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The Almighty Buck Science

All Editors Quit Top Linguistics Journal To Protest Elsevier's Pricing (insidehighered.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: All six editors and all 31 editorial board members of Lingua, one of the top journals in linguistics, have resigned. They quit to protest Elsevier's policies on pricing and its refusal to convert the journal to an open-access publication that would be free online. As soon as January, they plan to start a new open-access journal to be called Glossa. "Prices quoted on the Elsevier website suggest that an academic library in the United States with a total student and faculty full-time equivalent number of around 10,000 would pay $2,211 for shared online access, and $1,966 for a print copy. ... [Executive editor Johan Rooryck] said Lingua and most journals publish work by professors whose salaries are paid directly or indirectly with public funds. So why, he asked, should access to such research be blocked?"
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All Editors Quit Top Linguistics Journal To Protest Elsevier's Pricing

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  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @10:29AM (#50846497)

    This is Slashdot

    Or are we talking vi vs EMACS

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And editor is someone who would correct your use of "Whats" and question your capitalisation.

    • I am guessing it would be EMACS protesting the fact that it isn't a perfect world, is more of a GNU thing. Vs. the BSD licence that vi uses, which realizes the world isn't perfect and tries its best to offer a more welcoming approach.

    • An editor might put a period after your 'vs'.

  • Out loud (Score:5, Informative)

    by erikkemperman ( 252014 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @10:30AM (#50846505)

    Oh dear. An obvious question, but not one we're supposed to ask out loud. Next thing you know someone might get to wondering what it is, exactly, that Elsevier et.al. are adding here, in terms of actual value.

    • Bad form to reply to self, but I forgot to quote the question I was referring to:

      So why, he asked, should access to such research be blocked?

    • Re:Out loud (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @11:50AM (#50847319)

      What are you, sir? Some kind of evil Socialist Commie Terrorist??

      In the USA, we're proud to take other people's works, copyright them for ourselves for horrendous lengths of time and prosecute mercilessly anyone who might attempt to use our presentations or derivatives thereof.

      Just ask Disney.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Americans are definitely pioneers in both douchebag capitalism and running an oligarchy.

        Which explains why the US is currently a failed democracy, the worst possible example of regulatory capture in which the entities being regulated write the rules, and in which your elected leaders are beholden to corporations.

        Do Americans not realize just how fucked your country is?

        Because way too many of you seem to believe that if a corporation isn't making a profit, you're doing it wrong.

        America is pretty much the rea

        • by lhowaf ( 3348065 )
          Thanks for the butt-hurt comment, Anonymous Fucking Coward! It is quite amusing that you compare American capitalism to a product of American capitalism (you do know the Ferengi inhabited the American capitalist-created Star Trek universe, right?). Stop stealing our culture and go create your own.
      • Elsevier is based in the Netherlands, not the US.

        • Well that just means that we need to smack them with some FREEDOMS!

          But my question wasn't addressed to Elsevier, it was addressed to erikkemperman. Who, for all I know is in the USA undermining our basic principles and corrupting our children even as we speak. Think of the Children!!!!

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      Nothing really. I'm pretty sure that places like archive.org or even google would gladly host the content. So even the old "teh servers ain't free" BS excuse is just that: nonsense.

  • That way they can figure out was the real cost of editing and publishing both in print and online really is given the limited subscriber baser for their material. Oh. And don't forget archiving.

    • by Uecker ( 1842596 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @10:45AM (#50846657)

      350$ / year for a small open access journal if you don't print.

      https://www.martineve.com/2012... [martineve.com]

      • That figure is vastly underestimated. It does not account for any human time, either in technical administration or copy editing and proofing. Hosting at a shared host? Are you kidding? The chosen archiving 'solution' strikes me as abusive of original author copyright but regardless, who is doing the day to day backups? Where are they stored? Who is doing restoration? What happens when free helpers leave? Get sick?

        This type of setup may be appropriate for something in-house, like a departmental journal

    • by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @11:09AM (#50846905)

      "let them start their own"

      Well, yes. That's precisely what they've said they're going to do, and given that they are all remarkably intelligent people, I think they've already done the sums on the hosting costs. They certainly know how much time is involved in it, seeing as how they've been doing that exact job for years.

      • I'll disagree with this. As someone who's spent a fair amount of time in both academia and industry, it's always shocking how little the academic side understands the true cost of things. So much in that world is paid for indirectly via the institution or someone else's grants (for instance, most university supercomputing resources are paid for by grants that the end users are never involved with). On top of that, academic labor is very cheap. Grad students and post-docs typically cost a quarter of their co

        • Commercial publishers charge what maximizes the profits not "fees that basically cover the cost of managing journals and infrastructures".

          Those Journals and infrastructures are also optimized for their profit, not for their academic usefulness. They produce journals far more elaborately than what the audience really needs, is that luxury worthwhile? On the one hand it adds prestige and academics is all about prestige, on the other hand the names of the editor add far more prestige than glossy. DRM and copyr

        • Elsevier have run through the market acquiring the most prestigious journals with the express intention of achieving a near monopoly and the opportunity to milk the universities with ever higher fees. As I said, the guys doing this have years of experience in academic publishing -- I'll trust their judgement, thanks.
          • I'm not defending Elsevier's business practice, but I'm pointing out that your trust in academic's experience is misplaced. While academics serve on the editorial boards, they aren't involved in the day-to-day business of the journals and privy to all it takes to manage one. Their job as editors is selecting research for review and publication, not managing its actual publication.

            I have friends on the editorial boards of these journals. They're great researchers, but they are in no way qualified to be manag

          • RELX, the parent holding company in 2014 had revenues of 5.77B euros and net profit of 955M euros - 16.5%. That includes all lines and overhead. In the segment breakout, Sci/Tech/Med revenue was 2.048B euro w/ adjusted operating (not net) profit of 762M, 37.2%

            Those figures are hadly that of an abusive monopoly.

        • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

          This is nice strawman. You make up a nice story how the academics will misuse money from unrelated grants to pay for this and then argue that this is unethical. But of course, there are many other legitimate ways to fund this project and there is no indication whatsoever that this specific project will get funded in a questionable way. And no, where I have worked I have never seen how money from grants has been spent for entirely unrelated projects - and I seriously doubt that any supercomputer has been

        • by godrik ( 1287354 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @04:59PM (#50850519)

          Except that there is basically nothing to develop. Everything pretty much already exist.
          -you can publish the actual papers on the arxiv and only reference to them; which is common practice in physics.
          -you an organize the reviews using easychair or whatever system you fancy; which we already do for most conference.
          -It means that you only need to maintain a front end page which list the current issues and the papers accepted in each issue; which is precisely what we are currently doing for conferences. A journal is like having a conference every month.

          And if this is really to much to take. They can still contact IEEE to get them to publish the papers, which is still significantly cheaper than Elsevier.

      • by godrik ( 1287354 )

        Well, you can totally tag along the arxiv for the main storage and only have journals that refer to arxiv submission. That would get the storage cost virtually down to 0.

      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        Hosting is free. Nobody should really be paying for that anymore. For an open access journal, github pages is all you need, really.

    • Yes. For most (or all?) open access you pay when you want to get something published. Just paid over £1000 for one article, so I guess this is not cheap either.
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        "Prices quoted on the Elsevier website suggest that an academic library in the United States with a total student and faculty full-time equivalent number of around 10,000 would pay $2,211 for shared online access"

        Yeah, not really sure why Elsevier wouldn't want to convert to open access. That's about what they charge per article at OA journals.

    • Producing a professional glossy is expensive, so don't. Let the libraries print it out to get a paper copy and accept that the index and cover are barebones.

    • As insiders, they probably know the real cost of all this stuff.

    • For a no-frills open-access journal, the cost is tiny. Depending on how much they want to borrow from their institutions, the number is somewhere between $10 and $1000 per year. The top end of this is about half of a single typical professor's "Professional Expense Allowance". Or each of the editorial board members could cough up somewhere between $0.33 and $33.33 per year. How do I know? Because I've been doing this for six years. http://jocg.org/ [jocg.org]
    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      Ha ha, cost of "archiving", LOL. Good one. They could put it on github pages for all I care. Sometimes, the cloud can be a good thing, you know. If someone wants it in print, they can get it printed at any on-demand printer they choose. The library/university should be able to deal with that cheaply and effectively.

  • If you are an academic and want to ensure very people people see your work, then by all means publish it in an expensive journal. On the other hand, if you want to be widely recognized try putting the articles up on a web server which will probably increase the number of people looking at them by about 1000x.

    I have noticed that an increasing number of authors submit to the paid journals and modify the contract to keep ownership and then put their papers up on their own web servers. When you Google for the t

    • A whole 22 cents per person per year for a subscription. Very expensive.
      • by ibwolf ( 126465 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @11:06AM (#50846863)

        A whole 22 cents per person per year for a subscription. Very expensive.

        It is when you consider that you're paying that for every member of faculty and every student. Not just those in the linguistic department. Those other departments need their own subscriptions. Before you know, you're spending tens - even hundreds - of thousands of dollars on subscriptions.

        Given that the publisher doesn't pay for the articles, the peer review or the editing (for the most part), it does raise the question, what exactly is being paid for via those subscriptions.

        • Given that the publisher doesn't pay for the articles, the peer review or the editing (for the most part), it does raise the question, what exactly is being paid for via those subscriptions.

          Glossy paper and ink; proofreading and typesetting; printing and distribution; IT and database costs; archiving; marketing ("reputation management")...just to name a few things.

        • by pz ( 113803 )

          A whole 22 cents per person per year for a subscription. Very expensive.

          It is when you consider that you're paying that for every member of faculty and every student. Not just those in the linguistic department. Those other departments need their own subscriptions. Before you know, you're spending tens - even hundreds - of thousands of dollars on subscriptions.

          Um, either a subscription by a library covers all students in an institution, as your first sentence asserts, or it only covers the ones in a given department, as your second and third sentence assert. If the first one is true, the second and third are false.

          $3k for a top-notch journal just isn't that much when subscription costs are often in the $10-20k range for other journals.

          I do not dispute that publishers make scads of money. I take no stance on whether that money is deserved for the value they prov

          • A whole 22 cents per person per year for a subscription. Very expensive.

            So, if we assume that an annual $600k needs to come from somewhere,....

            Then your assumption would be wrong. The number is closer to something like $10–$1000 per year.

            • by pz ( 113803 )

              Perhaps you didn't follow my argument. The $600k is to pay for a staff of six full-time employees at a hypothetical journal. I don't think you can run a high-quality journal with a total budget of $10-1000 per year for more than a very brief while.

              If you did follow my argument, and think otherwise, then please provide counter examples.

              • Perhaps you didn't follow my argument. The $600k is to pay for a staff of six full-time employees at a hypothetical journal. I don't think you can run a high-quality journal with a total budget of $10-1000 per year for more than a very brief while.

                Do you seriously think that the overwhelming majority of journals have a six person full time staff? They typical journal has part of a person paid by the publisher. All the other work is performed by unpaid volunteers.

                If we look at organising a large conference, the actual cost of the "publishing" side is a pittance compared to the work performed, basically only "deliver the proofs to the printer and receive the proceedings back". The printer doesn't do basically anything more than the actual printing. The

          • He's not saying that other departments need separate subscriptions to this journal, but that they have their own journals they need to pay for as well. So in the end you are talking about hundreds of these fees accumulating for each student regardless of who is using the resource.
      • Seriously? 22 cents per person is enormously expensive when the organization needs several hundred such subscriptions to form a decent library. If every journal cost that much it would pretty much stop any science from being accomplished through journals. How much do you think it should cost to write a paper on an arbitrary topic? Why do you think this rent seeking is acceptable? Do you know how little revenue an organization with 10,000 students+faculty is getting? Do you know how little it actually costs
        • Is the organization making only a 14 cent profit per each student? Would an 11 cent raise be an enormous increase in pay for any individual faculty member?
      • A whole 22 cents per person per year for a subscription. Very expensive.

        That's only a fair calculation if every faculty member and every student is going to make use of the subscription. When I did CS at uni, I don't recall once reading a single journal article.

      • You're _completely_ missing the point.

        The point isn't the dollar amount, but the principle that Science (and the results of research) should remain open to all.

        Science has already been corrupted when people write a whitepaper but don't give access to the data or to the program so that others can verify it. Paywalling Science is just another data point in the long road of money corrupting the spirit of sharing.

      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        LOL. A good academic library will have access to thousands of journal titles online. It's 22 cents only if you assume that one journal is all that everyone on campus needs.

        • Yes, like Nature Magazine and Scientific American. Most university libraries bulk-subscribe to many journals at a steep discount.
    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      There's also the excellent arXiv.org which is used by a lot of scientists. More fields should have something like that.
    • What you can do legally, at least with Springer journals, is to put a "preprint"/draft version on your web site, and I've seen a neat trick recently. Somebody has put the page numbers of the printed publication in squared brackets into his drafts so people can cite his papers without having the "official" publication.

      I'll do that with all my online papers. :-)

  • by Aryden ( 1872756 )
    I used to work for a publishing company that actually did all the publishing work for Elsevier. Both companies are total crap.
  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @10:49AM (#50846711)

    The editors quitting, together, as an act of defiance and moral outrage, lifted my heart in a way few stories ever do.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If others followed suit, Elsevier's business model of extortion would be crushed. Academic research shouldn't be hidden behind paywalls. Especially in those cases where it has been paid for by public funding.

  • It might just be me, but $2k for an institutional license doesn't seem that steep. That's only like 22 cents a student.

  • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @11:28AM (#50847105) Journal

    ...by buying out Slashdot and hiring on its crack staff of editors.

    The quality of the output of both publishers improves radically.

  • by call -151 ( 230520 ) * on Monday November 02, 2015 @11:37AM (#50847189) Homepage

    This is great- Elsevier and Springer (and other for-profit publishers) have been charging exorbitant prices for journals and there have been some other mass resignations where people started a free or at least affordable alternative with pretty much the same board. One of the first big ones was the journal Topology, which reconstituted itself with the exact same editorial board in a non-profit setting, described here [columbia.edu]. That was in 2006 and though I'd hoped this would spread like wildfire, it has only happened about a dozen times since then.

    There are good quality affordable journals, run by professional societies or universities, which are an excellent alternative to Elsevier and other expensive for-profit journals. For the health of science, it is important that people choose to submit there. For untenured people who are under a great deal of pressure to submit to "top journals" it poses a difficult quandary, but for those of us for whom that isn't a concern, I don't see a reason to continue to support journals and publishers which have repeatedly done poorly.

    The Cost of Knowledge [thecostofknowledge.com] has lots of information about efforts to improve the scientific publishing culture.

    There have been other cases of prominent people are resigning from Elsevier boards; here's a senior researcher in malaria [malariaworld.org] who resigned from an editorial board on the life-sciences side. His motivation was particularly strong- he is working in malaria research, and the idea that people who could benefit from the research may well be not able to pay for the paywall is abhorrent. But I think the same rationale applies to all of science- why keep research from people who cannot pay for it?

    In other Elsevier news, more journal shenanigans are described here [retractionwatch.com] which include both rigging the reviews to be sock-puppet reviews and getting into their editorial board systems, resulting in yet more retractions. It's not clear what the high prices of journals are paying for when there are intermittent episodes like this.

    • There are good quality affordable journals, run by professional societies or universities, which are an excellent alternative to Elsevier and other expensive for-profit journals. For the health of science, it is important that people choose to submit there.

      Actually I'd say the Journal model of publishing is outdated and backwards in today's interconnected society. They made sense back in the day when both publishing and buying (shipping) published copies cost a substantial amount of money. It was fiscall

      • by JanneM ( 7445 )

        There is no longer any need to filter prior to publishing - filtering can happen after. Researchers should just "publish" their papers on their own or school's website.

        There is a need. Look at it from the readers' side. You are asking me to trawl the websites of tens of thousands of labs and researchers in order to keep up with events. And we'd all have to individually act as gatekeepers, sifting out the good stuff from the bad, the deliberately fake and the crap put out by people with mental health problem

  • Editorial Staff at the new publication Glossa have their salaries cut to 0 because there is no revenue to pay them. Staff moves to soup kitchen so they can maintain editorial control over a publication that they recognized has 0 value.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why comment on something you know nothing about?

      Editors of academic journals are generally professors at a university. They are typically not paid by the journal. They act as editors as a service to their academic community.

      The papers that appear in Elsevier journals are not written by Elsevier, and not paid for by Elsevier. The editing is not done by Elsevier, and not paid for by Elsevier. Elsevier is essentially charging extortionate prices for a product produced for free by other people. It's somewhat qu

      • I do not publish in Elsevier journals, nor do I ever accept 'invitations' to referee articles submitted to any Elsevier publication.

        This has been my policy since the late 1990's.

        Signed,

        A physical scientist

  • by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @01:07PM (#50848119)

    Fuck em.

    It's probably not a sexy topic, but I'd love to see one of the few remaining investigative journalists go deep and get into the business of journal publishing.

  • Elsevier is a business. The goal of a business is to make money. If their prices are too high, rather than complain about it, publish somewhere else. Or, if subscriptions are too much, don't subscribe. Authors will stop sending them papers if no one is subscribing to the journal. It's simple market economics. No one is forcing you to use Elsevier.
  • revolt against corporations. Pay close attention.

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