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Re: Call for quick action: Elsevier trying to restrict open access to US-government-funded research!
Now that the deadline is past...
Am 14.01.2012 06:14, schrieb Jaime Headden:
(there's a strong pro-business environment in the US, along with a
vociferous anti-business community).
Not that it matters here, but the anti-business community is small, has
no political representation worth mention, and is, when it's mentioned
at all, demonized and/or ridiculed in the media. There's no comparison
to the pro-business environment.
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.
I can only repeat: the publishers receive, _at no cost to themselves_,
the fruits of the labor of scientists: the manuscripts themselves, the
tables & figures, pretty much the editorial and review process,
proofreading, increasingly often copyediting*, and sometimes now even
layouting. They bear the costs of printing (as far as printing is still
done in this age of the pdf), distribution of the printed copies
(ditto), and web hosting (LOL), but that's pretty much it.
If you write a book, you get royalties, _even though_ the publisher
takes all the costs of the editorial process, copyediting, layouting,
printing and distributing. If you write a paper, you get nothing, and
you pay 900 US$ per color illustration (unless you're happy with not
having it printed in color, only included in color in the pdf).
* Many journals, even prestigious ones, don't do that anymore. Nature
Itself published "tuberocity" in the description of *Microraptor* in
2001, and the spelling mistakes haven't stopped since.
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.
Well... some open-access journals (for-profit ones that don't have
waivers for unfunded authors) are like that, except they don't publish
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.
The costs to the submitters and reviewers in terms of _time_ are
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.
Also consider: authors _do_ freely distribute pdfs and the reprints they
get for free*. After all, it doesn't help them if their publisher sells
more copies; what helps them is when people cite their papers, no matter
how they acquired them.
* Lots at some society-based journals, few at most journals, none at all
at many these days. A few journals even, laughably, act as if they could
limit the number of times authors send the pdf to other people!
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's an irrelevant _tu quoque_ argument.
If information is imperiled by lack of access, then produce the data
freely in journals that do not restrict your access.
That's easier said than done, you know.
Professional scientists are hired and promoted based on how good they
are. How do you measure the quality of a scientist? An easy way, and the
only feasible objective way, is to count how often their work is cited.
Usually, even this is not done directly, but the committees in question
rely on the impact factors of the journals the work was published in.
The extent to which scientists are measured by their impact factor (as
opposed to the committees actually reading all their papers, say)
differs between countries, but it's pretty bad in the US, worse in
France, and much less severe in the UK.
What can I say? As long as I don't have some kind of job security, it
would be financial suicide for me if I decided to only publish in APP
(impact factor = 1.9) or Contributions to Zoology (IF = 1.1) anymore (I
have published once in each). As often as I can, I must try to get into
things like Systematic Biology (...OK, that's at least Oxford
University; IF = 9.5), Evolutionary Biology (Springer; IF = 2.7) or the
Journal of Evolutionary Biology (Wiley; IF = 3.7) as often as possible,
never mind Nature (Nature Publishing Group; IF = 36.1, highest of all)
and Science (American Association of Publishers; IF = 31.4).
Well, assuming I'm at a rich institution or manage to get a fee waiver,
I suppose I can get into PLoS ONE (IF = 4.4) or, if I find something
mind-blowing but Nature and Science reject it, PLoS Biology (IF = 12.2).
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.
It needs to be peer-reviewed (which is easiest to ascertain if it's
published in a journal or edited book that says it's peer-reviewed), and
-- see above -- it needs to have an impact factor that is as high as
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.
Or indeed of _keeping_ the untenured job one has.
Not to be confused with embargoes, which protect nothing but the profits
of publishers and, in rare cases, priority in nomenclature.
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.
Yes, but against our will.