back to article Activist pens pirate's map to 'liberating' academic journals

The cause of those who feel that information wants to be free, and that academic research should always be, have a new tool: a guide to defeating tracking traps that could identify document leakers. An activist using the alias Storm Harding (@StormHarding) told the Chaos Communications Camp in Zehdenick, Germany, his "purely- …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Read a science story on El Reg. Look for the published paper. Oftentimes it is abstract only... that's where SciHub comes in.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      They're restricted by the paywall.... Not restricted by anything else that I've seen lately. As someone else said, follow the link about any scientific article. What stops you from reading it is the paywall.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I also think that people get pissed off that you have to pay for something that may well of been funded via taxes.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          I also think that people get pissed off that you have to pay for something that may well of been funded via taxes.

          In the US, even most "public" universities receive little in the way of public moneys. And while some disciplines do get a fair amount in government research grants, they're by no means the sole source of funding. And research that's funded with public money often does have to be made available to the public. And at state universities, many materials are available to residents of that state.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Surely, restricting the publication and distribution of an academic work hurts the author more than anyone else, or am I missing something here?"

      Sadly, you're missing two things. One is that it's more or less standard practice with peer-reviewed journals since they started online publishing to paywall papers. The other is that Jstor will vacuum up older papers, scan them and paywall them; I found stuff I wrote there but oddly enough they didn't ask my permission to do that. That reminds me, I really should get in touch and complain. It really pisses me off that possibly something I wrote might have been in the haul that drove Aaron Schwartz to suicide.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        That reminds me, I really should get in touch and complain. It really pisses me off that possibly something I wrote might have been in the haul that drove Aaron Schwartz [sic] to suicide.

        JSTOR was not responsible for Swartz's suicide. That responsibility falls on Swartz himself and the frankly vile behavior of Ortiz and the rest of the prosecution. The larger problem, of course, is the systemic, structural nastiness in the US justice system, which incentivizes excessive prosecution and grossly excessive punishment.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Surely, restricting the publication and distribution of an academic work hurts the author

      You aren't missing something, it does hurt authors. But you are missing something - and that's when you submit to a journal, you effectively hand over copyright control to the journal. There's a peer review process in place, one where paid editors and reviewers at universities will be getting (a fairly small sum of) money to make comments on your article and determine whether or not they're suitable for publication. Most journals are run out of universities, and they're effectively contracted out to publishers like Elsevier and SAGE because universities have no money (or more typically, they have less money and what little they do have, they spend it badly) and so it represents a good deal for the university.

      Meanwhile, the poor author gets next to nothing - except maybe prestige. What they do get is they lose the rights to publish the article elsewhere, and if they do want to publish elsewhere, then they need the permission of the publisher, and the publisher will probably get more of the royalties than the author.

      The publisher, however, is raking it in from such a system - despite the fact that most articles are written by public university staff, using public money, under the name of the university, and as such belong to the taxpayer of that country.

      This is the system that Elsevier and SAGE are desperate to protect. Because under this system, they rake in about 30% pure profit, which amounts to billions of dollars.

      This is also the system that academics are expected to publish under. And most departments are of the opinion that you need to 'publish or die'. Without publications, academics are seen as doing nothing. Without results, they're seen as doing nothing. This is contributing to the death of actual thought, as academics publish derivative works that present nothing new, in a format designed to please a narrow selection of peer reviewers, with results that can often be interpreted to mean something when in fact they lack any real significance. In other words, it's a system of protecting particular ways of doing things at all levels.

      Open access is a way out of this - but the costs of the peer review process are placed on the author and the institution. They could be between $2000 and $5000. When departments can't afford to employ tutors and can't afford to support their own postgrads and postdocs (who produce about 70% of the research at any given institution), then open access has a long way to go before it becomes the standard.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Surely, restricting the publication and distribution of an academic work hurts the author

        when you submit to a journal, you effectively hand over copyright control to the journal

        Depends on the journal.

        paid editors and reviewers at universities will be getting (a fairly small sum of) money

        In many disciplines, editors and reviewers are not paid. The EIC of a journal may get some quid pro quo compensation, such as a course release or larger office (woo!). In the humanities paying reviewers is essentially unheard of, at least in the US. And in many institutions, editorial duties don't even count for P&T (promotion and tenure), or if they do only apply to the service category, which in research universities is typically weighted low.

        Most journals are run out of universities, and they're effectively contracted out to publishers like Elsevier and SAGE

        Perhaps most are contracted out - I haven't seen reliable figures - but many are published by university presses or by academic organizations.

        the poor author gets next to nothing

        "next to nothing"? I don't think I've ever seen anyone get paid for a refereed article. In the sciences, it's not uncommon for an author to have to pay publication fees (generally out of research funding).

        most departments are of the opinion that you need to 'publish or die'

        Generally true of tenure-track faculty at research universities. Not all faculty are tenure-track (not by a long shot), not all universities are research institutions, and even then there are exceptions.

        This is contributing to the death of actual thought, as academics publish derivative works that present nothing new, in a format designed to please a narrow selection of peer reviewers, with results that can often be interpreted to mean something when in fact they lack any real significance.

        Hyperbolic rubbish. While there's certainly a lot of crap published under the peer-review system, there's also a tremendous amount of novel, useful work - far more than at any other time in human history. Anyone with even a glancing familiarity with, say, the history of ideas would recognize "the death of actual thought" as a claim so mind-bogglingly unsupportable it throws the rest of what you've written into serious doubt.

        Open access is a way out of this - but the costs of the peer review process are placed on the author and the institution

        It's not the cost of peer review, it's the cost of publication. I've been party to debates over open access with a few journals, prominent and obscure, which do not pay reviewers and have modest editorial costs. For those journals, the vast majority of the budget goes to publication. Nearly all of that is print publication, and it is cheaper to do online-only; but even then it's very difficult to survive without subscription fees.

        their own postgrads and postdocs (who produce about 70% of the research at any given institution)

        Again, depends on the discipline, and on the institution.

        It's amazing how many people think their experience of academia is universal.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surely, restricting the publication and distribution of an academic work hurts the author

          Not actually just my experience of academia. Try looking up some of the peer reviewed articles on journal publishing - that is, if they get through the gatekeeping process - and you'll find that the experience is generally true. Try reading the opinions of the people who don't believe the crap they've been fed by journal publishers and department heads who have a vested interest in supporting the journals: those who chose to set up open access, or those who choose not to publish derivative, piecemeal results in journals to make their CV look better.

          The system contributes to the death of original thought, and that's without doubt - largely because negative results are excluded, and so it becomes a game of repeating the same studies over and over again until you have significance. Almost everything you find these days is highly derivative and guaranteed to find favour with reviewers - because it's safe. Negative results - which are just as important as the positive ones - are excluded to the extent that people have felt the need to set up negative results journals. The peer review process is tightly locked down by a few people who then represent the views of the journal and therefore the views of the scientific community.

          You clearly only have a limited experience in the publishing field. And I say this not because I'm trying to insult you - like you did me, by claiming that I'm stating "hyperbolic rubbish" that discredits my entire argument - but simply because you have no idea about the sources of funding and how people actually get paid to publish papers. It's almost like you read a Wikipedia article and then blew it back out all over the page.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Surely, restricting the publication and distribution of an academic work hurts the author

            You clearly only have a limited experience in the publishing field.

            Oh, please. My wife was EIC of the preeminent academic journal in one of her fields for seven years, and took it to a new (UP) publisher, among other things. The current EICs are friends of mine, and I have numerous other friends who are on the editorial boards of various journals. I have indeed read a number of the peer-reviewed articles published in the last twenty years or so on the problems with academic publishing; I've also attended panels at major conferences such as MLA on the topic. And so on.

            I don't find this post any more convincing than your first one.

  2. fearnothing

    s/stenography/steganography/gi

  3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Boffin

    Different publishers take very different stances

    IEEE allows the authors to place the material on their website, provided that IEEE copyright notice is included, and that the server prominently displays a notice alerting readers to their obligations with respect to copyrighted material. An example is this one here (bottom of page in particular). This is a very good way of doing things I feel. Elseviers is FAR more restrictive, which is why I prefer publishing with IEEE.

    There is a big move towards open-access publishing. This allows anyone to access the paper, but is more costly for the authors. However, given the total cost of a typical research project, open access publishing costs are insignificant

    1. Rafael 1

      Re: big move towards open-access publishing

      > However, given the total cost of a typical research project, open access publishing costs are insignificant

      Not really -- some funding agencies and/or employers (at least here, in a big, soccer-loving-but-lately-not-quite-as-good-as-it-was South America country that shall remain anonymous) doesn't cover publishing costs, and some OA publishing fees are well in the hundreds of dollars, sometimes more than what a PhD is paid in a month.

      Then there are the predatory OA publishers, which are another problem...

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Re: big move towards open-access publishing

        OA costs can certainly be a problem. Our research foundation does pay for those costs (as do EU programmes, I gather). In other countries the situation is worse. A key problem is that new OA journals lack the impact factor of established journals, making setting up a new journal (OA or otherwise) difficult. IEEE allows you to choose a model in certain journals at least, I understand. That might be the best way forward: established journals offering a choice.

    2. Schultz

      "open access publishing costs are insignificant"

      This statement is factually true, but at the same time completely misleading.

      Science funds usually come distributed in many different pots and can then only be used for the prescribed purpose. Infrastructure money comes in big batches but end up in the building, equipment funds can only buy equipment, ... and then there is the flexible budget that can be used to pay all the other bills. So this year your average scientist might decide to EITHER replace some vintage computers, OR go to an international conference, OR pay for open access to his paper.

      It sucks (but much less so at my current place of employment:).

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Mycho Silver badge

      Scary link.

      "For example, a 1982 paper warned that Ebola was present in Western Africa when everyone assumed it wasn't. This information went unknown to Liberian doctors because they couldn't afford to pay the $32 reading fee -- that's half their weekly salary"

      Yup, that sounds like a valid reason to limit what information can be paywalled.

      1. Mycho Silver badge

        Re: Scary link.

        Just replying to myself because I found a better link for that one.

  5. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    FAIL

    Tossers

    The way you solve this is via promotion of Open access publishing and getting weight of numbers onside, via political lobbying to ensuring publically funded work is publically available.

    Without the authors permission to distribute (assuming they have actually retained it) any other approach is copyright theft pure and simple. How strong is the evidence that paywalling has cost lives? This smacks of some disrespectful wankers thinking that because in their high horse opinion the act of pay walling is immoral so therefore a breach of copyright law is justified.

    Point is this is solvable by better actions from the Authors - not by pissing them off and stealing their work.

    1. phil dude
      Megaphone

      Re: Tossers

      No scientific author publishes *anything* with the goal of limiting its reach - it is hard enough getting *anyone* to read your work!!!

      *all* of the technical review work is done for free by us (the scientific community, the peers). The funding for the research is provided by someone else (often to support the authors).

      The perverse incentive for academics to churn out publications is reflected in the "impact score" being used as a metric for "worth reading". Hence journals will pick and choose what to publish on the same basis as "The Sun" - does it sell more subscriptions.

      The NIH has made it a requirement to only publish in OA journals, but when careers are universities are based on publishing in the high impact journals, it makes it difficult.

      If you don't have an institutional subscription it is *very hard* to work independently. This financial disincentive combined with the massive amounts of tax-payer funding, is clearly a ripoff.

      We live in the most stimulating scientific research era of all time, and the dissemination of information is key to the future of humanity.

      This is a further example of artificial scarcity that belongs as a historical footnote...

      P.

  6. Dylan Byford
    Stop

    Time for universities to say enough is enough

    Isn’t the actual printing of journals a relatively cheap thing to do nowadays? And if you’re going fully online, it’s essentially ‘free’ surely? The costs are in co-ordinating the peer-review and the editing. I’m not an expert but I get the feeling the peer-review side tends to be done by university-paid academics (for kudos / love of the subject etc) and possibly the editing as well.

    Now, I believe the biggest customers of journals are universities. So … trying to get my head around this … aren’t universities (and ultimately students and / or tax-payers) paying both for the resources to produce content for journals and paying lots of money for the content they’ve provided to be shipped back to them with a ribbon on top?

    Am I missing something?

    1. moiety

      Re: Time for universities to say enough is enough

      Must admit, that was concerning me too. Building a site to disseminate academic papers would be easy and inexpensive.

      Apart from the publishers, I fail to see what anyone is getting out of it.

    2. Naselus

      Re: Time for universities to say enough is enough

      "aren’t universities (and ultimately students and / or tax-payers) paying both for the resources to produce content for journals and paying lots of money for the content they’ve provided to be shipped back to them with a ribbon on top?"

      Yup.

      Academic publishing was a racket before the web - journals make high profit margins and basically get academics to provide and proof-read most of the content for free, and then charge them to read it again afterwards. Now the web does exist, it's even more so. This is worse still because even some 'reputable' journals have decidedly shabby practices when it comes to checking up on their contributors; since the mid eighties, there have been a number of high-profile hoax papers submitted to and accepted by big journals without any effort to check up on whether the author is who they claim to be or has actually done the research.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Time for universities to say enough is enough

        journals make high profit margins

        Some - prominent journals published by commercial publishers in certain fields - do. The vast majority do not.

    3. phil dude
      Megaphone

      Re: Time for universities to say enough is enough

      I have access to no less than *3* different institutions for publication downloads, 2 universities and one national lab. If you can believe it I can find articles that are only available at one or the other, but not all.

      The scam continues as science grows, new journals are added and academics have more slots to fill.

      There is work to run a good journal, sure I'll give you that. But *not* $100 per *article*.

      An idea that has been floated is that they embargo the first 6 months (say), and then have free downloads.

      But the farce that we (the scientists) do the research, write the papers, REVIEW the papers and then have to pay for them. This has GOT to stop.

      This practice is bleeding research budgets dry, and destroying the ideal of a scientific meritocracy, and making *someone* a profit....

      P.

      PS I have found medical journals a complete PITA, as they nearly ALWAYS have separate logins for *just* the medical school. In other words the medical school opts-out of the rest of the university...

    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Time for universities to say enough is enough

      Isn’t the actual printing of journals a relatively cheap thing to do nowadays?

      God, no - at least if you're talking about print journals, and in many disciplines it's hard to get the same readership for online journals. That's gradually changing, but among a lot of audiences e-pub still just doesn't carry the same weight.

      Printing text itself might not be so expensive - but images are more, and color images much more. Decent-quality paper has become quite expensive. Shipping and postage is very expensive.

      In the humanities, the actual printing and distribution is the vast majority of the cost of a typical print journal. Nothing else even comes close.

      1. Smooth Newt Silver badge

        Re: Time for universities to say enough is enough

        Isn’t the actual printing of journals a relatively cheap thing to do nowadays?

        Most people access journals electronically, and many of them are only available in electronic form. Where there are physical print runs it is often just for tax reasons - in the UK for instance VAT is not charged on printed material but is on material delivered via the web.

        So in the UK it is often cheaper for a library to subscribe to a print version which happens to come with "free" web access included, than just the web access version. They usually just bin the print copies.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019