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RE: Call for quick action: Elsevier trying to restrict open access to US-government-funded research!
Robert, I take your point in regards to Elsevier wanting to partake of the
funding produced here, as well as several other things said below. I take issue
with the argument (both previously in this discussion and from below) about the
comment on "double dipping" through taxpayer funds: all taxpayer funds provided
to the NIH are through the US Dept of Health & Human Services, and as such only
US citizens actually must double dip by paying for access to research they
payed for. If, on the other hand, you are involved in other publically funded
research programs in other nations, where private or university publishers
produce the documents which your funding paid for, then you're set, and have it
easy. The US has largely demolished almost all publicly-funded research
journals, and virtually all of them are for-profit (there's a strong
pro-business environment in the US, along with a vociferous anti-business
Yes, economically, a consumer tries to get what he has for the lowest cost
(which is generally free), while the producer wants them to pay as much as
possible (which is what the richest man is willing to part with, say, a
million-dollar note [real _walking around_ money, as Mom said]). But Elsevier
will never part with their product for free, and the consumer will complain
about almost any cost. This is a no-win scenario, generally, and so someone
must compromise. This leads us to where the NIH is telling Elsevier they _must_
compromise after a year (giving a grace during with profits can be made, but a
demand they cannot make as much money through), while Elsevier feels that it is
being asked to sell a thousand pieces of something, but only being able to make
money off of ten of them, then just give the rest away for free. There is
nothing here that compels to the interests of Elsevier (save the grace period)
but quite a lot to the interests of the consumer. In this way, the consumer is
far ahead of the game, and Elsevier can take a loss -- especially if the
consumer is bright enough to just wait out the year and then never pay Elsevier
I take the point easily that part of what makes Mike tick in this debate has
been the atrocious fees Elsevier (and others) charge for access to this
material. Part of my vehemence in responding on this has been that fact that
economically, Elsevier is providing a service to authors (publishing) which is
free, in exchange for what is essentially their right of distribution and
production. These publishers charge a very, very large system of what can be
economically problematic or crippling fees to do what authors typically do,
which is freely distribute their works. Cope's famous *Elasmosaurus* monograph
was produced _twice_ at his personal expense, the second time after he paid for
the return of the erroneous copies which had the head on the wrong end of the
vertebral column (damn you, amphicoelous vertebrae!). The copies, handed over
free to interested parties, is part of what made "old timey" article publishing
work, and he saw no money from this work. It was produced in the interests of
advancing knowledge and science.
Those days are [largely] gone now. These days, we get to deal with publishing
_giants_, houses that produce at cost for the sake and the right to make money.
And money they will. Like any buisness, these may eventually descend a slope
toward unethical, monopoloid practices where they demand you go to lesser,
"weaker" houses in order to get your work published, but it won't be as good
and as popular without the tools you are missing out on. Elsevier provides for
you certain levels of publicity and the simplicity of taking the job of review
(for the sake of "blind" review and "blind" editing) largely out of your hands,
and for the most part, completely without cost to the submitters. In exchange,
they demand all rights of publication and access, and they tell you this pretty
much up front.
In typical publishing, authors and publishers take shares of the income
produced from selling, while in technical science publishing, this income is
given solely to the publishers. While the former seems less altruistic and
"sciencey" for the authors to demand some contractual royalties on the
purchases made of even digital copies of their own work, this may actually
alleviate the financial strains authors feel when they find they cannot
distribute freely. Elsevier is not alone in restricting access rights to
themselves, but there are a number of houses that also limit how much of their
works can be made _freely_, while still others make all of it free.
I find Elsevier's actions in regards to lobbying Maloney perfectly in line
with the rest of lobbying that occurs in Washington, D.C., and thus no better
or worse than those who lobbied congresspersons to get the NIH Public Access
Policy passed. That she has received thousands should mean _nothing_ compared
to the fact that she represents publishing houses in her district; or that
there are lobbies that spend _billions_ for legislation that benefits them that
is far, far worse than H.R. 3699 and so forth for the science community,
including bills created to promote Intelligent Design in public schools in the
USA, break down anti-pollution laws, and so forth. This does not mean I do not
find Elsevier's actions morally questionable, but only by taking the relativist
stance that I find the actions of some scientists also morally questionable
when they demand that Elsevier makes too much money to reasonably have an
interest in charging the fees they do. I think the fees are too high, by leaps
and bounds, for the products they charge for, and the disproportionate costs
(Taylor Francis, publishing _Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology_, charges the
same fee for access to a 2 page note as for a 55 page research article! And
it's not a low fee for these economic times!). On the other side of things,
however, some scientists feel they should have access to these things for the
sake of critical research, which is only really relevant in the medical
And on that, I think, I have a tad more to say (you all groan!).
If information is imperiled by lack of access, then produce the data freely
in journals that do not restrict your access. Publish it online, digitally,
provide the data without constraint. There is a sentiment that, no matter how
well reviewed, edited, and backed up data is, unless it is _actually published_
on paper or in some journal, it's not worth the blood spilt during its
production. This brings up other issues, but I will digress too far.
Scientists as a whole are a communicative lot, but they also tend to be
enormously secretive. It's all about being first, and restricting your
coauthors to friends and students, and about getting your name recognized for
the sake of that snazzy job. It is thus immediately apparent to me that those
who decry the actions of Elsevier as limiting to science's exposition are
hypocrites for publishing in journals which restrict those authors in a way
that is obvious when you first submit your works.
NIH has a great position, one that I agree with, that the access to digital
copies (at least) should be made available so that reviewers and other medical
personal and patients may gain access to studies that directly impact their
work or treatments. But this only goes so far as timely-imperative work, and
while most medical work falls under this umbrella, some (including psychology
and other "soft sciences" as well as philosophical arguments [like this one]
and descriptions of taxa) do not. It is my feeling that Elsevier shouldn't
really restrict medical data at all; but is free to do so on all other
research, based solely on your choice to submit to their publishing practices.
Jaime A. Headden
The Bite Stuff (site v2)
"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)
"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion
> Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2012 10:06:49 -0500
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: Call for quick action: Elsevier trying to restrict open access
> to US-government-funded research!
> On Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 8:38 PM, Jaime Headden wrote:
> > 2. This does not enforce the law against those who do not receive NIH
> > monies. If you do, and you are publishing, then the law compels you to act
> > accordingly, and use PubMed. If you intend to publish research in an open
> > access journal or a book, and receive NIH monies for the research you are
> > publishing on, then you have nothing to worry about, but must still make
> > your material available through PubMed. If you wish to publish in non-open
> > access, and receive NIH monies, but said publisher wishes to maintain
> > rights to access into the future, then you shouldn't have published there.
> > It seems contingent on this that one enables open availability through the
> > publisher in compliance with the law, but that some wish to do en end run
> > around this and force the publishers to comply instead.
> What El is trying to do is make it so they can have access to the
> massive public funding and then charge everyone for it. They're not
> trying to deal with 'people doing an end run' around the law, they're
> making sure that they get a piece of the public money.
> > 3. Elsevier is not the only publishing house involved. It is currently one
> > of the companies that has lobbied for access to this congresswoman as a
> > mouthpiece; this is not new in US politics. [I say nothing about how I feel
> > about this.] Note that the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and
> > John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (Wiley) were supporters (and backers) of the
> > earlier legislation, and it is reported that AAP is still a supporter of
> > the current one; Elsevier is not listed as a supporter, merely the
> > originator of monies the sponsor of the bill has received.
> > Aside from Elsevier publishing popular medical and earth science journals
> > such as _The Lancet_ and _Cretaceous Research_, Wiley published (among
> > others) the _Biological_ and _Botanical Journal[s] of the Linnaean
> > Society_, _Journal of Systematic Palaeontology_, _Cladistics_, _Journal of
> > Evolutionary Biology_ and _Evolution_, among others. Wiley is a member of
> > AAP. You can't publish in Wiley journals the same as in Elsevier; but what
> > holds for Wiley doesn't necessarily hold for Elsevier: Mike Taylor brought
> > up
> > To lay this solely on Elsevier's shoulders is only validating an erroneous
> > course of action: one villainizes a particular company, and scapegoats it
> > to say something nasty about a for-profit >business paleontologists have
> > been publishing through for the last several decades,
> Indeed, in a way this is like historical, biological constraints. Its
> not done for a good reason, and it's not the way you would design it,
> it's just the way things ended up.
> It's an historical accident that some Dutch Company ended up being so
> gigantic in science publishing.
> > 4. I am going to repeat my statement that Elsevier, as a for-profit
> > business, has costs
> The company's interest is to sell at the highest price possible, and
> the consumer's interest is to buy at the lowest price possible.
> > No one who uses their services has a right to complain that the fee they
> > are asked to pay should be waived
> Everyone that uses any service should always demand the lowest price.
> >As a company in the business of making money, they operate in a market in
> >which they provide a service, and just like any market, if you do not like
> >their wares, go somewhere else.
> Except that alongside the private sector, there's a public sector.
> They want access to that public sector, they don't like that people
> can't publish in their journals if the research is publically funded.
> Tough on them; that's the way it should be, let them compete.
> > Again, this is like biting that hand that feeds you, and demanding more
> > food.
> Charging publicly funded universities for access to reports done by
> those publically funded universities is biting the hand that feeds
> you. Adding more fees on top of that is silly.
> They're publishers, heck they're not even editors or in a lot of cases
> they're not even typesetters (many journals require submissions
> already typeset via software like latex, which, btw, was created in
> the public sector).
> > 5. Elsevier (or Wiley) is not the only game in town. There's are perfectly
> > good publishers that would enjoy your works at varying levels of size,
> > including _Palaeontologica Electronica_ >and _PLoS ONE_. So the issue here
> > I do not think is that one is absolutely forced to use these publishers for
> > the purposes you want. These publishers will openly and costlessly comply
> > >with the authors who themselves wish to comply with the NIH Public Access
> > Policy. I get the feeling (and this is where my gripe comes in) that a
> > group of potential or actual publishees >wish to bully the publishers to
> > acceding to US law so that they can themselves freely share their work. The
> > end goal is nice, but the means are disgusting.
> If Els and others want to publish papers that are based on publicly
> funded research then they're going to have to make it publicly
> available. They're the ones trying to do an end run around the law
> here, it's not like someone tricked them into publishing a paper
> without telling them it was publicly funded.
> They simply want to compete in the public AND the private sector
> without playing by the public rules; that's the problem.
> > As I said before, there are two ridiculously simple resolutions to this: A)
> > Stop publishing in Elsevier or other publishers who choose not to make
> > NIH-paid work available; and/or B) Pay for >the additional cost of opening
> > the work to open access so that it can comply with the NIH Public Access
> > Policy.
> What you're forgetting here is that any such payment would clearly
> come from public support, one way or another it'd come off a grant,
> that's not Els or the researcher's money, that's the public's money.
> So again, no, Els doesn't get to charge public researchers a fee to
> get access to reports on publicly funded research, AND then charge
> another fee for pubmed listing.
> >Alternatively, one can take Eisen's suggestion: "scientists ask
> societies to which they belong to drop their membership in AAP." >>>>
> > I find this a great way to effectively enact change through democratic
> >action, "will of the >people" and all that.
> Or, as an additional measure, if some universities prohibited their
> employees from publishing in Elsevier journals, that might work too.
> >The tactics should be dissidence and non-compliance, not strongarm and
> This is a bit silly, the problem here is that Els is trying to change
> the law, if there's any bullying, that's it.snip