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Open Access For Research Gaining Steam 64

An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that open access to research is gaining steam as more than 20,000 people, including Nobel Prize winners, have signed a petition calling for greater access to publicly-funded research. While publishers are fighting open access, a growing number of funding agencies and universities are making it a mandatory requirement."
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Open Access For Research Gaining Steam

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  • Meat and potatoes. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2007 @01:43AM (#18203854)
    "While publishers are fighting open access, a growing number of funding agencies and universities are making it a mandatory requirement.""

    OK so let's cut to the chase. Ignoring money for a moment. Let's compare the open-access sites and the closed journals. How do they compare strictly on results? More accurate? Less accurate? More depth? Less depth?

    "Slashdot requires you to wait between each successful posting of a comment to allow everyone a fair chance at posting a comment."

    TRM (Taco Rights Managment) strikes again
  • On the one hand... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Friday March 02, 2007 @01:58AM (#18203920)
    On the one hand, peer review and editing (things which closed journals often provide) are important. The classic example is the law journal where a misplaced comma cost millions, but it's also important in scientific journals where someone should be asking "does this sentence make sense?"

    On the other hand, why the hell should it cost anything for someone to read the research that their taxpayer dollars are funding? And why should there be gatekeepers of knowledge, or perceived knowledge? My grandfather had a paper that was rejected from the New England Journal of Medicine because he'd done the research before one of the editors, who came out with his own substantially similar paper later. Information should not be subjected to politics--especially information that saves lives. Restricting information increases corruption.
  • FireHose (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob54321 ( 911744 ) on Friday March 02, 2007 @02:35AM (#18204080)
    Given the five or so posts pointing out this was a dupe from this morning, who voted for this on FireHose? The status for this article was red indicating many people want this story on the main page. If anything, this shows we should probably give the editors a break... they made only one mistake based on the mistakes of a large number of readers.
  • by Puff Daddy ( 678869 ) on Friday March 02, 2007 @03:07AM (#18204212)
    Bioinformatics, especially genomics, has been open from the beginning. It's about time the rest of science caught up.
  • by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Friday March 02, 2007 @03:22AM (#18204256)
    open-access sites and the closed journals

    This is crap. Thise "closed" journals are not closed, they are abailable, for a fee. And yes, those journals generally provide higher quality papers, better written, better presented, and generally more relevant to the topic it covers. People spend time and resources in developing those results and then another amount of time and resrouces to write them, then another pack of people spend an amount of time and resources to review those wtitings and then some money to publish them. Why on Earth do people think the final product of this sometimes quite consuming and lengthy process should be made freely available to the rest of them ? This is stupid.

  • by shura57 ( 727404 ) * on Friday March 02, 2007 @03:25AM (#18204268) Homepage
    Indeed. The ideal process would be a taxpayer-sponsored publishing. There's some overhead in maintaining the organization, so it's not completely zero cost. However, it must be far lower that what the publishers want us to believe. One could have taxpayer-run electronic publishing, and then allow commercial publishers to print and sell the articles for those who want the nice and shiny paper version (as opposed to printing it yourself).

    What gets me the most is that currently publishers make you sign the copyright waver to transfer rights to them. All such forms that I have seen start with "The copyright law requires that you transfer the copyright..." which is a complete bullshit. I could have held the copyright and just given them permission to publish it once, there's nothing in any law that requires copyright transfer for publishing.

    But if I don't sign that form then I don't get published, and then I don't get funded for research because I have no publications. Catch-22.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Friday March 02, 2007 @03:27AM (#18204280) Homepage Journal
    Open access journals have the same peer review and editing standards as traditional "closed" journals do. PLoS Biology, say, is a hell of a long way from Wikipedia. In fact, speaking as a grad student who reads a whole lot of journal articles published in a variety of formats, I'd say the editing standards are often higher for journals from the better open-access publishers (PLoS and BMC come to mind) than they are for paper journals.
  • by MemoryDragon ( 544441 ) on Friday March 02, 2007 @03:31AM (#18204294)
    There is one thing... fame, thats pretty much the only thing those journals can provide. But I agree, the journal system is dreadful and the publishers are mostly crooks ripping the universities off after they bascially have done all the work themselves, they only are overpriced printing presses and fame donators (well the big journals are, the small ones are just printing presses)
  • by posterlogo ( 943853 ) on Friday March 02, 2007 @04:12AM (#18204474)
    As these discussions go, I would like to emphasize that NOTHING will be accomplished by blaming scientists. We certainly will keep results and important data to ourselves until such time as it forms a story worth publishing. Demanding anything before that is a recipe for disaster. After something is published, I for one want as many people in the world to read it as possible. However, the major journals out there operate as business via advertising and publishing costs, then again via subscription costs. As a business, they want to keep their circulation to paying subscribers only. Currently, it costs scientists more to publish in open access journals, because those journals do not recuperate their operating costs by subscription fees. In a sense, the researcher (and ultimately the taxpayer) will be charged even more to get the data out.

    On another note, many researchers have partial funding from agencies which are not taxpayer funded, like Howard Hughes, American Cancer Society, Alzheimer's Foundation, etc. This is also very common for postdoctoral fellow or graduate student fellowships. So just because a particular area of research got a dime of taxpayer money, does that automatically mean it should all be open access? It's not often easy to figure out the final contribution from multiple funding sources to a specific project.

    Most journals actually provide free access to articles after a certain time frame (like six months, or a year). Additionally, most articles that have broad interest are typically well publicized by news outlets (the applicable conclusions from the research, at least). Frankly, I don't think most of Joe. Q. Public gives a damn about the details of 99% of the research articles published, or could even understand it. As a biologist, I'm not sure I could understand most physics papers, for example. This whole bruhaha seems more about some principle that important to some vocal minority than a genuine public concern. In the end, important taxpayer funded research finds the light of day at the appropriate juncture.

    Personally, as someone who is proud of his work and wants it to be widely known, open access is great. Practically, I don't think it's THAT big a deal. And I think most journals are doing enough to publicize the broad picture.

  • by cephalien ( 529516 ) <benjaminlungerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 02, 2007 @04:15AM (#18204484)
    Really. I mean, sure, many of the journals make a profit; however, a number of them probably do so via the enormous subscription costs that PhDs (and even graduate students, sometimes) must pay to get access to the paper copies and electronic PDFs from said journal.

    Even today in the advent of electronic publishing, it is still a gigantic cost to print each issue; yes, we pay (sometimes hundreds of dollars) per page for things like color micrographs and the like, but considering that many times these journals have readerships that are less than ten thousand (sometimes considerably less) in the entire WORLD, to make these things self-sustaining is difficult at best.

    Let us not forget also that the journal editors orchestrate peer review. Certainly you might say that would be simple to resolve, but there are often good reasons why editors will avoid candidates for peer review that might look good to someone who hasn't been doing the job for years. Doctor X might work with Doctor Y, for example. Editors often have an eye to catch situations that might represent conflict of interest and avoid them. This also works in reverse as well. Without some sort of oversight, the less scrupulous researcher could simply send all his or her publications to be peer-reviewed by a friend, who would give them great ratings and send them on to be published online. The problem is that most researchers live in a bit of a vacuum. They work in a rather narrow margin within a field and sometimes get to know others just by the work they've published if it falls along close lines. That would make it very, very hard to objectively self-review (among themselves, that is) publications.

    Does it still happen in the current system? I'm sure it does. I also know that bad papers still get published, and good papers are rejected because one of the peer reviewers is working along similar lines and wants to be first to get it out (I've seen this happen).

    The system is imperfect, but it provides a structure under which we can have some sort of independent review. Simply tossing everything out in the open sounds good, but would be quite a different issue in practice.

    Besides, not to put too fine a point on it, but what is the general public going to do with all of this? The Federal government has required for a long time that the titles of all NSF (maybe NIH too) grants are made available to the public. What happened? People objected because studies were being done with cannibis, or other 'bad' drugs for purely medical reasons. Now we are specifically taught how to word grants so that they don't inflame the 'layperson' and get funding rejected because someone didn't like the title. What do you think will happen when we start touting all the 'free and open access' to papers? People who have no idea what is going on will raise holy hell because mice are being used for experiments or god forbid we're using heroin to test it's effect on X or Y.

    I'm all for freedom of information, but I don't see what good this will accomplish.
  • by blakestah ( 91866 ) <blakestah@gmail.com> on Friday March 02, 2007 @05:34AM (#18204782) Homepage

    The simple solution is an internet-based taxpayer-sponsored library.

    It avoids de-privatizing the journals.

    It gives the public the access they want for the price they want.

    Just hotlink them through Entrez Pubmed, or whatever other search engines people use, and collect use statistics to pay the journals.

    The way this query is worded "Free public access to science" suggests that the peer review process and distribution process are inherently worthless. That could not be farther from true. But giving the public access to scientific work is a great idea.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2007 @05:50AM (#18204840)
    There is nothing journals from publishers like Elsevier provide that open access journals can't provide for a token fee: the articles, the peer review, the editorial board, are often all free - it is a matter of prestige for those involved. Likewise, in this day and age, typesetting is provided by the authors (who use TeX), and distribution (both to referees for review, and final distribution as a journal) can be provided electronically for marginal cost. At worst you need to pay for an editorial board, and someone to compile the separate TeX articles into a single consistent document.

    I grant you that some journal, perhaps even most, do little for their money. But you're sadly mistaken if you think that if that a journal can run for free or "a token". Editorial staff do a lot of work - finding referees, handing out reviews, chasing up reviews when they are late (i.e. always), reconciling disagreements between referees, sending papers back for corrections, chasing up the corrections when they're late (i.e. often), assessing that the referees criticisms have been met, handling reply papers or letters. Some of the bigger journals also have people go over papers and massage them into a "house style". Distribution is cheap - it's all the human labour involved before the paper gets printed that costs.

    As for "typesetting is provided by the authors": I'm old enough to remember when a lot of journal were done like that, assembled from the original typewritten manuscripts, a hodge-podge of typefaces and sizes. We so don't want to go back to those days. TeX isn't an answer - outside of CompSci and math, very scientists use it. And as someone who's had to assemble a proceedings from 30 manuscripts supposedly produced from the same TeX template, it's not as simple as just joining them together.

    I support Open Access, but it's just a question of snapping your fingers and having all the work done for free. Last year a journal I submit to sent me a questionaire floating the idea they might go Open Access. I replied that it was a good idea, but that I would be unable to publish there anymore as I couldn't afford the £1000 per paper it would cost me. The current model of Open Access just shifts costs from the journal subscriber to the paper author.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser