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The Internet Censorship

Dutch Academics Declare Research Free-For-All 347

Posted by samzenpus
from the free-knowledge dept.
houghi writes "The register reports how the Dutch open up their research to the rest of the world. It goes on to tell that commercial scientific publishers such as Elsevier Science are not happy with it. Will other countries and universities follow, or will they stick to the idea that knowledge is a commodity?"
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Dutch Academics Declare Research Free-For-All

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  • knowledge is power (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UlfGabe (846629) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:49AM (#12507508) Journal
    like i said, giving up all of these smarts is the best thing for the world. screw those journals.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Im sure you all know this but, just look up the titles in a journal index and get the full text here,
      Physics, Maths, CS, Bio papers [arxiv.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:23AM (#12507605)
      Established scientific journals are actually of great value, because what is published in these is supposed to be rigorously reviewed by other experts in the field. The legitimacy this provides is precisely the reason why scientists often pay a journal large amounts to have something published (clearly, scientists recognize their value, even though the Slashdot crowd does not).

      The fact that many journals are struggling economically these days is not a good thing. And the fact that the information is not "free" does not mean that the information is closed off to the public. It just means that you (or your university, company etc.) need to contribute a small amount to part of the scientific process in order to access it.

      Anyone who has ever written a scientific article knows that citing something you've pulled of some internet site does not carry much weigth. I'm not saying this Dutch solution is just "some internet site" (the article does no give much detail); I'm just making a general statement about the important role played by scientific journals.
      • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@gmaCOWil.com minus herbivore> on Thursday May 12, 2005 @08:13AM (#12507938) Journal
        Established scientific journals are actually of great value, because what is published in these is supposed to be rigorously reviewed by other experts in the field. The legitimacy this provides is precisely the reason why scientists often pay a journal large amounts to have something published
        And, pray tell, what is the scientific law you know (and the slashdot crowd doesn't) that states that only a pay-for-play journal can conduct a proper peer review???
        • by Anonymous Coward
          And, pray tell, what is the scientific law you know (and the slashdot crowd doesn't) that states that only a pay-for-play journal can conduct a proper peer review???

          and who, pray tell, is going to pay to fund the process of collecting papers, sending them off to the correct people to review, collecting those reviews, deciding whether or not the paper should be accepted, and editing the paper?

          The internet solves 1 problem - publishing costs. Yes, they are a large part of the cost of journals, but no, they
          • and who, pray tell, is going to pay to fund the process of collecting papers, sending them off to the correct people to review, collecting those reviews, deciding whether or not the paper should be accepted, and editing the paper?

            Imagine something akin to /., but involving smart people.

      • The scientific review process is not as rigorous as it used to be, say ten to twenty years ago. There are so many journals popping up and it is fairly easy to publish minor variations of research work in different journals. Moreover, the cost of the articles (anywhere from 10 to 25 dollars per article) makes it difficult for a casual scientist to look at the article easily (unless one's organization subscribes to the journal).

        There is also not an easy avenue for feedback. Not rating scheme -- nothing. Just
      • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @08:38AM (#12508060)
        I don't know how much you know about academic publishing, but the reviewers for even the expensive journals work for free. Basically, it's professors doing all the research AND all the reviewing, they get no money for either, and the journal sells back all this content to those very same academics for incredibly huge sums. (In some cases thousands of $ for a quarterly journal.) Really, it's absurd.

        The barrier to a better system is that many of the established "high prestige" journals are the culprits who are skimming money from universities in this way, and getting in the way of open communication among researchers. What's needed is for the top reviewers and submitters to emigrate en masse to more responsible academic publishers. Yeah, unlikely - unless something major like this goes down and kick-starts the process.

      • Have a look at arxiv and tell me that peer review has to be conducted under the auspices of a paper magazine.

      • Researchers write the papers and review the papers for free and pay to read the journal. This is insane. I was once asked to review a paper for a journal for which I did not have access, thus was unable to check the previous issues (I eventually could through my institute's subscription). Also, you do not have the right anymore to distribute your article after it has been published, even if you were not paid for it.

        Many journals are struggling because people have realized how absurd this is. Add to this
    • Google Scholar [google.com]: I can't stress how cool this is.
  • by Kinky Bass Junk (880011) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:50AM (#12507510)
    ... I always thought that medical and scientific research is free to the world. Perhaps I was thinking of the good ol' days.

    I'm all up for the Dutch research talked of, and I hope that this trend does continue. There is only one thing worse than capitalism - capitalism of knowledge.
    • There is only one thing worse than capitalism
      Yes: Commies. :P
    • There is only one thing worse than capitalism

      Because, el oh el, capitalism is the root of all evil, am i rite?

      When you develop a better functioning system for the distribution of resources, write a book about it. You'll be loved and cherished forever.
    • by ortholattice (175065) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @08:42AM (#12508081)
      I'm an artist and I hate Intellectual Property laws. Visit http://pnk.m-db.info/ [m-db.info] for my art stuff.

      Uh - OK. But your copyright notice reads: "Copyright Notice - The contents of this site are the intellectual property of David McKenzie. Personal use of this property is permitted without restriction. Commercial use is strictly unauthorised without written permission."

      While that's well and good, aren't you depending on what you hate in order to prohibit "commercial use"?

      Interesting you should prohibit free use of your material while expecting researchers open up their's.

      BTW I wouldn't touch your material with a 10-foot pole because of the term "commercial use"; as far as I'm concerned that prohibits any use of it for all practical purposes. Suppose an ISP puts a Google ad on a personal page in exchange for a free web site? Suddenly it becomes "commercial use." Suppose I want to use some of it (with proper acknowledgement, of course) in an open-source GPL'ed project that I've volunteered my time for. Oops, the GPL allows its software to be used by a commercial company, no can do. I might be able to get permission from you, but the hassle usually isn't worth it. So I'll pass on your offer, thanks.

    • by Kenrod (188428) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @11:17AM (#12509422)

      There is only one thing worse than capitalism

      That's a very ignorant statement. Hitler, Stalin, Mao - can you name any "worse" capitalist? Can you show me any modern society of people who have shown progress by adhering to non-capitalist ideology?

      You are mistakenly equating greed with capitalism. There will always be greedy people in both capitalist and non-capitalist systems. The greedy will always abuse the system to take advantage of the weak. If you think non-capitalist societies protect the weak, you are sadly mistaken. There isn't a single non-capitalist system that hasn't either resorted to brutal oppression of the people - or to free-market policies to dig themselves out of the poverty ditch.

      The Dutch have a capitalist system, do you think their research would even exist without it?
  • by CVD1979 (718352) <tim.stoop@gmail.com> on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:54AM (#12507519) Homepage
    I personally belief that freeing knowledge will be a first step to a much better world. "Beware for he who wishes to keep knowledge from you, because in his heart, he wants to control you." - Brother Lal, Peacekeepers (from the game Alpha Centauri, not the most credible quotes but there you are)

    When knowledge is a commodity, you'll see a vast upsurge in new knowledge. Well, at least when Google starts to index all the available knowledge, of course.
  • DAREnet (Score:3, Funny)

    by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:54AM (#12507522)
    Seems like they [darenet.nl] should've thought twice taking the dare with /. (already down)
  • Taxpayers' money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KiloByte (825081) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:54AM (#12507524)
    The corporations have no rights to have the sole access to research that was funded by the taxpayers.
    Of course, this raises the question whether anyone from countries other than Netherlands should be able to get it for free (gratis) -- but, the free (as in unhindered) exchange of ideas is pretty much what the ideals of science are about.

    If a corporation wants a monopoly for knowledge, no one forbids it from paying for the research.
    • Re:Taxpayers' money (Score:5, Informative)

      by jurt1235 (834677) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:32AM (#12507636) Homepage
      The information was already freely available only the print was done by Elsevier ea which charge for the distribution cost (like GPL: Information is free, but someone is allowed to charge you for the distribution cost).
      The real bad part about the magazine prints is that the distribution cost is very high, the selection of articles is done by a editor who has to keep a certain format, resulting in a medium interesting magazine which is mainly sold to companies and schools.
      The real advantage of a system like darenet (at moment when it is not being /.ed) is the ability to find all the articles which did not make it into the magazines, and it is better seachrable. The last point is way interesting for everybody in the scientific world who had to go through magazine indices to find the information relevant to his or her project. It will hopefully prevent more double work and give more scientific progress.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, 2005 @07:21AM (#12507754)
      " The corporations have no rights to have the sole access to research that was funded by the taxpayers."

      You really have no clue who funds research do you? Do you think academics sit around and think Hmmmm...I'll have the gubermunt pay for my research? We do, but it doesn't work that way.

      Here in the states we are all about No Chil' Left Buhind, but when we want to make sure this is happening, we need to go to an outside corporation and beg for money. Why? Because this administration hadn't given us anything to actually pay for it (and the last one wasn't much better).

      That is something that was a direct commandment of the gov't that we make sure this happened (I was on a team that went into rural schools to evaluate how the were faring with this and if any of their programs, such as experimental cross curriculum alignment of education was actually working better than others...its not my area of expertise, but it got me away from the office for 6 weeks to help out). And guess who paid for it...not the tax payers.

      And then for other research projects? Generally you get a grant to do this. The last grant I was on, paid for my position, part of my bosses position, a fraction of his bosses, and a few ancellary positions that had nothing to do with the research other than we needed their ok to go on with it, and my team and fair market rent on my office. Oh yeah, it paid for our day to day activities for about 2 years. You know, the stuff that the gubermunt and da taxpayers 'were paying'.

      All in all, we worked extended hours, got a good name for the department and the school, and didn't waste a single dollar of the tax payers money because we did what we were 'being paid to do' by the state and far more. We brought in 10x what the gov't was paying us, and subsudized the department in doing so -- and since our budget was so top heavy those two years, the state budget controllers decided that my department didn't need any raises (even though even if we bring in outside money, we have to fund our raises though base funds -- I could bring in new people and pay them 2x what I get from the grant, but I had to *BEG* for a 2% raise...to do so from the grant would be a 'conflict of interest'), our standard budget was slashed -- meaning that after our grant was over, we needed to immediately get another grant or our office was sunk and it was a game of politics, gotta get a much smaller grant this time so we can build up our base budget again so that we can use the tax payer money again to do our jobs -- smaller grant means we can ask for a little more next year, they can slash out budget by 70%, but we can only ask for 15% increase. The last 5 years, my budget for what is considered an invaluable department, has been paid for by someone other than the taxpayers...

      Ok, I'm just rambling at this point, but my point is taxpayers RARELY pay for research. Taxpayers rarely pay for research that directly effects them. Taxpayers NEVER pay for research that is outside of the direct tasks infront of them (teaching you and your kids). Research, however, makes it possible for the departments that you cherish in your universities to actually exist and so that top researchers can sit in your classroom for 4 hours a week even though they could be making much more in the private sector and so that you can get real world hands on knowledge of working with technologies that don't formally exist yet and maybe contribute to society that way.

      I think about saying fuck this every day and joining the corporate world. Everytime I work on a grant, I'm offered a job (my grants or others). Generally paying 4x what the university is paying (and thats without negotiation...probably much higher if I just went for it), but some of us feel we are making a difference where we are at where as we wouldn't make any difference elsewhere. I know any research I work on gets 49% of the royalties going back to XYZ University and 51% Big Corp, Inc, so its helping out (and thats another reason we can't j
      • Don't forget to give credir where credit is due. I remember a Reagan administration push to privatize rhe research of public universities.
      • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @08:06AM (#12507900)
        Don't know much about the states, but here in Germany the taxpayer funds most research. The wages of the professors are most certainly paid for by the "gubermunt".
        Third parties (read: corporations) fund some projects, but I have never read about a case where a scientific journal funded research. I don't mind if the employers of the researchers get some kind of preferred access to the results. But if they are employed by the taxpayers, the results of their research should be public.
  • by Hank the Lion (47086) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @05:55AM (#12507528) Journal
    This was bound to happen one day.
    In the 'old days', the only way to spread your work to all your peers was through the estabjournals.
    The publishers of those journals could ask a premium price for this service.
    With the advent of the Internet, this barrier has fallen.
    Publishers should find new ways of keeping their subscribers.
  • As long as the research released has gone through the same peer review as typical academic papers/journals, I can only see great benefits coming from this.

    If not, and the open source nature of research spreads, it could be that the info can only ever be treated like the current internet's information, and, as such, be treated be extreme caution. With the potential effect of almost diluting the information to be unusable.
    • If anything, this will make peer review easier.

      Anyone has access to it. Say, for example, that they publish some research about certain subject you're interested in, and you have the knowledge to make other related experiments that will confirm their findings. You, too, can also publish it this way, and more importantly the original publication can be easily updated to link to peer reviews. Search engines will be aware of the link. Other people will also be able to review your review.

      If anything, what
  • I thought if something is a commodity then it is widely and easily available to all. Like electricity is a "commodity".
  • Salute the Dutch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tacocat (527354) <tallison1@@@twmi...rr...com> on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:00AM (#12507544)

    Enough of the fucking Doctor Evil posts...

    The Dutch should be singled out as a great example of the scientific and engineering devolopment entity that made the Renaissance possible. Without the open participation and sharing of knowledge social and cultural progress would be at a standstill.

    If you don't believe me, think where we would be without the Guttenburg printing press or how much information was flowing on the internet when it first came out and was an open community of academians and researchers.

    When commercial jet airlines first developed, the BOAC had a plane called the Comet. It was the first plane to experience problems with metal fatigue and stress cracks. The industry at that time was very involved in finding solutions to problems and making better planes. As the direct result of this, the companies involved would share any and all information available in terms of problems and solutions in order to develop the entire industry rather than attempt to promote their own agendas.

    This is a significant, albeit old, example of the synergy that can exist when information is shared freely rather than traded as a commodity. Unfortunately US industry, judicial, and legislation seem to have forgotten some of these lessons.

    These Dutch aren't so "Freaky Deaky" but truely a credit and an example. Knowing the US, we'll probably bomb them because of some bullshit Patriot Act IP terrorist clause. The contrast makes me ill.

    • Re:Salute the Dutch (Score:5, Informative)

      by lovebyte (81275) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <0002etybevol>> on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:38AM (#12507651) Homepage
      Knowing the US, we'll probably bomb them because of some bullshit Patriot Act IP terrorist clause.
      Bombing, perhaps. The USA army has planned [amicc.org] to invade the Netherlands in case a US soldier is tried in the internation court in the Hague.
      • by sosume (680416) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:41AM (#12507663) Journal
        and I'll be ready waiting for them at the beach to defend my country! Too bad guns are outlawed.
      • As far as I'm concerned, if warcrimes committed by US soldiers cannot be tried in the international court, then warcrimes committed against US shouldn't be tried there either. The US is entirely in or out of this whole international court thing. So if, for instance, Osama would be caught and tried in the international court, he could be held accountable only for crimes against non-US people; not any US soldiers that died in Afghanistan or Iraq nor the twin towers (except for any non-US citizens that might h
        • Re:Salute the Dutch (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Idarubicin (579475)
          As far as I'm concerned, if warcrimes committed by US soldiers cannot be tried in the international court, then warcrimes committed against US shouldn't be tried there either.

          Um...the U.S. doesn't seem to want to try war criminals in the International Criminal Court. They're much happier to try war criminals using domestic military tribunals. Cuts down on the inconveniences of public oversight and accountability.

      • by FooAtWFU (699187)
        The USA army has planned to invade everyone . Anyway, before you go screaming at the US for not playing friendly with the International Criminal Court, consider: It'd be unconstitutional for the US to go along with it because not only does it establish a court of law higher than the Supreme Court, but there's nothing to keep it from violating several items in the Bill of Rights (things like double jeopardy, jury of peers, all those legal niceties which we love in this country). I've always thought that it
    • Re:Salute the Dutch (Score:3, Informative)

      by Quantum Fizz (860218)
      This is a significant, albeit old, example of the synergy that can exist when information is shared freely rather than traded as a commodity. Unfortunately US industry, judicial, and legislation seem to have forgotten some of these lessons.

      You seem to forget entirely about the arXiv [arxiv.org], which is a freely accessible scientific database of papers that's been around for many years now. It's also been at least partly funded by US tax dollars, ever since it's inception.

  • free market at work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cahiha (873942) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:01AM (#12507545)
    The currency of science is citations: the more you are cited, the more you are worth. Academics therefore have a natural incentive to have their work be more accessible.

    That is partly balanced by the fact that papers published in well-marketed journals with recognizable brand names will be cited more frequently. But they still have to be well-known, which is why even expensive journals tolerate "illegal" copies of scientific papers (this is similar to software companies tolerating some piracy and low-cost versions in order to keep low-cost competitors from entering the market).

    On balance, I think academic publishers are going to lose this one for the most part. In the end, they don't offer any value, since all the hard work is already volunteer work. All the academic publishers do is marketing, printing, type setting, and mailing to libraries, and none of those are essential for academic journals anymore. Some journals will probably continue to be proprietary and expensive, but most will probably not be.
    • I wonder if there is an interesting question to be answered here then.

      Are the current citations due to the review process and marketing of the well marketed journals or simple due to the accessibility of these journals.

      If the quality of the cite is high and accessibility is high I suspect there will be a lot of use of the work.

      I've been frustrated time and again with accessibility of the mainstream publishers (i.e. I don't want to pay for a subscription)...
    • " All the academic publishers do is marketing, printing, type setting, and mailing to libraries, and none of those are essential for academic journals anymore."

      I'm getting tired of responding to this. Scientific publishers also:

      1. Organise peer review - it's not like it organises itself. You have to find and select peers without conflicting interests, but with adequate subject knowledge. You have to chase them for deadlines and give them help as needed.
      2. Edit. In real life, scientists and academics are o
      • 1. Organise peer review - it's not like it organises itself. You have to find and select peers without conflicting interests, but with adequate subject knowledge. You have to chase them for deadlines and give them help as needed.

        I'll grant you this one, possibly.

        2. Edit. In real life, scientists and academics are often not very good at writing cogently. Someone needs to help make it readable.

        Peer review also reviews readability as weell as accuracy. A poorly-written paper can get knocked back

    • All the academic publishers do is marketing, printing, type setting, and mailing to libraries, and none of those are essential for academic journals anymore.

      You missed one crucial item - peer review. Any paper submitted to one of these publishers has to make it past a referree committee, which usually serves to weed out the crap. They figure out what area of expertise the author's paper is in, and submit it to peers in a similar field, to make sure the paper is worthy to be published.

      In fully free an

  • headline incorrect (Score:5, Informative)

    by lovebyte (81275) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <0002etybevol>> on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:02AM (#12507549) Homepage
    This is not all research papers, but only research papers already available for free to everyone. I quote:
    DAREnet harvests all digital available material from the local repositories, making it searchable. But it limits the harvest to those objects that are full content available to everyone. Tollgated objects (e.g. publications at publishers who only allow access through expensive licenses) can only be found in the local repository.
    Let's not forget that most scientific papers are not available for free.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:55AM (#12507696)
      This is not all research papers, but only research papers already available for free to everyone. [..] Let's not forget that most scientific papers are not available for free.

      I am working at one of the involved universities, and since a few years ago we do have an official policy of never signing over any copyrights to publishers in preparation of this move.

      In reality things don't work that way: since the university still judges our productivity by tracking publications, we do sign any form we have to to get our stuff into the important journals. Both the university and the big publishers have been ignoring this inconsistency for some years. As you may have noted, I am posting AC because I am terrified of publisher's copyright lawyers.

      This way of measuring productivity is simply wrong: I never directly use the library anymore. I depend completely on Google Scholar. On my computer Google Scholar includes the university subscriptions to publishers, of course, but publications of the last 5 years are usually also available for free.

      Most of my publications are freely available online, and they are representative of the things I have been doing over the last decade. They are also the things that get referenced most often. One usually writes two or three versions of essentially the same story in a period of 2-4 years, and the best one ends up in an article (and will never be read, and rarely referenced).
      • "the university still judges our productivity by tracking publications" - You have hit the nail on the head, institutional prestige and reputation has been determined like this for centuries. I don't think Guttenberg put the Monks out of bussiness overnight and even though the "ballpoint" was available in the 60's my teachers only aproved of fountain or cartridge pens. Ten, (perhaps less), years ago the large majority of academics did not know this type of thing was even possible.

        It's now obvious to most
      • Thanks for this information. It shows that there should be some more political pressure behind the move to freely available publications. Maybe through legislation that assures public access to the work results of tax money-paid researchers.

        Side note:
        Must check out the existing legislation for employees at German corporations. I was under the impression that my work results belong to the company and I could not sign the copyright over to a journal, even if I wanted to.
        Am I wrong, and if not, does not the s
      • by Clith (5063) <rae@tnir.org> on Thursday May 12, 2005 @09:00AM (#12508212) Homepage Journal
        This way of measuring productivity is simply wrong
        What would you recommend as a new way of measuring productivity? Page rank in Google Scholar?

        This is not a flip question, I'm wondering if this could really be a valid metric. Of course, it would be subject to the same scams to which Google page ranking has already been subject.

  • by SilentSage (656382) * on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:02AM (#12507550)
    If 3\4 of the posters had RTFA they would have seen that it is about the cost of PUBLISHING research not disclosing Intellectual Property free of charge. Most Universities around the world and a lot of corporations do this for "free" anyway. The article said nothing about patents or copyright or anything remotely on that topic. This article should be used as an idiot filter for future postings on IP.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, 2005 @06:19AM (#12507603)
    Research wants to be free, but Mp3 players want to be levied.
    • by dajak (662256) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @07:12AM (#12507729)
      Research wants to be free, but Mp3 players want to be levied.

      Nothing funny about it. Listening to music is ungood. Reading scientific papers is doubleplusgood. This is the 'knowledge economy' policy our government talks about in action.

      Look at the double digit economic growth rates in China: access to science and information good, access to porn, political rambling, etc ungood. QED
  • The journal publishing companies are quickly reaching obsolescence. Given the state of just-in-time publishing and the Internet, there's really no reason that academic institutions have to continue to be held hostage by the journal publishers anymore. Peer review can be completely separated from the publishing process and be managed by already-respected researchers in each field who volunteer their time to assist with the process, perhaps a month at a time (much like the review process is for many smaller
  • knowledge is a commodity, However one of the key issues that this raises is that researchers will potentially not have to research the same thing twice as the information may already be available to them through other "reliable" sources. This could potentially open up and increase the speed of research and in turn make discoveries that could potentially be as ground breaking as cures for cancer or something similar.

  • We've got a PM thats basically... eh hilarious.
    The sad thing really is that there were enough people to vote for him and his party.
    The government here tends to swallow everything America does.. BUT

    Every once in a while... I'm proud to be Dutch.

  • From now on, all my papers will have a dutch collaborator.
  • by HuguesT (84078) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @07:28AM (#12507776)
    Disclaimer, I'm a researcher.

    In the old days if you wanted to read a particular paper in a journal your library didn't carry you had to contact one of the authors and ask for a reprint of the article, which you would receive by snail-mail a few weeks later.

    Now you just look it up on Google, most of the time it's there, or the author will send you a PDF a few hours later.

    The main contribution of journals to research is no longer diffusion, now people usually don't go to the library to read a journal. They receive a summary of the month's issue by email and then go and consult it online. Clearly this could be replaced by informal web publication just as easily.

    However the editorial board work is still essential. They make sure the peer-review process runs smoothly and that each paper looks nice in the end. This is not so easily replaced, even though the editors do a volunteer job.

    What is definitely not clear is why journal should be allowed to charge scientist huge premiums for the privilege of having those same scientist work for them for free.

    Over the next few years we should see the reactive journal boards realize this, and propose a very cheap online-only service. The IEEE is already thinking about this very hard. When others realize this works fine, the era of expensive printed journal will simply come to an end.

    Next will be the issue of books. Scientists are already realizing that it is now extremely cheap to self-publish. Even a top-quality, 500 pages book costs less than $40 to print in small quantities. Yet publishing houses typically sell them $200 a piece or more. Then they go out of print but since the publisher has the copyright everybody is screwed.

    For conferences, self-publishing is now more cost effective, and authors get to keep their copyright. Soon the era of expensive conference proceedings will also come to an end.

    The last remaining bastion will be reference books or textbooks. These will remain in print for the next few years, because people appreciate having a nice book in hand rather than reading hundreds of pages online, but as the cost, speed and quality of desktop printers improve, we should see a new era of freely available, high-quality online textbooks. There are lots of them online already, ready for printing.

    All of this will be good for science. No one will be able to claim in a paper they didn't know about so and so's work and don't have access to it. It will be increasingly easy to do dilettante science without the backing of a huge academic institution.

    People will be able to follow a field of science extremely easily. Cross-fertilization will become the obvious way to make progress.

    I can't wait, and I want to make that happen.

    • What I expect is that the journals and publishers will start lobbying for laws to block this kind of 'free press' activity.

      I wouldnt be suprised if they play the 'terrorism' card. Because you know, only legitimate researchers pay big bucks for access to scientific literature and only terrorists would want free access. Right?

      Oh yes, and self-publishing is destructive to the economy, its anti-american, etc. etc. bla bla bla.
    • by Mac Degger (576336) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @09:25AM (#12508380) Journal
      "However the editorial board work is still essential"

      Yeah, I've been thinking about that. I'd say the solution is to get the universities to do that job, in a kind of peer-2-peer style. Say a researcher at uni UofX creates a paper on say quantum transportation: then just send it round the Internet2 to all the other faculties of quantum transportation around the world and have at least 25% of all those people peer-review it.

      That way, you have instant distribution to all places that need it (maybe force 'em to have a webserver open to the public with all the publications) and peer review by the people who can do it. Hell, you could send the paper to different faculties and get a prof of statistics to have a look at the statistical methods used, and make that kind of cross-peer-review mandatory nfor a stamp of credibility (and make participation in that peer-review process a job requirement for being attached to a university.)
  • by call -151 (230520) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @07:34AM (#12507790) Homepage
    Many researchers have complained about the high price of academic research journals and some of us are doing something about it. The fundamental problem is that there are some prestigious, very expensive journals that libraries feel like they must subscribe to and authors feel compelled to submit there because they are prestigious. But things are changing at least in some disciplines. The cost of a journal is not so much for distribution- there are other costs, but those are largely actually borne by universities. A typical life story of a research article:
    1. Brilliant researcher at Oxbridge University (who pays his salary) comes up with great idea, writes it up, submits it electronically by emailing it to an editor at the Snooty Journal,
    2. The editor, a professor at Enormus State University (who pays his salary and has him teach a little less because of his prestigous editorship) thinks of an appropriate anonymous referee and sends off the article to be refereed. Snooty Journal may give ESU some money to cover part of the cost of a secretary, but does not pay his salary.
    3. Professor at IviedHalls University (who pays his salary) receives the article to refereee, reads it, sends it back with comments after letting it molder on his desk/inbox for a bit.
    4. Editor accepts or rejects the paper, possibly asking for modifications based upon the referee's recommendation, possibly some iteration at this step
    5. Original author prepares the article in electronic format using LaTeX with Snooty Journal's style files and uploads it to their web site.
    6. Snooty Journal staff typeset the paper, messing a few things up because they are not experts in the appropriate field, and send the "galley proofs" to the author to review.
    7. Original author points out typos introduced in their typsetting process, sends back corrected galleys.
    8. Snooty Jounal releases the article on their paid-subscription webpage and prints it as a dead-tree volume to send to libraries around the world that can afford it.

      As you can see, the hard part of the labor (writing, reviewing, refereeing) is not done by anyone at the publisher-- various universities pay the salaries of those folks and they pay again for the journal in dead-tree form.


      So you can see that there may be some objection to the arrangement. In the old days, the journal staff actually typset things and dead-trees were the only game in town, but most of the typesetting is done by the author.


      The choice is hard for some people that really need to publish in the expensive journals to get tenure, recognition, grants, etc. But for people who already have tenure, some are resistant to the journal extortion. Some may have a policy like mine- I do not submit to expensive journals or agree to referee for expensive journals, now that I have the advantage of tenure.


      There have been some successes of editorial boards that resigned wholesale, then started a free/inexpensive journal. Hopefully this becomes more common.

    • Step 9. Now tenured professor gets lazy and refuses to review for prestegious journals. Claims expensive journals aren't fair.

      10. Prestegious journals stop accepting professors articles.

      11a. Incoming grad student class decides to join labs doing bleeding edge research as evidenced by number of Science and Nature articles group publishes.

      11b. Tenured professor can't understand why he's scraping the bottom of the barrel and begging students to join his group.

      12. Poor choices in student TA's leav

    • The model you describe is interesting, but it is not universal. Are you describing a computing related journal?

      The publisher I work for does all of the jobs you describe in house (except for peer review), and they are all full time positions, funded by the publisher. We would never dream of expecting an author to know what LaTeX was, let alone submit in it. In addition, we perform several other steps (technical editing, statistics checking, etc) that are all costs to us.

      So, I'm willing to believe that som
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, 2005 @07:36AM (#12507795)
    It is a self evident truth that sharing knowledge improves human development. In a few hundred years historians will judge those who once believed in intellectual property as we look upon alchemists and witch burners today. I personally find it hard to believe, at the start of the 21st century, that there are so many foolish people around who still
    accept intellectual property as a concept.
  • google scholar? (Score:3, Informative)

    by krunk4ever (856261) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @07:47AM (#12507838) Homepage
    is this what Google Scholar [google.com] is trying to do?
    What is Google Scholar? Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.
  • by brando_j (721890) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @07:59AM (#12507879)

    I'm not so sure about the "informations needs to be free" stuff when it comes to peer reviewed science. Elsevier does run a racket, especially when it comes to the archive articles, if your university library doesn't purchase the extended subscription it can be $30 per article.

    But as a member of the American Physical Society http://www.aps.org/ [aps.org] I have access to pdf's of Einsteins original articles just for the cost of my membership, every article published in the Physical Review series is available.

    APS publishes many phonebooks (about 1/10000000 LOC) worth of articles a month, this has got to be expensive. Furthermore maintaining and adminstering a network of peers to review articles is costly as well. Most of the articles deal with small minutia of physics that maybe dozens of people on earth would completely appreciate.

    I'm also of the opinion that there should be some sort of cost of entry to access the complete tome of science. Something has to set it off from blogs and wikpedia's, furthermore if every crackpot had access to every conversation in physics my inbox would overflow with "Quantum Mechanics is Wrong! Ny New Theory of Nature" trash.

    -- Brandon

  • by Bubblehead (35003) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @08:23AM (#12507988) Homepage Journal
    A few years ago, MIT decided to make all their teaching materials available to the public to their now famous OpenCourseware Project [mit.edu]. While this is not research, the impact is similar - essentially giving a $40k/year product away for free (well, not quite - but still). Likewise, they got similar comments - good and bad.

    By now, OCW has over 900 MIT classes available, and is an amazing success. I hope that the Dutch will succeed in a similar fashion.

  • Did the companies like Elsevier actually have an argument, or were they just whining because people are finally getting sick of them?
  • This doesn't seem to be a movement to release more or less research. It's just a way to publish research without having to get published in academic journals.

    Journals are very expensive and act as a filter for what is published in them.

    It sounds like they are just cutting out the journals which act as a middleman.
  • by jafiwam (310805) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @08:51AM (#12508133) Homepage Journal
    "There has grown in the minds of certain groups in this country the idea that just because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with guaranteeing such a profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is supported by neither statute or common law. Neither corporations or individuals have the right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back." - Robert A. Heinlein, " Life Line "

    [Have nothing to add to this]
  • Related US news (Score:4, Informative)

    by alansz (142137) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @10:21AM (#12508865) Homepage
    In the US, the National Institutes of Health [nih.gov] recently announced [nih.gov] that NIH-funded researchers will now be required to submit final copies of their published manuscripts to PubMed Central [nih.gov] providing free access. For folks in the health sciences, this will have a substantial impact (and journals will adjust their copyright rules to permit it if they want to get submissions from folks successful enough to get NIH funding.)
  • Very good news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rbarreira (836272) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @10:25AM (#12508911) Homepage
    This is very good news if this pattern catches on... Many times I've wanted to read papers which were referenced on other papers, and I couldn't because they were in paid-subscription sites such as ScienceDirect, IEEE, or ACM...

    I don't want to have to subscribe to that many associations if I just want to read a paper or another ocasionally, science research should be free for all!

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