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Scientists Organize Elsevier Boycott

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the information-wants-to-be-free dept.

Science 206

An anonymous reader writes "The academic publisher Elsevier has attracted controversy for its high prices, the practice of bundling journals for sale to libraries and its support for legislation such as SOPA and the Research Works Act. Fields medal-winning mathematician Tim Gowers decided to go public with a blog post describing how he'll no longer have anything to do with Elsevier journals, and suggesting that a public website where mathematicians and scientists could register their support for an Elsevier boycott would further the cause. Such a website now exists, with hundreds of academics signing-up so far. John Baez has a nice write-up of the problem and possible solutions."

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What do you expect (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838693)

Elsevier is a Dutch company. They're well known to be wankers.

Will referee? (4, Interesting)

jginspace (678908) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838745)

They've been asked to say that they: "1) won’t publish with them, 2) won’t referee for them, and/or 3) won’t do editorial work for them ... At least do number 2)" ... most of those signed up have gone for all three however it seems like roughly one in ten have prevaricated on the "won't referee" pledge - what is the magnetic allure of refereeing for Elsevier journals?

Re:Will referee? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838773)

they have the hostages, that's their magnetic allure

Re:Will referee? (3, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838815)

Some sort of backwards-ass sympathetic magic? You don't get picked to referee unless you're solid in your field, so there's an irrational fear that they'll stop being a big deal if they stop refereeing (even though refereeing is anonymous)?

Re:Will referee? (5, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839373)

Not likely. Being a reviewer is a PITA, and generally doesn't advance you in any way. I once applied for a grant that asked how many papers I'd reviewed in the past year, but they just wanted a number, completely unsubstantiated, so I doubt they put much weight on it.

Scientists do peer review because it's a duty. Not publishing with a journal you don't like is an easy choice. Refusing to participate in peer review with them just means they'll get someone else to do it, and poor papers may slip through.

Re:Will referee? (4, Insightful)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839721)

...Refusing to participate in peer review with them just means they'll get someone else to do it, and poor papers may slip through.

Thus degrading the quality of the journal and after about 10 years people will learn to treat it as one of the trashier neighborhoods. The problem is the impact (factor and public) that the article will have in the transition period. Also, the editor will have to keep hitting up the scientists who don't refuse until they burn out. This can actually be a feedback loop where the reviewing scientist decides that they must get asked to review because they publish so often in that journal, so picking a journal with a lower review load may be worth looking into. Forgoing review is a nasty and dirty type of boycott which definitely flirts the line between dereliction of duty and the need to advance science by publishing in a public forum (which country-club nit-picky-HOA Elsevier is not). Most of those journals are good, and often the sale to Elsevier was to free up their editorial board and professional staff for the real work on the journal. This problem has been building for years and there's not much that will solve it outside of legislation and possibly international treaty. Even the US legislation which says papers written on research performed with public money should be free to access (perhaps with a 6 month delay) has too many loopholes for it to work well.

Re:Will referee? (2)

xwwt (2475904) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839911)

What I haven't figured out (and this is an outside in view working in an aggregation business for a number of year) is why authors don't create an open publishing platform and kick companies like WK or E to the curb? It would be a simple thing to make a publishing business run for the sole purpose of review and share. Papers submitted to the site are passed to reviewers round-robin style. Reviews on the work are shared with peers. To publish you must referee, to referee you must publish and rate high. Cost of material is reduced, content is created and refereed, quality is high, win-win-win.

Re:Will referee? (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839583)

Yeah, that's exactly what you want to reply back to your adviser when he asks you to review that paper for him.

Re:Will referee? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838817)

The same as for any other journal - climbing the greasy pole

Re:Will referee? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838849)

It's a vague sense of duty. For any given potential paper, there is a limited number of suitible peer reviewers. I'm trying something so odd right now I can think of less than 8 people who are are knowledgable about the materials and spectrosopic method off the top of my head. The people still willing to be a referee possibly feel that their field as a whole shouldn't suffer with suboptimal peer reviewers simple because another scientist is trying to get published in an Elsevier journal.

Re:Will referee? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838865)

Refereeing a journal article is a rather thankless job. There is no pay. There is very little kudos from your colleagues. It is a service to the community. To say you will not referee is something that impacts others who need to get published. Refereeing is something that can hurt you personally because of the time commitment. Not refereeing is something that hurts others.

Re:Will referee? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838889)

Refereeing allows you to scrutinze your competitors, preventing them from getting publications on subject you yourself are also working on, delaying them and/or at least making sure they acknowledge your own work. Even with double-blind reviews it is often clear to the reviewer who the author is and in many cases even vice versa, especially in small fields where this is even predicable.

Will referee? (3, Insightful)

lurker1997 (2005954) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838903)

Being a referee is part of being a scientist. Someone is taking the time to review your work and you are returning the favor. With a bit of luck, you also get an advance glimpse of some of the work that is being done in your area.

Referee != Scientist (4, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839049)

Being a referee is part of being a scientist.

Being a human being with integrity is ALSO part of being a scientist.

If one wants to think one being worthy to be known as a SCIENTIST one must at least have the integrity to know that keep on feeding leeches such as Elsevier does the scientific community a dis-service

Restricting the access to information is an antithesis to scientific principle.

Re:Referee != Scientist (4, Insightful)

lurker1997 (2005954) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839283)

I have published a number of papers in a particular Elsevier journal. When I submit papers, the editorial staff of this journal promptly replies with detailed reviews completed by knowledgable reviewers that in almost all cases have significantly improved the papers I have written (or occasionally prevented something stupid I did from being published at all). That same journal is one of the few that I regularly read for new advances in my field. This is actually the first time I have ever heard something negative about Elsevier, but as a big company there are undoubtedly all kinds of things they do that some people don't like. Normally when thinking about a particular journal, I don't give much thought to who the publishing company is. Regardless, I will happily review other articles for the journal I publish in, because I appreciate the work others have done in reviewing my work, and I am happy that journal remains a source of high quality information about my field. I don't agree with Elsevier's behavior as described in the summary, but one often has to take the bad with the good.

Re:Referee != Scientist (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839443)

[...] but one often has to take the bad with the good.

Only for as long as you choose to, and as long as everybody thinks like you the bad will just get worse.

Re:Will referee? (4, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838905)

what is the magnetic allure of refereeing for Elsevier journals?

It isn't as much as refereeing for Elsevier journals, but to referee for well established and respected journals. Being invited to be a referee of one of those journals is seen as a sign of respect by the scientific community and a public acknowledgement of one's technical and scientific mastery. After all, if a community has to choose who will edit the scientific work done by their own community, they will choose the best in their field, not a snotty-nosed clueless newbie.

Then, the real problem is that Elsevier managed to control the publication and access to journals which are seen as humanity's forum for specific scientific areas. So, Elsevier manages to get that "magentic allure" by proxy, not for the company's own merit. As soon as journals are published elsewhere, Elsevier will lose any prestige they might have, and although scientific papers will continue to be published, the world will be a better place for not being forced to shelve 40 euros for individual papers or thousands of euros for a subscription. Let's hope this boycott represents the tipping point.

Re:Will referee? (3, Insightful)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838997)

I think the process for choosing reviewers is a lot less about respect than you think. You can get picked for a review by just having published a bit in the same field, by being named by someone else who is too busy to do the review himself, or because the editor knows you personally and he asks you to do the review as a favor.

Yes, picking leaders in the field is preferred, but they are often unavailable! Reviews take time.

--PM

Re:Will referee? (1)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839135)

Not exactly. A person might be invited to edit some stuff in some journal although someone else, seen as a better option, might have been invited first and happened to be unavailable. Yet, just because some other option, seen as more suited, has been considered, it doesn't mean that the second pick is is the scientific or techincal equivalent to chopped liver. His job is still technically demanding and important to a community, and it still requires that the community recognizes and respects the candidate's scientific and technical chops. Therefore, even if an editor isn't the main choice, it still is an honour to receive such an invitation and the implicit public recognition of the candidate's accomplishments is still a considerable source of pride.

Re:Will referee? (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839237)

Indeed. I did some reviews when I was a PhD student. Someone at a journal knows my PhD supervisor and says 'do you have anyone who knows a bit about this stuff?' He then nominates me, and I do a review. Typically the paper is reviewed by about 4 people in this way, and then a committee reads the reviews and decides whether or not to accept. You usually have to fill in a set of questions including how you'd rate your knowledge of the subject. I've had papers back from review where a reviewer rates his knowledge of the subject area as 1 out of 5 (although this usually doesn't stop them from listing a load of criticisms...)

Re:Will referee? (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839035)

If you have the support of the community, it's apparently not that hard to replace an established journal. In 2001, the Journal of Object-Oriented Programming was shut down by its new publisher. The Journal of Object Technology stepped into the gap, with the same set of reviewers, but no print publication just open access online-only publication. I'm a bit surprised that more fields haven't followed suit. If you've got a dozen respected researchers who are willing to do reviews, it's easy to start a new journal.

Re:Will referee? (5, Informative)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839351)

Undoubtedly it is easy to start a new journal. The hard part is to turn it into a credible one, and the hardest part is to turn it into the "go to" forum for scientific and technical discussion of a specific subject.

This call by Tim Gowers isn't intended to fix the problem of starting a new journal. This problem has been fixed for decades now, with the inception of the internet as the main platform for knowledge access and distribution, cheap computers and cheaper software. What Tim Gowers intends to achieve is the hard part of the problem: how to turn freshly created or obscure foruns into the main forum for scientific discourse of every scientific and technical field, and destitute the current midlemen to those forums who are restricting access to those journals as old fashion trolls.

This is why Tim Gowers is appealing to the community to stop helping Elsevier out, and instead redirect their efforts to create or contribute to open access journals. Elsevier's power is in manipulating a flock of sheep to not only give them their work for free but also pay them hansomely to access that which they did themselves. Once Elsevier loses the ability to manipulate them to do their bidding, the scientific community, and therefore humanity, wins in multiple ways. So, it is a social problem, not a technical one, and to fix this problem then that specifc segment of society must change. This is what Tim Gowers (and others, too) ultimately intends to achieve.

Re:Will referee? (3, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839723)

Replacing an abandoned journal is rather different from trying to displace a journal by force. Setting up the website is easy, even finding reviewers is probablly not that hard. The difficult bit is convinving people to chose your journal over the established one. Oh and someone has to pay for your new journal (afaict reviewers do get paid even if it's only a nominal ammount) so if you are open access you will probablly have to charge authours to cover the cost of peer review. If you aren't open access and aren't affiliated with one of the big publishers (see below) you will have a hard time getting people to read your papers.

It's important to realise that individual academics and students within instituations don't directly pay for access to most papers from our budgets just like we don't directly pay for "core" software (we do pay for some more specialised software out of our own budgets but windows, office, matlab, endnote and so on are all covered centrally). Those things are paid for centrally as part of block subscriptions. If academics actually had to pay the prices that are shown to the general public I suspect there would be a very quick move towards open access journals.

Suffering from low esteem ? (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839085)

Being invited to be a referee of one of those journals is seen as a sign of respect by the scientific community

In other words, you are saying that scientists in general have such low esteem of themselves that they crave for the respect of their own peers in order to survive

And in order to gain the respect of their peers, they would do anything - including participating in activities that do more harm than good to the scientific community as a whole - like keep on supporting leeches such as Elsevier

Re:Suffering from low esteem ? (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839173)

Future employment at a college often depends upon how many papers and grants you produce. It's more of a fear of losing their jobs.

Re:Suffering from low esteem ? (3, Interesting)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839183)

In other words, you are saying that scientists in general have such low esteem of themselves that they crave for the respect of their own peers in order to survive

This makes as much sense as claiming that the only reason athletes accept an invitation to play in the all-star game is that "in general have such low esteem of themselves that they crave for the respect of their own peers in order to survive".

And this would also apply to prizes such as the fields medal and nobel prize.

To put it simply, there is a considerable difference between having a low self-esteem and receiving an honour of having our own work recognized by the community.

Re:Suffering from low esteem ? (-1, Flamebait)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839301)

In other words, you are saying that scientists in general have such low esteem of themselves that they crave for the respect of their own peers in order to survive

This makes as much sense as claiming that the only reason athletes accept an invitation to play in the all-star game is that "in general have such low esteem of themselves that they crave for the respect of their own peers in order to survive"

I am afraid you've failed in your Logic 101 class.

In an all-star game, the athletes COMPETES against one another

In becoming a referee for leechy organizations such as Elsevier there is definitely no competition, neither mentally nor physically --- It's a task, a venue, a way, to garner "respect" from their peers

That's all !

Re:Suffering from low esteem ? (1)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839389)

I am afraid you've failed in your Logic 101 class.

In an all-star game, the athletes COMPETES against one another

Did you ever took the time to watch an all-star game? There is as much competition in those matches as in professional wrestling matches.

And by the way, just as in all-star games, the competition isn't in the game itself: the competition is in getting invited to be in one.

Re:Will referee? (3, Insightful)

cjb-nc (887319) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838921)

Elsevier's standing relies on providing top quality, peer-reviewed journals. They cannot keep that up if the peers will not review for them. It is the cornerstone of their business model.

Re:Will referee? (1)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838973)

Maybe those academics who feel strongly about this issue are going to referee with the explicit purpose of rejecting all the papers assigned to them?

A bit dishonest I know, but a rejection with the comment "not appropriate for this journal, try x or y" isn't too damaging to science...

Re:Will referee? (2)

call -151 (230520) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839273)

Possibly that is because of various special volumes of journals. Sometimes, there will be special issue of some journal for a conference or in memory of some notable researcher who just retired/died/was celebrated, and for those people are generally more willing to referee. So perhaps some of those people don't want a blanket refusal because they still would be willing to referee articles for a special issue. That's just a guess. But I hope this agreement pushes the choice of journals for such special volumes away from overpriced journals even more.

Re:Will referee? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839437)

Will referee and will reject: sounds like a way of breaking things without getting low quality works published...

academia is highly competitive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838753)

As is publishing, or any other branch of capitalism.

Market pull [Re:academia is highly competitive] (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838885)

The core problem is that scientists and academics get recognition,raises, and tenure based on publishing papers in journals, and thus there is a demand which Elsevier is feeding, proliferating journals to create places for academics to publish. Worse, drug companies gain credibility in the minds of doctors by publishing studies about their drugs, thus creating a very high dollar value market demand for a journal that will publish these studies.

Re:Market pull [Re:academia is highly competitive] (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839059)

The problem is that academics get all of those benefits from papers that people read and most importantly from ones that they cite. A research paper that is never cited does very little to an academic's reputation. Elsevier tries very hard to restrict access to their journals. Unless you buy a subscription to a load of them together you are likely to end up paying $10-30 or more for each paper that you might want to read. Most people, when they encounter this kind of paywall will just go elsewhere and read someone else's related work. And then they'll cite the paper that the other person wrote and it's as if yours doesn't exist.

Re:Market pull [Re:academia is highly competitive] (3, Insightful)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839441)

An intelligent scientist, however, publishes a copy of his/her paper on arxiv.org so that those who cannot get over the paywall can read the arxiv version while still citing the original. Win-win.

Re:Market pull [Re:academia is highly competitive] (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839825)

Elsevier tries very hard to extract subscription fees from their journals while keeping the cost invisiable to individual academics. Unless you or your institution buy a subscription to a load of them together you are likely to end up paying $10-30 or more for each paper that you might want to read. Most people, when they encounter this kind of paywall will just go elsewhere and read someone else's related work but other academics most likely won't run into that paywall and will keep citing your work.

FTFY

This gives the big publishers like Elsevier and the IEEE a huge advantage over either small closed access journals (which charge readers directly because they can't get the big institutional subs) and the open acces journals (which charge submitters since they can't get any money from readers).

For a second there... (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838775)

I thought Joan Baez was still going strong.

Re:For a second there... (5, Funny)

azalin (67640) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838819)

Looks like "how many roads must a man walk down" was a traveling salesman problem and not some humanist statement

Re:For a second there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838887)

42

Re:For a second there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839837)

That is "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan, you twit.

Re:For a second there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838837)

I'm pretty sure he is. He's been lobbying for it strongly:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/117663015413546257905/posts/8RPGnHh5Zxv

Finally (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838789)

We are finally making some progress here.

Re:Finally (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838883)

And to think... this could have been a decade ago but oh no.... everyone cried for big brother to do something about it instead of getting off their own asses and doing the right thing.
 
Odd how boycotts are so easily scoffed at by so many but even when you show them that they can be effective they refuse to do it.

404! (5, Funny)

Flipstylee (1932884) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838833)

"Ban Elsevier

Please take the pledge not to do business with Elsevier. 404 scientists have done it so far:"


Just got me thinking...

Re:404! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839661)

Im all for this. I used to work for a division of Elsivier and they are a bunch of assholes.

What's the point of journals? (5, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838875)

They seem unnecessary in the internet age. Set up some sort of social networking system for scientists.

Also keep getting disturbing reports of journals censoring works for political reasons or because they're afraid that certain factions within the science community will boycott them.

The whole thing is anti science. Create a forum where all scientists can share information freely without fear of being censored or favoritism. If other scientists don't find your work compelling then they don't have to listen to it.

It will also make disclosing all the information about a given study easier since hopefully more of the work will be within the system.

Re:What's the point of journals? (1, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838937)

The point of journals is for profs trying to get tenure to get published for some obscure piece of research, and so the publishers can sell said journals for ridiculous prices to universities who don't care about the cost because they can always jack up the price of tuition. That's also the point of most education conferences.

Re:What's the point of journals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839873)

That's also the point of most education.

Re:What's the point of journals? (5, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839003)

The point of journals is the value of their reputation. A well respected scientific journal is useful because they've repeatedly put their name on the line publishing scientific papers, and when the vast majority of those papers are valid and well reviewed, you can have some hope of trusting an as yet unread paper. "Censorship" in the form of verification and peer review, is one of the driving mechanisms of science, because not all ideas are made equal.

It's not the dead trees that make journals valued, but the credibility they help maintain. Having well-respected scientists be widely opposed to your journal is a deadly circumstance, as trust is all you have.

Re:What's the point of journals? (1, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839199)

How is that even remotely scientific?

That's ad verecundiam. What should matter is the science.

Now if you're worried about having some kind of filtration mechanism so scientists aren't bombarded by bad science then there are many ways of doing that without appealing to an opaque editor that has everyone's trust but has no transparency.

Remember Bernie Madoff. Prior to the scandal he was an extremely well respected man in the finance world. Everyone trusted the guy. He was a legend. But no one audited his work. There was no transparency. And he f'ed everyone that trusted him.

Now am I saying the journals are doing that? No. I'm saying the CAN do it.

I don't care if they're respected. That isn't science. There should be nothing between the scientist and his/her peers. If their peers WANT to filter out bad science then it won't be hard to set up such filters in a way that can't be easily gamed.

Re:What's the point of journals? (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839515)

The editor usually IS one of your peers. He's generally someone with an established, excellent track record in a field. He wades through the crap that comes in (think Firehose), then passes on the stuff that isn't wildly inappropriate or unintelligible to other reviewers. He's triage.

If there was only one journal, a bad editor could theoretically do some damage. But that's not the situation. First, most journals have multiple editors, and there are multiple journals. If a journal starts rejecting good papers due to some kind of bias they'll get published elsewhere and the first journal's reputation will suffer. Suffer a lot, because scientists talk to each other.

Re:What's the point of journals? (1)

Vario (120611) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839541)

While I do not want to defend the journals I think your comparison with Bernie Madoff does not work here.

While he might have been well respected, he had an incentive to cheat and abuse the trust by putting the money in his own pocket. Why should any journal profit from suppressing or pushing a certain kind of research? It is more the other way around: as an editor I would be looking for breakthroughs and unusual findings as they increase the influence of the journal.

Re:What's the point of journals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839597)

Reputation of a journal does not depend on the publisher. It depends on who referees the papers, the editorial board, and therefore what kind of papers are published (hopefully not crackpot papers). Thats all. Once the referees go away, your OH so precious journal is an empty shell. And the only reputation it will have is an historical one.

Re:What's the point of journals? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839051)

I'd feel a lot better about your plan if I didn't feel that peer review would boil down to the kind of asshattery we have around Slashdot.
 
Let's face it, all kinds of jerks who shouldn't be commenting on a topic get modded up for being early and siding with the popular groupthink of the moment regardless of the fact that they're wrong in their thinking. They get modded up and people get misinformed. This would be a tragic thing to happen to peer review.

Re:What's the point of journals? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839565)

So, registered scientists, field experts, are vetted, have their credentials on the line are allowed to comment/review/critique. No ACs allowed.

Re:What's the point of journals? (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839159)

There are several points to journals. The first is to have a fixed, published and immutable, snapshot of some research that people can refer to in the future. At the very least, this has to be hosted by someone other than the author (for obvious reasons), and it generally needs a DOI assigned so that it can be easily referenced and uniquely identified in the future.

The second, obviously, is peer review. Anyone can, for example, put a bit of research on their blog or on arxive.org. They can then get feedback immediately, which is useful for them, but people wanting to read about a subject want to have a filter - a set of papers that they can read that the community agrees are up to a certain standard.

Re:What's the point of journals? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839297)

As to referencing it... again that won't be a problem. We can do that some sort of social networking system. The design is open to interpretation. Possibly some sort of personalized wikipedia type thing. It doesn't really matter. Let scientists put whatever they want online. When they press "publish" it's published. They can't take it down after that. Let anyone see it.

As to peer review, any registered scientist can comment. Obviously you don't want just anyone commenting. But probably no harm in letting everyone read it. Everyone should be able to see the peer review happen in public. Scientists can comment on works, ask questions, whatever.

We don't need these journals anymore.

I guess the big thing I have a problem with is the exclusion. If they let any scientist publish it wouldn't bother me. But the fact that they pick and choose who gets to voice their work bothers me. I don't care how stupid their idea is... if it's big feet aliens... they have a right to publish. They don't have a right for anyone to take them seriously or listen to them but getting published should not be evidence of anything.

Obviously we would be excluding people by not allowing any but verified scientists to submit and comment. But you have to draw the line somewhere.

Anyway, maybe I'm wrong but this doesn't sound like a bad idea.

Re:What's the point of journals? (3, Informative)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839165)

The problem with a free forum is signal to noise. It would have to have some kind of reputation system, such as scientists rating/flagging each other's contributions. That way, you could add some respected scientists to your 'trusted' list, and things that they trust would be highlighted/promoted to you. Essentially a web of trust model. This has obvious downsides, such as scalability and the inherent formation of cliques and the like.

The thing is that journals are actually a decent solution to these issues. They curate content on your behalf, and you decide which journals are more reputable than others. By doing some of the leg-work for you, they handle scalability and make the format relatively open to all comers. They also have the advantage of already existing: scientists already know which journals are better than others, understand the process of submitting to journals, and so on...

My point is that while you could entirely ditch the journals, and build a whole new system... this would be inefficient. It would seem simpler to take the current journal system, and just fix the things that are wrong with it (in particular, the exorbitant costs and the lack of open access). On the one hand, you may say it's hopelessly idealistic of me to expect for-profit journals to willingly move towards a more open format. On the other hand, there are already highly successful open-access journal ventures (e.g. PLoS [plos.org]), which are indeed pushing the journal system towards open access. So there is hope that we can reform the journal system.

Re:What's the point of journals? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839407)

Well, as to signal to noise, the issue I have is that I don't trust the journals as a filtration mechanism. It's not transparent. They don't report which articles they reject or why. That's a big problem. "just trust us" is not something I'm willing to accept from anyone at this point. It's also not scientific. It's ad verecundiam.

As to journals solving the problem... there have been some very bad science published in the Lancet in the last few years for example... and that's supposed to be a very well respected journal. There are also always claims of journals excluding people from publishing due to bias or because other scientists threatened the journal that if they published X they and their friends wouldn't publish their work in that journal anymore. It seriously undermines the credibility and sustainability of the journal system.

As to inefficiency, it would only be so temporarily. The automobile was inefficient compared to the horse for some time. Then when better designs for cars came out the horse simply couldn't compete indifferent to any other logistical concern. Our computer technology has progressed to the point where any inefficiency would be very short term and after that it would only be an improvement.

But the real point here is that I want transparency. I want to see EVERYTHING go in... I want to see the peer review process... and I want to see the output.

What bothers me about the system right now is that there are some very critical decisions made that leave no paper trail. There's no explanation. No record. Nothing.

For the sake of argument if the system I'm talking about introduced inefficiency it would be well worth it just for the transparency. And frankly I doubt that inefficiency will actually manifest beyond the first couple years. And I'm not proposing the journals be banned... simply this other system be built and scientists be encouraged to use it instead. If it works better then the journal system will organically wither and die in favor of a superior system.

Re:What's the point of journals? (3, Interesting)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839619)

Transparency is generally a good thing, and I agree that many aspects of the publishing process are needlessly opaque. This should be fixed. But anonymous peer review has certain advantages. It provides an opportunity for reviewers to be completely honest. Think about a junior scientist reviewing a paper by a more well-established peer: they may fear that a critical review will seriously hurt their career. Think about scientists not wanting to be critical in a review of a friend's paper, or conversely people punishing papers because 'they rejected my last paper!' And so on. The journal editor serves the role of maintaining the anonymous peer review system. (Note that in anonymous peer review, the reviewer is still free to disclose their identity by signing their review; and indeed many scientists do this.)

Of course there could be ways to do anonymous peer-review in an open forum system (e.g. using trusted editor-like intermediaries, or using verifiable keys that can establish trust without disclosing who posted the review). It could be done; in fact nothing prevents all of this from happening right now (even now, authors could individually post their rejected articles, including all peer-review and editor comments, to their institutional websites; this at least partially happens through arXiv [arxiv.org]).

My point about efficiency was that for a given final state X, we can either tweak our current journal model until it reaches X, or we can start from scratch building a new initially inefficient system A, and then tweak that until we reach X. Both will have serious growing pains, but it seems to me that it will be easier (in particular, easier to get scientists on-board with the changes) by smoothly transitioning from the current system to the final desired state of X. Doing it smoothly means no downtime; each adjustment can be tested and the community can decide whether they like the change. So, again, I agree that there are many things about the journal system that could be fixed, and which modern Internet technology can help fix (open access, transparency, better logging of opinions/comments/etc., allowing any scientists to comment on any article, creating a space for public debates/discussions, etc.). I just think that the most kinetically favorable path to that new state is a series of changes from the current journal system (for all it's faults, the community is doing a lot of great science these days!).

Re:What's the point of journals? (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839461)

Journals are a filter. They're supposed to prevent some things from getting published - the low quality, scientifically dubious and shoddily done research. It's hard enough keeping up with the reviewed, edited and published work, never mind some kind of free for all "scientific" networking site that would probably be 90% drug and equipment supplier spam within a week and the other 10% long papers espousing crackpot theories.

Re:What's the point of journals? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839967)

Well, we would be restricting it to scientists so the spam should be limited.

Furthermore there are a lot of easy methods for filtering work out. Come on... we've all used about a million social networking sites at this point. There are WAYS to filter content in an unbiased way.

Another issue here is scientific group think. This is something science has been prone to for centuries. Most scientists believe something is impossible or that the world works a given way. A few people on the side protest and are ignored for a time and then something happens that discredits the accepted model and science changes.

MAYBE something like this would help stop the group think or manage it better? I don't know. Journals if anything enable it.

Re:What's the point of journals? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839529)

I can think of two big ones(there are lots of other, smaller ones):

1) The sheer volume of science being done. I don't think you appreciate just how much research is published, and how long it takes to fully read a paper. I cannot possibly read all the papers that I would like to as is, an I certainly find it beneficial to have a few of my peers perform basic checks for quality, coherence, relevance and correctness before I decide to invest my time in it.

2) The system provides an organized way for tracking the output of a scientist. Evaluating the importance and significance of a researchers contributions in a holistic way is incredibly difficult, and, for better or worse, quantitative metrics are an important guide. The reduction of a career to number-of-papers-in-which-journals-with-how-many-citations has significant drawbacks, but most types careers suffer similarly. Without such metrics evaluating job performance becomes much murkier.

Furthermore, I'd think you'd fine that a sufficiently sophisticated social networking system would end up looking a lot like the journal system. We need a few scientists in the same field to check a paper and make sure that it's worth everyone's time to read? And a way of distributing the load among the community? Like peer review? What about a way of "liking" work you think is important or useful? You mean like citing it? Or what about a way of getting groups of well-regarded researchers to endorse papers that they think are of high quality so they are visible to the appropriate communities? You mean like journals?

Virtually every scientist (that I know at least) believes that the closed access/high prices are a problem, but these can be solved without getting rid of the journal system. Neither is the journal system perfect, but most of the problems would still be present in any social networking system (if not more prevalent), and will be around as long as human beings are the ones doing science.

Re:What's the point of journals? (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839943)

"Set up some sort of social networking system for scientists."

"ScienceBook"? (runs)

Impact Factor is the point, not publishing. (3, Interesting)

tstrunk (2562139) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838901)

Publishing articles nowadays is terribly easy and does not cost a thing (arxiv); filtering and getting good referees however is not.

My solution for this would be a public network of papers, where everybody can publish, read and 'sign' those papers. If you agree with a paper, you put your signature under it and the worth of this paper goes up. As your 'worth' goes up your signature also gains in weight, when signing other papers. Every paper gets a comment section, where reviews can be written and errors pointed out.

If a well known professor therefore signs your work, others will catch up to it. A 'good' paper will gain in publicity quickly due to being sent around a lot. One would also need to include a system of diminishing returns, as to avoid groups signing only their own papers. Ironing out these points of abuse will be the hardest part of this system.

The specification above only consists of four to five sentences and yet I would call it more robust than the currently arbitrarily chosen journals.

Re:Impact Factor is the point, not publishing. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839067)

I'd rather having a weighted rating system based off on reputation. A rating system is much more useful then an approval signing process which is very easy to abuse and provides more information (these are scientific papers) where they can rate the papers on various aspects of it like the methodology, personal approval of the theory, if it covered all the aspects (not overlooked anything), proper procedures, etc. Papers that deal with the same subjects should be be grouped together to provide an all encompassing view on the subject (which can show if more papers leans towards approval or disproval or inconclusive). This would also allow papers that tested other papers to be shown to reinforce or disprove a paper.

Re:Impact Factor is the point, not publishing. (4, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839081)

Sounds kinda like digg for scientific research.

Which quite honestly scares me...

Re:Impact Factor is the point, not publishing. (4, Insightful)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839109)

My solution for this would be a public network of papers, where everybody can publish, read and 'sign' those papers. If you agree with a paper, you put your signature under it and the worth of this paper goes up. As your 'worth' goes up your signature also gains in weight, when signing other papers. Every paper gets a comment section, where reviews can be written and errors pointed out.

The problem with that is that you have to persuade other people — tenured professors, associate professors, funding agencies, etc. — that it's worth buying into your system. Once they buy in, it will work fine (modulo teething problems, of course). But if people don't believe that it counts towards your academic career, it most certainly doesn't count. Maybe that doesn't matter so much for someone with a Fields Medal or Nobel Prize as they've already shown that they merit tenure (or equivalent) anywhere in the world, but for someone earlier in their career it matters hugely.

People want to publish in top rank journals because that's how they show they are doing top ranked work. Competition is ferocious (if usually polite).

Re:Impact Factor is the point, not publishing. (2)

Elendil (11919) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839157)

> Publishing articles nowadays is terribly easy and does not cost a thing (arxiv)

Note that this is no longer accurate: Arxiv is now asking universities worldwide for donations. It isn't a mandatory license fee and it only amounts to a handful of commercial journal subscriptions, but it is no longer "not a thing".

Re:Impact Factor is the point, not publishing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839447)

> Publishing articles nowadays is terribly easy and does not cost a thing (arxiv)

Note that this is no longer accurate: Arxiv is now asking universities worldwide for donations. It isn't a mandatory license fee and it only amounts to a handful of commercial journal subscriptions, but it is no longer "not a thing".

Sure, but donating to the Arxiv advances the common good. Giving Elsevier (or other megapublishers) total control over the scientific community's research papers does not advance the common good, it only increases the fat wallets of the corporation, all the while destroying libraries that don't even the money to buy books because they have to spend almost everything for accessing scientific journals behind paywalls. Its not a zero sum game, you play with Elsevier the scientific community and henceforth you lose. You invest in a new way of publishing scientific papers everyone wins in the long term including you.
And frankly whatever you have to pay to keep the Arxiv up and running is orders of magnitude less than what the megapublishers extortion from the universities.
So even of a purely financial plane it makes sense to bypass the publishers and invest in open access science.

PLoS (2)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839611)

I think that's part of why the Public Library of Science [plos.org] went with their model -- authors pay to submit their article (which *does* get peer reviewed, but on technical merits, not if it's "interesting" to the edior). And then it's free to read forever.

ArXiv has shown their value to the community, but they currently rely on support from organizations [arxiv.org]. Many people who use the site don't even know the issues -- it's not like they're running banner ads asking for donations like Wikipedia.

Now, with the pay-up-front model, some people might balk at the PLoS $1500 submission fee, but that's actually cheaper than some of the existing publishers charge for 'making an article open access' (ie, if you're published with them, you can pay a fee so that no one else has to pay a per-article charge ... but that doesn't help the libraries who have subscriptions). And it's not unheard of for peer-reviewed journals to have submission or publishing fees. Some are per page, some add extra charges for color images, etc.

Re:Impact Factor is the point, not publishing. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839573)

Sounds like an interesting idea for a new type of open access journal. There's a considerable advantage to having lots of competing journals, run by lots of different people. Systematic abuse requires a large conspiracy. Your proposal requires some kind of central reputation tracker, with rules. Kind of like Google does with search. Except Google biases their search results.

arXiv (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838923)

Just post the paper to arXiv. Outside ranking services can judge the content.

Trade associations. (4, Insightful)

jimwelch (309748) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838963)

There is another part to the open access. Trade associations that publish specs. They want anywhere from $100-$1000 for a specification that MUST be used to manufacture equipment. Those specs are written by employees of many businesses (users). These associations do not pay taxes.These specs should be published as e-books for a reasonable price. $35 for example. They are still living in the 50s.

It is about time (5, Interesting)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839001)

Go to google scholar, research anything and you'll inevitable bumb into those extortionists. What is the point of having all that knowledge theoretically at your fingertips, if people cannot have access to it? No matter what it is - an icelandic volcano erupting and you want to know what this means for your plans to fly somewhere? Well, there are plenty of papers that will tell you about ash emissions, the impact of ash on airplanes, the concentrations of ash in the air and so on and so forth.

A nuclear reactor has a problem and you want to know what engineers found out about the likely consequences or progression of the accident, or what people in this country and other countries did about mitigation? It's right there. BUT:

$30.00 for reading a paper (which more likely than not will not contain what you are looking for) just makes it impossible to research anything at all - unless you are at least a millionaire. Just having access to one research paper per day will cost you $11000 a year. That has nothing to do with copyrights or protecting intellectual property or anything else.

It is all about extortion - thank you for trying to stop it.

Re:It is about time (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839397)

If you want a paper ask the author. Most will oblige.

Re:It is about time (1)

CarsonChittom (2025388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839575)

Indeed. In college, I once complained to a professor that one of his books—more a monograph, really—that I wanted to read (on the Moldovan dialect of Romanian—why yes, I was a nerd, why do you ask?) was far too expensive: almost $200 for a perhaps 120 page hardcover. The next class period, he brought me a copy he'd made of the proofs, saying that he'd only made typographical changes before it went to print.

This only works for ... (1)

Vario (120611) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839585)

recent publications. Good luck trying to find and email an author from a 1980ies paper.

Re:It is about time (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839543)

You COULD go to a library and get it for free.

Re:It is about time (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839683)

I COULD go out, find a couple of flint stones, make a few blades from it, build a trap to catch a deer, proceed to make a fire all by hand and get something to eat. I could, on the other hand, also go to fridge for food and turn on my stove for cooking.

Re:It is about time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839947)

Or you COULD sit around and make snarky comments on the internet rather than get off your fat ass for the first time in a decade, leave your "holy" and "pure" nerd cave (completely uninfected by primitive, non-internet-capable devices and without any risk of the spirits of dead trees haunting you*), and go out in the world to learn things and do research.

We can all see the option you prefer. Much easier that way, isn't it?

*: Ooooooooo, spoooooooooky! Ooooooo! The deeeeaaaaad treeeeeeeees will haaaaaaaaunt you! Oooooooooo!

Science publications in NL (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839093)

To my knowledge, science publications in NL are NOT simply shared. Elsevier and other journals put severe restrictions on publications. And cash in a bit on the side. In this day and age they aren't really necessary. An independent web based organisation would amply suffice IMHO. Sharing of electronic papers would also aid science.

So when's the folk song? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839115)

Another stirring protest by Jo*n Baez.

IEEE do some of the same (5, Interesting)

Terje Mathisen (128806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839207)

Last year I sent an email to IEEE saying that I would leave the organization if they continued holding research papers hostage behind pay walls.

I.e. authors were told that in order to get published they would have to assign their copyrights to IEEE and would have to remove any freely available copies on their own personal web page.

See also http://politics.slashdot.org/story/10/06/30/2027226/ieee-supports-software-patents-in-wake-of-bilski [slashdot.org] and http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/06/15/177217/ieee-working-group-considers-kinder-gentler-drm [slashdot.org] about locking research behind DRM gates.

With very little visible change to their attitudes, I decided to leave.

Terje

Re:IEEE do some of the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839445)

the IEEE explicitly allows authors to make a copy of the papers that they authored freely available on their own website

Still evil, just not all-encompassing evil.

Re:IEEE do some of the same (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839589)

Huh. I left because of the volume of insurance spam I was getting through them. That and the organization itself being almost completely useless to me.

Easy enough to sign... (4, Interesting)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839241)

It's easy enough to sign up, and to say you hate Elsevier (so do I). But if you're in a research group at a university, and you're the PhD student, you're probably not doing yourself a favor by signing this. Your name will show up in search results, so people may know you signed (if you used your own name and institute).
In order to get your PhD, you will need to publish somewhere, and your prof will want you to get the highest "impact factor", because that's good for the whole group. You're in a way just an employee, so you better listen to the boss.

By effectively saying "screw you" to the whole system of publications, and going online to a really open system, you gamble. Better make sure the prof agrees.

But I applaud you, if you do.

Re:Easy enough to sign... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839321)

Easy choice, join the BAN only after you've gained your PhD.

Re:Easy enough to sign... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839525)

Easy choice, join the BAN only after you've gained your PhD.

Keep that site open. Ban elsevier in 2014!

Re:Easy enough to sign... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839953)

This is what I will do in May! If I can't get tenure following graduation by publishing open access work, then fuck it all. What is the point? I'll at least get paid a high salary as some corporate zombie if I am forced to keep new knowledge private.

Re:Easy enough to sign... (2)

malilo (799198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839853)

I signed, but I'm a few months from graduating and I'm not worried AT ALL that my advisor will care. It helps that in my field the major journals are published by universities, and not Elsevier (who, needless to say, are a bunch of jerks). Personally, I think people take the "ooh, be careful with that possibly-unpopular opinion you might have, someone might tell your future tenure committee!" way too far.

And let's not forget: They endangered millions. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839535)

Let's not forget, that Elsevier created two dozen completely fake magazines full of completely fake "articles", which were ads for pharma industry products disguised as medical studies. They then planted those in doctors' offices for doctors to read.
Doctors based their trust on that, assuming it was factually correct, and prescribed millions of pointless drugs to patients, often endangering their health.
All for the profit of the pharma industry. Which is clearly bordering on... how do you call that in English? Mass felony mayhem? Mass battery? (I mean "Massen-Körperverletzung")

Nobody will argue that that wasn't a huge crime, and that Elsevier should not be closed down and its management put in PMITA prison.

datebi (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839691)

My neighbor just met a bisexual man on ---datebi*cOMit’s where for men and women looking for bisexual and bi-curious individuals to meet in a friendly and comfortable environment.
It’s a nice place for the people who have the same sexual orientation.

Important note re their harm in medical world (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839731)

Google this:
merck fake journal elsevier

Around 3 years ago, Elsevier reportedly took cash from Merck in exchange for creating a fake journal that looked like peer-reviewed neutrality but was just a shill for Merck products.

There is the TFA's noted bundling of journals. Even worse though is when Elsevier goes shopping. It buys useful specialty journals, then runs the price up for subscription dramatically. End result is that second and developing world get cut off from that source of knowledge, Elsevier knows that fewer people will get to read the journal, but they will still make more money cutting off the developing world.

'Elsevier' is an anagram of 'Evil Seer'. I look forward to the continued eventual day when open journals like openmedicine.ca that cut out Elsevier's wall between the generators of knowledge and the people that need it most.

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