Association for Computing Machinery tries to undermine open access

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31 Responses to “Association for Computing Machinery tries to undermine open access”

  1. chaircrusher says:

    My job is primarily funded by NIMH grants, which means all of our work is Open Access. I collaborate internationally with various other people at both Universities and for-profit companies.

    The ACM — of which I used to be a member, and whose publications I still actively read, free, courtesy of our University library — needs to come up with a business model that is compatible with the new digital reality. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that Open Source can generate revenue, with many different sorts of business models. It requires some vision and creative thinking.

    I hate to be the one stating the blindingly obvious, but the OA ACM archive is a perfect candidate for the advertiser-supported business model. For companies who sell software and services to software engineers, how much higher-quality could the audience for peer reviewed articles on computing be?

  2. Sweet Zombie Jesus says:

    The ACM is a non-profit that provides many crucial services to the computing community and beyond. This includes the costs of publication and dissemination of papers in ACM conferences and CACM. While I support open access in principle, we there needs to be a way for ACM to survive. Perhaps there is a way to fund it without paywalls for the Digital Library, but no one has made a plausible proposal. Perhaps dissemination costs could be picked up by the same laws that mandate open access.

    NB I am a dues-paying ACM member, and regular attendee, author, and committee member at ACM SIGGRAPH.

    • Naty says:

      “perhaps dissemination costs could be picked up by the same laws that mandate open access” – this is exactly how the NIH stuff works. The papers get posted on PubMedCentral, which is hosted by the government. Extending the same principle to ACM papers wouldn’t cost the ACM a cent since they wouldn’t be hosting.

      • Sweet Zombie Jesus says:

        ACM’s many other activities are effectively subsidized by the Digital Library (e.g., hosting smaller conferences and symposia, staffing and publishing CACM, etc.); it not just a question of who hosts the papers.

        • ChristerEricson says:

          Aaron,

          To say the ACM cannot exist without the digital library (DL) and the revenue from there is a bit rich. Clearly ACM existed for many years without rent-seeking income from the digital library. Logic suggests they can exist that way again.

          A simple way to make up for lost revenue from the rent-seeking activity of the DL is simply to increase membership fees.

          NB I am _no_ longer a paying member of ACM, and as long as they are continuing to behave like a for-profit organization with little regard for its members, I will actively campaign against everyone on the board, or those seeking a position on the board, in favor of bullying PhD students hot linking to authors’ papers on the web, for going against open access to tax funded papers, and similar activities that cannot possibly be in the members’ best interest. I will actively discourage people from attending SIGGRAPH and other equally expensive ACM conferences. I will no longer review papers for ACM, as I have done in the past, and I will suggest others do not provide such free services for the ACM. I also will not renew my membership, other than perhaps to be able to vote against particularly egregious characters not looking out for the members’ best interests, but instead making ACM and its revenue and growth some sort of goal in and of itself.

          The ACM has lost its bearing!

    • Anonymous says:

      PLoS and BMC are two foundations that are entirely open access in the biology world and are able to do so by charging a cost per page and also I believe by having volunteer editors. The largest amount of work for journals is done by people who are already giving their time for free, the reviewers and the article submitters. Everyone should have access to the information we as researchers are generating. I refuse to review any article that is not from an open access journal or publish in a non-open access journal and I know many who feel the same.

      • Sweet Zombie Jesus says:

        ACM fees support more than just the cost of publishing: they also support in running conferences, creating CACM, advocacy, and ACMs many other important activities. If ACM loses revenue, then many of the conferences it supports may go away.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s a bit facile to say this:
    To say the ACM cannot exist without the digital library (DL) and the revenue from there is a bit rich. Clearly ACM existed for many years without rent-seeking income from the digital library. Logic suggests they can exist that way again.

    Sure, they survived for years, like many nonprofits and professional societies, when libraries and members actually bought their journals. Now libraries want digital subscriptions and members want electronic-only access, so suddenly those online archives become pretty important.

    I work as an editor for SIAM (the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics), and our livelihood very much depends on sale of publications, in whatever form, as memberships and meeting registrations are insufficient to fund our activities — that means that we have to be vigilant about illicit posting of our books, work out ways to fairly charge access to digital files, and balance our financial needs against our desire to promote our field and serve our members and students. The answers are not at all as obvious as you seem to feel…

    acm

    • Naty says:

      To the anonymous SIAM editor: Assuming that making all SIAM publications open access would result in the loss of $X of revenue from publications sales (with no added costs – in the NIH model Uncle Sam handles hosting and bandwidth). However, it would provide a hugely valuable benefit to your field, members, students, etc. Are the activities currently funded by those $X that much more valuable?

  4. Anonymous says:

    As a computer developer and former network manager, I can tell you they’re full of BS about it being impossible to flag articles as open access because of their current backend system. It takes very little effort to modify any system to add that minor functionality, I’ve done it many times for many different companies and government institutions over the last 15 years. They don’t even need to pay for it, if they called the local technical college, a college kid would do it for free just for the gold star on their resume.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I second Anon #2.
    Could you post your short story for us to read?

    Also, totally unrelated, but I just finished reading Makers, and a curious thought occurred to me. Most INTEL Atoms are 32-bit, so if you gave boogy-woogy Elmos a net connection, could Big Mac run on them?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Cory: is there any chance you could make your ACM short story available on craphound.com?

  7. StevanHarnad says:

    Cory, ACM is on the side of the angels regarding Open Access (OA) http://bit.ly/7IAK1A and Naty’s well-intentioned comment is inadvertently missing the point:

    (1) ACM is among the 51% of publishers who are completely green on immediate self-archiving: http://romeo.eprints.org/stats.php

    (2) For authors — as well as for institutions and funders who are attempting to mandate OA — it makes an enormous difference *where* deposit is mandated, because divergent institutional and central deposit mandates (2a) require multiple deposit of the same paper for authors, and thereby (2b) put funder mandates in competition with institutional mandates, whereas convergent inititutional deposit mandates by both funders and institutions reinforce and facilitate one another: http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/369-guid.html

    (3) For users, it does not matter in the least where an OA paper is *deposited* (as long as the repository is OAI-compliant), because all deposits can be, and are being, centrally harvested, by multiple central OAI harvesters (like citeseer, base, oaister, scirus, google scholar, and the ever more powerful central harvesters whose creation will be inspired by Green OA deposit mandates *if we will only help them happen by not over-reaching needlessly instead of grasping what it already fully within reach* (by supporting Green OA institutional deposit mandates, and those publishers, like ACM, that facilitate rather than obstruct them): http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/494-guid.html

    Yes, the interests of learned-society publishers like ACM — and indeed those of any refereed journal publisher — are not more important than the interests of research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public that funds the funders. But research interests are not well-served if we demonize even those publishers, like ACM, who are already on the side of the angels on OA, nor if we needlessly over-reach instead of grasping what’s already within reach:

    Send OSTP and President Obama the simple, convergent message that is guaranteed to bring us universal OA in short order: Mandate immediate deposit — into the fundee’s own *institutional repository* — the final refereed draft of all funded research, immediately upon acceptance for publication. That’s all.

    ACM — unlike 49% of publishers — is not standing in our way.

    (And there is absolutely nothing wrong with ACM continuing to produce their fee-based Digital Library to try to compete with the free central harvesters of OA content, just as there is nothing wrong with ACM continuing to produce their fee-based proprietary ACM print and online editions of the articles to try to compete with the OA drafts [and to recover the cost of peer review]. The future will take care of itself, but please let us not keep holding it back by gratuitously insisting on more than necessary today.) http://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/Articles/harnad.html#B1

    • Naty says:

      Stevan,

      I’m afraid you are the one who is missing the point. ACM magnanimously lets authors post their own papers on their own web pages? You are setting a VERY low bar here for “being on the side of the angels”. Why does ACM insist on owning the copyright to the papers to begin with? This is completely unnecessary – they could require assigning just the minimal nonexclusive rights they need to publish the proceedings. Why do they harass people who create link indexes to the author-hosted papers (the Ke-Sen Huang incident), if not because they fear it will interfere with their rent-seeking? Their disingenuous claim (which you repeat here) that papers scattered among thousands of separate institutional repositories is just as good as having them all in a central repository is belied by the very existence of the ACM Digital Library. If central repositories are so useless, why have they created one? No, ACM does not object to a central, open paper repository because it would be useless, but because it would be so incredibly useful that it would immediately blow their CLOSED central repository out of the water. And that would be great for the community which they supposedly exist to serve, but it would be bad for ACM’s income, so they fight against it.

      To address your point #2 – there CAN be no “competition” between funder and institutional mandates, since none of them require exclusivity. One mandate requires the authors to deposit their paper in place A, the other requires the authors to deposit it in place B. The authors simply deposit copies in both places. Such an immense burden on the authors – after working on the paper for a year they might have to spend three minutes uploading a file to a second location.

      On point #3 – I often collect papers in my area (graphics). All of this “harvesting” you speak of doesn’t result in any usable solution. The only good solution I’ve found based on “institutional repositories” (which is what you call the status quo of authors putting papers on their own web pages scattered willy-nilly about the net) is a manually-generated set of index pages, which surprise surprise, the ACM recently tried to shut down and only backed off after they were forced to by a massive outcry. Graphics happens to have Ke-Sen Huang (and a treasure he is), I don’t know what other computing fields do.

      These much-praised “institutional repositories” include small institutions in developing countries many of which do not have good repositories or even a reliable internet connection. And what about papers written by industry authors? Most companies don’t have any place for their employees to post papers they have written.

      Don’t forget that ACM is not only fighting central repositories – they are also fighting mandatory deposition even in institutional repositories, and ANY other change to the crappy status quo. And they are doing so only to preserve their income streams. They are NOT “on the side of the angels”.

      Naty

  8. Moshe Vardi says:

    See http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2009/7/32075-open-closed-or-clopen-access/fulltext

    You may agree or disagree with the rationale, but casting ACM as an evil organization is simplistic.

  9. StevanHarnad says:

    (1) Penchant for winning arguments?

    (2) Clearly superior NIH model?

    (3) Gold OA is better?

    (4) My motivation is open access to the contents of all 2.5 million articles published annually in the planet’s 25,000 peer reviewed journals.

    Might it not be more useful to try to understand and respond to the substance of those much-repeated arguments, rather than just counting them?

  10. Moshe Vardi says:

    >See http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2009/7/32075-open-closed-or-clopen-access/fulltext

    >I can’t see it because “the full text of this article is premium content!”

    >You’re a real laugh riot.

    Clear your cache and try again. The article is open.

  11. Anonymous says:

    boycott ACM !
    mail back the membership solicitations,
    tell them why you won’t join

  12. lemire says:

    What ACM is trying to do is aim for some kind of middle ground, where they can still get revenues, while not having to openly fight open access. You are absolutely right if you think that the reason why they need these revenues is to pay salaries, not serve their members. Some decent folks work for ACM, they have jobs and families.

    Of course we must fight their corporate interests when they go against the greater good. Nevertheless, I will stick by ACM as they reinvent themselves because, so far, they have done far more good than bad.

    • Naty says:

      “I will stick by ACM as they reinvent themselves” – If ACM was actually “reinventing themselves”, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Instead they are digging in their heels, and (in this case) trying to keep the US government from making important and much-needed policy decisions.

  13. StevanHarnad says:

    ON MISSING POINTS AND MISSING CONTENT

    — NH: “ACM magnanimously lets authors post their own papers on their own web pages?”

    And their OAI-compliant institutional repositories, of which there are already at least 1500 worldwide: http://roar.eprints.org

    — NH: “Why does ACM insist on owning the copyright to the papers to begin with?”

    Who cares, once all the author OA versions are accessible free for all, webwide?

    (I’m not saying it would not be better for authors’ to retain copyright. But it’s not necessary for universal OA and universal OA mandates. And universal OA itself will usher in copyright retention quite naturally of its own accord. But not if we gratuitously delay universal OA mandates by demonizing those publishers that have given them their green light, and by insisting on more than we need today for 100% OA.)

    — NH: “Why do they harass people who create link indexes to the author-hosted papers (the Ke-Sen Huang incident)”

    ACM rightly withdrew its take-down request. So what’s the point here?

    — NH: “they fear it will interfere with their rent-seeking?”

    All publishers want to protect their revenue streams. The only relevant question is whether they do it by fair means or foul. For ACM to oppose author self-archiving would have been foul; for them to endorse it, as they have, is fair — and all that’s needed for OA. http://bit.ly/8ICLrd

    — NH: “Their disingenuous claim (which you repeat here) that papers scattered among thousands of separate institutional repositories is just as good as having them all in a central repository is belied by the very existence of the ACM Digital Library.”

    Once the papers have all been deposited in IRs (they’re not, because it’s not mandated yet, and 85% of authors otherwise don’t deposit) they will all be harvested by citeseer, base, scirus, oaister, google scholar, and ever more powerful central harvesters, and then they will not only be as good as but better than the ACM Digital Library. But not while the “scattered” content is also 85% absent content! That’s the real difference you are seeing today.

    — NH: “If central repositories are so useless, why have they created one?”

    No one said CRs were useless. My point was that they were counterproductive as the *designated locus of direct deposit* for funder mandates. Harvested CRs are fine. ACM created its own central one, for its own content, because it has its own content. No harm in trying…

    — NH: “there CAN be no “competition” between funder and institutional mandates, since none of them require exclusivity. One mandate requires the authors to deposit their paper in place A, the other requires the authors to deposit it in place B. The authors simply deposit copies in both places. Such an immense burden on the authors – after working on the paper for a year they might have to spend three minutes uploading a file to a second location.”

    I’m afraid you’ve completely missed the point. Exclusivity is not the issue: multiple deposit is. Today, across fields, 85% of papers are *not* being self-archived by their authors. That’s why funder mandates and institutional mandates are needed. But if most authors are unwilling to deposit even once, imagine how resistant they would be to having to do it several times, for each paper! And if funders insist on central deposit, that only makes it harder for institutions to get mandates of their own adopted at all — yet institutions are the providers of all research output, funded and unfunded, across all disciplines.

    To repeat: Mandate convergent, one-time deposit, institutionally; then harvest centrally.

    — NH: “All of this “harvesting” you speak of doesn’t result in any usable solution. The only good solution I’ve found based on “institutional repositories” (which is what you call the status quo of authors putting papers on their own web pages scattered willy-nilly about the net) is a manually-generated set of index pages, which surprise surprise, the ACM recently tried to shut down and only backed off after they were forced to by a massive outcry.”

    As I said. it’s natural for publishers to try to protect their revenue streams, but the responsible ones adapt to the research community’s needs, and ACM has done so.

    And, to repeat, we are not talking about author home-pages but OAI-compliant institutional repositories, created with free, open-source software designed specifically for the purposed of OA IR interoperability: http://www.eprints.org/

    — NH: “These much-praised “institutional repositories” include small institutions in developing countries many of which do not have good repositories or even a reliable internet connection. And what about papers written by industry authors?”

    First things first. OA needs to be mandated for the research output of the vast majority of universities and research institutions (including many in the developing world — see ROAR again — that *do* already have IRs. Those IRs are 85% empty right now. Filling them is what we are talking about now. That’s the immediate priority.

    There are simple, obvious solutions for poorer institutions and countries, including DEPOT, which is soon going to be ready for worldwide deposits as an interim IR: http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/646-guid.html

    Industry can afford some disk space on one of its linux servers for some free software to create an IR of their own. If not, they too can use DEPOT…

    — NH: “Don’t forget that ACM is not only fighting central repositories – they are also fighting mandatory deposition even in institutional repositories”

    ACM could have “fought” OA self-archiving, invoking copyright. They didn’t. That’s why they are on the side of the angels (though they would have lost if they had tried). There’s no need for authors to deposit in central repositories: Central harvesting can provide the same user functionality.
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/504-guid.html

    And the only thing publishers can do about Green OA mandates from funders and institutions is to try to talk them out of it, because there is not even a pseudo-legal issue that they can invoke. (Moreoever, the argument, from a publisher who has given its authors the green light to self-archive, that the author’s funder or institutions should not mandate that the author take up their publisher on their green light would be a rather hollow argument, not taken very seriously by funders or institutions. So ignore any bluster there.)

    — NH: “And they are doing so only to preserve their income streams.”

    To repeat: there’s no crime in trying. Especially once you’re on the side of the angels, as ACM is, for having endorsed immediate author self-archiving. http://bit.ly/8ICLrd

    Stevan Harnad

  14. bcantrill says:

    (Disclaimer: I am on the Editorial Board of ACM Queue, which also serves as the Editorial Board for the Practice section of CACM.)

    I think it’s important to note that ACM is not a monolithic actor, but rather an organization in transition — and as such, you will find many different opinions within its walls. As for my own experience, I have found ACM to be receptive — indeed, surprisingly receptive — to novel ideas and experimentation around the DL. For example: I lobbied to allow Queue authors to be given the power to “unlock” articles from the DL provided that they had a blog entry explaining why the articles were interesting. This was something of a radical idea, and I didn’t expect it to be taken seriously given the sacrosanct DL revenue — but the ACM leadership pounced on it, moving quickly to make it happen. This was not merely a stroke of the pen: there was a non-trivial technology component that had to be put into place to allow this, and plenty of nay-sayers to be overruled. (To see this mechanism in action, see, e.g., this unlocked DEC Piranha paper, and its reference back to the blog entry that unlocked it.)

    Does this one act excuse ACM’s response to the open access initiative? No, of course not — but it should give one pause before condemning the entire organization. While it might feel good to burn your membership card (as ChristerEricson seems to have done), it is ultimately a disservice to our profession: the ACM is our professional service organization, and if we are to make it OUR organization, we must be within its walls, making our voices heard; if the ACM loses its bearing, our profession loses its bearing. And I am no ACM apologist: for much of my career, I had little more than disdain for the ACM — it was only when I realized that the organization was not only amenable but eager for change that I became involved.

    So yes, there are aspects of the ACM that may be unenlightened and short-sighted — but this is true of any sufficiently large organization. From my perspective, ACM has the key attribute that separates survival from extinction: adaptability. And for that reason, I encourage dissenters to not be content with merely slinging arrows, but rather to engage themselves substantively in the ongoing transformation of our ACM.

    • madhacker says:

      As a fee paying ACM member, what’s the best way to formally complain about this particular issue? This is, as you put it, “burn your membership card” severity stuff, and the ACM are effectively being paid to represent me, whilst lobbying for the exact opposite of what I believe in, for the benefit only of the organisation rather than its members.

      • Naty says:

        The best way to complain in any democratic organization is to exercise voting rights.

        Elections for several senior ACM positions (including President and Vice President) are open in June. Here is the current list of candidates: http://www.acm.org/acmelections/elections-10. I have no idea about the candidates positions on this issues – isn’t it time we found out? If all of them have unacceptable positions, we can still “write in” new candidates via a petition process until the end of January.

  15. complicity says:

    What’s not been stated is that ACM overlaps with the IEEE – which has its own digital library at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/ that carries a number of joint publications, e.g. Transactions on Networking, and joint conferences, e.g. IPSN.

    As an IEEE member, I’ve never seen the point of paying extra to join the ACM.

    • Naty says:

      The IEEE digital library is just as bad. Indeed, it is worse in some respects – older issues of many computing journals are not available via the IEEE Computer Society DL but only through the much more expensive full IEEE DL.

      However, the IEEE has not (to my knowledge) been engaging in bullying of people linking to author papers or lobbying the government to emasculate open access provisions as ACM have been doing.

  16. Anonymous says:

    It’s slightly distressing to see this, since ACM has always been a step ahead of IEEE in terms of personal copyright. ACM’s copyright statement gives authors explicit permission to continue using submitted material, to publish their submitted material on their Web sites, and so on. IEEE’s did not (and may not still today; I haven’t looked lately).

    As for what to do about the DL? I dunno. It’s an important source of revenue for the organization, and the org does some useful things with that money, including funding small professional and technical conferences that would not be possible without external financial support. I’m not sure that good ends justify the current set of policies though.

  17. StevanHarnad says:

    THE SPECIAL CASE OF LEARNED SOCIETY PUBLISHERS

    On the special case of learned-society publishers and conflicts of interest:

    (1) Learned-society publishers do differ significantly from commercial publishers in that they contribute some (and in some cases most) of their net publishing revenues to good works such as subsidizing conferences and scholarships.

    (2) The only point at issue is whether or not a publisher endorses OA self-archiving, by its authors, of their refereed final drafts, in their institutional repositories, immediately upon acceptance for publication (“Green OA”).

    (3) Sixty-three percent of journals (51% of publishers) already endorse immediate OA self-archiving; the rest either do not endorse OA self-archiving, or only after an embargo. http://romeo.eprints.org/stats.php

    (4) I haven’t counted, but the 51% Green publishers seem to include most of the major commercial publishers as well as many of the learned-society publishers. http://romeo.eprints.org/publishers.html

    (5) Although this suggests that subsidizing good works may not be a decisive feature distinguishing the Green publishers from the Pale-Green, and Gray ones, let us assume that the main argument for a learned-society (e.g., the American Chemical Society) not being Green is that it wants to protect the revenues needed to subsidize its good works. http://romeo.eprints.org/publishers/4.html

    (6) The conflict of interest is then that between maximizing research access, usage and impact on the one hand, and subsidizing learned-societies’ good works on the other.

    (7) The proposed embargoes on making deposits OA are a provisional compromise between these two conflicting interests.

    (8) But what is not at all clear is whether (8a) endorsing immediate Green OA would indeed diminish publishers’ revenues and (8b) whether the author community, if offered the choice between maximizing the access, usage and impact of their papers versus subsidizing learned societies’ good works would choose the latter.

    (9) For the time being, authors are not facing this choice, because most are not self-archiving spontaneously: that is what the proposed self-archiving mandates are for.

    (10) Green OA mandates will grow anarchically, funder by funder and institution by institution, not journal by journal or publisher by publisher. http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/15753/

    (11) The effects, if any, of Green OA on publishers’ revenues will begin to be felt only when Green OA mandates have become widespread enough to cover all or almost all of individual journals’ contents, hence making it possible for institutions to cancel subscriptions to journals all or almost all of whose final refereed drafts their users can now access free online.

    Berners-Lee, T., De Roure, D., Harnad, S. and Shadbolt, N. (2005) Journal publishing and author self-archiving: Peaceful Co-Existence and Fruitful Collaboration. http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/11160/

    (12) Then the question is whether the institutional subscription demand for the print edition and the publisher’s online edition will remain sustainable.

    (13) If not, publishers can convert to the Gold OA publishing-fee model for cost-recovery, by the individual paper, and institutions can pay for it out of the same windfall subscription cancellation savings that induced the transition to Gold OA.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/Articles/harnad.html#B1

    (14) Whether the Gold OA market will sustain a Gold-OA fee that includes a mark-up for learned-societies’ subsidies for good works will become known at that time; it may only cover the cost of peer review.

    (15) If not, then learned societies will have to find other ways of subsidizing conferences and scholarships.

    More on this:
    Papers: http://bit.ly/7jodfW
    FAQ: http://www.eprints.org/openaccess/self-faq/#19.Learned
    AmSci Forum: http://bit.ly/6FRwXs
    Blog: http://bit.ly/5ga8zf

    • Naty says:

      Stevan,

      You have a penchant for trying to win arguments by sheer repetition. Why are you fighting so strongly against the clearly-superior NIH model? You even admit Gold OA is better, but present any attempts to achieve it as “over-reaching” (a very doubtful claim given that the NIH model is a proven success and the government is explicitly looking to extend it). What’s your motivation?

  18. Anonymous says:

    The problem with the ACM’s argument is that by far most computer scientists publish versions of their papers on their websites (hosted by the institutions that they work at), and they can be found through CiteSeer. In most cases, you can e-mail those same people and obtain a copy of their papers.

    As an academic, I want my papers available to as many people as possible, not just for peer review, but so people can use my work and extend it. (And of course, cite my work.)

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