Scientific publishing is a rip-off. We fund the research – it should be free

30 comments

  1. bverstegen

    |Author

    I agree with this. Many scientific journals nickle and dime contributors. You pay to submit, you pay to edit, you pay to revise, you pay to retract, you pay and pay. And then, your research is placed behind a pay-wall. Complete rubbish!

  2. Edward_Parks

    |Author

    I have to agree here. During my career I have been a researcher. With a pension of mine which is outside of academia, I have always found the publishing practices and paywalls abhorrent and antithetical to the point of research. Definitely not acceptable, when researching is mainly to expand the realm of knowledge for everyone. It doesn’t end here as journal especially online charge the author to publish his article. Personally, I’m sure there are great discoveries that have been buried just because of lack of fund.

    I understand researches should be rewarded for their research results. But somehow if no one can find or even get the latest and best information available, how can we expect our civilization to grow. How can we have an informed population, when publishers spend all of their time preventing that information from being known to anyone outside of academia.

  3. SharkSymphony

    |Author

    “Hm, I wonder what it would take to get the University of California to start mandating open access?” I thought to myself.

    Then I found out I’m behind the times:

    https://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/open-access-policy/

    There’s at least one big catch though: publishers can refuse to go along with the open-access requirement, leaving professors in rather a bit of a bind. But UC tracks how often this happens, and gives you a rough idea of who’s being a jerk:

    https://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/open-access-policy/publisher-communications/

    Interestingly, Elsevier’s not very high up on the list…

    This is still a pretty new policy. Anyone out there run into this? How’s it working out?

  4. THE_GR8_MIKE

    |Author

    One of my professors told us how he’d have to pay to get HIS OWN ARTICLES because they were published. What he’d do is link all of his work on his site for free. He said he’d gotten threatened before but he basically told them to fuck off. One of my favorite professors.

  5. NoMoreNicksLeft

    |Author

    Universities should be publishing their own open source text books too. You’re already paying outrageous prices for textbooks that are literally designed to soak you for as much cash as possible, designed to be unresellable (one-use online codes, scrambling homework problem numbering but keeping the same questions, etc).

    This isn’t even the university itself trying to grab extra cash because they fear they can’t raise tuition or other such non-sense. The universities have little or nothing to do with it, textbook publishers are a parasitic industry.

  6. incompetech

    |Author

    Actually more and more we don’t fund the research thanks to the industry and it’s goals.

    For example as late as the 90’s the majority of research funding going towards our land grant agricultural colleges came from the tax payer. In the mid 90’s the land grant colleges started to receive more private funding than they did from the taxpayer. Since then we have seen the share of taxpayer funding continue to decrease.

    Now we effectively see our land grant colleges, who are supposed to be a bastion of unbiased science to keep the industry accountable by protecting the people, being converted into corporate contractors.

    It’s gets even worse, many scientists at the universities have been replaced at a whim thanks to the lobbying and bribery tactics of the industry.

    It is in the best interests of agribusiness and other industries to subdue independent science which would render their products obsolete or illegal.

  7. killallamakarl

    |Author

    Used to manage a public grant fund. One of our requirements was that we would provide any products via our website free of charge to the public. It should always be this way at the very least.

  8. ChalupaCabre

    |Author

    I have seen researchers in the past say to email them directly if you would like a free copy of their research report.

    Not sure exactly how common that is, but could be worth a shot if money is an issue for you and the information is really important.

  9. EphemeralMemory

    |Author

    Here is a secret that’s getting to be common knowledge:

    Want a scientific paper? Email the author and they will almost guaranteed send it to you for free. Hell, they will probably send parts with an explanation if you show an interest in their work. Professors love people reading their research. They will more than happily cut out the online journal and send you their paper.

    I’ve written several articles during my time grad school and published my thesis. I own none of that work. What’s really galling is as soon as you submit your paper to a journal, and pay the fees, you no longer technically own that paper. I need to subtly edit my figures I generated myself every time they’re re-used because they would hit a copyright flag. Same thing with segments of text.

    Academia is insane. Getting funding in academia is insane. Everything about wanting to do research at a university is insane. Its the reason I work in industry, besides the pay.

  10. cantgetno197

    |Author

    This issue is never as simple as people who heard about it five seconds ago and have decided to weigh in on it ever think. Now, let me say upfront that I’m a publishing scientist and everything I publish in peer review I also drop the pre-publication-and-editing manuscript onto arXiv, a free and open repository for such manuscripts.

    However, people should be aware of the competing incentive schemes involved in the problem that make it have no simple solution.

    First of all, it takes a long time to read a paper and a given scientist will only ever read some small amount per, say, week. Let’s say in a given week they will read 1% of all new papers released globally in their field, and next week they’ll read 1% of the crop of the next week and so on. There are literally thousands upon thousands of journals out there and the vast majority of them are JUNK who will publish anything and there’s only so much time in the day.

    So given that reality, scientists want to have that 1% they read contain work that is: a) most useful to their exact work, and b) of the highest quality and importance in progress their field.

    The flip side of this, is that the success of scientists as a career is basically based on: a) how many papers they produce and b) how many peoples READ and CITE those papers. That’s what determines if they remain employed or not and get to keep doing science.

    So what is most important to those who do science is that they know where to find GOOD papers and that there is a system where their own GOOD papers can be seen by as many as possible. That’s how “science” wins.

    So given that, what are the options to maximize scientific output?:

    1) Journals are private entities that make themselves rich by maximizing their SUBSCRIBER BASE. This puts economic pressure on them to only publish the best work that people want to read. If they publish crap, they lose subscribers.

    PROS:

    -Journals are of a high quality and scientist’s “1%” of reading is used in a very effective way.

    -Scientists, if they do good work, have a clear venue where they can guarantee that good work they do is seen by as many people as possible.

    CONS:

    -It’s an outrageous scam. They rely on people to submit articles, who they don’t have to pay, which are then reviewed by peers, who they don’t have to pay, and then outsource editing to some outfit in India for pennies and then sell it back to researchers for tens of thousands of dollars. It’s insane!

    -Mr. John Q. Public taxpayer can’t even read the research his taxes helped pay for.

    2) “Open Access” journals that are private but where the submitter pays a fee upfront and then the paper is available, to all for free. The journals then get rich by MAXIMIZING HOW MANY PAPERS THEY PUBLISH.

    PROS:

    -Mr. John Q. Public taxpayer can read the research his taxes helped pay for.

    CONS:

    -All journals are crap with no standards and will publish anything cause that’s how they make money. They don’t care how many people READ what they publish.

    3) Ignore journals entirely and put everything on a free host like arXiv

    PROS:

    -Free for everyone

    CONS:

    -All research, good or bad, is just thrown into an endless soup that is mostly junk and most good papers go unread and scientist’s “1%” is largely wasted reading things of little value.

    So, you see. It’s really not a clear-cut situation. I’m not picking a side, but people get all up in arms about whether papers are free or not and demand dramatic, broad-sweeping solutions and fixes that will change everything from the ground up and then you ask them “when is the last time they actually tried to read a paper” and they’re like “Oh… uh, never. But it’s the IDEA of the thing.”

    In the country where I live it’s soon going to be mandatory to publish in Open Access journals. I’m concerned it is going to do more harm than good. It hurts young scientists who need big publications on their CVs because all the “big” journals like Science and Nature are now closed to them and it just makes it so people have no idea where to even look to find out the new big discoveries. But, on the counter point to that, as this article says, private journal companies have an OUTRAGEOUS racket that is beyond infuriating.

  11. A-Yugen

    |Author

    I like to imagine what coding would be like if everyone were charged every-time they wanted to use code someone else had written;

    then I like to imagine what science would be like if people didn’t.

  12. FutureBarnacle

    |Author

    > The model was pioneered by the notorious conman Robert Maxwell. He realised that, because scientists need to be informed about all significant developments in their field, every journal that publishes academic papers can establish a monopoly and charge outrageous fees for the transmission of knowledge.

    Does this make sense to anybody? Everybody needs access to info, so we’d better put up a paywall and charge ridiculous amounts of money?

    Overall, it does seem like ridiculous practice for the whole field of academia. Shouldn’t it be all about sharing and building on others’ work? Good for Alexandra Elbakyan. I agree that she’s a hero. I hope the never find her. Hopefully it’ll end up like ThePirateBay. They just keep coming back.

  13. jayhasbigvballs

    |Author

    Totally agree with this. Especially when many journals still charge the author to publish the article (typically just online).

    The move of several granting agencies to force authors to publish in Open Access journals or with Open Access for their paper is an important step to acknowledging that science (funded largely by the public purse) should be accessible to those that have paid for it (the average taxpayer). This will shift the cost burden onto the grant and off of the audience.

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