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Elsevier = evil

Along with SOPA and PIPA, our government is contemplating another acronym with deplorable consequences for the free dissemination of information: RWA, the Research Works Act. This is a bill to, it says, “ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector”, where the important phrase is “private sector” — it’s purpose is to guarantee that for-profit corporations retain control over the publication of scientific information. Here are the restrictions it would impose:

No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that–

(1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or

(2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.

This is a blatant attempt to invalidate the NIH’s requirement that taxpayer-funded research be made publicly available. The internet was initially developed to allow researchers to easily share information…and that’s precisely the function this bill is intended to cripple.

Who could possibly support such a bill? Not the scientists, that’s for sure; and definitely not the public, unless we keep them as ignorant as possible. The corporations who love this bill are the commercial publishers who profit mightily from scientists’ work. And first among these is Elsevier, the gouging publisher scientists love to hate.

If passed, the Research Works Act (RWA) would prohibit the NIH’s public access policy and anything similar enacted by other federal agencies, locking publicly funded research behind paywalls. The result would be an ethical disaster: preventable deaths in developing countries, and an incalculable loss for science in the USA and worldwide. The only winners would be publishing corporations such as Elsevier (£724m profits on revenues of £2b in 2010 – an astounding 36% of revenue taken as profit).

Since Elsevier’s obscene additional profits would be drained from America to the company’s base in the Netherlands if this bill were enacted, what kind of American politician would support it? The RWA is co-sponsored by Darrell Issa (Republican, California) and Carolyn B. Maloney (Democrat, New York). In the 2012 election cycle, Elsevier and its senior executives made 31 donations to representatives: of these, two went to Issa and 12 to Maloney, including the largest individual contribution.

So Elsevier bought a couple of politicians to get their way. It’s typical unscrupulous behavior from this company; at least they stopped organizing arms trade fairs a few years ago, so we know their evil can be checked by sufficiently loud public opinion.

Tell your representatives to kill RWA. It’s another bill to benefit corporations that will harm science.

(Also on Sb)

Comments

  1. Rich Woods says

    At the end of the day, Elsevier are greedy fucking bastards who have no qualms about letting people die.

  2. kome says

    It can’t be a coincidence that the acronym for this bill is the same as Robert Alteymeyer’s “Right-Wing Authoritarianism” personality construct.

  3. Musca Domestica says

    Could the peer reviewed publications refuse to include material covered by this law in their publications? In case it actually passes. It’s also part of their “mission” to spread scientific information, right?

  4. says

    GAH! Exactly how do they think any substantive research is going to happen if we can’t communicate about our work? Research doesn’t happen because of the talented lone wolf, it happens because of the exchange of ideas. (And it happens faster with the exchange of ideas.)

    So. Fucking. Stupid.

  5. gvlgeologist says

    When I was actively involved in research (geological, and thus not really immediately health-related), I actively tried to avoid publishing in Elsevier journals. They cost far more (both to subscribers and to authors) than journals such as the American Geophysical Union’s or the Geological Society of America’s, both non-profits that have much better publishing policies.

    This new effort is disgusting. I will publicize it among the academics in town.

  6. kreativekaos says

    Well,..look on the bright side: at least it takes MORE to pay off a Dem than a Rethuglican. :(

    (Dark humor,.. somehow though, it just ain’t funny)

  7. movinbutnotshakin says

    What is meant by “network dissemination”? If I published in a private sector journal like Nature or PNAS, would I face criminal charges if I later posted that article online as a PDF, or shared it with one other scientist whose institution doesn’t pay for access to the journal?

    Either way, when I first saw years ago that it cost $30 for an article on ScienceDirect, my jaw dropped. Fucking Elsevier.

  8. municipalis says

    The real question is: why do academics continue to submit their work to these companies? It’s not like anyone along the line gets paid for their work, so what justifies the continued use of that antiquated model? Switch to an open-acess, internet-published system. The relatively miniscule costs of hosting could be borne by the University library departments which would no longer have to spend millions upon millions for student access to private journals.

  9. kreativekaos says

    Jeebus Crisp!

    Isn’t 8 years of the Bush/Cheney’s administration redaction of SERIOUS climate change/energy research analysis not enough?

    I guess there is a need for MORE ways to obfuscate information (apparently while making a tidy sum in the mean time.)
    Jeebus Crisp!

  10. says

    OT – How come I can’t share this on Facebook? I can like it on my own page, but when I try to share it to my wall I get a message that I don’t have permission to do that. Is that set up from here or is it something hinky going on at FB?

  11. David Marjanović says

    PZ, it would have been better if you had noticed earlier

    Elsevier isn’t the only sponsor of the bill, BTW. There are also Wiley and the AAAP (Association of American Academic Publishers, said to publish the journal Science) among them.

    The incredible 36 % profit, BTW, are well within the usual range for commercial science publishers.

    If I published in a private sector journal like Nature or PNAS, would I face criminal charges if I later posted that article online as a PDF, or shared it with one other scientist whose institution doesn’t pay for access to the journal?

    Theoretically, that’s already the case! Most publishers let you send the pdf to colleagues, but some even act as if they could limit the number of times you do that – in the copyright transfer notices you have to sign.

    Either way, when I first saw years ago that it cost $30 for an article on ScienceDirect, my jaw dropped. Fucking Elsevier.

    That’s not just Elsevier. Every commercial publisher charges between 30 and 50 US$ for the extremely rare cases that somebody buys access to a single pdf.

  12. David Marjanović says

    The real question is: why do academics continue to submit their work to these companies?

    That’s a very good question that I recently answered here (about 2/3 down the page). Short answer: we’re trapped.

  13. Ichthyic says

    huh. When I first read the contents of the proposed legislation, my first thought was that this was an attempt to actually INCREASE the publication rate from private research firms within the peer reviewed literature.

    One of the big concerns I have run into in the private sector is that most of their company rules simply prohibit publication of any research that might be deemed beneficial to the company, period, out of fear that there was no way to protect the rights of the company once the information became public.

    I thought on first reading that the idea was to grant assurances to private enterprise that publication of their research in scientific journals allowed them to still maintain their rights over the information contained therein.

    I get it now.

    *sigh*

  14. yoav says

    @movinbutnotshakin
    Theoretically if you publish the pdf to a paper you published in one of these journals on your own website they can sue you for copyright infringement. You can, by paying extra, get your paper published as open access or deposited to open databases such as PUBMED central so people who don’t own a subscription to the journal can still access the full text, this is currently required by the NIH if your research is being fund by them and what the law is trying to abolish.
    @municipalis
    This is a hang up from the time when journals were read as paper and since a library could only stock so much if you got your paper into one of the big one, like nature, which every library had you had better chance that your work would be noticed then if it was in a smaller publication that many libraries didn’t stock. This is less of an issue now that most people search online and your paper is going to show up in their search regardless of which journal it’s in however the big journals are still considered more prestigious so people try to publish in them since it can be helpful in applying for funding or positions. This will continue to be a problem unless there is a move by search committees to look at the quality of a candidate publications but disregard which journal they were published in (within reason, if something is published in the journal of magic nonscience it make perfect sense to ignore it but as long as the journal has a proper editorial policy and stringent reviewing process).

  15. dianne says

    Wasn’t elsevier also the company that put out the ghastly pseudo-peer reviewed stuff? A “journal” designed to look like a peer reviewed journal that was actually nothing but a series of ads for (IIRC) Merck. They’re not new to this evil thing.

  16. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    What is even more shitty (shiitier?) is that in publicly funded grants, publication costs are often included in the budget to pay for publications that are not available to the taxpayers that supported them.

    These publication costs can be insanely high, btw. I recently had to negotiate my way down from $1800 for a four pager.

  17. jjgdenisrobert says

    Solution: just have the Dems in the Senate (yeah, I know… fat chance, but hey) include an amendment that states that no public money can be used in any of the research that falls under the aegis of the RWA.

    And then see Elsevier and all those “private” research institutes run to papa when they realize that they are going to lose massive amounts of public funding, and that pretty much all the scientific research in the US is going to stop cold.

  18. Esteleth, Ph.D. of Mischief, Mayhem and Hilarity says

    Ugh, ugh, ugh.
    I hate shit like this. Elsevier can DIAF.
    Every time I do a PubMed search (incidentally – it is ridiculous how much I love PubMed) – I groan every time I get a hit from an Elsevier journal. It’s not just that they’re unethical and dishonest, their website and portals suck. It’s almost as if they’re only grudgingly obeying the NIH guidelines, but making it as difficult for the user as possible.

  19. Ichthyic says

    thanks for the tip, Diane. I had missed that small bit of Elsevier pissing on science yet again.

    link bookmarked.

  20. ordeneus says

    If one were to hear about companies paying monies into politicians election funds and receiving legislation in return in some developing country… You’d think, yeah, not a surprise, banana republic… Not that I’m that surprised it happens in most countries, it’s just so fucking blatant. The narrow interests of getting elected trump everything else??? Fucking amazing.

  21. Usernames are stupid says

    The Antidote:

    A BILL
    To ensure the public and private sectors obtain the maximum benefit from publicly-funded or -supported peer-reviewed research works.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
    SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the `Research Return on Investment Act’.
    SEC. 2. PUBLISHING OBLIGATIONS

    All scientific papers, data and research results that were funded fully, or in part, by any Federal, State or Local agency, or directed by any public agency or department or that utilized any publicly-funded research facilities, will revert to public domain no later than 1 year of publication by the author or author’s agent(s). No private entity will hold copyright, trade secret or other restrictions upon any work products afterwards. All research performed under grant (either fully or partially funded) from any federal, state, or local agency will become immediately available for network dissemination upon publication, without restriction.

    Private-sector research work will not be covered under this act, assuming that it —
    (a) Has not been funded in any way by any public monies,
    (b) Has not been carried out at any public research facilities, and
    (c) Has not utilized the services of any employee of a public research facility, educational institution, public library, or any other public employee

  22. says

    ewwww

    also, really fucking stupid. if you think it’s difficult to keep teens from sharing music, try stopping scientists and other science nerds from sharing research. I’m pretty certain science nerds would spontaneously combust if they couldn’t share interesting new research they found with at least a dozen other people

  23. David Marjanović says

    if you think it’s difficult to keep teens from sharing music, try stopping scientists and other science nerds from sharing research.

    Indeed. Remember that scientists have no interest, financial or otherwise, in anyone buying copies of their papers; their only vested interest is in having their papers cited. I’ve never heard of a scientist who refused to send a pdf (or even a paper reprint if they still had one left) to anyone, and I know several scientists who send pdfs of their most recent publications to dozens of people unasked.

    There are also scientists (and at least one entire institute!) who post pdfs of all their work on their websites, even though this is usually an explicit violation of the copyright transfer notices they signed. Everybody thinks the publishers know this happens, but don’t bother suing because, well, their profits are big enough already and couldn’t change much this way.

    The publishers make most of their money from subscriptions by institutions. Scientists ask each other for the pdfs (if they haven’t been sent them unasked) when their institution doesn’t carry the journal in question and Google Scholar can’t find a free pdf, laypeople don’t know they can do that.

    I’ve heard of copyright transfer notices that try to limit the number of times authors can send the pdf to other people. TSIB.

  24. municipalis says

    David Marjanović:

    That’s a very good question that I recently answered here (about 2/3 down the page). Short answer: we’re trapped.

    yoav:

    This will continue to be a problem unless there is a move by search committees to look at the quality of a candidate publications but disregard which journal they were published in (within reason, if something is published in the journal of magic nonscience it make perfect sense to ignore it but as long as the journal has a proper editorial policy and stringent reviewing process).

    Thanks for the respones. I understand the issue at large, I guess I should have asked why more isn’t being done about it. You’d think (hope, I guess is the better word) there’d be heavy pressure for academics to correct the system so that they could more freely distribute their work (not to mention help their students), while school financial managers could slowly start to trim subscription budgets.

    There’s really no reason you couldn’t set up the exact same, broken model you have now with open-access journals run via a few nonprofit foundations.

    Heck, by my final year of university about half my professors had moved away from the printed coursepack to the free pdf model.

  25. says

    David Marjanović @ #16:

    Every commercial publisher charges between 30 and 50 US$ for the extremely rare cases that somebody buys access to a single pdf.

    I am one of those rare people. As a research consultant serving (mostly) the technical/medical/occ-health/insurance industries, I need access to peer-reviewed med-tech-sci-eng literature across acoss almost every discipline. I pay per-article – expensive, but I am able to pass on those costs to my clients.

    Of course there is the added frustration of purchasing a pdf and then finding out it has been secured and you can’t even copy-paste a few lines or a graphic to include (with proper citation) in a technical report.

    I’ve become a master (mistress) at finding these documents at unsecured, free, sites online.

  26. David Marjanović says

    These publication costs can be insanely high, btw. I recently had to negotiate my way down from $1800 for a four pager.

    That was an open-access journal ( = “author pays” instead of “reader pays”), right? They often charge authors this kind of fees, up to twice that.

    Conventional “reader pays” journals only charge the authors for pages that go beyond some limit, and for color illustrations. Having a color illustration printed (usually you can get them into the pdf for free) seems to cost nine hundred US$ pretty much everywhere.

  27. Ichthyic says

    @28….

    while that sounds good, it in fact wouldn’t work.

    why?

    because MOST research in the US, including that by private institutions, is in part funded directly or indirectly by public money.

    to implement this would bring the vast majority of research undertaken by private enterprise to a screeching halt.

    there needs to be some differentiation between the public dissemination of information, vs the producer of that information’s right to control products resulting from the research itself.

    right now, there are huge limits to what private (and public!) corporations are willing to share wrt their research, simply out of fear of competitors, or losing rights to product info, etc. Even Universities (public ones) have to deal with this.
    Copyright laws are already in place, but still, *enforcing* that law is becoming increasingly difficult, and I’ve seen administrations in both public and private sector trying to reduce what gets published in the open access literature in order to better control what amounts to profitable information.

    It’s a legitimate beef, but your proposal does no better than the current bill being railed on in this thread at really addressing both issues.

    Think about it this way:

    You administer a lab that works on say, nanotube research. Part of your funding comes from an NSF grant, the rest from private investment.
    Your lab discovers an exciting new breakthrough that you see could easily result in the production of entire new materials for a great number of large manufacturing industries, from the auto industry, to even the tools used to make the machines that *make* the autos.

    Would you like it if I told you that if you want to publish ANY of your research, you must make all of it publicly available to everyone, open access?

    what incentive do I have to publish anything under those circumstances?

    I value Open Acess as much as any scientist does, and realize the value of it for shared knowledge purposes (hell, I push the Open Access movement often enough

    http://www.doaj.org/

    there, I just did it again.

    but, until such time as we start doing things purely for the knowledge they give to all of us, and money is no longer a requirement for subsistence and quality of life, then we must deal with BOTH issues; control of product information, as well as public dissemination of knowledge.
    I realize that this current hogwash sponsored by Elsevier is not going to accomplish that, but neither is what you’re proposing.

    Maybe if someone could invent a replicator, like in Star Trek…

  28. Ichthyic says

    I am one of those rare people. As a research consultant serving (mostly) the technical/medical/occ-health/insurance industries, I need access to peer-reviewed med-tech-sci-eng literature across acoss almost every discipline. I pay per-article – expensive, but I am able to pass on those costs to my clients.

    huh, I’m surprised they don’t try to tap in to an industry or library subscription.

    That was pretty typical from most of the companies and organizations I worked with in the States.

    but then, I’m noticing that it’s different here in NZ; I have to do the research myself, at the Uni Library, like I was a student again.

    maybe the industry subscriptions are less available than they used to be?

    I can’t get a straight answer from ANYONE in these parts, not the companies, not the GO’s, not the Unis. They just shrug.

    it’s weird.

  29. David Marjanović says

    You’d think (hope, I guess is the better word) there’d be heavy pressure for academics to correct the system so that they could more freely distribute their work (not to mention help their students), while school financial managers could slowly start to trim subscription budgets.

    There’s next to no pressure because the budgets for university libraries and the budgets of the institutes of the same university are treated separately – libraries usually belong to the university as a whole and not to a single institute. This goes twice in the case of the US, where a lot of research money comes from grants by federal institutions, not from the universities where the research is carried out.

    As mentioned, academics already distribute their work freely to everyone who asks or who is on their distribution e-mail list. People who don’t ask aren’t noticed – and of course most of them don’t ask because they don’t know that academics tend to give everything away.

  30. CSB says

    Fortunately for me, my House representative is actually a member of the committee that HR3699 is currently idling in. I’ll have to make sure to call his office tomorrow.

  31. says

    Ichthyic @ #37

    huh, I’m surprised they don’t try to tap in to an industry or library subscription.

    That was pretty typical from most of the companies and organizations I worked with in the States.

    maybe the industry subscriptions are less available than they used to be?

    I ran a corporate-technical library for 15 years – I managed the tech-sci-med $ub$cription$. Several years ago, the library was closed and my job was eliminated. I now work indpendently and have electronic access to everything my clients need. I purchase articles and tech standards singly, but also have paid access to the important professional databases (Dialog, etc.) that serve as my indexes to the published literature.

    Publishers are happy to sell subscriptions to anyone who will pay. Many corporations have eliminated their in-house libraries.

    Though lots of people can find good info on their own online, some people still prefer to have a professional librarian/writer (me) take on their projects, especially the big lit searches, development of tech papers, etc. (These are not for publication but for internal distribution and use with customers.)

  32. Ichthyic says

    As mentioned, academics already distribute their [published] work freely

    fixed.

    I’ve been in many labs where the Uni admin would come down on you with a giant fucking hammer if you tried to distribute unpublished work that had anything even remotely copy-writable in it.

    Didn’t you have to sign a statement relating to the release of scientific information when you were a grad student?

    I recall doing that my first day at UC Berkeley.

    They take that shit pretty seriously there.

  33. says

    Ichthyic, on re-reading my reply, I see that I was not clear. Many corporations have eliminated their libraries, including the subscriptions and the librarians who managed them. They assume that people can find what they need “free” online. It’s a false economy.

    I am a professional librarian who works as a private research consultant, serving businesses that do not have libraries or library staff.

  34. Ichthyic says

    Several years ago, the library was closed and my job was eliminated. I now work indpendently and have electronic access to everything my clients need.

    It makes me wonder which was the more cost efficient approach in the end.

    Many corporations have eliminated their libraries, including the subscriptions and the librarians who managed them. They assume that people can find what they need “free” online. It’s a false economy.

    ah. I think you’ve nailed it there. that would indeed explain a lot of the pattern I have noticed developing over the last 20 years.

  35. davidd says

    Yet more reason to boycott Elsevier journals. I’ll be sending my papers elsewhere from now on.

  36. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    DMFM, #35: Right on…that was an open access journal…which kind of obliterates that point that I was trying to make.

    I can’t actually remember how much I have paid in the past for Elsevier pubs. Prolly because it came out of some grant and not out of pocket, or the even leaner departmental purse.

    I avow nonetheless that it was a lot.

  37. Steve LaBonne says

    When I first started reading the post I assumed this was another piece of House Republican crapola. Then I was completely disgusted to see that Rep. Maloney is a cosponsor. Corrupt Democrats make me sick.

    Also, Elsevier delenda est.

  38. David Marjanović says

    As mentioned, academics already distribute their [published] work freely

    fixed.

    Yeah, of course. Unpublished work does often get distributed, but much less freely – that’s because almost all journals only publish the most newsworthy stuff they can find. The most prestigious journals will drop even accepted manuscripts like a hot potato if any info leaks before publication. Stuff that is reported at conferences never gets published in Nature afterwards.

    Didn’t you have to sign a statement relating to the release of scientific information when you were a grad student?

    Huh? What?

    My thesis was cosupervised between the universities of Vienna and Paris 6, and the lawyers of Paris 6 canceled the signed cosupervision contract and had me add a thoroughly silly paragraph about who would profit from any patents that would derive from my thesis. (As if any such thing could happen in paleobiology, LOL. I’m not even an oil geologist.) I had to send the amended contract to everyone again to sign it anew, which took a few more months. That’s all. No university has any copyright to any of my publications – except presumably Oxford, because it owns Oxford University Press, the publisher of Systematic Biology, which is the journal where my first paper came out. If I distribute unpublished work, I can be scooped, and journals can reject it as not being newsworthy anymore, but that’s it, and it wasn’t any different when I was a student.

    In my field, if you read acknowledgments, people thank each other for sharing unpublished stuff with each other all the time; they also cite “in press” or even “in prep.” work by people other than themselves on occasion. It’s just considered obligatory to get explicit permission first, to avoid the two potential issues mentioned above.

    It makes me wonder which was the more cost efficient approach in the end.

    Institutional subscriptions are often outrageously expensive. They’re where the incredible profits come from.

    Yet more reason to boycott Elsevier journals. I’ll be sending my papers elsewhere from now on.

    Again, it’s not just Elsevier.

  39. David Marjanović says

    Stuff that is reported at conferences never gets published in Nature afterwards.

    Clarification: conferences exist in order to share the results of unpublished and recently published research. Some conferences have rules that forbid the recording of presentations without the explicit consent of the presenters, so that the only thing anyone who’s not in the room ever sees is the abstract (and even the abstract may be quite difficult to get if you’re not a member of the society that organized the conference).

    Most of the stuff presented at the conferences I attend gets published within the next 3 years.

    Some is published during the conference. In extreme cases, it’s published in Nature the very day it’s presented.

  40. says

    If Elsevier didn’t think it was worth the effort, they wouldn’t bother spending the money to push this bill. Isn’t it the government we should be pissed at for making them think it’s worth the bother?

  41. Ichthyic says

    No university has any copyright to any of my publications

    *sigh*

    not that way where I “grew up”.

    Grad students basically had rights to… nothing.

    hell, we didn’t even have health insurance (like the undergrads did!); we had to go on strike to get basic benefits.

    Yeah, we had to sign a contract giving the Uni express rights over anything we produced while a grad student.

    At tne time, I figured it a fair price to pay for a graduate education.

    now I look back on that and think how naive I was to think so.

  42. Ichthyic says

    Isn’t it the government we should be pissed at for making them think it’s worth the bother?

    I rather think both have come under direct fire; in the OP and in the comments.

  43. says

    More thoughts on this important topic–

    One of the reasons that the scholarly publishing industry has gotten away with this bullying for so long is that it traditionally has held the cachet of authenticity and authority, not only for those who desire an authoritative and prestigious vehicle for their work, but for the researchers and librarians and others who want assurance of the quality of the information they seek for themselves or (as in my case) for others. Elsevier and others like them have had a corner on the market, and authors and librarians really haven’t had much choice.

    One of my tasks as a research librarian is not only to find information, but to evaluate its quality and authenticity. (Librarians receive good training in this regard.) For each article or other piece of information I retrieve, I have to ask, “Is this good? Who wrote it, and when, and why? What credentials does he/she have? Is this a reliable publisher? How does this fit in to other knowledge on this topic? Is it original? If not, is it the best source? etc.”

    Traditionally, we’ve been able to judge books and articles in part by their covers; an article in an Elsevier journal or an Oxford U textbook has always been considered reliable, not only because of the peer review process, but because the publishers themselves were considered reliable in their choice of authors and their management of the editing and publishing process.

    (I ignore for this particular discussion the issue of scientific and publishing fraud.)

    As more scientists and other knowledge producers publish their work independently, it becomes a challenge for librarians and other researchers to find this information AND, absent the “standard” publshing process, to evaluate its accuracy, value, and usefulness.

    For example, much business-related content, such as marketing surveys and demographic studies, that used to be published in management journals, is now published independently by the big consulting firms that commission the work. There is not, as far as I can tell, independent review of the methodology or data. How can I be assured of the quality of the data? I really do examine these things closely and discard some as being just inadequate in design or execution. (And don’t even get me started on the poor graphic design that renders otherwise simple data illegible!)

    I am wrapping up a big lit search today that covers marketing, demographics, and online retail. I started my search as usual in the lit databases, but soon realized that I had to move into the commercial websites (consulting firms, marketing agencies) because that’s where the research is being done and that’s where the data is. Even with my excellent search skills it’s a long slow slog, since there is no overall indexing on the web as there is in the professional databases. There are a few good aggregators, but nothing offers comprehensive coverage, of course. It’s almost impossible to do systematic lit searching any more; the literature is now so diffuse and unstandardized. Even so, I am glad that we are able to share and publish more freely. But as the number of content producers grows, so does the proverbial haystack in which I search for the needle.

    Back to my report.

  44. aspidoscelis says

    12, movinbutnotshakin:

    What is meant by “network dissemination”? If I published in a private sector journal like Nature or PNAS, would I face criminal charges if I later posted that article online as a PDF, or shared it with one other scientist whose institution doesn’t pay for access to the journal?

    That’s determined by the journal’s copyright policy; this varies widely among journals. Author(s) may or may not retain copyright for the final published article, and there may be various specific limitations or allowances beyond that (e.g., the journal might require the copyright be transferred to them, but agree to give the authors some limited ability to share the work with colleagues).

    If you were publishing a paper in PNAS, before publication they’d send you a sheet to sign to let the journal publish your work, or transfer copyright to them, or whatever exactly is involved in their particular policies. If you signed the sheet but then did something to violate that agreement, they could sue you for copyright infringement (IANAL, but I don’t think criminal charges would be possible).

    This aspect of the situation would not be changed by the RWA bill. It would change what federal agencies can do, not what authors themselves can do. As PZ Myers said above:

    This is a blatant attempt to invalidate the NIH’s requirement that taxpayer-funded research be made publicly available.

  45. Ichthyic says

    As more scientists and other knowledge producers publish their work independently, it becomes a challenge for librarians and other researchers to find this information AND, absent the “standard” publshing process, to evaluate its accuracy, value, and usefulness.

    Food for thought.

  46. David Marjanović says

    Yeah, we had to sign a contract giving the Uni express rights over anything we produced while a grad student.

    …Wow.

    How utterly pointless.

    As more scientists and other knowledge producers publish their work independently, it becomes a challenge for librarians and other researchers to find this information AND, absent the “standard” publshing process, to evaluate its accuracy, value, and usefulness.

    Science journals say whether they’re peer-reviewed, and most peer-reviewed papers/book chapters mention the reviewers in the acknowledgments in more or less unambiguous ways.

  47. says

    Science journals say whether they’re peer-reviewed, and most peer-reviewed papers/book chapters mention the reviewers in the acknowledgments in more or less unambiguous ways.

    I’m referring to material that is not published in peer-reviewed publications – sorry if that was not clear.

  48. aspidoscelis says

    19, yoav:

    This will continue to be a problem unless there is a move by search committees to look at the quality of a candidate publications but disregard which journal they were published in (within reason, if something is published in the journal of magic nonscience it make perfect sense to ignore it but as long as the journal has a proper editorial policy and stringent reviewing process).

    Yes, that would be ideal. However, there’s a good reason search committees don’t do that. Suppose you get 150 applicants (yes, that happens). That’s a shload of research papers. The search committee would be spending the next few years reading them.

  49. incognito says

    What is with the advertising on this site??? Christianbook.com at the top of the page and Christianprayercenter.com in the spot directly above this posting!!! They’re barking up the wrong tree here! I guess it makes some sense to allow their ads to fund the site…

  50. Ichthyic says

    How utterly pointless.

    Oh, it had a point, alrighty. People get the wrong impression when they see the words: “public university”.

    just because it receives SOME public funding, doesn’t mean the UC system doesn’t spend a lot of time funding itself through patents on research done by staff and students alike.

    The public uni system in the States was becoming more and more corporatized.

    Too many business administrators involved, not enough educators.

  51. Air says

    And the patent thing is likely to be an even bigger factor now that the US has joined the ‘first to file’ rule for patents instead of the older ‘first to discover.’ There will be tremendous pressure from IP offices to cover everything possible – leaving interesting tidbits in your lab notebook for later investigation in an area where there is possible money at stake is right out. One wonders (cue flashlight under chin) whether university researchers will be required to deposit their lab notebooks daily with a central repository who will vet them for patentable stuff as is often the practice in industry. Paleobiology, not so much – biotech, you betcha.

  52. says

    I am currently doing postgraduate studies at a small research institute in Asia. It provides access to historical manuscripts and publications that are unavailable elsewhere. Unfortunately access to mainstream journals is patchy because of budget constraints. The on-line subscription to the two journals I access most frequently has a two year embargo on accessing papers. The same applies to other publications. This means for much of my time I am confronted by paywalls demanding $US30-70 for access to articles I may or may not find useful. I usually find creative ways around this but it wastes a lot of time. Not the best way to do research.

  53. says

    An article in today’s NYT on the topic–

    “Cracking Open the Scientific Process”
    New York Times, January 16, 2012

    For centuries, this is how science has operated — through research done in private, then submitted to science and medical journals to be reviewed by peers and published for the benefit of other researchers and the public at large. But to many scientists, the longevity of that process is nothing to celebrate.

    The system is hidebound, expensive and elitist, they say. Peer review can take months, journal subscriptions can be prohibitively costly, and a handful of gatekeepers limit the flow of information. It is an ideal system for sharing knowledge, said the quantum physicist Michael Nielsen, only “if you’re stuck with 17th-century technology.”

    Dr. Nielsen and other advocates for “open science” say science can accomplish much more, much faster, in an environment of friction-free collaboration over the Internet. And despite a host of obstacles, including the skepticism of many established scientists, their ideas are gaining traction.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/science/open-science-challenges-journal-tradition-with-web-collaboration.html?_r=1&ref=science?src=dayp

  54. WhiteHatLurker says

    NIH’s policy was very enlightened and one that I hoped would become a global standard. Other funding bodies are following similar lines in requiring that papers made publicly available. This holds great promise in furthering knowledge by letting us climb up to the “giants’ shoulders” and see more.

    I am not American, and my voice will not resound in the ears of American politicians. I hope that they will listen to their compatriots to put a stop to this bill.

  55. ikesolem says

    Ah, there’s another major issue here, which has to do with clinical data from drug trials – currently kept secret, even if the study was taxpayer-financed in part. Apparently the raw clinical data would reveal that many of the patented “hottest new drugs” actually perform no better than the generics they tend to be derived from, and have unacknowledged side effects – thus, the focus on NIH research.

  56. ikesolem says

    P.S. you can read more about the tie-in between Elvesier and pharmaceutical corporations here:

    http://acrlog.org/2009/05/09/this-journal-brought-to-you-by/

    “It was shocking at the end of April when The Scientist reported that Elsevier had published a scholarly-journal-like series that was actually advertising paid for by Merck. The peer-reviewed-like articles in the journal-like object were either reprints or summaries of articles that reported results favorable to Merck drugs.”

  57. Ichthyic says

    here’s hoping that open access will become the norm instead of the exception in the next 20 years.

  58. bjornbrembs says

    Indeed, PZ, it would have been awesome had you noticed all of this a little earlier. Sure, your inbox is exploding, but there have been plenty of people shouting it from the rooftops – there was a time to pharyngulate the White House on exactly these issues:
    http://bjoern.brembs.net/comment-n818.html

    Ichthyic’s comment is spot on: I know some libraries have physical copies of some publisher archives. These should be incorporated into the various library archives up until the 12 month embargo. A unified access to these archives (perhaps via PubMed) would erode the subscription-access to these journals quite quickly and allow libraries to keep the US$4b annually in publisher profits to invest in infrastructure for expanding their open access database of literature AND data.
    http://bjoern.brembs.net/comment-n820.html

  59. tesserazoau says

    Just refused to review for an Elsevier journal, leaving a note explaining that this legislation and their support for politicians who introduced it was the reason for refusal. I did however make sure to note that I understand that the editors are providing a community service and not profiting from their labor. At least I think that is the case.

  60. Sir Shplane, Grand Mixmaster, Knight of the Turntable says

    Disgusting. Utterly disgusting.

    I really, really wish that our political system wasn’t bought and paid for.

  61. David Marjanović says

    Traditionally, we’ve been able to judge books and articles in part by their covers; an article in an Elsevier journal or an Oxford U textbook has always been considered reliable, not only because of the peer review process, but because the publishers themselves were considered reliable in their choice of authors and their management of the editing and publishing process.

    ~:-| You’re probably right about books; but journals are different. The decision of which manuscripts to accept or reject, which I suppose you mean by “choice of authors”, is made by the editors of individual journals, not by their publishers.

    I did however make sure to note that I understand that the editors are providing a community service and not profiting from their labor. At least I think that is the case.

    I know an Associate Editor at an Elsevier journal who, unusually, is paid for his work.

    He’s paid 250 US$ per year. That’s not a typo and amounts to about 5 $ per manuscript that he handles.

    Five.

  62. julietdefarge says

    This bill would appear to go hand in hand with the poorly written anti-piracy bill currently under consideration. When you’re writing to your congressperson about that, gripe about this as well. I would post links to petitions, but now I’m afraid of the embedding powers of freethoughtblogs. You’ll have to use google-fu.

  63. says

    You’re probably right about books; but journals are different. The decision of which manuscripts to accept or reject, which I suppose you mean by “choice of authors”, is made by the editors of individual journals, not by their publishers.

    Yes, and the journals choose the editors.

    In any case, the system is not serving science, as it ought to do.

  64. David Marjanović says

    I would post links to petitions, but now I’m afraid of the embedding powers of freethoughtblogs. You’ll have to use google-fu.

    Only links to YouTube trigger embedding.

    Yes, and the journals choose the editors.

    The journals – and not the publishers. The publishers choose which journal to buy or found, and when.

  65. TheBlackCat says

    Of course there is the added frustration of purchasing a pdf and then finding out it has been secured and you can’t even copy-paste a few lines or a graphic to include (with proper citation) in a technical report.

    I think you are using the wrong PDF viewer. If my understanding is correct, “secure” PDFs just have some tags in them that tell the PDF reader program what it is and is not supposed to allow. Adobe reader, of course, obeys these restrictions, but many other PDF reader programs do not (or give you the option whether to obey them or not).

  66. tyroneslothrop says

    I will no longer submit work to journals published by Elsevier and I will no longer peer review for journals published by Elsevier. I understand that younger scholars do not have the same options, but I can make such a decision. We, as scholars, need to support journals that respect scholars and scholarship.

  67. crissakentavr says

    Remember, profit is the part that comes after their wages, too. It’s not just gross income minus costs, it’s gross income minus all salaries, expenses, and other costs.