Tuesday, August 28

They don't want you to be able to read my work

At least not without paying. Or paying again, if you're British, as it's taxpayers money that goes to my work (yes, I know I'm posting this after 9am, but I'll be working after 5pm so you're still getting your money's worth).

"They" in this case, is PRISM, the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (created by the Association of American Publishers). As with all these American campaign groups, they entitle themselves in such a way as to make them sound like clearly a good thing - integrity in science and medicine, after all, is a good thing. Except that's not what they're for, of course. They're for profits for American science and medicine journal publishers.

Naturally, the science blogging community is up in arms over this - Coturnix has a summary

Their complaints about open access journals seem to be largely straw men. On a few points:

Peer review. I'm not paid to peer review by these rich journals, so I don't see how OpenAccess journals will be a problem. Just require them to have peer review. And frankly, the cost of publishing a paper in certain US journals seems far, far in excess of the costs of peer review. The healthy profits of science journal companies seems to corroborate this impression.

Government interference. If the journals were government funded, they could interfere with science. I've bad news for these journal publishers - they're too late. Government can already interfere with science if it wants, because - here's the shocker - they're funding the research in the first place.

As for their complaint
introducing duplication and inefficiencies that will divert resources that would otherwise be dedicated to research.

Well, how bloody dare you. I've spent half a day formatting a journal paper into exactly the format you demand, for which you're still going to charge me a hefty wack of dollars per page, and you have the gall to complain about inefficiencies diverting resources from research? It takes me no less time to get the paper in the format they demand than it takes me to write a camera ready version for a conference proceedings, so all they have to do then is make sure I'm not a nutter, do a quick google to check that my suggested referees do exist, then drop them an email.

And it can't be a duplication and inefficiency of government funding, since they're paying for the research, paying for the paper submission, and paying for the subscription fees already, so if they move their money it's just taking it in-house.

So, in short, a change in the market is threatening their profits, and rather than work out how to adapt, they've resorted to public misinformation to try to win the day.

Open Access, peer reviewed journals are clearly the right way to go. The only question is how to ensure the funding works right - if that means the government supplies money to support high impact factor journals, then so be it. My work may be boring and largely incomprehensible to the average member of the general public, unless they're willing to trawl back through all the references (it's hard to start from general principles and explain everything about a novel science result in four pages, after all), but I don't want it to be impossible for them to access the paper if they so chose.

After all - they paid for it already.

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