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Gates Foundation research can’t be published in top journals (nature.com)
302 points by ZeljkoS on Jan 15, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 96 comments

I think is a key part of the article:

The foundation, which is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, stipulates that the researchers whom it funds must make open their resulting papers and underlying data sets immediately upon publication. And papers must be published under a licence that allows unrestricted reuse — including for commercial purposes.

But some journals do not offer this kind of open-access (OA) publishing. Many of them allow papers to be made free to read after an embargo period, usually of around six months, and let authors upload accepted manuscripts online. But neither policy meets the Gates Foundation’s requirements. And so, for papers submitted from the start of 2017, a few top journals are currently off limits to Gates-funded academics.

“We are having ongoing and fruitful discussions with these publishers,” says Dick Wilder, associate general counsel with the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. Wilder adds that the Gates Foundation does not plan to allow exceptions to its policy.

I greatly applaud the gates foundation.

Yes this specifically excludes Nature, Science, and Cell, which is critical because those are the career-making journals all of us academics must currently bow down to. Please Gates Foundation force their hand!

I think we need to force the hand of tenure committees.

Nature and Science are high profile, but due to ridiculous space constraints, I groan whenever a seminal paper is published there. If there is meat to the article, it's in the supplement, which forces a really awkward way of reading articles.

Cell is somewhat better.

But ideally the community would abandon Nature and Science as being the gold standard of publication. Field-specific journals that allow science to be published sensibly would be much better. When was the last time that a molecular biologist benefited from having a physicist brush past their highly technical article on epigenetics because it happened to be in Science? The benefit of these cross-field journals are somewhat limited, IMHO.

The benefit of these cross-field journals are somewhat limited, IMHO.

Complete isolation between disciplines doesn't sound like a very good idea to me. Cross-pollination can be useful in surprising ways.

Further, the point of science isn't to advance the careers of scientists, it's to increase human knowledge and capability. Collecting and distributing research from many disciplines furthers that purpose better than isolating disciplines.

Do Nature and Science really have these cross-pollinated articles?

I of course agree on both counts.

However my point is that Science and Nature do nothing to little to support cross-pollination. And that their main purpose as being the "high profile" journals is that they serve to advance the careers of those that get their paper published there.

Is Nature still taken seriously? When they cover computer science or energy (especially batteries) the articles are heavy on hype. Don't know about life sciences.

There's a large difference between the Nature news website which is on the better side of average, but still average, science journalism and the journal which is a far larger and more complex behemoth.

In bio sciences (I was in neuro), nature is considered a tier one journal and a big deal to get published in.

Not the articles, the peer reviewed academic papers. For those, Nature is a big deal.

YOU force their hand. I'm tired of these journals playing gatekeepers in academia. Fuck that noise.

Be honest, do you not go by journal title when you have to choose whether or not to read a paper? It's an imperfect metric, but it's the one we have. 25 years ago I attended a talk (by a representative from Pergamon) about the future of scientific publishing. It was out of control even then, and when in the Q & A session someone suggested ditching journals altogether this Pergamon (!) guy made the same remark: do you not read the journal title? Pergamon, whose best-known journal was Tetrahedron. Pergamon. Uttered by a Pergamon guy.

In some fields arXiv may have improved matters, but most fields still rely on journals.

Sadly, I did go by journal title, but not the way you think. In antibiotic research and microbiology I finally arrived at the point where I assumed anything published in Nature, Science, or Cell was likely to be so fundamentally flawed that the only reason to read it was so I could explain why we shouldn't waste our time in journal club with it.

Lately I have been questioning whether or not we need large-scale peer-reviewed journals anymore.

For example, if I knew that Leonard Susskind read a paper and cited, shared, liked, or bookmarked it, then that could easily replace my fundamental need of having the paper stamped by a trusted authority. If scientists could share, cite, and discuss papers on an open source platform (like Facebook, but for Academia), I believe that we wouldn't need these gatekeepers anymore, and they would become obsolete. The real authority has always been the scientists who are doing good, promising research, not some contrived group of scientists who are solely reviewing papers for the sake of assessing their quality.

An (possibly flawed) analogy: do need CNN/ABC/FOX when we have YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to propagate news?

The article mentioned journals making special arrangements with the Gates Foundation. I hope that GF doesn't make any of these special arrangements, meaning that unless a journal is OA then they won't get any of these papers at all.

This title is a little editorialized. Gates Foundation research cannot be published in non-open-access journals—"top" or otherwise.

Nature wants to push the notion that open-access is not where "top" papers are published in order to protect its aging business model, so from their perespective, it makes perfect sense.

Link? I haven't seen Nature claim or try to push any FUD that open-access publications do not have top papers.

They don't make the claim that "open access"==Wire Transfer Letters". Trouble is, Wire Transfer Letters not only exist, they are on the rise, and if the promotion committee at your unranked regional university accepts papers published there for Promotion & Tenure the problem has been shifted around.

Sorry, what's a Wire Transfer Letter in this context?

"Letters" in this context mean short communications, publications shorter than a full-length paper. Back in the day, Tetrahedron (then published by Pergamon Press, founded by the scintillating fraud and far-seeing visionary [1] Robert Maxwell, and now owned by Elsevier, and that isn't a step up) was the gutter journal that would print anything. But if something was too damn awful and thin even for Tetrahedron, then Tetrahedron Letters would surely print it.

Wire Transfer Letters because you must wire-transfer them the page charges for your paper that was generated by a Markov chain before they print it, and because the sketchy publisher sits far away in a country known for sketchy dealings. OMICS Publishers, we are looking at you!

Can someone enlighten the audience about what happened to Beall's List?! Another suit?

[1] Pergamon was founded in 1951

> Can someone enlighten the audience about what happened to Beall's List?! Another suit?

Trying to track this down. People are taking cache copies right now, ready to put up at a second's notice (or just do so anyway).

This was such a beautiful comment. Elsevirus is a step down from Weekly World News. The graphical abstracts would make Jack Chick proud.

Not snail mail.

Seems much more drastically editorialized, to be honest. My first impression reading the headline was that there was some sort of ethical dispute resulting in a ban (why else would you be unable to publish in "top journals?"). This bit of data regarding the open access requirement--also present in the opening paragraph of the article--offers a ton of clarity, but given the conflict of interest, the title itself is pretty rich.

Yes! A title change is warranted. A proper title would be something like "Gates Foundation to require immediate open access to supported research"

And Peter Suber has a good analysis here https://plus.google.com/u/1/+PeterSuber/posts/dU6tWcorZEV

It is very editorialized. "Nature and other top journals refuse to consider papers with Open Access requirements" is just as truthful, but presents a different antagonist.

This is Nature trying to make out that their problem is something wrong with the Gates policy. Oh dear, what a pity, never mind.

I'm not generally a fan of arbitrarily "disrupting" things, but the whole academia publishing system is a creaky historical relic that's going to come crashing down sooner or later. There are better ways to do science in a world with computers and the internet.

I spent 15 years in academia and now work with dozens of former academics. In all my time, I don't think I've ever met a single person who didn't loathe the journal system from top to bottom, and that includes at least a couple journal editors.

I seethe in anger every time something I'm looking into ends in a IEEE or other journal who militantly police arXiv preprints.

The day we bury the last for-profit closed access journal will be a momentous day in the history of science.

Many people outside academia assume that researchers receive some sort of financial benefit when their paper is distributed, read, or bought for $35 on Elsevier.

But in fact, the publishing companies receive money from both the researcher and the reader. They charge the researcher up to $1,500 to publish the article, and then they extract money from the readers by charging a subscription fee to their institution (which constitute a large portion of the library budget).

Not even the editors or reviewers receive any financial compensation -- they often volunteer their time for the peer-review process.

The entire procedure and profit extraction is a disgrace.

Elsevier look like a ripe target for a worldwide campaign to cancel access to their journals unless fees arnt dropped.

Germany are (have?) Pulled access, some other south american countries have also with local academics saying that everyone uses sci-hub for everything anyway.

Could be a good target for an activist hedge fund investor to short the stock and attack the company.

Note that in general, you either need to pay to submit the article xor pay to read the article, almost never do you need to do both.

Do the original authors still own the copyrights?

Interesting. Maybe a court could find the contract between a researcher and the publisher to be unconscionable - and therefore non-binding.


Not to mention IEEE standards association running a really profitable toll booth for global technology standards. They should be funded by the UN and made completely open.

Absolutely. And in the meantime, Elsevier and the other cynical crooks are making some unparalleled 30+% return on equity.

Disgusting. Hope they come crashing down sooner rather than later.

What do you think is an acceptable return on equity (I'm not sure what "equity" means in this sense)?

ROE is a financial performance indicator. They're generally in the single digits, low double digits is considered good. In a competitive market, they should converge to round about the same number on average, even across industries (module riskyness, correlation with market as a whole, and such factors).

The ROE of academic publishers is abnormally high, indicating some sort of market failure.

In this case, scientists do almost all of the work (write, typeset (mostly), referee) for free (or nominal amounts), so expenses are low.

The publishers charge libraries inordinate amounts for subscriptions (dollars per page).

And scientist need to publish, and they need to publish in high prestige/impact journals, and the prestige/impact is tied to the title, and the publishers own the titles, it is hard for competitors to enter.

any return obtained by legitimate means. what makes their gains illegitimate is the market manipulation combined with abuse of IP law. Their "license" (who needs a "license" to print pages of information to be distributed to other humans, anyway?) lets them "own" the IP that was created by funding public institutions. Thus, their gains are illegitimate. That 30% ultimately comes from taxpayers (which is then ultimately pocketed by shareholders).

You got downvoted, but thanks for asking this, because I didn't know either and now I know.

>There are better ways to do science in a world with computers and the internet.

Well, propose an alternate system that stands a chance of being adopted then.

AI research is experimenting organically with ways to identify important papers (everything gets published on arxiv.org, but that's far from a replacement). A new system is more likely to emerge from all this experimentation than to be invented in whole.

Conferences play a large role, and automated tools like arxiv-sanity.com and Google Scholar (for mapping citations) help. Even Twitter is important, if a major figure tweets about a paper, many people will read it. Conferences are experimenting with models to reduce the lag time from submissions and trying different systems for selecting papers.

We'll see where it goes.

Well, all of those things you mentioned are voluntary, optional and not guaranteed. I think having people whose job it is to peer-review, be selective, be vigilant of bad-science, etc is a good thing. I'm completely for open-access, but I'm against having zero selection criteria. It puts a drag of everyone if they have to wade through thousands of junk papers while doing research.

If hacker news did not have a voting system/flagging system/banning system it would just be a giant cesspool of links and comments submitted by bots.

>"It puts a drag of everyone if they have to wade through thousands of junk papers while doing research."

If something that sounds interesting was published in Nature/Science around 2000, I will usually just skip it. I already know the methods section will be crap and I will be unable to figure out what process generated the data (at least in the case of biomed). When I needed to dig through that stuff and try to make sense of what was going on in detail, that was an awful nightmare. And that was an editorial policy... now they at least let authors put the required info into supplements.

I think that was the era of "peak peer review", the idea has been losing clout ever since (mostly due to the internet).

No one's job is to peer review for established journals. Peer review is unpaid.

To your point, yes, there are plenty of journals that don't pay (but pay for other activities). Perhaps I should have just called it a fee instead of a job. Here are some that do pay - http://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/20930/

Interesting link! I wasn't aware of anyone paying for peer review when I was in academia. It appears from the linked examples that it's still rare and relatively small dollar amounts, so indeed not a job.

I love the example of the New England Journal of Medicine finding that paying $5 was worse than not paying, as potential reviewers found it insulting.

As to other activities, yes, I think companies behind journals typically pay people to do administrative functions for the journal, and the editor may or may not be paid (for Nature, I believe the editor is paid). However, it is possible to replicate the traditional review structure in a completely free OA journal with volunteered resources; in computer graphics, I think JCGT does this: http://jcgt.org/about.html

If it has to be adopted, then it has to be based of that all science is supported by tax grants. It simply has to be accepted that all science that receives any government money has to be complete open and that using any portion of the grant to pay for this should be illegal.

Now that nobody (or close to nobody) can publish in Nature some other open access journal will be the number one.

Without the need for printing papers the amount of people actually needed to run a journal drops to a few admin people (research and peer review is still paid for by others) and somebody to keep the website running. This can easily be paid for by a few universities (Harward is sitting on billions and they have an interest in solving this problem).

No, the Gates Foundation just has open access requirements. Sorry Nature and Science.

I hope this sets the stage for all grant funding sources to institute similar requirements, and we'll get even more absurd clickbait headlines as a result.

Europe is getting there, if it's not already - not sure which, but it's been in the air for a while.

That sounds like the prologue to a near-future sci-fi story:

"The year is 2017. You can run Linux on Windows, .Net, Visual Studio and powershell in Linux and Bill Gates is the champion of open access in scientific journals. Oh and- .Net and the C# compiler are open-source.".

What the hell is happening with the world? :)

The best theory I've heard is that ever since the invention of the atomic bomb, all timelines that make sense and act according to logic have since stopped being habitable to humans so we are left with the weird one that doesn't make sense.

And Donald Trump is the president. It is the apocalypse.

I'll believe he's serious when the gates foundation requires all of their products to be unpatented or patented with zero-cost non-exclusive licenses.

Thank god that someone with real power is finally starting to demand change.

If the NIH could avoid the politics, they would require that all NIH-funded research be published in open-access journals (now there is a requirement one year after publication) that it be made available.

Elsevier's revenues last year were about 20 billion, almost the same as the entire NIH budget.

> If the NIH could avoid the politic

Alternatively, if academics and their supporters organised and made their case a priority...

There is a relatively organized "opposition." See PLoS, etc.

But it's difficult–generally, advancing your career enough to actually stay in academia requires that you publish in non open-access journals. Doubly so in medicine.

This is something which really has to come from the funding agencies and foundations in order to be effective.

> This is something which really has to come from the funding agencies and foundations in order to be effective.

Yes. A great deal of science and engineering funding comes from the U.S. government, which ultimately is derived from the taxpayers. If taxpayers demanded access to the research they've already funded, rather than having to pay an arbitrary third-party middleman an exorbitant fee, things might change very rapidly.

Unfortunately, this is pretty low on the average citizen's list of issues. There won't be a march on Washington for open access journals any time soon.

It's good to see this. As a single researcher it's hard to have an impact and force yourself not to publish to these journals when you have the chance to. But it's horrifying to see that often you even have to pay an extra fee for your online figures to be in color ! That's ridiculous. I hope that other funding sources not only follow the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation move, but go even further.

You can always publish the paper on your own website.

Publishing in a top journal like science or nature is primarily for getting the social capital of having gone through a difficult selection process. People need to get paid to see if the science done in the paper was good, whether it was plagiarized, peer-review, etc etc. Simply.. more selective = more effort = more cost.

Of course I _can_ publish to my own website, and I do, with my code in git, data available... etc. Though, even if _I_ am the author, I give away the rights of the final form, meaning that I am not allowed to publish the exact figures and form of the paper I publish, and have to redo them with enough change to be different.

Also _I_ review for these journal _for free_ with ridiculous timeline (review that for tomorrow), and _I_ also have to find a place to host the dataset and code, potentially pay for it. And when I pay $3k for a paper to be Open Access and it still cost $35 to read I'm wondering where is this money going to ?

If the journal were to offer the kind of services and actual guaranties that you mention, then I would be fine to pay more.

But that's far from being the case, and even in top journals you end up having to send corrections for changes made by clueless editors. During my PhD we had to complain as the final version of our paper "A 1mW IR laser..." was changed to "A laser (model 1mW-IR)..." without or consent, or even writing to us.

And you know what, even if it was the journal fault we ended up paying for the correction.

I think we're arguing with extremes. Open doesn't mean anyone can publish anything and be taken equally seriously and paid doesn't mean greedy for-profit capitalists who are just in it for the money.

I'm sure you'd agree that there is value to curation. Who pays for that, and how, is the question.

Sure of course there is value to curation. There is another problem these days with curation in that only "positive" and "new" result get publish. Which is sad, but is beyond the current scope. Though the current curation to price ratio these days is dramatic.

It would be great that movement like this one send a signal to publishers that in the 21st century we are waiting from them more than what they are currently doing. I'm all for publisher like Nature to change and show what _can_ be done. First acknowledging this (like this article) is a great step. And some people in these journals are doing an extraordinary job internally[1]. Just hoping this could shake things and wake up some people in management.

[1] is one example http://www.nature.com/news/interactive-notebooks-sharing-the...

Many journals (IEEE comes to mind, but surely they are not alone) used to prohibit the author from independently publishing substantially similar papers on their own (or the institution's) websites or ArXiv. I suspect they still do.

Yes what you said is completely true. I misread the original comment.

> the discussions could result in influential journals making special arrangements with the Gates Foundation to permit OA publishing

On one hand, such a deal would send a powerful signal. On the other hand, it does feel like it compromises the spirit of supporting open access.

Good. Can't wait to see further editorials in Nature talking about all the problems in science (as a community, career, and funding) whilst the whole time meandering around the elephant in the room: they are a _big_ part of the problem.

A better headline would be "Some journals refuse to meet conditions for publishing Gates-funded research, which is their own stupid fault",

Ethical question: if using closed source and harmful closed standards and extend, embrace, extinguish eventually leads to more open health care research and millions of lives saved, was it a net win or loss for the world?

Speaking as an unreconstructed Stallmanite, I do sometimes wonder if Microsoft will actually turn out to have been worth it.

Ditto. One of the greatest cognitive dissonances of our field.

Does the end justify the means?

I'd say yes. But it depends on the ends.

And the means

"There are no ends. There are only means." -U.K. Le Guin

"At the moment we believe the subscription model is still the best way to provide [...] access to journals"

Well ... of course. But how about access to the research? Because that's what this is all about: the science. We don't need access to "journals," we need access to scientific research.

And if you are taking money from the foundation you should have known this. The change was announced in 2014 to come into effect in 2017.

More like "Open access research publishing a challenge to top journals."

Peter Suber has a good analysis here https://plus.google.com/u/1/+PeterSuber/posts/dU6tWcorZEV

I wonder if there is any truth to the rumor that Elsevier is planning on bringing a lawsuit against the Gates Foundation on its OA policy.

Now you're just making me equate Elsevier with SCO in my mental model of proprietary vs open legal conflicts.

We're all just waiting for that moment Elsevier chooses to go full SCO.

Some journals agree to publish your article as open access, if you pay them an extra fee (which is in line with full open access journals usually also charging a publication fee). Nothing would stop Nature also offering this option if they really wanted to publish Gates-founded research.

Firstly this is a complex issue because from what I understand these papers validate and ensure quality in the publishing of the article. This is a value add because it filters the garbage found on the web and I for one don't want to see what has happened to the news e.g. fake and or poor quality being published, happen to science research.

However I may have a solution that suits the organization's need for funds which they need to continue to do their valuable work and also satisfies funders and that is to publish a totally unrefined version in a bulk WikiLeaks manner and then publish their properly edited and refined article within their magazine.

Not a very knowledgeable guy on the topic, but this could be a great way to retain the primary value and also satisfy other stakeholders.

To those who think their role as gatekeepers is no longer valid, I have to wonder what planet you are on that you don't think independent journals that compete are not a valid vehicle for ensuring claims are at least minimally justifiable AND that paying those professionals to do that kind of work is somehow wrong. Such a silly way of thinking.

> Firstly this is a complex issue because from what I understand these papers validate and ensure quality in the publishing of the article.

I think you'd seriously have to show your working there, in detail. Nobody who does that work is paid, AIUI. The publisher probably does a bang-up job of the typesetting ...

Why can't a standard reputation/quality system be designed to replace the value of impact factor and other journal specific metrics?

I wonder if the Gates Foundation could fund journals or otherwise try to help fix the (fundamentally rotten) academic publishing ecosystem.

So if the journals must be made available instantly isn't the business model gone? Why would anyone have to subscribe anymore?

the title shows what Nature News thinks of eLife? I currently push for papers to be published there on the principle of OA.

As fond as I am of eLife, it aspires to be a top tier journal. I have never heard it mentioned in the same sentence as what are currently top tier journals.

One day this article is flagged and dead, the other day its first on HN. I think something is wrong with the system lately.

It's stochastic, not a deterministic process. Should never look at it personally.

Same with up/down votes. It can be a Brownian random walk.

My guess is that the number of people on HN has increased without an increase in the number of flags required to kill a post.

Great bill research —yes melinda grass.

https://www.google.com/search?q=bill+gates+headstand And then click on "Images". However YMMV ...

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