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Boycott of Elsevier Exceeds 8000 Researchers 220

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the no-paywalled-journal-shall-touch-this-citation-list dept.
kkleiner writes with an update on the boycott of Elsevier started in January. From the article: "Academic research is behind bars and an online boycott by 8,209 researchers (and counting) is seeking to set it free — well, more free than it has been. The boycott targets Elsevier, the publisher of popular journals like Cell and The Lancet, for its aggressive business practices, but opposition was electrified by Elsevier's backing of a Congressional bill titled the Research Works Act. Though lesser known than the other high-profile, privacy-related bills SOPA and PIPA, the act was slated to reverse the Open Access Policy enacted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2008 that granted the public free access to any article derived from NIH-funded research."
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Boycott of Elsevier Exceeds 8000 Researchers

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  • Seriously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:51PM (#39408317)
    How fucking greedy can you get? You want OUR tax dollars to sell us what we payed for back at a profit. Fuck off Elsevier!
    • Re:Seriously (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:05PM (#39408427)

      I met the former CEO of Elsevier a few days ago. Really nice guy. He said after the Americans got hold of the business it just started being a heartless soulsucking corporation. So he quit.

      • Re:Seriously (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Eponymous Hero (2090636) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:16PM (#39408507)
        i believe that. they took over the harcourt building in downtown san diego in the mid 2000s. i applied for a job there, and they were the rudest bunch of people i've ever met for interviews. was told i'd be contacted for a second interview, but it never came. i didn't even want the job soon enough, but i was expecting to either hear that i was turned down, or given an offer to turn down myself. nada. they couldn't be bothered to follow up. and the interview questions (for a tech related job) had nothing at all to do with anything tech but were 100% focused on how well i thought i could handle micro management. handle this!
        • Re:Seriously (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:04PM (#39408879)

          they were the rudest bunch of people i've ever met for interviews. was told i'd be contacted for a second interview, but it never came. ..... but i was expecting to either hear that i was turned down, or given an offer to turn down myself.

          I don't think that this is indicative of just this company, but a trend of many companies who are mismanaged. If the senior management is not able to ensure that senior staff are higly motivated and proactive, then this sadly cannot be passed further down the structure. I have noticed this happening in a number of companies and think it is a case of focusing too much on the unimportant (but visible/KPI-able) things and not worrying too much about the actual business/greater good. I see more and more governments/politicians/businesses thinking short term, tracking their KPIs and really having no-one at the helm or taking strong leadership. I think this trend in the last few years has become more and more visible where the measure of a person's ability to do their job is split up into little bite size chunks that can be measured - and people work on making them look good, but the overall business/government/etc suffers as there isn't really a simple KPI to measure overall performance.

          I also think that this same problem lies with Elsevier. Too much focus has been placed on making sure that profits go up each quarter and too little is placed on long term viability. Being jerks like this, in the short term will generate more money as people will have less and less options to get access to data/journals, however in the long term, they are alienating their users and by the looks of it, the folks that are publishing these papers. I would bet that if you looked at individual KPIs for the folks at Elsevier, they are all meeting their targets and look fantastic on paper even though they are potentially killing the company.

          • by Ihmhi (1206036)

            I don't think that this is indicative of just this company, but a trend of many companies who are mismanaged.

            After more than a few interviews go really well and no one has the decency to give you a rejection letter anymore it starts to get a wee bit frustrating. It's becoming all too common a practice.

      • The implication being that 1. Something inherent to the american corporate culture is greedy 2. Americans as a group are inherently greedy or 3. America attracts greedy people/corporations?

        I'm not offended, and I could believe number two. Genuinely curious.
        • Re:Seriously (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:32PM (#39408621)

          1. No. The corporate culture in America is a reflection of greed, not the cause.
          2. Not more so than any other group. (Although they are better positioned to act on that greed than most.)

          It's 3. It's always been 3. America started off resource rich and became powerful. Power attracts the power-hungry. Greed is just a side-effect of the hunger for more power.

        • Re:Seriously (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:31PM (#39409043) Journal

          America doesn't have any more greedy people than any other nation. The problem is that American socioeconomic arrangement discourages altruism and rewards greed - or at least the balance between the two is tilted towards greed more than in most other developed countries. Greedy people tend to be more successful, and hence both more visible and more influential, shaping the corporate culture you observe.

          • Double edged sword (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ace37 (2302468)

            America doesn't have any more greedy people than any other nation. The problem is that American socioeconomic arrangement discourages altruism and rewards greed - or at least the balance between the two is tilted towards greed more than in most other developed countries. Greedy people tend to be more successful, and hence both more visible and more influential, shaping the corporate culture you observe.

            Unfortunately, it's also rare in that it can also reward effort commensurately. Often it won't, but you only have to make a few bright people very productive to bump the GNP way up.

            My wife graduated top of her class in med school. After finishing her BS, so far she's been doing 60-110 hour weeks for 7 years. She'll finish just over a decade of that before she's free to practice. If the pay was under $100k/yr after all her effort, she would have quit a few years ago, cut her losses, and done interior design-

            • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @02:19AM (#39410801)

              Were the financial incentive missing and nothing there to replace it, American society would lose many bright minds from some of its most economically productive workforces. We'd probably also get rid of 10 times as many greedy turds who ride the best and brightest. So the hard question is whether or not it's worth it. Americans seem to think so, and we have big SUVs and large new homes to show for it. Go Team.

              I think it's entirely possible to have the "profit motive" (sacred words in the Cult of the Free Market) and not be completely fucking unethical. SEE: damn near every industrialized nation in Europe. Like, Idunno, maybe Germany where they don't treat their workers or citizens like shit. Unsurprisingly, they have one of the strongest economies in the world.

              • by ace37 (2302468)

                I think it's entirely possible to have the "profit motive" (sacred words in the Cult of the Free Market) and not be completely fucking unethical. SEE: damn near every industrialized nation in Europe. Like, Idunno, maybe Germany where they don't treat their workers or citizens like shit. Unsurprisingly, they have one of the strongest economies in the world.

                I agree that it's entirely possible. But I disagree with the follow on--Europe doesn't do it better--Europe simply does things differently because each country has a different set of goals, costs, and benefits shaped to the collective wills of their population and leaders. Most of the European countries foster systems with, relative to the US, less direct financial incentive/reward and less of the ugly that comes with it. A better distribution of wealth at a small expense to the total wealth (and in some ca

            • by risom (1400035)

              Were the financial incentive missing and nothing there to replace it, American society would lose many bright minds from some of its most economically productive workforces. We'd probably also get rid of 10 times as many greedy turds who ride the best and brightest. So the hard question is whether or not it's worth it.

              I think it would be really interesting to research whether that financial incentive is actually real (i.e. actually working as an incentive). According to a study I recently read, vertical mobility in the U.S. is quite low [americanprogress.org], especially compared to other industrialized countries with a more functional welfare system.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            All the greatest philanthropists of this and the last century are AMERICANS.

            Yeah, they were all back stabbing go for the throat capitalists (except possibly for Warren Buffet).

            But the rest of the wold doesn't hold a candle in philanthropy (dollar wise) to Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Andrew Carnegie, Howard Hughes . . . and the list goes on and on.

          • Re:Seriously (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Rostin (691447) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:10PM (#39409581)
            Compare:

            The problem is that American socioeconomic arrangement discourages altruism and rewards greed - or at least the balance between the two is tilted towards greed more than in most other developed countries.

            With

            Q. Are Americans more or less charitable than citizens of other countries?

            A. No developed country approaches American giving. For example, in 1995 (the most recent year for which data are available), Americans gave, per capita, three and a half times as much to causes and charities as the French, seven times as much as the Germans, and 14 times as much as the Italians. Similarly, in 1998, Americans were 15 percent more likely to volunteer their time than the Dutch, 21 percent more likely than the Swiss, and 32 percent more likely than the Germans. These differences are not attributable to demographic characteristics such as education, income, age, sex, or marital status. On the contrary, if we look at two people who are identical in all these ways except that one is European and the other American, the probability is still far lower that the European will volunteer than the American.

            (From here [american.com])

            You might also be interested in several of the statistics from this site [blogspot.com], too. Notably, in 2006, US charitable giving as a percentage of GDP was larger by more than a factor of two than the second most charitable nation (the UK).

            • Re:Seriously (Score:5, Insightful)

              by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday March 19, 2012 @10:39PM (#39409733) Journal

              It stands to reason that citizens of countries with well-developed universal social welfare to care for the needy are less likely to give to charity - after all, they have already paid their (larger) taxes.

              What if you compare numbers for charity + welfare taxes between U.S. and other countries?

              • Re:Seriously (Score:5, Interesting)

                by Rostin (691447) on Monday March 19, 2012 @11:12PM (#39409937)
                The referenced pdf in the second link reports those numbers on pages 8 and 9. I'll save you the trouble of looking them up yourself. Here's what it says:

                The evidence in Table 1 suggests that personal tax might well be an important factor in giving levels: however, it is the level of social security contribution and not personal taxation which seemed most significant. Amongst the EU members in the survey an inverse relationship between average social security contribution as a proportion (%) of income and average individual giving as a proportion (%) of GDP was noted. The pattern among these countries is that the higher the social security contributions, the less is donated to charity, and the lower the social security contributions, the greater the donations to charity are. For instance, in France and the Netherlands, for example, which have proportionally high levels of employee and employer social security contribution, had lower levels of individual giving as a proportion of GDP. Conversely in the UK and Ireland, where proportionally lower levels of employers’ social security contribution through tax were seen, higher rates of giving are found.

                So, you are almost right. The reason I say almost is that conspicuously missing from their discussion is the US. They talk only about the trend in European countries. I plotted the data for myself, both total personal taxes vs. charitable giving and SS contribution specifically vs. charitable giving, and in both cases, the US is a distant outlier (in the direction of being unusually charitable).

                It's interesting that you raise this as a possibility for another reason. Several months ago, I was telling a friend that I had read that politically conservative people tend to be more charitable than politically liberal people, and I speculated that it may be because liberal people feel that they have already done their duty by voting for representatives who support more government spending on social programs. She was extremely offended that I would impugn the character of her fellow liberals with such a suggestion. On the other hand, I recall reading a news story about a wealthy European businessman disparaging private charity and insisting that government was the appropriate instrument for helping the poor. Could it be that American people (for whatever cultural reason) feel an unusually large responsibility to personally help their fellow man?

                • by kdemetter (965669)

                  You are right that we feel less likely to give to charity, because we have already payed it in taxes.

                  It's an argument I hear all the time, mainly because where I live, our taxes are high, but you get very little back with regard to social security.
                  What I find more infuriating, is that the people who actually need it, also get very little. So it seems to me our government is not spending that money very well.

                • Re:Seriously (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @04:06AM (#39411181) Journal

                  On the other hand, I recall reading a news story about a wealthy European businessman disparaging private charity and insisting that government was the appropriate instrument for helping the poor.

                  And he's abso-fucking-lutely right. Most EU countries (probably all) have universal healthcare, and apart from egregious exceptions like the UK, higher education is free or very close to free.

                  Compare that to the USA, where *millions* of children don't have healthcare coverage. All that charity doesn't amount to a hill of beans if you have children living without healthcare. You're just a fucking 3rd world country.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Securityemo (1407943)
                  Probably. One of the nice things about living in a "welfare state" (sweden) is that the welfare isn't dependent upon the whimsy of any particular person. It helps break the bonds between individuals so that no one is dependent on anyone for base survival. Receiving monetary help (not loans) from a person in an emergency situation would feel creepy since I'd then be seriously indebted to that person in an unspecified way.

                  A system dependent on individual charity is also, well, unsystematic. People should re
          • by TheLink (130905)
            Cooperatives seem to generally behave better than corporations. The disadvantage of cooperatives is it generally requires some altruistic person to invest his own money and time into starting one up, and not get the "lion's share" of the rewards.

            So I was thinking couldn't Governments or someone encourage the creation of more cooperatives? Some sort of incentive scheme that reduces the risk to the bunch starting one up? Might be tricky to prevent abuse, but perhaps someone smart can figure it out.
          • The problem is that American socioeconomic arrangement discourages altruism and rewards greed - or at least the balance between the two is tilted towards greed more than in most other developed countries.

            Except that it is not a problem. It is a benefit. "Greedy" businessmen have done far more to advance the human condition than all the charities put together.

            The problem with Elsevier is not greed per se. If they were profiting only from privately funded research, few people would have a problem with it.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Have any of them done as much as people have done for free? Is it the businessman that is responsible for the awesome convenience of telecom or a bunch of free notions given generously by Sir Isaac Newton, et al? How much do the efforts of underpaid US steel workers building infrastructure in the early part of the 20th century contribute the overall success of even modern electronics companies? The effect of a century of rail, etc? Even Locke understood that future generations are given enormous estates

        • by rrohbeck (944847)

          "Greed is good" seems to be embedded culturally in a large part of the population. At least a much greater part than Europe (outside the UK) or Japan.

    • Re:Seriously (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:33PM (#39408633)

      Also note that the peer reviewing process, which can be very time consuming and har labor, is all done free of charge by the researchers who end up paying for access to the journals who vitally relie on that process.

      • by presidenteloco (659168) on Monday March 19, 2012 @09:39PM (#39409449)

        to liberate and openly publish scientific research articles, wherever you find them.

        Science is a joint co-operative human activity with its main goal the creation of new knowledge for the benefit of all, and its intellectual products by all rights belong in the public domain by their very nature. If you want to charge me money for binding and a glossy cover, so be it, but as to the raw content, you don't own it. A huge tree of giants standing on each others shoulders created it and humanity owns it jointly.

  • Public is Public (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deweyhewson (1323623) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:55PM (#39408343)

    It should be simple: what the research funded fully, or even partially, by the public? Then all the results from it should be fully available to the public. If researches don't like that, they can be free to seek private funding, in which chase a reasonable restriction would be that all privately funded research becomes available to the public after ten years, since knowledge is a public good.

    This whole mentality of taking the public's money but then hiding the knowledge behind paywalls, even to the researchers themselves, is counterintuitive to the progress of the human race, and is not acceptable.

    • Socialist!
    • by Takionbrst (1772396) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:32PM (#39408623)

      Researchers don't like this any better than you do-- it's indescribably frustrating to have to email colleagues at another university with a better, more comprehensive literature subscription. And that's before you acknowledge the fact that the researchers do everything up to printing the journal (generating the work, reviewing the work, revising the work), and yet the journal receives the profits. Trust us, we'd all like open access journals.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:38PM (#39408677)

      It should be simple: what the research funded fully, or even partially, by the public? Then all the results from it should be fully available to the public. If researches don't like that

      Researchers do like that, which is why the boycott of Elsevier by researchers is happening.

      Certain scientific publishers (e.g., Elsevier) don't like it, but that's not the same thing as researchers not liking it.

      • Researchers do like that, which is why the boycott of Elsevier by researchers is happening.

        I just got asked to review a paper for Elsevier, and since I'd signed up for the boycott turned it down. Unfortunately this means that a rather interesting paper, in a reasonably decent journal, may not get published. As with trade embargoes on Saddam's Iraq and more recently Iran, it's the little guys who get hurt, not the leaders who created the mess.

    • Its not the researchers blocking the access, its company (I'm assuming privately held, with stock holders) that are blocking the research. Don't get me wrong; I hate that orgs like this use public funds and then lock the results behind a paywall, it takes some bawls to be like that. But lets place the blame where it lies, eh? The poor researchers are standing up to these clowns. Support them!
    • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Monday March 19, 2012 @09:17PM (#39409323)

      Holding research behind a paywall hurts the researcher even more than the public by preventing the kind of widespread exposure that comes from being freely accessible and being indexed by all the search engines. For example, a lot of research in computer graphics is held behind paywalls owned by ACM. But for every article on a given topic behind a ACM paywall, there tends to be three publicly available. Which get more citations? Which do more for the author's reputation?

      I don't think it's my imagination: the number of recent graphics papers with substantial contributions behind ACM paywalls seems to be dwindling fast.

  • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:00PM (#39408389)
    I wonder if we could get a sense of who was boycotting out of some rough total? Or get a sense by geographic region/school affiliation. It would be fascinating.
  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:07PM (#39408441) Homepage

    Aside from the peer-review process, what do these journals offer the scientific community that they can't get for free on the Internet? What prevents the scientific community from conducting it's own peer review process, at minimal cost, and publishing results for free on the Internet?

    No wonder Elsevier seems worried about the future of its business model.

    • by igor.sfiligoi (1517549) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:19PM (#39408537)

      You need something that is independent and that will stay around ~ forever.

      While I am not advocating for the "old school" business model, publishing trustworthy, referable papers is not cheap.
      Try an "Open Access" journal to see their rates.

      PS: And, yes, there is always arXiv.org for pre-prints, where you can get most of the papers anyhow, if you are willing to take the risk.

      • by sam_nead (607057)

        PS: And, yes, there is always arXiv.org for pre-prints, where you can get most of the papers anyhow, if you are willing to take the risk.

        What risk? What are you talking about? I'll guess: You think think that peer-review is a guarantee of correctness. If so: that is not the case.

      • by reve_etrange (2377702) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:36PM (#39408647)

        Try an "Open Access" journal to see their rates.

        Yes, OA journals are more expensive, because they do not collect subscription fees, but the publication costs simply become another item in our funding requests. The NIH (and other agencies) want open access, so they will accept this line item.

        Subscription-based journals may continue to have a role in publishing authors' whose funding requests were denied - though even this is contingent on funding levels not being restored (currently %~7 of grants are funded, but the system is designed for a %~30 level).

      • by msauve (701917)
        "publishing trustworthy, referable papers is not cheap."

        So, don't pay for it, since it doesn't have much value anyway [science20.com].
      • by the gnat (153162) on Monday March 19, 2012 @09:21PM (#39409353)

        While I am not advocating for the "old school" business model, publishing trustworthy, referable papers is not cheap. Try an "Open Access" journal to see their rates.

        The rates aren't actually that unreasonable. PLoS ONE is less than $1500 - quite affordable if you're an academic group used to paying $900 for a tiny vial of polymerase or $40,000 for a protein purification system, and they'll waive it for people who couldn't otherwise afford to publish there. Several other considerations:

        1. Publishing open-access with a commercial publisher is insanely expensive by comparison. I think I read something like $7000 per article for Nature, which hardly anyone bothers with. (I wouldn't - since I'm funded by the NIH, everything I do will end up being open-access after a year whether I pay Nature for the privilege or not. Of course, I'm very unlikely to be publishing in Nature for other reasons.)

        2. The economics of dealing with commercial publishers only make sense if you create an artificial wall between university libraries and university research labs. The libraries are paying so much to the publishers for journal access that any savings the labs might get by not paying to publish open-access are lost. Of course the overhead paid out of grant money to the university probably goes in part towards funding the library's access, but the scientists never have to bother with details like this - they only see the university skimming a certain percent off the top of their funds.

        3. Going the commercial, non-open-access route can be expensive too. Ever hear of charges per-page, or color fees? These are standard practice at many journals and can easily amount to more than the cost of publishing with PLoS ONE, and the article will still be paywalled. The color fees in particular are absolutely fucking insane in a world where most researchers never even see the print copy of any journal other than Science or Nature. (I don't even print out the PDFs any more - either I read the online version or I download the PDF to my iPad. The last time I saw one of my own articles in dead tree form was 2007.)

        4. Dealing with commercial publishers often sucks for other reasons. All of that fabled private-sector efficiency is meaningless when you're dealing with an entity whose review process is dependent on workaholic volunteers. I have a rule of thumb when dealing with Elsevier journals: don't send anything there unless you're willing to wait three months for reviews. The professors (or their postdocs, or sometimes even their students) who receive your manuscript don't give a shit. Why should they? They're not getting a share of Elsevier's 30%-plus profit margin.

        I'm not arguing that the open-access journals are the perfect alternative - they're still based on the same rules and regulations, minus the evil, and there is still too much bureaucracy and politicking involved. I don't think that preprint servers like arXiv are the solution either, for that matter, due to the lack of quality control and any form of peer review. These issues are largely a distraction anyway, however. We could certainly do a lot better than the current paradigm of scientific publishing, but even that wouldn't be so bad if not for the parasites which feed upon it. Fuck Elsevier.

        • What people tend to forget is that most conferences are organized in tandem with those publishers. Want to have your research presented in some conference important to your area, where you can meet your peers? Be prepared to have your article automatically published by elsevier or others.

          And about the professors and postdocs, actually, they do care a lot. Not that one likes it - no one likes free work - but still, we do it because we love what we do. And we do out best, in the hope that when we sent our art

      • by iris-n (1276146)

        Do you really think that the publishing rates in a open access journal are anything near the subscription rates of a traditional journal? You must be insane. One of the reasons behind this boycott movement is precisely because Elsevier's journals are very expensive, and they can charge these prices because they *own* the research papers.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:19PM (#39408547)

      Aside from the peer-review process, what do these journals offer the scientific community that they can't get for free on the Internet? What prevents the scientific community from conducting it's own peer review process, at minimal cost, and publishing results for free on the Internet?

      You don't understand the academic journal market. You don't publish articles in prestigious journals for the sake of publishing, or to make money, you publish articles in prestigious journals so that others read your work.

      There is no shortage of publishing options these days, but as I'm sure you know, most things published on the internet are crap.

      The academic journals deliver an audience of readers, and that is what you want - you want other prestigious academics to read your work. And a big part of how professors are judged for tenure is how many good articles did they publish in prestigious journals.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sam_nead (607057)

        you publish articles in prestigious journals so that others read your work.

        No, no, no. In maths, cs and physics, that is what preprints are for. The journal process can take years -- it is much too slow to be used as a means of communication.

        And a big part of how professors are judged for tenure is how many good articles did they publish in prestigious journals.

        This part is correct. Classy journals are used by tenure and hiring committees as a way of measuring quality across sub-disciplines of a larger field.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          "No, no, no. In maths, cs and physics, that is what preprints are for. The journal process can take years -- it is much too slow to be used as a means of communication."

          Which I guess is why for you guys a conference paper means something other than paper airplanes. For the life sciences you can reasonably expect a paper to go from submitted to e-published in less than 6 months, and dead tree format (where applicable) shouldn't ever take more than a year from date of submission.
          • I don't know about your area, but in CS, one year is just TOO LONG. That's why we publish in conferences, and after a bunch of papers on the same topic, we get all together and publish in a journal - mostly because it gets good on your and your boss' curriculum.

      • Fortunately, many open-access journals are experiencing rapid impact factor growth, e.g. BMC, PLoS, etc.

        We can publish rigorous, peer-reviewed work on the internet (both BMC and PLoS are electronic-only), but not for free.

        It is up to us to convince our employers and funding agencies to support open-access publication costs - the rewards are more than worth it.

      • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:55PM (#39408803)

        You don't understand the academic journal market. You don't publish articles in prestigious journals for the sake of publishing, or to make money, you publish articles in prestigious journals so that others read your work.

        That's a great theory, but in practice people publish in prestigious journals because those journals are prestigious, and it looks good on a CV, during tenure review, etc. People reading a researcher's work often comes secondary to people reading the list of journals where a researcher has published their work.

        Really though, your argument is specious. If the goal of publishing research was truly to get as many readers as possible, why not make use of the global nature of the Internet, and set up a system where publications happen entirely online? Peer review is already done by volunteers, so I cannot imagine there would be much of a problem with the peer review process. Journals were a way to reach a wide audience 30 years ago; times have changed, and we need to change with the times.

        The academic journals deliver an audience of readers, and that is what you want - you want other prestigious academics to read your work.

        This could be done by way of a mailing list. Journals are not necessary if that is the goal.

        And a big part of how professors are judged for tenure is how many good articles did they publish in prestigious journals.

        Bingo -- that is why it is hard to get researchers to stop feeding these monsters. Prestigious names look good, plain and simple; we live in a publish-or-perish world, and publishing in a big name journal is better than publishing on arXiv.

      • ... you publish articles in prestigious journals so that others read your work.

        What makes you think a peer-reviewed, community-run journal can't gain as much respect as traditional journals, and draw just as much of an audience? Remember: it's not the medium that makes the journal, but the people who, through their diligence, lend respect to it and those who, through their valued contributions, draw an audience to it.

        You don't understand the academic journal market.

        I don't think you understand the Internet,

      • Gee, I don't think things have changed that much since the last time I looked at the academic publishing world.

        I think it is still the case that the majority of academic research publication is done by non-tenured Professors who need to publish to avoid losing their source of income, and tenured Professors who are expected to publish to bring in more grant money to their institution.

        (Comment applies to the USA, citizens of other countries may find that your mileage may vary.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Scientists always try to publish to the best journal, on a particular topic, that they can. They would be shooting themselves in the foot to publish to anything else. Moving to open-access publishing is going to take a long time, as it takes time to build the reputation of those journals.

    • by SpottedKuh (855161) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:22PM (#39408557)

      Aside from the peer-review process, what do these journals offer the scientific community that they can't get for free on the Internet?

      Unfortunately, within the academic world, the quality of publications on your CV is determined by the perceived quality of the venue (e.g., high-impact journals, low-acceptance conferences, etc.), as opposed to the quality of the actual work getting published. There's an inertia problem faced by any new publication venue or method, and the academic world is ironically slow to adapt. At the end of the day, professors need tenure, grad students need scholarships, etc., so they will continue to publish in what are currently accepted as quality venues.

      • by sam_nead (607057)

        Unfortunately, within the academic world, the quality of publications on your CV is determined by the perceived quality of the venue (e.g., high-impact journals, low-acceptance conferences, etc.), as opposed to the quality of the actual work getting published.

        This is true and unfortunate, but there is a serious lack of more accurate means of measurement. I'm curious - what do you suggest as a better way to compare 400 candidates applying for 4 jobs? Don't forget the most important constraint: you are not an expert in any of their fields.

        • I'm curious - what do you suggest as a better way to compare 400 candidates applying for 4 jobs? Don't forget the most important constraint: you are not an expert in any of their fields.

          And the other important constraint: you don't have infinite time to read material and seek out experts to determine the quality of their publications. It is unfortunate, and I wasn't trying to imply with my comment that there is some better way (or that I have any idea what a better way would look like).

          But, I've found some amazing, insightful papers on the personal webpages of professors near retirement, who no longer care about the grind of publication. I've seen absolute crud (to the extent of being po

        • This is true and unfortunate, but there is a serious lack of more accurate means of measurement. I'm curious - what do you suggest as a better way to compare 400 candidates applying for 4 jobs? Don't forget the most important constraint: you are not an expert in any of their fields.

          A simple but effective metric: how many citations do their publication get, on average, and how does that compare to prominent researchers in their field of research? Good research, innovative work, etc. will be widely cited.

          Naturally, this is not the only metric that should be used. It is a whole lot better than the name of the journal that a paper was published in. I have seen papers that have not been published in any journal receive citations; I have even seen journals publish papers that are

          • A simple but effective metric: how many citations do their publication get, on average, and how does that compare to prominent researchers in their field of research?

            Well, as long as you're willing to wait arbitrarily long to find the number of citations you can get some signal from that. Keep in mind that a log-rolling effect will kick on too... Overall counting citations ends up as a variation on the H-index, a well ridiculed metric (at least when not evaluated by bureaucrats).

            Universities should be paying the cost of hosting research papers instead of paying for subscriptions to journals, and they should be making those papers available to anyone who wishes to read them.

            Those are called technical reports, and already exist. Someone has to manage and filter the peer-reviewing though, and without that publications end up as little more than vanity press.

            I ful

            • Someone has to manage and filter the peer-reviewing though

              Why not have the universities collaborate on this as well? For all the money universities receive from grants, and all the money they currently spend on journal subscriptions, I do not think it is asking too much for universities (and other institutions) to work together to manage the peer review process. As it is, peer review is a volunteer effort; the only real thing the journal publishers do is to connect reviewers with papers.

          • Unfortunately, there's a Citation game going on too. Some fine works don't get cited, and silly ones do. There's a little back-scratching going on there.

      • by godrik (1287354)

        This is exactly what publishes me to publish in elsevier. Two of the (maybe 5) main journals in my field are published by elsevier. If I do not publish there, I do not publish in journal. If I do not publish in journals, I won't get a faculty position. There IS no way out for me at the moment. I have to play the sick game of the publishers.

    • by reve_etrange (2377702) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:31PM (#39408611)

      Aside from the peer-review process

      Only they don't even offer us that, beyond contacting potential reviewers.

      We (i.e. the peers) review on a volunteer basis, sometimes for free (some institutions consider it a part of your job, some don't).

    • It seems an ideal application for a public key web of trust ; the keys of researchers could gain reputation by being signed by others in the field, and your articles would gain reputation by being signed by keys with high reputation.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:37PM (#39408669)

      what do these journals offer the scientific community that they can't get for free on the Internet?

      Right now I'm trying to figure out which journal to send my manuscript to. I was talking with a colleague, I mentioned PLoS one. [plosone.org] She said that she wouldn't see that as favorably on a CV as she would for a journal that rejects more papers. This is not an old scientist who works for one of the "top tier" journals either and has a vested interest in keeping things how they are, she's a grad student.

      I don't want to contribute to Elsevier, but it's a competitive field. I wouldn't want to miss out on getting funded to do research that I thought was important just because I went to a journal with a worse reputation but slightly better ethics.

      • Forgot to mention, I did in fact decide to send it to a different journal because of Elsevier. If the other publisher rejects it, it will have to go to Elsevier.
      • by gerddie (173963)

        Right now I'm trying to figure out which journal to send my manuscript to.

        I found this ranking [scimagojr.com] quite helpful. They use something similar to the Google page rank algorithm to measure the overall influence of a journal and unlike Thompson Research, they actually published the algorithm [arxiv.org]. Also, they base the analysis on the Scopus data base which includes a lot more publications then Thompson Research do in their WoK.

        I was talking with a colleague, I mentioned PLoS one. [plosone.org] She said that she wouldn't see that as favorably on a CV as she would for a journal that rejects more papers. This is not an old scientist who works for one of the "top tier" journals either and has a vested interest in keeping things how they are, she's a grad student.

        It is a very sad state of affairs when even young scientist base their assessment not on what but on where something is published. Well, in the end it always depends o

        • In her defense, she was probably being a little paranoid on my behalf. Also, most fellowships aren't going to bother looking up how many times you've been cited, let alone reading your papers and determining how good they think they are. Journal title is a fast way to judge it, and while it's far from perfect... what method of sorting out the good research quickly is?
    • by DrEasy (559739) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:24PM (#39409001) Journal

      I agree. It is great time that University libraries take over as publishers, and spend their money hosting and archiving online journals instead of paying these ridiculous fees. The libraries should also function in a federated manner (P2P!), so that searches for a journal or author can be automatically propagated. Again like in P2P, downloaded articles should be replicated in the local university's point of access. This way most popular articles will be even more protected for the long term.

      As for the reputation aspect, I'm pretty sure if Stanford or MIT decided to host their own open-access no fee journals that they would easily attract top researchers for their editorial boards and immediately be flooded with submissions. There are already great examples of reputable online journals, see the Journal of AI Research for example.

      There's now open-source software that helps manage the workflow of journal publication. The tools are there, the willingness is there. Let's do it!

    • No wonder Elsevier seems worried about the future of its business model.

      If they had any brains they would be busy turning themselves into a publication database and a network for free and open publishing of peer reviewed articles.

    • Peer review is quite valuable though. Sure, you can post your research on blogspot, but how much credibility are you going to get then? And how much exposure?

      There are other publishers than Elsevier, Springer is one and they seem much more ethical to me. FWIW. I'm not too educated in this regard.

  • Plain-text passwords (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Incidentally, Elsevier's online services ScienceDirect and Scopus save passwords in plain text in their database, and will happily mail them back to you if you have forgotten them. That's thedailywtf.com material. Just in case a "black-hat researcher" wants to take a deeper look at that...
    • by tibit (1762298)

      Ohh, knowing how many people reuse passwords, this has suddenly made them a rather high-stakes target.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:24PM (#39408569)

    Elsevier withdrew their support for the RWA [elsevier.com] three weeks ago.

    Maybe an update that included that little detail would have been more useful?

    • by Microlith (54737) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:35PM (#39408643)

      It's obvious that their goal is to monopolize the distribution of information paid for by the public, and if they back down now it's only because they intend to try again later when the public eye is off of them, much like the RIAA/MPAA and their attempted purchase of SOPA/PIPA.

      So mentioning of an irrelevant, temporary detail is pointless.

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        I agree that they shouldn't just "be forgiven" and the whole thing ignored now that they backed down (and of course they said the boycott was not a reason - yeah, right, bullshit). But it's clearly relevant to AN UPDATE ON THE BOYCOTT and it clearly has a point given the boycott definitely influenced them in withdrawing support for a horrible law. How many more changes can be brought about if researchers continue to stand up to these monopolistic publishers?

        Pretending it's an irrelevant and pointless deta

      • Agree with parent. Elsevier has at least 15 years of practice in testing just how far over the line they can go before they get into immediately bad trouble. And this is an institution that knows very well how to do the submarine thing when its prey shows signs of becoming alarmed.

    • That's true, but they are still engaged in wholesale denial of public access to publicly funding work.

      It's not just the general public that is missing out (indeed, few can usefully read academic publications), but researchers at less-well-funded domestic institutions, and those in other countries. Their profits are not worth it.

    • I hear a lot of senators who were in favor of SOPA or PIPA changed their minds once they saw it wasn't going to happen. They probably learned their lesson that censorship is bad, no reason to vote them out now, right?

      Sorry for the sarcasm, but no, Elsevier has realized the futility of the fight right here and now, they haven't given up on their scheme to take taxpayer-paid research and sell it.
    • Why are we keeping these journals alive? We could set up a more open, more collaborative system of publishing by using the Internet and the immense computing resources that typical research institutions have. The fact that Elsevier withdrew support for a particular controversial act is a minor footnote compared to the broader issue: Elsevier keeps published researched behind paywalls and ensures that only "insiders" at universities and research labs can access it. It is a system that needs to be killed,
  • by jds91md (2439128) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:48PM (#39408751)
    Fan-freakin-tastic! I detest Elsevier and Wolters-Kluwer and other publishers/purveyors of medical literature. They put everything behind extremely expensive paywalls. I get around them by using my university's institutional subscription access, but still it's a PIA. Whenever anyone on my online listservs without access asks for an article, I play librarian and get it for them for free. I once asked Wolters-Kluwer for permission to cite research findings from a medical article in a free medical app I wrote. They wanted $795. I reiterated that the work I am doing is free and educational. They relented "just this once". I now never ask again for permission from large publishers who unfortunately hold the intellectual property rights to much medical literature (instead of the study authors themselves, oddly). I always ask permission from authors and researchers, but no longer from publishers, as they just want to monetize and gouge. Don't need that. -- JSt
    • by schmiddy (599730)

      always ask permission from authors and researchers, but no longer from publishers, as they just want to monetize and gouge.

      Careful. Though you may have the permission from the authors to redistribute their works, they may not legally be able to give you such permission. See the rules for journal Cell, one of these Elsevier publications, under "Copyright" section [cell.com]:

      Upon acceptance of an article, authors will be asked to transfer copyright. . .

      They spell out further rules under Authors' Rights: the author does not retain the right to grant arbitrary redistribution rights to other individuals/corporations (i.e. to you). And these rules are actually some of the more lenient ones I've seen...

  • Meh (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Call me when the number of researchers is OVER 9000!!!!!

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:07PM (#39408905) Homepage

    The singularityhub.com talks a lot about open-access journals, which are a completely different thing than open access to papers. In my field (physics), most journals have no problem with authors who post their papers on arxiv.org in parallel with publication in the journal, and almost everyone does exactly that. It doesn't matter the slightest bit that Physical Review isn't open access, because essentially all the papers that appear in it these days are openly accessible on arxiv.org.

    Hitching one's wagon to new, open-access journals is a losing proposition. Academia is conservative, and in fact many of the open-access journals are really of terrible quality. For instance, the Journal of Modern Physics publishes kook material like this paper [scirp.org], which their peer reviewers clearly weren't qualified to detect as nonsense.

    The right solution is for people to refuse to publish in journals that won't let them post their own work online for free. Physicists have done this, and the battle is won -- has been, if I remember correctly, since the 90's.

    The singularityhub article has a graph claiming that "open access increases citations." Well, that's kind of silly. It depends on how good, original, and important your work is, and it also depends on what venues you're comparing. There are high-quality non-free journals and there are non-free junk journals. There are high-quality open-access journals and there are open-access junk journals such as the Journal of Modern Physics. What I guarantee will increase citations is if, in addition to publishing your paper in the best (open or non-open) journal you can, you also make it available for free someplace like arxiv.org, so that your colleagues can access it easily. (Even for people who have institutional access to journals, pulling papers out of the publishers' crappy web interfaces is an extremely painful process, and every interface and database works differently.)

    Open-access journals, as opposed to open access to papers, only become crucial if you're unlucky enough to be in a field where the non-open journals all actively enforce a prohibition against posting your papers online for free.

    • by iris-n (1276146)

      Are you actually serious?

      Do you have no problem with your library paying outrageous fees too give you access to non-free journals? After all, if everyone just reads the paper off arXiv (which is true for myself, and most people I know, as arXiv is a lot faster than any journal) anyway, why should we pay for the journals nobody reads? And if we don't pay for them, how they will survive and continue to provide the rubber-stamp refereeing process you use them for? It's just not a viable business model. Further

  • by reve_etrange (2377702) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:11PM (#39408927)

    Members of the general public are right to be angry about having to pay twice for public work. And access to that work is crucial, not just for the edification of knowledgeable laypeople, but so that professionals such as private physicians and patient advocates can make decisions and give advice that are scientifically justified and up-to-date.

    However, we in academia should be much more angry, because we have to pay many times over.
    We pay...

    • Once with our taxes
    • twice with our institutional overheads*
    • again when we actually do the research (with time and effort)
    • again for publication fees (page overages, color figures, etc.)
    • again when we do peer review
    • and again when we have to buy back the articles.**

    * Nearly all institutions charge an overhead, usually around %50, on grant money. This is the manner in which well-funded researchers enrich a university. The overheads or "indirects" are meant to pay for library subscriptions, support staff, infrastructure, etc. Equipment is typically exempted, as it becomes university property.
    ** Most campuses have some level of subscriptions, but most are also missing access to key journals. I'm not talking about Harvard or MIT here, but state schools, foreign universities, research foundations.

  • by Dr_Ish (639005) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:20PM (#39408969) Homepage

    I have signed the boycott petition. It is great to have such an opportunity. The reason I signed is because I work at a State university and as such I am a public servant of the State. Doing research is what I am paid to do by the people of my State. However, once research is completed, it needs to get published. I can post it to various sites, but that does little good -- as others have noted, publication in a 'good' place matters. That is what gets visibility. So, I send a paper to a journal. The editorial assisants then send the paper out to referees. The referees are also usually other professors, frequently work at other State institutions. The referees produce reports and make recommendations about whether the paper should be published. However, referees also work for free. If the paper gets accepted, there are usually some changes that need to be made. No problem. Thus far, the whole process is State funded and nobody has made a dime, other than their salary.

    The next step is where the the trouble starts. Before the paper will be given final acceptance for publication by the journal, I am required to sign over the entire copyright to the publishers! Thus, far in the process, they have done nothing. Yet, from this point on, they get to profit from my work and that of the referees.

    Publishers will provide .pdf versions of off-prints to the authors. How much does that really cost? However, the .pdf files are getting increasingly limited. The .pdf of my most recent paper include my name as the person who downloaded it. I don't know whether the .pdf files will stop printing after a certain number of copies. If the is technically feasible, I bet they do.

    If someone wants to read my paper, they must have access to a library with a subscription to the journal. Subscriptions to journals are massively expensive. Should a member of the people of my State want to have access to my work, if they cannot find a library with access, then they must pay the journal publishers for the right to do so.

    What is laughable is that the publishers now also do things like offering an option to have the paper available on-line for free. However, to exercise this option, they want *me* to pay them a large fee. This is a crazy set up. They have added little yet get all the cash.

    In all fairness, different publishers have different policies on all this. Elsevier (along with Kluwer) just happen to have both the most restrictive policies coupled with the highest prices. However, if I want to get my work out there, or get a promotion (I already have tenure), then I have to play the game the publishers run with fewer morals than a mafia protection racket.

    These then are the frustrations that made me sign the anti-Elseview petition. It is makes me mad. The petition shows that I am not alone in this. Perhaps one day Congress will do something useful and outlaw the practices of the publishers. However, as the publishers use their ill gotten gains from the work of others to pay high priced lobbying firms, I doubt this will happen any time soon.

    All that being said, there is one tiny plus side. We professors are pretty smart cookies. There are many ways of getting access to materials, even if the library does not have a subscription. This means that there is a thriving set of back-channels that the greed of publishers have created. More than that, I am not prepared to say.

  • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:50PM (#39409145) Homepage Journal

    This should have been done 15 years ago.

    I know Elsevier from the other side, from managing the $40K/yr budget of a hospital's Medical Library before the turn of the century. Elsevier's charges and subscription bundling practices were rapacious then; their motto has always been "charge as much as the market will bear, and manipulate the market so we can charge even more."

    On scanning my bookshelf, I see that I have picked up a number of books on Blender and 3D modeling that are published by a subsidiary of Elsevier: Focal Press. There are other ways I can get this information, so I will join the boycott and avoid buying books and magazines produced by the Elsevier octopus or any of its obvious subsidiaries.

    Animating with Blender, Blender Foundations 2.6 (which is a misleading title since it is not a product of the Blender Foundation and does not describe v2.6 but some imaginary version the author thought was going to become v2.6), and Tradigital Blender are three such books. And, it turns out, all three were written by Roland Hess, whose prose style for some reason makes me sleepy even when he is describing a process I very much want to learn. Maybe avoiding Elsevier's slimy embrace will also cut down on the number of duds that end up in my reference library.

    I urge other high tech hobbyists and early adopters to look at the publisher before buying that slick new book or magazine on digital photography, 3D modeling, game development, etc. And join the boycott against Elsevier. It is extremely unlikely that you will miss anything of value in doing so; there are always other sources of greater integrity that you can go to. And by joining the boycott, and talking about it, you would be helping to improve conditions for good health care and scientific research.

  • I develop software, and I live contract to contract. I pay heavy taxes, some of which funds research. I agree to pay for research because I expect to see the results. However, the norm is that I can't see the results -- I can't afford to. Thus, it's just more of the same "rich get richer" situation that I struggle against daily.

    Even if I get access to the information, I typically can't use it because it's patented. In a world where I must do my own research almost exclusively, I've begun to loathe taxation that benefits researchers. Why should I pay you for information I can't afford to use? Those monies paid reduce funds for my own, usable, independent research. I'm all for advancing science and the arts, but I don't think this system is doing a very good job of it...

    The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.

    - Commissioner Pravin Lal

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:55AM (#39412715)
    Voice your support for H. R. 4004 the Public Access act and ask him or her to keep HR 3699 The Research Works Act, killed in committee. Lay out reasons why it's bad to limit access to research already paid for in whole or part by tax dollars. Be thoughtful, polite, and clearly explain what the bills do and why one is good and the other bad; since you'll be speaking to some poor staffer who probably doesn’t know what the bills are. Look at what caucuses they are on and tailor a message to that - less government, unfair "tax" on people, helping [people get information, good for business, etc. If enough get calls they will take notice; even if it's just to plant the thought that their constituents like one and oppose the other.

Information is the inverse of entropy.

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