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Univ. of California Faculty May Boycott Nature Publisher

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the what-market-will-bear-is-an-empirical-question dept.

Education 277

Marian the Librarian writes "Nature Publishing Group (NPG), which publishes the prestigious journal Nature along with 67 affiliated journals, has proposed a 400% increase in the price of its license to the University of California. UC is poised to just say no to exorbitant price gouging. If UC walks, the faculty are willing to stage a boycott; they could, potentially, decline to submit papers to NPG journals, decline to review for them and resign from their editorial boards."

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277 comments

meh 'em (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516462)

Sigh, it is relatively amusing.. old medium effectively slashing its throat

Re:meh 'em (1)

ph0rk (118461) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517638)

I agree it is an old medium, but the academy moves slow in these things - Journal pubs will likely remain the stuff of CVs and tenure reviews for many years.

Not a 400% Increase (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516484)

I wish people would stop quoting large percent increases. They get the math wrong more often than not, so it is hard to tell what is intended.

The current average cost for the Nature group's journals is $4,465; under the 2011 pricing scheme, that would rise to more than $17,000 per journal, according to the California Digital Library.

The new price is about four times higher than the old price, a 300% increase, not a 400% increase.

Re:Not a 400% Increase (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516592)

~280% increase. Actually it says MORE than $17,000 per journal... so it could actually be 400%.

Re:Not a 400% Increase (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516624)

Yes, it could be a 400% increase. If we're going to be unreasonable, I feel compelled to point out that it could be OVER 9000!!!!

Re:Not a 400% Increase (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516670)

Well, the increase is OVER NINE THOUSAND dollars per journal.

Re:Not a 400% Increase (5, Funny)

GreatAntibob (1549139) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516604)

Well, that makes a HUGE difference. I'd run like hell from a 400% price increase, but a 300% price increase seems fair and equitable to me.

Re:Not a 400% Increase (5, Funny)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516828)

Sure. And as long as the conclusion is the same there's no reason to get the facts right, eh?

Re:Not a 400% Increase (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516898)

If it involves Nature or Science, getting the facts right is completely besides the point.

Re:Not a 400% Increase (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32517038)

Sure. And as long as the conclusion is the same there's no reason to get the facts right, eh?

You've got a good point. We need to know, down to the smallest unit of currency, exactly how much indignant rage to express. Can't go miscalculating that, can we? I mean, obviously, we need to be exactly 50% more outraged at a man who murdered 75 people than one who murdered 50, and how angry we're supposed to be is the thing that really matters.

Re:Not a 400% Increase (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517388)

I would argue that the facts are right and the semantics are wrong. "a 400% increase" and "an increase to 400% current price" are used interchangeably by many. You may argue it is incorrect. But to argue it as a problem with the facts seems an error. It's a problem with representing a change, and it's a common error, but the "facts" about a price increase and that increase involving some price related to the previous by 400% in some manner is correct. And, given the number of people making this error, I'd argue that a large portion will understand it the way it was intended. And when that happens, then not only are the facts not in error, but the semantics aren't in error either.

Language is not a programming language. Compilers don't change what they expect from day to day or from system to system (assuming the same compiler/OS and such). But humans do. And when an error is repeated enough, it's no longer an error and becomes correct. Dash never hits a dashboard in a modern car. But that doesn't mean that when you say "put that on the dashboard" that, because the board is neither a board of wood, nor stops dash from the horses hooves, that they are incorrect in their use of that word. The language changes and to assert that any common use is wrong is to hold language to an impossible standard of immutability.

But then, I'm not defending this particular use, but just saying that one should step back and examine the situation before getting all worked up about "facts" being wrong when they aren't, or whether an error that's so common as to be known by all is actually an error.

Re:Not a 400% Increase (1)

balbus000 (1793324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516848)

They are confusing additive versus multiplicative increases. Yes, they could have said a 300% increase, but what I think they meant was 400% of (times) the original price.

Re:Not a 400% Increase (1)

dnahelicase (1594971) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517030)

I wish people would stop quoting large percent increases. They get the math wrong more often than not, so it is hard to tell what is intended.

Regardless of the percentage increase, I wish people would at least give a scale to measure that percentage against. Since I don't buy journals for myself, I don't know what they generally cost. A 400% increase on $50 might be hard to get upset about, but a 400% increase on $4,500 is a different matter

Re:Not a 400% Increase (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517290)

It wasn't in the headline, true, but it was in the article. The fact that it made Slashdot's front page must have meant it was something Great and Terrible. Assuming it wasn't about dust collecting between your iphone and its case, which is the other example of a front page Slashdot story of Momentous Importance.

Re:Not a 400% Increase (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32517238)

I wish people would stop quoting large percent increases. They get the math wrong more often than not, so it is hard to tell what is intended.

The current average cost for the Nature group's journals is $4,465; under the 2011 pricing scheme, that would rise to more than $17,000 per journal, according to the California Digital Library.

The new price is about four times higher than the old price, a 300% increase, not a 400% increase.

*COUGH* three times higher... or four times the price.... kettle, Meet pot!

l0lz0rs fr0sty pist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516490)

first boycott.

From TFA (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516502)

Along with its letter, the California Digital Library included a fact sheet with systemwide statistics for 2010 about the university's online journal subscriptions. The system subscribes to almost 8,000 journals online, at an average cost of between $3,000 and $7,000 per journal, depending on the publication and the field. The current average cost for the Nature group's journals is $4,465; under the 2011 pricing scheme, that would rise to more than $17,000 per journal, according to the California Digital Library.

Holy crap. 17k per journal, across 8000 journal subscriptions...

17,000 * 8,000 = 136,000,000

That's a bit of cash.

mod parent Overrated (1, Informative)

Somegeek (624100) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516702)

Read what you quote; they don't pay 17,000 each, and evidently don't want to pay 17,000 for even one.

Re:From TFA (2, Informative)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516856)

Not all the 8000 journals are supplied by Nature however. The summary says that NAture's group publishes 67 journals. It is safe to say that UC subscribes to all of them. So the more correct math would be:

67*17000= 1 139 000 just for the 67 Nature publications.

However, the problem is that Nature is a leader in scientific publishing, so if they succeed in quadrupling their prices, many other scientific journals will do the same.

Re:From TFA (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517256)

67*17000= 1 139 000 just for the 67 Nature publications.

But, as I understand this, it's for the entire UC system. All of the campuses, all of the people. It sounds less rapacious using that metric. Nature costs me $100 per year as an individual. Ten times that number for an entire university system sounds like an awfully low price.

seems reasonable (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516516)

It's becoming increasingly anachronistic that a for-profit company should: 1) get their main product (the papers, in this case) produced for free by third parties who are not given any cut of the revenues; 2) have much of the intellectual work of reviewing and editing the papers also done for free by third parties; and then 3) lock up the result behind a paywall to maximize revenues, which go to people who had comparatively minor roles in actually producing the product being sold.

Perhaps if more academics did this sort of thing [infotoday.com] things would change.

Re:seems reasonable (5, Informative)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516676)

I do not think that many of their papers are provided on a "free basis" (well yes mostly they are):

Obviously, there's a tradeoff for faculty, in that many of the NPG journals are recognized for their high quality, and provide a level of prestige that may be essential for advancing a researcher's career. The libraries recommend alternatives, such as the Public Library of Science journals, but those have yet to reach an equivalent level of recognition. The letter also recommends other open access policies, such as following the NIH open access guidelines, but NPG has already taken actions to support these policies.

source [arstechnica.com]

They submitters also get compensated (not highly enough as some would argue). In addition I found this very interesting (from arstechnica):

Nature's take

In response to our query, Nature Publishing group provided us with a public statement in which it voices distress that what it had assumed were ongoing, confidential negotiations have been disclosed to the public. As for the assertions made along with the disclosure, NPG thinks they're misleading. "The implication that NPG is increasing its list prices by massive amounts is entirely untrue," the statement reads. According to Nature, its library subscriptions are currently capped at seven percent annually.

Where did the massive increase mentioned by the UC libraries come from? The statement argues that the price increase seems dramatic simply because UC was operating under a discount that NPG terms "unsustainable." NPG claims that it's providing the UC libraries with a discount from list of close to 90 percent, and that "other subscribers, both in the US and around the world, are subsidizing them." Even with the new pricing in place, NPG estimates that the average download of a paper would only cost UC a bit more than 50.

NPG seems convinced that cooler heads and a detailed analysis of the numbers will see the UC libraries return to the negotiating table. "We are confident that the appointment of Professor Keith Yamamoto and other scientific faculty to lead the proposed boycott," it states, "will mean they will be in a position to assess value with a rigorous and transparent methodology."

same source linked againsource [arstechnica.com]

If those facts are all true, they really should be fair to the other universities...but to be honest I bet both sides are exaggerated as that is how media works.

Re:seems reasonable (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516872)

That justification seems slightly strange. They're arguing that it's "entirely untrue" that NPG is increasing its prices by large amounts, and argue that instead, NPG is simply reducing its discount by large amounts. But that ends up producing the same effect, no?

Re:seems reasonable (2, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516936)

It is like insurance prices.

$75 for a test that costs you $750.

Which is the real price? The price 99% pay ($75) or the 'rack rate' that the public pays?

Rather than have a big national health care plan Obama should have just required that the uninsured could not be required to pay more than 25% over what the least expensive insurance company rate was.

Seriously, one of my gf's had a $5 charge for a "full rate $580" test recently. Just crazy.

Re:seems reasonable (5, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517164)

Capitalism requires informed consumers. Most companies work very hard to prevent their consumers from being informed. "Private" negotiations for random discounts off inflated MSRP is very anti-capitalistic. A law requiring full disclosure of every customer's price would be fought by almost everyone that claims to be for the Free Market, but in fact would be helping enforce the Free Market. But then, there is a desire by those people to have the Free Market regulated by those who directly benefit by violating it (they want to have the corporations police themselves and if you don't like it, shop elsewhere, even when there is no where else to shop). But having government regulation enforcing the Free Market, while required for a Free Market, is somehow a violation of the Free Market.

But imagine the row when every price for every seat on an airplane is known. Or when you go to the doctor and he tells you that the average price for that test is $142.5 and your price is $750 (as 90% get it for $75 and 10% get it for $750). Or car dealerships, which are staunchly anti-Free Market have to actually tell other customers what they actually charged for cars. But, an informed consumer is *required* for the Free Market. And as long as people get the idea in their heads that negotiation is good because they are smarter than the average guy, the USA will stay as far away from a capitalistic free market as possible.

Re:seems reasonable (1)

loners (561941) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517814)

Actually, just about no one pays the $750. Its all part of a very big pricing game that the health care industry plays with insurance. After all you are really happy with you insurance that you only had to pay $5 right. The company providing the test must have still been able to make money off of it or they wouldn't offer the test. If you don't have insurance and can't afford the $580 price, they allow you to "negotiate" them into settling for a lot less than the $580.

Good thing the new health care setup will get rid of this playing with prices. Oh, wait...

Re:seems reasonable (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517136)

Yes, the net impact on UC is the same. But the phrasing really matters. An increase of 300% out of the blue is unreasonable.

But the implication that UC gets a discount far larger than anyone else muddies the waters.

I'd be curious to see what discounts other large subscribers get, and if UC's discount is really out of whack with the discounts other institutional subscribers receive.

Perhaps the larger news here is not this proposed increase for UC, but instead how much everyone else is paying for the same journals. I'm sure that $OTHER_INSTITUTION would not be pleased to know that they pay triple or quadruple (or worse!) what UC pays.

I'm thinking what it comes down to is that the proposed price increase is merely a bargaining tactic... that is the price without discounts, Nature's starting point for negotiations. UC starts at their current ridiculous discount, and eventually they meet somewhere in the middle. UC is simply playing the publicity card, which, as a public institution at a time when California's budget is in shambles, is a pretty savvy move. I'm sure UC and Nature have crunched the numbers -- they'll probably settle somewhere just north of the amount of cash Nature would expect to receive if the University system decided not to subscribe, and individuals and professors would need to subscribe on their own. The "bit north" is the price UC is willing to pay for the convenience of their students and staff as part of public subsidy of the journal subscriptions.

Re:seems reasonable (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517142)

UC was operating under a discount that NPG terms "unsustainable."

Well, that seems to be rather the heart of the matter, doesn't it?

How much is NPG's overhead, and what are their profit margins? The service they provide is solely the prestige: they are the most exclusive journal, getting the most important papers subject to (presumably) the most stringent reviews.

The price of the journal helps contribute to that prestige: anybody can open a free journal. But nearly all of it goes to profit, as they don't pay either the referees or the authors.

So, if their overhead is so high that they can't afford to give the UC a break on the price, then there's either some cost factor that I'm missing, or they have exaggerated idea of what their prestige is worth.

Re:seems reasonable (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517686)

Interesting vaguely, but mostly that just says NPG is outdated and must die.

Academic publishers do exactly jack shit, seriously like nothing, zero, zilch. Academics prepare their papers in LaTeX which unlike MS Word will easily produce print quality output. I've never once seen even so much as a spelling correction from an editor, merely bitching about uncited referenced that I'd left uncited for a reason. Referees work completely for free.

Re:seems reasonable (3, Interesting)

LivinInSanDiego (1814534) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516822)

The whole process is incredibly biased to the point it can be argued that large company best interests are often the greater concern for acceptance of a paper versus the quality and significance of the contribution itself – but that is just one issue. Some well known scientists have argued openly with other well known scientists and as a result, their contributions (or labs contributions) have become blacklisted and are never published. This does nothing more than hurt the pursuit of science (and the scientists themselves who reputation is tied to publications) since the community is often biased towards a particular set of journals regardless. Nature can be particularly bad where this is concerned. So Nature raising fees is just another part of a broken system needing review.

Re:seems reasonable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32517862)

Nature isn't worried...they can get writers from Rupert Murdoch's empire. After all, there are many writers who are expert at knowing that global warming is simply a liberal fantasy.

DO IT GO AHEAD LAME BRAIINS (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516526)

Shit ain't free you know. Hm, actually, ...

Good (1)

mrphoton (1349555) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516532)

If it is true that the price has gone up by 400% I can see why they are doing it but fom my point of view as a researcher not at UC, it means that there will be (slightly) less competition to get in to Nature. It also means when I go for a job interview and I am up against a UC candidate I will have the nature paper and he wont. Which will mean I will get the job. Having a paper in Nature is the gold standard in research and I don't think this stance will do their researchers any good.

Re:Good (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516562)

Depends on what area you're in. In machine learning / AI (my area), having a paper in Nature gives you huge cred with some audiences, but will get you extra scrutiny from other audiences, because there's a big trend of people with relatively crappy ML research gussying it up with some sexy applications (usually bio-related) and then publishing it in a general-readership science journal like Nature or Science in order to avoid the kind of scrutiny it'd get if they tried to publish in an actual ML or Statistics journal.

Re:Good (4, Interesting)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516842)

I agree. In my discipline, a nature of science paper will get you huge attention from the university administration and bureaucrats in your funding agency. However, your colleagues who research things close to you will be suspicious because one has to simplify your findings and leave important qualifying statements out in order to have the paper be understandable by a general audience. I've seen more than one Nature or Science paper whose results were a little too convenient or cute and not surprisingy were later found to be totally bogus. It's not that bogus results don't happen in other journals, that's part of the scientific process, but when it's published in science or nature, a lot of people not in your field tend to believe it.

Re:Good (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517462)

Yeah--- interestingly, I've found that many of the people who themselves have Science or Nature papers have this view too. If their research is genuinely high-quality and novel in their own area, they'll often publish a second journal article specifically on the underlying technical component in a journal in their field, and that's often the one they'll cite when doing a self-cite. Now if you have that: a journal article in a top journal in your field for within-field cred, plus a high-profile article in the general-science journal for external PR, you're looking good to pretty much all relevant audiences.

car show analogy (5, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517004)

Scientific publishing is worse than car shows. Most car shows, participants pay, and the spectators get in for free. Which always seemed backwards to me. Sports games are the other way around. The audience pays the players. Except for vanity publishing, authors of fiction generally get paid for their efforts. But car shows are weird that way. Participants enter car shows to show off their rides. They want to show off so badly they'll pay to do it.

So it is with scientific publishing. Researchers don't just want to show off, they have to, to keep their jobs. These scumbag publishers take advantage of that situation to take work for nothing, and act like the researchers should be grateful not to be charged a fee. You might think they add some value with editing and reviewing, but no, they farm all that work out to other researchers-- and pay them nothing for that either. And then the publishers turn around and gouge the spectators too.

There's some serious dislocation in values here. Let's kick Nature where it hurts. They very badly need reminding who is really providing the material. Actually, forget that. Just kill Nature. I had already decided long ago to never again publish in a closed journal. PLoS is where I'll be sending my work.

Re:car show analogy (3, Informative)

takowl (905807) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517440)

These scumbag publishers... act like the researchers should be grateful not to be charged a fee.....PLoS is where I'll be sending my work.

So, you take issue with the fact that mainstream publishers don't pay scientists (we'll ignore how that would work in a market where space in well known journals is the scarce resource), and would like to thumb your nose at them by... going with a publisher that will charge you [plos.org] >$2000 to publish your own material! There are good arguments for open access publishing, but your complaints contradict one another.

There is still a market for print journals, although maybe it's on the wane. Someone has to pay for printing and distribution, and the journal staff require salaries. Even online publishing needs servers and bandwidth. The traditional model is that the publishers charge the readers, and the new model is to charge the authors (i.e. the funding agencies), but either way, it can't be free for everyone.

Re:car show analogy (4, Insightful)

Guppy (12314) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517558)

Most car shows, participants pay, and the spectators get in for free. Which always seemed backwards to me.

Interpretation: The spectators are not the customer. They are the product being sold.

Re:car show analogy (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517708)

Scientific publishing is worse than car shows. Most car shows, participants pay, and the spectators get in for free. Which always seemed backwards to me.

While I'm sure some participants are just there to show off, I think many of them are there to promote their business, which is customizing cars, and that's why they participate and pay for the privilege. While they're there showing up their fancy car with special upholstery, they're passing out business cards to spectators promoting their auto upholstery business. The car just serves to show their capability.

How many people would bother attending a car show if people could show their cars there for free? You'd end up with few spectators, and a bunch of people with really crappy cars that they've "fixed up" (i.e., spray-can paint job and spinner rims on a 1981 Chevy Citation).

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32517266)

just exactly how sour are them grapes, bud?

Re:Good (1)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517566)

big trend of people with relatively crappy ML research gussying it up with some sexy applications (usually bio-related) and then publishing it in a general-readership science journal

Mark Newman! PNAS! The list goes on...generally seem to be people from field X trying to stuff from field Y (where Y is often ML/statistics/algorithms, and X != math or CS).

Re:Good (1)

bkpark (1253468) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516616)

Having a paper in Nature is the gold standard in research

And why do you suppose it is? Impact factor [wikipedia.org] . And what affects the impact factor? Number of citations. And who generates these citations? Academic researchers.

If this boycott/controversy leads to scientists at UC (and elsewhere) disliking Nature, it'll have an impact on its impact factor which may negate whatever benefit non-UC researchers may got from reduced competition.

In any case, the academic journal publishers charging exorbitant fees are ... potentially shooting themselves on the foot—the fewer institutions maintain their subscription, the less likely it'll be for their articles to be cited in new articles published in other journals.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516890)

The quality of the journal will be lowered and therefor the prestige of your paper. No job for you.

Re:Good (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516972)

Having a paper in Nature is the gold standard in research and I don't think this stance will do their researchers any good.

It currently sure is, but interestingly things are happening in the field as well. There is a growing disagreement with the prices one has to pay for journals who nowadays mainly provide an IT platform. Various journals publication systems are open sources and this simply leads to the fact that publishers are competing with free/open source systems.

Take PlosONe, though obviously not as high as Nature, is becoming a more and more cutting edge journal collection. If anything, it shows that the classic peer-reviewed journals might get challenged by more community-driven journals.

I'm indeed not sure whether it will do any good to the researchers, but it's a strong indication that times are changing. They are the first, but hopefully not the last. And it's about time IMHO, since the current system dates from the days we did not have digital resources.

Re:Good (2, Interesting)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517118)

Having a paper in Nature is the gold standard in research and I don't think this stance will do their researchers any good.

Nature isn't the only journal in the top tier. Within any given field, there are slightly more specific journals with equal 'street cred' -- Cell is seen as just as important among biologists; The New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet are just as good for clinical researchers; I imagine that other fields have similar 'blockbuster' titles.

And if you're not going for Nature, then Science is their major competitor for the 'general' scientific audience. Similar impact factor, similar value on one's CV. (When the human genome was sequenced, the Human Genome Project published in Nature, while Celera simultaenously published their sequence in Science.)

And then there are the up-and-comers — the new open-access Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals. PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine are both just a few years old, but already publishing a lot of cutting-edge research -- with impact factors to match. And since they are open acess (Creative Commons licensed), they don't charge any subscription fees. (And open access means that they may be cited more often, because more people can read them.)

Re:Good (1)

takowl (905807) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517606)

Within any given field, there are slightly more specific journals with equal 'street cred'

Not quite any field. At least for some parts of biology, a Nature paper is still the golden target (standard isn't the right word). A paper in Science is something to celebrate, but even that's not as good as getting a Nature paper.

Note that there's a difference between reading and publishing--scientists may get more information from more specific journals, but for 'street cred' (lab cred?), the big name general journals like Nature and Science are king, at least in my field.

Fuck the publishers. (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516542)

Step 1. Scientists do research(paid for largely by a mixture of tax money, and skimming from undergrads)

Step 2. Scientists write paper, submit to journal.

Step 3. Journal has other scientists(paid for by their respective universities) peer review paper for free.

Step 4. If journal decides to publish, they frequently demand copyright on paper.

Step 5. University library shells out nontrivial dead presidents so that scientists can read the papers they and their colleagues wrote.

They poison parasites, right?

Re:Fuck the publishers. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516658)

Step 6. ?

Step 7. Profit!

Re:Fuck the publishers. (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516864)

In this case, Profit occurred in Step 5. No step in this process is a mystery except Step 4.5: They smoke a whole bunch of ?? and decide to raise the prices.

Re:Fuck the publishers. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516744)

Step 5. University library shells out nontrivial dead presidents so that scientists can read the papers they and their colleagues wrote.
 

This also has been bothering me for a while. I never got why exactly my girlfriend, who is an undergrad in Ancient and Medieval History, and has been networking with Prof's all over North America, still insists on buying Archaeology Magazine, when she has heard most of the names in there and could probably get the un-editted articles if she sent an email. It's like 5 Degrees of Seperation max.

It absolutely baffles me.

Then again, how would she know there was a paper written if she didn't purchase the publicized journal? Perhaps Universities need to take a more open stance on its articles, put a GPL or something on their papers before submitting it to a journal.

Re:Fuck the publishers. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517766)

Why don't the Universities just form a non-profit group to take the place of the publisher? This group could then start a website, and organize the participants. All the papers would be published online, on the website, in PDF format. If anyone really wants a dead-tree version of an article, they can print it themselves. The articles would all be free to read for everyone, so that science is accessible to anyone who has interest. The only cost would be nominal: money for web space, perhaps a full-time webmaster to run the site and do all the grunt work of publishing the articles, contacting scientists, etc., and perhaps a once-a-year conference. If all the involved Universities chip in, the yearly cost should be tiny.

Re:Fuck the publishers. (1)

LivinInSanDiego (1814534) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516882)

largely tax money? Can I see a reference for this - or are you referring to a specific type of scientist? I see it but not largely so. And I think you mean skimming foreigners not undergrads or are you referring to a specific field of study?

Re:Fuck the publishers. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517018)

He means the kind of research that gets paid for by government grants.

Corporate R&D is a different kind, where they don't usually want to publish the results. They want to keep it proprietary. At least thats the impression I get.

Re:Fuck the publishers. (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517706)

Corporate R&D is a different kind, where they don't usually want to publish the results.

Companies in the research business generally want to publish (there is a prestige issue for the company, and also their employees in research want to have publication credits, they want to attract talent from academia, etc., etc., etc.)

There are clearly some things which they want to keep confidential (e.g., research which has a high probability of having value patented applications for which the company hasn't yet applied for patents), but that's not everything. Lots of companies publish lots of research.

Re:Fuck the publishers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32517074)

1. Not all scientists get paid for *every* project. Quite a bit of the funding is used for equipment and to pay assistants (undergrad/graduate stipends). Additionally, not all projects are *fully* funded, meaning some of the expenses are out-of-pocket (/me looks at pile of receipts to be saved for taxes).

2. A lot of projects are funded by other than federal and state funds.

3. A lot of papers are reviewed at home after "work" hours (many of us work easily 60+ hours per week).

4. Undergraduates and graduates intern with faculty so that they can begin to learn the trade of doing science (and are typically *paid*).

From... a scientist...hmmm... what am I doing replying on /. when there's science to do?!

Re:Fuck the publishers. (1)

femtoguy (751223) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517848)

At least it is mostly better than it was. You used to have to pay a per page charge to have your paper published once it was accepted, which was on the order of hundreds of dollars for a scientific paper. If you wanted a color figure, it went up to thousands. Then, if you wanted copies of your paper to send to colleagues, you had to pay for those too. I published a paper in Science, and by the time we paid the page charges and bought 1000 preprints, we had spend most of $10,000. Now that's a business model.

Money talks. (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516546)

Money talks.

The one thing I don't get is why Nature is gouging their content providers and why UC is PAYING for being content providers in the first place. Peer reviewing, editorial work, actual submissions? Don't people usual GET paid for this?

Other institutions? (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516556)

Are other institutions facing the same price hike, or is this targeted specifically at the UC system (which has so much money to burn...)? I'm assuming the UC's aren't the only schools to license NPG journals.

Pot, meet kettle (3, Interesting)

PatPending (953482) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516566)

I'd like to see a chart of NPG's "exorbitant subscription increases" and UC's tuition costs vs. time

5 will get you 10 that UC is much higher.

Re:Pot, meet kettle (5, Interesting)

tucara (812321) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516720)

Not that I agree with the massive tuition hikes, but the difference here is that the journal is getting most of it's content and editing for free. It would be like the UC tuition rising despite all the professors and janitors working for free. Also some journals actually charge your for publishing articles. It cost me a $1000 to publish in an IOP journal...and by me I mean the taxpayer since I work on a DOE experiment.

Re:Pot, meet kettle (0)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517174)

And the university gets much of it's product for free. Many of the professors cover their own salary through grants, the university only provides an office and work space. If the prof buys equipment, the university demands a cut of the grant in exchange for allowing the prof to buy the equipment. Nature can do what it does for the price is commendable. We could have public domain research journals just like we could stop university from building wasteful spaces just so some rich guy can put his name on it.

Re:Pot, meet kettle (4, Informative)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517728)

Many of the professors cover their own salary through grants,

While faculty might use research grants to supplement their salary on certain occasions (summer if you're a 9-month faculty member, for example), almost all faculty salaries are paid for by department funds. The people the faculty member employs, graduate students, researchers -- these are paid through grants.

the university only provides an office and work space

That space can range from a single office to an entire building and is non-negligible in terms of cost. Administrative, computing, facilities, infrastructure -- all paid for by the university.

If the prof buys equipment, the university demands a cut of the grant in exchange for allowing the prof to buy the equipment.

Indirect Cost Return. UC charges 53% for most federal grants. If you ask for $100,000, the granting agency pays $153,000. It is income used to support the faculty in various ways (staff, infrastructure, etc, etc, etc). Tuition, state funding, and donations are other major sources of income.

we could stop university from building wasteful spaces just so some rich guy can put his name on it.

Expansion and improvement is necessary to compete in the educational market. If some rich guy is putting his name on a building, you can be certain a decent percentage of the funding for the building was contributed by that guy. Maybe 10-15%, maybe more, but when a building costs $50 million to create, it's not a sneeze.

Could the university save money? God yes and UC is going through it right now...a complete shake-up of every business process, every department. "Departments" as seen by staff no longer exist in my college. Staff support a cluster of academic departments, not individual departments. No longer do I work for, say, the Mathematics Department. I work for the Science Cluster which incorporates Math, Statistics, Physics, Chemistry, and Geology. Centralize purchasing, HR, IT...add some efficiency-creating web apps, centralized databases, streamline the processes. You can have 10 people doing what 25 used to do (and all scheme entails).

Re:Pot, meet kettle (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516994)

Most of the tuition increases are to offset cuts in state funding to the UC system, and much of the remainder is used as financial aid (taking from affluent students to support poor ones). In terms of inflation adjusted dollars, the state funding per UC student has been reduced over 50% since 1990.

Goose, gander, etc (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516586)

UC doesn't mind gouging students.....or taxpayers.

Re:Goose, gander, etc (1)

1mck (861167) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517212)

They're all businesses...end of story! I laugh at the book store at my campus when they put up little advertisements at the breakdown of all the costs of the books to justify why they're raising the prices; they add in the other cost of other businesses, which has nothing to do with them. They buy from the supplier, and then jack us for more profit...sigh!

Switch to snarXiv.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516628)

snarXiv is the low cost alternative to expensive journals.

http://www.snarxiv.org/vs-arxiv/

Create an Open Source Alternative! (4, Interesting)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516642)

Form a cooperative association. Create an on-line journal. Hire staff sufficient to cover the costs of administration. Charge dues sufficient to cover the cost of administration. Let publishers competitively bid for the right to print and sell hard copies (if any want to). Elect a board of governors sufficient to ensure that only top quality stuff gets published.

The current situation is parasitical and symbiotic--but it's becoming less symbiotic.

They should take advantage of the technology and displace the parasite.

Re:Create an Open Source Alternative! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516728)

It's called PLoS (http://www.plos.org/) and you pay to play there too.

Re:Create an Open Source Alternative! (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516906)

Not all areas have pay-to-play open-access journals. In my area, JAIR [jair.org] and JMLR [mit.edu] are probably the two most prestigious journals (not just most prestigious open-access journals, but most prestigious period), and they're both entirely open access and entirely free of publication fees.

Re:Create an Open Source Alternative! (1)

m509272 (1286764) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516918)

huh?

from the website

PLoS is a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource.

Open Access: Everything we publish is freely available online for you to read, download, copy, distribute, and use (with attribution) any way you wish. ../DONATE AND JOIN!
Your support of PLoS and the global open-access movement will help to accelerate discovery...make your secure donation today.

Re:Create an Open Source Alternative! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516968)

To provide open access, PLoS journals use a business model in which our expenses—including those of peer review, journal production, and online hosting and archiving—are recovered in part by charging a publication fee to the authors or research sponsors for each article they publish. For PLoS Biology the publication fee is US$2900. Authors who are affiliated with one of our Institutional Members are eligible for a discount on this fee.

We offer a complete or partial fee waiver for authors who do not have funds to cover publication fees. Editors and reviewers have no access to payment information, and hence inability to pay will not influence the decision to publish a paper.

For further information, see our Publication Fee FAQ.

Re:Create an Open Source Alternative! (2, Informative)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517246)

PLoS is a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource.

PLoS is not free. It just shifts the costs from the readers to the authors, who must pay substantial fees ($1350 for PLoS One [plosone.org] , for instance) to get their articles published. I think that's a better system overall- it lets anyone who's interested read the articles, it's relatively straightforward for authors to include publication costs in their grants, and it encourages authors to concentrate on quality over quantity- but it's not free.

Re:Create an Open Source Alternative! (0, Offtopic)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516844)

They should take advantage of the technology and displace the parasite.

There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we (technology) are the cure.

Only ones? (1)

goontz (1441623) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516652)

Is NPG only increasing the price [by so much] for UC, or is it being done across the board to all who subscribe? Similarly, is UC the only entity that is opposed to the increase (or at least voicing it in such a fashion)? I wonder what NPG's reasoning for the increase is, especially if it's such a drastic increase. My guess: Both sides are bluffing to some extent and they'll end up reaching a deal somewhere in the middle because it's in both of their best interest to do so.

Transition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516654)

I hope I'm wrong, but will someone please correct me if this is the case? Is this becoming a general trend? Music no longer requires physical stores for distribution. Perhaps not even record labels. Books will be distributed electronically. DVDs? Don't get too attached. Want to buy something? Even physical products are easier to order online these days. Similarly, physical copies of journals are already pretty much obsolete, lessening the the role of the publisher as the middleman. Nature may not be having so many troubles, but I have to imagine that journals in general are having a harder and harder time bringing in money as people manage to find the information and papers elsewhere. Peer review will never go out of style, but it's seeming more and more impractical to hoard all of our collective knowledge behind a paywall. Am I completely turned around, or is a whole segment of the population going to become obsolete as distribution of goods and services becomes more and more efficient? Does this change result in a net loss of jobs, or is it just a transition, paving the way for a major paradigm shift and allowing us to put our energy elsewhere?

Re:Transition (1)

monkeythug (875071) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517344)

> I hope I'm wrong

You're not wrong.

> is a whole segment of the population going to become obsolete as distribution of goods and services becomes more and more efficient? Does this change result in a net loss of jobs, or is it just a transition, paving the way for a major paradigm shift and allowing us to put our energy elsewhere?

Short term: A great deal of upheaval with contraction (and possibly eventual collapse) of many distribution and publishing businesses. Many people will certainly lose their jobs.

Long term: More efficient market means a boost to the economy and leads to greater opportunities. New jobs are created which more than makes up for the ones that were previously lost. Contrast Scribes with the Printing Industry or the Horse Buggy Industry with the Automobile Industry.

Purpose? (1)

Lynal (976271) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516686)

What's the reason for the price increase? Nature doesn't operate off of donations, where would the additional money go?

Nature: Another Inglorious Product (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516706)

along with:

1. Canada
2. United States
3. Israel
4. Hong Kong
5. Iraq
6. India
7. Pakistan
8. Bangladesh
9. Afghanistan
10. Australia
11. New Zealand
12. BP (British Petroleum)

United KINGdom

(A.K.A. The British Empire )

Yours In Samarkand [youtube.com] ,
Kilgore Trout

UC is mad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516716)

UC is mad that they didn't think of raising what they charge by 400% themselves. With the cost of college what they are it is hard to feel sympathetic for the gougers getting gouged.

Looks like nature has more to loose (1)

grapeape (137008) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516718)

At least on the surface it sounds like Nature has far more to loose in this venture in creative pricing than UC does. Loosing editorial staff, reviewers and submissions because you want to charge them more to provide your content just sounds rather backwards.

Donald Knuth on the topic (5, Informative)

toxygen01 (901511) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516808)

Few months ago I read Donald Knuth's open letter to publisher on the exact same topic - increase in price.
The letter is dated 2003, but I believe is it as actual today as it was back then.

the link to this comprehensive letter is:
http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~uno/joalet.pdf [stanford.edu]

if you find it tl;dr, I can only suggest to read at least first 2 pages to get the insight on what he wanted to share with other people...

Re:Donald Knuth on the topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516984)

P.S. I'm sending copies of this letter to several friends who are interested in journal publishing but are not members of our board. But this is not an "open letter"; I would prefer not to have my remarks circulated widely.

Oops. Looks like ~uno isn't going to be one of Knuth's friends any more ;)

Re:Donald Knuth on the topic (1)

JustinRLynn (831164) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517860)

You might want to note that the footnote at the end of the letter indicates that it isn't actually an open letter. :)

Nature goes RIAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32516894)

The artists (scientists) do all the work and the labels(journals) keep the money.

Sounds perfectly fair to me.

why the increase? (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 3 years ago | (#32516912)

Just to be clear, what is causing this huge increase? I find it weird that there isn't some more general outcry, why is it limited to UCL? That's a huge jump, completely abnormal for a commercial entity, and TFA is oddly scant on this rather significant bit of context.

Googling around a bit I hit this [sciencemag.org] , which follows the old-skool "journalism" thing of finding out what the other side has to say:

The problem, according to NPG, is that CDL has "been on a very large, unsustainable discount for many years," and other subscribers "are subsidising them." UC's libraries now receive an 88% discount on journal list prices, and NPG wants to bring it closer to 50%, the letter says. It asks the universities to compare the proposed new download price for NPG papers, $0.56, with what UC pays for other publishers' articles. The company is also "utterly confused" by UC's estimate of the value of UC authors' papers.

Re:why the increase? (1)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517198)

Just to be clear, what is causing this huge increase?

The bigger picture is that for many years now, publishers have claimed that dead tree subscriptions by individuals have been dropping like a rock. It's not just NPG that's doing this, Elsevier has been doing this for a long time with the journals they can get away with. There is some truth to it, many scientists used to have paper subscriptions to their favorite journals. Nowadays though, you just navigate to your library's web-site and enter your id and password and download whatever you want straight onto your computer. You can even do it from home, or print it out if you need to have it in your hands. So the journal publishers have been massively increasing their subscription costs for the electronic version. Not so nice for the libraries.

In my opinion, if tax payer money is paying for some research, it should be publicly available or least published by a not for profit publisher, such as the American Chemical Society.

It's all just about money? (2, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517092)

I'm no fan of the price gouging publishers are engaging in, but really - Elsevier publishes fake journals by the hundreds [slashdot.org] and there's not a peep from university or faculty. Thomson Reuters sues an open source competitor [slashdot.org] for just having a filter that can read Endnote files and the reaction is zero. But now it's about money and suddenly they're all up in arms with boycotts and protests...

Re:It's all just about money? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517840)

But now it's about money and suddenly they're all up in arms with boycotts and protests...

If you own a business, and know that one of your biggest customers was having financial difficulties, that's probably a bad time to tell them they won't be getting the same discount anymore. That would go double if that same customer somehow was giving you a significant amount of the product you were selling back to them. That's the situation that nature stumbled into: they get a lot of their research from UC, UC is a major customer of their journals, and the UC system has been really hit by the state budget situation. Nature seems to have been extremely arrogant and foolish about their negotiating position.

As to why there wasn't as much concern about the fake journals? No one was expecting much from them. Even before those were uncovered as thinly veiled ads, they would have been placed on the Z list of respected journals, pretty much ignored by everyone. If it's not one of the top journals, you don't read their articles unless you're interested in the content, all the articles coming from those fake journals seem to have been "this drug works." If you don't work on that drug, as the vast majority of faculty at UC don't, then you wouldn't have ever run across those journals. Endnote seems to be licensed to everyone who is connected to the UC system.

Not sure anyone in the UC system would have said those issues didn't matter, but it didn't affect any of them directly, unlike the lack of money.

Re:It's all just about money? (1)

femtoguy (751223) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517868)

The irony of this is that I had never heard of zotero until Thomson Reuters sued, and it made it to slashdot. Now I use it, and have a half dozen colleagues using it. Best publicity ever.

Better model exists (1)

UltraOne (79272) | more than 3 years ago | (#32517196)

What is especially strange about much of academic publishing not changing its traditional subscription model to account for the rise of Internet is that (unlike a lot of other content providers) there is a clear, economically viable alternative.

Instead of charging for subscriptions, journals should get revenue by charging authors to publish (sometimes called "page fees"). Some journals already have page fees that don't cover the cost of publication, in which case they would need to be increased.

Since in biomedical research, at least (which is the area I'm most familiar with and the majority of research published in the US), both the money that currently pays for subscriptions and the money that would pay the author fees come from grants, it should be a global wash in terms of sources and sinks of the money. Subscriptions are payed out of institutional budgets that have as part of their input "indirect costs" (a kind of overhead fee on grants) that are levied by institutions. For example, if a university's indirect cost rate is 40% and a researcher gets a $500,000 grant, $200,000 goes to the university, and the researcher only gets $300,000 to spend herself. With a change to a publication fee model, indirect costs would go down, freeing up money that the researcher could then use to pay the fees.

There would be some redistribution of costs among groups in an institution and between institutions, but in general costs would be shifted to groups that were most successful at publishing, and thus should be in the best position to bear those costs.

One of the biggest advantages of this scheme is that if articles were not behind paywalls, it would be much more feasible to develop automated tools to index, search and analyze them. This hopefully would improve the ability of researchers to keep up with the huge amount that is published even in specialty areas.

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