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Speaker: Market failure in the research world

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  • keeaa, in reply to Angela Hart,

    cutting their budget makes no sense, even to bean counters

    I wish you were right, but unfortunately William Ray's original stirring up of this issue has resulted in the wrong questions being asked in some quarters.

    Since Nov 2014 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    There are definite moves towards open source to counter this racket (consider that academics who are largely paid by the public to research, have to further dip into their research funds to get published by private companies who then charge university libraries (ie the public paying again) for very limited access to the research.)
    Many universities have a repository for research papers. And there are more open source journals now. (I reckon academic publishing a la Elsevier could disappear in the next 10-15 years.)
    Some academics at Lincoln and Canterbury universities talking on the benefits of open source (and how they use it).

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2062 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Mark C. Wilson,

    Amusingly, the librarians started discussing by email how to get rid of me, while not noticing (for a while) that I was being copied on all the emails.

    Research skills, FTW!

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2809 posts Report Reply

  • Mandy S,

    As a librarian I have been quietly outraged by this situation for many years. I would like to point out that my colleagues in the tertiary library sector have been proactive in trying to set up structures that would support new paradigms in academic publishing, digital repositories and so on. Academics by in large support these...until the day they can't get access to a particular title...then they will kick up a stink. And also when it comes time to getting work published...they of course will always go for the most prestigious title. We need to come to some kind of agreement to confer prestige in other ways. There was a journal in neuroscience, where the entire editorial board and peer review panel resigned on mass and set up their own open access journal. This was probably 10 years ago though and I don't remember the title. But it should be happening more often. These costs have been spiraling out of control for years. So please quit with the library bashing...as you will see in the Penny Carnaby clip Rob posted above...we are more than aware and have been going on about it for over a decade.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • JC Carter,

    I work in the commercial setting and paper access is an absolute abomination. Can easily spend 5grand on one general review as our library service has minimal access to publications, and all outside publications are purchased either directly -~50$ apiece, or worse through places like infotrieve - who have pricing ranging from obscene right through to Bill Cosby.

    I have absolutely no level of guilt about sourcing papers through the academic sharing network. Anything that results in less profits to these monopolistic monstrosities the better.

    Space • Since Sep 2014 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Who'd a thunk that a commercialized model of academia could lead to the commercialization of access to academic research?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • mpledger, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Russell Brown, in reply to Angela Hart, About 11 hours ago
    AH: They have many disadvantages including excluding people without access to research libraries.

    RB: Yes, very much this. I'm one of those people and I am regularly stymied by this fact.

    ~~
    All the university libraries I have been to are pretty much "walk in and use". Even the computer don't need a login/password unless you want to reserve something. Most academic search engines allow you to e-mail a paper to yourself so you can hop on a computer, search and e-mail pdfs

    I've used the UoA science and engineering libraries and VuW's library while neither staff nor student.

    Since Oct 2012 • 80 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers, in reply to mccx,

    Do you get the sense that NZ universities encourage faculty to act in a way that furthers open availability of research they produce?

    Interestingly, in the UK any journal publications arising out of research directly funded by one of the big funding councils (RCUK) have to be available on open-access. (The mandate doesn’t extend to monographs … yet.) And word is (though I don’t think there’s been a final decision made on this) that any publication being put forward for the next REF round (the UK’s PBRF equivalent) will also have to be available via OA (again excluding monographs). What this boils down to is that universities are now putting aside funds to pay the article processing charges to buy their “REF stars’” publications out from behind paywalls. Of course, this money has to come from somewhere, and it’s probably going to be … existing research budgets. So there’s going to be less money available for research and more money thrown at already hideously profitable commercial publishers as a result of the government’s policy on Open Access. UK academic Daniel Allington has recently laid out some of the probable consequences of this “mixed model” version of Open Access:

    By making research findings available in this expensive way, and taking the money out of existing research budgets, it will reduce the amount of research that actually gets funded ...
    By providing the money as a block grant to institutions that have attracted large amounts of research funding, it will (a) increase concentration of funding among those institutions that already receive the most of it, (b) take the choice of where to publish articles away from researchers (since it will be up to the university hierarchy to decide whether to pay the article processing charge for any given paper), and (c) severely reduce the options available for publication among funded researchers at those institutions which have been less successful at attracting funding in the past (since they will be required to publish with open access, but will receive no funds to help them do so) ...
    By enabling the UK research elite to have its cake and eat it (i.e. to continue to publish in the manner to which it has become accustomed with extra funding so that its articles will become open access), whilst at the same time leaving other researchers to choose between (a) free journals, almost all of which are low-impact (i.e. little read by other researchers), and (b) high impact journals in which they will be unable to afford to publish on an open access basis, it will make the work of the elite more citable, reinforcing the illusion that it is ‘better.’ Especially in those disciplines that use citation metrics as a direct index of quality, this will create a feedback loop that increases the relative likelihood that well-funded researchers and institutions will receive high levels of funding in the future.

    And that’s not even getting into the issue of whether highly technical journal articles in which academics essentially talk to each other are the appropriate format in which academic research should be publicly accessible in the first place. Allington talks in some detail about this and the other problems of Open Access here.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers, in reply to Mandy S,

    And also when it comes time to getting work published…they of course will always go for the most prestigious title. We need to come to some kind of agreement to confer prestige in other ways.

    Yes. But early career academics are socialized into this right from the very beginning, so it’s going to be hard to shift this culture. And the pressure to publish in a REF/PBRF-dominated system never really ends. When job search committees, your own academic colleagues and mentors, and your university’s research support staff are all using the same “acceptance into prestigious Wiley/Taylor & Francis/OUP/Elsevier journal = ACADEMIC PROMISE” shorthand, it’s a hard mentality to separate yourself from. Especially if none of the other ECR academics you’re competing with for jobs and funding look like breaking out from under the model either. Like you say, we need to work towards new ways of measuring academic prestige beyond the Impressive [Expensive] Journal Article/Monograph. But how do we build that movement? And what shape is that new prestige system going to take?

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • Mark C. Wilson,

    For those interested in delving into the mess that scholarly publishing is now in, these slides by Bjoern Brembs are a good start. I tried to keep the post focused on a single issue, but as noted in the comments there are many other related problems.

    The depressing thing is that researchers themselves are probably the only ones who can fix the system, and the technical problems are trivial. All the problems are political: how to act collectively without a central authority, how to redistribute power within the profession, etc.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Nov 2014 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Angela Hart,

    If academics were to set up their own peer review system, perhaps using an open source model, is there any reason more research could not be published online for all the world to see?

    We are.

    eLife
    The Frontiers family of journals
    and PLOS
    are all prestigious examples of completely open access journals.
    Anyone can read the articles and peer review is handled in much the same way as the commercial journals (ie scientists do it for free)

    BUT

    To get promotions and pay rises in almost any research organisation means you have to convince the accountants* who run all those organisations that your science is any good. Since those accountants neither understand nor care about the science you do they simplistically rely on "standard metrics" and that means you must publish in the commercial journals.

    Unless of course you are already successful and then you can tell the commercial journals (and those accountants) where to shove it.


    *Some of my best friends are accountants (really) and I know they do good work, however they have been given a huge amount of control over Science in NZ and worldwide. A level of control that I find disturbing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Adam H,

    I think in a world where simple minded beanies decide funding based on simple minded metrics like ‘number of articles published in reputable peer review journals’ you may have hit on a critical aspect of the problem.

    What he said.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Mark C. Wilson,

    The depressing thing is that researchers themselves are probably the only ones who can fix the system, and the technical problems are trivial.

    Yes. It's an extreme form of objective alienation, considering how smart the victims are, and how much influence they can wield, and even just considering their own personal finances. In the words of the prophet:

    "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery,
    None but ourselves can free our minds"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I am a huge supporter of open access journals. But I'd point out they aren't free. There is almost always a "page charge" even for internet-only journals to cover admin costs. That charge isn't paid by the libraries but by the researcher = tax payer.

    I'm also aware that while you may dismiss the prestige part of publishing in Nature or Science, the reality for most scientists is prestige/recognition is a big part of the reward for doing the job.

    I'm not whinging (this time) about how little recognition scientists get in the "real world", but getting a paper into one of the top journals is a huge buzz. In a career that is punctuated more by failure than success of any kind. You can't dismiss that effect.

    In 2012 we published in Current Biology, one of the better journals, after being bounced after a week at Nature and after being bounced after review by Science. I'm proud of those things. Yes proud. Nature bounces most papers within 24 hours. Science sends only a fraction of the papers it receives out for review. And Current Biology (our next choice) is a damn good journal.

    That pride is important to my ability to carry on when my institute freezes our budgets again. Sure that's simply my ego, I know that, but it is real.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yes. It’s an extreme form of objective alienation, considering how smart the victims are, and how much influence they can wield, and even just considering their own personal finances.

    But we don't control our research finances at all. The Universities and CRIs in NZ and most research institutes worldwide have been conquered by the managers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But we don’t control our research finances at all.

    No but you can publish quite cheaply. However, I take your point that the research itself is not cheap, and you can't just publish without permission if you don't own the research.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    and you can’t just publish without permission if you don’t own the research.

    It's not quite about permission. We very very very rarely get told we can't publish.

    But when we do publish we have a responsibility to all the authors to publish in the place that is best for all the author's careers.

    It's one thing for me to say to hell with the commercial journals I'll publish in Frontiers anyway.

    It's quite another for me to make that decision for an early career scientist who is on the paper as well and the technician and my collaborators.

    It shouldn't affect our careers where we publish (only what we publish) but it does because the bean counters only know what the numbers (like impact factor) tell them.

    Also cheap is a relative term, generally it costs around $3000 for us to publish in an open access journal!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • Mark C. Wilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    To get promotions and pay rises in almost any research organisation means you have to convince the accountants* who run all those organisations that your science is any good. Since those accountants neither understand nor care about the science you do they simplistically rely on “standard metrics” and that means you must publish in the commercial journals.

    Unless of course you are already successful and then you can tell the commercial journals (and those accountants) where to shove it.

    What I find amazing is how few obviously successful people do break free in this way. I know many who could, and ought to be setting a good example to their junior colleagues, but don't. I have not been able to work out why. Randy Schekman's actions should be normal, but they are not (yet).

    The other thing I find weird is how journal editors stick with publishers who are actually producing a rather poor product in most cases, then selling it in a way that restricts readership. I wrote a blog post on pusillanimous editors a while ago.

    In both cases we are talking about people who have "made it" professionally. I hear from some that they can't afford to change habits, because it would disavantage their junior coauthors. That has never really made much sense to me.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Nov 2014 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Mark C. Wilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I am a huge supporter of open access journals. But I’d point out they aren’t free. There is almost always a “page charge” even for internet-only journals to cover admin costs. That charge isn’t paid by the libraries but by the researcher = tax payer.

    It is perhaps field-dependent, but the vast majority of OA journals have no author fees. See Peter Suber’s Open Access: six myths put to rest. Suber is the most prominent authority on Open Access, and always worth reading when he writes on the topic.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Nov 2014 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    It’s quite another for me to make that decision for an early career scientist who is on the paper as well and the technician and my collaborators.

    I'd expect you to sell it to them first, rather than just make the decision.

    Also cheap is a relative term, generally it costs around $3000 for us to publish in an open access journal!

    Sure, but we're talking about professional people here.

    Also, that's not the only alternative. You could publish directly onto the internet at no more cost than the effort of setting up the site. Not that I'm saying this is the ideal path, but it is at least a possible path.

    It shouldn’t affect our careers where we publish (only what we publish) but it does because the bean counters only know what the numbers (like impact factor) tell them.

    I get that, and it sucks. You gotta eat. But I can't see any direction this is going to go other than intensifying, if the intellectual workers themselves, the actual producers of the only good in this picture, can't take the risk to free themselves from what are mostly self-imposed constraints. There is zero motivation for the journal establishment to reform itself from within. Quite the opposite, they have strong motivation to continue intensifying this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • MattMcGregor, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Also cheap is a relative term, generally it costs around $3000 for us to publish in an open access journal!

    It's worth pointing out that, according to the Directory of Open Access Journals, most open access journals don't charge processing charges (APCs) According to Heather Morrison, the figure is 26% of journals listed in the DOAJ.

    Also, another recent development in the UK is the Higher Education Funding Council for England policy

    This policy essentially bypasses the publishers by mandating the 'green' route to OA -- adopted, in various forms, by 3/8 universities in New Zealand so far -- where all published research has to be deposited in an institutional or disciplinary repository.

    It's also worth pointing out that 80% of published research could be made openly available for free within a year of publication, if researchers chose to deposit their work in their institutional repository. The fact that only 12% have done so reveals, I think, the need for strong institutional and funder mandates.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2014 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Mark C. Wilson,

    It is perhaps field-dependent

    Very much so. The "hard sciences" are way ahead of us in that respect.

    I don't begrudge some of the fee because it costs money to have could copy editors and good admin staff at a journal. But some journals are milking it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    You could publish directly onto the internet at no more cost than the effort of setting up the site.

    Sadly that isn't true. My employer, a CRI, has very specific policies about staff web sites. It's a matter some considerable annoyance to me that my colleagues and collaborators in Universities have personal web pages hosted by the university that describe them and their work. Whereas my employer is uncomfortable with such pages - sigh.

    Also you are forgetting about who pays for the work, no funding agency would accept a self-published web page as an outcome from their grant money and if that was my only outcome I could kiss goodbye any future funding. It simply would not be acceptable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    Some thoughts in no particular order.
    i) The cost of open publishing is high in my field where there is pretty much no research money it is prohibitive. In fairness to my boss choosing between open journals and extending an RA contract for a month is a bit of a no brainer.

    ii) I don’t think it’s just me who has published in open journals and then been spammed forever?

    iii) Another problem is that mainstream journals are properly indexed and open journals less so in my area. Working for a dean who would rather chop his/her hand off than sign off on conference travel means pretty much all the postgraduates in our team came from within and those from overseas through citations. My point in a roundabout way is that mainstream and postgraduate recruitment is connected to big journals too.

    iv) I think it somewhat ironic that governments will negotiate an agreement like the TPPA and enable organisations like this but would not dream of signing a treaty that could change this overnight.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 786 posts Report Reply

  • Some Stats, in reply to 81stcolumn,

    The cost of open access is not high in any field as there is always the "green" open access solution which is, generally, free.

    See Guardian blog Open access: six myths to put to rest that Mark linked to above.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2014 • 9 posts Report Reply

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