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Why do publishing companies own access to taxpayer funded research information?


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It's time universities should start creating their own open access journals and peer review them among themselves. The publishing cartels charge outrageous fees that do nothing more than increase tuition costs for everyone. The vast majority of the work that goes into academic journals mostly come from tax payer

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/academic-publishers-murdoch-socialist

Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the western world? Whose monopolistic practices make Walmart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch a socialist? You won't guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.
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Why vote down the OP? (corrected now :)) It's true. While publishing companies used to provide an essential service--typesetting and physically disseminating the research--they no longer provide either. At least in computer science, we typeset everything ourselves. As for physical dissemination, who cares? It makes more sense (to the readers, to the authors, to the funding agencies, ...) to save the publishing costs, put the material for free on the Internet, and let whoever wants a copy spool it to their printer.

Now the role of journals and conferences (the latter if you are in CS) is brand name, but this is a function of the community, not the publisher. One can transfer prestige by simply having all of the distinguished members of the community move to a different home. This is most often seen when entire editorial boards resign and fork the journal (which has happened many times).

This is the best introduction to the problem I know of. http://www.scottaaro...ngs/journal.pdf Those looking for a longer, but perhaps more comprehensive account, should check out Knuth's experience resigning from the Journal of Algorithms (http://www-cs-facult...nuth/joalet.pdf). It will probably be our generation that finally cuts out the leeching middle man, so spread the word.

P.S. I am jealous of the biologists, who have the Public Library of Science (http://www.plos.org) behind them.

Edited by OH YEAH
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Let's not take that for granted -- a lot of careers have been made through NSF grants that *didn't* require the material to be open access. I would like to think that this great move was made partially under pressure from concerned scientists.

It's still not good enough. Not a dime should go to these publishing companies, as they do not provide a service that the community could not perform on its own. It's still a waste taxpayer money, and given how tight money is for research grants, we should be guarding that money as carefully as possible from special interests.

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P.S. I am jealous of the biologists, who have the Public Library of Science (http://www.plos.org) behind them.

Actually, it costs the author / funding agency a lot more to publish an open access article (e.g., in PLoS) than a subscription-only article. (See http://openwetware.org/wiki/Publication_fees.) There's a huge financial disincentive for researchers to publish open-access, especially with limited grant funds.

Of course, there's always the "green" route of open access, i.e., self-archiving on the interwebs. The arXiv is the archetype of this model. I wish other fields could learn from the high-energy physicists. Especially since the type-setting "services" provided by many of the major publishing companies (I'm looking at you, Elsevier) aren't really much better than what a researcher with a little bit of LaTeX experience and a basic understanding of typography could do themselves.

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It's time universities should start creating their own open access journals and peer review them among themselves. The publishing cartels charge outrageous fees that do nothing more than increase tuition costs for everyone. The vast majority of the work that goes into academic journals mostly come from tax payer

http://www.guardian....rdoch-socialist

Sorry to double-post, but just wanted to comment that my understanding of peer review is that it was originally meant to be a gatekeeper to ensure scientific integrity and technical accuracy, not a way for the "top" journals to assess the contribution/impact of a paper to a field--that was supposed to be assessed post-publication, to be critiqued in the literature (again, by techincally-correct follow-up/rebuttal papers). Now that we're slowly moving to online publication, isn't it time we started thinking about new ways to (more quickly and openly) assess the impact of an article? Perhaps a Reddit/Digg for academia?

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Yes, I know that it costs a good bit of cash to publish in PLoS. I don't think these costs are necessary, though--doesn't most of it go to actually printing the articles? For instance, PLoS One is cheaper than most on that list, and is online only from what I recall. There's no reason to print journals anymore--print on demand is greener and cheaper. That being said, I think PLoS is a step in the right direction, and it is nice to have an official organization to back open access ideas.

I agree that the arXiv is the way to go. At least in CS, you don't get paid to review articles, so there is no reason any of the process should cost money at all (except for hosting costs, which are cheap).

Edited by OH YEAH
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