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

From: Andrew A. Adams <A.A.Adams_at_READING.AC.UK>
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2007 22:34:27 +0900

Peter Banks wrote:
> What you term "basic certification" is often not very basic. It involves
> weeding out the 80% or so of manuscripts that are inadequate or
> inappropriate, subjecting the remainder to often extensive revision, and
> ensuring that the final papers use proper scientific nomenclature, standard
> English, and statistical tests. It also involves supporting the people and
> systems that support those processes. Anyone who has contracted with
> ScholarOne or BenchPress or a home-grown manuscript management system can
> tell you that the costs are not trivial. Neither are the costs of supporting
> an editor and office in a major university.
> Maybe all those things can be streamlined and made more efficient and
> cost-effective. I certainly hope so, so that more taxpayer money stays where
> it is belongs, in actual research. However, the Internet era has not
> eliminated the need or the costs for filtering information and delivering it
> in quality form. If anything, the explosion of information on the Web will
> increase costs; dissemination is cheap, but filtering and delivering
> information in quality, standardized form is not and is unlikely to become
> so.
> Yes, the public owns the research. If they want it in raw form, without any
> of the services publishers perform, they can certainly have it, warts and
> all. They can certainly insist that publishers provide editing services more
> cost-effectively. But they cannot expect free universal and immediate access
> to the versions of papers in which publishers have invested substantially,
> and it is misleading to suggest that they should.

It is also hghly misleading (and I think you know this and are either
following the PR pit-bull or being at minimum deliberalte disingenuous about
it) to claim that publishers bear all the costs involved in these processes.
For some journals, though not all I will admit, the vast majority of the time
of the main editor, regional/sub-editors and even the administrative support
for those editors, is paid for by their employing university. They do this
partly because of the kudos associated with having the journal editor as one
of their staff and also because the staff members wish to do it and academics
to some extent still have power over how their research time is spent.

Certainly I've never been offered payment for my services as a reviewer of
journal articles (text books are a different matter and have a significantly
different economic basis). Publishers are still demanding a full transfer of
copyright in order to accept material for publication in a lot of journals,
despite it being completely clear that this is not only not necessary, but
complete overkill. Where are the additional costs that justify publishers
huge percentage increases in journal subscriptions coming from? The cost per
issue and per article has risen vastly over the last twenty years, well over
inflation. Yet the costs of producing edited text have come down (ask any
newspaper). What has happened is that the profit margins have increased, at
the cost of access (library budgets are approximately static, per journal
costs rise, so fewer journals are taken).

So, I'm sorry Peter, but I don't believe your protestations. Personally I
would be quite happy to see something of a collapse in the academic
publishing industry. It might take a couple of years to shake out properly
but the source of everything except the financing here is the academics - we
provide the basic kudos to the journal by acting as editorial boards referees
and authors. We provide the quality control (no, you do not provide it, you
merely manage its current form). There are other ways to manage this system
at far lower costs and it's time the academic community stopped colluding in
paying publishers for a dinosaur of a business model and reclaimed the means
of scholarly communication.

In the meantime, I'll go on supporting Green OA as the most pragmatic method
of improving communication in the short term. I will shed no tears if Green
OA is the meteor that destroys the academic publishing dinsoaurs.

*E-mail*********  Dr Andrew A Adams
**snail*27 Westerham Walk**********  School of Systems Engineering
***mail*Reading RG2 0BA, UK********  The University of Reading
****Tel*+44-118-378-6997***********  Reading, United Kingdom
Received on Sun Jan 28 2007 - 13:56:25 GMT

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