Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?

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Martin G. Hicks

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Jun 27, 2017, 6:08:42 AM6/27/17
to osi20...@googlegroups.com, Martin G. Hicks

Here is a very interesting, controversial, and thought provoking article, pertinent to the current discussion:

 

“Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?” By Stephen Buranyi in The Guardian, Tuesday 27 June 2017

 

Some passages from the article:

 

"if you control access to the scientific literature, it is, to all intents and purposes, like controlling science"

 

“there is a moral imperative to re-consider how scientific data are judged and disseminated”

 

A 2005 Deutsche Bank report referred to it as a “bizarre” “triple-pay” system, in which “the state funds most research, pays the salaries of most of those checking the quality of research, and then buys most of the published product”.

 

 

----------------------------------------

Martin G. Hicks, Ph.D.

Beilstein-Institut

Trakehner Str. 7-9

60487 Frankfurt am Main

Germany

 

Tel.: +49 69 7167 3220

Fax.: +49 69 7167 3219

 

www.beilstein-institut.de

Twitter: @BeilsteinInst

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/beilstein-institut

 

Orcid: 0000-0002-2259-0764

----------------------------------------

 

David Wojick

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Jun 27, 2017, 6:24:50 PM6/27/17
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Re the Deutsche Bank report, given that these are three different activities, each of which has to be paid for, what is bizarre?

David
Inside Public Access
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Fiore, Steve

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Jun 27, 2017, 6:49:12 PM6/27/17
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Here is that quote in the full context.  I think the text below captures what is the fundamental, and frustrating, problem.  As an aside, the quote from RELX Group at the end, about charging a fair price, is particularly amusing given that their profit margin is 36%. Frankly, until those of us who write/review the scholarly articles collectively agree to stand up to the publishers, and boycott, not just submitting to them, but also reviewing/editing for them, no real change will happen.  


"In 2010, Elsevier’s scientific publishing arm reported profits of £724m on just over £2bn in revenue. It was a 36% margin – higher than Apple, Google, or Amazon posted that year. But Elsevier’s business model seemed a truly puzzling thing. In order to make money, a traditional publisher – say, a magazine – first has to cover a multitude of costs: it pays writers for the articles; it employs editors to commission, shape and check the articles; and it pays to distribute the finished product to subscribers and retailers. All of this is expensive, and successful magazines typically make profits of around 12-15%. The way to make money from a scientific article looks very similar, except that scientific publishers manage to duck most of the actual costs. Scientists create work under their own direction – funded largely by governments – and give it to publishers for free; the publisher pays scientific editors who judge whether the work is worth publishing and check its grammar, but the bulk of the editorial burden – checking the scientific validity and evaluating the experiments, a process known as peer review – is done by working scientists on a volunteer basis. The publishers then sell the product back to government-funded institutional and university libraries, to be read by scientists – who, in a collective sense, created the product in the first place. It is as if the New Yorker or the Economist demanded that journalists write and edit each other’s work for free, and asked the government to foot the bill. Outside observers tend to fall into a sort of stunned disbelief when describing this setup. A 2004 parliamentary science and technology committee report on the industry drily observed that “in a traditional market suppliers are paid for the goods they provide”. A 2005 Deutsche Bank report referred to it as a “bizarre” “triple-pay” system, in which “the state funds most research, pays the salaries of most of those checking the quality of research, and then buys most of the published product”. Scientists are well aware that they seem to be getting a bad deal. The publishing business is “perverse and needless”, the Berkeley biologist Michael Eisen wrote in a 2003 article for the Guardian, declaring that it “should be a public scandal”. Adrian Sutton, a physicist at Imperial College, told me that scientists “are all slaves to publishers. What other industry receives its raw materials from its customers, gets those same customers to carry out the quality control of those materials, and then sells the same materials back to the customers at a vastly inflated price?” (A representative of RELX Group, the official name of Elsevier since 2015, told me that it and other publishers “serve the research community by doing things that they need that they either cannot, or do not do on their own, and charge a fair price for that service”.)"


Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?
It is an industry like no other, with profit margins to rival Google – and it was created by one of Britain’s most notorious tycoons: Robert Maxwell. 
By Stephen Buranyi

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/27/profitable-business-scientific-publishing-bad-for-science



From: osi20...@googlegroups.com <osi20...@googlegroups.com> on behalf of David Wojick <dwo...@craigellachie.us>
Sent: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 6:24 PM
To: osi2016-25-googlegroups.com
Subject: Re: Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?
 
Re the Deutsche Bank report, given that these are three different activities, each of which has to be paid for, what is bizarre?

David
Inside Public Access

At 06:05 AM 6/27/2017, you wrote:
Here is a very interesting, controversial, and thought provoking article, pertinent to the current discussion:
 
“Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?” By Stephen Buranyi in The Guardian, Tuesday 27 June 2017
 
Some passages from the article:
 
"if you control access to the scientific literature, it is, to all intents and purposes, like controlling science"
 
“there is a moral imperative to re-consider how scientific data are judged and disseminated”
 
A 2005 Deutsche Bank report referred to it as a “bizarre” “triple-pay” system, in which “the state funds most research, pays the salaries of most of those checking the quality of research, and then buys most of the published product”.
 
 
----------------------------------------
Martin G. Hicks, Ph.D.
Beilstein-Institut
Trakehner Str. 7-9
60487 Frankfurt am Main
Germany
 
Tel.: +49 69 7167 3220
Fax.: +49 69 7167 3219
 
www.beilstein-institut.de
The Beilstein-Institut supports information and communication through projects in the area of chemistry and related disciplines.


Twitter: @BeilsteinInst
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/beilstein-institut
 
Orcid: 0000-0002-2259-0764
----------------------------------------
 

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Richard Poynder

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Jun 28, 2017, 2:11:11 AM6/28/17
to Fiore, Steve, osi2016-25-googlegroups.com

The Deutsche Bank report has been much quoted over the years. Has anyone actually read it, or have a copy? I would certainly be interested in reading it.

 

Richard Poynder

Martin G. Hicks

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Jun 28, 2017, 2:41:14 AM6/28/17
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David, I have not read the report either, and if it were possible to get a copy I would be most interested.

 

But just considering the quoted statement, bearing in mind the profit margins and the ownership of the content, since scientific knowledge is a public good, using the term bizarre does not seem to be out of place.

 

Martin Hicks

Anthony Watkinson

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Jun 28, 2017, 4:16:50 AM6/28/17
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I also read the Buranyi article. I subscribe to the Guardian and actually read it in print. There was some interesting and mostly accurate stuff about the history of Pergamon though it exaggerated the role of Maxwell and some straight errors – for example suggesting that Elsevier are big on buying up learned societies. . I have actually researched the changes in scholarly publishing in the twentieth century in the UK. My chapter is due out and has been due out for some years in Volume VII of the History of the Book in Britain (CUP) so I say that with some specialised knowledge. That is historical research

 

But this is an advocacy piece.

 

Yes it is always helpful for you Steve (or for any of us for that matter) to appeal to something in a newspaper which backs up one’s views but look to see who Buranyi quotes? Why do they all the same thing? Why do they ask the same activists? Why not ask other scholars why they do not boycott Elsevier? It is not difficult to refuse to serve on an editorial board or referee especially as we all know it does not get much credit yet.

 

I would suggest that if we are looking at the open agenda as a whole Elsevier do have some transparent policies and some positive policies probably better than other non-commercial publishers which make large surpluses. I am not going to analyse them now but I do recall that the first retraction policies came from Elsevier. Note that I have never worked for Elsevier or Pergamon

 

A coterie of journalists on the Guardian have been pushing a line for decades. It is their right to do so as long as they do not pretend to give a balanced view.

 

Anthony

 

From: osi20...@googlegroups.com [mailto:osi20...@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Fiore, Steve


Sent: 27 June 2017 23:49

Alexander Garcia Castro

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Jun 28, 2017, 4:57:47 AM6/28/17
to Anthony Watkinson, Fiore, Steve, osi2016-25-googlegroups.com
This is not a matter of advocacy or historical truth. Actually, this is not an academic historical issue -congratulations on your book and book chapter and also on being able to ping point inaccuracies in the article but the issue remains the issue. 

Why not ask other scholars why they do not boycott Elsevier? 

There have been efforts trying to boycott Elsevier, with limited success. In part because academics have a very limited understanding of what is at stake and also because publishers in general have a huge power over the whole system.

It is not difficult to refuse to serve on an editorial board or referee especially as we all know it does not get much credit yet.

You are wrong here. when u are asked to serve on an editorial board u are appealing on vanity, and there is a lot of that in academia. You are also making it possible for whoever is being asked for to gain brownie points with his/her peers. this person automatically becomes some one who has "power" over the process upon which careers are built.  It is not a matter of perception of the publishing industry as a whole or that of Elsevier in particular; it is a simple fact, a huge part, if not all, of academic careers are built upon publications, control the publications and then u control the possibilities people have for moving forward their careers. it is not an imaginary construct that editorial boards have influence; make sure that u influence the editorial board and u are therefore influencing the community. 

I would suggest that if we are looking at the open agenda as a whole Elsevier do have some transparent policies

They do, of course. it is simple "make money at all costs". there is another part of their policy that so far has not been discussed with the seriousness it deserves. Elsevier has been on a shopping spree; not surprisingly  they have acquired key pieces of digital scholarly and open data. in essence, at the end of the day they will also own a big part of the data infrastructure  we all need to work in an open manner. As a matter of fact, such monopolistic activities have in the past been penalised by governments. Publishers get away with it because such a business model is so bizarre that people find it hard to understand. also because scholars do not agree on a bottom line and instead they keep thinking of writing papers.... simply because they just have to if they want to move forward with their careers... 

I am not going to analyse them now but I do recall that the first retraction policies came from Elsevier.

retracting, is a part of the research work. the fact that authors dont always have a clear path to retracting speaks badly of us researchers, not so much of the publishers. at the end, they are giving us what we ask for...

I find it hard to understand how is it that we, researchers, remain indifferent to a problem that affects us all. The root of the problem is the absurd value that we have put in the one single commodity that is produced at the very end of the research life cycle. a commodity that in this day and age has little or not real value because it is not the object we can all use to present our results. it is the worst channel of dissemination for most scientific endeavours. this is an industry that we have built, that benefits very few and that we continue to feed. taking about innovations in scholarly communication is  like talking eggs laid by airplanes.  

I trust the whole situation will change. but this will happen in 3 or 4 generations. most, if not all of those calling the shots hardly understand internet and the implications it has. Moreover, many of those calling the shots have benefited, or expect to benefit, in one way or another from the status quo. This is a matter of doing the right thing for once and for all. 



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Anthony Watkinson

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Jun 28, 2017, 5:39:04 AM6/28/17
to Alexander Garcia Castro, Fiore, Steve, osi2016-25-googlegroups.com

I take your point Alexander.

 

But  I do not know what you mean by “academic” in the context you use it. It you mean “irrelevant” which I would contest you are casting a slur on all scholars. This may be a populist position but not a position that OSI should espouse.

 

I am not at all sure that refusal not to review and not to agree to be an editor/editorial board. I have done both but I am not a typical researcher. What I can say is that some of the early career researchers I have just finished interviewing have just done that. Why? Because they do not think they get credit and because they want to get on with their research. I cannot quantify this as yet but it does happen.

 

Some of these ECRs would agree that the journal article is not the only or the most important output. I think there is a growing number. However almost all think that journal articles are important as researchers almost always do (see CIBER work in 2013). We would not be on this list if we did not agree that a whole range of outputs should be important.

 

How do we move forward? As I have suggested before the best way is to work for a much wider range of credits covering all aspects of the research cycle plus other aspects of the academic life like teaching and finding ways of encouraging all researchers especially tenure committees etc to buy in to this.  I think there is movement. If Elsevier help bits of the agenda that is good news.

 

Anthony

 

From: osi20...@googlegroups.com [mailto:osi20...@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Alexander Garcia Castro
Sent: 28 June 2017 09:57
To: Anthony Watkinson
Cc: Fiore, Steve; osi2016-25-googlegroups.com
Subject: Re: Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?

 

This is not a matter of advocacy or historical truth. Actually, this is not an academic historical issue -congratulations on your book and book chapter and also on being able to ping point inaccuracies in the article but the issue remains the issue. 

 

Why not ask other scholars why they do not boycott Elsevier? 

 

There have been efforts trying to boycott Elsevier, with limited success. In part because academics have a very limited understanding of what is at stake and also because publishers in general have a huge power over the whole system.

 

It is not difficult to refuse to serve on an editorial board or referee especially as we all know it does not get much credit yet.

 

You are wrong here. when u are asked to serve on an editorial board u are appealing on vanity, and there is a lot of that in academia. You are also making it possible for whoever is being asked for to gain brownie points with his/her peers. this person automatically becomes some one who has "power" over the process upon which careers are built.  It is not a matter of perception of the publishing industry as a whole or that of Elsevier in particular; it is a simple fact, a huge part, if not all, of academic careers are built upon publications, control the publications and then u control the possibilities people have for moving forward their careers. it is not an imaginary construct that editorial boards have influence; make sure that u influence the editorial board and u are therefore influencing the community. 

 

I would suggest that if we are looking at the open agenda as a whole Elsevier do have some transparent policies

 

They do, of course. it is simple "make money at all costs". there is another part of their policy that so far has not been discussed with the seriousness it deserves. Elsevier has been on a shopping spree; not surprisingly  they have acquired key pieces of digital scholarly and open data. in essence, at the end of the day they will also own a big part of the data infrastructure  we all need to work in an open manner. As a matter of fact, such monopolistic activities have in the past been penalised by governments. Publishers get away with it because such a business model is so bizarre that people find it hard to understand. also because scholars do not agree on a bottom line and instead they keep thinking of writing papers.... simply because they just have to if they want to move forward with their careers... 

 

I am not going to analyse them now but I do recall that the first retraction policies came from Elsevier.

 

retracting, is a part of the research work. the fact that authors dont always have a clear path to retracting speaks badly of us researchers, not so much of the publishers. at the end, they are giving us what we ask for...

 

I find it hard to understand how is it that we, researchers, remain indifferent to a problem that affects us all. The root of the problem is the absurd value that we have put in the one single commodity that is produced at the very end of the research life cycle. a commodity that in this day and age has little or not real value because it is not the object we can all use to present our results. it is the worst channel of dissemination for most scientific endeavours. this is an industry that we have built, that benefits very few and that we continue to feed. taking about innovations in scholarly communication is  like talking eggs laid by airplanes.  

 

I trust the whole situation will change. but this will happen in 3 or 4 generations. most, if not all of those calling the shots hardly understand internet and the implications it has. Moreover, many of those calling the shots have benefited, or expect to benefit, in one way or another from the status quo. This is a matter of doing the right thing for once and for all. 

 

 

On Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 10:16 AM, Anthony Watkinson <anthony....@btinternet.com> wrote:

I also read the Buranyi article. I subscribe to the Guardian and actually read it in print. There was some interesting and mostly accurate stuff about the history of Pergamon though it exaggerated the role of Maxwell and some straight errors – for example suggesting that Elsevier are big on buying up learned societies. . I have actually researched the changes in scholarly publishing in the twentieth century in the UK. My chapter is due out and has been due out for some years in Volume VII of the History of the Book in Britain (CUP) so I say that with some specialised knowledge. That is historical research

 

But this is an advocacy piece.

 

Yes it is always helpful for you Steve (or for any of us for that matter) to appeal to something in a newspaper which backs up one’s views but look to see who Buranyi quotes? Why do they all the same thing? Why do they ask the same activists? Why not ask other scholars why they do not boycott Elsevier? It is not difficult to refuse to serve on an editorial board or referee especially as we all know it does not get much credit yet.

 

I would suggest that if we are looking at the open agenda as a whole Elsevier do have some transparent policies and some positive policies probably better than other non-commercial publishers which make large surpluses. I am not going to analyse them now but I do recall that the first retraction policies came from Elsevier. Note that I have never worked for Elsevier or Pergamon

 

A coterie of journalists on the Guardian have been pushing a line for decades. It is their right to do so as long as they do not pretend to give a balanced view.

 

Anthony

 

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Alexander Garcia Castro

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Jun 28, 2017, 5:56:02 AM6/28/17
to Anthony Watkinson, Fiore, Steve, osi2016-25-googlegroups.com
academic=researchers, scholars. in my use of "academic" there is no intention of populism or irrelevancy. I could not do it because I am a researcher. 

I have know not yet know anyone rejecting to be part of an editorial board -old and young, early stage and consolidated researchers alike. it is simply a badge of honor no matter how irrelevant such post may be -and here, I am really using irrelevant with all its meaning.  

the paper is not longer the atomic unit of scholarly communication but it hasn't been replaced by anything. in order for it to be replaced there must be real value attached to the replacement or replacements. participating in a mailing list, no matter how important it is, does not have any value in advancing an academic career.  innovations in scholarly communication fall far behind from those in other areas simply because there is no competition in this market. publishers dont need to innovate because the market is static. 

why do u expect to get a solution from those who helped and have benefitted from the problem? what is the incentive? certainly the common good is not part of their agenda, and should not be because first and foremost they have a fiduciary responsibility. this falls on us, researchers, to quite simply reboot the system. but... again, I am optimistic, this will happen in 3 or 4 generations. 


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Anthony Watkinson

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Jun 28, 2017, 6:32:54 AM6/28/17
to Alexander Garcia Castro, Fiore, Steve, osi2016-25-googlegroups.com

Thanks Alexander. We all have different experiences. At least two of the people I have been interviewing have given up an editorial board position because they do not have time and I know of many others who refused from the days when I was a publisher. I cannot quantify. However I would like to suggest that one should not generalise purely from one’s own experience.

 

Yes I agree with you that as it stands the journal article may well need to be replaced. It may be morphing. F1000Research is an interesting lead. I suspect however that something like the article which summarises a piece of research will need to exist.

 

I am not saying that the “common good” is part of the publishers way of thinking but what most researchers want certainly is and now what funders and governments want is also very significant for them. In some areas like the handling of data some publishers have done a lot – see Pangaea and Dryad and also the handling of supplemental materials. In others I agree there has been less innovation than one might have hoped.

 

Anthony

 

From: osi20...@googlegroups.com [mailto:osi20...@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Alexander Garcia Castro
Sent: 28 June 2017 10:56
To: Anthony Watkinson
Cc: Fiore, Steve; osi2016-25-googlegroups.com
Subject: Re: Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?

 

academic=researchers, scholars. in my use of "academic" there is no intention of populism or irrelevancy. I could not do it because I am a researcher. 

 

I have know not yet know anyone rejecting to be part of an editorial board -old and young, early stage and consolidated researchers alike. it is simply a badge of honor no matter how irrelevant such post may be -and here, I am really using irrelevant with all its meaning.  

 

the paper is not longer the atomic unit of scholarly communication but it hasn't been replaced by anything. in order for it to be replaced there must be real value attached to the replacement or replacements. participating in a mailing list, no matter how important it is, does not have any value in advancing an academic career.  innovations in scholarly communication fall far behind from those in other areas simply because there is no competition in this market. publishers dont need to innovate because the market is static. 

 

why do u expect to get a solution from those who helped and have benefitted from the problem? what is the incentive? certainly the common good is not part of their agenda, and should not be because first and foremost they have a fiduciary responsibility. this falls on us, researchers, to quite simply reboot the system. but... again, I am optimistic, this will happen in 3 or 4 generations. 

 

On Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 11:39 AM, Anthony Watkinson <anthony....@btinternet.com> wrote:

I take your point Alexander.

 

But  I do not know what you mean by “academic” in the context you use it. It you mean “irrelevant” which I would contest you are casting a slur on all scholars. This may be a populist position but not a position that OSI should espouse.

 

I am not at all sure that refusal not to review and not to agree to be an editor/editorial board. I have done both but I am not a typical researcher. What I can say is that some of the early career researchers I have just finished interviewing have just done that. Why? Because they do not think they get credit and because they want to get on with their research. I cannot quantify this as yet but it does happen.

 

Some of these ECRs would agree that the journal article is not the only or the most important output. I think there is a growing number. However almost all think that journal articles are important as researchers almost always do (see CIBER work in 2013). We would not be on this list if we did not agree that a whole range of outputs should be important.

 

How do we move forward? As I have suggested before the best way is to work for a much wider range of credits covering all aspects of the research cycle plus other aspects of the academic life like teaching and finding ways of encouraging all researchers especially tenure committees etc to buy in to this.  I think there is movement. If Elsevier help bits of the agenda that is good news.

 

Anthony

 

From: osi20...@googlegroups.com [mailto:osi20...@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Alexander Garcia Castro
Sent: 28 June 2017 09:57
To: Anthony Watkinson
Cc: Fiore, Steve; osi2016-25-googlegroups.com


Subject: Re: Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?

This is not a matter of advocacy or historical truth. Actually, this is not an academic historical issue -congratulations on your book and book chapter and also on being able to ping point inaccuracies in the article but the issue remains the issue. 

 

Why not ask other scholars why they do not boycott Elsevier? 

 

There have been efforts trying to boycott Elsevier, with limited success. In part because academics have a very limited understanding of what is at stake and also because publishers in general have a huge power over the whole system.

 

It is not difficult to refuse to serve on an editorial board or referee especially as we all know it does not get much credit yet.

 

You are wrong here. when u are asked to serve on an editorial board u are appealing on vanity, and there is a lot of that in academia. You are also making it possible for whoever is being asked for to gain brownie points with his/her peers. this person automatically becomes some one who has "power" over the process upon which careers are built.  It is not a matter of perception of the publishing industry as a whole or that of Elsevier in particular; it is a simple fact, a huge part, if not all, of academic careers are built upon publications, control the publications and then u control the possibilities people have for moving forward their careers. it is not an imaginary construct that editorial boards have influence; make sure that u influence the editorial board and u are therefore influencing the community. 

 

I would suggest that if we are looking at the open agenda as a whole Elsevier do have some transparent policies

 

They do, of course. it is simple "make money at all costs". there is another part of their policy that so far has not been discussed with the seriousness it deserves. Elsevier has been on a shopping spree; not surprisingly  they have acquired key pieces of digital scholarly and open data. in essence, at the end of the day they will also own a big part of the data infrastructure  we all need to work in an open manner. As a matter of fact, such monopolistic activities have in the past been penalised by governments. Publishers get away with it because such a business model is so bizarre that people find it hard to understand. also because scholars do not agree on a bottom line and instead they keep thinking of writing papers.... simply because they just have to if they want to move forward with their careers... 

 

I am not going to analyse them now but I do recall that the first retraction policies came from Elsevier.

 

retracting, is a part of the research work. the fact that authors dont always have a clear path to retracting speaks badly of us researchers, not so much of the publishers. at the end, they are giving us what we ask for...

 

I find it hard to understand how is it that we, researchers, remain indifferent to a problem that affects us all. The root of the problem is the absurd value that we have put in the one single commodity that is produced at the very end of the research life cycle. a commodity that in this day and age has little or not real value because it is not the object we can all use to present our results. it is the worst channel of dissemination for most scientific endeavours. this is an industry that we have built, that benefits very few and that we continue to feed. taking about innovations in scholarly communication is  like talking eggs laid by airplanes.  

 

I trust the whole situation will change. but this will happen in 3 or 4 generations. most, if not all of those calling the shots hardly understand internet and the implications it has. Moreover, many of those calling the shots have benefited, or expect to benefit, in one way or another from the status quo. This is a matter of doing the right thing for once and for all. 

 

 

On Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 10:16 AM, Anthony Watkinson <anthony....@btinternet.com> wrote:

I also read the Buranyi article. I subscribe to the Guardian and actually read it in print. There was some interesting and mostly accurate stuff about the history of Pergamon though it exaggerated the role of Maxwell and some straight errors – for example suggesting that Elsevier are big on buying up learned societies. . I have actually researched the changes in scholarly publishing in the twentieth century in the UK. My chapter is due out and has been due out for some years in Volume VII of the History of the Book in Britain (CUP) so I say that with some specialised knowledge. That is historical research

 

But this is an advocacy piece.

 

Yes it is always helpful for you Steve (or for any of us for that matter) to appeal to something in a newspaper which backs up one’s views but look to see who Buranyi quotes? Why do they all the same thing? Why do they ask the same activists? Why not ask other scholars why they do not boycott Elsevier? It is not difficult to refuse to serve on an editorial board or referee especially as we all know it does not get much credit yet.

 

I would suggest that if we are looking at the open agenda as a whole Elsevier do have some transparent policies and some positive policies probably better than other non-commercial publishers which make large surpluses. I am not going to analyse them now but I do recall that the first retraction policies came from Elsevier. Note that I have never worked for Elsevier or Pergamon

 

A coterie of journalists on the Guardian have been pushing a line for decades. It is their right to do so as long as they do not pretend to give a balanced view.

 

Anthony

 

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Glenn Hampson

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Jun 28, 2017, 11:27:10 AM6/28/17
to The Open Scholarship Initiative

These are provocative topics that deserve much more thoughtful conversation than we’ve ever been able to give them here (indeed, I don’t know of any forum where these have been discussed in detail). Perceptions and misperceptions about the roles of publishers and the separation (as David notes) between the business of research and the business of publishing have been fueling animosity in the shadows for many years, making it difficult to come to the table and discuss publishing reform as one community. And unfortunately, once “profit margins” get mentioned, mobs tend to form with pitchforks and torches and the likelihood that commercial publishing leaders are going to engage in the conversation drops to nil.

 

I’ve spoken with several of these leaders about these topics---they are your colleagues right here in OSI and they’re reading these email threads. You have a unique opportunity here to ask questions and get answers directly---not from a third party who reported on something they interpreted---but from the primary sources. So please, when you discuss issues like this (some of you should know better because you’ve been on this list for a long time, and some of you are new so this request is new), don’t lob insults as though you’re speaking to a group of like-minded partisans. OSI is a diverse group of leaders from many different stakeholder groups and different parts of the world---including leaders from all major commercial publishing companies---all of whom are committed to the same cause of improving open. Not everyone on this list agrees on the same path to more open, of course, so please respect the diversity of perspectives in this space and take advantage of this resource to broaden your own knowledge and perspectives.

 

All this said, again, I don’t think any publishing leader is going to feel comfortable participating in a debate about profit margins in this public forum. But I do think this and related issues (like the role of publishers) is worth discussing. Therefore, if you could please, give me a few days to consult with the OSI planning committee about this matter. Maybe the best approach here would be to try to mediate a “bifurcated” conversation---a small group of OSI reps takes questions regarding profit margins and such and passes these along to publishing reps, who (if they’re willing) then provide answers to pass back to the questioners via the OSI group. We can keep doing this until we have a rich document that really takes a thoughtful look at these issues. And then we’ll circulate this document on this listserv for further debate (and maybe even package this up for publication as paper).

 

More soon and thanks,

 

Glenn

 

Glenn Hampson
Executive Director
National Science Communication Institute (nSCI)
Program Director
Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI)

osi-logo-2016-25-mail

2320 N 137th Street | Seattle, WA 98133
(206) 417-3607 | gham...@nationalscience.org | nationalscience.org

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Joyce Ogburn

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Jun 28, 2017, 11:43:48 AM6/28/17
to Alexander Garcia Castro, Anthony Watkinson, Fiore, Steve, osi2016-25-googlegroups.com
Some years ago I turned down the invitation to be on an editorial board for an Elsevier journal. 

Joyce


Joyce L. Ogburn
Appalachian State University
218 College Street
Boone NC 28608-2026

Lifelong learning requires lifelong access 

On Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 5:55 AM, Alexander Garcia Castro <alexg...@gmail.com> wrote:
academic=researchers, scholars. in my use of "academic" there is no intention of populism or irrelevancy. I could not do it because I am a researcher. 

I have know not yet know anyone rejecting to be part of an editorial board -old and young, early stage and consolidated researchers alike. it is simply a badge of honor no matter how irrelevant such post may be -and here, I am really using irrelevant with all its meaning.  

the paper is not longer the atomic unit of scholarly communication but it hasn't been replaced by anything. in order for it to be replaced there must be real value attached to the replacement or replacements. participating in a mailing list, no matter how important it is, does not have any value in advancing an academic career.  innovations in scholarly communication fall far behind from those in other areas simply because there is no competition in this market. publishers dont need to innovate because the market is static. 

why do u expect to get a solution from those who helped and have benefitted from the problem? what is the incentive? certainly the common good is not part of their agenda, and should not be because first and foremost they have a fiduciary responsibility. this falls on us, researchers, to quite simply reboot the system. but... again, I am optimistic, this will happen in 3 or 4 generations. 

Anthony Watkinson

unread,
Jun 28, 2017, 1:14:39 PM6/28/17
to Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative

I see the American Chemical Society has filed suit against SciHub. What I take to be a press release is available here: http://www.stm-publishing.com/american-chemical-society-files-suit-against-sci-hub/

Anthony.

image001.jpg

Fiore, Steve

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Jun 28, 2017, 2:07:24 PM6/28/17
to The Open Scholarship Initiative

To Glenn's point about the relevance of profit margins to the discussion, I think that it is perfectly appropriate because we continually hear from publishers that they provide a service and they deserve to be paid for that service.  For example, in the Guardian article, it states:  "A representative of RELX Group, the official name of Elsevier since 2015, told me that it and other publishers 'serve the research community by doing things that they need that they either cannot, or do not do on their own, and charge a fair price for that service'”.  This gets to the core of the issue and we can ask, what exactly is the service publishers provide. At the simplest level, when it comes to "product" of scholarship (i.e., the journal article), we have the following functions (and who does them):

  1. Creating the product (academics as authors who are not paid by the publishers)
  2. Reviewing the content (academics as peer reviewers who are not paid by the publishers)
  3. Overseeing the reviews (academics acting as editors who may or may not be paid by the publishers) 
  4. Typesetting the articles (publishers)
  5. Distributing the articles (publishers)
  6. Indexing the articles (publishers)
  7. Housing the articles (publishers)

The question that can be added to the larger discussion is whether the cost to society for knowledge sharing is worth the price paid to publishers for items 4-7, particularly in the modern digital age. That is, distributing, indexing, and housing articles (5-7) is not the challenge and labor intensive job it was in the pre-internet era.  Further, although the claim is often made that the service of managing reviews (1-3) is what publishers provide, as many of us know, we do not need publishers for this.  We only need software.  As an example, for those of us who have run conferences with peer review, the cost for such software ranges from free to a few thousand dollars (here are two that I've used -- http://easychair.org/ and http://www.conftool.net/index.html).  A high volume conference likely gets more articles submitted than most journals do in an entire year and conference chairs are able to effectively coordinate peer review as well as article publications (proceedings papers) in a much more time-compressed time frame using this kind of software.  And we do it for free.

Best,
Steve




From: osi20...@googlegroups.com <osi20...@googlegroups.com> on behalf of Glenn Hampson <gham...@nationalscience.org>
Sent: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 11:26 AM

To: 'The Open Scholarship Initiative'

Glenn Hampson

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Jun 28, 2017, 3:00:26 PM6/28/17
to Fiore, Steve, The Open Scholarship Initiative

Hi Steve,

 

Take a look at the two “What is Publishing” reports from OSI2016:

 

 

I think these groups did a good job of trying to get to the core of what you’re talking about here. In the meantime, I’ve been bothering the planning committee with emails about what to do next with this topic---just because I know it won’t be resolved in this forum and it deserves to be discussed, but fairly and accurately. From the latest email I sent them this morning, FYI, here’s another take on what you’re discussing:

 

“So a parallel conversation about the role of publishers would also be important here. For example, what would the research world look like if every researcher just dumped their studies onto the internet without intermediaries? Would this world be good or bad for science, or even realistic since infomediaries will naturally spring up anyway in a wholly decentralized information environment---editors, fact-checkers, marketers, web hubs, and other service providers? What value does publishing writ large provide in an information environment anyway? The “what is publishing” groups from last year’s meeting started looking into this philosophical [question] of what it means to publish something. What is implicit in the publishing contract? Authenticity? Accuracy? Authoritativeness? Registration? Dissemination? One of the groups defined it as “A process that captures (or creates) and makes discoverable artifacts of knowledge in order to facilitate the use and reuse of scholarship on a global scale, and that enables research communities to build upon the work of others and provides a venue for evolving discourse.” In today’s world especially, you would think that the role of trusted infomediaries should be growing increasingly important, not being challenged. But the [allegations and/or perceptions of] profiteering and double-dipping…seem to be getting in the way in this case.”

 

Best,

image001.jpg

Alexander Garcia Castro

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Jun 28, 2017, 3:25:25 PM6/28/17
to Fiore, Steve, The Open Scholarship Initiative
Why do we need publishers? why not replacing them altogether? if their role is so clear why is it that everywhere and everyone is actually wondering the same: what is the added value they bring? what is their role? why do we need them? why is it so important to justify their existence, this last one come up because it seems that justifying their existence is important for some people.   

the only real use we give to them is just because academic promotions depend on paper based statistics. the simple truth of the matter is that in this day and age the paper has lost most of its value as the cornerstone of scientific communication. however, because it is in the best interest of the very few, the paper has retained its value in a very artificial way in direct detriment of everything else that is being produced. if the paper had any value I am sure that people would be willing to pay for it with their own money. just like u are interested in jokes and therefore u pay for subscriptions to magazines about jokes, you should not have any problem in paying for your monthly nature or science. Actually, let me see... if I were to subscribe to a journal/magazine the cost would be like less than 5USD per monty for a product that has payed writers, payed editors, etc. BUT... lets see.... if I were to subscribe to a scientific journal then, would I be looking into 5USD or close to it per month? NO. would I be looking at a product with a real structure of costs? NO, most of the work is for free just because... the paper and associated activities have value for academic promotions... 

I know, there is the review as a proxy for quality. lets see.... how much of what I read in scientific journals is reproducible? and once more, as the paper looses value publishers are actively monopolising data and data related infrastructure. are we heading to win this silly battle and loose the war? are we going to be paying for data we produce, we review, we archive, we curate.... etc etc to publishers? it would not be at all unusual if in the near future we have to pay for the whole package, data and publications. 



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Glenn Hampson

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Jun 28, 2017, 3:41:19 PM6/28/17
to Fiore, Steve, The Open Scholarship Initiative

And Steve, not to belabor this here (especially since I just suggested that this should be a separate discussion), but I spent 12 years running a small publishing company and can tell you from my own experience (which may not be entirely applicable to journal publishing) that even the costs you identified as being borne by the publisher are significant:

  1. Typesetting the articles (publishers): This can take anywhere from a day to a week depending on the length of the piece, the number of figures involved, any additional artwork needed, particular layout challenges (citations, line breaks, etc.), templating, proofreading after typesetting, and so on. Let’s say you’re paying one person $40/hour for this work. That’s somewhere in the $500-$2000, just for “typesetting.” And that’s just the one version---not print + online (a whole different process/product).
  2. Distributing the articles (publishers): Nowadays, there are a kagillion different “distribution” channels (not to mention PR channels---press releases, author interviews, etc.). And you’ve skipped a step here---before distribution happens, the article actually needs to be printed/bound/shipped/warehoused, and/or posted and SEO’d. Distribution is the make or break of a book. Do a bad job and it will never see the light of day---even a beautifully written and typeset piece will die a lonely death on a shelf because the distribution process or network failed. So for distribution, that’s really priceless---that’s why you hire a big gun to be your publisher. But for the sake of argument, let’s say it adds $2,500 to the cost of your product.
  3. Indexing the articles (publishers): I don’t know what’s involved here at the journal level---a few hours of labor? $200 extra?
  4. Housing the articles (publishers): Physically housing print articles is a killer---maintaining and operating warehouse space for unsold products is a slow drain on revenues. Housing web articles costs money too when you factor in the cost of the staff involved---people who keep the website current, organized, etc. So depending on whether your article is print, web or both, this cost adds up. Again, for the sake of argument, add $200 extra.

So what does this add up to for the publisher’s value added (or at least what you would hire a publisher to do for you)? Maybe somewhere between $1,000 and $5,000 per article? And this is more or less in line with what the publisher charges for APCs? And depending on the number of subscribers, I would think these costs (plus article download costs) would need to more or less pencil out, leaving some room for profit so the company can stay afloat and keep providing goods and services?

Anyway, this is all just back-of-the-envelope stuff. Can authors “self-publish” or find economy routes to publishing instead? Absolutely. Is this the norm? No. Publishing is separate from research, and yet---as we’re all acutely aware---it’s also quite intertwined. The hooks and levers, incentives and feedback loops are everywhere.

I don’t know yet whether this separate discussion/paper I’m proposing is going to fly, but if it does, please consider volunteering to help with it.

Thanks,

Glenn

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Peter Potter

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Jun 28, 2017, 4:41:55 PM6/28/17
to Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative
I just want to add to this discussion one point of clarification as to why the word “bizarre” in the DeutscheBank report (as cited by Buranyi) is out of place. As quoted in the article, it is used in reference to a "triple-pay system”—the idea being that the state shouldn’t be asked to 1) fund research, 2) pay salaries of those checking the quality of the research, and then 3) buy back the published product. This appears to be a variation on the old “double-dipping” criticism of scholarly publishing—the state (or the Academy) shouldn’t have to pay twice (or three times) for the same thing. However, as David rightly points out, the three activities identified in the article are actually distinct activities, each of which someone has to pay for (if indeed each activity is valued by the scholarly community). In reality, the criticism of triple-paying is only valid if in fact it can be proved that publishers are somehow secretly including the costs of 1) and 2) in the price they charge for the published product. If this were the case, then one could legitimately make the claim that the state is paying twice for 1) and 2) but even that claim has to be proven rather than simply asserted, and I haven’t seen anyone actually try to prove it.

All of this is to echo the statement in Glenn's earlier email about allegations of double-dipping “getting in the way" of a serious discussion of the issues.  While there’s a legitimate discussion to be had as to whether publishers are charging too much for what they publish, let’s not muddy the waters with unfounded claims. 

Peter

Peter J Potter
Director, Publishing Strategy
Virginia Tech
Newman Library, RM 424 
560 Drillfield Drive
Blacksburg, VA  24061 
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7100-5982

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Michael Wolfe

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Jun 28, 2017, 4:58:11 PM6/28/17
to Peter Potter, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative
Here's another view:

The subscription business method is essentially a classic copyright-centered business model. The basic public policy at work in these exchanges is that a limited monopoly (copyright) is granted to incentivize the creation of items with high fixed costs, but low reproduction costs, to ensure such things will continue to be made.

In an exemplary copyright market, the revenues from the selling of thing finance the efforts made to create it—these are the problematic fixed costs driving the law. This does not mean simply financing the editorial and copyediting functions, it means financing the whole shebang. Writing a novel might take years of labor, active research, all sorts of "distinct activities," and the way they are all (theoretically) recouped is through the copyright monopoly.

Markets in published research are different. While copyright monopolies can fund enormously expensive undertakings in the right markets (e.g., Hollywood blockbusters), they simply don't work well for financing scientific research. The fixed costs are too high and the potential audiences are too limited. Enter government subsidies for research activities.

The problem is that our one-size-fits-all copyright model has been tailored by the content industry to provide rewards and incentives for far more than merely providing publisher services. And scholarly publishers receive the same extraordinary term lengths, sky-high statutory damages, and expansive rights as do the makers of things that require investment of those funds into "distinct activities." In a nutshell, they're receiving greater monopoly rights than is necessary for them to provide the important and necessary services they do perform, and it's happening at tax payer expense. 

To my mind, it is absolutely a "bizarre, triple-pay" system.

Peter
 
 
 
From: osi2016-25@googlegroups.com [mailto:osi2016-25@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Fiore, Steve
Sent: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 11:07 AM
To: 'The Open Scholarship Initiative' <osi20...@googlegroups.com>
Subject: Re: Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?
 

To Glenn's point about the relevance of profit margins to the discussion, I think that it is perfectly appropriate because we continually hear from publishers that they provide a service and they deserve to be paid for that service.  For example, in the Guardian article, it states:  "A representative of RELX Group, the official name of Elsevier since 2015, told me that it and other publishers 'serve the research community by doing things that they need that they either cannot, or do not do on their own, and charge a fair price for that service'”.  This gets to the core of the issue and we can ask, what exactly is the service publishers provide. At the simplest level, when it comes to "product" of scholarship (i.e., the journal article), we have the following functions (and who does them):

  1. Creating the product (academics as authors who are not paid by the publishers)
  2. Reviewing the content (academics as peer reviewers who are not paid by the publishers)
  3. Overseeing the reviews (academics acting as editors who may or may not be paid by the publishers) 
  4. Typesetting the articles (publishers)
  5. Distributing the articles (publishers)
  6. Indexing the articles (publishers)
  7. Housing the articles (publishers)


The question that can be added to the larger discussion is whether the cost to society for knowledge sharing is worth the price paid to publishers for items 4-7, particularly in the modern digital age. That is, distributing, indexing, and housing articles (5-7) is not the challenge and labor intensive job it was in the pre-internet era.  Further, although the claim is often made that the service of managing reviews (1-3) is what publishers provide, as many of us know, we do not need publishers for this.  We only need software.  As an example, for those of us who have run conferences with peer review, the cost for such software ranges from free to a few thousand dollars (here are two that I've used -- http://easychair.org/ and http://www.conftool.net/index.html).  A high volume conference likely gets more articles submitted than most journals do in an entire year and conference chairs are able to effectively coordinate peer review as well as article publications (proceedings papers) in a much more time-compressed time frame using this kind of software.  And we do it for free.

Best,
Steve

 


Sent: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 11:26 AM
To: 'The Open Scholarship Initiative'
Subject: RE: Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?
These are provocative topics that deserve much more thoughtful conversation than we’ve ever been able to give them here (indeed, I don’t know of any forum where these have been discussed in detail). Perceptions and misperceptions about the roles of publishers and the separation (as David notes) between the business of research and the business of publishing have been fueling animosity in the shadows for many years, making it difficult to come to the table and discuss publishing reform as one community. And unfortunately, once “profit margins” get mentioned, mobs tend to form with pitchforks and torches and the likelihood that commercial publishing leaders are going to engage in the conversation drops to nil.
 
I’ve spoken with several of these leaders about these topics---they are your colleagues right here in OSI and they’re reading these email threads. You have a unique opportunity here to ask questions and get answers directly---not from a third party who reported on something they interpreted---but from the primary sources. So please, when you discuss issues like this (some of you should know better because you’ve been on this list for a long time, and some of you are new so this request is new), don’t lob insults as though you’re speaking to a group of like-minded partisans. OSI is a diverse group of leaders from many different stakeholder groups and different parts of the world---including leaders from all major commercial publishing companies---all of whom are committed to the same cause of improving open. Not everyone on this list agrees on the same path to more open, of course, so please respect the diversity of perspectives in this space and take advantage of this resource to broaden your own knowledge and perspectives.
 
All this said, again, I don’t think any publishing leader is going to feel comfortable participating in a debate about profit margins in this public forum. But I do think this and related issues (like the role of publishers) is worth discussing. Therefore, if you could please, give me a few days to consult with the OSI planning committee about this matter. Maybe the best approach here would be to try to mediate a “bifurcated” conversation---a small group of OSI reps takes questions regarding profit margins and such and passes these along to publishing reps, who (if they’re willing) then provide answers to pass back to the questioners via the OSI group. We can keep doing this until we have a rich document that really takes a thoughtful look at these issues. And then we’ll circulate this document on this listserv for further debate (and maybe even package this up for publication as paper).
 
More soon and thanks,
 
Glenn
 
Glenn Hampson
Executive Director
National Science Communication Institute (nSCI)
Program Director
Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI)
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Michael Wolfe

Scholarly Communications Officer | UC Davis Library

Peter Potter

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Jun 28, 2017, 5:30:47 PM6/28/17
to The Open Scholarship Initiative
I don’t disagree with anything you say below, except for repeating the triple pay claim, which you don’t actually justify. Until and unless we can all be careful and precise in our terminology, I fear we won’t get anywhere in solving what are very real problems. 

Peter J Potter
Director, Publishing Strategy
Virginia Tech
Newman Library, RM 424 
560 Drillfield Drive
Blacksburg, VA  24061 
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7100-5982
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to osi2016-25+...@googlegroups.com.

Glenn Hampson

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Jun 28, 2017, 5:35:30 PM6/28/17