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Censorship Science

Libraries Defend Open Access 116

Posted by kdawson
from the we-already-paid-for-it-once dept.
aisaac writes "Earlier this year an article in Nature (PDF, subscription required) exposed publishers' plans to equate public access to federally funded research with government censorship and the destruction of peer review. In an open letter last month, Rockefeller University Press castigated the publishers' sock-puppet outfit, PRISM, for using distorting rhetoric in a coordinated PR attack on open access. Now the Association of Research Libraries has released an Issue Brief addressing this PR campaign in more detail. The Issue Brief exposes some of the distortions used to persuade key policy makers that recent gains made by open access scientific publishing pose a danger to peer reviewed scientific research, free markets, and possibly the future of western civilization. As an example of what the publishers backing PRISM hate, consider the wonderfully successful grants policy of the National Institutes of Health, which requires papers based on grant-funded research to be published in PubMed Central."
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Libraries Defend Open Access

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  • say what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doppler00 (534739) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @04:37AM (#20527211) Homepage Journal
    Is it just me, or am I the only one that read that description and have no idea what the issue is or what it's about? Can someone please re-word it?
    • by Kierthos (225954) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @04:42AM (#20527229) Homepage
      Can't help you. Too busy being amused by the words "sock puppet" in a Slashdot submission.
    • Re:say what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by symes (835608) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @04:47AM (#20527247) Journal
      there are publishers printing scientists' work but only allowing access to those who are willing to stump up some cash. these publishers usually retain copy write of the printed work and, recently, have been charging more and more for the privilege. since most of the better research that ends up in print is government funded this practice has been raising a few eye-brows. for more info take a look here [bepress.com].
      • by sepluv (641107)

        retain copy write [sic]

        They can't be retaining copyrights (note the spelling) as they didn't hold them in the first place. This is more like forcing authors to give up their copyright (what one might consider to be, at least morally, copyright theft--I know, I know, how dare I use that phrase correctly on a sensationalist site like /.). This is another reason for not making copyright transferable. (Sure...you can give someone a lease on your copyright until it runs out, but the implications of what you

      • There is no such word as "copywrite", though it's a nice eggcorn [lascribe.net].

        It amazes me how many computer programmers can't spell. However do you get your code to compile?

        • by mjc_w (192427)
          Compilers do not care if you spell correctly as long as you are consistent.
        • by Nevyn (5505) *

          I type make, and it tells me where all the errors are. This is one of the things I dislike about python etc. ... typos become a runtime error, *sigh*.

      • by rtyhurst (460717)
        [there are publishers printing scientists' work but only allowing access to those who are willing to stump up some cash.]

        That's the first problem: it's basically vanity press for those who

        a.) have the $ to throw around, and

        b.) want to skip past the long-established process of peer review.

        That, in itself, sucks.

        [these publishers usually retain copy write of the printed work and, recently, have been charging more and more for the privilege.]

        In every other medium the author retains copyright: I'd like to see t
    • by Nymz (905908) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:01AM (#20527283) Journal
      and after you pay, then you'll need a proprietary reader to read it.
      Slashdot Submissions Showing Subtle Sarcasm +1
      • by Alsee (515537)
        If paying $30 to read this article is subtle sarcasm, I fear blunt sarcasm may cause a cranial fracture.

        -
    • Re:say what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by hanssprudel (323035) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @06:18AM (#20527549)
      Traditional academic publishing works like this:

      - Research money (typically from the government, ie your money) is used to fund research and scientists write articles about it.

      - Those articles are sent to periodicals (journals) to be published. The journals are corporate, and carry different amounts of prestige. For a researcher, getting papers in prestigious journals is extremely important, so they send them off willingly, and the journals do not pay a dime (in fact, sometimes the researcher has to pay).

      - The article gets to sent to an editor at the journal, who is typically a well established senior researcher working for free because being an editor is prestigious (that is, he is working on time paid for by your money).

      - The editor chooses researchers to do "peer review" on the article, that is anonymously write judge its merit. These peer reviewers work for free.

      - If the article is accepted, the researcher is very happy, and gleefully signs over the copyright on the article he has written (which you paid for) to the corporate publisher.

      - The corporate publisher, which now owns the article, won't let anybody access it unless they pay for a subscription to the journal. Large universities typically pay millions of dollars a year (again, largely your money) for journal subscriptions.

      So to recap: researchers write the article for free (or pay), editors work for free, reviewers work for free, the publishers get the copyright and loads of money. In some fields you are even expected to typeset the article yourself, leaving the publisher only with the arduous task of visiting the bank to check on its ever increasing balance, and laughing at the sucker who finances all this (you). Because there is prestige in publishing in the "right" journal, and the money being spent doesn't belong to the people spending it, there is no market pressure to drive the prices down nor to make the system more sane. A number of companies, notably Elsevier, Wiley, and Springer, make incredible amounts of money off this.

      Lately, however, something has finally started happening. The open access movement has been started to try to make scientific work freely available on the Internet, through open journals (like PLoS [plos.org]) and through researchers retaining copyright so they can put their articles on their own homepages and on sites like arXiv [arxiv.org] and aforementioned PubMed Central. This movement has gained a lot of momentum, and what is just starting to happen is that the people holding the pursestrap (like the National Institue of Health) want to start requiring that research they pay for published open access. Obviously, the publishers will do anything not to lose their sweet gig, hence the lobbyists all over capitol hill screaming censorship and government interference (both of which are completely ridiculous - I'm as libertarian as the next guy, but if the government pays for the science, it can say where you publish it).
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gEvil (beta) (945888)
        While I agree that you got the majority of the information correct, I did want to point out a few things. First, there is a whole lot of research out there that is not funded by government grants. However, the actual percentages entirely depend on the field where the research is being done. Also, a number of journals do give the EIC and Associate Editors (basically, the senior research staff associated with the journal) an honorarium in lieu of a salary. Again, the amounts totally depend upon the agreement.
      • Re:say what? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by LooTze (988596) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @08:25AM (#20528011)
        I agree with most of what you but need to add a couple of points. Before I proceed, let me start by saying that I am all for free access and whenever there is a choice I try to publish my stuff in open access journals. The big deal in open access (at least in Biology) has been the introduction of PLoS which attempts to compete with the top three journals (Nature, Science and Cell). And there is still no evidence that this can be economically feasible - primarily because such journals have genuine editors who are paid a lot of money to do the editing. So unlike most other journals, these editors actually can summarily decide to reject a paper for weird policy reasons like it is not flashy enough or popular science enough (even if the reviewers recommend publication). Whether you like the policy or not, the journals want to assure that they have editors who have a clue and are committed. So these are full-time jobs which are well-paid. In addition, most journals do have to pay copy editors, printers, etc. The only way PLoS has been able to circumvent this is by (a) huge donations )primarily from a couple of donors (b) Charge the authors money to publish their work. This used to be $1500 and now has been increased to $2000 or $2500. Of course, some argue that the high cost is primarily because the PLoS offices are located in San Francisco. (But that belongs to a different offshoring story. Unfortunately, recently HHMI was trying to decide what to do about this open access but did not end up doing the right thing. The reason this is important is that HHMI is the largest private funder of biomedical research in the US and probably the world - and HHMI investigators contribute a significant chunk of papers in top journals. HHMI investigators are evaluated every few years and it is a scary process because if you get kicked out, there is not way you can get back in. HHMI started off by saying that they will only count open access journals in this review process but then eventually after a lot of backdoor politics - primarily because the stupid scientists did not want to stop publishing in the top journals - it was decided that HHMI was going to pay publishers a truckload of money to allow open access (eventually) to papers from HHMI investigators. They had so much negotiating power that if they had stood their ground, they could have easily got open access for everyone in a year or so. But sadly, not going to happen.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Gandling (899826)

          The only way PLoS has been able to circumvent this is by (a) huge donations )primarily from a couple of donors (b) Charge the authors money to publish their work. This used to be $1500 and now has been increased to $2000 or $2500.
          As a former grad student I can assure you that many established journals charge authors a publishing fee on the same order of magnitude.
          • by LooTze (988596)
            This is definitely true for many mid-rung journals but not for the three journals I mentioned that PLoS is specifically trying to compete with. These charge much lesser - unless you have color figures when it can be hugely expensive.
          • by Petrushka (815171)

            As a former grad student I can assure you that many established journals charge authors a publishing fee on the same order of magnitude.

            I've never understood this. In my field there are no publication fees, and it's a much smaller field than any of the natural sciences. How is it that in a field where the journals have a smaller audience, a journal subscription costs only a few hundred dollars and there are no fees, while in fields where there's a potential audience of tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people, the journals are ten times more expensive and charge fees to boot?

            How much do referees for journals in the natural sciences get pa

        • In addition, most journals do have to pay copy editors, printers, etc.

          These jobs can now more or less be handled by computers. In my subject (mathematics), researchers always have to typeset the articles themselves and submit camera ready copies in PDF format, whether the journal is open access or not. This is typically as easy as importing the journals LaTeX template and recompiling. I realize that other fields use inferior document preperation systems - but MS Word can import templates too, right?

          The only
          • by LooTze (988596)
            Most biologists use MS Word and don't submit camera-ready typeset documents except a few Biophysics labs. MS Word can handle templates but there are not anywhere close to camera-ready.

            And at least with Nature and Science (I don't think with Cell), the editors actually chop and rewrite major portions of your manuscript to make it more readable to the general reader and even re-draw model figures, etc. So they do do serious editing that require a talented person even on a computer.

            Again, I want to reiterate
      • You should note that researchers also have a choice as to where to submit their manuscript for consideration. Also, research money is obtained through a grant proposal. It is normally the case that you state somewhere in the grant proposal that the results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Furthermore, some granting agencies, like USDA-CREES, require yearly progress reports and a final summary at the end of the project. So, it is quite misleading to state that the publics' money is being thrown
      • Can't the government claim thaqt research done with taxpayer money is a work for hire, and claim the copyright on it.
        The governement could give the reasearch a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual license to publish the work and extend that license to any peer-reviewed journal that warrants it. But the taxpayer could still be able to get access to the work through government libraries.
    • Re:say what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stranger_to_himself (1132241) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @06:32AM (#20527585) Journal

      The current model for the dissemination of scientific research is that scientists send letters and papers to journals, which are then peer assessed by reviewers assigned by the journal and, if they meet a certain standard, are printed. Journals used to be printed and sent to subscribers, and nobody complained that they had to pay to receive a copy of the journal.

      Now journals can put papers online for their subscribers instead of printing, which makes people wonder exactly what the publishers are doing for the money they expect to get. They don't write the articles or pay the authors, and they don't review them or pay the reviewers (I write and review pretty regularly). But this remains the only accepted way to release your research, to appear in a well respected journal. The journals are now trading purely on reputations they have aquired for the standards of the work they accept.

      Public Library of Science, as I understand it, is an online repository of research that is open to everybody. There are also several PLoS journals, that appear online and for free and perform most of the functions of the old paper journals and their online equivilants. PLoS is also gaining a good reputation for quality.

      Traditional publishers are in trouble because of this, and will inevitably make some rather desperate arguments to preserve their business models, hence the article.

    • by rsidd (6328)
      Maybe you could try following the links? I counted 6 links, 4 of which will inform you about the issue, and 3 of them require no subscription.

      I enjoy slashdot-bashing when appropriate. But it's not wrong that they expect you to RTFA. I thought the summary was pretty clear and concise, provided you know what "open access", "peer review" and so on mean. A summary isn't a review article.
    • Donald Knuth's open letter [stanford.edu] explains the issues.
  • by dsaklad (162420) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @04:38AM (#20527215) Homepage
    Our libraries come up short with regard to overdrive...

    Letter to the Boston Public Library
    http://www.fsf.org/campaigns/bpl.html [fsf.org]

            * Send this page to somebody

    To the Management of the Boston Public Library,

    Don Saklad forwarded me your message which reports that OverDrive Audio Books use "copyright protection technology" made by Microsoft.

    The technology in question is an example of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM)--technology designed to restrict the public. Describing it as "copyright protection" puts a favorable spin on a mechanism intended to deny the public the exercise of those rights which copyright law has not yet denied them.

    The use of that format for distributing books is not a fact of nature; it is a choice. When a choice leads to bad consequences, it ought to be changed, and that is the case here. I respectfully submit that the Boston Public Library has a responsibility to refuse to distribute anything in this format, even if it seems "convenient" to some in the short term.

    By making the choice to use this format, the Boston Public Library gives additional power to a corporation already twice convicted of unfair competition.

    This choice excludes more than just Macintosh users. The users of the GNU/Linux system, an operating system made up of free/libre software, are excluded as well. Since these audiobooks are locked up with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), it is illegal in the US to release free/libre software capable of reading these audiobooks. Apple may make some sort of arrangement to include capable software in MacOS (which is, itself, non-free software for which users cannot get source code). But we in the free software community will never be allowed to provide software to play them, unless laws are changed.

    There is another, deeper issue at stake here. The tendency of digitalization is to convert public libraries into retail stores for vendors of digital works. The choice to distribute information in a secret format--information designed to evaporate and become unreadable--is the antithesis of the spirit of the public library. Libraries which participate in this have lost their hearts.

    I therefore urge the Boston Public Library to terminate its association with OverDrive Audio Books, and adopt a policy of refusing to be agents for the propagation of Digital Restrictions Management.
    Sincerely
    Richard Stallman
    President, Free Software Foundation
    MacArthur Fellow
    http://www.fsf.org/campaigns/bpl.html [fsf.org]

    • by shalla (642644) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @08:35AM (#20528063)
      I have a response to this. Instead of haranguing the libraries, bug the hell out of the publishers. As it stands there are currently ZERO library vendors that offer eAudiobook downloads that are compatible with Mac or GNU/Linux because of the DRM on the files. This is certainly NOT the choice of the libraries.

      I'm a librarian for a public library in Pittsburgh. We get requests all the time for downloadable audiobooks. We got requests before we had any options, and we get them now that we offer both OverDrive and Netlibrary downloads. At least OverDrive has the option to (in some cases, if the publisher has allowed it) burn the book to CD. After that, you can then import it to iTunes and transfer it over to your iPod. It's stupid clunky and you're better off just getting the CDs in the first place to listen that way, but it can be done and OverDrive's CEO has been known to tell people that.

      Now, here's the question from the library's point of view. Is it better to not offer ANY eAudiobooks at all, despite the many requests for them, than to offer ones that can only be used by those with the dominant operating system? (We have to make the same decision with video games, too. What formats do we buy in?) With all due respect to the parent poster and to Mr. Stallman, my job is not to take a stand on DRM. It's to provide materials to the public in the formats they want, and that means that in some cases, like it or not, we're going to decide to offer eAudiobooks that cannot be used by all computer users. Just as DVDs cannot be watched by VCR owners, and CDs cannot be listened to by those with merely a tape deck, and Mac software cannot be run on a Windows machine. We're going to have to judiciously apportion an appropriate part of the budget according to demand for the items.

      Now, would libraries love to change this? Yes. I personally have a list of free, non-DRM sites that allow you to download eAudiobooks for free that I hand out along with instructions on how the library-accessible eAudiobooks work. The problem is that those sites (such as Librivox [librivox.org] or AudiobooksForFree [audiobooksforfree.com]) don't offer Janet Evanovich or John Patterson or the other bestsellers. They're generally things in the public domain (obviously), and our patrons usually want newer items.

      Every chance I get, I complain to our Recorded Books representative (who works with Netlibrary) about the DRM limitations and make the case that should another company come along that offers downloads without DRM, we're gone to them no matter the cost. The libraries that have told OverDrive to buzz off in the past have just gotten shrugs. It doesn't change anything. (This includes the library located right next to Apple Headquarters, by the way. They finally gave in to demand.)

      This is something that gets discussed all the time amongst librarians and on library blogs. My feeling is that complaining to the libraries is useless. We agree with you in spirit, but in practice, we're going to offer the product because our patrons want it. What we WILL support you in is complaining to the companies themselves, and in pushing the publishers to reach for a broader market. Instead of writing letters to libraries, spend your time convincing the publishers that they'll have wider listenership (without losing sales) if they hit the non-DRM market and convincing OverDrive and Netlibrary to begin offering other options than the protected WMA files.

      From OverDrive's Web site, here's their contact information:

      OverDrive, Inc.
      Valley Tech Center - Suite N
      8555 Sweet Valley Drive
      Cleveland, OH 44125 USA
      Phone: (216) 573-6886
      Fax: (216) 573-6888
      Email: info@overdrive.com

      And from NetLibrary's Web site:

      NetLibrary Division Office
      4888 Pearl East Circle, Ste. 103
      Boulder, CO 80301
      USA
      info@NetLibrary.com

      Or, since NetLibrary is a division of OCLC:

      Headquarters
      OCLC Online Computer Library Center
      • by shalla (642644)
        Yes, replying to my own post. *sigh*

        I forgot to mention that Audible.com [audible.com] offers audiobooks for download, and I'm under the impression that they're DRM-free and work with Macs. I haven't tried it, though, so I could be wrong. So a third option would be to somehow convince them (and have them convince their publishers) to enter the library market without adding DRM.

        And yes, I _DO_ sit around all day and think about things like this and make up lists of where people can get free audiobook downloads. It's n
        • Audible.com files are not DRM free, but they have a DRM agent for Mac. I've used their services and can verify that their content works on Mac exactly the same way as it works in Windows. I don't know about FOSS operating systems; I seriously doubt it works with them.
          • by shalla (642644)
            Excellent. Thank you for posting that. So they're only a slightly better option, then. Essentially, we're going to have to push the publishers to allow DRM-free downloads, I think.
      • by skeeto (1138903)

        I'm a librarian for a public library in Pittsburgh.
        I bet your library has "Carnegie" in the name.
        • by shalla (642644)
          You'd be wrong, actually, though it was a nice guess. Very good chance, statistically speaking.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chandon Seldon (43083)

        With all due respect to the parent poster and to Mr. Stallman, my job is not to take a stand on DRM.

        As a librarian, it absolutely is your ethical/professional responsibility to evaluate the social implications of DRM technology and potentially take a stand on the issue. DRM acceptance has the potential to define the level of access to human knowledge people have. DRM use today has a direct impact on the extent to which libraries can archive information for the future.

        The model for libraries has always bee

        • by shalla (642644)
          As a librarian, it absolutely is your ethical/professional responsibility to evaluate the social implications of DRM technology and potentially take a stand on the issue.

          While I agree that DRM falls within my professional concerns, it's not the main concern of my job, and I'm certainly not going to treat it as such. I have complained to eAudiobook reps about compatibility issues, I've compiled lists of alternate sources of eAudiobooks for patrons, and I've spent countless hours with patrons trying to get t
          • To turn this back to OverDrive and other eAudiobook vendors, my biggest gripe is not necessarily that they have DRM on the files (because as you can see from above, I can see the uses in a library setting.) It's that they don't support multiple platforms.

            One of the main reasons their titles are platform dependent is because they use DRM mechanisms which are platform dependent. Why are the DRM mechanisms so tied to specific platforms? One important reason is that to be effective, a DRM mechanism really have

          • I think you have a misconception of what libraries do. In general, we aren't necessarily archiving information for the future.

            Just because you don't archive all (or even most) of the stuff you have doesn't mean that the ability to archive isn't directly valuable to you. Further, I'm 100% sure that you would archive *everything* if you had the space to do so. Electronic storage of books and articles means that you naturally do have the space to store everything - DRM just prevents you from of taking advanta

            • by shalla (642644)
              Further, I'm 100% sure that you would archive *everything* if you had the space to do so. Electronic storage of books and articles means that you naturally do have the space to store everything - DRM just prevents you from of taking advantage of that fact.

              IF we had the space and IF we had the money and IF we had the staff and IF we had the time to convert everything physical to digital and IF we had a good enough search algorithm to get relevant results from all the crap that would then be in the mix and IF
  • Send a letter to the Boston Public Library

    * Send this page to somebody

    "I therefore urge the Boston Public Library to terminate its association with OverDrive Audio Books, and adopt a policy of refusing to be agents for the propagation of Digital Restrictions Management."
    http://www.fsf.org/news/letter-to-the-bpl [fsf.org]

    Richard Stallman sent a letter to the Boston Public Library (BPL) asking them to abandon the system they currently use to distribute audio books, since this format require
    • by shalla (642644)
      Richard Stallman sent a letter to the Boston Public Library (BPL) asking them to abandon the system they currently use to distribute audio books, since this format requires the use of proprietary software. It is illegal in the US to release free software capable of reading these audio books because of the Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) measures that are being imposed.

      Did he, you know, bother to ask what the alternatives were?

      There are no eAudiobook vendors for libraries that do not use DRM. Librarie
      • by dsaklad (162420)
        Around the web what are examples of some links?... for free audio books available that are compatible with more types of computer setups?

        It would be a good idea to list these examples on libraries' websites where library clientele are also pointed to overdrive. Then overdrive becomes one of the listed alternatives among other free audio books that are available. Boston Public Library and Cambridge Public Library http://www.cambridgema.gov/CPL/audiobooks.html [cambridgema.gov] across the river should list many of the alternat
        • by shalla (642644)
          Sadly, there aren't that many good sites with more than, say, 10 free audio books on them. However, that's better than a couple years ago. I don't have my list with me atm, but off the top of my head:

          Librivox [librivox.org]
          Audio Books For Free [audiobooksforfree.com] (which has both free and pay options)
          Free Classic Audio Books [freeclassi...obooks.com]
          And this great post Audiobook Podcast Collection [oculture.com] at Open Culture, which lists some sites at the bottom.

          If you go through through the list, you'll note that the vast majority are classics in the public domain rather than
      • Libraries are in the position of either not offering a service that is highly requested by patrons, or offering one that is useable only by those with the dominant operating system.

        The library could ask patrons who feel serious about audio books to sign a petition against DRM in order to boost its negotiating power, right?

        However, since my options are DRM or nothing, then I must reluctantly opt for DRM.

        If your options for paper books were to keep them inside the physical presence of the library (and not lend them) or not to carry them at all, what would you do?

        • by shalla (642644)
          The library could ask patrons who feel serious about audio books to sign a petition against DRM in order to boost its negotiating power, right?

          Any one library doing this would be ineffective. It has to be a big, organized movement, and frankly, we've got a few other things going on right now. I'm not saying it's a bad idea, just don't expect your local library (which may consist of one overworked person) to necessarily put this at the top of their To Do list.

          That said, I do recommend you stop in and have
  • Hyperbole? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MollyB (162595) * on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:38AM (#20527409) Journal

    pose a danger to peer reviewed scientific research, free markets, and possibly the future of western civilization.
    This is a breathtakingly bold projection, muted somewhat (weaseled?) by the word "possibly". Nope, haven't RTFA, but most "Chicken Little" pronouncements seem to fizzle sooner than later. I have even less faith in the power of form letters, which Richard Stallman suggests above. Maybe we should just send nuts?
    • by hachete (473378)
      PRISM are talking to congress and K street - a congress who in the past have accepted publishers statements like this at their face value, witness the DMCA. I think the danger here is that prism will get the ear of a friendly congressperson, and whammo, the current situation is legislated up the whazoo, the publishers get to feed at the trough for an eternity, or the end of civilization, whichever is sooner.

      On a side issue, it's interesting how the interweb has thrown a harsh light on these assumptions.
    • This is a breathtakingly bold projection, muted somewhat (weaseled?) by the word "possibly". Nope, haven't RTFA, but most "Chicken Little" pronouncements seem to fizzle sooner than later.

      True, but don't discount the power these words tend to have when you're trying to write out something decidedly short-form and sway somebody's position X units that-away so they make a connection when they're reading about/observing related phenomena that smacks of your complaint, recall your little bit of hyperbole, an

      • by MollyB (162595) *
        I don't discount the power or effect of this trope (1b.) [m-w.com]. I aspire to reach the discerning reader and hope to elevate discussions such that the merit of an argument is the criterion by which it should be judged. I acknowledge your point that (too) many people have lost the power of critical thinking. I thus pointed out such an example. There is another in the comment [slashdot.org] preceding yours in this thread. It just seems to me that a steady rise in meaningless intensity will ensure we are stuck on the treadmill of h
        • I hope you aren't right, and afraid you might be...

          No advocacy of the hype treadmill here, I assure you. That doesn't make the fact that informed and reasonably articulate individuals will pander to those inclined to react to over-the-top hyperbolic statements any less interesting of a quandary. Perhaps if there *were* real absolutes it'd be a different story, but I suppose we just need to remember that some people believe in their aims so strongly that they see them as such, and are willing to gain sup

  • by Poingggg (103097) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @06:14AM (#20527521) Homepage
    ..if they have people in LAB-COATS on every page on their site? WHITE labcoats! Everybody knows you can trust someone in a labcoat!

  • For a very brief overview of Open Access & Commercial Publishers:

    http://listserver.sigmaxi.org/sc/wa.exe?A2=ind07&L =american-scientist-open-access-forum&D=1&O=D&F=l& S=&P=87619 [sigmaxi.org]

    If I have to summarize that page (copy/paste), it'd basically go like this:

    (1) PEER-REVIEWED JOURNAL-ARTICLE AUTHORS GIVE JOURNALS THEIR ARTICLES FOR FREE: NO ROYALTIES.

    The authors' research and writings are funded by government research grants and/or by salaries from their employers (mostly universities).

    (2) PEERS REVIEW FOR FREE.

    The peers' reviewing work and time are funded by salaries from their employers (mostly universities).

    (3) PUBLISHER REVENUES FROM INSTITUTIONAL SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE CURRENTLY PAYING THE FULL COST OF MANAGING THE PEER REVIEW, SEVERAL TIMES OVER.

    That is the status quo today: The costs of managing peer review are covered, many times over, by selling -- mostly to the authors' institutions -- paper and online access to the articles donated for free by the authors, with the peer review donated for free by the peers.

    (4) IF INSTITUTIONAL SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE EVER CANCELED, PEER REVIEW MANAGEMENT COSTS WILL BE PAID OUT OF THE INSTITUTIONAL SUBSCRIPTION CANCELLATION SAVINGS.

    If and when institutional subscriptions were ever canceled unsustainably as a consequence of Green OA, the cost of peer review could easily be paid for directly by institutions, on behalf of their employees, per paper submitted, out of just a fraction of the very same funds they have saved from their institutional subscription cancellations. All access and archiving would then be provided by the network of institutional OA repositories instead of the publisher, who would only provide the peer review. This is called "OA publishing" or "Gold OA."

    With Gold OA still somewhat being farfetched, the OA movement is currently striving for Green OA, which means that the commercial publishers do their normal routine, but allow the authors to deposit their peer reviewed and for publ

  • by ericleasemorgan (928146) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @08:27AM (#20528021) Homepage
    The scholarly communications process is broken, and it has been this way for at least 15 years. I applaud the efforts of ARL and decry the lies and propaganda articulated by PRISM.

    Again, the process is broken, and there are three contributing factors, listed here in no priority order. First, librarians (and libraries) desire to preserve the historical record for future use. This means they (we) desire to collect and organize just about as much of human's intellectual output in order to foster the growth of knowledge. Idealistic, I know, but it is true. Second, scholars (usually university faculty) have the natural desire for promotion and tenure. They want to be recognized by their peers and rewarded for achievements. This is often realized through publishing journal articles in sets of established venues. Third, publishers have the natural desire to earn as much money as possible. This is the nature of capitalism.

    This three-fold combination (buy everything for the sake of future generations, published in established venues, and make as much money as possible) has driven the prices of scholarly journals through the roof. For example, just guess how much the average scholarly journal costs per year? If you guessed less than a few thousand dollars, then you were wrong. Twelve issues. Glossy paper. No ads. $3,000/year or more. Just about the worse journal is Brain Research costing close to $15,000/year.

    Each of the three groups (librarians, scholars/researchers, and publishers) have the "rights" to do what they are doing, but in the process I sincerely believe the public gets the short end of the stick. Because the journals are licensed (not purchased) from the publishers, a person needs to be a part of the licensee's membership group in order to read the articles. This excluded the general public, researchers from abroad, or people in third-world countries. How are these people suppose to benefit from the research if they can't have access to the content?

    Open access publishing is seen as one possible solution to these problems. It is very much akin to open source software. Research something. (Scratch an itch.) Write about it. (Document your software.) Deposit it in an archive and give it away (Make it available for download). Wait for comments. (Support your software.) Repeat, and enjoy the acknowledgement of your peers.

    Open access publishing is not the answer to everything just as open source software is not the answer to everything. On the other hand, the public -- who has funded much of the research of scholars through tax-paid grants -- does have the right to access to materials they helped create. PRISM advocates the commercial sector continue to have control over the distribution process. Such a perspective is a disservice to the nature of scholarship and the freedom of access to fundamental knowledge.

    --
    Eric Lease Morgan
    University Libraries of Notre Dame

    • by Seiruu (808321)

      Open access publishing is seen as one possible solution to these problems. It is very much akin to open source software. Research something. (Scratch an itch.) Write about it. (Document your software.) Deposit it in an archive and give it away (Make it available for download). Wait for comments. (Support your software.) Repeat, and enjoy the acknowledgement of your peers.

      You're talking about preprints and peer commentary. OA Literature is about opening up peer reviewed literature. So what you're saying here isn't exactly accurate. It gives an incomplete view of what the strength is of OA literature: them being the same credibility but with changes in the funding and accessibility. To be more precise, the shifting of funding and more accessibility.

    • Thank you for your concise and accurate description of the expensive and sick condition of academic publishing.
  • Isn't this simple? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stu Charlton (1311) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @09:21AM (#20528273) Homepage
    I'm not a scientist, and I had a heck of a time parsing through the summary, but I think I get it now.

    1. An old economic model is dying: charging high fees for publishing & distribution of scholarly works
    2. A new model is emerging: open, primarily web-based, access to these scholarly works after peer review
    3. Publishers are desperate to retain their revenue streams, and will use PR, lobbying, rhetoric, and eventually legal means to stop this trend.
    4. Vested interests (those who rely on the reputation of said journals) don't want to change the status quo.

    It reads to me that PRISM ~= RIAA, circa 1999. The first salvos began with Napster's release, the first salvos here are beginning with rumblings of OA legislation.

    Obviously there could/should be a nominal fee for hard copy redistribution, to manage the infrastructure of a such a press. But, when people can print their own copies with open access, this probably won't be needed.

    The *real* economic value, it seems, of these publishers is the "brand reputation" associated with particular journals, which select certain articles for publication. Couldn't this be preserved by viewing these not as publishers, but as mere "content aggregators" of (open access) content? There's value in that, and a business could built on it, I'd think. (e.g. you're reading an example here w/ Slashdot).

    • Yes. You've got it right. An extra piece that you could add is the motivation of faculty to publish. The fact that faculty hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions are often based simply on the number of publications is the pressure that creates the volume of mostly unread journal papers that fill library shelves.
    • by BioTeX (1140315)

      Couldn't this be preserved by viewing these not as publishers, but as mere "content aggregators" of (open access) content?

      I'm familiar with one such "aggregator" service. It's called Faculty of 1000 [f1000biology.com]. A bunch of prominent researchers highlight important articles (especially "hidden gems" from lesser-read journals). The user pays a subscription fee to benefit from their service of separating the wheat from the chaff. It's a helpful time saver, and I imagine such services would become even more important in a decentralized, open-access system.

  • by Alsee (515537)
    equate public access to [] government censorship

    Wow. Impressive.
    These must be the same guys that equate the Iraq war to "nation building".

    -
  • If everything I needed was Open Access then I wouldn't need to use my research library at all. At the moment all my research library does is manage the subscriptions that my University has with journals.

    So in an Open Access academic environment, would we still need libraries?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog (752185)

      At the moment all my research library does is manage the subscriptions that my University has with journals.

      And maintains the building that said journals are housed in. And hires the staff to keep you from walking out the door with the journals, having a party in the cubicles, smoking in the bathroom, or keeping the transients from moving into the library. And argues with IT each Wednesday after the computers freeze up. And argues with the budgeting staff of the University to replace those chairs that

      • Electronic journals don't need housing. Back issues are being scanned and made available fast. I don't have to leave my desk to get current journals.

        Most of the rest of your comment was 'library exists to support library'.

        • And all of those back issues?

          And all of the servers? Think of the servers man! They need a home and someone to watch over them. Maybe you should talk to your library staff a bit about just what they do aside from telling you not to eat your lunch in the cubicles.

        • by azaris (699901) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @03:19PM (#20531021) Journal

          Electronic journals don't need housing. Back issues are being scanned and made available fast. I don't have to leave my desk to get current journals.

          I should consider it rather important to store multiple physical copies of scientific research in libraries throughout the world. There's already an alarming amount of obscure but relevant research from the 19th century and early 20th century that simply hasn't been widely reprinted and is in the danger of becoming folklore because the original manuscripts are so rare. Electronic storage is even less longevous than paper storage, it's not a solution for the ages.

          Libraries are like RAID-5 of the research community.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I really don't see how the publishers can equate open access with censorship; it's really only saying if we can't get paid to publish this stuff then it must be "censorship." I think open access is a great idea. I was trained as a a librarian, and the increasing costs of serials (journals) for libraries is tapping into the budget--how about $1 million annually and up to $12,500 a year for a single journal for a small library?

    It's made even worse that some of journals have to be there for accreditation, or
  • This is not surprising.

    I have written about this before on Slashdot, and what the future holds for publishing in general, and any practical learning aid: Don't have Cash or Employed? Too bad, so sad because if you do not have either, your going to go to jail if you attempt to do research yourself.

    Its all about controlling information just like it was back in the Dark Ages when lowly surfs caught trying to learn how to read where harshly dealt with, unless of course they had the permission of the Church or
  • A little caution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by liegeofmelkor (978577) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @01:06PM (#20529893)
    First, I'll state that I think PRISM is a farce and the government (and the people they represent) have every right to demand access to the works they fund. However, I'd like to introduce a little balance to this discussion. While the tenets behind the movement to open access are simple and obvious, and a general framework for an open access system can be sketched out by any non-expert (evidenced in this forum), the consequences of screwing up in the transition demand caution and a great deal of forethought. The current system, although fostering spiraling prices, is relatively good at ensuring quality, reproducible and generally true work (to the best of the authors' knowledge) gets published. The incidents of researchers fabricating or distorting data is rare enough that it usually makes large headlines in the news. Peer-review is directly responsible for the level of credibility in academic publications. However, the peer-review process itself doesn't weed out fabrications or distortions in data, because researchers doing very specialized experiments could, hypothetically, forge data convincingly enough to fool peers in the field (for a few years at least). The aura of a thorough and organized system (and the fear and stigma of getting caught), however, force the potentially less-than-ethical researchers (a non-trivial fraction of academians seeking recognition and advancement) to police themselves and maintain ethical standards. If even the impression of a less rigorous, less organized system infiltrates the scientific community, it could embolden the more ambitious (for advancement) researchers to lower their ethical standards (some even subconsciously), producing a feedback loop as their less-than-rigorous research enters the field. This would be a HUGE blow to forward progress in research and could take decades to rectify. Granted, this is a low-probability outcome! However, the gov.t isn't known for meticulous foresight and smooth transitions to new business models (neither is the market system for that matter). So, even though I disagree with PRISM, I'm glad assholes like them are out there to slow the progress of the movement. Consider them as a skeptical peer-reviewer. If the open access model is sound (and I think it is), it will come through in the end, and the critiques incorporated from the likes of PRISM will only make it stronger and more rigorous. They're a balancing force, although a malevolent one.
    • by Seiruu (808321)
      As I understand it, OA is essentially shifting the funding from publishers (who get their revenue from scientific parties) to authors-institutions (the scientific parties) and opening up access to them.

      It doesn't in fact touch the peer review process at all. OA does not improve, nor worsen the quality of the peer review process, nor the articles undergoing that process. Journals can still and likely will exist even with 100% OA. Their role could and will still be mediating authors and referees through the p
  • You forgot the important characteristic cited above.
    They're totally without redeeming characteristics - they don't even publish any good recipes for deep-fried brat.

Recent research has tended to show that the Abominable No-Man is being replaced by the Prohibitive Procrastinator. -- C.N. Parkinson

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