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MIT To Make All Faculty Publications Open Access 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-that-conyers dept.
Death Metal writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica: "If there were any doubt that open access publishing was setting off a bit of a power struggle, a decision made last week by the MIT faculty should put it to rest. Although most commercial academic publishers require that the authors of the works they publish sign all copyrights over to the journal, Congress recently mandated that all researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health retain the right to freely distribute their works one year after publication (several foundations have similar requirements). Since then, some publishers started fighting the trend, and a few members of Congress are reconsidering the mandate. Now, in a move that will undoubtedly redraw the battle lines, the faculty of MIT have unanimously voted to make any publications they produce open access."
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MIT To Make All Faculty Publications Open Access

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  • Hats of for MIT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by unity100 (970058) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:25PM (#27343695) Homepage Journal

    now that's the kind of university that one would want his/her children to go to.

    • by tecnico.hitos (1490201) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:32PM (#27343809)
      Unless the are copyright capitalist barbarians.
    • by Froze (398171)

      Mod: Offtopic

      WTF?

      Giving Kudo's to the institution that stands behind the open method of its publications is not in anyway offtopic. Granted it is a gratuitous FP, however it is still relevant and meaningful.

    • by eln (21727) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:38PM (#27343913) Homepage

      Yes, because I would have been devastated to see my kids attend MIT before this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by moosesocks (264553)

      I've said this many times before:

      If you send your kids to MIT, have them study marketing.

      MIT's engineering program might be quite good -- I have no reason to doubt this. However, the amount of PR buzz that the school generates is disproportional to the amount of research that they produce, especially compared to similar institutions. Their marketing people must be very good.

      As an aside, I should also grumble here about my ethical issues with an institution of learning that charges $45,000/year, and inten

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *

        As an aside, I should also grumble here about my ethical issues with an institution of learning that charges $45,000/year, and intentionally limits the number of students it takes on, despite having a pool of applicants that (by their own admission) are perfectly qualified to attend.

        WTF? You're complaining that they don't have infinite capacity? There's a limit to how many professors and classrooms even a $45K tuition can buy, you know!

      • The main reason it limits the size of each class is simply space. Since passing the (idiotic) "Freshmen on campus" rule several years ago, MIT has to have room for every member of its freshman class in its 11 dormitories. This caused it to cut the size of each class from about 1100 to 1000. Though, even before that, housing of some sort (dorm, frat/sorority, or independent living group) was guaranteed for four years (as it still is), so there were still limits. And trust me, in a housing market like boston/
        • Though they also have very generous financial aid, which is getting more generous every year, so only the wealthiest students are actually paying the full $45K. I had a yearly required family contribution of near $0, and I have more loans from my two-year master's program (at a public school) than from my 5 years of undergrad at MIT.

          Many colleges say this, but very few actually mean it. From what I hear, MIT might actually be one of the few who do actually have the financial resources to come through on it.

          Why can't we get a straight answer about how much we have to pay? In my mind, this is an extremely clear-cut case where the middle-class gets completely screwed. On a personal level, I always assumed that I'd be qualified for some sort of aid, given that my parents clearly didn't have the resources to pay in full; in the end, I re

          • by honkycat (249849)

            I'm sick of hearing MIT and the Ivies tote the line that they "turn away hundreds if not thousands of perfectly qualified applicants" while doing nothing to increase their capacity. This reeks of elitism, and needs to stop immediately if they're to be taken seriously as educational institutions.

            It has nothing to do with elitism. Well, maybe not nothing, but it's certainly not a major reason. The size of an institution is a major part of its dynamics, and MIT works very well at its current size. I did my undergrad at MIT and I'm now a graduate student at Caltech, which is ~1/5 the size of MIT, so I have a bit of perspective on the topic.

            You can't just decide to admit more students -- if you add students, you have to add faculty, add research opportunities, add facilities, etc, etc. It's not eas

    • Free to boot (Score:5, Informative)

      by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @01:22PM (#27344525)

      Yes, I said "free". For those interested in getting an education from MIT in any course/degree offered, go to MIT OpenCourseWare [mit.edu] for full free access to all material needed to learn whatever the school has to offer.

      Certification and faculty attention, however, is kinda pricy.

    • "now that's the kind of university that one would want his/her children to go to."

      In fact most people would be glad if it were even within the realm of possibility (It doesn't look like you made it though, unless lower case is the new upper case ;-)

    • by drix (4602)

      Yeah, I have to say I was pretty on the fence between MIT and Walla Walla Community College [wwcc.edu] (go Warriors!). But this has really sealed the deal.

  • Thank you! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:25PM (#27343697) Journal

    This should put to rest any concerns that closed access journals protect the interests of the authors.

    • Re:Thank you! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:32PM (#27343815) Journal
      Hey, what about authors that have an interest in surrendering their copyright, paying page fees, being threatened if they dare post a copy of their own paper on their website, and doing peer review for free for for-profit journals?

      What about them, huh? Are they not people too?
      • Well they probably won't end up at MIT - for one reason or another....
      • Hey, what about authors that have an interest in surrendering their copyright, paying page fees, being threatened if they dare post a copy of their own paper on their website, and doing peer review for free for for-profit journals?

        I gladly do all those things for the kind of exposure that some journals offer your work. Like I said in my above post in more detail, without that exposure, no one is likely to read my work because no one is likely to know that it exists. In a perfect world where acquisition of information is not as costly as in this one, a free system would sort things out just fine. In this one, no one has enough time to read every paper thoroughly enough to decide if it's worth reading thoroughly.

        PS: The journals let yo

      • by yali (209015) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @02:44PM (#27345823)

        I'm a big fan of the move toward open access. But I worry about the precedent for academic freedom.

        Think about it: a university is establishing rules and giving itself oversight over where faculty can publish. From the article: "Anybody who wants to publish with a journal that refuses to grant these rights will have to submit a written request for an exception to the MIT provost." Imagine 2 faculty members who want to publish papers in journals that do not cooperate with MIT's policy. One does popular research that the provost likes, the other does controversial research that the provost doesn't like. Why should the fate of these 2 faculty's research be left in the provost's hands?

        Like I said, I agree with the goal, but I worry that this is a lousy way to reach it.

        • i dunno (Score:2, Insightful)

          by leecho0 (1314111)

          If I were a publisher, I'd want the smartest minds in the world to publish in my journal.

          I'm sure people would want to read what the geniuses at MIT are doing, and the publishers will have to choose between losing subscribers or making the requirements more lax.

          MIT's one of the few schools in the world that can pull off something like this. Most people choose schools because of rankings, and rankings are mostly based on the number of publications, so schools are not very likely to risk lowering their rankin

        • by lgw (121541) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:11PM (#27347241) Journal

          But I worry about the precedent for academic freedom.

          The fact that I can find all the world's knowledge online except academic publications is far worse! The purpose of a Univeristy is to increase the knowledge available to mankind. Various sorts of academic freedom are important for that goal, but that freedom is a means, not the goal.

          • by yali (209015)

            I support open access. I think universities have an obligation to make research available to the public. But this specific policy pits open access against academic freedom. The two are not zero-sum by nature; so why try to advance one at the expense of the other? There are plenty of other things MIT can do. They could provide seed money for open-access journals to pay for copy-editing and distribution costs. They could provide extra compensation to faculty who edit open-access journals (and not those who ed

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jhfry (829244)

              Not to rain on your tirade, but this policy was UNANIMOUSLY approved by the same faculty it would effect. Perhaps the, very bright, faculty of MIT actually liked the policy and felt it was fair to everyone. Perhaps they considered what you have said, and found that the policy was fair or that your issues were unfounded. Somehow, I think that the faculty of MIT understand the ramifications of this policy and feel that it is 'good'.

              Not a whole lot can be said against any restrictive policy that has the una

            • Note that the policy allows for exceptions to be made by submitting a waver request to the provost.

              If I remember correctly, one of the other articles on this policy mentioned that requests would likely be automatically approved. The waver request submission was simply added to make open-access the default rather than something faculty would have to opt-in to.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by blueskies (525815)

              The precedent here is: if the institution doesn't like how a journal does business, it can restrict faculty from publishing at that journal.

              Since there is open access, i think the faculty can try publishing at that journal. If that journal asks them to sign over their rights to the publication, they won't be able to.

              So actually the journal is preventing them from publishing, not MIT. In fact depending on how open the paper is, can't the journals just reprint the paper?

      • by skeeto (1138903)
        I have always wondered about how that works exactly. What happens if the author first distributes the work under a permissive license (BSD-style, cc-by, GFDL, etc), then submits the paper to a journal, doing the copyright transfer thing? Then the author still has freedom with his work thanks to the non-revocable license. Would a journal fall for that "trick"?
  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vornzog (409419) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:29PM (#27343773)

    This is a major blow to an industry with an outdated business model. Scientific publication is starting to move beyond the need for the middleman, and I am extremely glad to see it happen.

    That said, the major publishers will scramble to try and patch this hole in the business model, and they will probably make the overall situation worse before it really starts to improve.

    Oh well. Got to start that process at some point. Go MIT.

    • Re:Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

      by magisterx (865326) <TimothyAWiseman@@@gmail...com> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:43PM (#27343989)
      While I fully agree that this is a major step forward, I would hesitate before saying this will or should remove the middle man. Remember the journals currently organize much of the peer review and handle vetting and editing functions. Their business model should and must change, but that does not mean they are obsolete just yet.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Remember the journals currently organize much of the peer review and handle vetting and editing functions.

        There are better solutions [google.com] for those services too.

    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Samschnooks (1415697) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:46PM (#27344027)

      This is a major blow to an industry with an outdated business model. Scientific publication is starting to move beyond the need for the middleman, and I am extremely glad to see it happen.

      That said, the major publishers will scramble to try and patch this hole in the business model, and they will probably make the overall situation worse before it really starts to improve.

      Oh well. Got to start that process at some point. Go MIT.

      Nothing personal to you, sir or madame. I see "outdated business model" time and time again on Slashdot as an euphemism for basically saying "not offering something for free".

      First of all, business models do not become outdated. They may become worthless because someone has started doing business another way that eliminates one from making money from their current way of doing business. For example, in the beginning of the Internets, folks were charging for content. Then, someone had the brilliant idea that they don't have to charge and they'll have advertising. Thereby making most sites who charged the consumer for the content "outdated" and thereby making everyone else lose money. Then again, tell that to these guys [wsj.com]

      Now consider this, many folks are becoming independent contractors and doing crafts and whatnot at home to make a living - just like the pre-19th century factory system. Outdated indeed.

      There's no such thing as an outdated business model. MIT is financing these publications by other means, that's all. Also, exactly how much does it really cost to publish this stuff online? The authors aren't paid. What are the costs associated? I don't think this is such a sacrifice for MIT or any other institution that does this.

      • Re:Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

        by godrik (1287354) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @01:38PM (#27344725)

        I do not agree in this case. The model is clearly outdated (in the sens not good for today). It had meaning before when there was no Internet. Accessing articles was expensive because you had to print journal issues.

        Today, we no longer use paper version but mainly electronic one. So the only thing the publisher provides is an electronic access to publications. But, universities and laboratories can do that them self.

        So why are we still using "private" journals? The only reasonable answer is : reputation. A journal such as Nature or Transaction on computers are well known. It is know that the editorial board only select top quality papers. But, one should recall that the editorial board IS NOT the journal itself but professors and researchers spread all over the world which do the job for free.

        Why not switch to per university (but peer reviewed) publication without the editors ?

        We could take the editorial board of a good journal and make an independent journal. The problem is research evaluation. It is currently done through crappy index such as the impact factor. A new publication method will badly perform according to this index and thus research will be badly evaluated.

        You need to be a prestigious university to say : "we do not want this model anymore". And that is what the MIT is doing which is great.

        PS: The publishers currently propose some minor correction to fit into a given format or to check for grammatical errors. This could be done by universities too. (or research lab, or independant foundation...)

      • Also, exactly how much does it really cost to publish this stuff online? The authors aren't paid. What are the costs associated?

        More than you might think. While the costs of storage and bandwidth can be modest if you already have a significant IT infrastructure to co-opt a portion of... You still need to pay someone to design and operate the site. An institution the size of MIT will be producing a great deal of material, and that means you'll need a paid professional running the site. It's not an amateu

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Vornzog (409419)

        I see "outdated business model" time and time again on Slashdot as an euphemism for basically saying "not offering something for free".

        I do not speak for the Slashdot gestalt. When I write 'outdated business model', I mean 'founded on pre-internet artificial scarcity'. That doesn't mean free, it just means *both* the supply and demand curves shift quite a bit, and the places in the system where there are profitable opportunities shift. This applies to the MPAA, the RIAA, the scientific publishing industry, and a whole bunch more.

        Scientific publishing, in particular, makes money from both the author and the reader. They got greedy, clai

      • by Thaelon (250687)

        I'm pretty sure you can have an outdated business model and that's what most hard copy publishers have.

        They take intangible valuable information and make a hard copy of it that they then sell. And they try and keep anyone else from moving in on their business with copyrights (this party worked pretty well for a long time). That way they get a monopoly on making copies of that stuff. The profit margins of a monopoly shouldn't need elaboration.

        This model was very viable and even beneficial to consumers pri

    • This is a major blow to an industry with an outdated business model. Scientific publication is starting to move beyond the need for the middleman, and I am extremely glad to see it happen.

      That said, the major publishers will scramble to try and patch this hole in the business model, and they will probably make the overall situation worse before it really starts to improve.

      Exactly! This draws so many similarities to the MPAA/RIAA that it's not even funny. The internet has made it significantly less necessary for the profitable middle man. It can't solve every problem - there's still the matter of peer review for example. And yes, there is some need for distribution, but its profitability is not nearly so great as it was before.

      The purpose of technology is to resolve problems and lower costs. What holds it back is industry - our financial systems become so entrenched in old t

    • This is a major blow to an industry with an outdated business model. Scientific publication is starting to move beyond the need for the middleman, and I am extremely glad to see it happen.

      Eliminate the middleman, and you have usenet. Go read sci.physics and you'll gain a new appreciation of middlemen.

  • by OldFish (1229566) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:32PM (#27343801)

    They're setting America on a path to certain destruction. Why how's a good, god-fearing businessman gonna make a buck if he can't do it by reselling publicly funded publications???

    I think the businessmen have tried to close public access to NOAA data too.

  • Unanimous? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dexmachina (1341273) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:34PM (#27343845)
    As much as I congratulate MIT on this, I'd be interested to see the official vote tally. MIT's faculty is rather largeish, and the article itself says that faculty are caught in the middle between the need for funding and the need for exposure. There's no way in hell that vote was unanimous. Sounds more like the motion passed by a simple majority, someone introduced one of those silly, "Motion to declare the outcome of this vote unanimous," motions, which was then passed by the same people. That's just speculation, but seriously...not one single dissenter on the entire faculty? No way.
    • Re:Unanimous? (Score:5, Informative)

      by EvilDrew (523879) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:54PM (#27344141) Homepage
      The vote was unanimous at the March 18th faculty meeting: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/open-access-0320.html [mit.edu]
    • by krlynch (158571)

      It likely WAS a unanimous vote, at a meeting of the university faculty. Attendance at those things tends to be shockingly low, however, so only those with skin in the particular game on the agenda tend to show up. It's nearly impossible to tell, as the electronic copies of the minutes are restricted to mit.edu users only.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      the article itself says that faculty are caught in the middle between the need for funding and the need for exposure

      The article says nothing of the sort. It says the line is being drawn between publishers and funding groups. Funding groups want open access precisely because it brings the papers more exposure, without the barrier of a paid journal subscription.

      The publishers are the only ones on the other side. Basically, their business model made sense before the internet, because the most efficient way to read papers was to have a subscription to a journal and read the physical copy. Today, the most efficient method

      • The article says something exactly of the sort:

        After all, faculty are completely reliant on both parties involved: the funding agencies pay for their work, and publishers ensure that it finds an audience. Obviously, this puts the faculty in no position to negotiate.

        That's what I was referring to. What you're saying is valid, but really has nothing to do with what I said. The point is, right now published journals are the most reliable way to get exposure. People trust peer review. The fact the subscription-based peer review system could operate under open access policies doesn't change the fact that right now, for the most part, it doesn't. This isn't about what system would theoretically be best for researchers. It's ab

        • The article says something exactly of the sort:

          After all, faculty are completely reliant on both parties involved: the funding agencies pay for their work, and publishers ensure that it finds an audience. Obviously, this puts the faculty in no position to negotiate.

          You misunderstood what that sentence is saying. Without an open alternative the publishers of the closed journals are the only way to get an audience for your work. That's why they held all the keys and were able to dictate terms for so long. That's also why, now that the internet offers a new medium where open journals can thrive, it's desirable to move away from those publishers.

          The authors are certainly not happy with that situation. They don't get to keep the rights for their papers, and they don't

          • I know that's what it's saying. That's why I said, "It's about the way things currently work, and how that means researchers really don't want to go pissing off either the people giving them money or the people who currently print their results." Right now, there isn't a mainstream open alternative- MIT's move is an attempt to change that, and I hope it works. All I'm saying is exactly what the article is saying- in the present circumstances, researchers need to be careful about choosing sides.
            • I know that's what it's saying. That's why I said, "It's about the way things currently work, and how that means researchers really don't want to go pissing off either the people giving them money or the people who currently print their results." Right now, there isn't a mainstream open alternative- MIT's move is an attempt to change that, and I hope it works. All I'm saying is exactly what the article is saying- in the present circumstances, researchers need to be careful about choosing sides.

              Sorry if I somehow misunderstood what you're saying, but my argument still applies. If you need to publish in a particular well-established journal in order to keep your funding, the new rules still allow you to do so, you just need to get approval for it first (which is why you shouldn't be surprised the vote was unanimous). That takes care of not pissing off the people giving them money. Now what exactly is pissing off the people who currently print their results going to do? You think they're not goi

  • Many of the professors I know of host copies of their publications on their lab websites for all to view. Perhaps this decision by MIT is the first of its type officially, but it's hardly new.
    • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @01:01PM (#27344215)
      Computer and engineering journals are fairly receptive to open publication. However, the medical journal industry is viciously protective. Pre-publication of articles threatens rejection and potential loss of priority rights. A lot of this is due to biotech which seeks to keep new technology hidden as long as possible. A number of people with fatal illness have complained to congressmen about the difficulty of accessing research on their diseases.
  • Computer Science (Score:4, Informative)

    by zerojoker (812874) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:37PM (#27343897)
    My notion of Computer Science is, that you will always find published papers on the homepages of the relevant authors. Regardless, of what the publishers say. If the publishers make you require sign away your copyright you will almost always find the relevant paper either in some "draft version" or some "technical report", slightly reformulated but essentially the same.

    I always thought that this is the standard also in other disciplines. What is the publication standard in other disciplines?
    • by MrHanky (141717) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @01:00PM (#27344211) Homepage Journal

      Standard? No. And as there's no standard way for how a web page should be organised, there's no standard way to find such articles, and no guarantee that they won't disappear tomorrow. Would you take the chance to cite a paper that's not even properly published?

      MIT's decision will hopefully mean that you'll find the electronic version through the library's database, with persistent links that don't disappear when a professor moves to a different university.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SoVeryTired (967875)

      It's the same in Mathematics. You'll usually find a selection of "preprints" of a lecturer's most recent work, along with copies of his or her best-known papers.

      Typically, in order to lay claim to anything they're working on, an academic will upload a paper to ArXiv.org as soon as they possibly can. ArXiv is a site which allows access to preprints in maths, computer science, physics, dynamical systems etc...

      It isn't peer-reviewed though, so it's still necessary to publish in a journal.

    • Many professors like to post their works on their webpage so that people that need to know their interests (prospective collaborators, grant issuers, etc.) are familiar with their work. Not only that, it allows people to evaluate it so they can make sure that they're good, ethical workers, all goody stuff like that.
    • econ (Score:3, Informative)

      by Main Gauche (881147)

      This is the same in many other disciplines. In economics, for example, this kind of story is non-news.

      For the past 10+ years, even most "old fashioned" journals allow you to post your paper, as long as you post some blurb acknowledging that you passed copyright to the publisher. That arrangement worked out just fine. As an academic, who cares who has the copyright; just give me the paper!

      Even for journals that did not offer this, authors would blatantly post their paper anyway. Yet I never once heard of

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ZombieWomble (893157)
      On every paper I've been associated with (admittedly not many since I'm relatively new to this "science" malarky), the copyright signing over was related to a particular instance of the paper - that is, you signed away copyright not for the work as a whole, but the particular formatting and attributions which appear in the journal.

      Simply processing it in a different stylefile and removing any mention of the journal it's actually published in is sufficient to address this concern, meaning a "preprint" style

  • by OneSmartFellow (716217) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:38PM (#27343905)
    It's about time that publicly funded research make it back into the public domain. I'm sick and tired of my tax money going to enriching institutions of higher learning, and big Pharma (and other corporations) and seeing nothing in return but more generally useless, largely unnecessary, and unjustifiably expensive drugs, not to mention huge salaries.
  • by Tragek (772040) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:38PM (#27343909) Journal

    I have a really hard time coming up with good arguments against open access publishing. Do they exist? Or are all arguments against flat out support of the publishers' business model?

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:46PM (#27344039) Homepage
      Running journals costs a lot of money and a lot of peoples time. You need editors to go over papers and to submit them to referees. Then you need editors to harass referees who aren't reviewing things in a timely fashion. Then you need editors to work with authors to make sure that everything in the paper is presented well. This is a lot of time and aggravation. If you aren't paying people to do this (as you get with a journal that is subscription) you either need to a) have a pay for review cost which creates a serious barrier for authors who are amateurs or are from schools with less funding or b) get volunteers to do thankless, time-consuming work, which is hard to do (working as an editor isn't something that helps get tenure that much). So yes, there are definite advantages to the closed source model.
      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:58PM (#27344183) Homepage

        I'd buy point (a) if there wasn't a practice of journals charging authors for the ability to publish (which they pay in order to continue to have a career). I'd agree with point (b) if the peer reviewers were paid. There may be advantages to the closed source model, but neither of those are it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by langelgjm (860756)

        While all of that is technically true, I was under the impression that in almost no circumstances are academic journal editors or reviewers paid for their work. Rather, to sit on the editorial board of a prestigious journal is considered its own reward.

        From what I have heard, even the publishers don't present it that way. Publishers (Blackwell Synergy, Wiley, ScienceDirect, etc.) aren't editors. Editors are academics. The publishers argue that journal costs pay for the actual cost of distribution, as well a

      • by greg_barton (5551) *

        have a pay for review cost which creates a serious barrier for authors who are amateurs or are from schools with less funding

        Why? The ones who would pay would be those who benefit: the subscribers who now don't have to do the labor of the editors and reviewers. What you'd have then is a research evaluation and review service, which is exactly what you describe. Why would the submitters pay at all?

      • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @03:03PM (#27346147) Journal

        Have you submitted an article to a peer-reviewed scientific journal? Have you been a referee for such an article? I have been in both roles, and more than once. Your view of an editor's work is not consistent with my experiences.

        As a referee, I was never harassed by an editor. At first, they simply ask if you're willing to referee a paper, and ask you to suggest a different referee if you are unwilling to be referee yourself. If you accept, you're expected to give a reasoned assessment of the article within a few weeks. They typically use several referees, so if there's a laggard, it does not matter. Most referees are conscientious and timely (I and my colleagues are).

        As an author, you are expected to follow the guidelines which the journal publishes. Most of them provide LaTeX or Word templates, and strict typesetting guidelines on figures, headings, citations, captions, etc. If you don't follow their guidelines, your article will be rejected by a secretary who will politely provide the formatting guidelines. It won't even reach the editor and certainly won't go out for peer review.

        Oh, I also know editors of a few journals personally (including two journals I have published in, but I met the editors long afterwards at conferences). None of them ever mentioned any need for harassment of authors or referees. They did need to harass their own employees (fill the advertising space, dammit!) and subcontractors (this is printed on SC paper, I said to use coated stock!). That's where the time is spent.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bigbigbison (104532)
        At least in the humanities none of these really apply. Editors don't get paid. They get to put a line on their CV that said they were an editor. It counts as part of their tenure (not as much as publishing but it counts).

        In almost all journals you have to subscribe to it in order to get your paper published.

        You also almost always have to sign away your rights to that intellectual property. If you want to go back to that paper and turn it into a book? You have to get permission from the publisher
      • by Hoplite3 (671379)

        Your (b) is what happens now, but you're wrong about how much it helps the editors.

        I'm sitting down the hall from three editors, none of whom receive money for what they do.
        Being an editor absolutely helps with tenure cases. It mean the faculty member is at the top of her field, guiding its development. Service requirements, in the form of refereeing papers and the like, are a big part of how academics are evaluated by their employing university.

        The full overview of scientific publication is: grant agency (

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Publishing is expensive. Peer review is expensive. If you want to have high quality widely distributed science you need both. However, as a scientist myself I don't think this on it's own is a good argument against open access.

      Bottom line is we need a new way to do publish science, and such a system is evolving. There are a number of journals that are online only, or release copies of work for free (for example JHEP). The current system is only really viable for the big name journals (and many of these are

  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:46PM (#27344031)
    The original article [mit.edu] I read said they would encourage MIT faculty and students to put their articles on a MIT-supplied website and back authors to obtain copyright permission. However, they weren't going to abrogate copyright contracts of existing articles and put the stuff out there without permission of the copyright holder. As more and more major institutions get on board this will back the expensive, commercial journals into a corner.

    A possible compromise with the journals might be a 6 to 12 month delay before it goes on the MIT site.
    • Here's [bitsbook.com] the link FTA which states the full policy.

      Each Faculty member grants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nonexclusive permission to make available his or her scholarly articles

      The Provost or Provostâ(TM)s designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written notification by the author, who informs MIT of the reason.

      Sounds pretty strict to me. The only way around this is a formal waiver from the Provost's office. Doesn't get much worse than that.

  • MIT has an excellent track record for these sorts of initiatives, going all the way back to the MIT Press, and more recently its open courseware. This does not take into account the numerous events involving individual faculty who have initiated a project or taken a principled stand of one kind or another along the same lines in an atmosphere of support within the MIT culture.

    As I see the situation, these initiatives are partly driven by a deep commitment to the ideals of academic freedom, but they are
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:54PM (#27344135)
    I am currently not affiliated with an university and have noticed increased difficulty in reading research journals at nearby libraries. The main culprit is online storage. Almost all the research libraries allow physical public patron access. But I can only read the online journals if I purchase a university computer account. I estimate over the past five years from the shrinkage of the magazine racks, half of the library journal subscriptions are only online now.
  • So what do you say, CalTech, Berkeley, Stanford, etc.? Your silence is deafening.

    It's a relief to see some elites in the country live up to the higher standard expected of them, unlike, say, oh... I don't know... BANKERS?

  • More universities MUST join this. Preferably, a number of state universities. At that point, congressmen will have a difficult time saying no to this.
    • by langelgjm (860756)

      There are a good number of universities that do have open access policies; sometimes, too, the whole university won't have adopted one, but a specific college or school will have.

      For example, Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences [chronicle.com] voted to adopt an open-access policy last year. I also think that all of Duke's law journals are open-access.

    • More universities MUST join this. Preferably, a number of state universities. At that point, congressmen will have a difficult time saying no to this.

      IMHO, now that it is started, evolutionary pressure comes into play.

      Those who publish their works online, quickly, with broad access, will be more available for reference from other works, compared to those who wait for journal publication. Their good works will get a higher citation rate and sometimes priority. Such feathers in their cap will selectively ad

  • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @01:21PM (#27344509)

    I'm a small-fry researcher at a small-fry university. Without name recognition, what gets my research read is the fact that I can (occasionally, when it's worthy) get it into a name-brand journal where approval of the referees signifies real merit. Without that exposure, no matter how good my research is, it will be very difficult to get it widely read because evaluation of quality takes serious time and thought -- time that most researchers are not willing to spend on every paper on Arxiv posted by any yahoo.

    The converse is also true -- I use the journal's screening to figure out what to read because I don't have time to read every single thing, even preliminarily. The most cursory reading of a novel scientific paper is ~10 minutes, and even then, I've probably just read the abstract, skimmed the figures and then jumped to the conclusion. You can't seriously expect me to do that for every vaguely relevant paper in the field -- I just can't. So if there is an important paper that I should read, I count on the journals to bring it to my attention.

    IMO, what will actually happen is that a free/open system is that the loss of the imprimatur of journal publication will mean increased reliance on other ways to quickly evaluate works. Without name-brand journals, name-recognition will become even more important, which will lead to even more of the sort of "superstar" science in which funding and interest is ever more concentrated in a few research groups.

    I'm quite happy with the current system, warts and all -- we pay the journals to do the insanely laborious task of filtering through all the submissions and providing us with a reasonable subset that represent (with some measurement error) the most salient works.

    • by langelgjm (860756) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @01:44PM (#27344831) Journal

      I'm quite happy with the current system, warts and all -- we pay the journals to do the insanely laborious task of filtering through all the submissions and providing us with a reasonable subset that represent (with some measurement error) the most salient works.

      Do you? Or do you pay journal to organize unpaid reviewers to determine the quality of submissions, and to cover the cost of distribution? Because I thought that most reviewers and editors don't get paid.

      The point is that now distribution costs can be close to nil, but subscription prices keep increasing. I don't see why an open-access journal that was not affiliated with a commercial publisher could not accomplish the same thing, and maintain the quality of articles. The "imprimatur" will simply no longer come courtesy of a commercial publisher - the brand name, e.g., "Well-Respected Journal of X" can persist. After all, it is not the publisher that provides the quality, but the editors and reviewers.

      • After all, it is not the publisher that provides the quality, but the editors and reviewers.

        The editors do not work for free, and they (plus staff, also paid) do the majority of the filtering work. Most of the papers submitted don't make it to the reviewers. Without them, the reviewers cannot function due to much larger workload. Yes, I review articles for free. No, I will not review more than 2-3 per month -- each one takes days worth of work to really evaluate to the standard that I feel appropriate. If you are feeding me crap to review, I'd just as well not review at all.

        • by Sheafification (1205046) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:54PM (#27348065)

          Whether or not editors get paid varies based on the discipline as well as the journal. In my area (mathematics) a few journals may pay editors, but most do not. Editors, just like referees, work voluntarily; except that editors get the prestige of having their name associated with a well-known journal.

          Also, I think you vastly overestimate the cost of running a journal. In math there have been a few cases of mass resignations of editorial boards (essentially killing the journal), and a brand-new journal springing up to take its place. Remarkably, these new journals that are basically equivalent to the old ones manage to charge 5 or 10 (!) times less to get the same job done.

          Journal prices have been rising out of proportion with actual publishing costs for a long time now.

    • by greg_barton (5551) *

      IMO, what will actually happen is that a free/open system is that the loss of the imprimatur of journal publication will mean increased reliance on other ways to quickly evaluate works.

      Great, so now we'll have research evaluation services instead of name brand journals. The difference will be that the evaluation service won't be able to claim copyright over what it's evaluating.

      You know who's in a great position to become a research evaluation service? The existing name brand journals, that's who. Subscr

    • IMO ... a free/open system [loses] the imprimatur of journal publication [producing] increased reliance on other ways to quickly evaluate works.

      Which produce the opportunity to fill the void (if the publications don't come to their senses and do it) by organizing a peer-review group to fill this sudden void.

      Think "Journal of Links" - though it might also provide editing feedback, talking the author into revisions to improve the paper and/or make it conform to the journal's standards and become suitable for

    • by akpoff (683177)

      I'm quite happy with the current system, warts and all -- we pay the journals to do the insanely laborious task of filtering through all the submissions and providing us with a reasonable subset that represent (with some measurement error) the most salient works.

      Which also means that if the journal in question has turned into an echo chamber or more simply isn't sufficiently open to new ideas then good, new but different research is overlooked because it doesn't meet the current criteria for "good, new rese

    • I don't see how any of this means that the peer-review process, or the prestige associated with certain journals over others, has to end. Could you explain how you got from point A to point B?
    • "Open access" != "posted on Arxiv by any yahoo". There is nothing in the MIT policy which will discourage peer review or any of the other traditional means of evaluating the quality of papers.

  • "MIT To Make All Faulty Publications Open Access"

    I guess it is the same thing for a lot of the Publications.

  • I see this as good and bad.

    It is generally a good thing that the research gets out and is seen by as many people as possible. Show me a person off the street who is going to care about some paper on quantum mechanics, however. The scientists and researchers are generally going to have access to these papers in some fashion anyway, via university library electronic journal access or professional groups that they may be a part of (such as the ACM).

    The bad thing is that journals may selectively not publish pa

    • The bad thing is that journals may selectively not publish papers they would have previously accepted from a researcher if they require open access.

      This is precisely why this sort of thing HAS to start at schools like MIT (and Harvard and Stanford). If Podunk State U tried this, their faculty would suffer - but any journal in a field where MIT is dominant will be hard-pressed to stop accepting any and all publications from their faculty. And when you get a few other big names in there together, the journ
  • One can argue that this is a stew of the publishers' own making. When you charge on the order of $20-30+ to receive a copy of a single article (which presumably costs pennies to distribute) then you are asking for a backlash. I applaud MIT for stepping up to the plate and suggest that the other Ivy League schools do so as well. Though the PLoS work which I believe is largely based at Stanford suggests that this is already in progress.

    Even PNAS is slowly increasing its public access articles (and with acknowledgement, their archives are largely open). So the public (and students) have much more access to scientific information than they once did. This does not however keep some publishing groups (e.g. Nature) from going in different directions. It appears to me as if Nature is on a path of only publishing commissioned articles [1] for review which may be very difficult for University's or Government's to regulate.

    I would challenge Nature's publishers -- here and in public -- "When and how do you intend to implement an open access policy?"

    1. It could be argued that Science is only a step behind.

  • Does this include the MIT Press Journals e.g. Presence http://www.mitpressjournals.org/loi/pres [mitpressjournals.org]?

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]

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