An interview with paleontologist and OA advocate, Mike Taylor.
“SG: You are a supporter of open access, open source and open data. Of course, science must be easily available for everyone. On the other hand, there are problems with funding research and paleoart, small number of jobs in paleontology. Do you have any thoughts on how to solve these problems?
MT: Well, first of all, open access, open source and open data do not threaten jobs in palaeontology at all. If anything, they create more of a market for research, as more can be done.
Palaeoart is a completely separate problem. Fundamentally, the compensation system is different. Academics are paid for doing their jobs, and the data-sets and papers they generate are in some sense by-products. Paying academics to use their data and papers would be ludicrous: they’ve already been paid. But (with maybe a very few exceptions) palaeoartists are not salaried. They get paid only in exchange for their services. For that reason, it’s morally defensible for them to use copyright to prevent their work from being copied, in a way that is not defensible for preventing copying of scholarly papers. It’s great when artists are able to work in ways that allow their work to be freely reproduced and modified, but that will always be the exception….
SG: Does PeerJ meet your expectations of academic publishing practices transformation?
MT: In almost all respects, absolutely. When I was putting together the Xenoposeidon-is-a-rebbachisaur paper, it literally didn’t even occur to me to send it anywhere but PeerJ. Their submission system is less painful than any other I’ve used, their editors are thorough, their peer-review system is efficient, effective AND transparent, their website is fine, their production is really careful, and of course they do all this at a superb low price. And they offer preprints, and an easy route to move from preprint to reviewed paper. I think that as things stand, they are BY FAR the best game in town: when I look at papers in traditional journals like JVP and Palaeontology now, with their hard-to-read two-column text and their tiny greyscale illustrations, they feel like relics of a bygone era.
If I have a reservation about PeerJ at all, it’s a rather churlish one: I wonder whether they could have been a bit MORE radical. But in reality, they probably hit the sweet spot: they’ve moved the Overton window now in a way that they couldn’t have done if they’ve been perceived as too left-field for the Big Names to publish in. But in fact, PeerJ is perceived now as one of the major venues for vertebrate palaeontology, in large part I think because established workers felt that it was recognisable enough as a journal that they were prepared to publish their work there.
There’s one other thing that does need to be mentioned: it worries me a little that PeerJ is privately owned. I know Pete Binfield and Jason Hoyt a little, and they are about the most principled and trustworthy owners a scholarly publishing operation could have. I am confident that they won’t sell out. But ultimately, anything that’s privately owned is to some degree vulnerable. Suppose they dilute their stock a bit more to bring in more investment. They become huge, Then Elsevier offers $500M for them, and the other shareholders group together and
force Pete and Jason to sell. It doesn’t seem likely, but it’s not impossible. I have grown increasingly convinced of the important of the https://cameronneylon.net/blog/principles-for-open-scholarly-infrastructures/ …”