Why the price of scholarly publishing is so much higher than the cost | Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week

“In an efficient market, competing providers of a good will each try to undercut each other until the prices they charge approach the cost. If, for example, Elsevier and Springer-Nature were competing in a healthy free market, they would each be charging prices around one third of what they are charging now, for fear of being outcompeted by their lower-priced competitor. (Half of those price-cuts would be absorbed just by decreasing the huge profit margins; the rest would have to come from streamlining business processes, in particular things like the costs of maintaining paywalls and the means of passing through them.)

So why doesn’t the Invisible Hand operate on scholarly publishers? Because they are not really in competition. Subscriptions are not substitutable goods because each published article is unique. If I need to read an article in an Elsevier journal then it’s no good my buying a lower-priced Springer-Nature subscription instead: it won’t give me access to the article I need.

(This is one of the reasons why the APC-based model — despite its very real drawbacks — is better than the subscription model: because the editorial-and-publication services offered by Elsevier and Springer-Nature are substitutable. If one offers the service for $3000 and the other for $2000, I can go to the better-value provider. And if some other publisher offers it for $1000 or $500, I can go there instead.)…

Björn Brembs has been writing for years about the fact that every market has a luxury segment: you can buy a perfectly functional wristwatch for $10, yet people spend thousands on high-end watches. He’s long been concerned that if scholarly publishing goes APC-only, then people will be queuing up to pay the €9,500 APC for Nature in what would become a straightforward pay-for-prestige deal. And he’s right: given the outstandingly stupid way we evaluate reseachers for jobs, promotion and tenure, lots of people will pay a 10x markup for the “I was published in Nature” badge even though Nature papers are an objectively bad way to communicate research.

But it feels like something stranger is happening here. It’s almost as though the whole darned market is a luxury segment….

How can funders fix this, and get APCs down to levels that approximate publishing cost? I see at least three possibilities.

First, they could stop paying APCs for their grantees. Instead, they could add a fixed sum onto all grants they make — $1,500, say — and leave it up to the researchers whether to spend more on a legacy publisher (supplementing the $1,500 from other sources of their own) or to spend less on a cheaper born-OA publisher and redistribute the excess elsewhere.

Second, funders could simply publish the papes themselves. To be fair several big funders are doing this now, so we have Wellcome Open Research, Gates Open Research, etc. But doesn’t it seem a bit silly to silo research according to what body awarded the grant that funded it? And what about authors who don’t have a grant from one of these bodies, or indeed any grant at all?

That’s why I think the third solution is best. I would like to see funders stop paying APCs and stop building their own publishing solutions, and instead collaborate to build and maintain a global publishing solution that all researchers could use irrespective of grant-recipient status. I have much to say on what such a solution should look like, but that is for another time.”

Free for all, or free-for-all? A content analysis of Australian university open access policies | bioRxiv

Abstract:  Recent research demonstrates that Australia lags in providing open access to research outputs. In Australia, while the two major research funding bodies require open access of outputs from projects they fund, these bodies only fund a small proportion of research conducted. The major source of research and experimental development funding in Australian higher education is general university, or institutional, funding, and such funds are not subject to national funder open access policies. Thus, institutional policies and other institutional supports for open access are important in understanding Australia’s OA position. The purpose of this paper is, therefore, to understand the characteristics of Australian institutional open access policies and to explore the extent they represent a coherent and unified approach to delivering and promoting open access in Australia. Open access policies were located using a systematic web search approach and then their contents were analysed. Only half of Australian universities were found to have an open access policy. There was a wide variation in language used, expressed intent of the policy and expectations of researchers. Few policies mention monitoring or compliance and only three mention consequences for non-compliance. While it is understandable that institutions develop their own policies, when language is used which does not reflect national and international understandings, when requirements are not clear and with consequences, policies are unlikely to contribute to understanding of open access, to uptake of the policy, or to ease of transferring understanding and practices between institutions. A more unified approach to open access is recommended.


Top Publishers Aim To Own The Entire Academic Research Publishing Stack; Here’s How To Stop That Happening | Techdirt

“echdirt’s coverage of open access — the idea that the fruits of publicly-funded scholarship should be freely available to all — shows that the results so far have been mixed. On the one hand, many journals have moved to an open access model. On the other, the overall subscription costs for academic institutions have not gone down, and neither have the excessive profit margins of academic publishers. Despite that success in fending off this attempt to re-invent the way academic work is disseminated, publishers want more. In particular, they want more money and more power. In an important new paper, a group of researchers warn that companies now aim to own the entire academic publishing stack …

To prevent commercial monopolization, to ensure cybersecurity, user/patient privacy, and future development, these standards need to be open, under the governance of the scholarly community. Open standards enable switching from one provider to another, allowing public institutions to develop tender or bidding processes, in which service providers can compete with each other with their services for the scientific workflow.

Techdirt readers will recognize this as exactly the idea that lies at the heart of Mike’s influential essay “Protocols, Not Platforms: A Technological Approach to Free Speech”. Activist and writer Cory Doctorow has also been pushing for the same thing — what he calls “adversarial interoperability”. It seems like an idea whose time has come, not just for academic publishing, but every aspect of today’s digital world.”

Data governance: Enhancing access to and sharing of data – OECD

“Access to and sharing of data are increasingly critical for fostering data-driven scientific discovery and innovations across the private and public sectors globally and will play a role in solving societal challenges, including fighting COVID-19 and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But restrictions to data access, sometimes compounded by a reluctance to share, and a growing awareness of the risks that come with data access and sharing, means economies and societies are not harnessing the full potential of data.

Adopted in October 2021, the OECD Recommendation on Enhancing Access to and Sharing of Data (EASD) is the first internationally agreed upon set of principles and policy guidance on how governments can maximise the cross-sectoral benefits of all types of data – personal, non-personal, open, proprietary, public and private – while protecting the rights of individuals and organisations.

The Recommendation intends to help governments develop coherent data governance policies and frameworks to unlock the potential benefits of data across and within sectors, countries, organisations, and communities. It aims to reinforce trust across the data ecosystem, stimulate investment in data and incentivise data access and sharing, and foster effective and responsible data access, sharing and use across sectors and jurisdictions.

The Recommendation is a key deliverable of phase 3 of the OECD’s Going Digital project, focused on data governance for frowth and well-being. It was developed by three OECD Committees (Digital Economy Policy, Scientific and Technological Policy, and Public Governance) and acts as a common reference for existing and new OECD legal instruments related to data in areas such as research, health and digital government. It will provide a foundation stone for ongoing OECD work to help countries unlock the potential of data in the digital era.”

Publication Charges Associated with Quality Open Access (OA) Publishing and Its Impact on Low Middle Income Countries (LMICs), Time to Reframe Research Policies

Abstract:  Dissemination of the scientific literature is as paramount as scientific studies. Scientific publishing has come a long way from localized distribution of few physical copies of journal to widespread and rapid distribution via internet in the 21st century. The evolution of open excess (OA) publishing which has rapidly evolved in last two decades has its heart at the right place with the ultimate goal being timely, and rapid distribution of published scientific work to a wider scientific community around the world and thus ultimately promoting scientific knowledge in global sense. However, quality OA publishing of cancer research involve an average publishing fee of around 1,500 USD which poses a challenge for Low middle income countries (LMICs), where per capita income is low. This has led to deterioration of science in LMICs in the form of publication in Cheap OA predatory journals for sake of securing academic promotions as well as authors ending up paying exorbitant publishing charges out of pocket to get their quality scientific work published. In countries like India and other LMICs, the funding agencies and institution have so far not addressed this problem. Here we assess the framework of open access publishing in LMICs like India and what are the steps which can be taken to facilitate open access publishing in LMICs. 


Promoting Open Science Through Research Data Management

Abstract:  Data management, which encompasses activities and strategies related to the storage, organization, and description of data and other research materials, helps ensure the usability of datasets — both for the original research team and for others. When contextualized as part of a research workflow, data management practices can provide an avenue for promoting other practices, including those related to reproducibility and those that fall under the umbrella of open science. Not all research data needs to be shared, but all should be well managed to establish a record of the research process.


Advocating for more OER-friendly copyright regulatory frameworks

“The webinar discussed the following key questions:

How does the UNESCO OER Recommendation enhance international cooperation for universal access to information?
What can be done to support the development and enhancement of the legal and regulatory framework on copyright and policies for OER development?
What are examples of good practices, challenges and solutions where OER have supported the right to information and building of inclusive Knowledge Societies?…”

Whitepaper: Proposal to leverage Article 17 to build a public repository of Public Domain and openly licensed works. · Open Future

“The German implementation includes a number of provisions that are specifically designed to reduce the risk of so-called overblocking: The unjustified blocking or removal of uploads subsequent to rightholder requests to prevent the availability of their works in accordance with Article 17(4) of the directive. These provisions include the requirement not to block “presumably legitimate” uploads and the requirement to keep disputed uploads available until the dispute is resolved.

In addition the German implementation law contains a specific provision aimed at preventing the unjustified blocking of works that are in the Public Domain or that have been licensed under open licenses….

To comply with this provision, OCSSPs operating in Germany will need to maintain an internal repository of works for which they have (1) received a blocking request and where (2) such blocking request has turned out to be abusive because the works are either in the Public Domain or where the use of the work is authorised under the terms of an open license…. 

Over time such repositories can be expected to grow and will likely start to contain a substantial number of entries relating to a wide variety of openly licensed and public domain works. This will result in the repositories obtaining value beyond the relatively narrow use case of preventing overblocking of openly licensed and PD works by OCSSPs: They will become repositories of freely reusable works that can help to unlock the societal value of these works…”

Impostor Phenomenon and Skills Confidence among Scholarly Communications Librarians in the United States | Owens | College & Research Libraries

Abstract:  This survey-based study sought to measure the experience of impostor phenomenon among library personnel supporting scholarly communications in academic libraries in the United States. Additionally, the survey sought to assess confidence levels in key, professionally defined competencies and the factors most significantly affecting those confidence levels. Results indicated that, on average, scholarly communications librarians experience impostor phenomenon more frequently and intensely than academic librarians more broadly. The length of time spent working in libraries was negatively correlated with levels of impostor phenomenon, as were hours spent in specialized continuing education activities and number of research publications. Implications for improving training and mentoring opportunities to decrease impostor phenomenon are discussed.


OSF Preprints | A survey of funders’ and institutions’ needs for understanding researchers’ open research practices

Abstract:  A growing number of research-performing organisations (institutions) and funding agencies have policies that support open research practices — sharing of research data, code and software. However, funders and institutions lack sufficient tools, time or resources to monitor compliance with these policies.

  To better understand funder and institution needs related to understanding open research practices of researchers, we targeted funders and institutions with a survey in 2020 and received 122 completed responses. Our survey assessed and scored, (from 0-100), the importance of and satisfaction with 17 factors associated with understanding open research practices. This includes things such as knowing if a research paper includes links to research data in a repository; knowing if a research grant made code available in a public repository; knowing if research data were made available in a reusable form; and knowing reasons why research data are not publicly available. Half of respondents had tried to evaluate researchers’ open research practices in the past and 78% plan to do this in the future. The most common method used to find out if researchers are practicing open research was personal contact with researchers and the most common reason for doing it was to increase their knowledge of researchers’ sharing practices (e.g. determine current state of sharing; track changes in practices over time; compare different departments/disciplines). The results indicate that nearly all of the 17 factors we asked about in the survey were underserved. The mean importance of all factors to respondents was 71.7, approaching the 75 threshold of “very important”. The average satisfaction of all factors was 41.3, indicating a negative level of satisfaction with ability to complete these tasks. The results imply an opportunity for better solutions to meet these needs. The growth of policies and requirements for making research data and code available does not appear to be matched with solutions for determining if these policies have been complied with. We conclude that publishers can better support some of the needs of funders and institutions by introducing simple solutions such as: – Mandatory data availability statements (DAS) in research articles – Not permitting generic “data available on request” statements – Enabling and encouraging the use of data repositories and other methods that make data available in a more reusable way – Providing visible links to research data on publications – Making information available on data and code sharing practices in publications available to institutions and funding agencies – Extending policies that require transparency in sharing of research data, to sharing of code

How can publishers better meet the open research needs of funders and institutions?

“Publishers investing in simple solutions in their workflows can help to better meet the needs of funders and institutions who wish to support open research practices, research released this week by PLOS concludes.

Policies can be an effective solution for changing research culture and practice. A growing number of research-performing organisations (institutions) and funding agencies have policies that support open research practices — sharing of research data, code and software — as do publishers. Seeking to deepen our understanding of funder and institution needs related to open research, we surveyed more than 100 funders and institutions in 2020. We wanted to know if they are evaluating how researchers share data and code, how they are doing it, why they are doing it, and how satisfied they are with their ability to get these tasks done. Our results are available as a preprint along with an anonymised dataset….

Simple solutions more publishers could provide include:

Mandatory Data Availability Statements (DAS) in all relevant publications.
Across the STM industry around 15% of papers include a DAS. Since we introduced our data availability policy in 2014, 100% of PLOS research articles include a DAS.
Supporting researchers to provide information on why research data (and code) are not publicly available with their publications.
Time and again “data available on request” has been shown to be ineffective at supporting new research — and is not permitted in PLOS journals. 
Enabling and encouraging the use of data repositories.
Recommending the use of data repositories is a useful step, but making them easily and freely accessible — integrated into the publishing process — can be even more effective. Rates of repository use are higher in journals that partner closely with repositories and remove cost barriers to their use.
Providing visible links to research data on publications. Many researchers also struggle to find data they can reuse, hence PLOS will soon be experimenting with improving this functionality in our articles, and integrating the Dryad repository with submission….”


Four key challenges in the open?data revolution – Salguero?Gómez – 2021 – Journal of Animal Ecology – Wiley Online Library

Abstract:  In Focus: Culina, A., Adriaensen, F., Bailey, L. D., et al. (2021) Connecting the data landscape of long-term ecological studies: The SPI-Birds data hub. Journal of Animal Ecology, https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13388. Long-term, individual-based datasets have been at the core of many key discoveries in ecology, and calls for the collection, curation and release of these kinds of ecological data are contributing to a flourishing open-data revolution in ecology. Birds, in particular, have been the focus of international research for decades, resulting in a number of uniquely long-term studies, but accessing these datasets has been historically challenging. Culina et al. (2021) introduce an online repository of individual-level, long-term bird records with ancillary data (e.g. genetics), which will enable key ecological questions to be answered on a global scale. As well as these opportunities, however, we argue that the ongoing open-data revolution comes with four key challenges relating to the (1) harmonisation of, (2) biases in, (3) expertise in and (4) communication of, open ecological data. Here, we discuss these challenges and how key efforts such as those by Culina et al. are using FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reproducible) principles to overcome them. The open-data revolution will undoubtedly reshape our understanding of ecology, but with it the ecological community has a responsibility to ensure this revolution is ethical and effective.