Gold Open Access is Bad for Science Publishing

Recently I was listening to a podcast discussing the recent Finch Report which comes out in favor of the Gold path of Open access. What open access is attempting to resolve is the problem that much of government funded research costs too much before it is made accessible. It costs so much that even some research libraries are unable to access the results.

The basic model is that the researcher applies for funding. This process is time consuming and often fails. Therefore too many people are chasing too little money. Those who are fortunate to receive funding will eventually need to publish their findings in scientific journals in order to advance in their careers (and to push scientific progress forward).

Scientific journals are basically other academics acting as editors and reviewers (for the most part unpaid). So the government is paying the academics to do this work as well. Once the material is published the university libraries have to buy a subscription in order to make the work available to their researchers.

Cash Flow

How many times in this process have we paid for the the results before they are available? In most cases none of the material is available to a wider audience outside academia.

The Gold Route to open access would make research available to researchers and the general public by making the researchers pay the publishers in advance to make their material available. In other words taking the subscription fees from the library budget and adding it on to the research grants.

There are problems with this.

1. The lock in to publishers is still strong. The reason why we are discussing a scientific publishing crisis is that the cost of purchasing access to the articles is too high to bear. Gold Open Access does not address this problem in the long term. Sure, in the beginning it may be cheaper than subscriptions but we are still locked into the publishers who have raised the prices of subscriptions to a level that even wealthy universities are struggling to survive. Do we really think they will not do the same when faced by individual researchers desperate to publish in order to move forward in their careers?

2. The greed issue. Journals need to fill their pages with scientific articles. Isn’t there a danger when they are being paid per article that they will be tempted to dismantle rigorous standards in favor of cash?

And most importantly

3. Authors without funding (Read Mark Carrigan’s excellent piece on this). What about those unfortunate researchers who did not receive funding? Either they will not publish (impossible situation in academia), they will take money from other projects to pay for publishing (Fraud? Embezzlement?) or the universities will have to pay (increases costs again).

As funding is the exception and not the rule (most grant applications are denied) most of the publishing in my field is done without direct financing. For example this summer I am busy writing two articles during my holiday. They are important to me and to my research but they are not funded through projects. But once I publish I will be in a better position to obtain funding – who should pay for this?

The gold route creates a wonderful situation for the publishers and will turn the well financed researchers into direct sub-contractors to the publishers, and those without financing into the beggars.

This is not good science.

Hiding culture: Google Books & Snippets

In May 2006 I was overjoyed with Google books. I retold an anecdote where I was able to find a book after watching a documentary

[It] was mentioned briefly in a documentary tonight and it sparked my curiousity. So I looked for the book, searching the online databases of second hand bookstores. No luck. Then, almost as a joke, I googled it. And there it was on google books. Cool but it was not like I was going to read it online. Then I saw the download button. Within minutes of hearing of the book for the first time I had a pdf of it on my computer – Google books is too cool!

Amazing, fantastic, brilliant… but. There is a tendency to forget that Google is not a neutral infrastructure and therefore has no real desire to preserve and make available books – even when they have scanned them.

Dingodog led me to this problem via the PD-discussion list

Googlebooks has scanned tons of PUBLIC DOMAIN BOOKS, but not all PUBLIC
DOMAIN BOOKS are accessible

there are a tons of PUBLIC DOMAIN BOOKS that Goglebooks non only has
left in snippet view, but that refuses to UNLOCK for full view (and they
are in PUBLIC DOMAIN!!!)

I have a sad story to tell, about these public domain books left in
snippet view:

since 2009 I’m complaining about a same set of PUBLIC DOMAIN BOOKS whose
copyright expired since more than 10-20 years

I sent a mail every month, then every week, and all this during last
three years to report the erroneous classification of public domain
books as snippet view. Now I’m considering to send a mail every day, but
I’m not confident about effects; I think Googlebooks will ignore my
complaints, as it has ignored during these years

it seems, in fact, that Googlebooks has absolutely no will to unlock,
even if user (as I have done) provides well documented biographical info
and cites the laws regulating the status of book in different countries

People complained about public domain books left in snippet view and
googlebooks user forum was full of these complaints with google
employees not only unable to unlock (maybe google not provided this
ability to employees, or it simply ignored requests), but seriously
lacking in knowledge of googlebooks structure

The discussion continues on the list but it is terribly important to know that scanning is not preservation and does not mean access. Additionally when Google makes these choices it is increasingly important to know this.

Another question I find interesting is the question of multiple copies. Will Google care enough to make multiple scanned copies available? Will we be able to see the errors and additions in certain volumes or not?

Sure the originals are still around but the problem is that with the convenience of Google people will forget this and focus on what is available online. Also the availability of Google books will prevent more rigorous projects from being carried out.

Stallman lecture in Göteborg

Next week its finally time for the annual FSCONS conference. This year is the fifth year running and it keeps getting better all the time. This year brings an additional bonus as  Richard Stallmanwill give  a presentation at Runan in Gothenburg the day before the conference begins “for real”

About the talk: Activities directed at including” more people in the use of digital technology are predicated on the assumption that such inclusion is invariably a good thing. It appears so, when judged solely by immediate practical convenience. However, if we also judge in terms of human rights, whether digital inclusion is good or bad depends on what kind of digital world we are to be included in. If we wish to work towards digital inclusion as a goal, it behooves us to make sure it is the good kind.

 

Nomination period open for Nordic Free Software Award

About
The Nordic Free Software Award is given to people, projects or organisations in the Nordic countries that have made a prominent contribution to the advancement of Free Software. The award will be announced during FSCONS 2011 in Gothenburg.

Nominate
Send an email to award [AT] fscons.org (moderated mailing list) with the following information:

* Name of nominee
* Bio of nominee
* Website
* Contact info
* Motivation

The nomination period ends October 22

Join the award committee
Send an email to award [AT] fscons.org (moderated mailing list) with the following information:

* Your name
* Your email
* Motivation why you want to join the award committee

List of nominated 2011
Will be presented in October

Previous Award winners
* 2010 Bjarni Rúnar Einarsson (more info)
* 2009 Simon Josefsson and Daniel Stenberg (more info)
* 2008 Mats Östling (more info)
* 2007 SkoleLinux (more info)

Open is nothing new

At times I feel that I am forever discussing openness. Mainly – but not exclusively – Creative Commons, Free Software & Open Source. Often I am arguing the basics of the idea with people unfamiliar with the concept and I need to overcome a great deal of skepticism. The skeptics argue that now way can it be a good idea to give away material and they are rarely convinced with the growth of modern examples. They lean back as if to say: just you wait, it will go terribly wrong.

This is why it is nice to present the skeptics with established, old examples. And recently I came across an excellent new old example.

Can you name an eighteenth century furniture designer? Most of us cannot, but all the same many of us are familiar with the name of Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) and not because of the dancers. Thomas Chippendale was the first furniture designer to become famous – before Chippendale furniture was known by styles, monarchs or famous buyers, but not the designers.

So what did he do?

After working as a journeyman cabinet maker in London he became the first cabinet-maker to publish a book of his designs. The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director is still available in print today. The amazing thing about the publication was that it created open source furniture and allowed other furniture makers to make copies of his designs. Of course he may have lost a few commissions but going open source ensured that his fame lasted long after his death. Which is more than can be said of his contemporaries.

Sharing is caring – sharing is good business.

Free Knowledge

Let me begin by admitting that I really cannot stand working out to music. It bores me to no end. Particularly if I am running, if the wrong song shows up I just lose the will to jog.

Sad as I am I really enjoy listening to lectures while working out. Sad I know. That’s why I really become happy when I find more free courses online. This happiness increased when I came across 250 new course online (via PhilosophyBytes)  after browsing a few minutes I was already downloading:

Popular Science online

Popular Science has (with a little help from Google) put their 137 year archive online

We’ve partnered with Google to offer our entire 137-year archive for free browsing. Each issue appears just as it did at its original time of publication, complete with period advertisements. It’s an amazing resource that beautifully encapsulates our ongoing fascination with the future, and science and technology’s incredible potential to improve our lives. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.