babble-intro-img
babble is rabble.ca's discussion board but it's much more than that: it's an online community for folks who just won't shut up. It's a place to tell each other — and the world — what's up with our work and campaigns.

Should academic publications cost money to access?

500_Apples
Offline
Joined: Jun 3 2006
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.

Comments

theboxman
Offline
Joined: Nov 25 2008

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
Offline
Joined: Nov 23 2005

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
Offline
Joined: Nov 14 2008

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
Offline
Joined: Sep 27 2008


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
Offline
Joined: Apr 22 2001

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.

 

 

 

 


Spectrum
Offline
Joined: Sep 27 2008

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?


theboxman
Offline
Joined: Nov 25 2008

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
Offline
Joined: Nov 14 2008

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
Offline
Joined: Sep 27 2008
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

Spectrum
Offline
Joined: Sep 27 2008

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.


Ze
Offline
Joined: Nov 14 2008

Indeed -- thanks for the pointer!


Stephen Gordon
Offline
Joined: Oct 27 2003

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
Offline
Joined: Sep 27 2008

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
Offline
Joined: Jun 3 2006
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
Offline
Joined: Nov 14 2008

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
Offline
Joined: Oct 27 2003

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
Offline
Joined: Jun 3 2006
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
Offline
Joined: Oct 27 2003

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
Offline
Joined: Nov 14 2008

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. 


Spectrum
Offline
Joined: Sep 27 2008

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.


torontoprofessor
Offline
Joined: Jun 20 2007

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
Offline
Joined: Sep 27 2008

......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
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2003

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
Offline
Joined: Jun 3 2006
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
Offline
Joined: Nov 14 2008

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
Offline
Joined: Jun 20 2007

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
Offline
Joined: Jun 20 2007

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
Offline
Joined: Nov 11 2008

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
Offline
Joined: Oct 27 2003

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
Offline
Joined: Jun 20 2007

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.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or register to post comments