Your (unspoken) job as a tenure track professor is to raise money via grants and get students excited to do research and apply to join your group. A professor bringing in 4x the NSF grant money of a professor getting published in top journals/conferences is always going to get the higher priority. That's the reality of academia.
I've worked with professors considered to be the top of their departments who were completely incompetent but they were amazing at grant writing and selling their work. They brought in way more money to the school than anyone else so they were rewarded for it. :/
Editors of $prestigous_journal are the most prestigious professors in their field themselves, no?
So let's say $prestigious_journal is one of the journals that the university students/faculty get access to from Elsevier. University pays Elsevier, university gets access. Fine.
Now, suppose the editors of $prestigious_journal care about open access. But given the current arrangement with Elsevier they cannot become an open access journal tomorrow.
Is that the problem?
If so, the obvious next chess move I see is this:
Editors of $prestigious_journal resign from $prestigious_journal today. Tomorrow, they start $prestigious_journal1 (modulo some new name-choosing scheme) and post a website or whatever.
Granted I'm biased-- is the problem that the editors don't know how to publish content on a website?
If so, then the obvious chess move is to use whatever turnkey open source journal publishing system exists.
What is it, and why hasn't every prestigious journal already changed its name and started publishing there?
The argument cannot be, "Well, no one would know where to find the new journal." They are the most prestigious editors-- their field will know immediately where they went. Everyone else will follow from there.
The only sticking point I can see is that $prestigious_editors can't take their previously published work with them to redistribute over their new website. But they still get career credit for their previous publications, and they/students/faculty can still access that through Elsevier. And all their new publications can be accessed and redistributed under a liberal license by all, for a publishing fee approaching zero dollars.
We have a rich history of big software projects making much more disruptive changes in a single day. E.g., Mambo became Joomla. The fact that prestigious journal editors haven't done likewise in droves leads me to believe they are saying one thing about open access in public and saying something much more important by doing very little to change the status quo.
The most prestigious journals (Nature and Science) are professionally edited. Editors may have PhDs in the field they edit, but are not professors.
By the way, the Science editorial board can be seen here, under "Board of Reviewing Editors". They are professors as well:
The parent comment was about $prestigious_journal, not the central example of a scientific journal (which I agree is an academically edited specialist journal).
In my experience, al least the top 3-4 tiers of Springer/Nature journals are professionally edited. I doubt Elsevier is any different. It only gets worse as the publishers continue to generate new branded specialist journals and mega-journals trading on the prestige of the flagship publication.
This exact thing happened e.g. there https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journal_of_Algebraic_Combinato...
And there have been some more cases, e.g. in mathematics (a field where single authorship is common, see below why this can be relevant).
But why is this the exception and not the rule, at least for now? I can venture several contributing factors (probably not the whole picture, as it's a quite complex issue, but I think these are at least among the most influential factors):
1. As an academic, I can tell you that a universal characteristic of academics (and even more so of those relevant enough to be in prestigious journal editorial boards) is that we are starved of time. Most of us are already quite overworked and there is no way in hell we are going to find time to inform ourselves about web journal publishing systems and set one up.
2. To officially be a "prestigious" journal in some countries, including mine, you have to be in the ISI JCR impact factor list. And that list is for profit, among other requirements journals have to pay to be there. So there is the additional hurdle of figuring out how to get the money.
3. Even if you can solve points 1 and 2 (which by the way could definitely be done if universities or even states got involved, providing support for open access journals), there is still the problem that establishing "prestige" (impact factor) takes time (a journal takes several years to be indexed). During this time, your community will lose a journal to publish in and get points in your CV. For a senior academic this might not be a big deal, but the problem is that senior academics typically work with PhD students, postdocs, young professors looking for tenure... and for these, the major journal of their specialization suddenly imploding and having to wait 4-5 years for the new one to get an impact factor can be a huge deal for their careers.
Believe me, the overwhelming majority of academics aren't happy about the status quo. After all, we are working for free for these journals, spending hours and hours of our time writing papers, polishing them and especially reviewing, only to see how they reap the profits and even try to charge us to read our colleagues' papers. I don't know any academic who likes that. But in the hyper-competitive arena of academia, where not publishing enough papers can pretty much mean the end of your career (and if you have reached stability, you almost always have other people that depend on you whose career is at stake) they pretty much have us by the guts.
In my view the solution has to be top-down. It has to come from university boards and governments, who are the ones controlling the incentives that make publishing in profiteering journals pretty much mandatory. Set up public open-access journals maintained by universities or states; change the requirements for hiring, tenure, etc. so impact factors issued by private companies are not taken into account and to incentivize publishing in said public journals, and the problem would pretty much be solved. But there doesn't seem to be the political will to do it (although at least the EU and some universities, as seen here, are pushing a bit towards it, which is good news).
I guess they probably said something else and I misinterpreted. Perhaps they said that getting indexed cost them money in an indirect sense, e.g. because it required more frequent publication and they had to spend money to achieve that, or something similar, and I thought they meant that they had to pay the indexing company.
Sorry for the confusion.
Posting copy to arXiv or similar is a norm and not regarded as publishing in another journal.
In some areas like theoretical physics people read mostly arXiv.
It does help to shift content control away from publishers.
And they refuse as long as they can. Because they hold the copyrights and universities have no leverage.
The only way to break it is to help their faculty make their journals academic owned. Unfortunately, no official help to record that far...
Just this morning, I've replied to several factually incorrect statements you've made. What can I do to help you get the right information?
"it’s simply unrealistic to imagine that Elsevier, in controlling Mendeley and SSRN, will do anything other than what is best for Elsevier."
The way to remove the advantage high impact journals still leverage could instead indeed be achieved by not reviewing for them if you are an eminent figure in your field. If these journals cannot claim to publish "the best science" and highest quality any longer, then what's left? This seems the right, and maybe the only real way that single established researchers can directly work towards a (r)evolution of the publishing system. What that would become remains to be seen, of course.
PS: I have no intent to defend Elsevier but it continues to surprise me why these other massively popular journals escape this.
All these tells me this is enormously blotted organization mainly providing vanity and have no real mission. There are tons of non-profits that operate this way with their lavish expenses and highly-compensated officers.
If Elsevier was non-profit with nicely compensated "officers" then would you be ok about their ways?
> many existing journals have an established brand, community, and track record — all helpful markers for junior scholars in the tenure process.
it seems odd to me that academic prestige isn't controlled by the universities. you'd think that that's something they can create on their own.
The older I get, the less I respect published papers, and academia.
Politics over proof, it keeps showing its ugly face in results, in the process of picking a topic to study, and who gets the research money.
IIRC, Finland straight up told their scientists to use SciHub.
Make it clear that no serious research is published in Elsevier and co. anymore.
It's the same idea as how public companies' earliest issuance of any potentially-stock-affecting news, has to be through equal-access public channels that investors can subscribe to for equal-timeliness reaction to news (rather than, y'know, Elon Musk's Twitter feed, where Twitter gets to control who sees what when.)
People should be able to follow a citation from one paper to another, without having to pay to do that. Not being able to doesn't just discourage reading papers, it discourages ad-hoc peer review—the precise point of having journals in the first place. (Specifically, it discourages the part of ad-hoc peer-review where you check a paper's citations to see if the claims you find hard to believe, but which are cited, are actually backed up by something you can believe in the cited paper.) When the citation is to a closed-access journal, you have to happen to coincidentally have a subscription to that journal in order to be able to find out what the citation really says. If the citation's source journal is both for-profit and obscure, then you probably don't have that subscription—so the given citation could have been entirely made-up, and you'll never know.
† Journals being aggregators of content also implies that a paper should be able to be published in as many journals as want to carry it, because none of them "own" the resulting content anyway. In that sense, scientific papers would be a lot like news-wire releases: something that any distributor can pay for the right to print a copy of.
> People should be able to follow a citation from one paper to another, without having to pay to do that.
I really like that, but what about citing books? It seems like sources that are paid for should still be used. We shouldn't hamstring science / scientists. Similarly, we shouldn't just pass of ideas from payed sources as our own ideas.
Instead I would propose the slightly weaker rule:
'Where available, cite the free version'
This obviously needs to be complemented with strong reasons for people to create free versions.
I see another issue though. Sometimes, there are significant differences between the ArxiV version and the journal version. I've seen stuff where the journal had better figures, etc. In that case, a reader would be better of reading the journal article than the ArxiV version.
It's worth pointing out that running a preprint server isn't exactly cheap, either: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/biorxiv-preprint-ser...
Public libraries! Good enough to cite, good enough to ask your library system to carry.
The exception is textbooks, but these are 1. frequently also considered secondary sources, and 2. have their own weird economics that are just as bad as that of paid journals, and so need a separate fix.
> Sometimes, there are significant differences between the ArxiV version and the journal version. I've seen stuff where the journal had better figures, etc. In that case, a reader would be better of reading the journal article than the ArxiV version.
Yes, in fact, there are always at least minor differences; this is because, right now, the IP of a journal paper belongs to the publishing journal, so you can't publish exactly the same version of the paper anywhere else. (Just like a freelance writer who sells a short story to a magazine can't also publish that short story on their own website.) Paper authors get around this by publishing pre-prints—literally, the final-minus-one draft of the paper, rather than the final draft. Sometimes the changes between versions N-1 and N are trivial, but sometimes they're substantive and change the citability of the work.
In a world where journals didn't own, but rather licensed, the IP of the papers they "carry", this wouldn't be a problem, and paper authors would be publishing final prints of their papers in arXiv, because they'd have no reason not to. (Specifically, they'd likely publish the pre-print, and then—if there are substantive changes—they'd publish an updated version as well, and modify the metadata for the preprint so the paper's web-indexed DOI-metadata page would mention, and link to, the updated version, as well as the previous version.)
> This obviously needs to be complemented with strong reasons for people to create free versions.
And that's the problem, your weaker version removes all incentive for authors to actually change their behaviour. If that wasn't needed then we wouldn't be discussing this now.
Banning citations means either changing the above practice, or banning certain sources from being used by academics. That is sacrificing science for the sake of ideology. We ought to consider sources for their inherent quality, not whether we like their publisher.
That sounds fine to me. The only people harmed would be the for profit journals.
In the academic world, people building on your work is essentially how you get evaluated. If people build of your work without saying so, they are doing two bad things.
- They get recognition for things they did not come up with
- The person who did come up with the thing does not get that recognition
Consider the argument between Newton and Leibniz about who invented calculus first. That wasn't about copyright, it was purely about credit and plagiarism.
If commercial journals are categorically no longer cited then people whose performance reviews rely on citations will switch to other outlets.
Indeed they would be hurt. If your research is only in the paid for journals, then you would get screwed.
I just don't think this is a bad thing. The only people harmed would be the journal and the scientist who chose to lock up his research behind a paywall.
It sounds like a win to me to screw over people who lock up their research.
It's a good start, but hand-me-down science in open-access journals is no better than putting it into Elsevier. Hindawi instead of Elsevier probably isn't even cheaper! Money is too tight to hand it to a sketchy publisher.
1. Output of publicly funded research should be open access;
2. How research is done (how peer-review works, how editors are chosen, how grants, tenure and other awards are awarded, etc) should be modernized.
Goal 2 is not well defined and some ideas for goal 2 are contradictory, it often leads to endless discussions with many "ifs". Goal 1, however, is very clearly defined and I believe the community should focus on solving goal 1, because goal 2 is still not well defined and doing anything about it will meet massive inertia.
Here is a proposal that tries to achieve goal 1 without trying to change anything about the structure of academia and its inertia. There should be a free or ultra-low-cost platform (typically operated as arXiv) that would let any team of editors of non-open access journal duplicate the journal by a few clicks. With a few clicks, current editors of pay-walled journals should be able to create a copy-cat open-access journal, transferring all editors, all associate editors, to the new platform -- no change in humans, only a change in the platform and the name of the journal (for instance, prefix the original journal name with "open"). The change should be effortless for all academics involved in the former pay-walled journal. Once the editors of the former pay-walled journal. The next step is to use the pressure of the involved academics to make sure that no other academics in their field join the former pay-walled journal as editors, associate editors or referees.
If we want academics to move away from paywalled journals, duplicating these successful journals should be as easy as creating a blogpost, without changing the humans involved.
Edit: By the way, the platform used by Elsevier to manage journals and peer-reviews is terrible from a UX perspective. It would not be hard to do better and some teams of Editors/Associat Editors may welcome a more usable alternative.
However, this only happened because Journal of Algorithms founder Don Knuth instigated it (because he was disgusted with Elsevier's pricing policies, back then already; see  (PDF)). If the process were one-click easy and streamlined, it might happen more often.
Also, University committees for tenure and other promotions could start rewarding moves like Knuths more aggressively.
THAT would send a message to all parties. It might actually spur some action on the part of faculty to get off their collective backsides and consider how every day they perpetuate an unsustainable system of scientific communication.
This letter and others like it are moves by third-rate negotiators. Faculty who make publication and review decisions simply don't care about the cost of subscriptions enough. If they did, Elsevier would be on the ropes, not calling the shots.
The letter UCLA sent out will receive widespread acclaim by a vocal minority, and go ignored by everyone else.
They're perfectly fine negotiators. They just aren't negotiating for open access, but using the threat of defection to extract better terms from Elsevier. That is both rational and achieves, in part and indirectly, one of the open access movement's aims: to reduce the power of journals like Elsevier.
It's hard to imagine anyone at Elsevier falling for this bluff. They probably came in with a 40% increase knowing they'd only get 20%. After the letter, they drop the increase to 20%, then everyone claims victory and goes home.
But each round in which the OA card is played makes the bluff that much less credible.
Power and profits are closely entangled. UCLA is extracting better pricing from Elsevier's weakened position as result of open-access competition.
> it's hard to imagine anyone at Elsevier falling for this bluff
What makes you think it was a bluff? When one threatens defection, one doesn't want to defect. That's why the defection is initially threatened, not acted upon.
University should immediately back out of negotiations as what they desire(open access) would never be fulfilled by publisher whose sole mean of income relies on subscription costs and search for/or build an truly open access communication system. Entering into another long-term contract with Elsevier would further delay the much needed reforms in currently unsustainable scientific publication process.
As but one POI: open access also costs money, and Elsevier runs several open access or mixed journals.
I assume you are referencing this
> If UCLA were serious it would simply walk from the negotiation.
THAT would send a message to all parties. It might actually spur some action on the part of faculty to get off their collective backsides
Then you suggest "Concerted action at the national and international level is required".
Who exactly is supposed to be responsible for organizing national and international action and to do what exactly, disband Elsevier? This is not a practical suggestion. A practical approach would be for the institutions that pay Elsevier for access, i.e the faculty/admins to get better organized and get better at negotiating.
asking faculty to consider the mere act of not reviewing (much less not submitting papers to) these top journals is a third rate negotiating tactic. A strong negotiator would simply walk out at this point. That would send a much stronger message.
"It might actually spur some action on the part of faculty to get off their collective backsides and consider how every day they perpetuate an unsustainable system of scientific communication ... Faculty who make publication and review decisions simply don't care about the cost of subscriptions enough."
But do you not think that a mandatory "DO NOT REVIEW" is authoritarian and heavy-handed?
If you are negotiating GitHub licenses, you will mandate that your employees do not contribute to open-source GitHub?
If UCLA walks, that would possibly cause other universities to follow suit, and I bet Elsevier would come back to the table with a better offer.
The way I see things, the universities are not organized at all and are being taken to the cleaners because of things like this. It looks like the people doing the negotiating on behalf of the faculty are in way over their heads and don't even realize how the game is played and are being out maneuvered at every turn by a savvy, massively powerful corporation for which this is pretty much all they do all day, every day.
Unlike global warming I think that some individuals could really make a massive impact in this case. Funnily enough some of those individuals are studying global warming.
There are already moves at (larger than individual) levels to get to grips with this issue and I think that most affected parties are more than capable of getting to the knowledge source somehow through alternative means when required. If not, then they are in the wrong game.
FFS: Studies that are funded by tax payers or charities or whatever should be freely available. Studies that are peer reviewed by unpaid experts in the field should be published freely. I am happy to pay for journalism - that is something different.
Unasked question: How does Elsevier a for profit business get away with having salaried UCLA professors review articles for free?
What are reasons for the controversay besides academic freedom?
The UC System should work with other schools to mandate open publishing. The only way to fix this is by removing Elsevier's power.
I did my phd in an institution with very minimal access to some of these publishers and while it was annoying I would not take it among the top 50 problems I had in my academic life. I can always request an ILL, or ask one of my friends in other universities if I wanted a paper badly. If however the paper is fairly replaceable as a citation I'd just get some other paper that's sufficient and cite that.
Absolutely. I would be rather unimpressed if someone studying to that level was unable to find alternative routes to the "source". It should be at worse a bit of a pain and at best helping to fix a sodding great travesty that has afflicted publication for decades.
How do you guys do goose chase research if only one out of five paper titles that catch your interest are immediately available. Inter library loan is bullshit that takes at least one full day to appear. What do you do until then?
When the system's broken beyond repair and the stakes are high, there's no point playing by the rules. That's why sci-hub was founded in the first place.
In fact I asked a researcher in India that question. He said that they will write a letter to the biggest library in India and attach a check for 10 rupees (like ten cents today) and they will eventually mail a copy of the article after a month.
We are all super used to having instant gratification access to whatever article we need that it can be quite surprising how people used to do (arguably better) research in older days.
For a year or two my University library was particularly bad at getting access to articles and in that time while it was annoying that I couldn't instantly check references I just learned to read the abstract very carefully and only request articles that I really need to read fully.
Besides, if the university is truly trying to be ranked among the best I'm sure they will at least make sure that alternative options are smoother. That's what my uni did - it made ILLs free.
I'm in no way saying that the older days were better. Of course, scientists should have ready access to all the literature they can consume. I'm just saying again that reform in the Grant and tenure process, discrimination, overworking, the graduate student system, lack of mental health support for stressful jobs, lack of permanent jobs other than professorship, shitty metrics by which researchers are evaluated, research misconduct, impact factor based dick measurements, etc are far more important problems for me than journal access.
Surely, you see the problem here?
Piracy is a problem for content generation because somebody needs to get paid to generate the content. Elsevier does not generate content, it's a (parasitic?) gatekeeper using network effects to extract rents.
If content generation would be healthier and more vibrant without Elsevier, then piracy seems an appropriate and just solution. I don't see content creators lining up to defend Elsevier; quite the opposite.
(It's possible that someone could argue that Elsevier adds significant value for their cut, but I haven't heard anyone make that claim)
I get the idea that skirting the law is not something we should generally encourage as the solution, but let's not get carried away and act like copyrights are some divine commandment and grad students using scihub are a bunch of evildoers.
A better solution to the closed access problem would be to only cite open access articles. Sometimes that would mean not citing the original article but some open access meta article that made the findings publicly accessible.
I actually think it’s fair to not cite articles that you cannot reach with reasonable effort. It’s the authors choice to make it inaccessible.
It is slower and less convenient, but maybe not $10 million a year less convenient...
In the UK, you can order a photocopy of any journal paper via inter library loans. These often come from the British library, which has everything. I’d assume elsewhere similar solutions exist.
Spending money on automating that process, and you might put most journals out of business.
I'm sure I saw a device called a scanner somewhere. It seemed to transcend the worlds of paper and electronics.
I'm also from the UK and am old enough to remember life before "Brentrance" (newly minted term by me - meaning should be obvious) This issue of publication freedom is way more important or at least comparable, to Brexit in my opinion.
I'm not too sure what the perfect knowledgebase would look like but it probably is not the current one. For me it might be something like a curated MediaWiki (the software behind WikiPedia) - for me the killer feature is that an article in a wiki is just text and a few formatting hints. Text is first, formatting and other distractions come second.
I studied Civil Engineering in the UK around 1990ish. We had lots of closed off sources and refs (ISIS and others - from memory) - rubbish!
I work at another UC, and we don't filter Scihub in any way.
When I was a PhD student I don't think I used the university's library to access a single paper. It is not at all hard to find papers on the Internet and the money paid for subscriptions is basically a waste. Even in fields where this is a shocking concept I suspect people would figure it out if they needed to do so.
UCLA can and absolutely should walk out of the negotiations, and put Elsevier in their place (the dustbin of history). The academic publishing system that exists today is based on the premise that wide distribution of scientific writing is something that requires industrial equipment, and that is just not true these days. Elsevier's power is an illusion; they are part of an obsolete industry that future generations will have forgotten and they know it.
#icanhazpdf? It's perfectly good manners to ask a colleague for a reprint.
I may have fallen out of touch with what sci-hub offers, since I only ever use it to find books now (books which contain articles which one can't find outside the books) but the last time I used it, it didn't have many of the articles I wanted to see.
I hate to think that there are others like me who want to get into diverse research only to be stumped at not even being able to read it. This problem seems to be larger in philosophy/Marxian economics/etc. in which you really do have to read the paper to get the argument, simply knowing the results provided isn't nearly enough, because the results often can't be condensed down to data.
With sites like sci-hub, of course!
Pirating is basically never enforced against the downloaders. (It is more the uploaders that companies go after).
What if bigger entities negotiate together? European nations, NIH, NSF, major foundations and UC system can propose creating top journals to compete with Elsevier. Or direct their grant recipients to publish in alternative open access journals.
Funders hold research money and universities grant prestige and job security. Elsevier is a big gatekeeper for both. If funders and universities work together, they can topple the status quo.
I think part of the problem is discovery.
Polar is an app that people use for PDF and document annotation (supports web content too).
I'm shipping cloud support early next week.
Anyway, one of the features that's going to come out soon is social document discovery.
I'd like to use your friends to discover what PDFs to read and this would bypass the paywall problem.