Proposal to allow publishers to charge for access to tax-funded research

Discuss

57 Responses to “Proposal to allow publishers to charge for access to tax-funded research”

  1. klenow says:

    GAH…hit on my pet peeve. I am a scientist. I am livid about this bill (and yeah, I’ve already fired off letters to the appropriate congresscritters, along with many of my colleagues). A few years ago when the NIH said works had to be shared, everybody was ecstatic. It was great news; we figured it was about time. The time delay protected the journals; 12 months is way too long to wait for cutting edge stuff. 1 month is too long for field-specific stuff. No institutions would be canceling their subscriptions. And it gave us access to the older tangentially related stuff. It doesn’t happen too often, but there are times you need to see some three year old paper from a similar field of study that you just learned about….and then the library doesn’t have it….and then the publisher wants $18 for the article, and you say screw it.

    Then this crap. Hell, *I* do the work, *I* write the articles, *I* review the articles other people do for *free*. I even pay to have my stuff published! And then I pay for the subscription so I can read my own damn paper. Oh, and then you own my figures? (they do copyright them, I can’t republish an old figure for a review article)

    OK, I’ll just rant and rave privately now. Sorry about that. Off to the angry dome.

  2. SamSam says:

    @ #8 Tdawwg:

    download however many PDFs we want for free, it’s unlikely that 99% of us would be any closer, say, to a working understanding of quantum physics, medicine, etc. Said understanding would take years of training, learning, and other “elite” behavior. So by all means make information more accessible, but kindly tell us to what end, for whom, for what use?

    That’s a ridiculous argument. You may as well say that there’s no point distributing open source circuit diagrams, because 99% of people won’t understand them or know what to do with them. Or that there’s no point in distributing works in Tagalog, because 98% of people in the world don’t speak it.

    Not only that, but your idea that only 1% of people will understand all scientific articles is also absurd. As a TA for several science courses, I gave plenty of papers for incoming Freshmen to read, the vast majority of which were perfectly easy to understand. Are you saying that only 1% of people are capable of taking a Freshman science course? You rate your own ability to understand the articles too highly.

    The amount that science journals charge is a scam (some of Elsevier’s journals have an annual subscription fee of $14,000!), but they can get away with it because universities are able to pony up the dough. The rest of us generally can’t, even if we’re working in scientific or technical fields.

    As one of those people working in a technical field myself, I often do research that takes me to journals that my company does not have the funds to pay for (ironic, as we’re using the same tax dollar grants that probably paid for the research in the first place). As such, I either have to pay high prices per article for the latest research, or I am content to use 2- or 3-year-old research that have now been made accessible.

    Closing off access to those 2- and 3-year-old articles would cause our costs to sky-rocket.

    And regardless, you are side-stepping the problem that we, taxpayers, paid for this research in the first place, and so organizations such as the NIH have (rightly) specified that the works must eventually be made open. What do you see wrong with these conditions?

  3. GuidoDavid says:

    Takuan: Unless it is made of GuidoDavium Tinfoil alloy, it is worthless. And only I have the know-how for manufacturing it!

  4. grimshaw says:

    A reason that publishers and aggregators may have began charging so much for journal subscriptions in the mid to late nineties was, and continues to be, out of fear that digitization would lead to “sharing”. This 2001 article (which I recall reading whilst in library school way back then) from the Washington Post deals with the issue, sort of:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A36584-2001Feb7?language=printer

    I think examples like BioMed Central, linked to earlier, show that scholarly publishing can remain rigorous without excessive cost.

  5. Tdawwg says:

    @18, indeed, but one would still want some kind of a gatekeeper, no? Peer-review post-publication is one kind of method, but peer-review prepublication has its own benefits. I’m more comfortable with having debates about accuracy, correctness, etc., decided before the information is disseminated: but maybe science works differently? And I’m not looking for empathy, I’m just stating a desire as an economic actor in an increasingly monetized world.

    @19, all interesting ideas, but a scattered handful of Wikipedia quotations isn’t really enough, especially redundant and patronizing ones to the information economy, etc. (not to speak of dubious references to old Alec Guinness films). Shout-outs to the Iron Law of Oligarchy are fun, but these issues are much more systemic to our technologically-mediated bureaucratic society, and have little bearing on the present issue: you’re talking more about laws of societal organization than a relatively discreet issue of scholarly publishing and its discontents. I assure you, though, that I and my statist capitalist friends have no designs on your disruptive innovations or your life, so chill.

    Again, both-and, not either/or. So much of what we all want seems realizable, so let’s set about mutually creating models of publication that work for everyone, that maximize access, and that utilize the contributions, paid and otherwise, of experts. Now if I only had ideas on how to do that….

  6. zuzu says:

    The amount that science journals charge is a scam (some of Elsevier’s journals have an annual subscription fee of $14,000!), but they can get away with it because universities are able to pony up the dough. The rest of us generally can’t, even if we’re working in scientific or technical fields.

    As an aside, this is also exactly the problem with the medical-industrial complex.

    Insurance companies can pony up the crazy sums that hospitals and drug companies make up, because insurance companies ostensibly get free money from the banks, who get free money from the Federal Reserve. But if you actually have to earn money, then the prices for medical products and services are completely detached from reality. Just as no individual would ever pay $14k to read a journal.

    If we’re going to make healthcare affordable, we need to subvert that racket with Health Consumerism, just as if science is going to flourish in the Information Age, the old science journals and professional cliques need to be obsoleted by Open Access.

  7. zuzu says:

    I assure you, though, that I and my statist capitalist friends have no designs on your disruptive innovations or your life, so chill.

    Um, not publishing openly is exactly such a design against end-user innovation.

    these issues are much more systemic to our technologically-mediated bureaucratic society, and have little bearing on the present issue

    I don’t see how you came to this conclusion. If anything there’s resistance to fully utilizing telecommunications technology, to preserve the current order. It’s not a technical problem, it’s a social problem: so-called Professionalism.

  8. zuzu says:

    A reason that publishers and aggregators may have began charging so much for journal subscriptions in the mid to late nineties was, and continues to be, out of fear that digitization would lead to “sharing”.

    In other words, publishers are rent seeking.

    They don’t actually do anything that can’t be done free via the Internet, except that they prefer extorting money from people rather than finding another job.

  9. Jonathan Badger says:

    It’s also worth realizing that open access isn’t just good for laypeople — many scientists are prevented from accessing journal articles under the current system. There are thousands and thousands of journals out there, and even the largest university can only subscribe to a fraction of them. And the problem gets even worse for scientists who work at smaller universities and research institutes which may only be able to subscribe to a few dozen major journals.

    As a biologist at a research institute (JCVI), I can tell you that I run into papers I can’t access on a daily basis. Yes, in theory I could put in an inter-library loan request and wait a week or more to receive a poorly photocopied version of a paper that may not be as relevant as the abstract suggested, but given the rapid pace of science that’s not a practical solution.

  10. zuzu says:

    Check out BioMed Central for another example of Open Access scholarly communication:

    And of course, the Public Library of Science (PLoS).

  11. earlgrey says:

    I work for a publisher of clinic-based medical journals. Specifically, I am a copy editor: I review the content, check data, process author galleys, incorporate post-galleys corrections, and generally ensure that the final product is of the highest possible quality. Finding a balance between having quality and having fast and smooth production is a struggle.

    I can assure you that manuscripts as they are submitted are not ready for release (I receive articles after peer review). Many authors are foreign, so a language barrier causes some problems/errors that are simple to correct. Most of these authors seem to have difficulty in preparing writing the content in a way that makes all of the numerical data, drug regimens, statistical language, and formatting readable.

    My publisher is for-profit, and is not funded by an institution or other entity. Most of our costs for overhead, printing, etc. come from advertising (society-based journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, also have advertisements), and some from reprints/sales.

    The original post was about tax payer-funded research, but it seems some comments have veered into questioning the production process in general. I believe that research funded by taxes should be open, but that doesn’t mean that the costs of creating the research go away. Included in those costs are (including the above mentioned copy editing needs) printing/archiving, and peer review/acquisition.

    Let’s say we live in a e-only world (though that will never fully be true, because some readers prefer hard copies, including our audience, practicing physicians). So that cuts printing. The articles need to be electronically archived: do authors know how to write in code? Design online databases? Pay for this enormous bandwidth? (Some publishers have used a system in which the author pays for production of their article). Just as paper is not free, internet space is not free.

    Peer reviewers usually review article for free. What about the administrative duties required to ensure this process is organized? Articles do not just automatically show up in reviewers inboxes. Similarly, someone has to make sure that the accepted article (and revised version of that article) is the one that is actually published. Authors are not unable to do these things if we are having a truly blind review process.

    That leaves editing (and I would also put into that category design/layout), in which I have direct experience. As peer reviewers are reviewing for free and work in their own hospitals and clinics, they do not have time to fully edit the content.

    Do you want incorrect/unclear information appearing as official, referenced material? Unfortunately, my authors are not trained in communication; they have medical degrees. There is a difference between “weekly drug1/drug2/drug3″ and “weekly drug1, drug2, drug3.” Tables and figures need to be re-formatted so that they are fit for publication; designers, not medical doctors, have the skills needed to make sure that these and other visual elements are clear

    Post # 23 proposes that none of the production cost is borne by the holder of copyright. In fact, ALL of these costs are paid by the production staff. If you know of authors in medicine who are fully editing their manuscripts to acceptable style, please send them to my journal. Furthermore, typing the text in Microsoft Word is not typesetting: transferring this text and these figures to the proper publishing software is needed.

    I believe that open access is a great thing. I do not believe that publishing content that is sub-par in its communication potential is helpful, therefore I believe that cutting these production processed would be detrimental to patient care and the furtherance of research. My company is not “out to get” readers by charging for access; we are not “out to get” authors by making them sign a form that says they can’t publish the same article twice (you need to have the information in one lone referenceable location to have proper archiving).

    Unfortunately, not everything is free.

  12. SamSam says:

    I wrote to my congressman. There was a sample letter here, and you can send an email to your congressman from here.

    To the Honorable Michael E. Capuano:

    I am writing to strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 801, “the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,” introduced to the House Judiciary Committee on February 3, 2009.

    This bill would amend the U.S. Copyright Code, prohibiting federal agencies from requiring public access to the products as a condition of funding agreements. This will significantly inhibit our ability to advance scientific discovery and to stimulate innovation in all scientific disciplines.

    Most critically, H.R. 801 would prevent the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from following their current Public Access Policy, which allows American taxpayers to access the results of the crucial biomedical research funded by their taxpayer dollars. This bill will stifle critical advancements in life-saving research and scientific discovery.

    The only people who will benefit from the proposed law are the journal publishers. The law would do a great disservice, however to the scientific community and to the taxpayers who fund their research.

    The NIH and other agencies must be allowed to ensure timely, public access to the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars. Please oppose H.R.801.

    Sincerely,

  13. earlgrey says:

    Please forgive my typos in the above post, quite embarrassing given I’m a copy editor. I meant to say that “authors are not able to do these things if we are to have a truly blind peer review process.”

  14. Tdawwg says:

    Samsam, I said Conyers’s bill was bull. Now I’ve repeated it, OK? I’m objecting to more of the rhetoric and thrust of a lot of copyfight debates: different issues.

    Regarding Tagalog, etc., I rather think it’s up to you to explain the benefits of using a medium of transmission that’s unknown by most. Perhaps not pointless, but I quite fail to see how this would be the best, most pragmatic solution for just about anything that’s not Tagalog-related.

    Zuzu, I and my statist capitalist thug pals are in awe of your intellectual rigor and rhetorical fire, not to mention your stupendous powers of continuous reiteration. Thank you ever so much for attempting to back me into a rhetorical corner.

    For the rest, I quite agree that open-source models have so much to contribute to the way we produce knowledge: indeed, it’s the new paradigm. I just hope we can take whatever benefits that obtain under the current system, mainly accuracy and expertise, and carry them over into the new. Sheesh, that’s it people! Both-and, not either/or. Lather, rinse, repeat. Tdawwg out.

  15. naufragio says:

    #50, I’m not sure what you mean by saying the NIH public access policy is “only a policy”. The NIH policy was required by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (PL 110-161). More here: http://publicaccess.nih.gov/policy.htm

  16. Anonymous says:

    Sorry to tell y’all, but that is exactly the way it is now. We librarians have been screaming about paying big bucks for research articles paid for by your taxes. The NIH policy was a step in the right direction. The Conyers bill is a reaction against the NIH policy.

  17. MookieBC says:

    One thing that’s left out of the Lessig article is the fact that PLoS has page charges, just like pretty much every other STM (Scientific, Technical, Medical) journals out there. They are willing to waive or lower the page charges, though (just like a lot of other STM journals).

    PLoS does some pretty amazing things (PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases being my favorite example), but it remains to be seen how long they can stay viable. They appear to be fairly dependent on large grants, but they also are pretty adept at getting them (having a former head of the NIH being a founder helps immensely there).

    PLoS’s journals are free to the public from day one, but their publication model is not free from charges to the authors. PLoS also employs an editorial staff, just like every other STM journal out there. That staff performs the same value-adds as staff at subscription-based journals.

    I should also point out this posting from the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s blog:
    http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2009/03/02/framing-the-open-access-debate/

  18. Tdawwg says:

    @41, the difficulty of determining affect on the ‘Nets aside, that reads as quite insulting. Really.

  19. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Community Manager says:

    Tdawwg, let’s get technical. What degree of editing and what kind of production costs are we talking about here? I’ll grant the text is frequently dense, with lots of superscripts and odd symbols, and the diagrams and illustrations can be challenging; but is the work so demanding and difficult that it justifies an authorless copyright on top of the very high cost of the finished product?

  20. klenow says:

    To clarify…

    I am fighting this. I have written the appropriate Congress members and have organized colleagues to do the same. We will fight louder as it gets closer to being a reality. If it gets closer to being a reality.

    And to tdawgg…

    “Respectfully, copyright for academic works offsets the high cost of production of said academic works.”

    Actually, my page charges offset the high cost of production of academic works. At least, that’s what it says when they bill me about 75-100/page to publish the stuff (depending on the journal). There are usually ~150 or so pages of published works in the major journals, so they get about $11,000 from the submitters to publish. And no, I don’t think that covers all of it.

    To what end? To my end, for one. I am an expert (PhD in biochemistry, worked in the field for 12 years, to throw around CV synopses). The library here cannot afford subscriptions to every journal out there, and there have been many instances in which I need an old article…and they want $20 to give me access to a pdf because my institution didn’t subscribe to the archives. I can buy it, and often do, but it takes a few days to get it worked out. Often, it’s deemed more trouble than it’s worth. And in the end, that hurts everyone.

    I’m an NIH funded researcher. If the work of other scientists helps me, that helps everyone. If I can see that Dr Lee in San Francisco already did what I’m getting ready to do…I can move on. If I have his paper, I can figure out where he left off, I can repeat and modify his work. I can learn more quickly and move on to what is not yet known. Then I can do the same, release my knowledge to the community.

    To others ends, as well. My brother, for instance. His second child was diagnosed with a near death sentence. He got papers, read them, understood them, and then explained them to his kids doctors. And his life sciences education ended with Bio 101 in college, and a few brief “so how’s work?” conversations with me. He convinced them to try new things, and now that kid is fine, largely as a result of his behavior. But he was only able to do it because I sent him the papers. If he didn’t have my “in”, he would have had yet another obstacle in his way (one that he would have overcome, but shouldn’t have been there in the first place).

    So yes, this is useful. Perhaps not to everyone, but the same can be said about just about any information.

  21. naufragio says:

    (Disclosure: I consult for an organization which advocates for open access and against this bill. I’m also a daily BB reader.)

    I’m glad to see Boing Boing covering this issue (twice!). But to clarify a few points:

    Publishers already charge for access to taxpayer-funded research. Currently, there is a maximum allowable 12-month window between when an NIH-funded article is accepted for publication and when it has to be made freely available on PubMed Central. So publishers, under the current system, have up to 12 months to profit exclusively from articles they publish. (As other commenters have pointed out, publishers don’t pay authors or fund the research, but they do provide quality control, copyediting, etc.)

    This will would allow publishers to charge exclusively, forever, for access to taxpayer-funded research. And it would prevent any other agency from adopting an open access policy (NIH is the only U.S. agency with a policy so far).

    For an overview of research funders’ open access policies internationally, including non-governmental charitable funders, see the SHERPA JULIET list.

    For information on contacting your legislator about this bill, see this page from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.

  22. Takuan says:

    (opens raincoat, psssst! senor! you wanna buy sceentifuikal article? Very cheap! Very clean!)

  23. pjcamp says:

    The arXiv server (www.arxiv.org) killed paper publishing in the world of physics. The journals only exist now for the purpose of filling library shelves and the inboxes of P&T committees. Anyone who tries to keep current using journals is at least a year behind the cutting edge.

  24. Anonymous says:

    You know, Elsevier often makes the first issue of the year freely available as a sort of advertising for their journals. It would be interesting to do some research to see how much more articles from THOSE issues are cited than those that require subscriptions. It would be intersting to put some numbers behind the assertions of the value of free access.

  25. hlehmann2 says:

    Gee, I wonder who’s been bribing John Conyers?

  26. wilco says:

    My way of getting out of copyright issues when putting up pdf files of published articles is to put ‘draft’ on the title page, and in some cases put on a slightly earlier version than the one in print. I’m not sure if this still could get me in trouble but in practice this stops publishers harassing me (IEEE uses some sort of middle way, where you have to put a disclaimer on the site where you put the free pdf)

    Anyway, I am completely against anyone charging for the products of tax-funded science, including software developed in research projects.

  27. GuidoDavid says:

    Tdawwg:

    You are assuming that if we release things as OA, peer review is going to go.
    Bullshit. Physicists do very well with ArXiv, and anyway, reviews are for free currently. My colleagues do not get paid even one cent for it. And we work in an university in an undeveloped country, so many, many, papers are out of our reach, it hinders our research and causes even more trouble in a place where already there are enough troubles for scientists.

    You could argue that that is no concern for American taxpayers.
    Again, bullshit, as many our best people go to America or Europe to do research, often they stay there forever. Therefore, we fund a tiny bit of your research too, as college is free here. So, if we would have open access, our education and research would improve, therefore a bit of your own research would improve too.

    And before you point that ArXiv is not perfect, neither is the supposed gatekeeper. It is a very lame gatekeeper the one who lets shit like this pass as peer reviewed research:
    http://globallyconnected.blogspot.com/2007/07/exposing-some-quacks.html

    I will gladly exchange this all for a whuffie based system any day. Or we could self organize and pay to a small staff to get in touch with reviewers and give the green light to papers. Maybe less glamour, but also cheaper.

  28. Brainspore says:

    Soon we’ll have to pay for the privilege of reading ballot measures.

  29. Jeff says:

    Would someone please shoot Michigan and put us out of our misery? Conyers and his wife are worthless.

  30. Snig says:

    ‘Cause research is such a cheap and easy thing to do, researchers always have all the money they need, and we want to discourage them from finding out new info. And students of the sciences who are unafiliated with labs shoud have more hindrances…

    I’m really having a hard time thinking of any upside other than publishing houses getting more money. Maybe the Xerox and the timber/paper industry are contributors too?

    Considering that they’re paying for little more than a website for publication, there’s no justification for this. In the future, all research should just be posted on BoingBoing.

    Dingell of Michigan was anti-scientist too. What’s wrong with Michigan Dems?

  31. cinemajay says:

    @25, rant away! Yours are the exact opinions that NEED to be heard about this bill!

  32. Snig says:

    And doctors and other health professionals can just read their outdated texts and get by from the abstracts and wikipedia, rather than getting new clinically relevant research.

    Journals don’t just not pay contributors, they CHARGE A PUBLICATION fee already. I’m sorry, I know I’m capping. I’ll go play some mad scientist music and come down now.

  33. kattw says:

    Even more absurb, many journals charge the authors for the priveledge of submitting their work. Or using color figures. And then charge ludicrous rates to people who want to read it.

    The real shame is that research is tremendously difficult without access to journals, and the journals themselves, which flourish when research is at its best, raise their prices and decrease productivity as a result.

  34. cinemajay says:

    Wow, that is monumentally asinine. Why does everything need to be turned into a farking revenue stream these days?

    Why can’t we do SOME things for the public good?

    /jeesh

  35. Anonymous says:

    Yet another stip in the RIAAization of IP. Certainly the scientific publishers seem to have convinced themselves that it is primarily their “branding” of the articles by deigning to publish them that gives them value. The peer review process is critical to keep us from drowning even deeper in an explosion of marginal scientific writing. But there’s really no reason, in this internet age, for it to be controlled by for-profit publishers.

    IMHO PLoS provides a great model for the future. But what we need is 50 or more specialized PLoS journals, because it is in the more specialized fields where dead-tree, legacy, publishing exacts its greatest bite per copy.

  36. Tdawwg says:

    Respectfully, copyright for academic works offsets the high cost of production of said academic works. It’s the difficulty and technical specificity of science and other scholarship that makes them inaccessible to most, regardless of how they’re transmitted among a populace: download however many PDFs we want for free, it’s unlikely that 99% of us would be any closer, say, to a working understanding of quantum physics, medicine, etc. Said understanding would take years of training, learning, and other “elite” behavior. So by all means make information more accessible, but kindly tell us to what end, for whom, for what use? Cui bono, right? Is society really hurting because most of us can’t access the latest particle-physics articles from home? What would most of us DO with such information, anyway?

    Those of us in scholarly publishing giggle a bit when we’re described as “evil.” Really, we’re simply experts (O word of fear!) who help to make content that’s mainly of use to, well, other experts. If we could work out a viable model whereby we can still be compensated for our necessary work AND provide greater access to our content, then great!

    I respectfully submit that a lot of “copyfight” rhetoric jumps the rails when ignoring these pragmatic issues in favor of mere ideology. That said, Conyers’s plan is batshit insane: publicly funded scholarship should be free to all, wherever possible.

  37. AlfonsoElSabio says:

    First of all, this isn’t about ACADEMIC publishing; it is about federally-funded research (i.e., research that OUR tax dollars have paid for … ).

    Please understand that difference.

    Groups are working to try and get the NIH policy (yes, it is only a policy) codified into law so that ANY federal entity can use the same approach for releasing research. HR 801 would SPECIFICALLY prevent this from happening …

    I urge you all to contact your representatives (those of you in the US, anyway) and voice your concerns.

    And there is plenty of reason to be concerned, as there is reason to believe that Conyer will try and attach the bill to another, less-controversial piece of legislation and slide it through.

    Get involved with the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (http://www.taxpayeraccess.org/) and bring this bill to a dead stop.

    DISCLAIMER/DISCLOSURE: Yeah, I got a proverbial dog in this fight … I’m an archivist/librarian.

  38. zuzu says:

    Those journals, however, then charge libraries across the world an increasingly high rate to get access to the research in those journals. As the industry has become more concentrated, those rates have skyrocketed — rising much faster than inflation.

    Wait, what was the original purpose of the Internet, again?
    (Before it became a porn-distribution service.)

    Oh, that’s right: for scientists to freely share their research!

  39. GuidoDavid says:

    Klenow:
    If you are silent and pretend to be happy about it, you will become the future of science!

  40. websorcerer says:

    If you feel strongly about this, contact your representative

  41. Anonymous says:

    Somehow there is a blur occurring between production (the publisher) and ownership (the taxpayer).

    Perhaps the building contractor who produced John Conyers’ home car garage should seek a small fee each time a car is removed?

  42. Tdawwg says:

    @TNH, No, but I never said this. Again, both-and: I’m for authors’ rights and open access and for safeguarding the livelihood of academic editors. Your question, “but is the work so demanding and difficult that it justifies an authorless copyright on top of the very high cost of the finished product?” is a bit too reductio ad absurdum for me. “Thou hast said it,” not me….

    @Guidodavid, thanks for knowing what I assume, and being so brave to tell me! Thanks also for having the foresight to refute arguments I didn’t make, thus sparing me the trouble of making them and the consternation of being thus refuted! Thanks most of all for the civility! That said, the most egregious problems with copyright as it now is affect the developing world and its lack of access to traditional media. I liked your last point, a gleaming gem buried in all that bile.

  43. zuzu says:

    Respectfully, copyright for academic works offsets the high cost of production of said academic works.

    What production costs? Publishing online is ostensibly free.

    Wikimedia Foundation and the Internet Archive will even provide free hosting. Researchers can upload the .tex or .pdf files themselves.

    It’s the difficulty and technical specificity of science and other scholarship that makes them inaccessible to most, regardless of how they’re transmitted among a populace: download however many PDFs we want for free, it’s unlikely that 99% of us would be any closer, say, to a working understanding of quantum physics, medicine, etc. Said understanding would take years of training, learning, and other “elite” behavior. So by all means make information more accessible, but kindly tell us to what end, for whom, for what use? Cui bono, right? Is society really hurting because most of us can’t access the latest particle-physics articles from home? What would most of us DO with such information, anyway?

    That’s not for you to decide in advance. Put it out there and be amazed by what does happen from those of us who aren’t “experts”.

    Because surely Free Software, open-source hardware, or DIYbio don’t already exist?

    It is imperative for many reasons that the appalling gap between public and computer insider be closed. As the saying goes, war is too important to be left to the generals. Guardianship of the computer can no longer be left to a priesthood. I see this as just one example of the creeping evil of Professionalism, the control of aspects of society by cliques of insiders. There may be some chance, though, that Professionalism can be turned around. Doctors, for example, are being told that they no longer own people’s bodies. And this book may suggest to some computer professionals that their position should not be as sacrosanct as they have thought, either.

    I see Professionalism as a spreading disease of the present-day world, a sort of poly-oligarchy by which various groups (subway conductors, social workers, bricklayers) can bring things to a halt if their particular demands are not met. (Meanwhile, the irrelevance of each profession increases, in proportion to its increasing rigidity.) Such lucky groups demand more in each go-round – but meantime, the number who are permanently unemployed grows and grows.

    Ted Nelson

  44. IWood says:

    #2 posted by wilco:

    Anyway, I am completely against anyone charging for the products of tax-funded science, including software developed in research projects.

    This reminds my of 2205′s S.786, in which Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa) sought to prevent the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from “competing” with private weather firms like AccuWeather. It would have effectively shut down NOAA’s website (which is chock-full of goodies like a dozen different kinds of radar from your local weather monitoring stations along with live feeds of the watches and warnings that TV and radio weatherfolks use).

    AccuWeather, of course, is based in Pennsylvania.

    But I pay for NOAA, along with every other taxpayer, and I want my radar goodies.

  45. GuidoDavid says:

    Well, if you are not assuming that, then enlighten us and explain us why the publishing has to so expensive and why its supposed gatekeeper roles cannot be fulfilled by other players than teh current ones.

  46. Anonymous says:

    “What would most of us DO with such information, anyway?”

    I just finished my BA in History and am currently working before starting an MA program. I do however like to keep up with the field. I do this by reading journals. Is it so inconceivable that a science student could be in the same situation?

  47. zuzu says:

    c.f. The Future of Work by Thomas W. Malone

    Imagine organizations where bosses give employees huge freedom to decide what to do and when to do it. Imagine electing your own bosses and voting directly on important company decisions. Imagine organizations where most workers aren’t employees at all, but electronically connected freelancers living wherever they want to. And imagine that all this freedom in business lets people get more of whatever they really want in life—money, interesting work, helping other people, or time with their families.

    In The Future of Work, renowned organizational theorist Thomas W. Malone, codirector of MIT’s landmark initiative “Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century,” shows where these things are already happening today and how—if we choose—they can happen much more in the future. Malone argues that a convergence of technological and economic factors—particularly the rapidly falling cost of communication—is enabling a change in business organizations as profound as the shift to democracy in governments. For the first time in history, says Malone, it will be possible to have the best of both worlds—the economic and scale efficiencies of large organizations, and the human benefits of small ones: freedom, motivation, and flexibility.

    Based on twenty years of groundbreaking research, this landmark book provides compelling models for actually designing the “company of the future.” Through vivid examples of organizations around the world Malone outlines: Four decentralized organizational structures—loose hierarchies, democracies, external markets, and internal markets—that will be enabled by technology but centered around enduring human values; The shift from “command-and-control” management to “coordinate-and-cultivate,” and the new skills that will be required to succeed; A framework for determining if a company’s situation is ripe for decentralizing and which organizational structure would be most effective

    Previously
    * Eric von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation and Sources of Innovation
    * Economics of Open Content symposium
    * Open Knowledge Archive Network
    * Science Commons explained in 120 seconds: video

  48. Snig says:

    TDAWWG,
    Thank you for categorizing me as an elite 1%. I don’t really think you’re evil, especially as you recognize Conyer’s plan as insane. I don’t think the average man on the street needs it, but the majority of folks reading this do.

    Most labs are chronically hurting for money. Most scientists are chronically hurting for time. Libraries are also always hurting for money, and can not pay to have hard copies of all journals.

    High level students in college and grad school use this work to be better students and to understand their field. Researchers essentially can not function without access to this data. Most of us are not polymaths, but a requirement of all who go into science is to read technical articles in their field.

    Health professionals should get access to as much health related info as possible.

    In the computer era, I’m afraid hard copy publishing is much less relevant than it used to be. I’m not really happy that it’s having a hard time, but that’s how I see it. Many “journals” could largely exist as websites. Yes, it’s neat to have copies of your paper to hand out, but it’s not as neccessary as it used to be.

  49. Tdawwg says:

    Zuzu, you know, like editing, design, production, etc.: all of those things that keep books and whatnot free from errors, pleasant to read, and thus useful. These costs aren’t exorbitant, of course, but they are real, and sites like Wikipedia offer completely different models of knowledge production: but said labor and its costs have been useful in producing scholarship up until now. Publishing is more than clicking “Upload,” no? At any rate, it’s not just some private scheme we cooked up to keep the rest of you ignorant and penniless….

    I respect your thoughts on professionalism, but Nelson’s overheated rhetoric is just much too much: arguments that read more like literary texts, with talk of “priesthoods” and other loaded language, just don’t work for me on the level of logic. They’re nice metaphors, but it’s hard to see professionals as priests: there’s just way too much disconnect between language and the thing being described for it to be useful to me. I’m all for increased access, I just don’t want to see the economic model by which I work and live and have my being destroyed without an adequate replacement, especially for vaguely-defined “the data wants to be free” arguments, and ad hominem attacks against cabals of scholars who hold the world in ignorance. That’s just silly talk. Professionalism that is open to outside influences, that is rigorously self-policing, that actively recruits the best and brightest, etc., is a positive benefit to society: just ask Nelson’s doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.

    Again, most of us would want a pragmatic both-and model, not an ideological either/or one, in reconciling the overlapping demands of access to information and commerce. Hyperinflated rhetoric from any side in this argument is to the detriment of all….

  50. Clif Marsiglio says:

    In the past, I’ve published my own works on the university servers and only once has a publisher ever said anything. They demanded that I remove the work, and I reminded them who I was (I have to use a professional name when publishing because I stupidly used my own name in a field I really don’t want connected to my current goal…ah youth, so reckless!)

    They responded back apologizing and asked if I wouldn’t mind taking down the galley proof (i.e., they portion they typeset and was pretty much how it was in the journal), and I said no…I was leaving it up as it was. In retrospect, it was a dick move, and I should have just grabbed the final revision from work and clicked Print To PDF and be done with it.

    I’ve never seen the author restricted in publishing anything…maybe not the stuff the editors had their hands in, but certainly your own results. Might not be pretty, might not be peer reviewed, but you can still point the raw data to the peer reviewed stuff anyways. I’ve never had an author not willing to send me an article when I’ve asked (i.e., not in google scholar and I don’t want to drive 50 miles to the get the journal without paying)…I’ve always gotten a response with full text within a week.

    So honestly, I believe it is the authors that need to take care of this crap and not worry about a law or editors. Publish it online and stop worrying.

  51. Takuan says:

    but…but Guido David! Are you saying my pyramid hat is worthless??!

  52. Tdawwg says:

    @14, I’m not quite sure of the tenor of your opening comment. Look, we can speak pragmatically of “experts,” while being aware of the implications–cultural, social, intellectual, ideological–of the term. I use it simply to denote a high level of expertise in a given field, without the rest of the baggage anti-expert rhetoricians want to saddle the term with: no priesthood for me, no snobbery, no fears of the ravening hordes of unwashed dummies, etc. If these images are what you’re bringing to the table, I repeat that they’re not mine, and I ask not to be projected upon thusly.

    Indeed, print publication for scholarly works is becoming increasingly outmoded. But I have a hard time seeing how most scholarly publications, especially the extremely technical ones, would benefit from the impoverishment and outmoding of the “experts” who are necessary to the quality of said publications. That’s all. I think the “gatekeeper” function of scholars and other experts needs to be recognized as a positive thing, wherever possible, while at the same time not being reified so that it shuts out new ideas, the transmission of knowledge, etc. Again, both-and, not either/or.

  53. Snig says:

    While I understand you don’t want your economic model of publishing to go away, it’s really hard for me to feel much sympathy. I survived on rice/beans/pasta for almost a decade due to the “economic model” of how we make scientists.

    Books and texts are one thing, and design/production/editing is important. For research, all you realy need is someone to hit “upload” on their manuscript.

    Most science is really not about commerce, it’s about information.

  54. zuzu says:

    I’m all for increased access, I just don’t want to see the economic model by which I work and live and have my being destroyed without an adequate replacement,

    But that’s exactly what Nelson’s overheated rhetoric attempts to underscore. The “clubhouse” or “trade union” or “professional clique” or whatever you want to call it is looking to protect and preserve their particular niche at the expense of everyone else.

    Consider the film The Man in the White Suit.

    Many of us knowledge workers (or hackers or DIYers or Makers) — or even simply informed consumers — see ourselves as the scientist protagonist in that story: creating disruptive innovation. But entrenched interests both from “statist capitalists” and from “trade unions” seek to preserve the status quo.

    This is a quite literally a deadly problem, in any economy, but especially in an information economy.

    If Ted Nelson doesn’t convince you, then perhaps Ivan Illich and Tools for Conviviality will be more palatable.

  55. Takuan says:

    Dear Tdawwg: I fear your otherwise incisive mind is getting a wedgie from your rousing ire. Please don’t get mad and go away, I for one want to see how this reasons out from people with an informed opinion, such as yourself. Really.

  56. Haakon IV says:

    Respectfully, copyright for academic works offsets the high cost of production of said academic works.

    But very little of the cost of production is borne by the publishers that hold the copyright. Typically, the scientist does the work (along with colleagues, students, technicians, etc.); funding is largely by government agencies, with some support from universities, foundations, etc.; papers are reviewed by unpaid colleagues in the same field. Almost all of the figure production and even typesetting and copy editing is now done by the authors, who are not paid for their writing (and, as others have pointed out, often pay for the privilege of signing away their copyright to the publisher).

    It is a crazy system. Some of the nonprofit scientific publishers are a little better (managed by professional organizations of scientists), but the for-profit publishers are stifling scientific communication with enormous library fees pricing out small institutions and ridiculous per-article fees ($30+ per PDF) for individuals without institutional access. It’s not sustainable, it never would have come about in the current circumstance of essentially zero distribution cost (particularly if you already operate a website), and the profits go to an entity that provides very little value these days.

  57. grimshaw says:

    Check out BioMed Central for another example of Open Access scholarly communication:

    http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/

Leave a Reply