I'd love to know where that money at IEEE and ACM is going. The annual reports don't make it at all clear, unfortunately. Obviously, there are for-profit publishers where the money is simply going to huge profit margins. But that's not the case for professional societies.
One thing I noticed when I had to sign up to ACM for a conference a few years ago was that I got harangued by sales-people from ACM for months afterwards, trying to get me on a call to have me buy more expensive memberships. It wasn't an automated system - it was an actual person, trying to get me onto an actual phone call with them. It occurred to me at the time that that must be very expensive, yet it's still a profitable thing for them to do - so there's clearly a lot of money changing hands...
I don't think this is a good sign. Perhaps the professional societies can openly publish a full breakdown of what they're spending money on?
I'm making my way through the IEEE annual report to which you linked[a], and am dumbfounded too. Not only does the IEEE spend $193.4M/year operating "periodicals and media," they also spend $103.5M/year on "membership and public imperatives" (!?) and $38.5M/year on "standards" (!?). Note that these figures do not include the amounts spent on conferences, which are at least tangible.
Moreover, it looks like the organization has $523.8M in investments at fair value (p. 43) -- an endowment greater than that of the vast majority of US colleges and universities. Am I imagining things, or does the IEEE look a lot like "a small hedge fund attached to a professional organization?"
To put that last figure in perspective, if income and gains from the IEEE's investment portfolio are, say, at least 5%/year, they could fund all of arXiv.org's annual expenses 20 times over in perpetuity without dipping into capital.
Something smells rotten indeed.
It's hard to see how this is compatible with their claim to be "Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession".
(I agree with you just possibly a poor example)
Wouldn't have known because I've been (ummm...) "Acquiring" (libgen) them elsewhere
Does "standards" mean things like these?
Floating point: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_754
Those types of standards seem pretty important.
i'm not arguing that any specific amount is appropriate, but "free" seems a little low.
> The only people paid at conferences are the registration people.
...if by paid you mean "free labor from local organizers and their students, plus some $1K-$3K travel awards for a PhD student in exchange for 20 hours of front desk registration, with maybe one association employee overseeing everything".
TBF, the travel awards are actually a pretty reasonable rate (avg $2K for 1/2 week of labor) if you close your eyes and ignore that:
1. CS PhD students are under-paid by a factor of 10x
2. CS PhD students are probably the only tech workers who are expected to raise funds on their own for work-related travel multiple times per year
3. these organizations double-dip. They are essentially paying a bit over market rate for labor required to run their conference registration desks while claiming that this relatively small amount of $$$ gives them some moral justification for price-gouging everything else (see: any ACM/IEEE statement about open access policy, which inevitably mentioned sponsoring student travel...)
4. ...and then still lean on conference organizers to find corporate sponsors to supplement those travel awards.
5. and those same students do a ton of other free labor in the form of writing and reviewing papers.
And so on.
Basically, any time I think "oh yeah, ACM/IEEE do that thing I didn't think about. Well, those people must be paid / must be receiving honest-to-goodness grants", it turns out: nope! All the work is done by volunteers, and any "grants" come with labor requirements.
TBF, none of that is totally unreasonable until you realize how much money these orgs are raking in. Where the hell does it all go!?
I thought "Pancake" was an auto-correct mistake, because I'd never heard that surname before. But it really is the ACM president's surname.
From the linked article, ACM's publication costs are $10.9M, not $33.7M.
One of the ACM's major publication initiatives over the last 3-5 years has been an overhaul of their publication templates and publication workflow, to ensure greater consistency in publication formatting, improve accessibility, and archive publications in more future-proof formats. There are also the ongoing costs of creating and indexing metadata (ACM tracks more metadata than arXiv, including resolved citations), preservation (ACM buys failsafe perpetual access services from Portico, arXiv has mirrors at other university libraries).
Should it cost $10.9M? I am not sure. Does it cost a lot more than what arXiv does? Yes.
For a costing exercise: the service ACM buys from Portico is archival and republication. If ACM goes insolvent, Portico flips on their archive and the content remains available. How would you price this service, knowing that when it is actually needed, it's because your customer can no longer pay bills, and you now need to take up their hosting (and all related costs) for approximately forever with no further revenue? I think a network of university libraries would be a more cost-effective way to provide this service, but it's the kind of thing that people working on publication and archival professionally think about, and that factors into the cost of professional archival-level publication.
(I cannot speak to IEEE.)
Publication workflow, formatting and accessibility? For every paper I’ve done I just send the ACM a final PDF produced myself from a LaTeX template that hasn’t changed in years. What’s the workflow for taking an already final PDF from authors and uploading it to a file server?
- Brand new templates (introduced about 5 years ago, the LaTeX template has had multiple updates per year since then)
- Workflow that makes use of the source (or possibly codes the source embeds in the PDF, but you have to provide LaTeX source to ACM these days)
- Papers now render in both PDF and HTML (and the HTML looks quite good), this started showing up within the last 1-2 years
- Papers are archived in an XML-based format (something called JITS, I do not know details) to facilitate rendering to PDF, HTML, ePub, and other formats not yet devised
As an example, Pandoc can already handle 90% of this type of workflow by itself (converting Latex to various XML formats). An open source project shared among a few universities or developed by single body like the ACM and used among dozen's of publications and fields. Even two or three full time people working on this would cost much less than $1M per year.
It sounds like the ACM has a really different set of priorities than libraries and researchers do, one that values increasing headcount over guaranteeing permanence.
>LaTeXML is a free, public domain software, which converts LaTeX documents to XML, HTML, EPUB, JATS and TEI.
The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many of them. And each one has variations.
Wow. Well I can imagine that’s expensive.
IEEE's $193m is where we should focus our attention, when it comes to this expense line.
 The ACM Digital Library claims 2.8 million published over 84 years, or about 33,000/year if divided equally over the years (which is laughably false). Some number of that quantity may include citations for keynotes or posters, which aren't really research papers, but I don't have a good handle on that rate.
Additionally, having seen someone organize an academic conference once, I do know that IEEE provides a conference with things like bank accounts, insurance, and purchasing departments that can meet the creditworthiness requirements of major hotels. It also ends up covering the shortfall if the conference winds up losing money.
I’m all for improving efficiencies where possible, and there are definitely some problems with these organizations, don’t get me wrong; but I did want to emphasize that both organizations are definitely providing real value to parts of the computing community.
Disclaimer: I haven’t read the link as twitter is (intentionally) inaccessible from my machine.
Compared to hacker news, my main issues with twitter are a much lower signal-to-noise ratio, lack of prioritization over time windows—if I take a day/week/month away from hacker news, it’s easy to catch up on the top things I missed at https://hn.algolia.com —lack of depth in content, and pervasive tracking across other sites including through t.co.
See e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_law (didn't find a free version of the book unfortunately).
There is even a fitting example in the book where Parkinson describes how the administration of the British Navy became bigger and bigger although there were fewer and fewer ships to manage. In the present case, one would have to assume analogously that with the introduction of the Internet and the advancing automation, considerable costs were eliminated.
So the question is: have ACM and the other mentioned organizations already reached the tertiary and last stage of INJELITITIS?
Frankly, ACM membership and publication is a good deal compared to many other societies. For $200 annual dues, you get unlimited access to all journals.
Contrast to the American Chemical Society. For $175, you get:
1) Access to 50 articles for 48 hours
2) The right to purchase access to additional articles at $12 a pop for 48 hour access.
You want to look at the article again after 48 hours? Pay up again.
I have been a reviewer of many ACM, Elsevier etc. conferences. The reviewers, editors don't get any money for their service. Regardless, "professional management" is not a sufficient argument for 33x / 190x the price difference . IEEE annual spend $92M in people costs and I doubt a single $ of it goes to any of these peer reviews or editors.
IEEE charges 1700$+
You can call it bare bones, but as a scientist, it is very hard to see what value IEEE adds above this "bare bones" approach.
I'm sorry, but which publishers are you talking about here? I've published with several publishers in my field (physics) including APS, AIP, AAS, EPS, Springer, etc., and almost all of them do moderate to extensive copy editing, even for journals that aren't exactly high-impact.
> it certainly doesn't account for the difference in price, not even remotely close.
This is of course true, and I agree. But starting an argument against conventional journals by comparing their costs of operation with that of a preprint repository is disingenuous. And that is where I take issue.
The IOP and DPG with NJP also charge half of what IEEE Access do, and they are among the journals that actually provide some copy editing. As far as I recall my publications with the APS did not have any substantial proof reading done.
I actually think proof reading is a really valuable service, and I would be happy to pay for it optionally or in a transparent fashion. But even with proof reading we don't get to 1000s of dollars.
My understanding from talking to editors is that for professional societies, journal income subsidises other activities. Which is fine, but I would like to see that transparently declared. "APC 150$, Contribution to other IEEE activities 1500$". Structurally it's also questionable that library budgets should finance professional societies, but that's really the least of my concerns.
I don't think JHEP is an overlay journal anymore. AFAIK, JHEP is now published by SISSA/Springer with funds from CERN/SCOAP. SCOAP also pays for most articles in Phys. Lett. B and some articles in Phys. Rev. D. But SCOAP probably doesn't pay for open access as much as individual authors would have to.
> As far as I recall my publications with the APS did not have any substantial proof reading done.
APS did do a moderate amount of copyediting when I published with them in 2015. They (and most publishers) also check papers for plagiarism, and it's my understanding that the third-party services that they use for this charge a hefty fee . arXiv only compares submissions with existing preprints on arXiv and not other journals.
> My understanding from talking to editors is that for professional societies, journal income subsidises other activities. Which is fine, but I would like to see that transparently declared.
I totally agree with the sentiment that most publishers charge way more than they should for open-access options. Premium open-access-only journals like Phys. Rev. X and Nat. Comm. are also problematic since it discourages authors who have smaller budgets and grants from submitting their papers to these journals.
So we have roughly 1660$ unaccounted for for IEEE. PRX costs 4000$.
To the tune of a hundred million dollars? I can’t even remotely imagine how. If someone asked you to design a system to do all of those above things, would you actually come to the conclusion it’d cost a cool hundred mil yearly to operate?
(Disclaimer: I wrote the tweet. Although I didn't expect it to appear on HN...)
A lot of scientific publishers have hijacked "Open Access" to charge high fees for the same publication as before and pocket more money. For example, "Springer Blood Cancer Journal" charges $ 4,580 as OA fees. I can't imagine how one can rationalize that cost.
* to advance your career you need to publish in certain specific journals
* 5 grand is a reasonable amount of money to advance your career
* it is reasonable to pay 5 grands to publish on such a journal
Also, is Nature working on digitizing old content? That can be costly (I remember reading somewhere that it could involve a) finding a library that has a copy and b) flying there to photograph it) and that’s a cost PLOS won’t ever have.
You need to first explain why PLOS ONE is an appropriate baseline. A world class Open Access journal costs roughly $10 per submission . Most arguments I have seen using PLOS ONE as a baseline, talk about the "non profit" part of PLOS. It has to be stressed here at that "non profit" doesn't mean PLOS works on a "non profit" business model. It just means that they generate profit AND the profit isn't distributed to its members, directors or officers .
 There are now tools that automate and speed up finding peer reviewers, though, like https://www.prophy.science/referee-finder
All done by volunteers!
This is done by the Program Chairs of the conference who are professors at universities. ACM doesn't do or pay anything for it.
The surprise is NOT that the costs are different. The surprise is the order of magnitude of the difference. The surprise is also the absolute value of the cost of IEEE given it's apparent activity.
I have no idea if the massive spending on IEEE is reasonable given I have no insight into their org. I do agree the size of the costs as associated with the activities is suspicious.
Likewise, I might think the person employed at the post office gets paid too much relative to the value they provide, but it would be silly to compare their salary cost to the maintenance cost of a blue steel Post Office box on the corner. ("Their health insurance alone costs 1000x the annual price of blue paint!")
That's done by the community - ACM don't fund that. They just run the conferences (which are paid and ticketed so presumably fund themselves) and host the paper files.
Lol that’s done by volunteer community members as well. It literally is free to the ACM (but the people are paid to do it by their institutions as part of their jobs.)
We can argue/debate about what is the value-add (and precise workflow difference) of the IEEE editorial process vs. arxiv, but there is a difference.
Like the comment you responded to, I'm not defending the precise differential. I'm a past IEEE member (and author, and reviewer) and found their membership fees excessive.
In every ACM review committee I’ve participated in, it’s just volunteer members of the community emailing other other and using open source software to coordinate reviews.
Even taking into account overheads like desk space and pensions, that's a very large number of very well paid employees for basic secretarial work like soliciting reviewers
They also have conferences, etc. to students, were the student fees almost certainly don’t cover the costs.
Their expenses may be too high, but the comparison to arxiv is not helpful.
Money really seems to be wasted for the most part, and the digital library has always been an embarrassment. Years later, it still has no API, and last I checked the terms of service forbid you from accessing it with software! Completely braindead.
The only reason to join ACM besides accessing the crappy digital library is to save money on conference registration fees, which are outrageous because of what the venues usually charge and get away with.
Usenix seems (to me at least) to be better run and had open access policies years before ACM. But the IEEE is largely a cesspool as well, charging absurd fees for digital library access, and sponsoring a number of spamferences.
However... I'd probably be in favor of unbundling this and other commercial services from ACM memberships.
80,700,000 articles as of today. These torrents contain every single article that's ever been accessed through sci-hub. Database dumps at http://gen.lib.rus.ec/dbdumps/ provide an index.
I haven't heard anything about defined-benefit pension plans, or their use in professional societies. Could you say a bit more? Or provide a link to learn more?
And the total data set is less than a terabyte; seed a torrent somewhere for $20.
The user-pays S3 bucket also exists as a good thing but S3 is much more expensive than data needs to be.
I agree that it would be an extremely valuable course of action to seed a series of torrents, since a single torrent wouldn't work; it would have to be replaced every time a new paper was uploaded, fragmenting the swarm enough to render it useless. Also, they could surely use Fastly and permit spidering.
The collection was a lot smaller then. The whole thing has fit on one hard drive for a long time. And as far as interpreting my post as criticism goes, apply it to the last ten years only.
> This is the context in which the arXiv's hostile stance toward spidering was established.
They should have reconsidered it at some point.
> series of torrents
Sure. A torrent for each 500MB chunk they already collate, or yearly, or both.
- If you factor all the man-hours required to keep the site up and running (ignoring the setup costs), then you'd have about one engineer for a whole year.
- If we go for a simple S3 based download and accompaniying infrastructure, it would be safe to assume that it would cost AT LEAST about $700k per year (AWS is not cheap).
I'd say it's about right.
Doing something about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayh%E2%80%93Dole_Act seems way more important than fixing publishing...
That seems like hyperbole to me. I think it falls more into the category of "inequitable exchange" or "bad deal".
There seem to be other things ACM/IEEE does like helping pay for conference stuff or somehow supporting student chapters. But the literal editorial role looks oversold.