want anyway, I won't sabotage my career because it might buy me slashdot reputation.

    • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:46PM (#43046939)

      The key is "review".

      I put stuff up on my webpage all the time. But it's not peer reviewed. If someone from Nature or SIGGRAPH called me tomorrow and asked me to review a paper I'd bloody well do it. But if someone from a journal or conference I never heard of asked me to peer review something I may simply say no. It's not just the prestige of the author that matters. The reviewer has to feel they are actually reviewing peers and not just random crazy people.

      We could do all scientific publishing on our own websites for all it matters if the goal is just free. But the goal isn't free. The goal is make sure that the work that gets published stands at least some degree of scrutiny so you can expect that it actually is a new contribution to a particular field of knowledge. Maintaining those contacts, running those conferences, maintaining the staff that organize this hugely complex apparatus of knowledge and have the skillset to even know what the heck is going on isn't free.

      You can cut journals out of the process, but that job needs to be done by someone, and they need to be paid. Now, obviously you could gut the profit making side of the business (and since it's the government paying for the subscriptions already they're already paying for it, so it could be a cost savings measure), but one shouldn't be under the illusion that the job of peer review isn't important or that it's free.

      • But if someone from a journal or conference I never heard of asked me to peer review something I may simply say no. It's not just the prestige of the author that matters. The reviewer has to feel they are actually reviewing peers and not just random crazy people.

        Yeah, it would quickly turn into the spam we all get from random publishers asking us to contribute to their journal we've never heard of... So how would a scheme like this pull itself up by its own bootstraps out of the morass of publication spam we all get already?

    • everyone needs to jump ship at the same time

      i didn't say that was easy, but it will get the job done quite well

      a slow bleed will, indeed, not confer the same prestige, but only for a short period

      which is small comfort for the guy whose career collided with that short period

      so it's a problem

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Jawnn ( 445279 )

      ...but you can forget asking them to forgo the prestige of established print journals for idealism. It's hard enough to get tenure today even with a list of publications in prestigious journals...

      "Established print journals" exist today because, at one time, it was expensive to regularly collect, review, and publish (as in print and distribute) the articles featured in those journals. Now it isn't. The "prestige" you speak of is a function of the review process. The logistics of that process has never been particularly challenging or expensive, but with the today's technology they are positively trivial. Distribution - same deal. Printing (on dead trees) is unnecessary. So it's just a matter of coll

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:26PM (#43046669)
    ...that this is precisely the kind of stuff that WWW was invented for. Nah, twenty years later, and the web is dominated by YouTube and Facebook.
    • by clawhammer ( 1671506 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @02:42PM (#43047545)
      And yet when I have to write a research paper for class, do I have to go to the library, look up relevant journals in the card catalog, hunt through an index to find keyword references, dance all over the periodicals section finding the proper volume and issue, and then have to sit there then and there to read it and summarize it? No. I can sit at home, log in to my university's library, do a keyword search over a vast number of journals, and get the abstracts and articles immediately. Does my university not have a printed copy? No worries- they've got access to three online databases that have the article.

      Now, I'm sure the university pays large sums of money for this privilege. But it looks to me like the internet is meeting that original reasoning just fine, notwithstanding the amount of people on facebook during class (and then come up to me later not understanding what a constructor is... even though the professor spent the whole hour explaining it.... but that's a different topic).
      • But it looks to me like the internet is meeting that original reasoning just fine

        Kinda-sorta. The situation you describe, in which we can access practically everything we're likely to want from our university libraries online, is certainly a huge improvement over the old in-the-library method of research. But it's a long way from Berners-Lee's original vision of the web, which was as a collaborative markup system that would allow researchers to share and comment on each others' work, with no costs other than those required for information storage and transmission. Honestly, Wikipedia

    • +1 Sadly true.

      Academia only thrives when there is a large amount of societal wealth. People are really only interested in academic pursuits when all of their other needs have been met.

      With a shrinking middle class and society getting overall poorer, people are more interested in putting food on the table. And entertainment is a great stress reliever.

      You know a society is going to fall when more people are interested in fun and games than in progress.

  • We paid for it. We should be able to see it, and profit from it.
    Of course, some exceptions for sensitive strategic military stuff, but such should be identified and ring-fenced from the start.

    Now, if Prof. "X" wants to boost his reputation by publishing in a 'prestigious' journal. Well, let him/her pay for it.
    I don't buy this 'editorial excellence and peer review' crap; it's been discredited too many times.

    Put it on the net; it'll get reviewed...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mog007 ( 677810 )

      Peer review is one of the most important components of modern science. It must be done.

      It ensures data isn't faked or fraudulent.

      Granted, peer review isn't 100% effective, some research slips in that shouldn't. I don't see why the open journals wouldn't just become the more prestigious journals when all the big research goes there first.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:59PM (#43047063)

        It ensures data isn't faked or fraudulent.

        NO. That is absolutely not the point of peer review.

        Peer review is designed to ensure that there are no methodological or logical flaws in the project. Essentially, peer review assumes that the data is accurate, but makes sure that the conclusions derived from the data are reasonable. It will also check to make sure that the methodology used to collect the data is sound.

        There are almost zero checks for faked or fraudulent data. Faked data will only be found immediately if the faker did something very stupid.

        Where science will find faking is in followup studies. Eventually, people will try and reproduce the same result, or at least a similar result. If they fail to reproduce the claimed data, then there is an issue and the fake might be eventually found. But this takes quite a bit of time, effort, and money, and therefore isn't part of the peer review process.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      another problem with the "prestigious" journals is that the editors can often be political with the articles received and show bias towards articles that either boost or negate their own research.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't buy this 'editorial excellence and peer review' crap; it's been discredited too many times.

      Put it on the net; it'll get reviewed...

      I have served as Editor-in-Chief and/or Associate Editor for various "prestigious" peer-reviewed journals (both Open Access and Paywall). You seriously underestimate how much CRAP is submitted to serious journals. Without a peer-review filtering process, the quality stuff would be buried below the noise floor and become unreachable.

      As for discrediting the necessity of peer review, please back that up with some references.

      • You seriously underestimate how much CRAP is submitted to serious journals.

        He mentioned "editorial excellence", do you really need that to weed out outright crap? Perhaps the whole "buy a prestigious journal, get a bunch of good articles" model is wrong. Why not treat all papers individually? You don't need to get them shoved to you, researchers simply publish online and the rest of the community then reviews the things that have been published. Reviewers get meta-reviewed and receive new reviewing weights accordingly. No journals needed. Something like Slashdot comments, only mor

        • This is like saying "we don't need Slashdot or Ars Technica or the NYT, just go to Twitter and let the community upvote the most important news. People with more followers have more weight when favoriting/retweeting".

          You will never again see actual news.

          There is no way around peer review, and good peer review can only happen if experts choose the review panel. Now this is already being done by professors for journals (for free!) and there is a movement of high-profile profs that will only review for Open Access journals. This is definitely a way to go, and the government agencies requiring Open Access is likely the best solution to date.

          • There is no way around peer review

            I was not disputing that. I'm only wondering about the possible ways of maximizing the amount of quality peer-review with the limited human resources that we have.

        • He mentioned "editorial excellence", do you really need that to weed out outright crap?

          Yes. You need an editor that has some knowledge of the field so he can be the front line filter. To reject things that aren't formatted correctly, contain extraneous material, etc.

          You don't need to get them shoved to you, researchers simply publish online and the rest of the community then reviews the things that have been published.

          That pushes an awful lot of work out onto an awful lot of people, most of whom are not qualified to do it. You want me to be a reviewer for your work? Ok. I have neither the time to do it correctly nor the temperament to deal with nonsense. Send me your article, I'll shoot the review right back to you.

          Something like Slashdot comments, only more thorough.

          Right. We want a system w

          • You need an editor that has some knowledge of the field so he can be the front line filter.

            That's exactly what I had in mind, but "having some knowledge in the field" and "excellence" somehow don't feel like belonging into one sentence to me. I'd expect "excellent" editors to work on the later stages of scrutinizing the paper. I.e., if the paper is "crap", as you said, why do you need to be "excellent" in order to recognize it?

            Right. We want a system where mod stalkers moderate everything that some people say down until it is hidden

            How would the meta-reviewers know who wrote the review they are reviewing? They're not supposed to be given this information. I'm not suggesting an outright copy of the sys

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm an academic researcher. I research new technology because I believe in the power of science to make the world a better place. I strongly believe in it, this job is my life's work, my childhood dream. I don't publish in prestigious journals because I want to show off. I publish in them because otherwise I am not going to be able to carry on doing this work. Researchers are valued by their publication record, and it is assessed on shallow terms. The majority of researchers are, like me, post-docs. We work

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      I generally agree, but it would be easier if federal funding for research were a bit more generous so it actually paid for it, rather than paying for only parts, sometimes not even very large parts.

      For-profit journal companies are one side of the problem, but there are even a lot of non-profit professional organizations which don't publish open access, because they need the revenue provided by library subscriptions to keep the organization going: organizations like the Association for Computing Machinery, I

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      If you want it freely available then lobby your granting agencies to pay for it.

      Most granting agencies take a dim view of high publication costs in grant budgets.

    • Now, if Prof. "X" wants to boost his reputation by publishing in a 'prestigious' journal

      Last I heard, Prof. X tries to stay out of the public eye for the most part. He doesn't want his school to get too much attention. This isn't typical behavior for academics, I admit, but it seems to work for him.

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has required this for some time now. Interestingly enough once NIH made this mandatory, the for-profit journals found ways to comply on a per-article basis so that academics would still publish with them.

    The important thing to consider about all this, though, is that the for-profit journals still get more readers than the open access ones. I am one of many who wish that this was not the case, but it simply is. Hence if you want your work to be read by the largest number of possible readers, and become incorporated into your field of work, you want to get it into the larger, more prestigious -and more expensive - journals.

    That said, some of the open access journals - PLoS ONE being a great example - are catching up quickly and drawing lots of readers and with them lots of citations.

    The only problem left is that the open access journals cost about as much for authors to publish as do the for-profit journals. I had a paper in PLoS ONE recently and we paid somewhere around $1,400 to publish. By comparison the journal a lot of our "higher impact" work goes to costs around $1,500 and even Nature is in the same ballpark (not that we publish in Nature). So if the open access journals with their lower impact scores can't attract authors with lower publishing costs they need to do it with promises of good exposure.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Many PLoS ONE level impact journals are free to publish in, unless you want colour in the print version or blow through their page limits.

      • Many PLoS ONE level impact journals are free to publish in, unless you want colour in the print version or blow through their page limits.

        I'm not aware of any no-cost (for authors) journals - at least, none that accept life sciences papers. For that matter, PLoS ONE is already seeing impact factors around 4 or so, which to the best of my knowledge is the highest impact factor to date for an open access journal.

        That said, some journals will allow authors from certain (member) institutions to publish for free, but someone has to pay that membership cost. I'm also not sure why you mention color or length - I have never seen an open access

    • by pz ( 113803 )

      The important thing to consider about all this, though, is that the for-profit journals still get more readers than the open access ones.

      For-profit and open-access are orthogonal characteristics, not opposite ends on a spectrum. You can find plenty of for-profit journals that are open access. Open access is a whitewash term to make the author-pays business model sound all warm and fuzzy.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:33PM (#43046791)

    There are a few journals - Nature and Science being the premier ones - which serve as filters, a word that I don't see mentioned in the OP. (Each field tends to have a few of their own, such as Physical Review Letters in physics, but let's keep it general.) A paper appearing in Nature or Science has passed through a fairly rigorous weeding out process, and is judged to be interesting and / or important to a wide audience. It may not be right, but it is likely to be worth reading. That is not the same as "prestige."

    I don't see these journals going away, even if putting everything in Arxiv becomes routine (as I think it should). There is a lot of stuff published, and the need for filters is going to grow, not diminish, with time.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      This is also why I'm skeptical of suggestions, like this one [] from the founder of, that decentralized metrics will remove the prestige of the top journals. In a formal sense, they will make it possible to have a prestigious paper outside of a prestigious journal: you could have high citation counts and a high h-index publishing exclusively technical reports or self-hosted whitepapers. Therefore, the argument goes, there will no longer be any need to chase the prestigious journals, because on you

    • There are a few journals - Nature and Science being the premier ones - which serve as filters, a word that I don't see mentioned in the OP.

      And you can easily understand why when see this sentence in the OP: "I admitted to some friends that I didn't understand how this became a problem." Reading what follows, it becomes abundantly clear he didn't even bother to try and find out... He just invokes Saint Aaron, makes a few groundless assumptions (which you and others debunk), tosses around a few buzzwords -

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      Or, in other words, order these in terms of prestige: the winner of high school track meet, the winner of the Boston Marathon, or the winner in the 100 meter in the Olympics.

      Also, realize that Science and Nature are not really the bottlenecks in the distribution of knowledge. On the iPad Nature is under $50, and a subscription to Science in $100. Almost anyone, in the US at least, who wants these can get them. At worst they have to go to the library. It is just that laziness has set in on the internet

  • First off, on the time issue, I think a lot of time between submission and publication (or decision) is eaten up by reviewers. You can't expect to get immediate responses from your reviewers (after all, while they are doing this as part of their job, they also have their own research and teaching to do). And some reviewers will be really bad in getting back to the editors in a timely fashion.

    Second, inertia plays a large role. Sure, everyone could agree that open access journal X is just as prestigious as c

    • I think you just put your finger on the ultimate answer to the OP's question. In other fields this process is sometimes called 'building a brand' and once you have it you charge a premium for it. And now that it exists, it is self-sustaining to a degree. One guy will say "I published it in Open Widgets Journal" and the audience will immediately think "It wasn't good enough to be published in Closed Widgets Quarterly". In other words, barriers to entry and switching costs discourage new entrants to the field
      • In other fields this process is sometimes called 'building a brand' and once you have it you charge a premium for it. And now that it exists, it is self-sustaining to a degree.

        So you claim that scholarly journals are a Veblen good []: they're desirable because they're expensive.

  • The degree of publication openness varies by scientific sub-field, with some doing better than others. From my own experience, the nuclear and particle physics field does a pretty good job with this.

    Papers are usually first posted, before peer review, as freely-readable preprints on This is actively encouraged by the journal publishers: the last time I submitted a paper to an APS journal, they had an option to give them an arXiv preprint number, and they would import the paper from there. The jou

  • Fundamental problem with academic publishing is incentives. With some notable exceptions, a scientist's salary is fixed based on seniority and degree. Masters will always get less than PhD, no matter competence or productivity.

    Since monetary incentive is removed, secondary incentive system has to be implemented. This is where prestige comes in, and it is largely determined by type of publications that accept your articles. It is economy of artificial scarcity.

    Nothing will change until fundamental prob
  • by Improv ( 2467 ) <> on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:50PM (#43046975) Homepage Journal

    So long as whatever new journals come along continue to act as gatekeepers for good science through a rigourous system of peer review, I'll be happy. I would not trust the author of this /. writeup to maintain that system though; the high level of sneer in his every word is worrying.

    • agreed ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @02:25PM (#43047339) Homepage

      He has no idea what he's talking about, as he only sees the problems at the surface. []

      But there are some folks who have given better suggestions that are actually involved in the publication process. Take for instance Jason Priem and Brad Hemminger's article last year, "Decoupling the Scholarly Journal []" (note -- which actually *was* peer reviewed, unlike someone using Slashdot as editorial / soapbox.)

      For those not familiar with the authors, Priem is one of the people behind the Altmetrics Manifesto [], which argues for other way to measure the value of scientific articles other than h-index and impact factor. Unfortunately, a lot of tenure & promotion committees look at those as being their all important measure.

      There *are* folks working on the issue ... I'm involved with it from the side of data citation []. Some of the societies care ... I know AAS (one of the societies I'm a member of) published a statement that they open access to anything 12 months old automatically, and have for years.

      But we've got it now where the publishers are paying the societies for the right to publish their journals ... and for societies who were losing members due to the recession, a few of 'em took the bait. It's going to take some time to figure out what the best models and infrastructure are for each discipline, who's going to pay for it, and for all of the existing contracts to run out.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Each step in this process should cost the journal virtually nothing. The "hard cost," the part that consumes the time of people with unique skills, is the peer review step, but peer reviewers are usually paid by universities and consider peer review for academic journals to be part of their job description.

    The reviewing is the hard part in the sense that it takes the most specialized knowledge to do well. As far as effort though, the part he writes off as costing virtually nothing was by far more time and effort consuming for me than the reviewing part. Selecting reviewers is not a quick and simple thing, especially if you are trying to make sure the reviewers have knowledge of the particular subject. Unless you have some really generic papers, it is difficult to have a short list of reviewers to just pick

  • Academics are evaluated during the tenure process by committees composed of people from multiple disciplines. This means that there would need to be an agreement throughout a university to accept open access journals, in order to match the tenure demands of the institution. Furthermore many academics transfer to different institutions during their career, so for personal reasons many would choose to target widely accepted journals to maintain job flexibility. The only reasonable course is for these journ

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Open-access and other cheap(er) publication venues are out there, more and more over time. But as well as lack of 'prestige' there are obstacles:

    1) If you have a great result you publish it in the best place you can, not the most accessible to random people. Thus open-access journals get weak submissions, which makes them either look weak or not publish much. When someone is looking for a place to publish, he or she may be turned off by the quality or limited/sporadic content, while the journal may water

  • by John Bokma ( 834313 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @02:00PM (#43047081) Homepage

    In my experience, just contacting one of the authors and kindly asking for a copy works. Moreover, once you start to contribute a little (in my case reporting possible new species of scorpions and assisting on a field trips / being a guide to a location of a possible new species) makes that new articles just come in regularly by email.

    That said, I do agree that access should be free.

    • For recent papers, this works great. A lot of paper-reading research, however, leads back to articles from many decades ago --- the really important ones that frame the basic concepts that all later papers refer back to. In these cases, all the authors are likely to be retired or dead (and in any case hard to find contact info for or correspond by email). I think the biggest challenge for open-access scholarship is "rescuing" all the old papers, digitizing and archiving them in publicly accessible repositor

      • In my experience, those decade old articles if still used as references for recent articles also can be gotten by just contacting one of the authors of the recent article. And indeed they are often low quality (scanned, etc), so I am all for converting those to PDF as much as possible (not 1:1 scanned pages in a PDF).

        As I hinted at in my previous reply I do some (amateurish) research into scorpions (one scientist calls me a "live scorpion enthusiast", which I think describes me quite well). I am not alone

        • Informal peer-to-peer information sharing networks do partially alleviate these problems, to a similar extent as one's ability to bit-torrent out-of-publication recordings circumvents copyright law in those areas. One perk of my institutional affiliation is having good librarians, who will photocopy/digitize old articles and send them to me with a boilerplate "fair use" cover sheet (despite the dire warnings against any form of duplication or storage printed on the articles themselves). The downside is that

  • As other posters have pointed out, the presitige of say Nature or Journal of American Medicine is very hard to match, let alone exceed. Prestige is not something you can just collectively decide to bestow. A given publication starts with a certain degree of respect/prestige when it is founded, based on the credentials of the founders. From there, it EARNS it's reputation over years, often decades of established track record. Trying to *choose* to accord prestige to a publication is like everyone deciding th
  • Missing: hierarchy (Score:5, Informative)

    by spasm ( 79260 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @02:21PM (#43047293) Homepage

    The detail you're missing is that academic journals have a hierarchy. The top ranked journals in a field get far far more submissions than mid or lower ranked journals. So even though the peer-review process might be identical (to the point where in small fields such as mine I regularly review for both top ranked and mid ranked journals, as do all my colleagues - ie its even the same pool of reviewers), the higher ranked journals will end up publishing the more groundbreaking research, because they cream off the best of their submissions (and once your article gets rejected at the top journal you resubmit it to a lesser journal). As a reader, you use the contents pages of the high ranking journals to work out what's currently considered cutting edge in your field, and the mid-ranking journals to see all the necessary 'filling in the gaps' research. As an author, you want to be published in the top ranking journal because a) it's more likely to be seen and read by colleagues in your field; b) your colleagues pay more attention to your work generally if you're consistently publishing in top ranking journals; and c) tenure/promotions committees give more 'weight' to articles published in higher ranking journals. I've literally seen publication requirements for tenure at some US universities that look like "A minimum of 3 articles published in the following list of top-raked journals or a minimum of 5 articles published in the following list of lesser-ranked journals".

    So in short, even though I (like everyone I know) would prefer to publish in open access journals, simply on ethical grounds, most of us still submit a lot of our work (and particularly our best work) to journals which have been around for longer than the open access movement just because they remain at the top of the hierarchy. The good news is this isn't a static situation - journals can and do move up and down the hierarchy, and some of the open access journals (including some of the PLOS journals you mentioned) are rising quite rapidly in the impact rankings. The other major point is a lot of the key journals are actually the property of various societies or academic organizations which simply contract with for-profit publication companies to handle all the messy bits (eg 'Addiction', the leading journal in my field, is the journal of the Society for the Study of Addiction, not simply a journal owned by Wiley who publishes it). A lot of these contracts are long term (25 years or more) but as they expire, you might see a lot of key journals becoming open access simply because the sponsoring organization decides to switch to an open access model simply because they now can, and have a philosophic interest in seeing their journal be as accessible as possible.

    • It is not just the authors worrying about their own careers.I work at a DOE lab and the DOE evaluates the lab based on the number of publications with a strong weighting for "high impact" journals like Nature and Science. If I take an article that could be accepted into one of those journals and publish it somewhere else, I am not only hurting my own career, but endangering the funding for the entire lab.

      I don't like this evaluation scheme, but I also can't think of a better way to do it.

      If the open journa

  • by caesar-auf-nihil ( 513828 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @02:24PM (#43047329)

    As someone who is on the editorial board for 3 journals, reviews about 3-4 papers a week, and is not a faculty member (I'm a contract researcher) with over 50 peer reviewed publications to his name, let me tell you about some costs you're missing in your assumptions.
    1) You're correct that the peer review process is provided free by scientists like myself, and it is our duty to provide this review. However, I'll spend 1-3 hours on a paper reviewing for content. What I'm not doing is copyediting. You're assuming that the papers submitted are in good shape when they arrive, and I would say out of the hundreds of papers I've reviewed over the years, only rarely have I found one polished and ready to go. Almost all of them have formatting errors, typos, and grammatical errors. The worst ones sometimes are those where the author is not a native English speaker. They could have absolutely fantastic results, but the spelling and grammar is so bad you can't exactly figure out if they've discovered something novel or if their results are totally bogus. You need to pay for someone (or multiple someones) to clean up, copyedit, and format each paper.
    2) Electronic review system. I'm not seeing how your model pays for this. Someone has to pay to host, maintain, and power those servers - they don't set up themselves. That is a cost that can be divided per paper submitted to the journal - but then onto #3.
    3) Many of the open-access journals make the author pay to submit the article upon acceptance to the journal, thus paying for items #1 and #2, but with budgets being cut you're asking the author to sacrifice even more of his small budget (which in my case pays some of my salary). So who pays in the end is always going to be a sticking point.
    4) Not all peer review is fast. You're assuming all scientists are ideal and get right on the paper as soon as they get it. I've had papers that came back in a week, and others that took 9 months (reviewer #3 sat on it and the editor couldn't get them to follow up after they had accepted the invitation to review). So you need to pay for some infrastructure to either pull the paper back from the offending reviewer, or pay for automatic reminders and follow-up.

    I personally like the existing system as is - it works well for me and I can usually rest assured that the content which does finally get published is polished and ready to use. But I'll agree that the journal costs are not sustainable. What I'd rather see is that after 5-10 years, any federally funded research automatically becomes public domain. That way the journal publishers make their funds to sustain the quality of the journals (and I'm talking print quality here only) and the system continues to run smoothly, plus the public domain gets to build off of the results that we as taxpayers paid for.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @02:45PM (#43047589)

      There's also archiving. Someone has to keep those papers available so the scientific record stays intact. Many of the existing journals have also done a good job scanning old papers and making them available as well.

      • That's what university (and public) libraries are for. They already have the funding and the mandate to do this. What's stopping them is copyright, whose default mode prevents cheap duplication, copying, archiving.

        Only works whose license explicitly allows free redistribution and copying can be preserved for posterity with high probability. Basically, if enough scientific journals change their copyright terms (or better, the law is changed to be more permissive), then the libraries will see that there is

    • As for #1, there are people out there (losers like myself), who wouldn't mind doing copyediting for scientific papers.

      Granted, I've only done it a few times, but even when the subject has been way outside of my field of knowledge, I still find it quite interesting to read the papers. Plus, if you're doing copyediting, you're inevitably going to be talking with the author when there are bigger issues.

      And as for layout, I'm sure there are people with expertise in those fields as well.

    • by LihTox ( 754597 )

      Regarding #1, the costs of copyediting should be pushed onto the author: if you can't write proper English, hire someone to do it for you. And if a referee thinks a paper is poorly written, they reject it immediately with a note to that effect.

      I like the idea of releasing all papers after 5-10 years. I also don't see the advantage of having these essential parts of the scientific method in the hands of for-profit corporations with little accountability.

  • You can't just send the paper to random people to review. They do, at least, need to have some expertise in the subject. On the other hand, I don't think you can rely on people to accurately portray their own level of expertise. (I'm an expert on zero point energy fields and over unity devices.) So, you need some way of reviewing the reviewers. I suppose I could think of some algorithms for doing this (using some kind of impact factor), but I don't think the results would be as good as the results from a co

    • I'm an expert on zero point energy fields and over unity devices.

      Would Mark Shuttleworth be an expert on Unity over devices?

  • If everyone has it, no one has it. The essence of prestige is eliteness... "I'm better than you..." "You can't be one of us..."

    It's the same impulse which makes every bloody-handed barbarian who smacks down all the neighboring barbarian call himself a noble. It's what makes a lot of people look up to some fairly terrible examples of Homo Sapiens as celebrities or leaders. It's what makes a lot of people struggle to join organizations pre-populated by horrible people.

    Theodor Geisel did some significant resea []

  • by The Atog Lord ( 230965 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @02:55PM (#43047713)

    I cannot speak for academia in general, but I can provide a bit of insight for how this works in computer science. I have published articles in journals and conferences in computer science, and they are all available for free on my website. In fact, I have found that most researchers in computer science make their work available to the public, on their website, free of charge. Think about it -- we want our work to get out there and be read. Ideally, we would even like it to be cited. And keeping it behind a paywall does nothing to further this.

    Some academic conferences, such as the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (, explicitly allow authors to post their publications on their websites. Other venues may technically prohibit this practice, but authors in computer science tend to post their research online anyway. In general, I have found computer science articles far more accessible than, say, those times I have been looking for an article in psychology or economics.

  • by Stuntmonkey ( 557875 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @04:49PM (#43048953)

    Historically the act of publishing (making work available to readers) was tied to the quality control (QC) processes of academia. When you publish on paper this is a necessity, but where I see publishing headed is a separation of these two functions. In an online world there is really no reason to conflate the two. (My main reservation about open-access journals like PLoS One is that they are too much a replica of traditional journals.)

    In my ideal world:

    1. Everyone publishes their articles for free in an online repository (say Arxiv), starting as early as the preprint stage. If an author needs help with document preparation (typesetting, graphics, proofreading), they can contract with a freelancer through the repository. (I.e., you really don't need an editor at Nature to help you find typos.) An author can revise their paper at any time, but previous versions are kept. Additionally, data that is commonly not published today (code, complete datasets, analysis scripts) could be attached as reference, and publishing these supporting materials would be strongly encouraged.

    2. Authors can submit their work to one or more editorial boards, for evaluation and (potential) selection. They pay for this service, likely several thousand dollars since the work is expensive. If an editorial board approves their work, it gets tagged in the repository in a very visible way, which can then be used for filtering/reading. Multiple tags could be attached to an article. Some editorial boards might for example only check a piece of work for accuracy (say in its statistical analysis, or simulation code). Others may focus on importance and potential impact. All of these tags together form one component of the article's "reputation" (see below).

    3. All references to works submitted after the introduction of the system, are links to those articles in the repository. So the repository can easily track the number of citations a given article has, and from articles of what reputation. The number and reputation of citing articles forms a second component of the article's "reputation".

    Initially the editorial boards would evolve out of the current journal hierarchy, so for example in physics there would be a "Physical Review Letters" editorial board. (Which may continue printing a hardcopy of the PRL journal, at their discretion, if they can make the economics work.) New editorial boards could come into being, for example on specific functions like fact- or accuracy-checking. The reputations of these editorial boards would likely be relatively persistent over time, like the perceived reputations of print journals today.

    I would submit this would also be imminently practical for the academic community to move into. It builds on the publishing and QC mechanisms that currently exist.

  • by call -151 ( 230520 ) * on Friday March 01, 2013 @05:47PM (#43049521) Homepage

    As mentioned in the other recent academic publishing story [], there has been some progress but it has been slow. One thing that I am hopeful about are "epijournals" [] which separate the review from the distribution by serving as overlays to the remarkably successful arxiv preprint servers [], at least in many areas of math and physics.

    There are a number of issues here, many of which have been brought up often before. A few to recap:

    1. Prestige: As a fully-promoted researcher who isn't worried much about prestige, I am free to only submit articles to journals which are either open-access or are reasonably-priced (for example, many of those run by universities or professional societies, rather than by for-profit organizations.) Which I choose to do, and have made clear for many years via the Banff Protocol and now the CostOfKnowledge [] petition. However, when collaborations with junior researchers lead to publications, I am willing to submit to some of the other journals, as for the co-author, the prestige may be important for them getting a job, tenure, promotion, or grant funding.
    2. Standards: Oddly, many of the open-access/free electronic journals have standards that are much higher than many of the for-profit journals. The second and lower tiers of for-profit journals will often publish less-than-impressive to just plain terrible articles and have much lower standards than the typical electronic ones. They have economic incentives to publish many articles, and there are sites devoted to exposing various sham journals or editorial failings of journals from Elsevier, etc. I think that many of the electronic free journals are worried about not being prestigious enough and so they tend to have high standards, significantly higher than many for-profit ones. I've had things that were rejected by good electronic journals that were accepted quickly and with high praise to middling traditional journals.
    3. Author-pays model: there has been a proliferation of "open-access" publications, some of which are outright scams, see Beall's list [] of predatory "open-access" publishers. Often, these journals have names very similar to existing prestigious-to-middling journals, which complicates things and has made many authors naturally suspicious of various open-access journals as a whole.
    4. Institutional culture: it takes a while for things to change. There have been a few mass resignations of for-profit journal editorial boards to start more-or-less identical less-expensive or free versions which are basically identically, but not nearly as many as I have hoped. Tim Gowers' efforts [] and the recent White House memo in the USA are progress but of course there is still a long way to go.
  • Unlike the kind of youtube popularity that can happen overnight, the popularity of academic journals takes time, as it is based upon the evidence of many issues. You can't just pick the very first issue of a new journal and see straight away if this journal is going to have quality content throughout its life. It takes many issues to form a complete opinion, and many issues take many years to publish.

    Basically, I think TFA's author is too impatient. Let the open access journals publish for 10-20 years, an

  • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @10:34PM (#43051729)

    Who pays the fees to publish a paper? Grants and research contracts, (generally, the government).

    Part of almost every government research grant and contract is that the government has unlimited data rights, including unlimited rights to every publication which comes out of the research.

    Academia started these journals. Academics run the journals. Academia (tries to) negotiate away these data rights from the government. Academia itself is a closed model.

    You can go to DTIC and read any unclassified military research report for free. Try it! It's fun reading about Russian nuclear reactors from 1969. NRL and Lockheed have to put stuff up there, Harvard doesn't. It used to be we all knew the government owned government funded research.

    Academia has an immense lobby, bigger than the defense industry. They've displaced the contractors and government labs in basic research and closed it off from the public. Why is it easier to get a military report on nuclear reactors than to get a report of what a professor did with the tax dollars we sent him?

    All we need to do is remind Academia that we own this stuff, not them. The executive branch already has the power to do that.

  • Dating site OKCupid does something like the negative of this:

    • Anyone can become a user.
    • Any user can post a profile, photo, etc.
    • Any user can flag a profile, photo, etc. as inappropriate.
    • Flagged content goes to a subset of those who have volunteered as moderators. (Only experienced users may moderate.)
    • Moderators mark the content either for deletion or retention.
    • Items marked by enough moderators for deletion are given a second look by OKCupid employees, then deleted where appropriate.

    This is not terribly diff

  • The question isn't 'why don't academic publish in open access journals', its really 'why aren't the open access journals as good'?

    I publish in both. My papers get read *more* in the open access journals. But the quality of scholarship of those papers, and the ones published along with it is lower. The simple reason is that the open access journals need my money to stay afloat - the fees I pay them to 'publish' (really for the copyediting, layout and coordinating peer review) bias their decision making. Its

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith