Scientists are talking, but mostly to each other: a quantitative analysis of research

Discussion in 'Education and Employment' started by Stavros, Jun 21, 2011.

  1. Stavros

    Stavros GPO Registered

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    This is not ceph related. It talks about how new knowledge circulates mostly between fellow scientists and never reaches the public.

    I don't know how a journal can cover their expenses otherwise, but at some point, knowledge has to be free and accessible to all. With rising tuition costs, it seems that education is targeted to certain groups.

    (The irony: this article is also not free).

     
  2. gjbarord

    gjbarord Sepia elegans Staff Member Moderator

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    That sounds about right. It can even be more frustrating when scientists are not even able to access the journals for a variety of reasons.

    Greg
     
  3. hermissenda

    hermissenda Blue Ring Supporter

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    *laugh*

    I wouldn't have noticed this !
    (The irony: this article is also not free).[/QUOTE]

    That being said, the subject if scientific literacy is a complicated one, starting with trying to define it. I don't know that the general public having access to scientific research would improve the case - especially without first educating everyone how to discern a good study from a bad one (which would be a really good thing!) I do think that with the growth of the internet scientists are able to collaborate more outside of journals. Also, with the growth of so many online databases of back articles a lot more research has been combined to create meta-statistics, and that has to be forwarding science. While it is *intensely* frustrating to not have access to, or have to pay a limb for an article one wants, I think on the whole we have more access to scientific research than ever before.

    Cindy in Portland OR
     
  4. OB

    OB Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    Peer review remains the solid foundation of scientifice knowledge dissemination. I personally am a staunch supporter of open access publishing. For those who are interested, simply start browsing the Public Library of Science journal PLoS1 to get to grips with its benefits.
     
  5. Tintenfisch

    Tintenfisch Architeuthis Staff Member Moderator

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    Yes, I have several things I would very much (have) like(d) to make open access, but PLoS1 publication charges are US$1350 per article, and for Zootaxa they would have been $20/page ($3720). A little prohibitive :sad:
     
  6. OB

    OB Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    Whether your (institutional) library spends its funds on subscriptions, or on allowing its scientists to be published, shouldn't matter wrt the total amount spent: someone will have to pay for the process itself... The main difference is that the subscription based model only allows for limited access, while open access allows access for everyone at the same level of investment...
     
  7. hermissenda

    hermissenda Blue Ring Supporter

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    OUCH! Prohibitive isn't the word! Maybe extortive? I suppose there is a need for some kind of pain threshold/gateway to maintain some intellectual integrity or risk the Wiki effect. I have always assumed the article price tag was coming from the institutions that funded the research, or the researcher and felt they had a right to benefit from the results. Thanks for the enlightenment!
     
  8. OB

    OB Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    Open access needn't be vanity publishing, peer review should be severe and sincere, either way!
     
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  9. mucktopus

    mucktopus Haliphron Atlanticus Staff Member Moderator

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    Many journals can waive publication fees if authors don't have funding (and in the case of PLoS there's a particularly important reason for the paper to be open access).

    Also- all publisher links to journal articles also list the contact info for the corresponding author. It's common to write the author directly to ask for for a free pdf reprint if they have one.
     
  10. Joe-Ceph

    Joe-Ceph Haliphron Atlanticus Supporter

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    I'm only a layman, so for give the ignorance, but who owns the copyright to these papers? The authors? The institutions? The journals? What value do the journals provide that justifies the ransom they demand? Why can't the authors or the institutions just make these papers available for $1 each on ITunes? It seems like a rigged system that uses mostly public money to do research that produces results that are then sold back to the public at an extremely high price, effectively denying public access. Am I missing something.
     
  11. Stavros

    Stavros GPO Registered

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    Some related links to open access journals that OB mentioned above. Each quotation is taken from a different article on the matter.

    On peer review:

     
  12. mucktopus

    mucktopus Haliphron Atlanticus Staff Member Moderator

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    good questions-

    ‘If peer review was a drug it would never be allowed onto the market,’ says Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of the Journal Of the American Medical Association and intellectual father of the international congresses of peer review that have been held every four years since 1989. Peer review would not get onto the market because we have no convincing evidence of its benefits but a lot of evidence of its flaws."

    I don't agree- my papers have been greatly improved by the input of anonymous reviewers, and when manuscripts have been rejected, I've been grateful in hindsight. Editors have a good way of going outside an author's normal circle to solicit reviews, so you get insights beyond what your immediate research group will disclose. There's no shortage of information out there- NGO reports, government summaries, etc. But when it comes down to it, few publication types hold clout like the peer reviewed paper, scrutinized by numerous colleagues and editors-- you know it's gone through the ringer before you read it.

    The journal process itself can definitely use a re-vamp. But I'd vote to keep peer review any day of the week.

    Journals usually hold the paper's copyright. Authors can use the data, send pdfs, etc. But the whole published paper itself belongs to the journal. As for costs and re-sale- the system needs rethinking. I've seen journal articles for sale on Amazon. Does the author get royalties? Don't think so! Scientists write the papers, review the papers and serve as editors for free. But layout, copy-editing, etc. and even online support of an article does take expensive infrastructure.

    Research is paid for in lots of different ways- some through government funding, but lots of research funding is private, either through foundations, private donors, self-funded, venture capital, industry, etc.

    But most of all- most of this information is accessible for free if you just email the author and ask for a pdf. Papers that are not available as pdf are harder to track down, but authors may still have paper reprints available to send. Google Scholar is a great resource for obtaining pdfs, and finding out who is researching what/who to contact for electronic reprints.
     
  13. OB

    OB Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    The Publishing houses do, in the case of "classical" science publishing. The reasoning is somewhere along the lines of "we put in all the hard work and through peer review ascertain quality and modify content, so we PWN the place".
     
  14. Joe-Ceph

    Joe-Ceph Haliphron Atlanticus Supporter

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    I think I get it; is this correct?:
    The author/scientist typically owns the copyright initially, and could post it for free on the internet or sell it for $1 on Itunes if they wanted to, but the paper doesn't really have value until it has successfully passed through the "filter" that is a scientific journal. The value that the journals add is credibility. Right? We trust the journals to sort out the good science from the bad. An analogy would be the way we buy our perscription drugs through a pharmacy instead of from whomever decides to make and sell whatever potion they've cooked up. We trust that the FDA, and the drug delivery infrastructure has vetted the sources, and that only real and trustworthy medicine gets through. In exchange, the journals get the copyright, and can charge whatever they like.

    If my assessment is correct, it's clear that the journals provide an utterly necessary service, but the opportunity for corruption and profiteering is kept in check only by the existential need for the journals to maintain their reputations. I'd like to see a better system, but I can't think of one.
     
  15. OB

    OB Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    Open access still involves peer review, it's just more logical from both the financial and the scientific point of view
     
  16. Stavros

    Stavros GPO Registered

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  17. gjbarord

    gjbarord Sepia elegans Staff Member Moderator

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    After reading those two articles, I really do not feel sorry for the person being indicted. He made the choice to do what he did and knew what he was doing. That second article was a bit biased. I do not think that journals are evil companies? I wonder how many people have actually downloaded any of those files uploaded to pirate bay???

    Right or wrong, most of the journals are intended for academic circles and universities that can easily (in most cases) afford the fees to gain access to the journals. I would say that the general public interested in these journals is a very small percentage, small enough that their opinions really do not matter to many of the journals and they are unable to influence the price of single articles. Of course, $30-40 for one PDF article seems to be a bit extreme to me but without public and academic pressure on the journals, nothing will change. If most of the population was interested in the journals, the prices would most likely go down.

    Oh well. Good thread!

    Greg
     
  18. ceph

    ceph Wonderpus Staff Member Moderator

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    This would be an excellent subject for Freakonomics!

    You nailed it. And I completely agree that the per-review process is critical.

    For an example of the difference, earlier today I responded to another observational learning in octopuses post - in the media and even in posts here, keep repeating the same stories over and over again even if there is very good (admittedly less exciting) evidence that casts a lot of doubt on the truth of the original claims. Observational learning in octopuses is likely to live on in popular circles, perhaps for thousands of years. You might think that is an exaggeration but consider that we still occasionally come across the tool use story of octopuses dropping rocks into open bivalves; this one goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks! It also is a great story, it just isn't true. Peer-review helps to weed these things out of at least the scientific literature. It isn't a perfect system but it does helps keep us from repeating the same stories over and over when the data either do not exist or no longer support the conclusion.

    Also keep in mind that the scientists that review journal submissions are volunteering their time - they are not compensated. So the scientists write the grants, spend taxpayer (or their own) money to do the work, write the paper, review other scientists papers, make corrections based on feedback and then sign over the copyright of their work to the journals they publish in. Those journals then charge them for copies of their own work (you do usually get a few for free). The publishing costs of small press run printing is very high but with PDFs, that is no longer true. Things are changing, but changing slowly - here is one possible reason why:

    All journals are not created equal. Journals have something called Impact Factor - roughly how often papers published in them are cited in other papers. Broad journals that have been around for a long time, like Science, the journal the original 1992 Observational Learning in Octopuses papers was published in, have a very high impact factor. Specialized journals like the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, where the original enrichment paper was published, have very low impact factors. Scientist's publications are often judged by the journals they publish in. Newer journals have barriers to entry as they do not yet have a strong impact factor. On the plus side, the old way of doing things does not sit well with many scientists, especially younger ones. So things are changing.

    In the mean time, why wait around? There is TONMO, You Tube and other newer ways to share your science in normal English. . . once it is published. Scientists still have to go through the peer review system first - journals understandably also require that the work be new and not published elsewhere.

    Clear as mud?

    James



    James
     
  19. OB

    OB Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    Plus, the niche journals have a typical subscription base of anywhere between 50 to 300 institutional libraries world wide. The high prices are fueled by scarcity of demand, combined with the necessity of access. Again, I am in favor of open access publishing, but don't expect many lay persons to be interested in 99%+ of available publications.
     
  20. Stavros

    Stavros GPO Registered

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    How did academic publishers acquire these feudal powers?
     

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