Cost is mad
The cost of access to on-line copies of material is maddening for a lot of Academic stuff if you are not in a University.
A critic of academic publishers has uploaded 19,000 scientific papers to the internet to protest the prosecution of a prominent programmer and activist accused of hacking into a college computer system and downloading almost 5 million scholarly documents from an archive service. The 18,592 documents made available Wednesday …
The cost of access to on-line copies of material is maddening for a lot of Academic stuff if you are not in a University.
... is to find in a search list an item for which the extracts look promising only to find after following the link that the actual text from which they are taken is behind a paywall.
I was under the impression that the main cost of the journals was because peer review is very expensive.
At least you know they exist.
Peer review is generally done for free-- nominally by professors, but in practice the bulk of the review is done by grad students. The bulk of the work, obviously, is by the researchers who write the articles, and they similarly receive no compensation for their work from the publishers.
It's hard to say where the cost lies-- there's definitely some effort for formatting, and maintaining the infrastructure to distribute and index articles, but surely it can't be $30 for a single article served over the web. The whole situation with publication of academic works is shameful and sad.
The author can at least pay for their paper to be made open access... if they can find another 1000-odd dollars.
It's a good scam those journals have got going.
1. If the main cost of the journals was because peer review was very expensive they the cost for articles to universities would be much higher than zero.
2. Do you really think they are still engaged in the peer review of Newton's, Maxwell's and Darwin's historical papers?
No, this is all about preventing public from understanding science, restricting knowledge, and stifling debate.
This is about preventing graduates who have left academia from keeping up-to-date on their own.
The cost of publication could be funded the way the cost of publication of junk science is funded -- by advertising.
Peer review is generally done for free by other academics. Like having publications, doing peer review is important for an academic CV. So the publishers charge the university libraries a fortune, pay the authors nothing, pay the peer reviewers nothing, and (3) profit!
Universities are as guilty as the journal publishers. They force graduates to return to university to stay up-to-date, rather than letting us use the learning we've acquired to stay up-to-date through independent study.
Individuals can pay $20 for a single article, or $700 per year for access to a single journal from a single computer.
A university library system only pays a few thousand dollars for annual access to dozens of related journals.
It's not about "preventing public from understanding science, restricting knowledge, and stifling debate"; it's purely about making money.
Yes, I agree.
But it has precisely that effect.
Some do pay reviewers to look at the work, although I expect not most, and even if they do it is nominal.
There are the copier editors who review it, the typesetters who set the work, the editors who oversee the process, the publishers who own the publication, the cost of printing, and the cost of distribution. In a chicken and egg problem, prices tend to be set high so that the publisher can be sure of recouping enough money to support his operation, which make them unaffordable to larger numbers of people who might otherwise provide support for the journal. And if the publisher for the journal is actually a university, they may be looking to make money to put into general fund coffers for themselves.
Most of the well-known journals and conferences either charge for every step of the process or have volunteers handle the work for them. All those people who do in house work only have to handle minor tasks that don't normally rate exorbitant salaries. I.e. you don't need to pay someone a six figure salary to take drafts from scientists and send them out to other scientists to review, collect the reviews and send them back to the authors. Typesetting for most journals is laughable, all the typesetter has to do is take the text from the draft and copy it into an existing template that ensures all the formatting is correct. Printing on nice shiny paper is expensive, but that doesn't affect the cost of the online copy at all.
Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the reference, however I do remember seeing a new conference that was actually willing to pay the scientists to publish their articles as well as pay for them to come and present their work at the conference. Sadly, it was some unknown conference in Eastern Europe, IIRC.
While, not the most respected news organization, PHD comics offers a short interview with an editor from Nature describing their view of the publication process. http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1200
It's significant, but hardly 'very' expensive. The costs of peer review are less than 30% of the total direct costs of publication and distribution of scholarly articles. And that doesn't include the indirect societal costs... See http://blog.openwetware.org/scienceintheopen/2009/03/03/what-is-the-cost-of-peer-review-can-we-afford-not-to-have-high-impact-journals/
Peer review could be done on a post-publication basis, as suggested by the article I cited.
We face an enormous problem in the form of bogus copyright claims from institutions, publishers, museums and companies like Google. Derived works have no copyright of their own but supposedly a scan (and how much more derived can you get?) is magically granted copyright status. Bollocks.
Nothing wrong with copyright as a general concept, but the files he has uploaded simply are out of copyright and should be available. If the Royal Soc. can't cover their costs for archiving a single paper in the 70+ years they legally own it then there's something wrong and holding the papers to ransom isn't the solution.
They should have funded the scanning and disk storage out of the tax dollars they've been given.
There is some value in facsimilie reproductions... but it's mostly in paper, printing, binding, etc. Scans are a dime a dozen.
The whole scientific publishing "business" is sort of broken -- at least for the tax payer, although not for the publishers, apparently.
The way it is now, the taxpayer pays TWICE for the information to be published:
- the first time around: there are, usually, fees for authors to publish, and they can run into the hundreds of dollars, when not more than $1000. Said fees are paid with grant money, which usually comes from government bodies (in my case, NIH and NSF, for example).
- the second time they pay: to read the papers, you have to subscribe, or be part of an institution that subscribes, to that journal. Public universities (or those that receive public money) could be using tax money again to pay for access to those papers. To buy an individual paper is ridiculously expensive, I usually see $30 as the price, never less than $15 or so. Hell, you can almost subscribe to some journals for that amount (the Systematic Biology journal for example is $40 to $60 a year, depending of your functional status).
One alternative being tried right now is the open access model. The author pays more to publish, but it is guaranteed that the paper can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection. I got a paper accepted yesterday in one such journal -- it will cost about $1300 to publish that paper there, but at least we know we, or anyone else, won't be locked out of our work.
Now call me silly if you will, but could the government (or funder) not require the write-ups to be made available within said public universities and libraries? OK, so that wouldn't necessarily be in the prestigious journal, but science isn't for the glory (or so we the taxpayer are told).
Here in Blighty, the loss of "Royal" from the said society could be the stick to at least not pay twice for submission...
Well, that would be possible, of course. Sort of like arXiv or the like, sure (there's nothing like that, significant, in my area: biological sciences). But libraries and universities don't usually do typesetting, proofing, editing, peer reviewing (which, for good or evil, is going to continue being the system in publishing), distributing (how are the guys in China going to read your paper, or you theirs? At least a website has to be set up and managed), etc. My boss is one who always keeps saying that we should get away from journals and just put research results on web pages. Too big of a cultural shift, but might happen with time.
And, I forgot to mention in my first post, even if the public institutions do not subscribe for the content, you will still pay twice for it if you need it: first with your taxes that went to fund the work and pay for publication fees, and then when you pay again to privately access the content.
We set up http://knowledgeblog.org in an attempt to overcome the problems of posting to the web. At heart it justs uses Wordpress, but we have added a system to manage peer-review, DOIs (technologically useless but good for social reasons), a system for doing references. We are searchable and archived by the British Library.
None of this is rocket science and it works surprisingly well. The scientists can still write papers in Word and it all comes out fine. So far we have around 50 articles of different sorts, after about a year. It's not going to break the academic publishing stranglehold over night, but it is quick, open access and very cheap.
I used to wonder what the publishers do for their money. I've stopped thinking about it now, but I know that what ever it is, it's not actually of any use.
"Now call me silly if you will, but could the government (or funder) not require the write-ups to be made available within said public universities and libraries?"
It sort of does in some cases. Many of the funding councils have open access policies, but they are not that tightly policed. Of course, the journals tend to argue against this arguing that their procedures are necessary for science, ensure the long term longevity of articles and so forth.
Personally, I find this arguments laughable, but they are a 2 billion pound per annum industry. Governments like economic arguments. As most governments see it, the alternative which would be to replace the whole lot with a website would be a loss to the economy because it would result in only millions changing hands.
> open access model. The author pays more to publish
There's no need for that; the act of publishing is very much cheaper today than it has historically been.
I'd happily run a repository for such works if I thought it would do any good; the problem we all face is that readers generally want "prestige" in the organ used for storing such papers, and that prestige is currently vested in these journals that play daft games with copyright laws. I could open up a site tomorrow that could hold academic papers long-term and grant readers access to those papers at little or no cost - but nobody would use it.
All the UK Research Councils plus Wellcome have a OA funding mandate of deposit into UKPMC after 6 months.
Of course in some cases the publishers will do this. But at a cost. Elsevier charges $3000 a paper for example.
This is on top of other costs such as colour image charges. And that's just to get it published and available to the public afetr 6 months.
Don't forget you'll have to have a print subscription and an online subscription to gain access to all the other papers that are not OA or that you want to read right now. OA is great for the member of the public but useless for the scientist unless there is immediate deposit.
If we had a policy of 12 months OA deposit as the NIH does maybe we wouldn't be wasting huge amounts of money? I know how much we spend on OA in a year and we are small. Across all the Research councils it must run into millions a year. And that's millions that up to day 2007 we weren't paying at all.
What makes you think the publishers do any typesetting?
In the last quarter of a century they have all asked either for camera ready copy or for LaTex conforming to a particluar template which will go into a machine that produces film without any typesetting other than that explicity defined in the LaTex source provided by the author.
"All the UK Research Councils plus Wellcome have a OA funding mandate of deposit into UKPMC after 6 months."
That would be interesting if it were true, but actually it is false. It applies only to articles published in Life Sciences journals - most science (physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, mathematics, computer science...) is not covered, neither I believe are pure humanities papers (which are the province of AHRC). Not all UK research councils fund life sciences research! Maybe 2 or 3 UK RCs are involved, but I think that more than half of RCUK's seven members are rather unlikely to be concerned with papers of interest to UKPMC.
having once been said typesetter for just such a publication. We weren't attached to a university, but our stuff is used extensively The States as acceptable testing methods to meet certain government testing requirements.
doesn't understand why individual manual downloads are not objected to but script driven trawls are one suspects she hasn't had an awful lot to do with running big data stores on small budgets in the real world...
Sorry, "small budgets"? Maybe we're not talking about the same JSTOR. Take a look at http://www.jstor.org/ and tell me that's "small". It's only the largest academic information repository on this planet.
On the other hand, the future demand for those files will presumably drop off now that they've been mirrored. So JSTOR's future losses (which presumably form the basis of any damages) might actually be negative.
Be careful what you ask for. You may get it.
Out-of-copyright works (I mean really out of copyright, Tudor times!) are republished with dire copyright warnings attached.
I don't mind paying for the hosting, or for the paper/printing, even a contribution towards the scanning/editing costs. But most music publishers take the pee.
If they change the font, the text size, apply a style to it then it is the typographical copyright that they own and that is what you are breaking if you reproduce it, you can copy the copyright free text, but everything 'new' makes it a new document.
It is particularly damning when journals copyright material that tax dollars directly (or indirectly) paid to create.
Taxpayers pay for the profs and grad students (in whole or in part), we pay for the equipment and materials, and then a private journal "converts" this public material to private material.
And if it isn't UK taxpayers, it is US or Canadian taxpayers, either directly, or through tax breaks for donations to educational charities.
Such "conversion" of public property to private use is or is close to breaking the law.
The problem is nobody pushes for prosecution, nobody pushes to expand the law on conversion.
We all suffer separately, one $20 article at a time.
There are two copyrights. The copyright on the composition, which lapsed in Tudor times. And the copyright on the manuscript itself, which may still be current. Probably is, if the ink dried during the 20th or 21st centuries.
If so, you can re-publish by copying the music in your own hand creating a new visual artwork representing the same music. Or by entering it into a computer, and using a computer to typeset (music-set?) it. I believe that these days, up to a point, you can do this by playing it robotically on a keyboard, then correcting the mistakes made by the soulless machine. In the future the computer might even be able to translate from a performance back to a manuscript (like Mozart did with Allegri's misereri).
What you aren't allowed to do, is distribute photocopies of a copyright manuscript.
This does actually make sense. Writing out a score beautifully clear, by hand, is a laborious process (most composers' originals are not very pretty - Bach more so, Beethoven less so). Love, or money? Of course, when the human can be replaced by a computer scanning a score and re-setting it via a printer, the value of copyrights on a manuscript drops close to zero, just like it has done for out-of-copyright books of text that can be converted to ASCII files.
Should not matter about the actual content, but how you get it out to people.
Off the top of my head, Properly organised and index the papers, with related papers grouped and linked together with summaries of how things have changed over the years. Access to experts to ask questions about the research would be highly also desirable.
If it saves them time and makes things easier, then people are happy to pay for it. The current offering of just the scientific papers as they have received them does not cut it.
"Off the top of my head, Properly organised and index the papers, with related papers grouped and linked together with summaries of how things have changed over the years. Access to experts to ask questions about the research would be highly also desirable."
- I don't know about you, but where I live we call those places libraries, they have professionals who can help you make sense of all of the information and in most cases they'll lend it to you for free.
They take the article that we taxpayers paid to create, and that someone has paid to publish, and they turn around and charge us to access our own article.
The indexing, in medicine the NIH does that in the USA, a government agency providing free indexing and sales assistance to profit making journal publishers, to help them make money from public investment.
But other indexing, a lot of people have degrees and know how to read journal articles. And many people who don't have degrees are capable of learning on their own to read them.
The problem is we aren't close to a university library -- a library that would give us free access.
We are stuck learning from abstracts and pseudo science summaries.
Registries of Deeds do the same thing, and they don't charge money to access the scans. (Except in very corrupt areas...)
The more I learn, the more I come to leaning toward viewing these "crimes" as a morally justifiable act of civil disobedience.
I had this same shift of opinion myself. For me, ever since I learnt the words "vested interests" I have found the concept illuminating and appropriate when analysing situations.
I since expanded the concept to include the vested interests of normal people, who just have bills to pay, not just the typical "Big Tobacco" style evil corporatism. We're all trapped by something.
Once again, what we have here is a group of people with their source of income tied up in keeping things as they are, even as the sands shift around them. But it takes imagination and courage to leap out of an intellectual mindset, so we should take that into consideration when we discuss the JSTOR folks wanting to hold on to their model
Do they really think that will keep the singularity away?
We are doomed anyway...
then surely they are out of copyright and so should be available to everyone for free (in all senses of the word). Am I missing something other than the Royal Society trying to pull a fast one ?
Isn't this something a company like Google could easily fix. They have huge resources and could easily provide the hosting for these research papers, they have already shown the will to do this with library books.
I also feel the same way about government information, such as court case transcriptions. The law says they should be publicaly available to all, yet the only way to get access to them is to pay some law publisher a subscription to access them. That's not publicly available?
Okay, so if the costs are in sorting, cataloging, indexing, and serving the stuff, why not let Google do it... they'll stick some ads on and provide it for free.
There's another related issue to "journals" which does not get talked about. Let's say you do some research and find something which does not agree with "accepted wisdom" (like the necessity of using leeches as the first step in any medical treatment). The item is duly peer-reviewed, and your peers all agree your paper is sound.
However the editorial board of the Journal have a different agenda. They rely on the Leech Supply Company for a lot of their advertising revenue, and your paper, if published, is going to destroy the Leech Supply Company, and their advertising income with it.
So your paper is never going to get published....
And that is why Science is in such a mess.
Before he heisted the Daily Mirror Pension fund. of £400m.
Historically there was *some* justification due to the typesetting complexity of subjects like mathematics (Why DE Knuth invented Tex and and released the design to the American Mathematics Association).
*But* given most *all* journals require papers in electronic format to begin with nowadays and I'd be surprised that most small run journals don't have dedicated printing/binding systems *optimised* for the kind of print runs they need.
It's like the car business moving from 100 000 *exact* copies to nearly every car on the line being customised.
So for the modern stuff it's a case of run it through the PDF converter and make sure theirs space on the server and bandwidth to send it over.
The situation is different for old journals which will have to be scanned and the archive will argue the per page cost is the same and they will have to do it even if that edition is *never* accessed by anyone (which is possible. At $15 and up an article "casual" browsing is not exactly encouraged)
For the volumes involved I'd think a big tape library would be a *very* good investment, especially with some journals (J Electrochemical Society) going back 100s of years.
I'd say the *publishing* of academic journals is (surprisingly) quite like the music industry. More or less what the market will bare with little link to *actual* production costs and some big titles with a lot of journals with *much* smaller readerships.
So the question is should paper versions *fund* the eVersion (perhaps released a few months later to encourage leading edge researchers to subscribe or heaven forbid order a 1 off copy) or charge (but at something sensible per page, not the current stupid prices) and rely on global access (1 in 10 000 buys it that's 600 sales)?
There is no Project Gutenberg for academic publications.
Mine's the one with a photocopy of something or other I got on inter library loan.
you are unaware of the complexities of moving the myriad of accepted file formats into the various typsetting programs and tweaking the hell out of the layout until it all fits in the prescribed space. And making sure none of the formatting is lost in translation amongst the different systems.
>The situation is different for old journals which will have to be scanned and the archive will argue the per page cost is the same and they will have to do it even if that edition is *never* accessed by anyone (which is possible. At $15 and up an article "casual" browsing is not exactly encouraged)
Okay, make the papers available, we'll send some students over to scan them.
>There is no Project Gutenberg for academic publications.
I'll wager a round of drinks that we could have such a project going in short order. Either that or feed them to the Google Book-Borg.