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Speaker: Market failure in the research world

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  • Kumara Republic,

    If you went to the NZIFF, The Internet's Own Boy explored this territory.

    What you write about seems to be symptomatic of a wider neo-feudalist malaise. A malaise where Aaron Swartz is regarded by the authorities as more dangerous than Timothy McVeigh, and financiers who were responsible for the Great Recession get federal bailouts for adding a few extra zeroes to the amount they embezzle.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5328 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    If you went to the NZIFF, The Internet’s Own Boy explored this territory.

    Jesus, that film made me angry. Inspired, but angry.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • 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to set up their own peer review system, perhaps using an open source model, is there any reason more research could not be published online for all the world to see? The only benefits of the journals are peer review, grouping work in fields and prestige. They have many disadvantages including excluding people without access to research libraries.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 609 posts Report Reply

  • mccx,

    Would it potentially reduce the cost of journal subscriptions for NZ universities (and SOEs etc.) if they negotiated or shared access as a consortium instead of as individual institutions? This might also reconcile the fact that specific resources are available at some NZ universities and not others (especially electronic resources), which has always seemed less than ideal to me.

    Do you get the sense that NZ universities encourage faculty to act in a way that furthers open availability of research they produce? I don't work in NZ's tertiary sector, but when I worked in a US university their libraries strongly encouraged faculty to retain copyright and distribution rights on their publications, including the final formatted versions that appear in academic journals. NZ's contribution to global academic output is a drop in the bucket, but it can't hurt to further open-access whenever possible.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2012 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Angela Hart,

    They have many disadvantages including excluding people without access to research libraries.

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

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Where information has been refused, you should ask for detailed grounds under s19(a)(ii), including the specific harm they believe will eventuate if the information is released. But it looks as if they're ultimately relying on the confidentiality clause, and that in itself is illegal as you can't contract out of the OIA (as explained in the Ombudsman's notes on s9(2)(ba)).

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1704 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Idiot Savant,

    you can’t contract out of the OIA (as explained in the Ombudsman’s notes on s9(2)(ba)).

    good to know, thanks.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19413 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Jesus, that film made me angry. Inspired, but angry.

    I don't often cry at movies, but that one made me well up.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2813 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, 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?

    You're preaching revolution, madam!!

    Yes, they could do this but, while the big publisher brands hold the international perceived kudos (because of their respective brand monopoly), our scientists feel the need to be published by the brands specific to their area of study because that's what their international counterparts see as being important. It's a vicious circle and I don't know what it will take to break it.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2813 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to mccx,

    Would it potentially reduce the cost of journal subscriptions for NZ universities (and SOEs etc.) if they negotiated or shared access as a consortium instead of as individual institutions? This might also reconcile the fact that specific resources are available at some NZ universities and not others (especially electronic resources), which has always seemed less than ideal to me.

    Speaking as a Librarian in the Tertiary Sector, we do try this. In some cases we can make it work. In other cases the publisher won't allow it, in some cases the consortia pricing costs more than purchasing individually. Often we tailor packages to suit the subject matter we support which varies from institute to institute making it cheaper not to be part of the consortia.

    Libraries have very tight budgets (especially on OPEX) and we do whatever we can to reduce costs without sacrificing services.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • William Ray,

    Hi Mark, do you mind saying specifically what you asked for under the OIA? From the text of those replies it looks like they are refusing to even give a basic dollar figure which is odd given that info is already public...

    BTW I looked into the cost of academic journal subscriptions for Radio NZ earlier this year. The figures for the CRI's are included down the bottom of the page if you're interested.

    You'll see they are generally much lower than the universities. That's apparently because they a.) need fewer journals and b.) don't have to purchase the rights for nearly as many people.

    Wellington • Since Aug 2009 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Mark C. Wilson, in reply to William Ray,

    Hi Mark, do you mind saying specifically what you asked for under the OIA?

    I varied the wording a little. An example (Universty of Auckland request):

    --------

    From http://statistics.caul.edu.au/inst_data.php I can see how much Auckland spends on serials (nearly $15 million in 2013 - may be in Australian $). I am interested to know:

    * what UoA currently pays each of the main commercial publishers (including Elsevier, Taylor/Francis, Springer, Wiley) for journal access
    * what exactly is obtained for that outlay (e.g. names of standard packages, such as those listed at http://www.elsevier.com/online-tools/sciencedirect/collections)

    Please supply this information, under the Official Information Act 1982.

    ---------

    A further note that I didn't include in the article: I made a followup request to all the institutions ina single email, explaining why I thought the public interest outweighed their right to withhold. 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. Eventually a few of them replied (maybe all) reiterating their refusal, so at that stage I went to the Ombudsman. I didn't have time to approach each one by phone andsee whether I could re-word the request to ensure success, and I doubt that would be possible anyway.

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

  • Mark C. Wilson, 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?

    Not nearly as much as I would like. Fairly weak (in my opinion) "mandates" are starting to appear (e.g. Lincoln, Waikato). Auckland is definitely encouraging uploading of versions allowed by publisher contracts (possibly with embargo periods) to its own repository. But the whole issue seems to be a fairly low priority.

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

  • Mark C. Wilson, 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?

    I didn't want to get into this issue in deail (though I alluded to it in my post), because I wanted to make some common ground with those who are frightened of such amajor change. I support something like what you propose, and am an editor of a free journal myself that does not involve any external publisher (with Open Journal Systems, much can be done by academics at the cost of a fair amount of time spent learning how it works).

    The current system is clearly optimal only for the publishers, and severely suboptimal for everyone else. Many alternatives exist, which are far better for society overall. The big problem is how to get from where we are now, to any one of these alternative futures. It is a big collective action problem, and researchers are pretty decentralized and governed by career imperatives (e.g. compete very hard for scarce funding) that still make actual dissemination to the public a fairly low priority.

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

  • Adam H, in reply to Angela Hart,

    The only benefits of the journals are .... prestige.

    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.

    I tried repeatedly to fund small scale NZ research, and one of the constant barriers was whether they could get the results published in a 'reputable' (i.e. overseas) journal.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2014 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • Adam H,

    PS. This sounds like a job for Super-ComCom: <further sarcastic comment redacted due to having conceded defeat>

    Auckland • Since Oct 2014 • 22 posts Report Reply

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

    The big problem is how to get from where we are now, to any one of these alternative futures. It is a big collective action problem, and researchers are pretty decentralized and governed by career imperatives

    I think as long as the Impact Factor (another expensive paid product) of the journal in which you publish is considered an important factor, then the current system will remain.
    There are many other issues with Impact Factors, but while we are focussing on cost to the system: Impact Factors also conserve the idea that the merit of a particular piece of research is related to the journal in which it is published. And so as academics we often spend a truly baffling amount of time shopping our research around trying to get it published in the most prestigious possible place, rather than getting on with the next piece of research.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • keeaa, in reply to mccx,

    Would it potentially reduce the cost of journal subscriptions for NZ universities (and SOEs etc.) if they negotiated or shared access as a consortium instead of as individual institutions?

    As bmk has already said, the universities have been doing consortium buying for years. And so do the CRIs.

    You must realise that libraries in little old NZ (even the biggest ones) have absolutely no power to change these agreements with the multinational publishers.

    All that camapigning on this issue is likely to do is draw negative attention to research library budgets and cause them to be cut - result: even less access for N.Z. researchers.

    Since Nov 2014 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • mccx, in reply to keeaa,

    You must realise that libraries in little old NZ (even the biggest ones) have absolutely no power to change these agreements with the multinational publishers.

    I agree, but you could say the same things about Pharmac, so I'm reluctant to say there's no hope for improvement.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2012 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart, in reply to keeaa,

    All that camapigning on this issue is likely to do is draw negative attention to research library budgets and cause them to be cut - result: even less access for N.Z. researchers.

    Welcome keeaa! But I don't agree with your implication that we should keep quiet and do nothing.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 609 posts Report Reply

  • keeaa, in reply to Angela Hart,

    By all means try to change the domination of research publishing by the big publishers - I'm fully in agreement there. But attacking it from the angle of library spending is a very dangerous tactic.

    Since Nov 2014 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Thank you Mark for this most useful--but a little disturbing--commentary. It is also timely as I am on the editorial board of an Australian journal which is about to plunge into the murky waters of commercial publishing. It is a highly regarded journal and was ranked as an A journal under the now-discarded system. It also is a place where NZ academics get published.

    I have sent this commentary to my fellow editorial board members.

    Up to now (issue No. 152) the journal has been hosted and partly funded by particular departments or research centres in various Australian universities. But that seems to be coming to an end.
    What has really exacerbated the situation is the practice of the host university in gobbling up royalty payments which flow from their CAL system, without returning any money to the journal which should be entitled to it.. In respect of the journal I am involved with, it is a matter of $A10,000s

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2502 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart, in reply to keeaa,

    you are probably right there, although under the present conditions, the libraries do not have a choice, they must provide access to the information and have little control over the cost of that. So cutting their budget makes no sense, even to bean counters- provided they accept the premise that research libraries must offer access to this information.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 609 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Springer are best avoided. A couple of years back I had to pay more than $100 to get a copy of a Springer-published, edited collection I had contributed to.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2502 posts Report Reply

  • Mark C. Wilson, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    I strongly encourage you to consider doing this using Open Journal Systems, and keeping it owned by a nonprofit organization. There are plenty of such journals. Even if you don't do everything yourself on the technical side, PKP (the makers of OJS) offer a cheap hosting option. Don't get involved with a large commercial publisher!

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

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