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Open Access To Scientific Literature: Can It Work?

Hemos posted more than 10 years ago | from the it-darn-well-better dept.

The Internet 333

evilquaker writes "Nature is running a free web focus on the issue of open access to scientific literature. The current model of scientific publishing dates back to the seventeenth century and -- like the music industry -- is in serious danger of becoming irrelevant because of the rise of the internet. The main issue up for discussion is whether the author-pays/access-is-free model will supplant the author-pays-less/readers-pay-too model. "

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I think it's great (4, Interesting)

adulttoys (786815) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378262)

The more people are given open (free) access to information, the better.

Who's it for? (3, Informative)

Pi_0's don't shower (741216) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378454)

I have a question for people -- how many rich scientists do you know? Although I've never published in Nature, publishing in the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) costs ~$250 PER PAGE for the author... I'm sure Nature is at least as expensive.

Furthermore, Nature is extremely stingy with their copyright laws -- i.e. they don't let you use graphs from their papers in other scientific journals, even if it is virtually essential to the science.

I say, if you want to read it, then pay for it -- it's not fair to make people who aren't rich to begin with to foot the entire bill, especially when the information is clearly not "open to all" for use.

Re:Who's it for? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378655)

Well it's not like the scientists publishing in it get a cut of the overpriced bloated subscription fees.

Anyways, whoever you are doing research for will foot the bill to get it published for the prestige of getting their guys name published. It's not like jo-bob amateur chemist is publishing scientific papers in his spare time after he gets home from the office.

The biggest part of publishing is doing research worthy of being published. If you got something that can make it into a major journal you'll get the money from somewhere.

Scientists don't live off royalties of papers they publish. They aren't novelists. They are researchers. Someone pays for their research and pays for their publishing.

The current state of scientific or even better academic journals in general (because history, anthropology and area studies all suffer from it too) needs a real overhaul. It's a really antiquated system that has basically just become a big racket for the publishers.

Publishing academics papers in peer-reviewed journals is totally different than publishing a collection of poems or a novel.

And oh ya, all the scientist I know are very well paid, even the bums that haven't published squat in ages.

Anyways, the whole point, which you apparently missed is this: You say "especially when the information is not open for all to use" well the idea is to make it open for all to use. Also the reason it costs money to publish these things is because someone with high level of expertise has to spend a lot of time reviewing the paper. So you are paying for it to be reviewed. Why paying someone to review it should mean that it's completely restricted use?

There's a third option (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378280)

Support via ad revenue, with subscriptions available to suppress the ads. You know, kind of like a certain site we are all familiar with... You can also use the site to sell printed copies, and use the revenue from that to maintain the site. Nobody likes banner ads but I like it a lot more than paying to read and I don't think someone should be paying to publish scientific research. The whole point is that it should be available as readily as possible.

Re:There's a third option (2, Insightful)

worst_name_ever (633374) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378362)

And even better, successfully duplicating someone else's research is considered a good thing in the world of science!

Reviews and moderation (5, Interesting)

nodwick (716348) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378501)

Funny that you should mention Slashdot, because there's a second issue that is being overlooked in this discussion that I think is even more important than cost, and that's moderation. IMO, the cost of my subscriptions (which currently cost me a few hundred bucks a year) is pretty negligible compared to the benefit of keeping me up to date on the newest research in the field. What's more important is that the publications themselves contain high-quality, useful material.

The biggest challenge I find going through the technical literature today is information glut. If a publication or web site accepts just anyone's submissions, then it's going to be next to useless because it'll be so hard to dig out the gems from the chaff that it'll be totally useless. Imagine if you had to read through some of the bigger Slashdot discussions (1000+ comments) without the moderation system in place so that you at least have somewhere to start.

Today, paper reviews that decide whether your paper gets admitted or not are typically seen by only ~3 reviewers. This leads to pretty big variance on the quality of reviews -- some reviewers just couldn't care less and rush through the reviews with non-committal comments, while more rarely there are others who'd prefer to suppress competing research. Poor papers may get in if they hit a few indifferent reviewers, and good papers may be bounced for similar reasons.

I'd be curious about how well a public moderation system like Slashdot's would work in that context -- with more mods, review scores would be less vulnerable to manipulation by a small group of poor reviewers. That way, no one's work could be suppressed by negative reviewers, but the scoring system would help draw a reader's attention to the most popular articles.

Re:Reviews and moderation (3, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378588)

Only people who have submitted papers should be able to moderate. Further, moderation should be weighted, such that those who tend to be moderated positively will have more moderation power. This is simply a codification of the current peer review process, but with the shortcut of being implemented on a website instead of in the court of opinion over several years.

Re:There's a third option (1)

Compholio (770966) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378716)

I agree, I think that author-pays could setup a conflict of interest problem. Personally, I think that even the potential of such a problem in a major scientific magazine is a bad idea - you've got to be able to trust what you're reading.

Kind of ironic (0)

dan dan the dna man (461768) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378292)

given the cost of a subscription to Nature ;)

Long live BMC!

Re:Kind of ironic (5, Interesting)

danormsby (529805) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378437)

To make it worse you don't get paid to get papers published there. The money goes to the journal not the paper submitters. You actually have to surrender your copyright to the journal on submission of the paper. Most journals actually expect academics to submit their papers for free, expect fellow academics to referee the papers for free and then charge the academics to view both other peoples papers and their own papers.

I've got a bit of experience of this having a publication list [] of my own.

Perversely after I've had papers accepted in journals I can't leave the PDFs of the papers on my web site as I don't own them anymore, the journals do.

as a scientist... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378293)

This is something I always find bizarre. I support the rights of musicians to specify terms for the distribution of their work. Everybody gets paid, etc. But for science journals, the authors want the widest, freest distribution possible. The editors, reviewers, and authors are all unpaid--indeed the authors are often asked to pay. Why on earth do we still give journals the right to act as gatekeepers for our information, when they give us almost nothing (basically just a referral service) in return?

Re:as a scientist... (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378460)

Depending on your field/place of employment, those additional lines on your curriculum vitae are necessary for merit increases and raises. Besides, isn't the point to be as widely published and read as possible? Fame and glory, my dear chap, fame and glory.

Re:as a scientist... (5, Interesting)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378492)

As an ex-physicist, I'd say that perhaps your argument is just what the journals are afraid of. Back in grad school, it was pretty obvious that the hottest research was being circulated via preprints and later via the web long before anything showed up in a printed journal. The only thing the journals really have left are their names. They may talk about the value of peer review, but as you point out, none of these reviewers are really paid employees, so they are largely independent of the journals.

In the future, I'd expect to see federations of scientists reviewing and disseminating research results independently of the established journals. For the current gatekeepers, this would be a death knell.

Re:as a scientist... (3, Informative)

beeplet (735701) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378518)

In the case of music, there is no absolute judge of what is good music or bad music - it's a personal choice. But there is an objective difference between good science and bad science. Unfortunately, most people either don't have the qualification or the time to carefully judge the merit of every scientific paper - instead we rely on the peer review system of respected journals to make that distinction for us. And people are willing to pay for that service.

If you want to read all the crazy ideas people want to print, there's already a medium for that - it's called the internet. Lots of things get submitted to the LANL arXiv ( that are "fringe" science.

Re:as a scientist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378755)

instead we rely on the peer review system of respected journals to make that distinction for us. And people are willing to pay for that service

Right... but that was my point. When you pay for a journal, you're not paying for the peer review. The reviewers are volunteers. You're paying for the name.

Re:as a scientist... (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378791)

What does peer review have to do with journals?

Re:as a scientist... (2, Insightful)

FattMattP (86246) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378525)

Why on earth do we still give journals the right to act as gatekeepers for our information, when they give us almost nothing (basically just a referral service) in return?
Well, as a scientist you're the one creating the information that the journals publish. So you tell me. Just why are you still giving the journals that power? Publish your information whatever way you see fit.

Re:as a scientist... (5, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378653)

Just why are you still giving the journals that power? Publish your information whatever way you see fit.
Because its the best system yet defined to get your work out to a wide audience along with the message "In the opinion of knowledgeable people in this field, this work is probably not wrong." Sticking a PDF on the web does the former; we're nowhere near finding a better way to perform the latter.

Re:as a scientist... (5, Insightful)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378574)

Why on earth do we still give journals the right to act as gatekeepers for our information, when they give us almost nothing (basically just a referral service) in return?

Well, to try and answer honestly --- submissions editors add value. If one goes to the library and picks up the New England Journal of Medicine, you know that the articles in there fought to get in. Lots of sub-par research and writing was tossed or picked up by lesser journals. It serves as a kind of filter. If scientists just start setting up websites ad-hoc and there is no structure to papers being released, we end up with an Internet full of PDFs. What happens then, honestly, is corporate control of science. As somebody interested in say, stem-cell research, you maybe try Google to find papers, but somebody like Phizer may have it all neatly organized for you. Except it's just research by scientists paid by them, promoting their agenda.

Science is at a interesting point in history. It's primacy as technological and economic weapon is unchallenged. But there is a growing anti-secularism on the rise, in the both the West with Christianity and the middle east with Islam. People are attempting to "flood the airwaves" with pseudo-science or straight up bullshit science. Social structures to create peer review and weed out crap must exist somehow.

Re:as a scientist... (1)

proj_2501 (78149) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378629)

sounds a lot like ian malcolm's prediction from jurassic park.

science is dying out, like alchemy before it, and we are heading to a new dark age of ignorance! stock up on ammo!

Re:as a scientist... (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378606)

Think of P2P networks, information is totally free, but when you download something, how do you know its what you want. In the case of scientific articles, how do you know its real and not made up data?
I hold the medical advice of the New England Journal of Medicine in higher regard than the free Spam i get in my email.
Maybe the itunes business model would work. The reader pays a small fee for specific articles they want. It assures the reader the information has been peer reviewed, and generates income to support the review process.

Re:as a scientist... (1)

sangdrax (132295) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378744)

But what process is then going to be used to weed out the crap? Surely not many researchers want to waste time reading yet another 'article' ridden with errors because it was written by some hobbyist.

On the Internet, it is hard to distinguish good and bad/wrong texts without evaluating everything yourself, which takes /alot/ of time on complicated scientific claims. Journals (largely) do that for you.

So if everyone publishes on the net, companies would arise filtering the information off the net, or allowing submissions. If the company performs is good enough, they will live on submissions alone without having to weed through the pile of crap. Hence, journals are reborn in basically the same way they exist now.

Re:as a scientist... (5, Insightful)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378785)

The editors, reviewers, and authors are all unpaid

I believe that editors get paid quite well, and they earn every penny, but yes, reviewers and authors are unpaid, it comes with the job of being a scientist.

... the authors want the widest, freest distribution possible ... Why on earth do we still give journals the right to act as gatekeepers for our information, when they give us almost nothing (basically just a referral service) in return

Nothing is stopping scientists from simply throwing their articles on a website somewhere. I can't think of a wider more free distribution method.

The reason that we give journals the right to act as gatekeepers is because we want them to do it. A scientist knows that there are journals that have higher respect in a field, and it looks good on scientists' vitas to have publications in peer reviewed journals, especially the more respected ones. The peer review is essential, and that is what costs money. Any bozo can throw something on a website. Journals have very strict standards for the format of the paper, and the methods used in the science. As far as who pays? Someone is paying the scientist and funding the research. I would guess that any costs associated with publishing the research is much less than 1% of research itself.

"Free" has been tried and tested (and works!) (2, Interesting)

LaserLyte (725803) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378300)

It's working thus far with software :)

Perhaps encouraging the spread of scientific knowledge will increase the general level of education of the population. I for one would be more willing to look at publications which I wouldn't have done if I had to pay...e.g., something which I have an interest in, but don't really have much knowledge/experience with.

I would then probably be willing to donate to authors of particularly good books...a system which would also help promote high-quality literature. (ala Slashdot moderation system)

Can it work? It does work! (5, Insightful)

Paul Crowley (837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378304)

In my field, cryptography, most recent papers are available online on the author's website. Those that aren't you can often get with a polite email to the author. I went from knowing nothing about the field to publishing cryptanalysis at conference almost entirely through what I've learned from downloaded papers - my "dead tree" cryptographic bookshelf is very minimal. Much of this learning was done without access to an academic library, and would have been impossible in an earlier era.

It's a crime that so many papers are still being published under licences that do not allow their free accessibility on the Web. Scientists of the future will wonder how science was even possible without such access.

Re:Can it work? It does work! (2, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378394)

most recent papers are available online on the author's website
How did you know which papers were the seminal ones to read though? In my experience, you learn that by considering which journals they first appeared in.

Re:Can it work? It does work! (1)

Paul Crowley (837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378434)

More often by who wrote them and who cites them.

Re:Can it work? It does work! (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378483)

Yeah. But how do you know who the good authors are? And how did the citers find the papers in the first place?

Because they've been published in journals (hell, its pretty rare to see a citation that doesn't refer to a peer reviewed publication)

Re:Can it work? It does work! (1)

El_Ge_Ex (218107) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378442)

How did you know which papers were the seminal ones to read though?

In my experience, googling with the related key-words more often than not leads to 'said papers.


Re:Can it work? It does work! (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378497)

Authors who maintain web sites usually mention which articles were recently published in which journal; I don't know about you, but I wouldn't read an article on cryptography written by "Bubble Gum Jones," no matter how good his blog was.

Re:Can it work? It does work! (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378577)

which articles were recently published in which journal
Bingo. So if the journals cease to exist, your most reliable criterion is out the window. Now what?

Re:Can it work? It does work! (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378779)

You and I both know that the Internet is not going to replace peer-reviewed journals; however, if an author decides to both publish his article in a journal *and* post it on his web site, well, there's no problems, right?

Re:Can it work? It does work! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378792)

Err, no. But thats pretty much how it works now.

Re:Can it work? It does work! (4, Insightful)

Donny Smith (567043) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378519)

Reputation is important but it can built.

For example x years ago people would download many Linux distributions but now enterprises use very few - those few that have built good reputation.

So if we started with x open source journals, within 2-3 years several good ones would take lead. It's just that money would be out of the game.

Actually somewhere I read about this search engine that specializes in searching thru electronic scientific papers and journals - many customers pay lot of money 'cause thats the real value - find everything you need in 10th of time you'd need to the same on Google.

Re:Can it work? It does work! (1)

thepeete (189121) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378513)

Or at least it should work in the best of worlds...

There is the issue of scientific value. If I write papers on my web site, will it be read and debunked if inacurate or proven false at a future time. Also (this was addressed some time ago on /.) there is the issue of persistency of papers. web sites being what they are, papers are bound to dissapear off a web page, at which point, all papers refenrencing to it end up losing part of their argumentation.

There definitely needs to be some kind of authoritative repository (thus a journal type archive). The whole issue is that knowledge should be free and the scientific community should be a much less closed circle.

Re:Can it work? It does work! (4, Insightful)

Drakula (222725) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378555)

"I went from knowing nothing about the field to publishing cryptanalysis at conference almost entirely through what I've learned from downloaded papers - my "dead tree" cryptographic bookshelf is very minimal."

You just described what every graduate student has to do in order to complete their work. If everything you need to do your thesis is in a book then it has already been done ad nauseum.

Another quick note. There are free journals on line that are free to publish in as well as to read. The up keep can carried simply by ad revenue or donated by people in the field or a technical organization.

Yet with no peer review -- (3, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378565)

The problems with giving talks at conferences, and just randomly posting stuff on the internet is that it hasn't had a level of peer review. Someone may have some great information out there, that everyone should read, and someone else might have a complete load of crap.

The service that journals provide isn't so much the publishing, but the fact that skilled people in that profession have reviewed the papers, and have verified that it is accurate, and worthwhile [ie, not just some rewording of someone else's research].

Re:Yet with no peer review -- (1)

TwistedSquare (650445) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378796)

Submitting a paper to a conference and then talking about it at that conference normally involves peer reviewing AFAIK.

isn't the whole point of academic publishing... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378310) disseminate knowledge and share it with the rest of the world? this area, much more so than music, is predestined for open, free publishing solutions (creative commons licensing, etc). but as usual, historical inertia and vested commercial interests are holding us back from adopting the obvious.

Re:isn't the whole point of academic publishing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378701)

Maybe in a communist utopia.

In capitalism the point of academic publishing is to make publishing companies as much profit as possible.

You know... (2, Interesting)

brilinux (255400) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378311)

I think it is great to have access to this stuff if I wish to be able to research something quickly, and I know that in the past when I have tried to get stuff from Journals, it has been harder without a subscription. Now that I may being publishing, however, I fear that the cost may be prohibitive to get into a respected journal. Of course, the research institute will probably pick up some of the cost, but will this cause people to be more weary of publishing in journals?

Body for the prevention of cruelty to scientists (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378327)

the author-pays/access-is-free

why not...

"a worldwide scientific organisation"-pays/access-is-free

Like a science version of the UN?

Someone has to pay the reviewers... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378332)

And it better not be the author.

Re:Someone has to pay the reviewers... (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378409)

No, normally reviewers work without pay. Even editors normally just get a nominal amount of money.

Re:Someone has to pay the reviewers... (2, Informative)

another blockhead (515009) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378669)

The parent comment was obviously written by someone who has never reviewed scientific papers!

I frequently review papers in my field for a variety of IEEE and other journals. I do so because, as an author in those same journals, I appreciate how others who review my papers help to make them better. Peer review, believe it or not, is done by volunteers for mostly altruistic reasons. Journal editors are often also volunteers.

There is a difference (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378342)

Not everything you find on the internet is true and credible, even if it seems like it is. In general books have a higher level of credibility and are often checked by more than one person to avoid flaws.

Re:There is a difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378561)

The real action in scientific publishing is in journals.

If author pays, publications go the way of patents (1)

sisukapalli1 (471175) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378345)

If it is expensive to publish, then most publications would become "an organizational property" -- if you look at patents, the CEO puts his/her name even though he/she is not involved in it, and the patent will anyway be the property of the company.

Same thing will probably happen to publications.


Re:If author pays, publications go the way of pate (2, Insightful)

bsd4me (759597) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378459)

If it is expensive to publish, then most publications would become "an organizational property" -- if you look at patents, the CEO puts his/her name even though he/she is not involved in it, and the patent will anyway be the property of the company.

With a fair number of journals, the author already pays. I am fairly certain that the author or institution has to pay for articles in the IEEE Transactions, and the ACM SIGs may be the same way. In most instances, articles are written by college researches, so the school picks up the tab.

Re:If author pays, publications go the way of pate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378759)

A patent starts out with a phrase such as "I, ______, invented a device and process to . . . .". The blank is filled in with an individuals name, and is signed under penalty of purjury. While many corporate originating patents may have the wrong names on them, those are the "vanity" patents. Patents which must really protect something, and have to stand up in court, can't have some random moron listed on there -- the opposition will call that CEO to the stand and ask him "Was the drug first reduced in an Erlenmeyer flask or a glass cone-shaped bottle ?" and everyone will have a good laugh and the trial is over. (I have never heard of a case of someone facing felony perjury charges for falsifying a patent, although I suppose it must happen.)

That said, I am aware of cases in which the chance to be listed on some bullshit patent was handed out to various people as a career enhancing perk in exchange for support in office politics. However, needless to say, such a patent has no real force. If they try to use it against you, just immediately ask to depose all the signatories; let them stew on that and don't even hire a lawyer unless they are stupid enough to proceed further.

The Music Industry (4, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378346)

Compared to the music industry, scientific publications needs more structure in distribution. Tastes in music are pure subjectivity: You like AC/DC, I like Britney[0], live and let live.

Journals per se have become a cash cow, but the structure and processes of peer review are important. It's how we tell Andrew Wiles and Murray Gell-Mann from the various witless kooks with a bogus proof or a crackpot theory. Without it, every worker in the field has to do her own comparative study of the merits of everyones work.

Until we find a way to replicate that, journals are here to stay.

[0] I don't actually, but you probably don't like AC/DC either.

Re:The Music Industry (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378467)

Yes, but there are no fees involved in any of this. Everyboyd but the publisher pays for journals. The editor also gets a nominal amount of money, but this is nothing.

Re:The Music Industry (1)

irokitt (663593) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378571)

I like AC/DC!

Ulib (4, Informative)

KrisCowboy (776288) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378347)

Carnegie-Mellon University is in a process of setting up a Universal Digital Library [] . Got an impressive list of partners, including the richest pilgrimage in the world [] (no, it's not the Vactican). The pilot project is to scan a million books first.

P2P (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378349)

I'm an astrophysicist. I read tons of papers all the time. I would really love an easily searchable P2P app for distributing and organising my huge collection of papers and pre-prints. The current web services like ADS [] are really good but it doesn't a) tie in with papers I've already downloaded and b) allow people who can't afford to pay for papers to download them.
We will still need journals for peer review, sadly.

Well... (3, Interesting)

abscondment (672321) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378353)

Free literature is great, but someone will always off the argument that making it free will discourage research.

In distribution scheme where information is disseminated freely, it is obvious that the researchers need some insentive other than making money from publication of their research. Of course, most college professor will tell you that they make next to nothing on their publications--it all goes to the publishing companies.

I personally wouldn't minde paying a little bit for really good research; on the other hand, my Computer Science class this quarter required two $90 texts. I'm not OK with that. Perhaps a balance between the two could be achieved--eliminate the middleman publishing company, and provide the information online for next-to-free.

Re:Well... (1)

cot (87677) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378535)

"someone will always off the argument that making it free will discourage research."

That would seem to be a pretty dumb argument, given that the researchers don't make money off publication of their work.

For most pure scientists, their work is about two things - a love of science and ego. The ratio varies quite a bit from person to person, but by and large these are people who could be making a lot more money working less hours if they went into another field.

You could easily argue that they make money indirectly through the increase in their prestige which may lead to better funding or whatnot, but that will occur either way.

It really is a lot like the music situation, except that the established scientific journals don't have enough money to get their lawyers to bend the law at their will. They'll have to adapt or fade into Bolivia (as one of our brightest minds would say).

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378591)

Authors make no money on research papers. The incentive is professional advancement: you need to publish so many papers to obtain tenure or promotion. Of course, authors are also motivated by their love of the subject. It's gratifying to publish new results in a scientific discipline.

Authors can make a lot of money on textbooks, however.

Re:Well... (1)

reverse flow reactor (316530) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378694)

I am quite certain that your second-term textbook is not "cutting-edge research".

I think you are confusing two different things. The textbook is a collection of topics to help you, as a student, learn the area. The research articles in question are results and interpretations of experiments published in monthly/weekly journals.

To write a good skill, you need to be a really good writer, and spend a lot of time polishing know topics. To write a curring edge research article, you have to be studying things not yet understood.

Most research is not discussed in any detail in second-term classes. Chances are the topics presented in a textbook were studied in labs and written as articles as much as 50-100 years ago, depending on the research area. (Physics, chemistry and math may be on the 50-100 years order, comp sci may be closer to a 20 years ago estimate)

Of course! (2, Insightful)

blankinthefill (665181) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378356)

Open access to sci. lit. was bound to happen. What began during the Renaissance and continued into the scientific revolution and beyond was the opening of communication and transactions between scientists. Open access is just a continuation of that. And I think that eventually, publishing sci. lit. will be done for the funds that could be procured after people see the work that you do. So, basically, we will have totally open lit. (as in free) that will be published to garner funding for further study, new projects, maybe even professional standing, and dare I say it, the public good, in the nearly free land of the Internet.

I hope so (4, Interesting)

Safety Cap (253500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378358)

I recently let my membership lapse in a scientific organization [] because they went from dead tree journals to on-line access (dead trees can still be had for additional fee) without a cost reduction--for either readers or authors.

My beef is that by going on-line only, their costs were significantly reduced (this was a hefty journal, often with color graphs 'n charts), but the savings were not passed on to the membership. My other issue centered around the fact that, like the infamous MS Assurance Program, once your membership lapsed so went your on-line journal access. At least the dead tree version ensured you had a viable resource until the acid paper disintegrated.

Open Online Journals (5, Informative)

JamesD_UK (721413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378364)

The Public Library of Science [] publishes the rather open, and rather lovely PLoS Biology Journal [] completely openly online.

Re:Open Online Journals (3, Interesting)

geomon (78680) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378727)

The PLoS publications will be the litmus test of whether a different model of scientific publishing can exist.

If the PLoS model proves unsuccessful, it will not be due to the lack of peer-review as some comments here have suggested. All of the submissions are subjected to the same rigorous peer process as subscription-based publications.

The current system will eventually break under its own weight. Universities can ill afford to continue to see large increases in their subscription rates. As the prices increase, so does the number of titles being dropped. Scientific inquiry suffers as a result.

Also, niche publications are often dropped by publishers due to the small number of subscribers. The effect on the groups who need that publication outlet is tremendous. Imagine new discoveries going unpublished, regardless of whether they are part of a 'high tech' science market.

The fact remains, as outlets for research are pruned, so is the opportunity for scientific inquiry. I don't profess to have all the answers to this problem, but I do know that we need to push back on publishers to force a change in thinking.

They exist to serve the scientific community, not the other way around.

Peer review has a purpose (2, Interesting)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378367)

Editting and peer review serve an important purpose in publishing; they are a way to filter incorrect or irrelevant information out so that they typical (less-informed) reader doesn't have to deal with it (or doesn't get misled by it).

That said, it's also good to have channels that don't have any filters on them. The web is the best such channel ever invented. Anybody can publish given minimal resources. Whether anybody ever sees what you publish is a different problem, but it won't happen because it's been editted.

In some sense, a Google pagerank rating is the ultimate in "reviewing" (if not exactly "peer review"), since it lets a large number of other web sites vote on how worthy your writing is. On the other hand, many high-ranked pages are from cranks, or are hate-speech (like Google's first hit for "Jew"). This is kind of thing would generally never happen in a peer-reviewed journal.

I don't know... sounds risky (3, Funny)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378371)

If you have all this scientific information just kind of floating around, you have the very real danger of contaminating political agendas.

For an example... (3, Insightful)

cot (87677) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378372)

of why they're facing obsolescence, look at

(not linked to prevent needless slashdoting)

It's a pretty impressive resource, and not just because it's free and electronic.

EE and computer science (2, Informative)

cybergibbons (554352) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378381)

90% of my research is in EE or computer science. And it is a rare occasion when I can't find a paper, even ones from the mid eighties or earlier. One of the many citeseer sites is a great help e.g. this one [] .

Sometimes papers are submitted to journals, and are hard to find elsewhere. Most of the time, an e-mail to the author will get a response, or it can be found using a search engine.

It's been a long time since I have looked in a paper journal, yet I still know of universities who shun electronic access...

Citeseer (1)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378732)

For those who aren't familiar with citeseer, it's a publicly-accessible database of scientific literature. There's a downloadable pdf available for most papers.

The entry for every paper has links to papers it cites, links to similar papers (i.e. papers that cited this paper were also likely to cite these papers), and a citation count (which can be a good way to estimate the relative importance of a given paper - if something has been cited 300 times, its probably worth a read).


Fund libraries with public access... (4, Interesting)

beeplet (735701) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378390)

As much as I think it would be great for scientific literature to be made freely available to everyone, I see a couple problems with the "author pays" model.

1) Journals are businesses, and will inevitably cater to their source of income. Under the reader pays system, they have an incentive to deliver what the reader wants: quality research papers. Under the author pays system, they have an incentive to simply publish as much as possible.

2) Publication of scientific research should be a meritocracy. Any system which puts large fees on publishing is going to impede smaller projects from publishing their results, no matter how worthy. Not all science is done with huge budgets.

The answer to making research more publicly available is already here: libraries. In my opinion, all university libraries should be open to the public. If they start to move their collections online, they should have computer access from the library also. If libraries are underfunded, that is a different problem entirely...

Re:Fund libraries with public access... (2, Informative)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378524)

You miss the point. People only pay attention to publications that have good referees (i.e. that carry to good stuff) and so the whole incentive argument doesn't work. Plus the reviewers normally don't work for the publisher.

Secondly, the market has been taken over by one publisher and they are increasing all the prices so much that most universities and other similar organizations (national labs) are reducing their subscriptions!

Slashdot Model (3, Interesting)

GrEp (89884) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378391)

Nominate reviewers in the scientific community. Rate articles, and if they get a high enough score they are posted to the main page. The few with the highest scores each month are "Published" in a special monthly addition.

Motivation is the gain for scientific knowledge. Reviews will be better because 50 eyes are better than 3. Funding for the server shouldn't be to hard. [] is already a good place for many scientists to publish their work. All that is needed is moderation.

Re:Slashdot Model (3, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378446)

All that is needed is moderation.
Ahh. But getting expert moderation is not an easy task. An important skill of journal editors is knowing who the experts are in certain fields to review papers.

Secondly, review is not *just* a moderation process, its a feedback process. The comments and corrections of reviewers are used to *improve* the original paper. Thats no small thing, and completely lost if you replace it with a "this is good / this is bad" button, or "(+5 Seminal)" rating scheme.

Re:Slashdot Model (3, Interesting)

bsd4me (759597) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378775)

Secondly, review is not *just* a moderation process, its a feedback process.

I just want to second this. I had an article published in an IEEE journal last year, and the comments from my editor were invaluable. I also helped review a textbook this winter, and I know some of the comments resulted in big rewrites of sections.

Re:Slashdot Model (1)

blankinthefill (665181) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378668)

I like the idea, but I don't think it would work. Say the people doing the reviewing were, like most slashdotters, extremely pro-Linux, and someone submitted an article that was genuinely researched, and was a good article, on the inherent stability and strength of the Windows OS line and built in security. This article, that would almost certainly be worthy of publishing, would most likely not get published because of the reviewer's bias against the topic.

Re:Slashdot Model (1)

r (13067) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378708)

Motivation is the gain for scientific knowledge. Reviews will be better because 50 eyes are better than 3.

I'm sorry, but that's simply not true. 50 people with mediocre knowledge of an area are next to useless compared to 3 experts, who can actually evaluate the work. Quantity does not beget quality (as even casual observation of /. readily demonstrates :).

Nominate reviewers in the scientific community. Rate articles, and if they get a high enough score they are posted to the main page. The few with the highest scores each month are "Published" in a special monthly addition.

Heh, yes, that's pretty much how peer review works right now. Except instead of "posted on the main page" people say "published in the journal", and instead of "highest scores" they say "best reviews". :)

The only problem is prestige (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378393)

The main reason remaining for paper publication in high-priced journals is prestige, in the academic "publish or perish" sense. Many academic journals expect authors and readers to pay them. They don't pay reviewers. Often, they don't even pay editors. Then they have subscription prices upwards of $1000 per year, so only libraries subscribe.

Even big-name journals like Nature seem to be in decline. When Nature publishes articles that aren't about the biological sciences, they range from weak to totally bogus.

A friend who writes for mass-market magazines was once talking to me about journal publication. When I described "page fees", which the author, or the author's institution, pays, she said "That's a vanity press". She's right.

An academic journal is really just a blog with tough editors. Deal with it.

Re:The only problem is prestige (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378506)

How else am I supposed to get tenure? I need to be published in journals ISI indexes, because that's how the university will determine if I continue to work, and thus eat.

Understanding costs factors on both sides (3, Interesting)

Mochatsubo (201289) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378398)

I hope someone in the know could give us a better understanding on where the money goes in the production of a big time science journal such as "Nature" or "Science." Certainly we have many articles stating the costs to the readership (through library subscriptions) but how would less money going to the journals impact the quality of the journal?

Of course I am assuming here that open accessibility will reduce the flow of money to the journals, and I realize that this doesn't have to be the case. Are journals a low profit or high profit enterprise? Would fewer or more inexperienced editors produce an inferior journal?

How about humankind funds advancement of science? (1)

sakyamuni (528502) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378424)

We all benefit from the advancement of science (unless you agree with Bill Joy [] ). So let everyone bear the cost. Allocate funds from the government's tax revenue to administer these journals.

Re:How about humankind funds advancement of scienc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378541)

Nothing is likely to kill science faster. Do you want dinosaur fossil research overseen by a committee of Orin Hatch's "Intelligent Design" cavemen ? Water table geology supervised by people who will get jobs from polluters after their term of office ?

I mean, seriously. Think about what you said. What else has the government done well ? Nothing, except those tasks which ONLY the government can do, for which it's hard to grade them by compairison.

Re:How about humankind funds advancement of scienc (1)

sakyamuni (528502) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378741)

My point is that the proper funding for this is from the taxes we pay. I said nothing about placing politicians in charge of reviewing articles.

If the current model of government does a poor job of distributing the funds, then it's up to the citizens to exercise their power to change things.

I reject your suggestion that the populace is at the mercy of the government.

It already does (1)

doodlelogic (773522) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378787)

Although there are many factors motivating scientists to publish papers, the principle one is that a track record of publication is normally a requirement to get further funding from universities.

Here in the UK, most university funding comes through government and EU research boards. Even in the US, most research universities are heavily dependent on government: whether from direct grants or more indirect routes like tax exemptions for R&D.

It's all about the data (2, Informative)

nyc.!fnord (768633) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378428)

Access to articles is a great start, but for science to become "open" scientist must give up their zealous grip on the data itself. Anyone who's ever tried to develop a data exchange network knows that getting scientist to agree to share even the most non-proprietary data can require self-abasement, bribery and arm-bending in varying degrees. Long live XML!

Technical Journals vs. Specialty Magazines (3, Informative)

loose electron (699583) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378471)

IMHO it is important that there be multiple venues for publication. Technical journals and magazines that specialize in an area seem to complement each other.

Some of my stuff has published in IEEE journals, other items in Electronic Design and EDN magazines. The writing style is totally different, and how you present things is totally different.

Also, what a journal rejects, frequently the magazine loves to have.

In both cases, the concept of "peer review" is important. (Although not perfect...) Out of control internet publishing means that the readers have to seperate the good and the bad themselves, and some of the readers are not qualified to do so. Peer review prior to publication at least gives some validation of content.

The added value is review. (3, Insightful)

Positive Charge (592093) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378523)

There's no real reason that a free system can't be devised. The true value of a scientific journal is that it is a peer review process, something that isn't true of simply writing a paper and displaying it on your website.

Someone has to pay for the time and effort of the reviewers and someone has to qualify the reviewers. On the other hand, humans have an inherrent need to compete and rise to the top of the heirarchy, so I expect that a non-economic system of pecking order based on status and recognition can supplant the economic model.

Bloodthirsty politics is rampant in university acedemic settings with very little economic basis. The drive for that could be harnessed in this system.

There are some experimental review systems in place for budding writers to review each others' work -- something similar (yet better working) could be designed for this purpose.

Exactly correct! (1)

jellisky (211018) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378774)

As a young scientist, I've had my turn at reviewing papers (and having been reviewed, also). Trust me, without a good peer review, there would be an incredible amount of crap put out there. The more stringent the review process tends to be, the better the journal.

I have no problem shifting the economics, though. It is expensive to print a journal article for the authors as is. I believe that the last article I published cost almost $1000... and this was for a small 7 pager. ("Journal of Atmospheric Science", in case you're wondering.)

However, I actually don't see this as a bad thing overall. If a scientist is smart, they'll put the publishing fees into their budgets initially. Yes, it does handcuff them in a way, in that it will limit how much they can publish, but that's NOT A BAD THING. Like I said, there's a good amount of crap out there. The costs provide a nice sort of "check and balance"... if you're a talented and fiscally responsible scientist, you will usually have little trouble getting your results published. It forces the scientists to be a little more concise and conclusive in their works... which is a scary thought since some of the articles even published right now are insanely long for small results. (In the old days, early 1900's, articles were 4-6 pages... now the average in many of the journals I read is well into the 20 page range. There's something good to be said for brevity.)

But, shifting the ecomonics would be good. I'm not a fan of putting a lot more fiscal responsibility on the authors, but a little more isn't bad if it lowers fees for the readers.


Just selling a brand... (4, Interesting)

Pendersempai (625351) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378540)

The popular and prestigious journals add no value and incur no significant cost. They harvest papers from academics and redistrubute them to other academics, who peer review them for free. Then, a university pays ungodly sums to subscribe.

So when a professor can publish by himself on the internet and not give up all sorts of rights to the paper, why doesn't he? When the journal asks a professor to dedicate tens of hours of highly-valued time to reviewing articles for free, why does he?

Prestige. Professors make a name for themselves by being published in prestigious journals. They become better known in academia when they are a prominent peer reviewer for a prestigious journal.

It's a pretty sweet deal for those top journals: output nothing but brand name prestige (which is entirely renewable and not really subject to typical economics) and rake in loads of cash.

The sweetness of the deal for the journals comes at the expense of subscribing institutions: money paid for journals (which wouldn't have to be paid were it a competitive market) is money taken out of tuition and endowment revenues that could otherwise lower the outrageous price of college or add real value to the institution.

The journals must die.

But paper is good! (2, Insightful)

r (13067) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378547)

Well, there's much good to be said about dead trees. :) On one hand, paper journals are great for archival purposes - you can go to your local library, and dig up publications from a hundred years ago. At the same time, the internet is entirely too impermanent - what if Springer Verlag publishes a journal, and then they go bankrupt in 10 years? The chances of the publications disappearing or becoming unavailable are pretty high. But endangering the access to all the accumulated knowledge simply because of economic accidents is not an acceptable risk in the scientific community.

So a joint paper/electronic model seems like the right balance. Most journals do that already - libraries subscribe to dead tree versions, and individuals can access the papers online, usually through a school-related discount subscription. Seems to work quite well although, paradoxically, it increases the cost per unit (because now you're printing far fewer issues).

But there's simply no incentive for publishing houses to make the online content completely free. Professional organizations can do it themselves (e.g. the AI Access Foundation [] ), where they publish online papers themselves, and contract with a publisher to print each entire volume as a book. Non-profits like these will probably be the harbingers of new method of distribution for scientific findings...

Profit Center (3, Insightful)

HiThere (15173) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378550)

Since in the old model, publishers tended to turn the thing into a profit center, and recently started trying to control reprints of articles as well... this needs to be clearly avoided in the new model!!

Perhaps publications should be in some variant of the GFDL, with the entire original article, including bibliography, being included in the invariant section. To me this seems more important than exactly which form of distribution is used. The forms of distribution will vary, and vary over time, but licenses can get dreadfully permanent, and copyrights appear to be forever.

what needs to hapen (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378578)

See, I had thought that Apple should take over publication of journals.

One problem is that you still need to make the paper copy--people like having them above their desks, and thumbing through them. but it would also be nice to have it online and searchable (i.e. google has access to the abstract AND the text).

The problem is that the company that puts the articles on line won't make much money on it, so will have to do it to gain some other sort of capital. Enter Apple, increases their image among accademics (i.e. free advertising) and they charge just enought to keep the section even.

Of course, it is much more likely that a large society would do this (like SIAM which you know doesn't try to make money because math text books from them cost about $15).

This already exists! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378589)

There already exists a system such that scientific papers are published without any cost either for
the author or the reader. In fact almost all paper of theoretical physics are published this way and
many other papers in maths, experimental physics, etc. All these archives are at:
This net is supported by academic institutions over the world. Let the publisher quickly die. They
serve no useful purpose.

arXiv preprintserver (1)

stigin (729188) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378625)

See for a good example on how it should be. All preprints and final versions of papers are freely available.

That was the whole idea... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378636)

The Web was originally designed as a place to publish scientific articles. The very purpose of hyperlinks was to cite other papers. Sure would be nice to actually put all these papers on the web, instead of sticking them behind subscription barriers.

And now that we have PageRank, a simple google for any topic would bring up the most-cited papers...

information, knowledge, wisdom (a vague theory) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378649)

A cardinal ethos of research is that the knowledge developed in its pursuit should be accessible. This means access both to the "information" and also to the language, or the semiotic field that produces the information. To take this a step further, this means that not only should the information be open, but people should have access to learning the methods of research so that they can both use and produce it.

Consequently, we see a HUGE gap in access that simply posting information on the web will not address. To bridge this important gap, the site should not only be an information hub but also a research and communication tool. Slashdot is a good example of this sort of site, whereas Nature may not be. The best example I've seen is

The question concerning these models, then, is how active can people be in producing and using knowledge, rather than "merely information." The next step is wisdom, the right production and application of knowlege. The "site" or the "journal" and their various models don't live. The people who form the knowledge live. Journals are no more or less than artifacts of a community. When seen this way, the idea of pricing access opens up to include many, many options that are as diverse as the research community itself.

Speaking of objectivity and Open Access (1)

ahfoo (223186) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378656)

Interesting. I just covered a story about a Nature reporter hassling the Korean researcher who cloned human embryos a few months ago on my biotech blog. []

But since I don't have the bandwidth, I'll point you to the original article. Here. [] And this is pressingly relevant because these traditional journals are claiming that they're upholding the scientific tradition, while, in fact, the evidence is that they are pressing their editorial slant to try and bend the agenda of independent researchers to their whims.

Hehe (3, Informative)

afay (301708) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378665)

I find this somewhat funny that the link would be to Nature, which is part of the academic publishing "evil empire". For a good opinion on what is wrong with academic publishing in its current form see this []

Also, if you're a scientist and would like to publish in an open format or you're interested in scientific papers, go to the Public Library of Science []

another zero day for robbIE's fauxking PostBlock (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9378678)

censorship devise? can it ever work? eye gas 'open access' isn't suffering too badly, here, yet?

consult with/trust in yOUR creators.... we already have more than enough of everything we need to survive, &/or flourish, depending on the status of the ongoing disempowerment of unprecedented evile, et AL, aka the glowbull warmongering corepirate nazi bible felons.

see you there?

Proactively Protect Lost Freedoms (5, Interesting)

Milo Fungus (232863) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378699)

I just finished reading Free Culture [] , Lawrence Lessig's latest book. That was an interesting read, and I found it remarkably similar on some points to thoughts I've had on the subject lately [] .

The last few chapters discuss ways that individuals and governments can and should act to preserve free culture and prevent the culture cartels from gaining more influence. He gives several examples of proactive efforts to preserve freedoms that were lost as technology developed. The Free Software movement was the first example, and Lessig explained how the GPL proactively protects freedom to derivitize, use, and distribute software. It has taken a couple of decades, but there is now a healthy and vibrant ecology in the copyleft commons of software.

He then listed several examples of using ideas from the FSF copyleft commons to proactively protect freedom of non-software things. The Public Library of Science [] was discussed, as well as the Creative Commons [] . I remember reading the philosophy [] section of the GNU project website a few years ago and thinking, "You know, these guys are really on to something..." The ball is rolling, and with work and time we will have a free culture protected by copyleft, including art, literature, music, software, entertainment, and scientific discovery. This is not about communism. It's about FREEDOM, sweet FREEDOM.

Can someone explain this to me??? (1)

tundog (445786) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378745)

I'm being published this month in a specialized IT technical journal. Its about a 10 page article and I'm being paid 2,000 USD for it. Who, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, are the people that are actually PAYING to get published? With a check for 2g due any day now, this truely boggles my mind. I tried to skim an article describing the scenario on the referenced web site, but could find no rational reasoning.
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