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Thread: Freeing Scientific Publishing

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    Freeing Scientific Publishing

    The open access wars: How to free science from academic paywalls - Vox - "How librarians, pirates, and funders are liberating the world’s academic research from paywalls."

    Almost half a year ago, I created the thread University of California boycotts a major journal publisher over its costs and open access The above article addresses the issue more generally.

    Back to Vox.
    Indeed, the industry built to publish and disseminate scientific articles — companies such as Elsevier and Springer Nature — has managed to become incredibly profitable by getting a lot of taxpayer-funded, highly skilled labor for free and affixing a premium price tag to its goods.

    Academics are not paid for their article contributions to journals. They often have to pay fees to submit articles to journals and to publish. Peer reviewers, the overseers tasked with making sure the science published in the journals is up to standard, typically aren’t paid either.

    And there’s more: Academic institutions have to purchase exorbitant subscriptions priced at hundreds of thousands of dollars each year so they can download and read their own and other scientists’ work from beyond the paywall. The same goes for members of the public who want to access the science they’ve funded with their tax dollars. A single research paper in Science can set you back $30. Elsevier’s journals can cost, individually, thousands of dollars a year for a subscription.
    Enormous amounts of money -- for what???
    • Librarians and science funders are playing hardball to negotiate lower subscription fees to scientific journals.
    • Scientists, increasingly, are realizing they don’t need paywalled academic journals to act as gatekeepers anymore. They’re finding clever workarounds, making the services that journals provide free.
    • Open access crusaders, including science pirates, have created alternatives that free up journal articles and pressure publishers to expand access.
    Then how journals got more expensive instead of less, despite electronic distribution instead of printing.

    Consolidation of publishers, making an oligopoly, is an important part of it. Also bundling of journals -- having to subscribe to an entire package just to get one or two journals.
    By the early 1970s, just five companies — Reed-Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Taylor & Francis — published one-fifth of all natural and medical scientific articles, according to an analysis in PLOS One. By 2013, their share rose to 53 percent.
    That analysis: The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    Some other university librarians are thinking of joining the University of California and dropping some subscriptions.

    Some funding agencies are joining in. 'Plan S' and 'cOAlition S' – Accelerating the transition to full and immediate Open Access to scientific publications has
    Plan S is an initiative for Open Access publishing that was launched in September 2018. The plan is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders. Plan S requires that, from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms.
    Then a section on how "Some scientists are saying no to the big publishers and spinning off open access journals of their own" and one on "Pirating and preprints are also pressuring the publishing industry to increase access"

    Preprints are before-publication versions of articles. Academics have long circulated them, and one of the first archives of preprint files was at a server in Los Alamos National Laboratory, started in 1991. It became arXiv, it was expanded in scope over the years, and it has inspired numerous imitators in a variety of fields.

    Then there is outright piracy, like Kazakh neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan's site Sci-Hub. It now hosts 50 million papers and it gets some 500 thousand visitors a day. One has to ask how it hosts so many. Is it because of some inside jobs at some journal publishers?

    There is still a big problem.
    So it’s not technology or innovation holding science back from a revolution. “The biggest elephant in the room is how researchers are rewarded for the work they do,” said Theodora Bloom, the executive editor at BMJ.

    At the moment, researchers’ careers — the grants they’re given, the promotions they attain — rise or fall based on the number of publications they have in high-profile (or high-impact) journals.

    “If an academic has a paper in Nature or Science, that’s seen as their passport to their next grant or promotion,” said Bloom.

    As long as those incentives exist, and scientists continue to accept that status quo, open access journals won’t be able to compete. In fact, many academics still don’t publish in open access journals. One big reason: Some feel they’re less prestigious and lower quality, and that they push the publishing costs on the scientists.

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