Should academic publications cost money to access?

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500_Apples
Should academic publications cost money to access?

Very often I see newspaper articles of a study and having some experience with this, I often go look for the original source. Sometimes, however, I can't find it. It might be with a journal that thinks it should charge me money for its work.

I wonder if this is due to my ignorance of other fields, in astronomy for example you can't find all articles for free by going to the journal website. But 99.9% of the work people do gets posted on http://arxiv.org/ for free download. As they get posted there before making it to journals that's what often gets referenced on blogs and such.

In my opinion charging money to read academic work is a form of privilege and thus imperialism. Can researchers in (likely poorer) African schools afford, for example this article http://www.jstor.org/stable/2138750 written on property rights in Ghana by a white professor at the London School of Economics.

There is something logically wrong with journals charging moneys. Ideas are useless if no one can access them.

theboxman

Most students and scholars are able to access them freely through an institutional subscription via their library, and I wouldn't be surprised if researchers elsewhere accessed these journal articles via that route as well (although because of a possible scarcity of funds, not all of the major e-journal service providers may be subscribed to, although jstor is usually pretty standard). Hardly anyone I know pays for individual articles or subscriptions. That said, there is certainly an argument to be made about the value of making them freely accessible, but this would require a thoroughly different model of funding for not only journals but also academic libraries (which is probably not a bad thing altogether). 

2 ponies

I agree with Boxman.  In my many years as a student I had "free" access to numerous journal databases and academic articles.  It wasn't really free, it's just that my student fees and tuition covered the marginal cost to the university to provide that service to me.  And the system seemed to work fine.  Additionally, public libraries provide access to a number of journals and databases as well.  My "cheesy" little regional public library has decent access to journals - academic and commercial.  The closest city library has even better access.  For $25 I can purchase a university library card in the closest city and presumably have incredible access.  However, like Boxman said - perhaps there's a case to be made for funding journals.

Ze

There may be a case for G8 student fees or government funding to go up, so that university in Ghana can be subsidized to afford the same online subscriptions Canadian university students take for granted.

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

Illustration by Sandbox Studio

Symmetry Magazine-Free For All-By Glennda Chui

Quote:
Forget about paying for journal subscriptions. If a new proposal takes hold, particle physics journals would get their funding from labs, libraries, and agencies that sponsor research, and readers could peruse them for free.
Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics(SCOAP3)
Quote:
The Open Access (OA) tenets of granting unrestricted access to the results of publicly-funded research are in contrast with current models of scientific publishing, where access is restricted to journal customers. At the same time, subscription costs increase and add considerable strain on libraries, forced to cancel an increasing number of journals subscriptions. This situation is particularly acute in fields like High-Energy Physics (HEP), where pre-prints describing scientific results are timely available online. There is a growing concern within the academic community that the future of high-quality journals, and the peer-review system they administer, is at risk.

To address this situation for HEP and, as an experiment, Science at large, a new model for OA publishing has emerged: SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics). In this model, HEP funding agencies and libraries, which today purchase journal subscriptions to implicitly support the peer-review service, federate to explicitly cover its cost, while publishers make the electronic versions of their journals free to read. Authors are not directly charged to publish their articles OA.

SCOAP3 will, for the first time, link quality and price, stimulating competition and enabling considerable medium- and long-term savings. Today, most publishers quote a price in the range of 1’000–2’000 Euros per published article. On this basis, we estimate that the annual budget for the transition of HEP publishing to OA would amount to a maximum of 10 Million Euros/year, sensibly lower than the estimated global expenditure in subscription to HEP journals.

Each SCOAP3 partner will finance its contribution by canceling journal subscriptions. Each country will contribute according to its share of HEP publishing. The transition to OA will be facilitated by the fact that the large majority of HEP articles are published in just six peer-reviewed journals. Of course, the SCOAP3 model is open to any, present or future, high-quality HEP journal, aiming for a dynamic market with healthy competition and a broader choice.

HEP funding agencies and libraries are currently signing Expressions of Interest for the financial backing of the consortium. A tendering procedure will then take place. Provided that SCOAP3 funding partners are ready to engage in long-term commitments, many publishers are expected to be ready to enter into negotiations.

The example of SCOAP3 could be rapidly followed by other fields, directly related to HEP, such as nuclear physics or astro-particle physics, or similarly compact and organized with a reasonable number of journals.

A lot of institutions and scientists are realizing the importance of access to information for the general public. They are openly allowing the archives of lectures seminars to be made available for viewing, and some professors are blogging as well as utilizing new software programs for daily thought sharing and some education to boot. See here for example. These youger college kids of course can provide all kinds of examples.

Quote:
PIRSA is a permanent, free, searchable, and citable archive of recorded seminars from relevant bodies in physics. This resource has been partially modelled after Cornell University's arXiv.org. Every seminar, seminar series, and collection of seminars is given a unique number, the PIRSA#, which allows each specific seminar to be referenced.

We offer seminar content in the following media formats: Windows Media, Flash, MP3, and PDF of slide or presentation materials.

Please use the form interface below to catch up on recent seminars from the PIRSA archive, or view seminars in a series or collection.

Tommy_Paine

I think a year or two ago someone posted an article about this very subject. (I think it was Beltov, but I could be wrong)

That article mentioned that the people submitting the papers didn't actually get paid by the publications demanding money for access.  There's something entirely wrong with that.

Research costs money, and I don't mind paying to cover those costs, and a bit more in recognition of a person's skills and effort to provide the information.  So, I'm not entirely against some kind of fee structure.  Too bad it couldn't be geared to income.  Probably too cumbersome.

Another thing that struck me while reading this thread, is the consideration that Canadian Universities, through various avenues, are heavily funded by yours truly, and millions like me.   So, research coming out of Universities should certainly be made available to the public.

After all, we paid for it, and I'd be surprised if government research grants didn't include a requirement to share the results.  But, even research that is, say, privately funded is still done on or with the infrastructure of a heavily taxpayer financed campus.

 

A while back, I was trying my best to advise a person whose Dr. recomended electroshock therapy.  I have a negative "gut" reaction to this kind of therapy for several reasons.  However, I didn't want to advise on that basis,   I wanted data to show the efficacy of such treatments for that person's affliction.   If the data showed my "gut" reaction was wrong, I was more than prepared to change my mind.

While I could find lots of pro and con annecdotes, the only sites that hinted at having actual data were only willing to part with the information for a fee.    Which you have to pay before you see the goods.

But then, maybe my search techniques weren't good, I dunno.  

I can't see paying for data on a therapy that has been in use for over 80 years.   In the end, it just ended up re-enforcing my "gut"  feeling that said therapy was dangerous hokum.

 

 

 

 

theboxman

Tommy_Paine wrote:

That article mentioned that the people submitting the papers didn't actually get paid by the publications demanding money for access.  There's something entirely wrong with that.

 

Indeed, beyond that, standard practice with academic journals is that copyright for a given article published is transferred to the journal in question, such that legally, the author of the journal does not even have the right to freely make his or her research publicly available (as a, for example, PDF download on a personal website), even years after its first publication. This differs from practices in, for instance, the publishing of fiction, wherein the publishers only purchase first printing/distribution rights but final ownership of copyright remains with the author. 

Ze

Not only are academic authors not paid, in many fields they must pay the journal to print their work. That's because research leading to publication is considered an integral part of being a university professor -- you're paid to be a prof, and part of the job is to publish. Some newspapers have taken advantage of that to get themselves a lot of free op-eds.

Re the universal library, check out UNESCO's digital efforts at http://www.wdl.org/en/ and the resources listed at http://openreflections.wordpress.com/tag/universal-library/

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

Quote:
I have read that 80% of the world do not have access to the Web. ) The Web has been largely designed by the developed world for the developed world. But it must be much more inclusive in order to be of greater value to us all.

Tim Berners-Lee Speech before Knight Foundation-14 September 2008

Quote:
A few years ago I chatted with a woman involved in relief work in war-ravaged areas. I wondered aloud whether Internet access should be low on the priority list after clean water, and other critical resources. She responded by telling me the story of a young man who had taught himself English, and with a connection to the Internet, how he set up his own translation business. This business provided income for the village as well as opening up new communications opportunities. I learned that I should not prioritize for others. Instead, I should listen to their concerns and opportunities and then do what I can to help.Tim Berners-Lee Speech before Knight Foundation

Ze

Indeed -- thanks for the pointer!

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

Quote:
A shift in paradigm can lead, via the theory-dependence of observation, to a difference in one's experiences of things and thus to a change in one's phenomenal world. ON Thomas Kuhn

Ze wrote:

Re the universal library, check out UNESCO's digital efforts at http://www.wdl.org/en/ and the resources listed at http://openreflections.wordpress.com/tag/universal-library/

Thanks Ze, you might want to check out what I had to say here.

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

The French librarian Gabriel Naudé wrote:

Quote:
And therefore I shall ever think it extreamly necessary, to collect for this purpose all sorts of books, (under such precautions, yet, as I shall establish) seeing a Library which is erected for the public benefit, ought to be universal; but which it can never be, unlesse it comprehend all the principal authors, that have written upon the great diversity of particular subjects, and chiefly upon all the arts and sciences; [...] For certainly there is nothing which renders a Library more recommendable, then when every man findes in it that which he is in search of Universal Library

The Universal Library is an ole concept and in this day and age one is able to discern the direction of what is happening in terms of information dissemination and how control of the web by corporate entities can have an adverse effect to what is inherently right to allowing people access to information. So if you are able to identify a "niche market" that has not be capitalized by the selling off of by privatizing Governments, what would you like to do to allow advancements in society that does not know race,gender, or age discrimination, as to who shall have this right too, and who shall not according to the cost of?

Quote:
"It is perhaps the oldest university in the world."Library of Alexandria discovered

ON a side note.

So if you are seeing now what benefit there might be for Google, you might understand how advertising and the extent of on a free internet access?  One can see how they could benefit by use of their browser?

The save TV process was countered by those who are trying to control the internet? How is one to gain from "free tv" if not from advertising as well? Cost of accessing the portal of the internet. Starbucks coffee anyone, or perhaps a library visit . Or maybe even a Gas Station, or, possibly a hotel?

Stephen Gordon

Ted Bergstom - an economics prof at UC Santa Barbara - has been banging this drum for awhile now: Ted Bergstrom's Journal Pricing Page. Here's an example from a paper he wrote called 'Free labor for costly journals?':

Quote:

There is a remarkable difference between the prices that commercial publishers charge to libraries for economics journals and the prices charged by professional societies and university presses. This price difference does not reflect a difference in quality. The six most-cited economics journals listed in the Social Science Citation Index are all nonprofit journals and their library subscription prices average about $180 per year. Only five of the twenty most-cited journals are owned by commercial publishers, and the average price of these five journals is about $1660 per year.

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

Just nice to see the Network in terms of Web Science mapping as to it's evolution of information freely accessed as a possibility.

(Click On Image for Larger Viewing)

500_Apples

Ze wrote:

Not only are academic authors not paid, in many fields they must pay the journal to print their work. That's because research leading to publication is considered an integral part of being a university professor -- you're paid to be a prof, and part of the job is to publish. Some newspapers have taken advantage of that to get themselves a lot of free op-eds.

Re the universal library, check out UNESCO's digital efforts at http://www.wdl.org/en/ and the resources listed at http://openreflections.wordpress.com/tag/universal-library/

I never thought I should be paid for the academic writing I've done. You do it for the exposure... and anyhow you do get paid, just not from the journal. You get paid by your supervisor, by your grant, by your government.

I'm not for journals paying their scientific authors, that's just an additional cost to pass on to the consumers. I'm for journals being as financially invisble as possible.

Ze

Oh, I agree. I do think daily papers filling up their op-ed pages with free writing from academics rather than paying writers is a bit dicey from a labour-rights perspective, though.

Stephen Gordon

Huh? Is the goal of journalism to provide income for journalists or to inform the public? What's the point of paying an amateur to make a hash of a complicated subject instead of running a piece by someone who actually understands the subject?

But it's not *always* necessary to fork out in order to read the scientific literature. In my experience, a google search with the article's title will kick up an ungated working paper version that will correspond almost exactly to the paper you're looking for.

500_Apples

Stephen Gordon wrote:

Huh? Is the goal of journalism to provide income for journalists or to inform the public? What's the point of paying an amateur to make a hash of a complicated subject instead of running a piece by someone who actually understands the subject?

But it's not *always* necessary to fork out in order to read the scientific literature. In my experience, a google search with the article's title will kick up an ungated working paper version that will correspond almost exactly to the paper you're looking for.


How much experience do you have with google searches that don't have university subscription access (like your office desktop) and all those things?

Stephen Gordon

Quite a bit, actually. When I cite academic writing on by blog, I'm generally able to find an ungated version to link to.

I'm sympathetic to the point you're making: it should be easy for people to read this material. My point is that academics generally do make it a point to make it easy.

Ze

Stephen Gordon wrote:

Huh? Is the goal of journalism to provide income for journalists or to inform the public? What's the point of paying an amateur to make a hash of a complicated subject instead of running a piece by someone who actually understands the subject?

Not even close to what I said. 

torontoprofessor

I might also add that the situation is worse for academic books than it is for academic journal articles (which so far have been the main focus of this discussion so far): it's even harder to find an academic book for free, legally, than it is to find an academic journal article.

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

Quote:
What's the point of paying an amateur to make a hash of a complicated subject instead of running a piece by someone who actually understands the subject?

I wonder what an economist thinks about scientists offering up new perspectives about their respective field?Smile

To be clear, even a scientist doing his summation, concluding in book form, or article, not having the up to date information will always have to consider the addendum for having been proofed wrong on the synopsis,  how would they know about Mandelstam or his work knowing full well who is doing what at the front? Maybe an economist knows better?

I can proof this example just to assure that what I am saying has a "basis in fact" and what one assumes by explanation in comparison "to feeling better about,"  in no way reduces what had been put forward in abstraction. Stick to what you know then rather then by opinion surmise that all is wrong with what some layman's work. Blogging made it ways past what media controlled liken you to hear and see. Faster reporting with "on the spot."

I am sensitive to Ze's point about labor and rights of journalists, in this kind of world, yet I do not refrain from buying magazines of articles that interest. It is something thousands of worker are facing current with regard to the restructuring of society once jobs are going.

Spectrum Spectrum's picture

......Or books of interest by these scientists for the "up to date in science."

Imagine that for every interest that you have,  you spend for a book, and considering the population and expense, how many have this ability to pay? Consider the population then and the ability to pay. Why would libraries be in existence?

The general consensus I think exists that educational outreach is an important feature to institutions,  not just for the general public, but for those who are working in others areas other then the trade that they had gone to school for.

For the disadvantage then in regards to living.

How is it this population in terms of it's education and literacy can excell according to the stastistcs of the ability of its citizens, above a global standard with access to information. Applied equally to all  countries then with this regard and in relation to the Tim Berners-Lee speech,  as a right to expand the intellectual borders.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

torontoprofessor wrote:

I might also add that the situation is worse for academic books than it is for academic journal articles (which so far have been the main focus of this discussion so far): it's even harder to find an academic book for free, legally, than it is to find an academic journal article.

I suppose that's true, in that you usually can't find them online (Google Books, for better or worse, is trying to change that), but almost every academic book of merit, and thousands of none, are available for free at University libraries which still function as centres of research. Isn't there something to be said on how this research model works? That is, that it eschews easy individual acquisition for a system that funds central, communal aggregation?

500_Apples

Catchfire wrote:

torontoprofessor wrote:

I might also add that the situation is worse for academic books than it is for academic journal articles (which so far have been the main focus of this discussion so far): it's even harder to find an academic book for free, legally, than it is to find an academic journal article.

I suppose that's true, in that you usually can't find them online (Google Books, for better or worse, is trying to change that), but almost every academic book of merit, and thousands of none, are available for free at University libraries which still function as centres of research. Isn't there something to be said on how this research model works? That is, that it eschews easy individual acquisition for a system that funds central, communal aggregation?

To reiterate why I raised this thread,

Personally I have no problem accessing information, as a graduate student at a large north american university, or previously when I was an undergraduate at McGill, it was not an issue. I was fortunate. The fact I am sometimes at other computers and have to wait till later is but a minor hindrance.

I am concerned with the general public's access, and also with the access of people at poorer universities in the third world. It's a question in the back of my mind.

Do universities in small-town Canada have libraries as significant as the ones I've had access to? I'd be pleasantly surprised.

These issues are why I think academic publishing should be close to financially invisible.

Ze

Smaller libraries often point to inter-library loan to counter this. But they often charge for the service, fees like $20 to have a bit of microfiche brought in.

torontoprofessor

Catchfire wrote:

almost every academic book of merit, and thousands of none, are available for free at University libraries which still function as centres of research.

They are not available free to the general public. At the University of Toronto, for example, you can apply to be a "research reader". A research reader card costs $150.00 per year. Details here.

torontoprofessor

Given the existence of the internet, every academic could skip the whole process of submitting articles to journals, and of submitting books to academic presses, and simply publish everything s/he writes online. Indeed, many academics already do this, both in the sciences and the humanities. This is a far more effective way of disseminating your work than publishing it in an academic journal or an academic press.

So what useful function, if any, do academic journals and academic presses serve? The funciton that occurs to me is simply this: they referee the articles and books before publishing them. This is useful as a sort of filtering mechanism (though it has its down side). Surely, such a function could be performed at a much lower cost?

The Bish

theboxman wrote:

Indeed, beyond that, standard practice with academic journals is that copyright for a given article published is transferred to the journal in question, such that legally, the author of the journal does not even have the right to freely make his or her research publicly available (as a, for example, PDF download on a personal website), even years after its first publication.

I'm not sure if there are some particular journals you have in mind, but this is certainly not the case with the vast majority of research that I've come across.  Authors always retain copyright.  That's how things like Arxiv are able to function.  I've also seen copies of articles in fields as varied as economics, political science, philosophy, and climatology published for free on professors' web sites.

I know that libraries would be quite glad to see journals made freely available.  Journal subscriptions are typically one of the biggest expenses a library has, if not the biggest.

Also, I think the original point of the topic is well made - even though most people in urban Canada may have access to this kind of information through libraries, the fact of the matter is that the people who need access to this research most often live in places without libraries, and it's ridiculous for researchers to spend their lives discovering things that would be useful to millions of people, only to have that information hidden from the very people who need it most.

Stephen Gordon

My understanding is that the only thing I cannot make public is the actual pdf file that the journal publishes. I could make available my final submission and not worry about copyright issues.

And as torontoprof says, the real role of journals is the refereeing process they provide - and referees work for free.

torontoprofessor

Stephen Gordon wrote:

My understanding is that the only thing I cannot make public is the actual pdf file that the journal publishes.

I think that this depends on the journal. For example, American Literature explicitly allows the author(s) the right to "post the article on personal or institutional Web sites and in other open-access repositories". On the other hand, the Slavic Review requires anyone "wishing to reproduce material from Slavic Review" for general distribution to obtain permission from the editor. Thus, permission would be required to post a final submission, or probably even a penultimate version of a paper. As for books, I suspect that most presses will want you to sign over the whole copyright, and will not allow the author to publish the book in any form online.

Tommy_Paine

I am concerned with the general public's access, and also with the access of people at poorer universities in the third world. It's a question in the back of my mind.

There's different levels of "access" to consider, also.  The type of academic writting, or communication in these kinds of journals is often written, necessarily, for other scientists in the same or related field.  By necessity, the "jargon" might be more of a stumbling block to access by the general public than money.

For example, last week I visited the weather chanel on line, which I haven't for a long time.  They've switched the radar map program, which allows you to zoom into a satelilte map with a high enough resolution that major urban areas show, along with highways.  So, while playing around with it, I noticed it just kept going and going.  So, I "followed" all the way north to a group of islands I've always been kinda curious about, in Hudson Bay, because of their isolation and odd shape-- the Belcher islands.   Sorry for the details, just showing the segues of the mind.  Or what passes for one.  ANYWAY I got curious about the geology, googled it, and came up with a very academic article.  A few paragraphs in, I realized I didn't have the time to really read it, because I'd be investing a good amount of time looking up specialized words.  Which I will get to.  I've done the same when I was curious about the geology of the Bruce Peninsula.   It can be done.   But I wonder how much curiosity outside of the scientific community is stiffled by this kind of obsticle.

This isn't a critique of "ivory tower egg heads".  There's no doubt in my mind that such precise language between scientists in academic papers is unavoidable.  But, it's a barrier nonetheless.

 

 

Tommy_Paine

Meanwhile, I have been given a book perhaps more in line with my interests. 

It features lots of cleavage, and even titilates with off the beaten path subjects like pegmatite dikes.  Things like this have always been graben' my attention,  through no fault of mine.  I'm only human.

.... hopefully this thoughtfully given book which is a layman's guide to Ontario geology will give me the necessary background to take on the academic papers on the Belcher Islands and the geology of Nunavit.

 

 

 

Tommy_Paine

In keeping with I guess what has turned out to be an experiment featuring an ordinary dullard and academic journals,  I came across some difficulty today.

While tooling around the net looking for this and that, a site that promised a geologic transect across the Grenville orogen (an uplifting subject matter, in my view) came to my attention.   Going to the page, I found it was just an abstract.  But the page lead me on to the National Research Council, which promises (actually, teases is more appropriate)  "Free access to Scientific Journals".   It looks like a promising source, actually, but there doesn't seem to be a one page index where a person can look at all the subjects.  It seems to me if you are looking for information on a particular subject, you'd have to click through every back issue. 

Kinda clumsy.

 

Spectrum Spectrum's picture


Quote:
“Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous. There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind. We owe it to a few writers of antiquity (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium. Nothing is more needed to overcome the modernist's snobbishness.”
=Albert Einstein

Nothing better then to see how an institute is built from the ground up. Some should think the dialogue of Socrates as he went through the city would be there to pull "the best of out of a pupil" rather then to listen as Socrates did too, "numbed intuitive senses" as he set out to hear from the most intelligent part of us? It would by opinion of him, exist in each of us, and yet, some would think that it all relies on just living in educational rote? Systemic nullifying atrophied adults bereft of the exploratory and inquiring child?

Quote:
“Television gives you the dates of Napoleon, but not who he was,” Bradbury says, summarizing TV’s content with a single word that he spits out as an epithet: “factoids.” He says this while sitting in a room dominated by a gigantic flat-panel television broadcasting the Fox News Channel, muted, factoids crawling across the bottom of the screen. His book still stands as a classic. But one of L.A.’s best-known residents wants it understood that when he wrote it he was far more concerned with the dulling effects of TV on people than he was on the silencing effect of a heavy-handed government. While television has in fact superseded reading for some, at least we can be grateful that firemen still put out fires instead of start them.Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted L.A.’s august Pulitzer honoree says it was never about censorship
By AMY E. BOYLE JOHNSTON Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - 7 pm

 

The fact remains that the probable outcome of any position adopted from perspective can be greatly increased by the "amalgamation of information". So in a sense "the universal library is a background source for of all possible outcomes" that can exist and  exists in term of Plato's ideal. Then,  the information had to always exist "out there already" and that we can put it together by being receptive and holding in thought, the lure, and the timing for the next step. More, definitely caught by the Net.

Quote:
Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." - Thomas Alva Edison, Harper's Monthly (September 1932)

Fish food, then becomes good for the soul? Not a "aimless wondering" in some geographical earth location as to pinpoint some information in geological structure, or too,  historically point to express? One book does not make for a whole? The intent, while holding in mind,  has it's most appropriate reward as to what is always brought home as the most appropriate info to roost( while the "hens are nesting" consolatory distillate eggs for new beginnings?) Expectancy and openness,  has it's rewards

Google search box ready....Snobbishness, or Numbed senses, do not make for an appropriate positioning?SmileShould academic publications cost money to access? Would you limit the probabilities for any youthful mind that is willing to give it their all??

500_Apples

Tommy_Paine wrote:

I am concerned with the general public's access, and also with the access of people at poorer universities in the third world. It's a question in the back of my mind.

There's different levels of "access" to consider, also.  The type of academic writting, or communication in these kinds of journals is often written, necessarily, for other scientists in the same or related field.  By necessity, the "jargon" might be more of a stumbling block to access by the general public than money.

For example, last week I visited the weather chanel on line, which I haven't for a long time.  They've switched the radar map program, which allows you to zoom into a satelilte map with a high enough resolution that major urban areas show, along with highways.  So, while playing around with it, I noticed it just kept going and going.  So, I "followed" all the way north to a group of islands I've always been kinda curious about, in Hudson Bay, because of their isolation and odd shape-- the Belcher islands.   Sorry for the details, just showing the segues of the mind.  Or what passes for one.  ANYWAY I got curious about the geology, googled it, and came up with a very academic article.  A few paragraphs in, I realized I didn't have the time to really read it, because I'd be investing a good amount of time looking up specialized words.  Which I will get to.  I've done the same when I was curious about the geology of the Bruce Peninsula.   It can be done.   But I wonder how much curiosity outside of the scientific community is stiffled by this kind of obsticle.

This isn't a critique of "ivory tower egg heads".  There's no doubt in my mind that such precise language between scientists in academic papers is unavoidable.  But, it's a barrier nonetheless.

The presence of intrinsic barriers does not justify the additional presence of financial barriers.

Ze

[url=http://www.gg.rhul.ac.uk/ict4d/workingpapers/freeaccess.pdf]PDF article on access to academic articles in an African context[/url]

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Former Reddit co-owner arrested for excessive JSTOR downloads

Quote:
Aaron Swartz, the 24-year-old wunderkind who co-authored the RSS specification at age 14 and sold his stake in Reddit to Condé Nast (which also owns Ars Technica) before his 20th birthday, was arrested Tuesday on charges of wire fraud, computer fraud, "unlawfully obtaining information from," and "recklessly damaging" a "protected computer." He is accused of downloading 4.8 million documents from the academic archive JSTOR, in violation of its terms of use, and of evading MIT's efforts to stop him from doing so.

Swartz is a founder of the advocacy organization Demand Progress. In a statement, Demand Progress executive director David Segal blasted the arrest. "It's like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library," he said. Demand Progress also quoted James Jacobs, the Government Documents Librarian at Stanford University, who said that the arrest "undermines academic inquiry and democratic principles." 

According to the complaint, Swartz purchased a laptop in September 2010 and registered it under the name "Gary Host" (username: "ghost") on the MIT network. He then ran a Python script that rapidly downloaded articles from the JSTOR. JSTOR detected the script and blocked his IP address. The complaint alleges that there followed a game of cat and mouse in which Swartz repeatedly changed his IP and MAC address to evade JSTOR and MIT's efforts to block access. Swartz also bought a second laptop to speed up the downloading process. Finally, on October 9, JSTOR gave up and and blocked the entire MIT campus from using JSTOR.

Academic Work Should Be Distributed For Free

 

Quote:
Most likely, the lasting benefit of his actions will be to elevate the salience of the underlying issue on which Lee, Swartz, and I are all in agreement. And here’s the issue. Right now in academic publishing, what you have is basically a lot of donor- and government-financed nonprofit organizations taking outputs with near-zero distribution costs (electronic journal archives) and selling them to each other. For any one institution, this kind of makes sense. A publisher doesn’t want to give up his fees, which are valuable in meeting the costs of producing scholarship. But on net, it’s a mix of pointless and pernicious. Sale of access to journals helps finance scholarship, but it also raises the cost of scholarship. If everything was distributed for free, the whole exact same enterprise could be undertaken with no net financial loss. But there would be huge potential gains. A precocious 17 year-old could have free access to scholarship. So could a researcher living and working in a poor country. Or even an earnest political reporter who’s working on an issue and curious about what political science has to say about it. When I, personally, come across an article I’d like to read but can’t get free access to, my standard practice is to tweet about it and then someone affiliated with a university sends it to me. That’s good for me and, I think, good for the world. But there’s no reason curious people should need to amass thousands of twitter followers before they’re able to gain access to information that’s been produced by non-profit institutions that are supposed to be serving the public interest.

 

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Ah, that's what twitter is for.

6079_Smith_W

Som eof the biggest organizations making money off academic publications have nothing to do with the authors, or the institutions:

http://boingboing.net/2011/04/26/lessig-on-science-co.html

The video is long, but well-worth watching to the end, especially when it gets into the subject of online creativity.

 

6079_Smith_W

Yet another story of a Canadian researcher prevented from speaking by the Prime Minister's office:

http://letfreedomrain.blogspot.com/2011/07/another-canadian-muzzled-by-h...

Strangely enough, I heard this story just a few minutes ago on on As It Happens. CBC radio, for those of you who no longer tune in.

Clearly whichever gauleiter is in charge of the CBC was not doing his or her job controlling the government's propaganda arm.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

George Monbiot: The Lairds of Learning

Quote:
Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the Western world? Whose monopolistic practices makes WalMart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch look like a socialist? You won’t guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.

Everyone claims to agree that people should be encouraged to understand science and other academic research. Without current knowledge, we cannot make coherent democratic decisions. But the publishers have slapped a padlock and a Keep Out sign on the gates....

What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning.

 

Lachine Scot

Great article! One thing I love about Monbiot is that he never sticks to writing about things from the expected point of view :)

Bacchus

1 pound for 24 hour access to the Times? Thats a bargain! Espeically considering how much you would pay for a single copy of the newspaper.

 

The academic stuff should be as reasonable

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Bacchus wrote:
1 pound for 24 hour access to the Times? Thats a bargain!

It's about a quid and a half too much!

Bacchus

LOL Only if you dont like the times. If you do, its a bargain and I would be happy if all publications did that.

 

Its reasonable

Fidel

Cracking Open the Scientific Process

The NY Times wrote:
The New England Journal of Medicine marks its 200th anniversary this year with a timeline celebrating the scientific advances first described in its pages: the stethoscope (1816), the use of ether for anesthesia (1846), and disinfecting hands and instruments before surgery (1867), among others.

For centuries, this is how science has operated - through research done in private, then submitted to science and medical journals to be reviewed by peers and published for the benefit of other researchers and the public at large. But to many scientists, the longevity of that process is nothing to celebrate.

The system is hidebound, expensive and elitist, they say. Peer review can take months, journal subscriptions can be prohibitively costly, and a handful of gatekeepers limit the flow of information. It is an ideal system for sharing knowledge, said the quantum physicist Michael Nielsen, only "if you're stuck with 17th-century technology."

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

 

Elsevier Backs Down, Removes Support For Research Works Act As Elsevier Boycott Grows

Quote:
While it never got as much attention as the GoDaddy boycott, it appears the growing boycott of academics, refusing to publish papers in any Reed Elsevier journal, has caused the company to back down. It has now announced that it no longer supports the Research Works Act. That's the bill -- for which Elsevier was a major backer -- that would bar the government from requiring open and free access (after a period of time) to government-funded research:

Quote:
While we continue to oppose government mandates in this area, Elsevier is withdrawing support for the Research Work Act itself. We hope this will address some of the concerns expressed and help create a less heated and more productive climate for our ongoing discussions with research funders.

Of course, then it immediately complains about the kinds of mandates that the Act would have disallowed:

Quote:
Cooperation and collaboration are critical because different kinds of journals in different fields have different economics and models. Inflexible mandates that do not take those differences into account and do not involve the publisher in decision making can undermine the peer-reviewed journals that serve an essential purpose in the research community. Therefore, while withdrawing support for the Research Works Act, we will continue to join with those many other nonprofit and commercial publishers and scholarly societies that oppose repeated efforts to extend mandates through legislation.

 

That's pretty ridiculous actually. None of these mandates "undermine" these journals in any way -- unless you consider their insane set up (free writing, free editing, full copyright ownership, and subscriptions that cost tens of thousands of dollars) some sort of divine right. The mandates refer to federally funded research, which should be accessible by the public since they paid for the research in the first place. Elsevier doesn't pay for the research. Hell, they don't even pay the researcher for their paper. Or the peer reviewers for their work. So forgive me for not shedding any tears if Elsevier has to learn to adapt to only being able to have the exclusive rights to a paper for a year. 

Rabble_Incognito

Fidel wrote:

Cracking Open the Scientific Process

The NY Times wrote:
The New England Journal of Medicine marks its 200th anniversary this year with a timeline celebrating the scientific advances first described in its pages: the stethoscope (1816), the use of ether for anesthesia (1846), and disinfecting hands and instruments before surgery (1867), among others.

For centuries, this is how science has operated - through research done in private, then submitted to science and medical journals to be reviewed by peers and published for the benefit of other researchers and the public at large. But to many scientists, the longevity of that process is nothing to celebrate.

The system is hidebound, expensive and elitist, they say. Peer review can take months, journal subscriptions can be prohibitively costly, and a handful of gatekeepers limit the flow of information. It is an ideal system for sharing knowledge, said the quantum physicist Michael Nielsen, only "if you're stuck with 17th-century technology."

'Author networks' will conflict with the objectivity you 'think' you get with blind or peer review - humans are social creatures. When you are asking questions that are small (focused and powerful), the world gets a little smaller, and folks know what other folks are doing in the field from conferences and collegial contact, so often one can surmise whose paper is who by glancing at the references and methodology. Not always, but often enough to cast suspicion on the blind/peer review process and the cost for the product provided.
In the days of Gutenberg contact between scholars was limited to the local area - research took time to travel. Now it can be practically instantaneous - interesting that peer review remains so time consuming - is often unpaid - maybe that's why it takes so long (agreed Catchfire) because we don't 'value' the work. Plus, in the days of print you needed expensive equipment centralized. Now it is relatively affordable and decentralized - maybe we need to decentralize academe more and create 'public' review and 'living' documents. Vive McLuhan! Vive the revolution!