On salmon and for-profit journal publishing | Scientist Sees Squirrel

“This reminds me of salmon. At my local supermarket, fresh salmon is very expensive – about $46/kg when I checked just now. Some of that is because salmon are expensive to catch, but some of that is because salmon fishing, processing, and sales are all done by for-profit enterprises.* I could find this outrageous, I suppose; but instead, I just don’t buy salmon. I don’t mind salmon; but I don’t love it enough to justify its price, especially compared to other fish species at ¼ to ½ the price. Other folks do love salmon enough to justify its price, so they buy it, and they enjoy it.

Now read that paragraph again, but every time you see the word “salmon”, substitute “publishing in Nature”.

If we’re outraged at the cost of publishing in for-profit journals, we could simply not publish in them. There’s perfectly good but much cheaper fish out there, including excellent (and non-profit) society-run journals. (In my own field, The American Naturalist and Ecology are just two of dozens of superb society-run journals; there are non-profits without society affiliations too.) If we chose not to publish in for-profit journals, we wouldn’t be paying the fees we’re outraged by. If enough of us made that choice, those fees would fall.** Not to nothing – publishing well costs money, and non-profit journals charge to publish too – but by a lot….”

Why journal papers are like cemetery plots | Scientist Sees Squirrel

“A few weeks ago I annoyed a lot of people by explaining how I think for-profit journals are like salmon. That post had a line suggesting that there are ways to make publishing cheaper – but not free (or close to it) because “publishing well costs money”. Today I’m going to pick up on that thought a little bit, and annoy a bunch more people by suggesting that journal papers are like cemetery plots.*


You see, there’s a subgenre of outraged objections to the cost of publishing that involves claims that publishing papers should be very close to free, because it costs almost nothing to take a manuscript, typeset it nicely, and post it on the web for all to read. And that’s true, but (I claim) irrelevant, and that’s where cemetery plots come in.

Cemetery plots are shockingly expensive. Per square metre, they’re one of the most expensive kinds of real estate one can buy. That’s because you aren’t just buying a very small piece of land (with a hole in it): you’re buying a small piece of a system that ensures the land is maintained and accessible in perpetuity. That involves property upkeep, not just this year and next but forever; it involves staff to arrange that; and staff to keep records; and much more….”

The unreasonable effectiveness of shared null results: | by Bruce Caron | Nov, 2022 | Medium

“ASAPbio recently (October, 2022) announced a competition to share negative results as preprints. <https://asapbio.org/competition2022>. Sharing negative results is integral for open science to achieve its unreasonably effective potential. The sharing of all research products is one of open science’s main goals.

We can imagine, in an alternative present, an academic publishing endeavor that has long made space for null-results. Ideally, these results would be available in the same journals that publish positive results, and in the same proportion as these are each generated through rigorous scientific methods. Publication in this manner might fairly accurately reflect the sum of knowledge generated by research (if it included data, software, etc.)….”

The Other Diversity in Scholarly Publishing – The Scholarly Kitchen

“If we explore other aspects of scholarly publishing — publication format, workflow, data sharing mechanisms, copyright, or licensing — we will find diverse options in practice. We may explain such diversity as a manifestation of the vibrant innovation culture of this industry driven by the needs from its stakeholders. To understand what value such diversity brings about, let’s compare it with the biodiversity we see around us….”

5 Things with Peter B. Kaufman

“Newtonian Principia for intellectual property thus would suggest that the natural laws of gravity for ideas and inventions require any and all of them eventually – some sooner than others, but all, eventually – to fall, drift, settle, end up, crash into . . . the public domain. The common good, in other words, is where these things ultimately arrive, by intent, by social design, by gravity, even with today’s intricate systems of private licenses and contracts.

One day, who knows, a grad student in the discipline might actually draft a formula free of the arbitrary time dimensions legislated by private interests, such that the proper pull of our public domain might be explained. Perhaps it would be a formula like Newton’s law of universal gravitation…where, irrespective of the form of the creative act (song, photo, poem, play, book, film, drawing, tapestry), there is some math that predicts when every act becomes fully part of our free common heritage. Intellectual property, as we call it, is not meant to be private, except for a term, and then it’s meant to be public forever….”


“Hip-Hop librarianship for scholarly communication: An approach to introducing topics” by Arthur J Boston

Abstract:  Hip-Hop music, business, distribution, and culture exhibit highly-comparable trends in the scholarly communication and publication industry. This article discusses Hip-Hop artists and research authors as content creators, each operating within marketplaces still adjusting to digital, online connectivity. These discussions are intended for classroom use, where students may access their existing knowledge framework of popular media and apply it to a new understanding of the scholarly communication environment. Research instructors and librarians may discover new perspectives to familiar issues through conversations with students engaging with this material in a novel way.


Is Scholarly Publishing Like Rock and Roll?

Abstract:  This article uses Alan B. Krueger’s analysis of the music industry in his book Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us About Economics and Life as a lens to consider the structure of scholarly publishing and what could happen to scholarly publishing going forward. Both the music industry and scholarly publishing are facing disruption as their products become digital. Digital content provides opportunities to a create a better product at lower prices and in the music industry this has happened. Scholarly publishing has not yet done so. Similarities and differences between the music industry and scholarly publishing will be considered. Like music, scholarly publishing appears to be a superstar industry. Both music and scholarly publishing are subject to piracy, which threatens revenue, though Napster was a greater disrupter than Sci-Hub seems to be. It also appears that for a variety of reasons market forces are not effective in driving changes in business models and practices in scholarly publishing, at least not at the rate we would expect given the changes in technology. After reviewing similarities and differences, the prospects for the future of scholarly publishing will be considered.


Free software/free science | Kelty | First Monday

Over the last few years, as the Open Source/Free Software movement has become a constant in the business and technology press, generating conferences, spawning academic investigations and business ventures alike, one single question seems to have beguiled nearly everyone: “how do you make money with free software?”

If the question isn’t answered with a business plan, it is inevitably directed towards some notion of “reputation”. The answer goes: Free Software programmers do what they love, for whatever reason, and if they do it well enough they gain a reputation for being a good coder, or at least a loud one. Throughout the discussions, reputation functions as a kind of metaphorical substitute for money – it can spill over into real economies, be converted via better jobs or consulting gigs, or be used to make decisions about software projects or influence other coders. Like money, it is a form of remuneration for work done, where the work done is measured solely by the individual, each person his or her own price for creating something. Unlike money, however, it is also often seen as a kind of property. Reputation is communicated by naming, and the names that count are those of software projects and the people who contribute to them. This sits uneasily beside the knowledge that free software is in fact a kind of real (or legal) property (i.e. copyrighted intellectual property). The existence of free software relies on intellectual property and licensing law (Kelty, forthcoming; Lessig, 1999).

In considering the issue, most commentators seem to have been led rather directly to similar questions about the sciences. After all, this economy of reputation sounds extraordinairily familiar to most participants [1]. In particular two claims are often made: 1) That free software is somehow ‘like’ science, and therefore good; and, 2) That free software is – like science – a well-functioning ‘gift economy’ (a form of meta-market with its own currency) and that the currency of payment in this economy is reputation. These claims usually serve the purpose of countering the assumption that nothing good can come of system where individuals are not paid to produce. The assumption it hides is that science is naturally and essentially an open process – one in which truth always prevails.

The balance of this paper examines these claims, first through a brief tour of some works in the history and social study of science that have encountered remarkably similar problems, and second by comparing the two realms with respect to their “currencies” and “intellectual property” both metaphorical and actual….”

The Biggest Scam in Publishing?

In some ways, it’s like the history of forceps (yes, that often-controversial instrument of childbirth). When forceps were first invented, they were a carefully guarded secret. It’s not that they were whacky-science or anything, but simply that the creator could force families to pay handsomely for a better chance at surviving the procedure. The Chamberlen family guarded their invention and were known to only provide medical care to wealthy and even royal patients. The rest of the commoners could simply die in childbirth if they couldn’t pay.

That continues to be the attitude in academic and scientific publishing. If you want to know the outcome of an expensive research project, you won’t find that information for free, regardless of who footed the bill for it. Until steps are taken to ensure that scientific findings are available to all, the gatekeepers will continue to serve only the wealthy who can foot the bill….”

“Free is not fair” won’t make authors richer, but fixing publishers’ contracts will / Boing Boing

“Australia is about to radically expand its copyright and the publishing industry has forged an unholy alliance with authors’ groups to rail against fair use being formalised in Australia, rallying under the banner of “Free is not fair.”

Rebecca Giblin (previously), one of Australia’s leading copyright scholars and the founder of a project to examine the way that authors’ interests diverge from their publishers’ interests.

She points out that giving Australian authors more copyright won’t do them any good if the highly concentrated publishing industry simply demands that all that copyright be transferred to corporate balance sheets as part of their standard contracts. It’s like giving your bullied kid extra lunch money: the bullies will simply mug them for the extra money you’ve handed over….”

A Data Sharing Renaissance: Music to My Ears! – Office of Science Policy

“When world famous cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, visited the NIH campus, he shared a story from the history of music, in which the peak of stringed instrument quality occurred in the late 17th century at a time of great collaboration and sharing of knowledge. When instrument makers began to compete, all of that changed: secrets of craftsmanship were held close and the quality of instruments plummeted. This decline lasted, according to Ma, until the 20th century, when again the free-flow of knowledge resumed. NIH Director Francis Collins noted, “There’s a lesson here about science.”

Data sharing is important. It is critical to continued progress in science, to maximize our investment in research, and to ensure the highest levels of transparency and rigor in science. But data sharing is a means to an end, not itself an end goal and, as such, needs to be done thoughtfully, in a way that fulfills the vision and mission of NIH and continues the advancement of treatments for disease and improvement of human health. NIH has long been on the forefront of making access to the results of our research accessible and has described our vision for expanding access to publications and data both in the 2015 NIH Plan for Increasing Access to Scientific Publications and Digital Scientific and in the 2018 Strategic Plan for Data Science….

Today, NIH released a notice in its Guide to Grants and Contracts that seeks public input on the key policy provisions that NIH is considering for inclusion in a future draft policy aimed at replacing NIH’s existing Data Sharing Policy. By obtaining robust stakeholder feedback we can help ensure that the future NIH policy will promote opportunities for data management and sharing while allowing flexibility for various data types, sharing platforms, and strategies.  The information stakeholders provide can also assist us in developing streamlined approaches that could potentially reduce unnecessary administrative burdens….”

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma Talks Music, Science – The NIH Record – January 27, 2017

“Great improvements, said [Yo Yo] Ma, can come from collaboration. He said his cello was crafted in Cremona, Italy, at a time when apprenticeships were popular and the quality of instruments peaked, between 1695 and 1735. But then instrument makers around the world began competing for business and keeping secrets.

“There’s a lesson here about science, I think,” interjected Collins.

In the ensuing two centuries, Ma said, the quality of instruments plummeted. In the 1970s, however, apprenticeships resumed around the world; knowledge flowed and the quality of instruments dramatically improved….”

What if it were « Love Boat »? | Ouvertures immédiates / Immediate openings

“Imagine a very select and reputable travel agency that sells you a dream cruise for 250,000€. You obviously don’t have to bleed yourself to death to buy it. You can find other ways to travel, especially if you take the initiative and organise you own trip.

Now suppose that your career depends on a commission that will judge your merits based on the number and type of cruises you have completed and that will have a special indulgence for those you have purchased from the prestigious agency in question. The simple name of the agency is enough to convince the members of this committee of the quality of the trips it offers. Chances are you will try by any means to obtain the necessary funds to order a cruise there.

Now suppose that your employer decides that the prestige you have gained or strengthened in this way will reflect on his company. He’ll buy you the cruise, even if it’s outrageously expensive.

So let us ask ourselves the question: who is guilty ?
À. The ultra-chic travel agency ?
B. The traveller, that is, yourself ?
C. The members of the jury who use this criterion to evaluate you ? …”