Re: PR's 'pit bull' takes on open access: excerpts from article in Nature Magazine

From: Arthur Sale <>
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2007 11:16:25 +1100


I have not said that "basic certification" (aka peer review) does not
cost money, though it is relatively small compared to the cost of doing
the research. I note also that the cost of this basic certification
process is also borne [mostly] by the public purse through library

However none of that alters the fact that it is still just a basic level
of certification. Many dud papers get through as well as fraudulent ones,
the fraction generally depending on the journal quality. Referee-bias and
paradigm-bias are well-known in the research community, as we researchers
shop around for somewhere to publish that paper that we know is seminal
and/or important, but referees can't see it. Several times it has been
quite clear to me that the referees haven't a clue what the paper is
about, haven't bothered to read it, or have obvious biases. In these
cases you abandon the journal, regardless of reputation of JIF.

I am surprised that you seem to believe that the Internet and software
cannot detect quality and present good results, cheaply and effectively.
You cannot have been searching on the Internet in the last five years or
so. Research indicates that in 2006, most researchers worldwide turned to
search engines (often Google or Google Scholar) as their first source of
information, rather than the local university's paid corpus of journal
titles. The subscription corpus was regarded rather as one of the ways of
finding full-texts not available on the Web, but identified from there.

So let us turn to the public, who not only pay for [most of] the research
through grants, but also pay for [most of] publishers costs and profits
through subscriptions. If they are not entitled to expect value for money
who is?

Don't get me wrong - I am not against the basic certification that
publishers provide which we use as the first stage in validating
scientific results, but I recognize it as just a basic process, and that
it is part of the whole schema of public (and to a lesser extent private)
funding of research.

To pick up on your last paragraph, I note that we agree on the following:

The public is entitled to have access to the researchers'
preprints. Researchers are part of the public. I welcome this

The public is entitled to expect value for money in the add-on
services provided by publishers. Researchers are part of the public, as
are politicians.

The only point we seem to disagree on is

Whether the 1800-style publishing business model is susceptible
for change. Surely, publishers are entitled to their profits as long as
basic certification is carried out by them, but whether these are
garnered though traditional reader-side subscription models is surely
very much a feature of the business model.

To end up, here is your pit-bull &#8216;sound-bite&#8217; for this
exchange, shorn of all qualifications and nice things I would have said
face to face:

&#8220;Publishers don&#8217;t realize they are living as parasites on the
research juggernaut.&#8221;

Arthur Sale
Received on Sun Jan 28 2007 - 05:01:13 GMT

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