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Education The Almighty Buck Politics

Harvard: Journals Too Expensive, Switch To Open Access 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the information-wants-to-be-free dept.
New submitter microcars writes "Harvard recently sent a memo to faculty saying, 'We write to communicate an untenable situation facing the Harvard Library. Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive. This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called "providers") to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.' The memo goes on to describe the situation in more detail and suggests options to faculty and students for the future that includes submitting articles to open-access journals. If Harvard paves the way with this, how long until other academic bodies follow suit and cut off companies such as Elsevier?"
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Harvard: Journals Too Expensive, Switch To Open Access

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  • Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:24PM (#39785217)

    Wow, and I thought I'd never see major universities become reasonable and do this in another decade.
    Good news indeed. It's not just money that is at stake, but the integrity of the scientific community.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This has nothing to do with universities being reasonable, it's just business. And the scientific community cares more about visibility and prestige, therefore if a professor can publish one or two papers in Science/Nature/Cell/whatever rather than five papers in open-access journals with lower impact factors then you can bet he'll take it. It's the university that pays, anyway, the academics get the prestige, which is measured by the impact factor, among other things.

      • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EL_mal0 (777947) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:38PM (#39785427)
        It's not just prestige, it's promotion. In many cases their career and their wallet benefit more from those two papers in the high impact journal than the five in a lower impact one. There are some (sort of) legitimate reasons for this, but on the whole it's BS.
        • by Hentes (2461350)

          Isn't it possible to publish in multiple journals?

          • Isn't it possible to publish in multiple journals?

            Not the same paper. The journal will get quite ticked off with you if you try to do that.

            • by Hentes (2461350)

              I'm not familiar with academic publishing, but doesn't the copyright remain with the original authors? Or how exactly will a journal block a scientist from publishing elsewhere?

              • Or how exactly will a journal block a scientist from publishing elsewhere?

                I'd guess it'd be along the lines of contractually requiring, as a condition of publication, that the article be an unpublished work. Copyright law defines publication as "the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending" (17 USC 101).

                • Exactly. It is the remit of almost any journal that it publishes *original* research. Your paper must be unpublished.

                • by Hentes (2461350)

                  But in that case they could just switch the order and publish in the well-known journal first, and the open one second.

              • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Informative)

                by kf6auf (719514) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @06:59PM (#39788887)

                When you submit a paper to a journal you typically sign a copyright transfer agreement. These vary a bit from publisher to publisher, but all of the ones I have seen state (and I just checked the two I have in my desk):
                1. That the copyright (but not related patent rights) is transferred to the publisher, but the authors retain the right to make personal copies.
                2. That it is original work, not published before in any language and is not being considered for publication elsewhere.

                IANAL, but my understanding is that the first clause prohibits you from submitting the article to another journal and the second clause prohibits you from having already submitted it to another journal.

                As far as I can tell, it's quite effective.

                • by hairyfeet (841228)

                  Wow...it sounds like they are getting screwed as bad as the music artists. maybe its time for the scientists to get together and say 'fuck the gatekeepers" and have their own free peer reviewed journal? After all artists have found ways around the gatekeepers by using the massive distribution power of the web so I don't see why scientists couldn't do the same. After all the ONLY reason these assraping publications have any "prestige" is because scientists give them that prestige, so if they scientists were

              • 1) When you publish in an academic journal, you transfer the copyright for your paper to the publisher.

                2) As a reviewer, if I see you published your paper elsewhere, I will immediately reject it. Publishing a paper more than once is called self plagiarism, and it's unethical. The purpose of publishing is to disseminate your research to the community. Publishing your work in more than one journal is counter to that goal because your research is already in the community, and you're taking up space in the jo
                • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by isilrion (814117) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @09:11PM (#39790163)

                  2) As a reviewer, if I see you published your paper elsewhere, I will immediately reject it. Publishing a paper more than once is called self plagiarism, and it's unethical. The purpose of publishing is to disseminate your research to the community. Publishing your work in more than one journal is counter to that goal because your research is already in the community, and you're taking up space in the journal for research that hasn't yet been published.

                  Please tell me that you see the contradiction there. For most journals out there, publishing in only one of them ensures that the paper is not already in the community - it is only available to those who purchased that particular journal. Not to mention translations, which are also considered self plagiarism, and which quite obviously increase the audience of the paper. Taken to the extreme, your attitude makes it hard to even share your work before publishing (I recently had an argument with a conference organiser, because after googling my name and title, they found out that I had given a seminar on that topic... in my own internal research group at my university).

                  I do disagree with taking credit more than once for the same research, specially through salami publishing and their ilk, which is a very serious problem. But the so-called "self plagiarism" is no more than an absurd power grab from the publisher, to ensure they keep the monopoly over the distribution of our research, specially in the light of the "taking space" argument (really, it does not make any sense whatsoever. Space where? On the website, where you have nearly unlimited space?). It's a shame that most of the scientific community, like you, have fallen for it. If they really cared about disseminating research, a much more efficient way is to let the authors state "this work was been previously published in so and so journal", rather than accusing them of fraud.

                  • For most journals out there, publishing in only one of them ensures that the paper is not already in the community - it is only available to those who purchased that particular journal.

                    Not in the journals I publish in. IEEE, ACM, and Springer all allow an author to publish an article on his own website, an institutional repository, and a funding agency repository, available to all for free. I have not published with Elsevier, but I know they have a similar copyright policy. With Nature the author actually retains the copyright and you license them the ability to publish your work.

                    Not to mention translations, which are also considered self plagiarism, and which quite obviously increase the audience of the paper.

                    True to a point. In my field, the top international journals are written in English. If you want to communicat

                    • by isilrion (814117)

                      So then the question is... well why are you trying to publish it here if a reference to x journal is good enough? Why don't you just read it in so and so journal? Or better yet, just link to your webpage. Why should you publish old research in multiple journals? No, I'm sorry, the only real reason to publish in multiple periodicals, especially given the lenient copyright policies of the publishers I know of, is to pad your own CV.

                      Impact factor. Prestige of the new journal. The obscurity of a random researcher's website. Minor corrections to make the work easier to follow. Publishing in a completely different venue. Accessibility. The first two may be related with "padding the CV", but it is not necessarily just to increase the number of publications without doing new work. Accessibility is important if the journal doesn't let you self-publish, with I'll grant you is pretty uncommon now (but not completely gone), though this point is

            • It depends.For many papers, this is how I have seen it progress
              1) Go to a conference and present a topic.
              2) Publish a larger set of results including the above as a PhD/Job Market /Masters paper.
              3) Condense the paper and publish in a journal.
              4) Take the ideas and condense it further and publish in an industry journal
              5) Make it into a 1 page and add pictures to publish in a trade journal or to use in marketing products.
            • Isn't it possible to publish in multiple journals?

              Not the same paper. The journal will get quite ticked off with you if you try to do that.

              Not the same paper. Your research could generate multiple reports/papers off your main research (each hopefully unique***), and these can be published in different journals. However, each paper must be published in only one journal.

              *** I say hopefully unique because some academic professors (not all thank God) hash and re-hash the same topics with very little deviation (and ergo very little cumulative value), sending them en-mass to multiple journals and conferences. Think academic spamming - flying shit

        • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Defenestrar (1773808) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:16PM (#39786121)

          You're missing the point of impact factors. It's merely a representation of the average times any given article from the preceding two years has been cited in the current year. The values change all the time.

          So, we know that if a good paper gets published somewhere that people can find, it gets cited. If good authors (presumably Harvard has some of these) make a concerted effort to move to a different journal other than the typical Journal of discipline subject, then the new journal is going to get a lot of citations over the next two years; raising its impact while the old journal plummets. (Actually, the new journal will skyrocket, and the old one will gradually taper as it is forced to accept less stellar papers to maintain publishing quantities).

          Now where it gets interesting is when the Society of discipline subject, who sold their Journal to the bundle publisher for whatever reason, starts to see their Society's Journal impact dropping (along with some of their revenue). At this point there will either be a call to membership to publish in the main Journal, or a call from membership to retrieve their Journal from the bundle people. This fight will probably go both ways, and different societies will have different end points. The options available will also vary. Some societies will have made a complete sale of their journal and be out of luck, others may be able to renegotiate publishing arrangements. Journals most threatened are those with no society behind it.

          Also, in my experience you can't just trade in five papers for two in the superstar journal realm (e.g. journals with double digit factors like science or nature which are usually around 30). Also, many superstar articles never make it to a general audience journal like Science or Nature. If a scientist really wants to impress someone with their publishing record, then they should report five and ten year impacts of their individual articles - not their neighbors.

        • by mbkennel (97636)

          "In many cases their career and their wallet benefit more from those two papers in the high impact journal than the five in a lower impact one."

          More like two papers in a high impact journal are more important than fifty in a lower ranked journal.

      • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Interesting)

        by afidel (530433) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:52PM (#39785703)
        You say it's just business but I bet the entire Harvard library budget is smaller than a rounding error in Harvard's overall finances, their endowment is up to $32B and has been growing at over 12% per year for over 20 years.
    • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:40PM (#39785465)

      Somehow I see Elsevier et al. figuring out some way to sue schools doing this, or their libraries, for breach of contract, restraint of trade, somehow extending copyright from previously published research by professors to their new research publications (or quickly adding exclusivity terms to their contracts to keep professors from submitting to open license publications), etc.

      • Congress (in the US) is very gently easing access to papers who's research was funded by public money. It's slow, and far more limited than it should be, but it's possible that we see governmental action crack this nut wide open - retroactively even.
    • No, I think it's actually just the money [ucdavis.edu]. The rest is probably just to justify a budgetary move.
  • microseconds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:26PM (#39785249)

    If Harvard paves the way with this, how long until other academic bodies follow suit and cut off companies such as Elsevier?

    As soon as an on-line open-access journal gets the same impact factor as the traditional Elsevier or IEEE journals, the old ones are dead.

    • Re:microseconds (Score:5, Informative)

      by solanum (80810) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:33PM (#39785365)

      Some are. PLoS One for instance has a pretty high impact factor. It's not up there with Nature, but it's higher than the vast majority of journals.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Some are. PLoS One for instance has a pretty high impact factor. It's not up there with Nature, but it's higher than the vast majority of journals.

        In case people are wondering... PLoS is the Public Library of Science [plos.org].

    • Re:microseconds (Score:5, Insightful)

      by openfrog (897716) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:43PM (#39786547)

      If Harvard paves the way with this, how long until other academic bodies follow suit and cut off companies such as Elsevier?

      Coming from Harvard, a university whose endowment funds are twice those of Cambridge and Oxford taken together, this is significant indeed.

      One recent event that may have prompted Harvard to act is a recent blog entry from Thimothy Gower (Gower's Blog), a professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, which prompted a petition to boycot Elsevier, signed as to the time of this writing by 10,172 researchers, and which has done much to raise awareness across disciplines.

      You can read about the petition at The Cost of Knowledge website. Read also the Wikipedia entries on Gower and on The Cost of Knowledge.

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      All you have to do is find someone with respected credentials who is willing to do all the hard work of editing and producing a prestigious journal for free. Shouldn't be too hard.

    • Re:microseconds (Score:4, Interesting)

      This process can be sped up immensely by simply having universities or their libraries publish their own journals. There is really no excuse for not doing this, and little excuse for the minimal costs to be borne by either the library itself or the relevant department.

      The costs of hosting an academic journal online are by now practically non-existent, and will disappear entirely once some standard journal management open source software is developed and included in main repositories. The cost of actually printing journals probably pales in comparision to the present print budget of most universities anyway.

      I'm aware of at least one journal which is printed in this way. While not the most famous of publications, there's nothing wrong with the model whatsoever.

      • by JanneM (7445)

        Publishing in a small, local journal that gives you few readers and few citations will not be good for your impact. Good exposure is of course important for your ideas to spread.

        And truth is, promotion boards and funding agencies put a great deal of weight on where you publish as a proxy for how important your work is for the community, and if you don't publish in "good" places you will eventually be out of grant money, and out of a job. Which is kind of important if you want to live indoors, eat regularly

  • by GeneralSecretary (1959616) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:28PM (#39785275)
    At a minimum publicly funded research should be available to the public for free. Ideally journals themselves would be replaced with a decentralized Web based system where anyone can publish and peers can freely review all the articles. Academic journals should be replaced with something akin to blogs much as newspapers have.
    • by godrik (1287354) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:31PM (#39785321)

      Actually most researchers publish their result in technical reports or on arXiv before sending a paper to a journal.

      It is streamlined in Physics and is becoming popular in Computer Science. I am not sure about other disciplines though.

      • Actually most researchers publish their result in technical reports or on arXiv before sending a paper to a journal.

        It is streamlined in Physics and is becoming popular in Computer Science. I am not sure about other disciplines though.

        A lot of journals now allow "self-archiving". I think you can find most CS articles with a search engine and download a PDF from the authors' web sites.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Are those papers peer-reviewed prior to being published on arXiv and other online sites? If not it is a poor replacement for the journals, which are designed to go through the slush pile of submissions and weed-out the bad works from the good.

    • I couldn't agree more. It's crazy: the author publishes the work without getting paid; there are little to no advertising costs and yet it costs a fortune to access the work. It made sense 20 years ago when the articles were published in small quantities and trucked over to university libraries. But now? The cost of distribution approaces 0.
      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:39PM (#39785439)

        I couldn't agree more. It's crazy: the author publishes the work without getting paid; there are little to no advertising costs and yet it costs a fortune to access the work. It made sense 20 years ago when the articles were published in small quantities and trucked over to university libraries. But now? The cost of distribution approaces 0.

        It's another example of the internet as a disruptive technology. People who have been making money off of this are going to hold out as long as they can, well past the point that everyone else identifies it as crazy.

    • At a minimum publicly funded research should be available to the public for free.

      Some funding agencies require that. Some middle-men are fighting it.

      Academic journals should be replaced with something akin to blogs much as newspapers have.

      Maybe "akin" to blogs, but there still needs to be peer review.

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      Academic journals should be replaced with something akin to blogs much as newspapers have.

      This sounds great. I wonder, though, how one would find and vet qualified reviewers.

    • At a minimum publicly funded research should be available to the public for free.

      Agreed.

      Ideally journals themselves would be replaced with a decentralized Web based system where anyone can publish and peers can freely review all the articles. Academic journals should be replaced with something akin to blogs much as newspapers have.

      This would lead to an ugly mess... It's not bad enough that we throw faeces to each other, now we'll make it easier. The advantage of highly-centralised systems is that the consensus and the state of the art are self-evident, so why discard those advantages?

    • Ideally journals themselves would be replaced with a decentralized Web based system where

      Dude, that was what the internet was first used for, before it became a cesspool of pop culture and marketing. It's been done. Decentralization leads to privatization. Privatization leads to populist thinking. Populist thinking leads to marketing. Marketing... leads to suffering.

      • Dude, that was what the internet was first used for, before it became a cesspool of pop culture and marketing. I

        Aah, with a sense of nostalgia I harken back to the days when the intertubes consisted of almost nothing but university and conspiracy theory websites, and 33.6Kbps was the top tier speed to beat...

        Thanks for the flashback.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Ideally journals themselves would be replaced with a decentralized Web based system where anyone can publish and peers can freely review all the articles.

      The tragedy of the commons is that everyone wants to publish and no one wants to review.
      And not everyone is qualified to review (or publish for that matter)

    • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:04PM (#39785903)

      When you publish a paper, you are expected to transfer the copyright of that paper to the publisher. However, publishers like IEEE allow you to post the accepted version of your paper on your own website. See the full policy here [ieee.org]. This is in contrast to the published version, which contains all the journal specific markup like headers and page numbers. IEEE also allows you to publish the accepted version of your paper to any funding agency repository to comply with free-access requirements. I don't know how it works in other disciplines, but in engineering, IEEE is the place to publish and it works like this in pretty much all our periodicals. I take an extra step and on my website and add a note that all articles posted are for timely dissemination of information and all work is the property of respective copyright holders and may not be reposted without explicit permission. But the links point straight to the fulltext of the research.

      This policy is pretty permissive, and I've never seen the need to submit to an open access journal of lesser quality when I can submit to a top journal and be assured my research will be just as accessible.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      Ideally journals themselves would be replaced with a decentralized Web based system where anyone can publish and peers can freely review all the articles.

      Many researchers post preprints on arXiv and/or on their personal web sites. There's decentralized free peer review, too, but only if you show up to colloquia.

  • by dryriver (1010635) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:30PM (#39785317)
    If major Universities required their faculty to publish facsimiles of any papers they submit to various journals on a _free_access_ "academic papers repository" section of the University's webpage, then we'd have the best of worlds. Those willing to pay for academic journals could still do so. Those hunting for a particular academic paper, not knowing in advance whether its contents are actually useful or not, could simply look it up on the University's _free_access_ academic papers section. Problem solved.
    • by blueg3 (192743)

      The more effective route is to have public funding agencies demand this. If a university demands it, then it can substantially limit the capacity of a researcher to publish effectively with little upside. If the funding agency demands it, then the researcher has the perfect excuse -- nobody is going to tell the guy with the money "no thanks" just because he wants you to publish in a lower-impact free journal.

  • Who pays? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by solanum (80810) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:32PM (#39785347)

    Whilst I would like to see the day where our work (I am a scientist) is all in open access journals, there is still a cost. The author pays the journal instead of the library. The difficulty for authors is that we typically don't have funding for that. Maybe what we need is for our institution libraries to be paying that cost, but then the library doesn't save any money...

    • by binarstu (720435)
      Exactly. I am a big fan of open-access journals, but the reality is that many of them are very expensive to publish in. For example, authors are charged almost $3,000 to publish a single article in PLoS Biology. For many researchers who aren't working off of huge NFS grants, that price makes publishing in those journals impossible. Many "closed" journals have no costs to the authors because publishing costs are covered by subscription fees. I'd be happy to see a larger migration to open-access publishi
      • For example, authors are charged almost $3,000 to publish a single article in PLoS Biology.

        PLoS, like all reputable open-access publishers, waives publication fees [plos.org] for authors who can't pay. Basically, the fees paid by authors on big grants from NIH, NSF, et al. which specifically cover publication fees (remember, a lot of traditional journals charge publication fees too, for things like color figures, and waivers are considerably harder to get in that case!) are in part subsidizing articles from authors who aren't on those grants and don't have the resources to pay the publication fees. It's n

    • by sycodon (149926)

      I could see a State level function here. It would have to be strictly regulated and have oversight, but I think that having a single place to submit your work would improve the flow of information and availability.

      One improvement they could make is to ensure that the process is completely dispassionate and objective. I would suggest that the editors be regularly re-assigned to different scientific disciplines to avoid becoming chummy with regular contributors.

      One wonders if Alfred Wegener had submitted his

    • Print journals charge market rates, not actual costs. The difference (profit) goes to the owners, usually an allied association run much like a private club with compensated officers, scholarship programs, etc. The journal editors and reviewers (who provide all the actual prestige and work of the journal) usually get "academic credit" for their participation and therefore not paid anything else. Certain engineering association journals even seem to specialize in "teaser" papers, designed to drum up consulti
    • Whilst I would like to see the day where our work (I am a scientist) is all in open access journals, there is still a cost. The author pays the journal instead of the library.

      You've been brainwashed by past experience. There's no cost that justifies making authors pay for their publications. All the work and cost occurs prior to having a finished paper, at which point it's just a PDF file that needs to be hosted and/or printed, the latter being optional in the internet age. The reviewing process is

      • by Mandrel (765308)

        There's no cost that justifies making authors pay for their publications. All the work and cost occurs prior to having a finished paper, at which point it's just a PDF file that needs to be hosted and/or printed, the latter being optional in the internet age. The reviewing process is volunteer work and has no appreciable cost.

        Correct. There's no cost that justifies making authors pay for their publications. But there is a value. Prestigious journals get read by the right people; few will come across a random PDF. It's just like an app-store. Apple and Amazon can extract a good cut because discovery is at least as important as app cost and quality. Other publishers of software, books, and stock images get away with even larger cuts.

        Submitting to a quality journal is marketing yourself to the ends of fame, power, and profit. Sc

        • It's just like an app-store. Apple and Amazon can extract a good cut because discovery is at least as important as app cost and quality. Other publishers of software, books, and stock images get away with even larger cuts.

          The Apple and Amazon app-stores aren't anything special. In the open source world, the app-stores are called repositories. Like journals and "app-stores" around the world, the quality of repos varies depending on the amount of effort put in to maintain them. But it's not a functio

  • After all education is (I was told yesterday) the primary goal of a university, regardless of the cost. Unversities should not be allowed to cut CS departments or library purchases of scholarly journals.

    • After all education is (I was told yesterday) the primary goal of a university, regardless of the cost.

      And that is, of course, a lie. When the cost becomes high enough, it becomes a factor. When the cost rises to the point where it physically cannot be met, it will not be paid. There are no exceptions to this rule.

  • Can they start suing everyone for downloading Journals . . . ? Their business model is being challenged, just like the music industry.

    Hmmm . . . how can they claim intellectual property on papers that haven't been written yet . . . ? It will be interesting to see what their lawyers will come up with . . .

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:36PM (#39785399)

    Forget restriction on academia, etc. Science functions best with as many participants as possible sharing as much information as possible. These journals used to only charge a modest fee to cover distribution -- their function in that regard ended in the mid 80s with the introduction of mass communication becoming available to the individual at low cost, and a decade later the internet became a viable method of distribution.

    These journals are counter-productive today; They're causing work duplication on a mass scale because research (that thing where you look up what other people have done about the problem, also known as 'step 2') has become so cost prohibitive it's cheaper (and faster, thanks to a lack of standardization regarding searching) to just move forward with doing it over again. If I were Queen of the establishment of science, I'd send the military in and charge the owners of those businesses with crimes against science and sentence them to 10 years hard labor as assistants to (cough)... undergraduates.

    • Note that nothing in the linked article says that *scientific* journals are the only problem.

      A much more inviting target for cost savings would be the many specialized humanities journals that publish a steady stream of papers that nobody ever cites or even reads. We'd probably be better off if nobody bothered with them anyway - maybe then the philosophy and literature faculty can get back to doing something useful - like *teaching*

      • A much more inviting target for cost savings would be the many specialized humanities journals that publish

        Yes, well, let's help save humanity first before we help the fields dedicated to charting its demise and then doing the autopsy. :D

    • Unless you go to something like PLoS, where *everything* is published, you're still going to end up with duplication of effort.

      Just think of how many GradStudent-Years of work would be saved for every 'I tried (x) and it didn't work' paper, as we won't have 20 more researchers trying to do it.

      I don't know that the Open Notebook [wikipedia.org] concept works in all fields (remember the Haumea controversy? [wikipedia.org]), but we need to be moving in that direction.

  • by crow (16139) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:40PM (#39785449) Homepage Journal

    There's a very simple solution. Harvard can set standards that journals must meet in order for publications in those journals to be considered for tenure. If there's one thing that professors care about, it's having a good case for getting tenure.

  • Lessig spoke about journals, and access to scholarly works, at the Open Rights Group's recent conference, and made what I thought were excellent points:

    Junior academics seeking tenure (more a US thing, I think) or else recognition in their fields may still need to publish in non-open journals. Movements towards open access should not necessarily mean eliminating junior academics' chances of promotion or recognition, but that academics already with tenure may be in a different position. It's not necessari

    • Nothing is "free" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slew (2918) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:14PM (#39786065)

      ... As a result, currently, pretty much any article *is* freely available to me. But many are not so fortunate — particularly where universities cannot afford to pay access fees, but more so for those who are not affiliated to universities, and who would have to pay considerable fees for access to even individual articles...

      You are paying (at least your university is paying, leaving less money for the university to spend on other things). Often people forget this. So when you are reading through your "free" papers perhaps you might also notice if one of your collegues didn't get a matching grant for their research or that the janitor that doesn't come around to clean your office very much anymore, or there's one less TA for that class... There's always a cost, even if you you aren't paying a cost yourself. The cost may look small when spread out over many folks, but it's isn't zero. On the other hand, dropping a subscription to a journal by a large university to "save" money will cost something on the other side (people employed by the jounal will get fewer raises or lose their jobs). Realistically, journal access is really a fringe benefit to you (not unlike free coffee in a breakroom), but when the cash crunch comes, the fringe benefits are often the first to go.

      What we can hope for is a more equitable system for reviewing, publishing and sharing knowledge, but there's bound to be chaos during any transition, however if our economy turns to a knowledge based (rather than manufacturing based), you might actually see more limits, rather than fewer limits on knowledge distribution going forward (as knowledge becomes more valued as a commodity like raw materials in a manufacturing based economy).

      • You are paying

        I agree — I absolutely agree. When you see few login boxes, or requests for money, it's easy to forget that you are in a very privileged class — that you have basically unfettered access (which would have perhaps been a better choice of words than "free access"), whilst most of the world do not.

        journal access is really a fringe benefit to you

        As an online, distance-learning student, electronic access to pretty much anything I might want to read (which includes, but is not

      • Realistically, journal access is really a fringe benefit to you (not unlike free coffee in a breakroom)

        Er, no, it's not. Journals are, for research university faculty, a tool they must have to do their job. Cutting journal access isn't removing free coffee from the breakroom, it's removing the PC you use to do your job.

  • by ffflala (793437) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:47PM (#39785587)
    I'm a librarian, and years of increasingly tight budgets have brought me to the point that I view large journal publishers primarily as a massive, parasitic obstacle to public access to information. More from TFA:

    In 2010, the comparable amount accounted for more than 20% of all periodical subscription costs and just under 10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices. These journals therefore claim an ever-increasing share of our overall collection budget. Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles.

    Libraries are necessarily nonprofit organizations, and their budgets are funded through taxes and tuition. The current journal publication business model treats library budgets as little more than a vehicle to launder money that was taken from Mr. and Ms. Taxpayer.You pay to support Elsevier, ThomsonReuters, et al, in the form of taxes and tuition. Journal publishers seem to perceive library budgets the way that petroleum companies perceive oil fields. In case you think this is hyperbole, consider:

    An annual subscription to Tetrahedron, a chemistry journal, will cost your university library $20,269; a year of the Journal of Mathematical Sciences will set you back $20,100.

    http://www.economist.com/node/21552574 [economist.com] Given these kinds of costs, it would be cheaper for a library to fly the most prominent publishing mathematicians out for a visit and have them lecture on the topics of their latest publications.

    Applying a profiteering mentality to scholarly work has predictable resulted in a systematic degradation of the quality of academic output itself. The results are demonstrable.http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/04/20/220201/studies-suggest-massive-increase-in-scientific-fraud [slashdot.org]

    • One thing you might consider is that this whole scientific publishing business might go the way of the music business in a few years. Right now musicians can often make more money touring than releasing records (publishing). So many old musicans have gone to treating "publishing" as a side-line publicity mechanisms for their day job (touring). Unfortunatly, newer mucisians don't have the historical publicity to ride on, so they are still forced into the old system. What this has done is create a disconti

  • Charge enormous sums of money for subscriptions to the journals, charge the scientists providing the content money for putting in figures (instead of the traditional paying-the-content-provider model), and the editors work for free.

    The NIH already requires that all papers published with their grants are available freely. Why the NSF can't do that, I don't know. It's a huge problem not only in academia but also in government. Government workers, such as ones at NOAA or USGS, often have little to no journal a

  • These publishers get a lot the work done for free. Here is how the process goes as I understand it.
    1) Author submits his paper
    2) Editor (working for free) checks it over and passes it to several reviewers.
    3) The reviewers (working for free) accepts with corrections/clarifications for publication (or rejects it).
    4) The author turns in the revised version and PAYS the publisher to publish it.
    5) Libraries and people then PAY the publisher for their copies and/or online access.
    The publishers do have som
    • by Tim Ward (514198)

      Erm ... where do you find an editor who works for free? All the ones I know need to do things like feed their children and pay the mortgage, and they get paid appropriately for doing a professional job.

    • There's one more step between 4 and 5: Usually the journal will typeset your article, hopefully proofreading it and fixing the engrish. Depending on how well the journal is set up, this may involve retyping your beautifully formatted LaTeX submission from scratch *facepalm*. The typesetter/proofreader is paid to do this.

      Also, in my experience compulsory page charges for the author are much more common in open-access journals than reader-pays journals - which is another reason that all authors haven't switc

  • Cheapskates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:40PM (#39786513)

    Harvard, despite their $32 billion dollar endowment, can't afford library fees? On top of the the 70+% overhead rate they charged my grants? Oh please. This is about many things, but a lack of money isn't it.

    For those not familiar with the subscription process, PLoS (and PhysX, etc.) have free access to the articles because the author has to pay for every article published. I check their website, the rate currently varies from $1300 to $$2900 per article, depending on which journal it's submitted to. Traditional journals, at least in physics (which is where I've published), normally don't have page charges for electronic submissions because they typesetting costs go way down with LaTeX submissions.

    What's really going on is that Harvard is shifting the costs from their libraries on to their researchers. They already have one of the highest grant overheads in the country (did you know that for every $1.00 in grant money a researcher receives, Harvard receives more than $0.70, to pay for things like electricity and library journal subscriptions?), but apparently a $32 billion dollar endowment just isn't good enough...

  • by sfkaplan (1004665) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:43PM (#39786545) Homepage

    It would be a good thing for academia to move away from predatory publishers like Elsevier and Wiley, and conduct all future publication through open access journals. However, even if this wonderful thing happens, those publishers remain a problem. Let's say that Elsevier goes out of business when researchers stop publishing with them and libraries stop ordering their materials. The citation chain still goes through a large number of already existing Elsevier publications. If Elsevier disappears, our heavily limiting copyright laws leave no mechanism to obtain these older papers. Some libraries gave up on paper versions of journals in recent years, so even they have neither duplicates nor access to the papers.

    Part of solving the academic publishing problem needs to include changes to copyright law. Authors should be permitted to provide access to papers that their publisher no longer makes available. Libraries should be allowed to provide access to academic publications whose copyright holders have vanished. There needs to be some mechanism along these lines, or else Elsevier and their ilk will gouge the academic libraries even more severely.

  • by Pauli (72610) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:44PM (#39786581)

    Libraries have a mission to disseminate knowledge, and a budget for this purpose (i.e. they are already paying the $40,000 for the journal subscription). They also have a lot of the infrastructure needed for online publishing (high speed network connections, servers, computer programmers). They should cut out the middleman and run competing journals themselves.

    • by cpghost (719344)
      Where are mod points when you need them? I wish I could moderate the parent +5 insightful! University Libraries are indeed the ideal publishers. It is mind boggling that it didn't happen yet... at least on a wider(er) scale.
  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:45PM (#39786587)
    turning the HBR publications such as Harvard Business Review and the many other journals they publish into open access journals? I'd like that, because it means the articles I've written for them I could no give away for free rather than pay a copying fee for each one.
  • by apcullen (2504324) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:49PM (#39786659)
    They need to get away from peer reviewed journals entirely and switch to a slashdot-style moderation system.

    Then papers will be acknowledged or disregarded solely based on their abstracts, with no one actually reading TFA, as they should be.
    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Don't forget the slashdot effect, whereby linked articles are rendered unusable when 2 million users simultaneously fail to RTFA. Perhaps I'll write a scientific paper exploring this paradox...
    • You mean people do actualy read TF academical articles?

  • by janoc (699997) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:57PM (#39786773)
    Switching to Open Access journals is great - except when a major journal asks you to pay 3000 USD (as an author) if you want your article accessible under their Open Access policy. Otherwise it goes behind the expensive subscription/paywall. Guess which option I am going to take if my boss pressures me to publish in a high-impact journal ...

    Yes, it was an Elsevier journal, but this is not specific to them, others do this as well.

    Researchers get stuck between a rock and hard place - we have to publish in high impact journals (otherwise our funding is cut, low impact factor publications don't count), but ideally open access (few high impact journals are Open Access) to save expenses for the library and you can bet that nobody will give me the 3k to pay that extortionist fee above, especially not if I am to publish at least twice a year in such journal. So what am I to do?

    Honestly, this does suck. Wearing my engineering hat, it is next to impossible to pay all the IEEE, ACM, what-not subscriptions I would need to access papers in my field as a private company - that's why there is so much reinventing the wheel and patenting the obvious. We had the ACM and IEEE membership and there was always a journal or a conf that was not covered. With outfits like Elsevier, Taylor & Francis etc. it gets even worse, because the subscriptions are per journal. It is completely impossible situation for a small company to deal with.

    • Honestly, this does suck. Wearing my engineering hat, it is next to impossible to pay all the IEEE, ACM, what-not subscriptions I would need to access papers in my field as a private company

      I do a lot of publishing in IEEE conferences/journals, and I also do a lot of citing of papers in these same venues. I've never really had a problem finding an open access paper from IEEE publications. Usually a quick search on Google scholar will link me to the fulltext paper on the researcher's homepage. This is because IEEE allows authors to publish accepted publications in open access repositories and their own homepage.

  • by williamyf (227051) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @04:37PM (#39787311)

    ... I see Harvard's owm publications, like, for instance, the Harvard Business review, become OpenAccess too...

    You see, those are real cash cows, and probably cost the Harvard library nothing, so, most harvard authors will keep publishing there, costing other universities a bundle.... So much for Open Access.

    Don't get me wrong, I hope this becomes true, and helps, but I have become a tad jaded...

    Just my two cents.

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @05:28PM (#39787987) Homepage

    I have a record of speaking out against closed journals (although, maybe not on here), and I've stirred the pot up on a couple of mailing lists.

    But there's one problem that people need to remember -- Elsevier and these others hold the copyright to large amounts of reference materials. If we cut them off entirely, and they don't change quickly enough, then they go backrupt ... and someone needs to be able to buy up that material so that it can be served to the public.

    Yes, we need to open things up going forward -- but we don't want to create a mini-dark age at the same time.

    (and if you want to read lots of the publisher's claims at why they need to keep things locked up, which is mostly 'because that's our business model', see http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/01/30/your-comments-access-federally-funded-scientific-research-results [whitehouse.gov] . And there's lots of great reasons from other people and groups about why it's such a dumb idea.)

  • I think the journal of vision, in my own field, has demonstrated the ease of migrating. The journal was started maybe a little over a decade ago, and it has already become the de facto journal for many leaders in the field. The editors are respected, although the review is (somewhat intentionally) less picky. With online journals it doesn't really cost much to host, so I kind of like that. In fact, I've virtually stopped reading some of the more expensive print journals because I don't just get a monthl

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