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Speaker: Market failure in the research world

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  • 81stcolumn, in reply to Some Stats,

    The article seems to conflate the basic value and function of what is described as "Green" and "Gold" access (quite patronisingly too).

    I place high value on repositories as a means of preserving and distributing work, but they are not, and transparently do not serve the same function as Journals.

    My point stands that once you move outside Medicine and Natural Sciences things are a good deal more difficult for a variety of reasons.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 786 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Sadly that isn’t true. My employer, a CRI, has very specific policies about staff web sites.

    Right, as I expected. So,

    We very very very rarely get told we can’t publish.

    quite specifically excluded the most obvious and easy form of publishing implicitly. In the context of the discussion that makes sense. I'm sorry about that, it's a mindset I have not yet accumulated. But I do suggest that the mindset itself is the lion's share of the problem, and that no solutions will occur within the context that automatically leaves out the obvious. So long as researchers themselves personally value these exclusive journals so highly, this can not change. This can only get worse.

    So to me the question is: Why do you value them so highly? Are they really providing you with value? I don't just mean the value of being published in them, but the actual reading of them. Is their ability to pick out the good research from the bad really worth so much? Or is it quite literally their exclusivity that generates their value, almost in its entirety? That you can't even get the research any other way?

    It's bizarre to think of this kind of human pyramid existing. No wonder people don't want to get into research. It's not just the money, it's the very idea that the quality of one's work and ideas counts for so little compared to one's access to the information channels, and all the kudos grafting involved.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • Some Stats, in reply to 81stcolumn,

    I miss your point...the argument is not that green open access replaces publishing to a restricted access venue, but augments it. Publish where you like but put a preprint somewhere it can be accessed by all.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2014 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Mark C. Wilson, in reply to BenWilson,

    So to me the question is: Why do you value them so highly? Are they really providing you with value? I don’t just mean the value of being published in them, but the actual reading of them. Is their ability to pick out the good research from the bad really worth so much? Or is it quite literally their exclusivity that generates their value, almost in its entirety? That you can’t even get the research any other way?

    Let me jump in on those: they provide rather little value now that other tools are available. I am not aware of anyone who still browses journal issues looking for interesting papers, but instead they use automatic keyword alerts, Google Scholar searches, alerts when your own paper is cited, etc. The work of Brembs I linked to earlier has shown that there is very little correlation between such measures as impact factor (a proxy for journal quality) and the quality of individual articles, and in fact the glamour journals have higher rates of retractions. Their main function now (not historically) is to give some kind of reputation enhancement to authors.

    I and almost all my colleagues have rather large egos in some sense, or we wouldn’t be doing research at all. But this is really taking it too far. I sometimes feel that there are quite a few researchers who want as few people as possible to read their work – they mainly want to convince bean counters enough (often by sheer quantity) so that they can commandeer a larger slice of a small and shrinking pie for themselves, in order to do more research. Of course, not all of us are like that, but progress toward utopia is slower than I thought.

    More interesting reading: Brian Nosek and others have written some great papers: [[Scientific Utopia I. Opening scientific communication | http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.1055] and [[Scientific Utopia II. Restructuring incentives and practices to promote truth over publishability | http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.4251]

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

  • richard, in reply to BenWilson,

    So long as researchers themselves personally value these exclusive journals so highly, this can not change. This can only get worse.

    It is easy to over-estimate the extent to which exclusive journals like Science and Nature drive this, as they represent a tiny fraction of all academic publication. Moreover, they are somewhat field dependent -- I have never tried to submit to either of them but I am doing ok, professionally. (Although I do try to get into Physical Review Letters when I have a suitably pithy and significant result, and have a reasonable strike rate with those attempts -- but I recognize that the process is bound to be somewhat random.)

    So to me the question is: Why do you value them so highly? Are they really providing you with value? I don’t just mean the value of being published in them, but the actual reading of them. Is their ability to pick out the good research from the bad really worth so much? Or is it quite literally their exclusivity that generates their value, almost in its entirety? That you can’t even get the research any other way?

    It’s bizarre to think of this kind of human pyramid existing. No wonder people don’t want to get into research. It’s not just the money, it’s the very idea that the quality of one’s work and ideas counts for so little compared to one’s access to the information channels, and all the kudos grafting involved.

    In my field, everything is essentially available on the "Archive" (arxiv.org) and it is the first place I look for any paper, even if it is published. Consequently, in terms of communicating with my colleagues or the general public I have no need to publish in peer-reviewed journals at all.

    In terms of broader science, I do tend to look at Nature, Science and Physical Review Letters for a sense of what is happening outside my field, and for better or worse, they do serve a useful role as "curators", albeit a someone circular one. Consequently, having exclusive venues (however that exclusivity is maintained) for publication probably serves a useful function. But I also find papers via Twitter :-)

    That said, I do set some store by publishing in decent journals -- which in my case is typically either Physical Review (which is a broad set of journals, run by the American Physical Society) and the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (and run by an Italian lab and the British IOP), which is narrower. Neither journal is "rationed" for space, and while crap papers slip though, peer review is nontrivial, and as someone else observed, the approbation of your peers can be a big part of an academic's job satisfaction.

    Both journals have decent "quality metrics" (impact factors or whatever alternative you prefer) so they undoubtedly help with research assessment exercises, getting my students jobs, and convincing funders I am returning value for money, but I don't think that is why I am publishing with them, rather than less demanding journals :-)

    It is easy to design "better" systems, but I think it is significant that the positive changes that have occurred around open access have typically delivered immediate benefits to the people participating in them, with little cost.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • James Green, in reply to Mark C. Wilson,

    What I find amazing is how few obviously successful people do break free in this way.

    But how often are these people publishing with PhD students or earlier career researchers and feel like they can't risk it? I would strongly prefer to go down OA routes, but I am extremely mindful of the potential impact this could have for the people I work with.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Mark C. Wilson,

    More interesting reading

    There goes my afternoon! Thanks btw, for the reading and for the thread.

    I and almost all my colleagues have rather large egos in some sense, or we wouldn’t be doing research at all.

    I'll trust you on whether that is actually so, but have to ask, do you think it's a good thing that it is so? That cuts out a lot of people who might be valuable but just don't happen to be ego driven.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to James Green,

    But how often are these people publishing with PhD students or earlier career researchers and feel like they can’t risk it?

    Yes, they've already risked 10 years of their lives by that point. But I've often thought that they don't see it that way at all, and that it seemed like the path of least resistance to many a brilliant but somewhat undirected mind, which could go a long way to explaining the strangely selective risk aversion.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Mark C. Wilson,

    the glamour journals have higher rates of retractions.

    This could be read in several ways, without comparing the reliability of the pre-publication peer-review processes involved:
    (i) Readers of lower-profile journals don’t subject articles to the same level of post-publication peer review, resulting in fewer retractions; and/or
    (ii) Greater competition for space in higher-profile journals creates a higher pressure to make ultimately unsustainable claims.
    (Possibly both true.)

    OTOH, I am aware of several open-source publications (usually, ones that also ask authors for up-front fees) that have highly questionable rubber-stamp peer-review processes.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1749 posts Report Reply

  • Anton Angelo, in reply to Some Stats,

    Institutional repositories are hampered by copyright restrictions laid on them by publishers that are agreed to by the authors. Researchers can, and do change the conditions of their publishing agreements.

    Repositories are an important factor for creating 'overlay' journals - where material of sufficient quality is edited and republished, re-creating the editorial function of a traditional journal, but without a lot of the commercial imperatives.

    Boganville. (Christchurc… • Since Nov 2006 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    I and almost all my colleagues have rather large egos in some sense, or we wouldn’t be doing research at all.

    I’ll trust you on whether that is actually so, but have to ask, do you think it’s a good thing that it is so?

    It's part of the selection process. Science, by its very nature, involves constant failure. Good labs are critical environments, not nasty, and not personal, but critical of ideas and methods. Most PhDs involve periods of hard tedious work, frequently resulting in results that are unpublishable.

    For better or worse (and I have somewhat mixed feelings about it) you don't get through a PhD and continue in research without a fairly large slice of self-belief and ego.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    and I have somewhat mixed feelings about it

    That's the bit I want to hear about. The rest I believe, from what you and others have said. Is it for better, or worse? Because large slices of self-belief and ego could possibly NOT stand in the way of most of the human population engaging in the sciences, maybe?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart, in reply to mpledger,

    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.

    yup, that's true but you have to be able to physically go there and even that won't get you into the med library, which is where I'd most often want to be.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 609 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    There is another entrant in the push to get published. It is the PhD With Publication. I am currently supervising one and although the guidelines recommend 3-4 published articles as the core of the thesis, my student has included seven. There are advantages; your work gets more widely noticed (as against your conventional thesis, which has an average readership of 4-5 people), and maybe it accelerates you along the job railroad ( pressing on the heels of working academics or those about to retire). But it also adds to the general climate of publishing-at-all-costs, which people have been discussing here.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2499 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    There is also a PhD By Publication, which is another beast.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2499 posts Report Reply

  • Mark C. Wilson, in reply to linger,

    OTOH, I am aware of several open-source publications (usually, ones that also ask authors for up-front fees) that have highly questionable rubber-stamp peer-review processes.

    Of course there are plenty of predatory publishers, many quite laughably obvious. Beall’s list is generally reliable, despite its compiler’s blatant anti-OA bias. For a particularly humorous recent example, see the rudest paper ever published.

    However it is not as widely known that “establishment” publishers such as Elsevier have a far from spotless record in this regard. One of the reasons I have such strong feelings about them is how careless they are of basic standards. Not only is the price of their journals far too high and their position monopolistic, they really don’t care about scholarship, just profits. In the “old days” this was not the case – journals were published by publishing houses with some interest in scholarship, not multinationals who publish fake journals and journals with no apparent peer review , bundled together with real journals.

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

  • Hilary Stace,

    On the other hand you can turn aspects of your research into blog posts. No academic glory from that but you get out to the community and get some feedback. Some of my posts in the Access blog have come straight out of my PhD. My research was largely funded by NZers via the Health Research Council and I value that giving back aspect. Probably read by more people than in an academic publication too!

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3107 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I'm also a fan of the Australian academic/journalism site The Conversation. It presents international and local research in a very accessible way.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3107 posts Report Reply

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