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Bill proposed to block public access to publicly funded research

  1. Jan 11, 2012 #1

    Pythagorean

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    More threats to the open research community. Between this and SOPA...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/o...-for.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=research works&st=cse
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 11, 2012 #2

    Evo

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    Here is more information on the bill and what you can do to oppose it.

    http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/31184
     
  4. Jan 11, 2012 #3
    What possible purpose does this bill have, other than to be a handout to a few journals?
     
  5. Jan 11, 2012 #4

    Evo

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    Out of the blue two clueless politicians come up with this? Anyone think something is rotten in Denmark? Come on. I doubt either of them even knew any of those journals existed before they were "approached". And what's their reasoning to support this?
     
  6. Jan 11, 2012 #5
    I'm no conspiracy theorist, but it sounds like they're being paid off one way or another.
     
  7. Jan 11, 2012 #6

    Evo

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    I'm not either, but how else would this have come about? It's obvious lobbyists got to them, whether it was perks or brainwashing doesn't really matter. How can this be in the best interest of the public? If taxpayer money is used to fund the research then stipulations on availabilty of the research should be allowed. Right now the journals have exclusive rights for a year. Considering that the journals don't actually pay for the research, they just profit off of publishing, I think that is more than fair. And they make a lot of money.
     
  8. Jan 11, 2012 #7

    Moonbear

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    Sounds like they're just returning to the old way. When NIH first started requiring free access, there was a lot of pushback from publishers. It's hard to cover costs if you're giving away your product free. All it ended up doing was raising publication costs since journals had to start charging enormous page fees to publish in order to offset free distribution.
     
  9. Jan 11, 2012 #8

    Evo

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    But they charge huge subscription fees, do you really think they are hurting? Considering the costs that book publishers have with no guaranteed sales or subsciptions, I can't see how these journals aren't making a killing.
     
  10. Jan 11, 2012 #9
    That seems like the most reasonable guess ... until more is learned about this. This has nothing to do with any sort of conspiracy, imo. It's just business as usual ... imho. And it's one of the things that might be improved upon wrt American politics ... again, just imho.
     
  11. Jan 11, 2012 #10

    Evo

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    No one is suggesting a conspiracy.
     
  12. Jan 11, 2012 #11

    Pengwuino

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    That's a poor comparison. The number of people who buy books/magazine subscriptions vs. peer-review journals is many orders of magnitude apart. In fact, for example, I can probably count the number of subscriptions to the American Journal of Physics in my city of half a million on my hand. There is certainly good reason to suspect there is something going on but just saying that what they sell is expensive is hardly an argument.
     
  13. Jan 11, 2012 #12

    Evo

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    But book publishers have to pay authors up front before anything is published. It's a gamble that doesn't pay off many times. They have to pay for book tours and all of the associated expenses, advertising, forwarding books to bookstores never knowing if anything will sell. Journals have none of these expenses, it's pure guaranteed profit. What expenses do journals have? And they have exclusive rights for the first year! After a year, it's a bit old, eh? Plus they've already raked in the subscription money. There is no need for this bill.
     
  14. Jan 11, 2012 #13

    Drakkith

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    No matter what medium is used all journals will have expenses. As was said, it's hard to sell something if its being offered for free. That said, I do see an issue with not being able to see the results of something that our tax dollars paid for without having to pay for it again. But I'm sure the details are much different than what I imagine.
     
  15. Jan 11, 2012 #14

    Evo

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    But it's not free. They have pre-paid subscriptions that are a fortune, I would bet they're higher profits than your average publication, they have a captive audience. They don't need to print and distribute more than ordered. And for the first year, they can charge ridiculous amounts per paper. $35 for a paper when an entire magazine costs two bucks? What is that, $600 per magazine and they have no costs other than printing (and paying themselves). And that's on top of the millions of dollars in subscriptions fees. They will still continue to get all of this without the bill. They are not at risk of losing anything that they already have, that's the point, they want not only keep what they have, they want to take everything away from the public. What's wrong here?
     
  16. Jan 11, 2012 #15

    Drakkith

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    What's not free? The work published on the NLMW's website is offered free of charge according to what was posted.

    You're telling a business not to after possible profit? Good luck with that. Businesses don't survive by not going after possible profit.
     
  17. Jan 11, 2012 #16

    Evo

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    Do they not have pre-paid subscriptions from universities, medical centers, etc?? It's not provided for free.

    How many publishers have a bill passed guaranteeing them perpetual profits, on tax funded research, no less.
     
  18. Jan 11, 2012 #17

    Pengwuino

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    There's the key, can you actually show me that they have such minimal expenses?
     
  19. Jan 11, 2012 #18

    Evo

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    They don't pay for the research, they don't pay the authors, I don't believe they pay the reviewers, Vanadium50, ZapperZ, etc... can confirm this. Aside from printing and paying themselves what are their expenses? Do they disclose this publicly?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_journal#Cost

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serials_crisis
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2012
  20. Jan 11, 2012 #19

    Ygggdrasil

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    One of the co-sponsors of the bill Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), received $8.5k in contributions from executives of the Dutch publisher Elsevier, one of the largest publishers of scientific journals.

    http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=807

    I will note that the author of the above blog post (and the NY Times Op-Ed in the OP) is a co-founder of the Public Library of Science (PLoS) a group which publishes many open access journals. Instead of charging subscribers for the content, PLoS charges the authors of the scientific articles to defray the costs of publishing (these journals are also online-only, so there is much less overhead).

    One disadvantage of charging authors instead of readers is that very good journals reject many more papers than they accept. However, the rejected papers still take up the journals resources (especially if they were sent to reviewers). Some critics claim that PLoS is able to make their model work because of the PLoS ONE journal that they publish, a journal which has more relaxed publication standard than other journals (it reviews papers to make sure the science is done correctly but articles are not judged on their perceived importance).
     
  21. Jan 11, 2012 #20

    Pengwuino

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    Yes they do not pay reviewers nor the authors. The few journals I regularly read are published by non-profit publishers. It would be interesting to compare the costs journals purchased from for-profit and non-profit publishers
     
  22. Jan 12, 2012 #21
    From what I understand, the research isn't free the first year.

    Yeah, but the business isn't going after possible profit on its own merits. It's begging the government for more profits. Worse than that, the business is bribing members of the government to give them more profits. So, yeah... I'm telling the business not to do that. And so should you.
     
  23. Jan 12, 2012 #22

    Drakkith

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    Ah I see.


    If you call lobbying bribing, then sure. The only issue I have with the whole thing is that it, apparently, is supported by taxes. If so, then there might be an issue. I'd have to get alot more info to form an educated opinion, as I know that one thing I have learned in my life is almost always true; nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
     
  24. Jan 12, 2012 #23

    Pythagorean

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    Authors should be charged to submit to journals, which means it inevitably comes from the taxpayers (i.e. the authors write it into their budget for their grant proposals) but distributed to ALL taxpayers, rather than the individual, poor researcher trying to make it. The idea being that all taxpayers benefit from R&D.

    It's difficult as a starving college student when your library doesn't have a subscription to important journals in your field. It's hard to get a feel for what has been done and what's worth doing when you can't keep up with the field. Rural campuses suffer dramatically, since they're less likely to have diverse journals and faculty: double whammy. At least with diverse journal access, faculty and students could work together to keep up with the research.
     
  25. Jan 12, 2012 #24

    D H

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    From an article printed in The Guardian last August, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/academic-publishers-murdoch-socialist,
    Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the western world? Whose monopolistic practices make Walmart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch a socialist? You won't guess the answer in a month of Sundays.

    The answer is of course academic publishers. Perhaps this is just a case of the non-academic media being a bit jealous of academic publishing. There is a quite a bit to be jealous of. Who else has 30 to 40 percent profit margins? From an article published in The Economist last May, http://www.economist.com/node/18744177/
    Academic journals generally get their articles for nothing and may pay little to editors and peer reviewers. They sell to the very universities that provide that cheap labour. As other media falter, academic publishers have soared. Elsevier, the biggest publisher of journals with almost 2,000 titles, cruised through the recession. Last year it made £724m ($1.1 billion) on revenues of £2 billion—an operating-profit margin of 36%.
     
  26. Jan 12, 2012 #25

    Vanadium 50

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    Let's back up a bit.

    First, this bill does not "block public access to publicly funded research". It no longer requires that publicly funded research papers be posted on one particular web site.

    Second, there is no question that it costs money to produce a journal. You have to pay editors, compositors, and so on, so even if you don't pay authors and referees, there is money involved. The amount of money depends on the journal - medical journals, which often include high resolution photography are more expensive than physics journals which use line art - which are more expensive than philosophy journals, which are just text. Also relevant is the fact that most of these are fixed costs - printing 1 copy or 10 costs the same, and 1000 costs very little more.

    It is certainly true that there are for-profit journals that make obscene profits. But even if they did not, journals would still be expensive. There are non-profit journals and they are less expensive, but not that much less expensive. A 30% profit is a lot, but setting that number to 0% won't reduce journal costs by a factor of 100.

    In the "good old days", individual investigators charged journals to their grants. This was maybe a few thousand dollars. Then the funding agencies started asking the question "why are we paying for ten copies of the same journal to the same institution"? So they stopped paying for them, instead suggesting that the department share a single copy.

    So, the number of copies of the journal circulating fell by an order of magnitude, and because the costs are fixed, the prices skyrocketed. It is not uncommon to have journals costing more than $5000 a year. That in turn provoked the question, "why should the public pay for this twice?" Somehow ten copies at $500 each is easier to swallow than one at $5000.

    Where it looks like the field is going is back to "page charges", which will probably be steeper than we are used to. If we want journals, the money to produce them has to come from somewhere, and if the receiving end has grown to be impractical, the other end has to pick up the slack.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I once got a $10 Starbucks or Amazon card from a journal for banging out a large number of reviews in a short time. The editor asked me to report on a pile of long-lingering papers.
     
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