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Harvard: Journals Too Expensive, Switch To Open Access

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

Education 178

New submitter microcars writes "Harvard recently sent a memo to faculty saying, 'We write to communicate an untenable situation facing the Harvard Library. Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive. This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called "providers") to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.' The memo goes on to describe the situation in more detail and suggests options to faculty and students for the future that includes submitting articles to open-access journals. If Harvard paves the way with this, how long until other academic bodies follow suit and cut off companies such as Elsevier?"

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Amazing (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785217)

Wow, and I thought I'd never see major universities become reasonable and do this in another decade.
Good news indeed. It's not just money that is at stake, but the integrity of the scientific community.

Re:Amazing (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785383)

This has nothing to do with universities being reasonable, it's just business. And the scientific community cares more about visibility and prestige, therefore if a professor can publish one or two papers in Science/Nature/Cell/whatever rather than five papers in open-access journals with lower impact factors then you can bet he'll take it. It's the university that pays, anyway, the academics get the prestige, which is measured by the impact factor, among other things.

Re:Amazing (4, Insightful)

EL_mal0 (777947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785427)

It's not just prestige, it's promotion. In many cases their career and their wallet benefit more from those two papers in the high impact journal than the five in a lower impact one. There are some (sort of) legitimate reasons for this, but on the whole it's BS.

Re:Amazing (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785913)

Isn't it possible to publish in multiple journals?

Re:Amazing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39786299)

Often, it is not.

Re:Amazing (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786521)

Isn't it possible to publish in multiple journals?

Not the same paper. The journal will get quite ticked off with you if you try to do that.

Re:Amazing (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786647)

I'm not familiar with academic publishing, but doesn't the copyright remain with the original authors? Or how exactly will a journal block a scientist from publishing elsewhere?

Unpublished work (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786771)

Or how exactly will a journal block a scientist from publishing elsewhere?

I'd guess it'd be along the lines of contractually requiring, as a condition of publication, that the article be an unpublished work. Copyright law defines publication as "the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending" (17 USC 101).

Re:Unpublished work (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786873)

Exactly. It is the remit of almost any journal that it publishes *original* research. Your paper must be unpublished.

Re:Amazing (5, Insightful)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786121)

You're missing the point of impact factors. It's merely a representation of the average times any given article from the preceding two years has been cited in the current year. The values change all the time.

So, we know that if a good paper gets published somewhere that people can find, it gets cited. If good authors (presumably Harvard has some of these) make a concerted effort to move to a different journal other than the typical Journal of discipline subject, then the new journal is going to get a lot of citations over the next two years; raising its impact while the old journal plummets. (Actually, the new journal will skyrocket, and the old one will gradually taper as it is forced to accept less stellar papers to maintain publishing quantities).

Now where it gets interesting is when the Society of discipline subject, who sold their Journal to the bundle publisher for whatever reason, starts to see their Society's Journal impact dropping (along with some of their revenue). At this point there will either be a call to membership to publish in the main Journal, or a call from membership to retrieve their Journal from the bundle people. This fight will probably go both ways, and different societies will have different end points. The options available will also vary. Some societies will have made a complete sale of their journal and be out of luck, others may be able to renegotiate publishing arrangements. Journals most threatened are those with no society behind it.

Also, in my experience you can't just trade in five papers for two in the superstar journal realm (e.g. journals with double digit factors like science or nature which are usually around 30). Also, many superstar articles never make it to a general audience journal like Science or Nature. If a scientist really wants to impress someone with their publishing record, then they should report five and ten year impacts of their individual articles - not their neighbors.

Re:Amazing (3, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785703)

You say it's just business but I bet the entire Harvard library budget is smaller than a rounding error in Harvard's overall finances, their endowment is up to $32B and has been growing at over 12% per year for over 20 years.

Its's the grant stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39786783)

Uh no. It's not the University that pays. The University libraries pay for the journals, but the professor's grant pays the price of publishing the paper. As grants get tighter I suspect that places that don't charge you to publish will become more popular.

What I suspect Harvard is saying is that publishing in more open forums will count as much as publishing in closed journals. For many academics, I suspect that the only reason they publish in closed journals is that it affects their promotion.

Re:Amazing (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785465)

Somehow I see Elsevier et al. figuring out some way to sue schools doing this, or their libraries, for breach of contract, restraint of trade, somehow extending copyright from previously published research by professors to their new research publications (or quickly adding exclusivity terms to their contracts to keep professors from submitting to open license publications), etc.

Re:Amazing (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786161)

Congress (in the US) is very gently easing access to papers who's research was funded by public money. It's slow, and far more limited than it should be, but it's possible that we see governmental action crack this nut wide open - retroactively even.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785637)

Really? Its just once rich institution (of lower learning) sticking it to another rich institution. Come on where is the rich envy here slashers?

Re:Amazing (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786543)

No, I think it's actually just the money [ucdavis.edu] . The rest is probably just to justify a budgetary move.

commie faggert's (0)

Kerstyun (832278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785245)

Heifer-luting interlectule's, always wanting something for nothing.

microseconds (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785249)

If Harvard paves the way with this, how long until other academic bodies follow suit and cut off companies such as Elsevier?

As soon as an on-line open-access journal gets the same impact factor as the traditional Elsevier or IEEE journals, the old ones are dead.

Re:microseconds (4, Informative)

solanum (80810) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785365)

Some are. PLoS One for instance has a pretty high impact factor. It's not up there with Nature, but it's higher than the vast majority of journals.

Re:microseconds (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785517)

Some are. PLoS One for instance has a pretty high impact factor. It's not up there with Nature, but it's higher than the vast majority of journals.

In case people are wondering... PLoS is the Public Library of Science [plos.org] .

Re:microseconds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39786341)

As soon as an on-line open-access journal gets the same impact factor as the traditional Elsevier or IEEE journals, the old ones are dead.

It's simply a matter of gaining hearts and minds.

Re:microseconds (0)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786397)

I'm sure glad I browse at +5. I would have hated to miss the genius that was this post.

Re:microseconds (4, Insightful)

openfrog (897716) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786547)

If Harvard paves the way with this, how long until other academic bodies follow suit and cut off companies such as Elsevier?

Coming from Harvard, a university whose endowment funds are twice those of Cambridge and Oxford taken together, this is significant indeed.

One recent event that may have prompted Harvard to act is a recent blog entry from Thimothy Gower (Gower's Blog), a professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, which prompted a petition to boycot Elsevier, signed as to the time of this writing by 10,172 researchers, and which has done much to raise awareness across disciplines.

You can read about the petition at The Cost of Knowledge website. Read also the Wikipedia entries on Gower and on The Cost of Knowledge.

Re:microseconds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39786549)

If Harvard paves the way with this, how long until other academic bodies follow suit and cut off companies such as Elsevier?

As soon as an on-line open-access journal gets the same impact factor as the traditional Elsevier or IEEE journals, the old ones are dead.

Optics Express already does that. It is an open access journal with a very high impact factor in the area of Optics / Photonics. It does have a larger variation in the quality of the publications, but I'll take open access over the current system any day of the week.

Source: http://faculty.cua.edu/wangz/journal_if.htm

Re:microseconds (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786633)

All you have to do is find someone with respected credentials who is willing to do all the hard work of editing and producing a prestigious journal for free. Shouldn't be too hard.

Re:microseconds (4, Insightful)

Sir_Kurt (92864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786897)

I guess you know that the present editors with respected credentials doing all the hard work at the prestigious print journals are -right now- working for free? So you are right. Shouldn't be too hard at all.

Kurt

The system must be changed (5, Insightful)

GeneralSecretary (1959616) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785275)

At a minimum publicly funded research should be available to the public for free. Ideally journals themselves would be replaced with a decentralized Web based system where anyone can publish and peers can freely review all the articles. Academic journals should be replaced with something akin to blogs much as newspapers have.

Re:The system must be changed (3, Informative)

godrik (1287354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785321)

Actually most researchers publish their result in technical reports or on arXiv before sending a paper to a journal.

It is streamlined in Physics and is becoming popular in Computer Science. I am not sure about other disciplines though.

Re:The system must be changed (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785413)

Actually most researchers publish their result in technical reports or on arXiv before sending a paper to a journal.

It is streamlined in Physics and is becoming popular in Computer Science. I am not sure about other disciplines though.

A lot of journals now allow "self-archiving". I think you can find most CS articles with a search engine and download a PDF from the authors' web sites.

Re:The system must be changed (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785437)

Are those papers peer-reviewed prior to being published on arXiv and other online sites? If not it is a poor replacement for the journals, which are designed to go through the slush pile of submissions and weed-out the bad works from the good.

Re:The system must be changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785501)

And do it poorly, as per an earlier /. article.

Re:The system must be changed (3, Informative)

godrik (1287354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785679)

arXiv does not peer review. But the documents are cross published. many submission system in physics actually download the paper from arxiv. Once you know the name of the published paper and the authors, you can access its version on arXiv which is exactly the one used by the journal.

Re:The system must be changed (2)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785331)

I couldn't agree more. It's crazy: the author publishes the work without getting paid; there are little to no advertising costs and yet it costs a fortune to access the work. It made sense 20 years ago when the articles were published in small quantities and trucked over to university libraries. But now? The cost of distribution approaces 0.

Re:The system must be changed (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785439)

I couldn't agree more. It's crazy: the author publishes the work without getting paid; there are little to no advertising costs and yet it costs a fortune to access the work. It made sense 20 years ago when the articles were published in small quantities and trucked over to university libraries. But now? The cost of distribution approaces 0.

It's another example of the internet as a disruptive technology. People who have been making money off of this are going to hold out as long as they can, well past the point that everyone else identifies it as crazy.

Re:The system must be changed (1)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786365)

Of course. But now the consumer is pushing back. It's sad that the university (the paying consumer) has taken this long to push back hard. The authors and the reviewers are not paid for their work, at least not by the publisher. I'm glad Harvard is publicly pushing back and hope that other universities will join in. I don't blame the publishers for wanting to make money - I blame them for not figuring out how to transition gracefully; and I blame the universities for not exercising their power as consumers.

Re:The system must be changed (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785333)

At a minimum publicly funded research should be available to the public for free.

Some funding agencies require that. Some middle-men are fighting it.

Academic journals should be replaced with something akin to blogs much as newspapers have.

Maybe "akin" to blogs, but there still needs to be peer review.

Re:The system must be changed (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785369)

Academic journals should be replaced with something akin to blogs much as newspapers have.

This sounds great. I wonder, though, how one would find and vet qualified reviewers.

Re:The system must be changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785397)

Blogs? You mean mostly unreliable sources of information routinely full of bias and lies? Yeah, let's replace well-respected journals with that trash... Not!

Re:The system must be changed (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785409)

At a minimum publicly funded research should be available to the public for free.

Agreed.

Ideally journals themselves would be replaced with a decentralized Web based system where anyone can publish and peers can freely review all the articles. Academic journals should be replaced with something akin to blogs much as newspapers have.

This would lead to an ugly mess... It's not bad enough that we throw faeces to each other, now we'll make it easier. The advantage of highly-centralised systems is that the consensus and the state of the art are self-evident, so why discard those advantages?

Re:The system must be changed (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785649)

Ideally journals themselves would be replaced with a decentralized Web based system where

Dude, that was what the internet was first used for, before it became a cesspool of pop culture and marketing. It's been done. Decentralization leads to privatization. Privatization leads to populist thinking. Populist thinking leads to marketing. Marketing... leads to suffering.

Re:The system must be changed (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786285)

Dude, that was what the internet was first used for, before it became a cesspool of pop culture and marketing. I

Aah, with a sense of nostalgia I harken back to the days when the intertubes consisted of almost nothing but university and conspiracy theory websites, and 33.6Kbps was the top tier speed to beat...

Thanks for the flashback.

Re:The system must be changed (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785697)

Ideally journals themselves would be replaced with a decentralized Web based system where anyone can publish and peers can freely review all the articles.

The tragedy of the commons is that everyone wants to publish and no one wants to review.
And not everyone is qualified to review (or publish for that matter)

Re:The system must be changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39786391)

The tragedy of the commons is that everyone wants to publish and no one wants to review.

The latter part is incorrect, judging from Youtube, Slashdot, etc... Everyone's a critic and reviewer.

Re:The system must be changed (3, Interesting)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785903)

When you publish a paper, you are expected to transfer the copyright of that paper to the publisher. However, publishers like IEEE allow you to post the accepted version of your paper on your own website. See the full policy here [ieee.org] . This is in contrast to the published version, which contains all the journal specific markup like headers and page numbers. IEEE also allows you to publish the accepted version of your paper to any funding agency repository to comply with free-access requirements. I don't know how it works in other disciplines, but in engineering, IEEE is the place to publish and it works like this in pretty much all our periodicals. I take an extra step and on my website and add a note that all articles posted are for timely dissemination of information and all work is the property of respective copyright holders and may not be reposted without explicit permission. But the links point straight to the fulltext of the research.

This policy is pretty permissive, and I've never seen the need to submit to an open access journal of lesser quality when I can submit to a top journal and be assured my research will be just as accessible.

Re:The system must be changed (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786505)

Ideally journals themselves would be replaced with a decentralized Web based system where anyone can publish and peers can freely review all the articles.

Many researchers post preprints on arXiv and/or on their personal web sites. There's decentralized free peer review, too, but only if you show up to colloquia.

Boo hoo Harvard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785295)

Harvard, with it's massive endowment, pretends that it cannot afford this? That is utter BS.

To be fair, Elsevier and their kin are somewhat evil money-grubbing publishers. They often try tricks like charging authors for "privilege" of color images to "recoup costs", when the content they're getting is already free.

An analogy: A newspaper has lots and lots of writers on staff, gets their work for free (i.e. no paycheck), turns around and sells the newspaper at exorbitant prices to libraries, and then come back to the authors and say.. we want to charge you. This would be insane in any environment outside of academia or the government. Academia, lucky for them, is funded largely by government bureaucrats who are slow to change and demand open-access publishing (the NIH is moving in the right direction here).

Re:Boo hoo Harvard (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785551)

Harvard, with it's massive endowment, pretends that it cannot afford this? That is utter BS.

Harvard's Libraries say that they can't afford this(and given the relatively thin slice of the cash that the libraries see, is quite possibly true. Universities aren't unified entities. If anything, they are rather more compartmentalized than corporations(who, for accounting purposes if nothing else, have all sorts of internal distinctions of their own). The Endowment is practically an in-house investment fund, not a petty cash jar that the libraries can get access to easily. There are probably all manner of horribly complex distinctions(some largely accounting fictions, some fairly real(a professor in something biomed who maintains his lab and underlings on grants, say, is practically a tenant rather than an employee)).

Plus(in a happy confluence of self-interest and altruism) paying for these journals because they can afford it would be a losing choice for Harvard and just about all the other schools:

Why? Since Harvard is made of money, they really don't want to face the classic "How much does it cost?" "Well, how much do you have in your pockets?" chat with the sales rep. That's an express ticket to paying 50% more per year. Poorer schools don't want to end up paying 'industry standard' rates dictated by what richer schools can afford; but their faculty are also less likely to have the clout to just say "Dear Elsevier, fuck you." without damaging their careers.

Harvard has the cash and prestige to afford it(if they would just cut their libraries a slightly larger slice, from what my friends associated with the system tell me, the libraries are surprisingly starved given their reputation); but this also means that they have the best chance to draw a line and end the practice, instead...

Peer Review (0, Flamebait)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785301)

Isn't one of the primary functions of a journal to facilitate the peer review process?

I seem to remember it goes something like this: Paper is submitted, editors evaluate, if it's not complete garbage, they send it to other scientists in that field, they provide feedback, decision to publish is made.

The Climategate emails showed a concerted effort to gain control of this process or at least influence the editors to not proceed with the review process in some instances. Will open source journals be more or less susceptible to that?

Re:Peer Review (4, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785385)

Isn't one of the primary functions of a journal to facilitate the peer review process?

I seem to remember it goes something like this: Paper is submitted, editors evaluate, if it's not complete garbage, they send it to other scientists in that field, they provide feedback, decision to publish is made.

In the general case, the editors and peer reviewers work for free. AFAIK all the publisher provides is the stylesheet, some higher-level organization, and the printing/distribution.

In the internet age the traditional publishers are easily bypassed, and a lot of efforts are being made. I don't know whether there have been any big successes.

(Are the PLoS outlets open access?)

Re:Peer Review (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39786483)

I used to work for an academic department and we had at least three administrative assistants who were technically employed by the university, but whose salary, benefits, network connection, a token payment for power, computers, fax machines etc were paid for by journals as their primary role was to support a professor (each) who was an editor of a journal (all three were different journals). They assistants would handle non-journal business to some extent as their goal was to help the professor be more efficient so they had time to attend to their editing responsibilities. Most professor did it primarily as it made it easier for their research to get published and most would have read the majority of hte articles they edited anyways due to just keeping up with the field, but it was a very nice gesture.

THis still can work in an online world; you can have professional organizations elects comittes with chairs to review articles in order to ensure high quality work still comes out. Some smaller schools may free load, but the larger will want to have their work reviewable and be able to say it went through the selection/editing/peer review process and still held its water. Ocassionally, peer review would catch things; one time what the original author thought was a small discovery was correct into being quite significant.

I don't want to be taken as pro-journal; I know our library has dropped a number of academic journals due to cost. If the major universities can't afford them or it becomes a significant cost, finding a better, cost-savings model is obviously appropriate.

Re:Peer Review (2)

ciantic (626550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785559)

You can have open-access journal with peer reviewing. Revenue the journals amass isn't exactly going to peer review. It would be better for universities to join the forces and make one open-access & optionally could include peer reviewed section, which would be financed by collection of universities.

And THAT would be a technical knockout.

Re:Peer Review (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785701)

It isn't clear that there will be a significant difference in editorial control:

With closed access journals, researcher submits paper hoping to improve his CV(sometimes even surrenders copyright). Peers in the field review paper, usually for free/status associated with being a reviewer for a serious journal, Journal turns around and sells the finished work back to the libraries.

Under the most common 'open' model, the costs of publishing are most commonly moved from the library end to the research end, by having a submission fee for papers that is one part of the cost of research, rather than having library/journal subscription fees as one part of the cost of research. That's the major economic change.

I'm sure that, in practice, the shakeups surrounding moves from one model to the other will sometimes be accompanied by moves toward tyrannical editorial control or toward broader transparency; but those will really be orthogonal to the funding model.

Re:Peer Review (3, Insightful)

Grieviant (1598761) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785989)

With closed access journals, researcher submits paper hoping to improve his CV(sometimes even surrenders copyright). Peers in the field review paper, usually for free/status associated with being a reviewer for a serious journal, Journal turns around and sells the finished work back to the libraries.

There isn't any status associated with being a reviewer for one of the big journals. By and large, no one outside of the publisher even knows that you do it and it's not really something worth bragging about on a CV. People who legitimately care about their field view it as (a mildly annoying) part of their duty.

Re:Peer Review (4, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785717)

Climate skeptics have a much worse history of trying to manipulate the peer review process:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climategate-peer-review.html [skepticalscience.com]

Re:Peer Review (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786181)

So, my question stands...would this make it easier or more difficult?

Re:Peer Review (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785841)

Isn't one of the primary functions of a journal to facilitate the peer review process?

Which is done by volunteers. We do not need publishing companies to recruit volunteers for us, and then to profit from the work of those volunteers. The institutions those volunteers work for can just as easily cooperate to publish a journal and give incentives to the researchers who currently volunteer their time for the peer review process.

Yes please! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785315)

Please do give Elsevier and others the finger for the good of humanity!
This make knowledge finally accessible to all AND most importantly would greatly reduce the incentives to write bunk "scientific" papers

Potentially good way to solve this... (2)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785317)

If major Universities required their faculty to publish facsimiles of any papers they submit to various journals on a _free_access_ "academic papers repository" section of the University's webpage, then we'd have the best of worlds. Those willing to pay for academic journals could still do so. Those hunting for a particular academic paper, not knowing in advance whether its contents are actually useful or not, could simply look it up on the University's _free_access_ academic papers section. Problem solved.

Re:Potentially good way to solve this... (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786551)

The more effective route is to have public funding agencies demand this. If a university demands it, then it can substantially limit the capacity of a researcher to publish effectively with little upside. If the funding agency demands it, then the researcher has the perfect excuse -- nobody is going to tell the guy with the money "no thanks" just because he wants you to publish in a lower-impact free journal.

Pot ... meet kettle (2)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785325)

Seriously? Harvard is calling out others? This from a school with several professors who sell their own books that are required and no substitutes are allowed ... the books are good only for the one class, are different ever year so they can't be sold and so the professor can sell you a new copy, of course the argument is always some bullshit about how they have to change it to prevent cheating ... which only happens because they reuse the same content year after year and then pretend they spend countless hours coming up with new ideas.

Its good to call out rip offs, but no one is going to give two shits about what Harvard says as they doing the exact same thing every day.

Who pays? (4, Insightful)

solanum (80810) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785347)

Whilst I would like to see the day where our work (I am a scientist) is all in open access journals, there is still a cost. The author pays the journal instead of the library. The difficulty for authors is that we typically don't have funding for that. Maybe what we need is for our institution libraries to be paying that cost, but then the library doesn't save any money...

Re:Who pays? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785623)

If the sum of the publication costs is lower than the sum of the access fees of all journals for all institutions, then the funding agency saves money... and it most likely is lower, with the added benefit that anyone can read the publications, and not only paying institutions.

Re:Who pays? (1)

thirdpoliceman (1350013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785793)

Libraries will eventually save money in this situation. Even if libraries paid the open access fee for all faculty, they would only be covering the costs necessary for their institution. Currently, libraries have to pay for bundled journal packages. So, if faculty need access to a particular journals, the library often has to pay a fee that is not justified for access to the required journals, and the providers justify this by bundling other journals with popular or renowned journals.

If academia moves to open-access journals, then everyone would be paying for their own contributions, and faculty would have access to everything they need. I suppose some libraries responsible for faculty who are active publishers may have their fees increase, but I'm not sure if that would be the case. I think the subscription prices set by providers are higher than the publishing costs of open-access journals. At least for the ones I've seen. I've seen open-access submission prices between $1,500 and $2,500. The faculty that teaches me is a small faculty with about 50 part-time and full-time faculty. If they each published 5 articles a year, that is $625,000 a year. I'm not sure what a reasonable amount of publishing is, but now that I look at it that is a lot of money. I don't know what it costs to get access to the various journal subscriptions used by my faculty, but I would be surprised if it was that much money. We have about 600 students in the various programs run by the faculty, which is about $1,800,000 worth of tuition per semester from the students contribution alone. Again, I don't know what amount the government provides after that. I doubt using 1/3rd of student tuition for publishing is feasible, but I'm not sure about that. Hmmm. Certainly, the library's budget will not be that large. I suppose, this system would favour institutions that do not publish as much. I feel that this benefits students in the end, but I guess I'm not sure any more if it would be cheaper. I am in a Master of Library and Information Science program. I'll ask around at school, and see if I can find out how much a typical journal bundle costs.

Re:Who pays? (1)

binarstu (720435) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786109)

Exactly. I am a big fan of open-access journals, but the reality is that many of them are very expensive to publish in. For example, authors are charged almost $3,000 to publish a single article in PLoS Biology. For many researchers who aren't working off of huge NFS grants, that price makes publishing in those journals impossible. Many "closed" journals have no costs to the authors because publishing costs are covered by subscription fees. I'd be happy to see a larger migration to open-access publishing, but I don't want to see the burden of paying for journals shift away from the libraries and on to the backs of individual researchers.

Re:Who pays? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786641)

For example, authors are charged almost $3,000 to publish a single article in PLoS Biology.

PLoS, like all reputable open-access publishers, waives publication fees [plos.org] for authors who can't pay. Basically, the fees paid by authors on big grants from NIH, NSF, et al. which specifically cover publication fees (remember, a lot of traditional journals charge publication fees too, for things like color figures, and waivers are considerably harder to get in that case!) are in part subsidizing articles from authors who aren't on those grants and don't have the resources to pay the publication fees. It's not a perfect system by any means, but it seems to be working so far.

Re:Who pays? (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786131)

I could see a State level function here. It would have to be strictly regulated and have oversight, but I think that having a single place to submit your work would improve the flow of information and availability.

One improvement they could make is to ensure that the process is completely dispassionate and objective. I would suggest that the editors be regularly re-assigned to different scientific disciplines to avoid becoming chummy with regular contributors.

One wonders if Alfred Wegener had submitted his book, The Origin of Continents and Oceans, as a paper to a process like today's and the thinking of his time, would it ever see the light of day?

Re:Who pays? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39786279)

The difference between open and pay access journals is in the size of the page charge, open access journals charging more. Many pay access journals do have page charges, however - they're double dipping.

Many grants provide funds for page charges. You [in the general] need to start building a larger budget for page charges in grants. Also, the institutions should consider underwriting some of these charges out of their grant overheads.

Re:Who pays? (2)

onebeaumond (1230624) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786509)

Print journals charge market rates, not actual costs. The difference (profit) goes to the owners, usually an allied association run much like a private club with compensated officers, scholarship programs, etc. The journal editors and reviewers (who provide all the actual prestige and work of the journal) usually get "academic credit" for their participation and therefore not paid anything else. Certain engineering association journals even seem to specialize in "teaser" papers, designed to drum up consulting contracts for authors (association members) who can write baffling yet interesting sounding papers. Lots of advantages for a more open process here.

Just ask the government for more money. (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785367)

After all education is (I was told yesterday) the primary goal of a university, regardless of the cost. Unversities should not be allowed to cut CS departments or library purchases of scholarly journals.

Re:Just ask the government for more money. (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786709)

After all education is (I was told yesterday) the primary goal of a university, regardless of the cost.

And that is, of course, a lie. When the cost becomes high enough, it becomes a factor. When the cost rises to the point where it physically cannot be met, it will not be paid. There are no exceptions to this rule.

How will the "Big Journal" Industry respond ,,, ? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785395)

Can they start suing everyone for downloading Journals . . . ? Their business model is being challenged, just like the music industry.

Hmmm . . . how can they claim intellectual property on papers that haven't been written yet . . . ? It will be interesting to see what their lawyers will come up with . . .

Restriction on science (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785399)

Forget restriction on academia, etc. Science functions best with as many participants as possible sharing as much information as possible. These journals used to only charge a modest fee to cover distribution -- their function in that regard ended in the mid 80s with the introduction of mass communication becoming available to the individual at low cost, and a decade later the internet became a viable method of distribution.

These journals are counter-productive today; They're causing work duplication on a mass scale because research (that thing where you look up what other people have done about the problem, also known as 'step 2') has become so cost prohibitive it's cheaper (and faster, thanks to a lack of standardization regarding searching) to just move forward with doing it over again. If I were Queen of the establishment of science, I'd send the military in and charge the owners of those businesses with crimes against science and sentence them to 10 years hard labor as assistants to (cough)... undergraduates.

Re:Restriction on science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39785567)

Will they get raped in the names of science ?

Re:Restriction on science (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785693)

Will they get raped in the names of science ?

That would be unethical. Instead we'll study the effects of prolonged incarceration on the effects of men with a net worth over $5 million. :\

Science? (1)

binkless (131541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785713)

Note that nothing in the linked article says that *scientific* journals are the only problem.

A much more inviting target for cost savings would be the many specialized humanities journals that publish a steady stream of papers that nobody ever cites or even reads. We'd probably be better off if nobody bothered with them anyway - maybe then the philosophy and literature faculty can get back to doing something useful - like *teaching*

Re:Science? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785795)

A much more inviting target for cost savings would be the many specialized humanities journals that publish

Yes, well, let's help save humanity first before we help the fields dedicated to charting its demise and then doing the autopsy. :D

Solution: Exclude from tenure consideration (2)

crow (16139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785449)

There's a very simple solution. Harvard can set standards that journals must meet in order for publications in those journals to be considered for tenure. If there's one thing that professors care about, it's having a good case for getting tenure.

How long before the reverse is true? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785481)

How long before "providers" attempt to adopt a very-high-by-today's-standards "published" subscription rate but give substantial discounts to institutions who have supplied content in the last 12 months?

A followup question:

How long, measured in nanoseconds after its announcement, before such a policy is widely considered an Epic Fail? Feel free to use a smaller unit of time in your response.

Lessig spoke of this at ORGCon recently (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785499)

Lessig spoke about journals, and access to scholarly works, at the Open Rights Group's recent conference, and made what I thought were excellent points:

Junior academics seeking tenure (more a US thing, I think) or else recognition in their fields may still need to publish in non-open journals. Movements towards open access should not necessarily mean eliminating junior academics' chances of promotion or recognition, but that academics already with tenure may be in a different position. It's not necessarily the case that everyone can move at once, but that those than can, should.

The problem of access to information in journals is often not felt by academics, given their university's licences to such material. Information, for many academics, is effectively free — I can access all sorts of wonderful materials by virtue of my academic life that I could not access so easily beforehand. As a result, currently, pretty much any article *is* freely available to me. But many are not so fortunate — particularly where universities cannot afford to pay access fees, but more so for those who are not affiliated to universities, and who would have to pay considerable fees for access to even individual articles.

(I may have misunderstood, of course — these are just my recollections of quite a fast-paced lecture.)

I'm not a fan of locked-up knowledge, and, if there is a way for someone to operate a successful publishing model, with good academic standards, then great — for those interested in open source legal issues, I'd point you towards the open access International Free and Open Source Software Law Review [ifosslr.org] .

Nothing is "free" (4, Insightful)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786065)

... As a result, currently, pretty much any article *is* freely available to me. But many are not so fortunate — particularly where universities cannot afford to pay access fees, but more so for those who are not affiliated to universities, and who would have to pay considerable fees for access to even individual articles...

You are paying (at least your university is paying, leaving less money for the university to spend on other things). Often people forget this. So when you are reading through your "free" papers perhaps you might also notice if one of your collegues didn't get a matching grant for their research or that the janitor that doesn't come around to clean your office very much anymore, or there's one less TA for that class... There's always a cost, even if you you aren't paying a cost yourself. The cost may look small when spread out over many folks, but it's isn't zero. On the other hand, dropping a subscription to a journal by a large university to "save" money will cost something on the other side (people employed by the jounal will get fewer raises or lose their jobs). Realistically, journal access is really a fringe benefit to you (not unlike free coffee in a breakroom), but when the cash crunch comes, the fringe benefits are often the first to go.

What we can hope for is a more equitable system for reviewing, publishing and sharing knowledge, but there's bound to be chaos during any transition, however if our economy turns to a knowledge based (rather than manufacturing based), you might actually see more limits, rather than fewer limits on knowledge distribution going forward (as knowledge becomes more valued as a commodity like raw materials in a manufacturing based economy).

Re:Nothing is "free" (2)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786387)

You are paying

I agree — I absolutely agree. When you see few login boxes, or requests for money, it's easy to forget that you are in a very privileged class — that you have basically unfettered access (which would have perhaps been a better choice of words than "free access"), whilst most of the world do not.

journal access is really a fringe benefit to you

As an online, distance-learning student, electronic access to pretty much anything I might want to read (which includes, but is not limited to, journals) is not so much a fringe benefit as a major enabler to study.

Re:Nothing is "free" (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786761)

Realistically, journal access is really a fringe benefit to you (not unlike free coffee in a breakroom)

Er, no, it's not. Journals are, for research university faculty, a tool they must have to do their job. Cutting journal access isn't removing free coffee from the breakroom, it's removing the PC you use to do your job.

egregious journal costs affect you, personally (5, Informative)

ffflala (793437) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785587)

I'm a librarian, and years of increasingly tight budgets have brought me to the point that I view large journal publishers primarily as a massive, parasitic obstacle to public access to information. More from TFA:

In 2010, the comparable amount accounted for more than 20% of all periodical subscription costs and just under 10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices. These journals therefore claim an ever-increasing share of our overall collection budget. Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles.

Libraries are necessarily nonprofit organizations, and their budgets are funded through taxes and tuition. The current journal publication business model treats library budgets as little more than a vehicle to launder money that was taken from Mr. and Ms. Taxpayer.You pay to support Elsevier, ThomsonReuters, et al, in the form of taxes and tuition. Journal publishers seem to perceive library budgets the way that petroleum companies perceive oil fields. In case you think this is hyperbole, consider:

An annual subscription to Tetrahedron, a chemistry journal, will cost your university library $20,269; a year of the Journal of Mathematical Sciences will set you back $20,100.

http://www.economist.com/node/21552574 [economist.com] Given these kinds of costs, it would be cheaper for a library to fly the most prominent publishing mathematicians out for a visit and have them lecture on the topics of their latest publications.

Applying a profiteering mentality to scholarly work has predictable resulted in a systematic degradation of the quality of academic output itself. The results are demonstrable.http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/04/20/220201/studies-suggest-massive-increase-in-scientific-fraud [slashdot.org]

what a business model (1)

spike hay (534165) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785699)

Charge enormous sums of money for subscriptions to the journals, charge the scientists providing the content money for putting in figures (instead of the traditional paying-the-content-provider model), and the editors work for free.

The NIH already requires that all papers published with their grants are available freely. Why the NSF can't do that, I don't know. It's a huge problem not only in academia but also in government. Government workers, such as ones at NOAA or USGS, often have little to no journal access. I'm sure it's the same in industry. This impacts everybody.

Yeah but ... (0)

Tim Ward (514198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785759)

... there are some journal publishers who should be supported, such as CUP.

(Just for anyone who doesn't know ... I'm currently without paid employment, and my wife works for CUP (although not in the journals division), so we need the money!)

Where does all the money go? (1)

PineHall (206441) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785851)

These publishers get a lot the work done for free. Here is how the process goes as I understand it.
1) Author submits his paper
2) Editor (working for free) checks it over and passes it to several reviewers.
3) The reviewers (working for free) accepts with corrections/clarifications for publication (or rejects it).
4) The author turns in the revised version and PAYS the publisher to publish it.
5) Libraries and people then PAY the publisher for their copies and/or online access.
The publishers do have some overhead cost of overseeing the process, the cost of materials, and the publishing the articles. It does not look to be that expensive with most of the time consuming work being done for free, yet the journals are quite expensive. So where does all the money go?

Re:Where does all the money go? (1)

Tim Ward (514198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785933)

Erm ... where do you find an editor who works for free? All the ones I know need to do things like feed their children and pay the mortgage, and they get paid appropriately for doing a professional job.

Re:Where does all the money go? (1)

LeadSongDog (1120683) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786493)

Erm ... where do you find an editor who works for free?

Allow me to introduce you to Web 2.0

Re:Where does all the money go? (1)

t551 (1403141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786657)

Academic journal editors are professors themselves, just like the reviewers.

It's already reality for all practical purposes (1)

RaccoonBandit (2597025) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785883)

It's a sensible move, and I hope others will follow. However, as mentioned previously it won't change a lot, at least not in physics, which is what I know. When someone publishes something of interest, I know about it and have looked up the pre-print on arxiv long (sometimes half a year) before it is scheduled to appear in one journal or another. The only role journals play in my opinion is that something that they provide prestige, like an ongoing competition for that stamp of quality they call "Nature" or "Physical Review" or whatever. Although even that doesn't guarantees the quality of a paper.

With the insight of some of the comments here I can definitely see how stopping the subscription makes financial sense.

If those journals become obsolete though, academics will have to seriously re-think the stuff the way they structure CVs, which currently really is a list of publications.

On the note of publicly funded research should be free to the public: Exactly that was on the agenda of Germany's Pirate Party a little while ago (who pointed out that we pay three times: once to fund the research, once to subsidise the journal, once for the subscription), although oddly not many people seemed to pick up on it. Maybe the general electorate just doesn't care enough about academic publishing?

Peer Review (0)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 2 years ago | (#39785923)

The big journals are big because of their review process. I'm guessing that an open publication of research will go something like this:

Black Holes: Not the Center of MY Galaxy
Authors: Grad Student Smith, Grad Student Jones, Prof. Haggis

Stephen Hawking and 27 others Likes this

Tony Tyson says The very thought that Black Holes constitute Dark Matter is an egregious error in their hypothesis.

And you know...this probably wouldn't be a terrible way of doing things if you can somehow set your reputation level based on your education/experience/PhD/etc, ignore non-relevant posts and likes....All probably less hassle than trying to convince faculty to spend time on peer reviews every week.

Harvard isn't leading the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39786055)

For well over a decade, faculty throughout the U.S. (and the Federal government itself) have been pushing the use of open access journals (and free public access to government research).
If Harvard is leading in anything, it's in the loss of endowment funds during the Great Recession.

ta7co (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39786403)

survive at all windows, SUN or another special Hubbard and Mike people's faces at More stable it attempts to not so bad. To the milestones, telling you join today! or mislead the of playinG your to the crowd in It there. Bring and easy - only clean for the next deeper into the discussions on they're gone Came escape them by off the play area 80s, DARPA saw BSD go find something clean for the next This is consistent At this point server crashes started work on and coders exactly what you've volume of NetBSD Being GAY NIGGERS. Software lawyers GAY NIGGERS FROM WASTE OF BITS AND Around return it numbers continue non nigger patrons racist? How is were taken over

Cheapskates (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39786513)

Harvard, despite their $32 billion dollar endowment, can't afford library fees? On top of the the 70+% overhead rate they charged my grants? Oh please. This is about many things, but a lack of money isn't it.

For those not familiar with the subscription process, PLoS (and PhysX, etc.) have free access to the articles because the author has to pay for every article published. I check their website, the rate currently varies from $1300 to $$2900 per article, depending on which journal it's submitted to. Traditional journals, at least in physics (which is where I've published), normally don't have page charges for electronic submissions because they typesetting costs go way down with LaTeX submissions.

What's really going on is that Harvard is shifting the costs from their libraries on to their researchers. They already have one of the highest grant overheads in the country (did you know that for every $1.00 in grant money a researcher receives, Harvard receives more than $0.70, to pay for things like electricity and library journal subscriptions?), but apparently a $32 billion dollar endowment just isn't good enough...

Copyrights and older papers (3, Insightful)

sfkaplan (1004665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786545)

It would be a good thing for academia to move away from predatory publishers like Elsevier and Wiley, and conduct all future publication through open access journals. However, even if this wonderful thing happens, those publishers remain a problem. Let's say that Elsevier goes out of business when researchers stop publishing with them and libraries stop ordering their materials. The citation chain still goes through a large number of already existing Elsevier publications. If Elsevier disappears, our heavily limiting copyright laws leave no mechanism to obtain these older papers. Some libraries gave up on paper versions of journals in recent years, so even they have neither duplicates nor access to the papers.

Part of solving the academic publishing problem needs to include changes to copyright law. Authors should be permitted to provide access to papers that their publisher no longer makes available. Libraries should be allowed to provide access to academic publications whose copyright holders have vanished. There needs to be some mechanism along these lines, or else Elsevier and their ilk will gouge the academic libraries even more severely.

The libraries should become the publishers (4, Insightful)

Pauli (72610) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786581)

Libraries have a mission to disseminate knowledge, and a budget for this purpose (i.e. they are already paying the $40,000 for the journal subscription). They also have a lot of the infrastructure needed for online publishing (high speed network connections, servers, computer programmers). They should cut out the middleman and run competing journals themselves.

So does this mean Harvard is (4, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786587)

turning the HBR publications such as Harvard Business Review and the many other journals they publish into open access journals? I'd like that, because it means the articles I've written for them I could no give away for free rather than pay a copying fee for each one.

Harvard Student and Library worker (1)

DSS11Q13 (1853164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786593)

I was just at the meeting where we were talking about this the other day. Harvard does put out some journals but the point is really to convince the ones we don't put out to move to open online access versus just print. Part of the problem is our library budgets are getting slashes and it's one of the hot button issues here. Most of the libraries are restructuring. I'm just a student worker so I'm not sure how exactly we will leverage them to do this apart from asking nicely, since,this is Harvard after all, we will get the journal. Asking nicely does work sometimes...

What they need to do.... (4, Funny)

apcullen (2504324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786659)

They need to get away from peer reviewed journals entirely and switch to a slashdot-style moderation system.

Then papers will be acknowledged or disregarded solely based on their abstracts, with no one actually reading TFA, as they should be.

Open access and "open access" (3, Insightful)

janoc (699997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39786773)

Switching to Open Access journals is great - except when a major journal asks you to pay 3000 USD (as an author) if you want your article accessible under their Open Access policy. Otherwise it goes behind the expensive subscription/paywall. Guess which option I am going to take if my boss pressures me to publish in a high-impact journal ...

Yes, it was an Elsevier journal, but this is not specific to them, others do this as well.

Researchers get stuck between a rock and hard place - we have to publish in high impact journals (otherwise our funding is cut, low impact factor publications don't count), but ideally open access (few high impact journals are Open Access) to save expenses for the library and you can bet that nobody will give me the 3k to pay that extortionist fee above, especially not if I am to publish at least twice a year in such journal. So what am I to do?

Honestly, this does suck. Wearing my engineering hat, it is next to impossible to pay all the IEEE, ACM, what-not subscriptions I would need to access papers in my field as a private company - that's why there is so much reinventing the wheel and patenting the obvious. We had the ACM and IEEE membership and there was always a journal or a conf that was not covered. With outfits like Elsevier, Taylor & Francis etc. it gets even worse, because the subscriptions are per journal. It is completely impossible situation for a small company to deal with.

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