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Losing the copyright when publishing a research article?

  1. Jun 11, 2010 #1
    Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    I have recently finished a research article about a theory that geometrically integrates General Relativity with other gauge fields, Electromagnetism included.

    The next step was of course to publish it so I went on looking for what were the submission conditions on the corresponding specialized online-publishers and found that it was required the copyright to be transferred to them on acceptance for publication.

    This sounded crazy to me since all profits coming from the purchase of the article were going to the publishers. What was then the benefit for the author? You will say: "If the article is accepted it will be seen by all potential buyers who are looking for the topic and trust the publisher's evaluation team on doing a good peer-review job. To the author is left the prestige gain if the content is well recognized by the readers".

    I understand this filters all what is being submitted and leaves inside what is technically correct (that is the "good stuff"). By this way the publisher makes its reputation...but also takes all the money? This is contrary to what happens with the publication of a fiction novel on the regular market for example.

    Since making a research article on theoretical physics like this demands much more effort than writing a novel then how this comes to be generally accepted?

    Can anyone explain this? Is there any publishing service with qualified reviewers on General Relativity and Gravitation which does not operate under such "extreme" conditions?
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 11, 2010 #2
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    Wait, you expected to earn money directly from publishing something?

    I think you have a very strange view of publishing in science. Since you are starting from such an incredibly different angle, I don't think anyone will be able to "explain" this to you. It literally is nothing more than people having a different intention/expectation of the publication process. So you might as well just accept this, and "agree to disagree" with everyone else's approach to scientific publishing.
  4. Jun 11, 2010 #3


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    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    Authors make money from selling books.

    Physicists make money from Universities who pay them to do research and publish the results.
  5. Jun 11, 2010 #4
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    Welcome to the messed up system. I completely agree with you that way too much power is in the hands of the publisher. Ofcourse, a publisher has to make their income somewhere and for the whole process of publishing some decent amount of money to cover overhead costs has to be charged.

    But publishers sell their subscriptions in large packages (as in: many journals boundled as a single subscription) for ridiculous amounts of money (Elsevier is notorious for this, they sell packages of over 14 000 dollar a year). Universities cannot choose which journal they want to subscribe to; they have to buy them in packages.

    Copyright is another thing. Suppose some journal invites you to write a review paper on a particular subject. You spend a lot of time and effort on this, and in the end the article might actually be good enough to publish as a book. Well, too bad, you will have to pay large amounts of fees in order to obtain publishing rights of your own scientific work.

    Also, realise that a peer review is performed by an editor of the journal first, and by some peer reviewer later on. But the peer reviewer is not employed by the journal -- they are researchers themself -- and they do not get paid by the publisher. The publisher is not involved in the process of research, and also hardly does any work when it comes to peer reviewing. Yet they make huge amounts of profits. For example, the revenues of Elsevier coming from scientific journals is a whopping 1.5 billion dollar. Why does so much money of the scientific community flow to a company which has nothing to do with the scientific process?

    Let alone the fact that (non-private) universities are funded through tax money. Yet the tax payer is not able to view the scientific work published in the articles.

    For a university it's very, very hard to stand up against the publishers. Scientists are so dependent on published work that their negotiation position is incredibly fragile. A researcher simply can't do without published work, and so publishers are able to keep raising their subscriptions costs. This is why open access is a very welcome development, e.g. arxiv.org. Let's hope this concept can be incorporated with a peer review process.

    The way I see it governments will have to impose laws which forces scientists to publish all their work through some open acces system. A country such as Sweden has already undertaken steps towards this (I think all published work must also be submitted to some open access database, but I am not sure).
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2010
  6. Jun 11, 2010 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    There is basically no money in scientific publishing (the volumes are too low). You are not losing any remuneration by assigning copyright.
  7. Jun 11, 2010 #6
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    That’s true.

    Apart from professional physicists can you imagine someone else being creative enough for doing a relevant contribution to science? The magic spark for visualizing the correct solution to a problem may take a long time to shine, even a century can elapse until a curious and enough prepared head makes the right connection. Career physicists are those who have the greater probabilities and possibilities on being "the one" to solve a specific problem, but no one can guarantee that won't happen on the head of any other person.

    A good career in physics will give us the best tools and training for the game, but the final score may depend on a particular visualization of the necesary concepts or even on the mere arbitrary path someone follows when thinking on a possible solution.
  8. Jun 11, 2010 #7
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    Thanks Justin for you sincere opinion.

    I was already advice by experienced authors on the topic that these were the accepted conditions regarding the intention. But this is well understood for professionals who are on their career when doing the research. Usually they are expected and/or required to expose the results of their investigations on a regular (visible) basis when supported by an institution so that is the primary goal.

    Sure I "agree on disagree" since I'm not a professional physicist and I'm not doing a career on this, just exposing my work on the topic. It was done because I found it interesting but the time an effort on doing it is as valid as for any other men. Copyright is there for something. It’s valid to retain it when talking about a physics book, right? Why not then for a research article?

    What I see is that under similar conditions some people may be discouraged on doing an interesting contribution to science due to the lack of return to their work and ideas. There should be a way to consider "non-standard" contributors.
  9. Jun 11, 2010 #8


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    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    If you are a scientist and want to make money on a publication, you might want to consider publishing a popular-level book on the subject. That can work OK. Publishing in peer-reviewed journals is not going to make you any money. Unless your work is pretty impressive, it's not going to earn you an invitation to a new position, either.
  10. Jun 11, 2010 #9


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    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    This part is very hard to believe. Perhaps you can clarify what you meant. I'm assuming you didn't mean that if I publish a proof of a mathematical theorem in a journal, I would have to pay the publishers of the journal to include the proof in a book? Nobody would be able to publish books if this was true.

    What if you e.g. invent a complete cure for dandruff and publish it in a journal? Are you saying that you wouldn't be able to start a company that sells the cure? That doesn't make any sense either.

    This is also very hard to believe. Even at 14K a year per subscription, they'd have to sell over 100K subscriptions.
  11. Jun 11, 2010 #10
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    You mean that authors "actually" are getting no money from publishers when submitting a scientific paper and I have already seen that's the way it is.

    If we are talking about U$D 5, U$D 50 or U$D 500 that's not the point. What seems odd to me is how authors are left out of the equation. I would like to know how many of them would say "no thanks" to some extra income coming from their personal work no matter how scarse it is.
  12. Jun 11, 2010 #11
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    Could you tell us how your work differs from existant work on the subject?

    The benefit to the author is the attention the work receives due to having been published.

    Generally speaking, this isn't true at all in physics. For one thing, review articles for journals are usually an order of magnitude or more shorter than what would be required even of a monograph, let alone a book. Moreover, in my experience publishers will bend over backwards to help you if you want to incorporate into a new piece some work published in a journal over which they hold the copyright; this almost always happens without any payment for copyright and in those cases where payment does take place, it's usually a nominal fee once proper attribution to the original published work is given.
  13. Jun 11, 2010 #12
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    Thanks for the advice.

    I have read popular-level books on rough topics and appreciated the way authors find to explain in common words difficult-to-grasp concepts. But I think that was not the way how those concepts or theories were published the first time. That worked for them after the topic had gained some relevance on the scientific community and thoughts, awakening the curiosity from the rest of the people about it and creating a valid demand on easy-to-grasp explanations. For a very technical paper as in this case no simplifications are possible beyond what was written without showing the hard stuff. Also I wouldn't compromise time on writing a book on new science which was not first validated by qualified people. I would prefer to use that time in something more productive like doing more research.

    About earning invitations to new positions...that would be a miracle!... since I don't have specific studies or associated position relative to the corresponding careers on theoretical physics. I have no expectations about that. My first expectation is to communicate this work and get it reviewed accordingly.

    What I don't want is to end with the feeling that "I made the boat and everyone went sailing and having fun on it... while I was left on the shore, looking". That’s why the idea of retaining the copyright becomes that relevant. Now its symbolic but in the future it may open the door to writing the book you are suggesting.
  14. Jun 11, 2010 #13
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    You can publish it in a variety of places, including online, even on physicsforums.com Independent research forum. It doesn't cost a thing and you keep the copyright.
  15. Jun 12, 2010 #14
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    Thanks for the data!! I will be checking those sites.
  16. Jun 12, 2010 #15


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    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    Might the arXiv preprint server be a good place to publish this type of work (http://arxiv.org/)? I don't know about their copyright policies (certainly, you won't make any profit from publishing there), but it might be something to look into.
  17. Jun 12, 2010 #16
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    Thanks Ygggdrasil, I will be checking that too.
  18. Jun 12, 2010 #17
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    As with most prices, they are set by supply and demand. In this situation, there are many people who are so desperate to publish that journals have their pick of articles for free. If there wasn't so much pressure on scientists to publish, journals might have to pay to attract articles... but that's just not how it is.
  19. Jun 12, 2010 #18
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    I will repeat my request for information on how your model differs from those extant.

    For what it's worth, a lack of familiarity with the ArXiv should already be setting off alarm bells in people's heads regarding the seriousness of this thread.
  20. Jun 12, 2010 #19
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    Alright, I wasn't too clear in my phrasing. I'm not talking about a certain proof of a theorem. or a paragraph of the article. You also cannot lose a patent over a published article (i.e. the formula is free for you to use, although once you publish something you cannot patent for it -- you have to patent something before you publish it)

    What I mean is simply the larger part of an article. Yes, I'm being vague here, but that's because this is open for interpretation. But suppose you want to publish a book which contains your work of over the past ten years. Are you allowed to use your articles? Not without paying the journal / publisher that now holds your rights over your work.

    I've seen it happen by the way. Some professor at my university was invited to publish a large review article on some subject (100 pages). He spend a huge amount of time on creating this article. He, ofcourse, didn't recieve any money for it. This is perfectly ok by the way! A review article is very important, in order to give a field a new boost. And as an expert of the field it's also important to learn others about your field (e.g. a review article, or a workshop, etc)

    However, after publishing he decided it would be good to publish the article as a book as it was in very popular demand. But that wasn't allowed. He ended up paying a couple of thousand of dollars for copyrights on publishing his own work.

    You don't think they do? Think of all the hospitals, all the universities in the world. They are all forced to buy these subscriptions. They can't do without. Ever came accross an article from sciencedirect.com ? That's them!

    Their (Elsevier) revenues were 1.7 billion in 2008 by the way.


    By the way, as for the opening post, you might want to keep in mind that if you do not publish in a peer reviewed journal then no scientist is going to take your work seriously.
  21. Jun 12, 2010 #20
    Re: Losing the copyright when publishing a research article??!!

    PS let me make part of my point clear by the way: I don't think a scientist should make monry of his publications. I don't even find it weird he needs to pay 20-30 dollar in order to let article be peer reviewed. What I'm having trouble with, is that after this peer review process some journal "steals" your article, and will charge anyone else that wants to view this work. A publisher is making tremendous amounts money of your work and the work of the peer reviewer. And the article isn't even open access anymore. Articles that were published over 20 years ago are still in the hands of these journals.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010
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