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White House Plans Open Access For Research

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the nipping-climategate-part-two-in-the-bud dept.

Government 74

Hugh Pickens writes "Currently, the National Institutes of Health require that research funded by its grants be made available to the public online at no charge within 12 months of publication. Now the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President is launching a 'Public Access Policy Forum' to determine whether this policy should be extended to other science agencies and, if so, how it should be implemented. 'The NIH model has a variety of features that can be evaluated, and there are other ways to offer the public enhanced access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications,' OSTP says in the request for information. 'The best models may [be] influenced by agency mission, the culture and rate of scientific development of the discipline, funding to develop archival capabilities, and research funding mechanisms.' The OSTP will conduct an interactive, online discussion that will focus on three major questions: Should this policy be extended to other science agencies and, if so, how it should be implemented? In what format should the data be submitted in order to make it easy to search and retrieve information? What are the best mechanisms to ensure compliance? 'It's very encouraging to see the Obama Administration focus on ensuring public access to the results of taxpayer-funded research [reg. required] as a key way to maximize our collective investment in science,' says Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition."

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They also need to open global warming data! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413320)

It is too bad that the Global Warming Charlatans were not forced to be as open with their fraudulent data.

Re:They also need to open global warming data! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413492)

Why do so many of the 'deniers' not seem to grasp that UEA isn't in the United States, and thus aren't subject to US laws? It seems their ignorance extends to all areas.

Re:They also need to open global warming data! (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413764)

The fact that they are in the UK is irrelevant; they should still have published their data and algorithms instead of fudging the data and hiding it.

Re:They also need to open global warming data! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413530)

If we throw enough fear, uncertainty, and doubt at the wall, perhaps some of it will stick!

Wake up. There wasn't scientific fraud in the CRU data, Obama is a US citizen, and the jews didn't do wtc.

Re:They also need to open global warming data! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30414900)

Wake up. There was scientific fraud. Did you read the SOURCE CODE, not just the emails? The fraud is in the code!!!

If the programs used to make the pretty charts and graphs are suspect, then the pretty charts and graphs are suspect. And all the "scientists" who would be the ones doing peer reviews were using the same data and software!

And on this particular topic, I "hope" the White House will be more "open" than they have on nearly any other subject so far. That would be a "change" for them. Holding meetings behind locked doors and barring any opposition is NOT what I call open.

Yeah, sure, oh, Great Obama; everything is going to be on C-SPAN. Sure. Right?

You didn't read the code, did you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30416226)

You didn't read the code, did you. The bit saying "this is fudged" put the "fudged" data (mind you, why label it "fudged" if you're working a conspiracy???) into an array that was NEVER USED.

Commented out.

Anulled.

Not fudged.

And if you still demand this is proof, to be of any use in misinforming, the results of that fudged data has to be used and displayed in some paper somewhere. Where is it?

PS note too that the code that prints the fudged data also prints on the axis of the graph that this IS fudged data. Hardly a good idea if you want to conspire secretly, is it...)

This may sound simplistic (5, Insightful)

dikdik (1696426) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413322)

My opinion was always if the taxpayers pay for it, the taxpayers own it. Research, patents and discoveries and even software. At a minimum the government should be able to transfer licenses from one branch to another. If your research is that valuable, don't take federal money. A lot of universities are taking federal money for research and then selling those discoveries to companies that sell them back to the taxpayers. It's not always that clean but it just doesn't seem right. If you don't like the restrictions, don't sell to the government. I love the way so many institutions, lately including banks, are acting like they're doing us a favor taking federal money. And there's always someone who will yap about government wouldn't be able to get access the best software tools. I doubt that. I'm not talking about making anything the government buys open source, just that government can move software licenses around based on need.

Re:This may sound simplistic (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413612)

My opinion was always if the taxpayers pay for it, the taxpayers own it. Research, patents and discoveries and even software.

Why not the oil that's pumped out of public lands? Instead, we subsidize the exploration and pay through the nose for the gasoline.

Re:This may sound simplistic (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414700)

Do you realize that gasoline prices in the US are among the lowest in the _world_ (except for countries with subsidized gasoline)?

Re:This may sound simplistic (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30414906)

The oil companies spend a lot of money to find the oil on public lands, bid against each other to pay the government for the oil, then pay taxes commesurate with their profit. And the next time you're paying through the nose, look at that gas pump and see how much the governments are taking in taxes from your nose...or you can look up gas tax info on this computer thing.

Re:This may sound simplistic (2, Informative)

glennpratt (1230636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30415180)

A whopping $.50 a gallon, which more or less covers what we spend on roads.

While the fuel tax may not work as cars advance, today it's a logical way to fund these projects, it's effectively a user fee.

Re:This may sound simplistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30416556)

Right, let's ignore the fact that people's paychecks haven't kept up with the rate of inflation for the past decade or so, the fact that in 90%+ of the US where public transit simply is not a halfway-viable option, the design of most US cities such that even a walk to a grocery store would not be possible, etc etc. I mean, it's not like the country's design, especially in the suburbs, is quintessential to have a car to get anywhere, right?

Re:This may sound simplistic (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30417164)

Right, let's ignore the fact that people's paychecks haven't kept up with the rate of inflation for the past decade or so

People's paychecks started to slide backwards early in Ronald Reagan's first administration. They continued to slide during his second administration, slid more during the administration of the first George Bush. They ran flat during the Clinton administration and took a big nosedive during George W. Bush's two administrations.

Can you pick out the pattern here?

Re:This may sound simplistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30417772)

Related off topic: My brother sat down and looked at the stock market, noting that if we looked at both the rate of inflation and the decline of the dollar (vs the Euro, so a bit arbitrary there: parity at the start of the decade, now at $1.47 per euro), for the actual value of the Dow to remain unchanged it would have to be around about 22,000. The Dow has in fact lost half its value over the last ten years. Heckuva job, heckuva job.

Re:This may sound simplistic (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413626)

Sometimes the simple view is the correct view. Why should private interests ever have exclusive use of research funded by the taxpayers?
  • If you don't like the restrictions, don't sell to the government.

precisely so.

Re:This may sound simplistic (2, Insightful)

kkwst2 (992504) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414198)

But most of the time the simple view is exactly that...too simple...and unbelievably shortsighted. The fact is that the government is not paying for all the research. It's being subsidized by the institutions, oftentimes more than half of the expense of the research.

I do NIH-funded research, and much of the funding comes from internal sources. If you, the taxpayer, give me $100,000 and I spend $100,000 of my own money and develop a new method or device, does that mean you own it? At most, in my mind I would just pay you back the $100,000. You didn't spend the 5 years working 70-80 hours per week developing it. Maybe I'll give your relative a job in the new factory I build. Maybe the tax revenue from that new device will more than pay for that $100,000.

And say I do give it to you after I develop it. What are you going to do with it? You design the clinical trials to get it FDA approved, you monitor for problems or side effects, and figure out the process for mass-producing it cheaply. Oh what, you don't know how to do any of that? You don't have the expertise to do that? Well, find someone who does. Well, there is a guy in China working on something similar. We'll just let them finish it off and sell it instead.

Sounds like a great plan.

Re:This may sound simplistic (3, Informative)

arcticinfantry (1130171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414974)

Institutions are remunerated for their support. It's called "Indirect Costs" and Universities get a percentage of the grant. Universities compete for researchers and are *not* losing money on research. There may be an exception here or there with an influential researcher, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Your statement is wanton dissembling.

Re:This may sound simplistic (1)

kkwst2 (992504) | more than 4 years ago | (#30464250)

Nice try, and excellent vocabulary, but no dissembling going on. Indirect costs are generally on the order of 25% and have nothing to do with my bottom line. They pay for infrastructure support, but have nothing to do with whether NIH funds cover my bills. I don't see any of it, hence why it is "indirect".

I can make a lot more money for my institution doing clinical work than I can doing research. I mean a LOT more. And with significantly less effort. NIH pays salary support roughly fifty cents on the dollar to cover my time to do the research. I do the research not to make money, but because I believe in it and think/home I'm developing new things. I'm not getting rich off it, and my institution is not getting rich off it. And I am the rule, not the exception. Are there instances where the system is abused? I'm sure, but to suggest that the NIH is a fat cow that people are getting rich off of is, in my view, wrong.

And it still doesn't address the question of how the government is going to develop these technologies if it owns them. What happens after the investigator hands over the technology that you now own?

Zero Interest Loan for some; none for others? (2, Insightful)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30415002)

So you get a $100,000 government loan on something too risky to get enough private funding and then want to pay it back X years later so you retain all rights?
In other words, you want a risky zero interest loan for R & D for X years? The X being variable and the payback possibly never happening? Or additional money will be sunk in until something fruitful comes out of it.

I'm just using your example and fairly phrasing it; I'm not saying government shouldn't ever give out risky zero interest loans or grants to private projects for an indirect greater good. Stadiums these days are all doing it; except that the loans don't seem to ever get paid back - on rare occasion they'll even call it a grant or claim ownership for a while until they sell it off cheaply when the "right" politicians come to power.

China doesn't do jack for quality control other than execute a few people when things get really really bad. China still has to get past our FDA.
Our FDA costs money to maintain a minimum level of quality control; despite corruption and the fact it is hopelessly underfunded. Sure you pay some fees for FDA services but I doubt they reflect costs involved in running the FDA. The EU has MORE people and the BIGGEST economy in the world with strong standards and many times the barriers for businesses; they are proof that our half measures are nowhere near as damaging as the misleading business peoples' claims.

Re:This may sound simplistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30415022)

Why do you think you should be any different from someone doing research for a private company?

70-80 hrs/week? Not special to you!
5 Years? Not special for public/charity funded research!

If your ideas are/were compelling, then don't go to the public trough and feed.. do what competing private researchers and companies have to do..build a compelling case for long term investment.

On top of that, too much of the funding go to Institute overhead like Admins for the Dean and your pension. (Like anyone in the private arena gets one now.) On top of that the institution is tax free and avoids supporting any government supplied infrastuture (fire, roads, etc) that are necessary for the very institution's existence.

If you love "Research" for the sake of research then be thankful that you can milk future generations for you pet project.

If you want to get rich from your research, then get a real job and stop being a pig that feels that you can set the conditions and terms of getting free money so you might get for your future 4000 sq ft house.

Re:This may sound simplistic (1)

Toad-san (64810) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414188)

FULLY agree. They don't like it, go get their grants elsewhere.

"What are the best mechanisms to ensure compliance?"

Hey, who runs the copyright office, eh? They don't comply, cancel their copyright. Bidda boom, bidda bing.

Re:This may sound simplistic (1)

Bowling Moses (591924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30415508)

"My opinion was always if the taxpayers pay for it, the taxpayers own it. Research, patents and discoveries and even software. At a minimum the government should be able to transfer licenses from one branch to another. If your research is that valuable, don't take federal money. A lot of universities are taking federal money for research and then selling those discoveries to companies that sell them back to the taxpayers."

All academic researchers are desperately scrambling for any kind of money to keep themselves and associates employed and doing science. Federal grants in my area of research have fallen to 10% success rates, and some don't manage to hit 5%. That's one in ten (or less) grant proposals get funded, and getting worse every year. To stay afloat academics increasingly take up public-private partnerships and/or patent and sell ideas. The lab I work in has done both and that funding has provided around a third of our operating budget. It's also the most dependable source of income and it's percentage will surely increase given the sorry state of federal granting agencies. While traditional funding sources have been cratering, patents provide $45 million a year for my university's research budget. You want all fully or partially government-funded research to be public? Triple the federal research budget and adjust each year for inflation. As long as I'm having a pipe dream I'd also like so-called state universities to have a mandatory minimum floor of 33% of their operating budget to come from their state. Some don't get 10%.

Even if all that were to happen there's a still a down side. One of the missions of the university is to train scientists. With professorships at universities typically having 300 applicants for each available position very, very few scientists will go an academic route; many more will go into private industry. The patent process and public-private partnerships besides providing desperately needed funding also serve as an introduction to non-academic research and is productive training itself. That's an argument to be made for increased use of patents and public-private partnerships to further the education of the next generation of scientists.

Breaking news! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413328)

Global Warming is a hoax!

screwed (1)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413350)

We're still screwed, if it takes no less than a president to enact something as commonsensical as this.
Still, though, go for it big O!

Arxiv.org (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413384)

Just mandate that all Federally funded research papers be submitted to Arxiv.org. In many fields (e.g., astrophysics), that happens routinely. In others (e.g., geophysics), it is rare. I see no harm arising in the fields where this is routine, and making it universal would mean that the entire scientific world would gain access to all of our scientific research.

Re:Arxiv.org (2, Insightful)

thegreatemu (1457577) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413468)

Yes, but the arxiv is filled with all sorts of gibberish submissions as well. It is a wonderful and very useful repository, but just assuring that a paper is placed there doesn't mean that those wanting to access those papers will be able to dig through the mess to find it.

Re:Arxiv.org (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413924)

Yes, but the arxiv is filled with all sorts of gibberish submissions as well.

So ? Cosmology, for example, is an arxiv.org field, and it attracts all sorts of strange people with poorly thought out ideas, some of which even make it into refereed journals, much less arxiv.org. Doesn't seem to hurt the field much.

Re:Arxiv.org (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413470)

As a astronomy and CS student I can see the differences.

Astronomy: everything is openly available & searchable in absabs or arxiv
CS: 3-5 important journals, you have to be in a paying university to get access.
Actually, when I do CS literature research, I skip papers I can't get easily access to.

I wish it was as natural for CS papers to be available openly, as it is for physics. I think it is way worse in biology/chemistry/medicine.

Re:Arxiv.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30414990)

Sounds like by CS you mean Climate Science.

Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (5, Informative)

StupendousMan (69768) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413446)

Here's the way things work right now in my field, astrophysics: a scientist has an idea. He writes a grant proposal to the NSF and receives money. He uses the money to (hire a grad student, travel to telescope, build an instrument, etc.). He writes a paper on the results. In order to have the paper published in one of the big journals -- which is necessary to gain credit for tenure, promotion, reputation among peers -- he PAYS THE JOURNAL ~$110 PER PAGE. The journal makes the information available only to subscribers, who pay around $50-$100 for individuals or $1500-$3000 for institutions.

If you don't publish in the big peer-reviewed journals, you don't get recognition.

So, suppose that the government changes things: now the journals must make government-funded research available to the public without charge. The journals will lose money from their subscriber base; after all, who would bother to pay for the articles when they are free? Where do the journals make up the money? My guess: they increase the page charges. Now it might cost $200 or $250 per page to publish an article in a journal. Whence comes that extra money? From the government grant.

Result: the scientific papers are now available freely to the public, but scientists must ask for more money from the NSF in order to pay the higher page charges.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (0, Flamebait)

tacocat (527354) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413570)

And what would be the consequences if the government just got out of the way?

Might be nice if we were allowed to actually keep some of our money to use in the free market -- like stimulating the economy by purchasing stuff we could use.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413670)

And what would be the consequences if the government just got out of the way?

Might be nice if we were allowed to actually keep some of our money to use in the free market -- like stimulating the economy by purchasing stuff we could use.


The majority of basic research isn't done by private enterprise because there is often no immediate financial gain from it. Basic research exists to expand the body of knowledge. It often takes decades for scientists to understand the results of basic research enough to begin to figure out ways it can be used in industry or in our every day lives. Only then do the results of it become financially beneficial. Without government funding, the US would continue to fall further behind in the sciences.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414034)

The majority of basic research isn't done by private enterprise because there is often no immediate financial gain from it. Basic research exists to expand the body of knowledge. It often takes decades for scientists to understand the results of basic research enough to begin to figure out ways it can be used in industry or in our every day lives. Only then do the results of it become financially beneficial.

This part of your statement is true.

Without government funding, the US would continue to fall further behind in the sciences.

This part of your statement is false. Private enterprise routinely provides grants and funding to Universities to perform research. Some basic, some applied. Government funding is not the sole source of funding for basic research.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30414240)

This part of your statement is false. Private enterprise routinely provides grants and funding to Universities to perform research. Some basic, some applied. Government funding is not the sole source of funding for basic research.

Private enterprise provides some funding for basic research to universities. There is no way that they would provide enough to keep the entirety of the US as a main contributor to the body of knowledge.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (0, Flamebait)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414550)

Then I guess it is a good thing that "the entirety of the US" is not involved as a "contributor to the body of knowledge". Only, what? 0.1% of the country is involved in research, at most?

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414582)

Not that I'm arguing against government funding of science, I happen to think it's a GoodThing(TM), but you have heard of the Medici family, right?

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413748)

And what would be the consequences if the government just got out of the way?

We'd see a lot more "custom" research funded by tobacco companies showing that cigarettes are safe.

Might be nice if we were allowed to actually keep some of our money to use in the free market

As a society, we often decide that certain things are too important to send into the meat grinder of what you mislabel "the free market". For example, public safety. Some people don't want to remember a time when people commonly died of typhus or were poisoned by "patent" medicines or died in the workplace. Don't forget: Money doesn't care about the public good. The "mechanisms" of the "free market" are the same ones that would cull the weak from the herd. And believe me, if we start culling the weak from the herd, a large portion of "libertarian" Slashdot readers are going to have some very bad days, despite their high self-opinions.

There's definitely a place for publicly funded research, even amidst the fantasy of the laissez-faire.

Well Said! (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414080)

Nice summary of why the "Free Market" isn't always the solution to everything.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413610)

but scientists must ask for more money from the NSF in order to pay the higher page charges.

That theory only holds for as long as scientific reputation in a field is something you buy. It's entirely up to the scientists in the field to cite, credit or ignore the pay-for/for-pay journals.

Of course, when reputation in a field is built upon what paper you pay to publish your research rather than the quality of the research itself that says a bit about the field...

But the argument indicates that perhaps one should even require that publicly funded research not even cite papers that are not publicly available.

Some doubts... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413632)

While I have no doubt that the first part of the statement will come true, with regards to journals trying to ramp up publishing costs, I have doubts that the scientific community will bear that much more extortion. As it stands, we're practically at the breaking point, where scientists would almost rather not publish than do so, but have no other choice as you have stated, their livelihoods depend on it. As it stands, you already have to pay, give up an irrevocable copyright license... you just about have to give over your first born child to get any notoriety at all.

Once the government grant money for publishing is increased, you'll likely see scientists push to keep some of that money for themselves and their research, and more alternative services such as arXiv [arxiv.org] will being to pop up and grow and replace the stodgy old journals. The fact is, scientific journals are just as close to becoming obsolete with the invention of the internet as newspapers are, and it's very likely they'll try the same exact tactics as newspapers to hold on: increasing fees on both sides of the equation, going to governments and schools to try to ill-legitimize other services, form exclusive contracts with various schools, etc.

You can argue about journals being more peer reviewed and such, but even the internet serves as a better tool for those purposes as well: being able to instantly expose anyone in your field to your work and have anyone criticize or improve upon it immediately rather than going through various journal's information back-channels or blackbox review committees will vastly speed up science.

So, while things may look more bleak in the short-run with such a plan, in the mid- to long-term, it should help restore the US's place in science.

Re:Some doubts... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30416800)

Ahh, the "government as charitable organization angle." It's clever, really. Tugs at the heartstrings.

Let me ask you though: If you're not willing to be charitable with your own money, what gives you the right to simply vote to be charitable with someone else's? People vote with their dollars as much as their signatures. Moreso, when you think about it, as your dollars give you a personal stake in the game. "charity government" is little more than a naked admission that many people care about the poor, but not enough to do anything about it.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413638)

Or... everyone realises that perhaps journals are not the best way of gaining recognition in the field? We've had the internet for a while now, I'd hope we can think up a better way of peer-reviewing and distributing scientific findings than paper publication.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1)

linhares (1241614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30415702)

twitter?

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30415756)

Oh, Like this? [timecube.com]

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (2, Interesting)

toppavak (943659) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413648)

Wow, it really sounds like your community should just revolt and publish exclusively in PLoS. If enough high-profile researchers can be convinced of the value of it, there won't be a stigma regarding recognition. The problem is convincing them of the value in switching.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413682)

Um, I think the simple solution would be for the goverment to simply not force one to publicly publish the results for a year or two. Those who need it will pay the extra for the speed. Also, giving the latest research out to the public isn't always a good thing. For starters being published in a peer reviewed journley doesn't mean your research is correct nor that the conclusions drawn from it are accurate. It does give it credibility. Also it tells other scientists that you have takken the time and gone through the proper steps for it not to be a total waste of their time. Howev

Re:Unintended consequences: in all of academics... (5, Interesting)

onionman (975962) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413750)

As a professor myself, I hope that the unintended consequence will be that we move away from the restrictive, expensive, academic journal publishers like Elsevier and toward an open model of academic publication where your recognition and peer review come from broad, open, dissemination.

I, for one, would like to see a peer review system where articles are posted on-line and evaluations (i.e. referee reports) are also posted in an open, strongly authenticated, way. I don't know about you, but one thing that really annoys me is to receive a referee report on a paper where it is obvious that the referee hasn't even read past the introduction. I believe that forcing the evaluations to be open, and strongly-authenticated (so that everyone knows exactly who is writing it) would improve the quality and credibility of research.

I suspect that some people would claim that if referee reports aren't anonymous, then they won't be honest. But, a referee report should not be about opinions, it should be a straight forward analysis of the results reported in the paper. If it's really science, then it should be completely objective, thus opinion and personality should have nothing to do with it. Hence, there should be no need for anonymity. When I grade my students' papers, it certainly isn't anonymous, but it doesn't need to be because I am giving them objective feedback (e.g. "this is wrong because you said cos(x+h) = cos(x) + cos(h) which is not true.").

Using an open system would allow articles to receive recognition and ranking based upon the open discussion of their merits. Individuals doing the ranking could also receive recognition for the quality of their work, which is important because it can sometimes take weeks of work to thoroughly understand a new result. That work should receive more acknowledgment in the academic system than it currently does. (I suspect it's the current lack of acknowledgment for refereeing which makes many people into lazy referees. After all, why bother putting much effort into that referee report when it won't count toward promotion. You are better off spending that time writing your own papers.)

Finally, using an open system gives the public greater credibility in the system. When people want to know why paper A is considered correct and paper B isn't, the analysis and discussion will be available, too.

Re:Unintended consequences: in all of academics... (4, Insightful)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413862)

You'd need to implement something like that in a hierarchical manner, not unlike slashdot. The number of submissions would dramatically increase due to its free nature while the quality would surely decline, and nobody wants to sit there and read a large percentage of questionable work to determine if it's valid and if so if the results are correct. New submissions could be subject to quick reviews for validity testing (with moderation of course, people who troll by negatively reviewing and voting down new papers without actually reading them or considering their results, or for any bias should be barred from such reviews), and once a paper has been verified it can move on to a stage where people who don't want to sift through garbage to find the gold can really scrutinize them and see if they stand up.

Why not make such a website? :)

Re:Unintended consequences: in all of academics... (1)

onionman (975962) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414182)

You'd need to implement something like that in a hierarchical manner, not unlike slashdot. The number of submissions would dramatically increase due to its free nature while the quality would surely decline, and nobody wants to sit there and read a large percentage of questionable work to determine if it's valid and if so if the results are correct. New submissions could be subject to quick reviews for validity testing (with moderation of course, people who troll by negatively reviewing and voting down new papers without actually reading them or considering their results, or for any bias should be barred from such reviews), and once a paper has been verified it can move on to a stage where people who don't want to sift through garbage to find the gold can really scrutinize them and see if they stand up.

Why not make such a website? :)

Yes, the description you're providing is very similar to what I have in mind. I would love to create such a website, but it will have to wait until after I have tenure... and I'll need some sizable grants to get it up and running to begin with. I wonder if NSF would fund the development of such a system:-)

Re:Unintended consequences: in all of academics... (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | more than 4 years ago | (#30415240)

I mostly agree with an open review system, but there are a few issues. Reviews probably need to remain anonymous in some fields to prevent the scientific equivalent of "log rolling" : providing good review to people who gave you favourable reviews. Some fields are small enough that the pool of available reviewers is tiny.

I am very much in favor of making government funded scientific research available to the public but again there are a few problems: In many fields your career depends on publishing papers. You don't want someone to spend a lot of effort developing an experiment and then someone else publishes first based based on the data (without full credit going to the original experimenter). Of course you also don't want an experiment to sit on data for years before it is released.

Making the data public can have different meanings: You can provide the "raw" data to the public - this is usually useless - "here, have 100 TB of unlabelled binary data". But, the alternative might be to require the scientists to process the data and provide it in a easily interpreted form - this could be a very large added workload.

I'm fortunate enough to work in a field (accelerator physics) where publishing is not particularly important to my career, so everything I work on is available. I do work with X-ray experimenters who feel they need to keep their work quite until they publish - they are worried that someone else will publish first.

Re:Unintended consequences: in all of academics... (2, Interesting)

linhares (1241614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30415380)

But, a referee report should not be about opinions, it should be a straight forward analysis of the results reported in the paper. If it's really science, then it should be completely objective, thus opinion and personality should have nothing to do with it. Hence, there should be no need for anonymity. When I grade my students' papers, it certainly isn't anonymous, but it doesn't need to be because I am giving them objective feedback (e.g. "this is wrong because you said cos(x+h) = cos(x) + cos(h) which is not true.").

Your idea is interesting, but I guess opinion matters more than you think it does. I recently recommended rejection or major revision on a paper about "Economic forecasting". I think the math was all fine and dandy. In your view, I should have recommended publication. But I simply could not stand the way terms like prediction or forecasting were used. I asked the author to use terms like "data extrapolation". If economic prediction were possible, why publish? The function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable; and all those clich'es.

My point is, something could be totally right inside the little confines of a model, while the premises of the model become a matter of opinion and philosophy. So I don't see how you can actually separate the two; what's opinion and what's objective, so cleanly like that.

Re:Unintended consequences: in all of academics... (1)

onionman (975962) | more than 4 years ago | (#30416594)

I mostly agree with an open review system, but there are a few issues. Reviews probably need to remain anonymous in some fields to prevent the scientific equivalent of "log rolling" : providing good review to people who gave you favourable reviews. Some fields are small enough that the pool of available reviewers is tiny.

My point is, something could be totally right inside the little confines of a model, while the premises of the model become a matter of opinion and philosophy. So I don't see how you can actually separate the two; what's opinion and what's objective, so cleanly like that.

Yes, these are certainly valid objections. Perhaps the review system needs multiple mechanisms for assessing articles.

An open refereeing system could establish correctness (or, in less rigorous disciplines, could judge how likely it is that the presented data and arguments support conclusions). This part would not impart value judgments (such as how significant the results are).

A "significance" mechanism for determining the value of a work could begin with a slashdot/digg style rating scheme that raises worthwhile results above the inevitable noise of crank submissions. Those works could then be evaluated for significance (within a field) openly by experts in that field. Significance evaluations would need to be cumulative, so it would take many experts agreeing that a work is important within a field before it gets elevated to the equivalent position of a top-level journal paper. Much like slashdot, the experts might even have a limited number of (randomly and secretly assigned) mod-points that they can use for significance. This provides a polite exit from a complicated quid-pro-quo political situation:

"Hey John, I was just looking at your article on homeomorphic fig-tree inversions, and it seems pretty significant. I've got a related result on peach-trees that I recently submitted, could you take a look at it?"

"Sure Dave, but I'm all out of mod points this year, so all I can do is check the correctness for you."

The significance measure could also be fluid over time and incorporate measures like how often the work is cited, etc. Certainly the system would have many wrinkles to be worked out in its initial years. Perhaps, though, in the long run we would have a superior system to the current mess.

Re:Unintended consequences: in all of academics... (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#30422028)

The trouble with most moderation systems is that they tend to be based on the fundamentally flawed idea of objective values on subjective criteria. Correctness is one thing, but one persons significant might not be another persons significant. As fields grow and diverge you'll end up with significance for the divergent branches being subjective and depending on which branch you are pursuing. Eventually you end up with either too much significant material, too heavy culling, patchwork meta-fixes or being forced to split off into somewhat arbitrary groupings.

A more scalable model would build upon a social networking model of moderation; anyone and everyone can assign moderation values as they like, but the weight of a moderation value that the viewer sees is dependent upon how closely a specific moderator follows the viewers own moderation. That way, if someone rates an article 'significant' and you and they often have the same idea of what's 'significant', that article will be moderated as 'significant' for you.

Such a system would sidestep the whole problem of quid-pro-quo politics and, in fact, most other political problems tied to hierarchial system views. Of course, it may also result in some level of fracturing of fields that may or may not be entirely postive; it's hard to tell, I have yet to see such a system implemented in reality outside certain small subfields (last.fm neighbours and music recommendations seems to work with a somewhat similar concept, but is still fairly far away).

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413938)

How is this different from now ? At least in the areas of astrophysics I am interested in, pretty much everything gets put into Arxiv.org.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1)

esme (17526) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414076)

I think the thing you are not considering is that we are currently paying both ways: researchers pay page fees to publish, and their institutions pay subscription fees so the researchers, grad students, etc. can access the journals. Both of these payments come mainly from the same place: research grants from major government science agencies. The researchers get grants and include publishing costs. The researchers' institution taxes the grants ("overhead fees") which generally gets distributed to the library who purchases subscriptions.

So, if all grant-funded research was publicly available, and researchers had to pay higher publishing fees, but the library had to pay lower (or no) subscription fees, it all balances out to roughly the same amount of money. And it's better to have the researchers doing all the payment, so funding agencies can limit the amount of publishing costs they will fund. What do you think the big journal publishers will do if NIH and NSF suddenly say all grant-funded research must be open access from day 1, and they will only fund publishing costs up to $50/page? They will have little choice but to live with lower revenues.

-Esme

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1)

ncmathsadist (842396) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414380)

The current system of journals is antiquated. It's buggywhippery. The editors and referees for journal papers are not paid. The authors are not paid, But the subscription prices are stratospheric.

This leads to two possible conclusions. Conclusion 1: Someone is making a great heap of money at taxpayer expense. The taxpayer funds the research, then pays page charges to journals to publish it, and then has to pay gobs of money to gain access to it. Conclusion 2: The system of diffusing information via printed journals is massively inefficient and stupidly expensive. Either way, it's time for change. These expensive journals are the trolls under the bridge in what should be an international free exchange of ideas.

Peer reviewed journals should be electronic. The old-fashioned system of typesetting journals on paper makes about as much sense as delivering goods to market by dray-horse. Electronic publication would eliminate the long lag between acceptance and publication. In fact, what should emerge is a flow of new papers that appear as they are accepted. The whole business of having a journal come out 4 times a year is a product of the paper-and-print age. Buffering research papers into issues and delaying their availability is no longer necessary.

No sacrifice of editorial integrity is required here. No change in the current system of peer review is needed. It just requires the orangutans to get over their skepticism of changes in their cages, and to accept the notion that business needs to be done a new way in a new age. It seems to me that the purpose of scholarly journals should be something greater than just the credentialing of academics; they should spread new ideas and findings in a timely fashion.

Here is yet another depressing instance of an area in which America is forfeiting its competitive edge by dwelling stubbornly in the past.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1)

celle (906675) | more than 4 years ago | (#30416504)

"If you don't publish in the big peer-reviewed journals, you don't get recognition."

If everything is open, since when would you not get recognition? The reality is you would get more recognition if everything is released immediately since there would be more peer review from a larger community than just only the journal reviewers. Increasing innovation by getting the information out the the public as quickly as possible. You'll be better known and move up, if promotion is all you care about. Peer-reviewed journals are just a rip-off of the scientists and taxpayers as slashdot, ars, and other online news aggregators and reviewers have proven. Stop using peer-reviewed journals and the only effect will be another now-unnecessary, fraudulent business disappears.

Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30421230)

You know what? Frankly... FUCK recognition!
If you do it for the recognition, you’re no real scientist anyway, but a needy loser who tries to suck up on those who dominate him.
Better poor and unknown, than a recognition whore.
Here’s a nice quote that makes it clear what I don’t want to be and don’t are:

Jake Green: “There is something about yourself that you don’t know. Something that you will deny even exists, until it’s too late to do anything about it. It’s the only reason you get up in the morning. The only reason you suffer the shitty job, the blood, the sweat and the tears. This is because you want people to know how good, attractive, generous, funny, wild and clever you really are. Fear or revere me, but please, think I’m special. We share an addiction. We’re approval junkies. We’re all in it for the slap on the back and the gold watch. The hip-hip-hoo-fuckin’ rah. Look at the clever boy with the badge, polishing his trophy. Shine on you crazy diamond, because we’re just monkeys wrapped in suits, begging for the approval of others.”
— Revolver (2005, Guy Richie)

I'm very curious to hear... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413482)

...what arguments Springer-Verlag, Elzevier and the like will find to fight this. Since in my (humble, but competent) opinion there can be no honest reason to oppose this, they will need to be very creative. And yes, as a scientific researcher, I have very often been hampered in my search for references by the unjustifiable monopoly held by those vultures, and the hefty subscription prices that go with it. Heck, they even made me transfer the copyrights on my own publications to them. I may not even cite myself extensively!

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413564)

Like you can believe anything they say anyway.

Re:Really? (1)

tacocat (527354) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413590)

Glad someone else could say it. Too bad you have to hide behind AC.

Will this be anything like other WH "openness?" (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413654)

If so, I'm not holding out much hope...

Yes, AND Publically Funded University Research (1)

omb (759389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413672)

An, excellent proposal, long overdue, and the whines of Academics, Librarians and Learned Journal publishers, which will all be anti must be stoutly resisted, and can easily be solved by the Presidential Task Force.

This will be kind to trees, Library Space, shelving and reading and good for students, adademics and the general public.

Peer Review must ensure that Data and Methods are published or Publically available, which would stop repeats of Climategate in their tracks.

Employed, tenured Full Professors in the age 40 to 60 should be required to Peer Review min->max or % of papers to retain tenure.

Formats should be inclusive, certainly TeX, SGML (used in house at Elsevier), PDF, HTML and ODF. Proprietary formats like Flash, .doc and OOXML must be prohibited.

Google can (will) do the indexing as can M$.

Peer Reviewed (3, Interesting)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413724)

'It's very encouraging to see the Obama Administration focus on ensuring public access to the results of taxpayer-funded research [reg. required] as a key way to maximize our collective investment in science,' says Heather Joseph

Ms. Joseph should thank the Bush administration for starting the ball rolling by opening up the NIH. Going forward, as long as the government applies the same peer review and quality standards to publishing the results that reputable journals do, the policy makes sense. But what happens if the researcher's peers don't like the quality of the work? Today it's quietly buried, will the government still publish it but with some kind of a caveat/stigma?

Different Ways to Open It and the Players (3, Informative)

internic (453511) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413760)

It's my understanding that people in congress have considered before the question of expanding open access requirements to other disciplines. Obviously publishers will oppose such a move because it cuts into their bottom line. How far it eats into the bottom line depends on the reasons people subscribe and just how the opening of access works: You can make new papers closed and older papers open, or you can do the reverse. Additionally, you can make papers totally open or you can institute some half-way measure, like something similar to Google Books or Amazon book previews, which are designed with the aim that you can read the content but not easily save a copy of it.

In Physics, the APS (the professional organization for physicists) publishes the Physical Review journals, which are some of the most influential in the field besides Nature and Science. Apparently the APS relies on subscription fees from the journals in part to subsidize many of their other (worthwhile) activities, e.g. scientific conferences. As a result, it's my understanding that they opposed open access requirements (though they might have been willing to accept them in some form). This is especially interesting because the Physical Review journals have relatively friendly policies that allow one to post a pre-print to the ArXiv [arxiv.org] (which physicists generally do) and host a copy of the paper on your own website, so most of the papers they publish (at least more recently) are already available for free one way or another.

I generally have a very favorable opinion of the APS, but I would very much like to see more openness in scientific journals, at the least for taxpayer funded research. If this means that the APS will have to raise dues and conference fees to more accurately reflect the cost of their activities, I think that's something we'll just have to accept.

The Big Challenge (1)

sackvillian (1476885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413808)

...if the government decides to create a new, open journal will be developing a 'prestige factor' for it. If it isn't impressive to publish in it, the best works simply won't be published there.

Since there's little chance of this potential journal assailing Nature or Science, we may end up with free average quality papers and expensive (to both publish and consume) high-impact ones. That is, unless there's a scientific culture change, and academia starts to value open-access and transparency. Maybe if a few big works are published openly we may have a chance, and with all the climate-gate noise this would be especially good for science on the whole.

If the government simply adds a clause that all papers must be available to the public, we might instead see a new market force driving the big journals to open up all or some of their articles to the public, because if they don't, high quality government-funded works won't be available to them. Not a bad prospect either!

Meanwhile, if you're looking for a paper that your institution (if you belong to one) doesn't have access to, I highly recommend google'ing the title in parentheses - it's amazing how many are posted on ill-protected course pages.

Data too! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413906)

Some provision should also be made for making data available as well. For controversial and issues of practical importance, the benefit is obvious. There could also be unexpected benefits for esoteric subjects. The experiment I worked on for my physics dissertation cost around $10^7, and the data is sitting on shelves at three universities, if it hasn't been chucked yet. Admittedly, in my case the only people who would concievably care are the hundred or so people in the subfield, and they probably care more about working on their own experiments. But making the data available would also preserve it for potential inquiries that have not yet been concieved.

Of course there are practical problems such as the volumes of data and organizing it to make sense, but I suspect that any work done to make the data interpretable by others would improve scientist's own analysis.

The NIH model? (1)

stms (1132653) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414392)

Is that where you say nih to the scientist until they're forced to do their jobs right.

My blog commen linking to stuff from 2001 and 2004 (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414604)

Two related items I've written on this:

"An Open Letter to All Grantmakers and Donors On Copyright And Patent Policy In a Post-Scarcity Society "
http://www.pdfernhout.net/open-letter-to-grantmakers-and-donors-on-copyright-policy.html [pdfernhout.net]

"On Funding Digital Public Works "
http://www.pdfernhout.net/on-funding-digital-public-works.html [pdfernhout.net]

The executive summary from the first (the second is a longer version of the first):
"""
Foundations, other grantmaking agencies handling public tax-exempt dollars, and charitable donors need to consider the implications for their grantmaking or donation policies if they use a now obsolete charitable model of subsidizing proprietary publishing and proprietary research. In order to improve the effectiveness and collaborativeness of the non-profit sector overall, it is suggested these grantmaking organizations and donors move to requiring grantees to make any resulting copyrighted digital materials freely available on the internet, including free licenses granting the right for others to make and redistribute new derivative works without further permission. It is also suggested patents resulting from charitably subsidized research research also be made freely available for general use. The alternative of allowing charitable dollars to result in proprietary copyrights and proprietary patents is corrupting the non-profit sector as it results in a conflict of interest between a non-profit's primary mission of helping humanity through freely sharing knowledge (made possible at little cost by the internet) and a desire to maximize short term revenues through charging licensing fees for access to patents and copyrights. In essence, with the change of publishing and communication economics made possible by the wide spread use of the internet, tax-exempt non-profits have become, perhaps unwittingly, caught up in a new form of "self-dealing", and it is up to donors and grantmakers (and eventually lawmakers) to prevent this by requiring free licensing of results as a condition of their grants and donations.
"""

SBIR/STTR awards are already online (1)

WebManWalking (1225366) | more than 4 years ago | (#30415434)

http://tech-net.sba.gov/tech-net/public/dsp_search.cfm [sba.gov] is the search engine. The Small Business Administration doesn't make SBIR or STTR awards, but Congress has charged the SBA with tracking them. Every year, all agencies that awarded SBIR or STTR awards in the previous Federal Fiscal Year are required to report those awards to the SBA, by March I think. The TECH-Net search engine allows you to capture search results in mail merge format for import into spreadsheets, for example. You can drill down to awards and even phases within an award. (As a result of Phase I, the abstract of Phase II could change, for example, and you can see both.) I see that its keyword search capability is finally back after a long hiatus.

This search engine has been on the Web for over 10 years.

Including medical research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30416090)

Including medical research? You know, transparency that would have shown up the tobacco industry far earlier. Or would have shown the downsides of use of aspartame as a sweetener?

Or is it going to be for research that may negatively impact commercial interests?

PDF Format (1)

Tolkien (664315) | more than 4 years ago | (#30416840)

I suggest they use the PDF format for interchange so that redactions can be worked around!
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