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[P]
Nature and Uni. having arguments......

By Blarney in Media
Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 08:41:58 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Copyright holders on digital media demand new rights and privileges constantly. They push laws like DMCA through the United States Congress, and enforce their privileges worldwide through such treaties as the Berne Convention. Perhaps they want a pay-per-view society where every reading of a book or playing of a song costs a fee, payable to them. They want to control, not only the copying of a book, movie, or song, but the use thereof - where and how many times it may be viewed, what persons may use it. This would enable what economists call price discrimination - they could charge each customer as much as they're willing to pay.

But if they push it too far, their customers will just walk away.

This is a story of how one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world has infuriated many of their subscribers by obnoxious electronic access policies.


I am a graduate student in Chemistry. This involves keeping up with the primary literature, which is generally published in peer-reviewed journals. For those who don't know, "peer-review" is a process by which researchers volunteer their time to judge the quality of the journal submissions. This process is 2-way anonymous - the reviewer's don't know the author's names, and the authors don't know the reviewer's names. Every peer-reviewed journal has a great deal of volunteer work involved in its publication.

One of the most prestigious journals is the British magazine Nature. Our University library carries subscriptions to many journals, both as physical magazines, and as electronic access.

One day, I was sitting at a computer in the library trying to read an article in Nature. It wouldn't come up. The librarian and I tried every login/pass combination that the school had possessed - but it stubbornly refused to allow access. It was gone. Yes indeed, they had cut us off deliberately. Here's an excerpt from Nature's web site about their new online-access policy:

This superID facility is now being discontinued as of 28 February 2001, now that site-licenses have been available for some time. E-mail notifications of this were sent to all institutions who were making use of this facility, on 01 February 2001.

In other words, they want all institutional libraries to purchase their new online access plan. It is no longer included in the regular subscription. They just went and took it away, just because they felt like it, and they could. Tough guys, aren't they?

Anyway, to make a long story short, our library is not giving in. Nature wants a five-figure amount of money for this service, on top of the already five-figure amount that we are already paying for the print magazines! Bear in mind that an individual can purchase a years subscription to Nature for about $150. However, they have a special price for "institutions" such as libraries. I don't know if this is legally enforceable, or if the librarian could just subscribe in his name and put the magazines on the shelf, but our library does not want to rock the boat and confront them. It seems to me that many private citizens purchase books and magazines and donate them to libraries, and that this is even considered a good and praiseworthy act, but I really don't know the law.

Not only do they want a big pile of $$$, but the online access is crippled. There are two big problems with it.

  1. They delay the publication of review articles by 3 months. Review articles are not primary publications of scientific results, but rather are summaries of the current work in a particular field. As these are often very long, it makes sense that they might not have the online version up right away.
  2. Nature refuses to guarantee access to issues that have been published during an electronic subscription after the subscription has lapsed. In other words, these are like books that spontaneously combust if the yearly payments aren't made. We don't buy them, we only get to rent them.

Our library has therefore decided that we won't have online access to Nature publications anymore. Other school's libraries have joined in this boycott. Some of the schools currently involved are Harvard, Princeton, University of Michigan, University of Iowa, and the University of Chicago.

This seems like good news to me. There's only so far that copyright holders can push their customers before they find that they no longer actually have any. Nature is one of the best journals because they are highly respected in the scientific community, and consequently receive the most groundbreaking submissions. But if nobody read Nature, they wouldn't get paper submissions any more, and would soon lose their edge. They may have forgotten that they don't exist to make money - they make money to exist and continue doing what they do, which is publishing excellent scientific research. It's not right for them to live off of the free labor of their customers to maintain their quality, and then turn around and squeeze these same people for every last penny that they can.

Let's hope that these schools teach them a lesson!

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Poll
If you couldn't buy books, but had to rent them instead, would you rent them or do without?
o I'd pay anyhow. You can't live without books. 11%
o I'd just settle for free content produced by interested amateurs. 17%
o I'd pirate them! 62%
o I'm illiterate. 8%

Votes: 197
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by Blarney


Display: Sort:
Nature and Uni. having arguments...... | 55 comments (51 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
I'm illiterate. (2.71 / 7) (#1)
by duxup on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 01:41:02 AM EST

It's good to see a humorous entry in the poll! I noticed some recent articles have been omitting such options, or worse yet have polls with options that only support the writer's point of view. I think that is a sad development. I believe the funny options help to keep things in perspective.

I'd pirate them... (3.33 / 3) (#9)
by Luke Francl on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 02:51:08 AM EST

I'd pirate my journal articles on "Readster".

That'd be the day...

But seriously...It seems like the world is getting closer and closer to Richard Stallman's Right to Read distopia every day... :(

[ Parent ]

Right to Read (none / 0) (#12)
by Blarney on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 04:12:00 AM EST

Actually, I think that this is GOOD news. We won't have the "Right to Read" world, if we fight back. The schools and libraries are on the front lines of this right now, but it's gonna get back to Joe Sixpack and his new shiny digital VCR pretty soon.



[ Parent ]

Poll Results (3.00 / 4) (#25)
by pos on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 11:37:37 AM EST

I was shocked by the poll results!

I thought that k5 readers would be *less* likely to pirate content because they would understand that "stealing" only makes the product (if you can call it that) more ubiquitous. I get a warez version of MS Office and then distribute files in .doc format; This encourages others to use MS Office too, not to mention that it discourages people from using the alternatives. I download a copyrighted book and talk about it with some friends. Am I not encouraging them to buy it or download it themselves? What if there is a More Free (Tm) equivalent out there? Will it suffer from the competition?

It seems that the common philosophy theese days is that we vote with our money. Pirating software is the voting equivalent to abstaining, not a vote against. I am going to say books are the same even though there are distinct differences, namely that one can argue books don't compete with one another the way journals do.

I still use napster and the like, but I try to encourage the more open alternatives when I can. I do this by using them, bugfixing and trying to send the money I earn to the companies/groups I believe in. I do not feel that I have a "right" to see the latest blockbuster movie , "gotta have" software, or top 40 music (I used to) and now I do not miss it. I guess you could say my tastes have changed :) Still, I feel torn by this issue every day; and feel that I am a hypocrite nonetheless.

-pos

The truth is more important than the facts.
-Frank Lloyd Wright
[ Parent ]
Give 'em a copy (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by priestess on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 12:24:13 PM EST

I download a copyrighted book and talk about it with some friends. Am I not encouraging them to buy it or download it themselves?
Um, these are your friends, right? Why not just give 'em a copy of the book if they want to read it? If I mention a book I read yesterday to a friend and he seems interested I give him my copy, this is simply a lot easier with pirated works.

But yeah, it'd be better if we could go to the competition who don't impose draconian rules, but voting with your cash only helps in a system which is properly controled by capitialism, when you have an infinate supply at zero marginal cost, capital doesn't work. I want ideas to flow freely, and I'll help that even if they make it illegal to do so. I will not refuse to lend my book to a friend just because the Man doesn't like it.
----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
If not a Police State... A Lawyer State??? (3.00 / 1) (#31)
by pos on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 12:54:35 PM EST

Um, these are your friends, right? Why not just give 'em a copy of the book if they want to read it? If I mention a book I read yesterday to a friend and he seems interested I give him my copy, this is simply a lot easier with pirated works.

This is of course the way it works in practice and therefore is arguably the way it should be.

However, doing so doesn't put any pressure on the publishers to not enforce the draconian rules that they have on their side. Widespread unenforced laws are all but the definition of a police state. When the police, lawyers, etc. can pick and choose whom they sue and who they allow to pirate their works, they are the controlling party. Civil disobedience is not enough if it doesn't get the laws changed.

As an example: I would rather have the speed limit (here in the US) raised to a level that reflects reality rather than leave it at 55-65 mph. You can argue that everyone just drives 70-80 and that's acceptable. I would argue that this allows the police to decide to pull over anyone they want to at any time for whatever reason because everyone is speeding. Hell, even driving below the limit is considered suspicious because only people who are "impaired" are driving that slow.

If the speed limit laws were enforced more, everyone would drive slower, get pissed off that the law is that way and the law would change.

The "capital" here is the midshare that the book, software, journal, or whatever recieves not the money. Mindshare gets converted into money through other means. And you are supporting that by sharing with your friends, as am I.

-pos

The truth is more important than the facts.
-Frank Lloyd Wright
[ Parent ]
ou don't change a law by mindlessly obeying it eit (none / 0) (#33)
by priestess on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 01:12:46 PM EST

But you don't change a law by mindlessly obeying it either. If the masses refuse to buy a book that they can't share, we still have these horrible and broken copyright laws on the now-freely-redistributable law books and everyone has to write a special disclaimer at the start of their tomes saying they don't want this protection.

Mass disobedience isn't a great way to change the law, proper protest and argument in the chambers and the sanctioned bribing of ministers would, of course, be better. But who's got the time? Or the money? And I still tend to agree that if you find a law immoral, it's your duty to ignore it.

Selective enforcement is not a good thing, agreed utterly, but until we get an electorate with some BALLS it's something we're stuck with because we just can't afford to outbid those big companies and we don't have the power to brainwash like those newspapers and TV companies do.
----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
This kind of crap goes on all the time (4.42 / 14) (#2)
by Luke Francl on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 01:44:02 AM EST

I work for a University library (the University of Minnesota Libraries -- it's a "singular plural" to avoid political contention among the various libraries in the system. I'm not kidding.). This kind of crap goes on all the time. I'm not sure if this Nature issue is affecting us, but we only have the last 5 years of IEEE journals online because of their exorbinate licensing fees. We subscribe to over 200 indexes, and most of them cost big bucks.

Philip Greenspun loves to take ACM to task for this as well. As a student of the University of Minnesota, I have access to their "Digital Library", but if some kid in Somalia wants to better himself by learning some neat-o algorithms, he better have $10 and his credit card ready. Oh, that's more than his entire village makes in a year? Too bad.

Granted, peer-reviewed journals are expensive. You have to pay the reviewers. But the absolute best part about this is that -- guess what -- for most peer reviewed journals, the author pays for publicaiton! And they have to publish, or they'll get fired!

Man, I wish I had the brains to think of a racket like that.

Pay the reviewers? (2.83 / 6) (#3)
by Blarney on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 01:46:08 AM EST

I don't think that reviewers get paid, at least not in all the journals.

[ Parent ]
Peer reviewers paid? (3.25 / 4) (#5)
by R343L on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 02:02:02 AM EST

I don't think peer reviewers are paid in any peer-reviewed journal. Payment would defeat the purpose of peer review--to make sure work is of sufficient quality in an as unbiased way as possible. If payment were involved and say the reviewer knew the journal editor's desire to publish anything that supports X (his favorite health or environmental issue say), a reviewer may be inclined to give positive reviews on articles with major flaws knowing the editor is going to "hire" them more often.

Rachael
"Like cheese spread over too much cantelope, the people I spoke with liked their shoes." Ctrl-Alt-Del
[ Parent ]

Hmmm.. (3.25 / 4) (#6)
by Luke Francl on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 02:02:49 AM EST

You're probably right...I was kind of dreging up some facts from memory from an issue of the Economist I read last summer on the...uh...economics of the peer-reviewed journal industry (medical journals, specifically). If they don't pay the reviewers, what the hell do they use the money for? Hmmm...

[ Parent ]
Editors versus Reviewers (2.50 / 2) (#48)
by wintermind on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 04:40:34 PM EST

I do not believe that journals pay peer reviewers, but the journals with which I am familiar do maintain editorial staffs that are paid.
"Consider him warned." --David Wilcox
[ Parent ]
It's actually kind of ironic (3.66 / 3) (#38)
by RandomPeon on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 03:18:58 PM EST

that the ACM would file an amicus curiae brief in support of 2600's legal battle and then pull this shit.

I always think this kind of hypocrisy is both funny and infuriating - it's not OK for for the MPAA to try restrict access to entertainment media, but it is OK for the ACM to restrict acess to academic knowledge. In particular, they claimed that the DMCA was unacceptable because "infringes academic thought and freedom of speech, and cannot be permitted." Apparently all "academic thought" should be freely available, but some academic thought should more free than other academic thought.

[ Parent ]
ACM a many splendored beast (2.00 / 1) (#45)
by kmself on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 01:45:20 AM EST

While its publications arm may wish to restrict access to its library, its members may, on whole, disagree with court actions against 2600.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

UNC is boycotting, too. URL (3.50 / 2) (#42)
by gbnewby on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 07:43:18 PM EST

Here's the link. It provides a little background (available elsewhere) and a nice link to email the people at the journal.

Lots of publishers are trying to go their own way with electronic licensing. It will be awhile before a standard expectation and pricing scheme emerges. Meanwhile, by all accounts, electronic access is costing libraries LOTS of extra money, and not saving a dime!

With regards to archiving: some library consortia (like the Triangla Research Library Network: Duke, UNC, NCState..) are agreeing that one of the libraries will maintain a print subscription to a journal for archival purposes if the others only get electronic. That way, they're not reliant on the publishers to provide perpetual access to electronic back issues.

[ Parent ]

The practice of charging scientists to publish (4.37 / 16) (#4)
by R343L on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 01:57:12 AM EST

If the online charges seem ridiculous, look at it from the perspective of a scientist trying to get his work published. (My background is still undergraduate, but my fiance worked for several years in a biology/psychology lab, including getting papers published).

First, of course, the scientist is probably buying subscriptions to a journal (at least for some journals the scientist wants their own copy). Now they've got work done that is worthy of publishing. After undergoing peer-review (which is a good thing), some journals actually charge the author (i.e. the scientist) "paper cost." These are not necessarily trivial expenses and may range above one hundred dollars (which seems trivial but is not for a lab on a shoestring budget where lab researchers and assistants pay for tools and supplies out of their own pockets). Journal of Comparative Psychology (which is where work on psychology of animals is often published) is one such journal. On top of all this, some journals keep the copyright of the article (not the authors) making it difficult for people to copy it legally--a scientist may have to get permission to copy their own article to distribute it to a class.

Now does this seem right? As a scientific journal is a means for scientists to share their discoveries in order to spur more research (and of course possibly support or disproof), it makes little sense for a scientist to have to pay in order to get published. I can see no other way but for there to be a charge for the journal--after all it probably wouldn't be published otherwise. But the other restrictions are merely making it more difficult for scientific knowledge to spread which is the purpose of the journals in the first place.

(As an aside, does it seem right for some journals to profit outrageously off of volunteer labor--the reviewers and the scientists.)

Rachael
"Like cheese spread over too much cantelope, the people I spoke with liked their shoes." Ctrl-Alt-Del

Charging to publish (3.83 / 6) (#16)
by wiredog on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 08:24:23 AM EST

it makes little sense for a scientist to have to pay in order to get published

My father is the editor of Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing and they have these charges (with extra for color images). And they charge for subscriptions. And they carry ads. And they almost went bankrupt a few years ago. Publishing a professional journal, on slick paper with color, is an expensive proposition. Fortunately e-mail is bringing the costs down, no more sending edits around via FedEx, but it's still not like publishing to the web. Especially for journals with small, but worldwide, circulation, such as PE&RS, the costs per unit can be high.

PE&RS does the copyright thing as well. So do the NY Times, Newsweek, Salon.com, etc. In fact, I can't think of any dead tree publication that doesn't hold the copyright to that which is published in it.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
Phage
[ Parent ]

Most publications don't purchase copyright (3.00 / 3) (#28)
by dennis on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 12:41:02 PM EST

Check a Writers Market, most periodicals don't buy the copyright, they buy something like First North American Serial Rights. They get the right to be the first to publish in a periodical in North America, but the copyright stays with the author, who is then free to resell in other markets, sell to periodicals that purchase second rights, post online, whatever.

[ Parent ]
Distinct markets (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by kmself on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 01:17:34 AM EST

Writers' Market and academic publishing are almost entirely distinct worlds.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

No argument there (3.00 / 2) (#47)
by dennis on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 08:23:12 AM EST

I was just responding to "So do the NY Times, Newsweek, Salon.com, etc. In fact, I can't think of any dead tree publication that doesn't hold the copyright to that which is published in it." Should have quoted that in my response, sorry.

[ Parent ]
Publication costs and copyright transfer (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by Carter Butts on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 02:58:52 PM EST

My father is the editor of Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing and they have these charges (with extra for color images). And they charge for subscriptions. And they carry ads. And they almost went bankrupt a few years ago. Publishing a professional journal, on slick paper with color, is an expensive proposition. Fortunately e-mail is bringing the costs down, no more sending edits around via FedEx, but it's still not like publishing to the web. Especially for journals with small, but worldwide, circulation, such as PE&RS, the costs per unit can be high.

Publication costs are clearly a problem, particularly for the "slick" dead-tree journals you describe. That said, many journals (e.g., most if not all sociology journals, and all those economics journals with which I have had experience) do not charge paper costs to authors, and appear able to survive regardless. One suspects that, ceteris paribus, journals which are having to charge both authors and readers to survive should not be published in paper format at all...that, or they have serious management problems....

PE&RS does the copyright thing as well. So do the NY Times, Newsweek, Salon.com, etc. In fact, I can't think of any dead tree publication that doesn't hold the copyright to that which is published in it.

Actually, many periodicals do not require copyright transfer; many outlets for short fiction, for instance, acquire only first North American publishing rights (or similar), possibly with certain non-exclusive republication rights as well. Journals, if anything, are quite unusual in the extent to which they can force authors to hand over their work sans renumeration....IMHO, this may ultimately be one of the factors which leads to the dominance of electronic publication in the sciences. (Time will tell.)

-Carter

[ Parent ]

Re: Charging to publish (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by R343L on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 04:47:03 PM EST

Not all journals (lots in psychology for example) are slick with lots of pictures. Plenty of journals are of paper quality a little better than newsprint, don't have ads and not many pictures (a few graphs or charts per article). These journals (most of the ones I know are in psychology or biology) are not going bankrupt because of low subscription--they have many subscribers, esp. libraries that have to carry many of them at high prices as the article points out. Many of the scientists in the field know that the journals are making a profit off of them but can't do anything about it. The journals have inertia behind them--that's where such-and-such research has always been published. No one is going to switch to the new guy, especially as the libraries aren't going to carry them for a while.

As for the problem of copyright, a scientific article and an article in the New York Times serve entirely different purposes. One is advancing the spread of science and scientific discourse; the other is providing a service to people (for example, the news) in order to make a profit. My problem is that scientific discourse should be as removed from obvious biases as possible--the profit motive of the editors is a bias. Mathematics journals (my field) get a long fine as non-profit publications of non-profit mathematical societies. Why can't psychology?

Also regarding copyrights, the journals I'm thinking of buy permanent rights, not North American first publication rights. I know scientists who have to get permission to include one of their own papers in class notes for classes they teach. Does that seem right? I have no problem with first North American serial rights--the journal does have to maintain integrity by not having another entity just copy their entire journal as soon as it is published. But preventing the original author from using his work?

Rachael
"Like cheese spread over too much cantelope, the people I spoke with liked their shoes." Ctrl-Alt-Del
[ Parent ]

Writing letters (3.60 / 10) (#10)
by jesterzog on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 03:44:03 AM EST

Boycotts are great for making a point. Have you considered writing letters as well? I don't know if Nature has a letters to the editor section as I don't read it, but often if they're feeling brave, editors will publish letters that go against their general opinions - as long as it's polite and rational. This might be even more likely if the editor disagreed with the copyright enforcement decisions.

So see if you can get some prominent people and other students from your university to write polite letters, write at least one yourself, and ask neighbouring universities and schools to do the same. If they're currently not noticing that they're slipping out of much of academia, they might after that.


jesterzog Fight the light


Yep, wrote a letter (3.40 / 5) (#11)
by Blarney on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 03:49:07 AM EST

I already wrote them. It was a couple weeks ago, and no answer. Maybe they just throw e-mail away. Probably writing out a nice text letter and mailing it to England would be better. This is something I cannot understand. Why does everyone always say that if you send an e-mail, it isn't taken seriously? Is it because it's cheaper and easier than a letter? Does it end up where they've got 10,000 protest emails, and ignore them because there's too many to read? If that's actually the case, it's pretty stupid: "There's so many of these! We can't possibly read them! Let's ignore them!"

I would call them and complain over the phone - but that probably would cost lots of money, being as they're an ocean away.

[ Parent ]

Letter writing advantages (4.12 / 8) (#13)
by jesterzog on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 04:14:53 AM EST

If you haven't written a letter on paper, I think it's a very good idea. I'm not sure specifically why emails don't get taken as seriously, but I have theories.

Look at a typical email and it's often littered with bad grammar, sprinkled with lazy and badly formatted quotation symbols, and generally emails don't look clean. They're great for fast communication but not good for looking respectable in any way. Even if your specific email is well written, people are often going to associate it with all the crap that floods their inbox around it.

A letter on the other hand is a defined, physical item that people can relate to. Probably it will be filed away on the record, at least for a reasonable amount of time. It can also be very easily referred to as a result of people being more likely to file it away. They fill up the office, not an irrelevant amount of disk space.

Companies will be used to customers saying "please refer to my letter of [whatever date]". With emails on the other hand, there are maybe two or three people I know who don't delete most emails they get soon after they've read them.

There's just more infrastructure for written letters in most business at the moment because everyone's experienced in using them. Despite what everyone says about the Internet, formal written communication is still the backbone of organisations. It sticks around, it stands up in court, it's rock solid. Probably the only places where this is an exception are IT-related companies who are full of people who've grown up using computers for everything.

They beat phone calls, too, where you're not likely to get past someone who usually isn't able to do a lot. Phone calls also aren't on the record. Unless you can prove that you told something to someone, you'll be hard pressed to hold them accountable for anything they said to you.

That's my theory, anyway. =)


jesterzog Fight the light


[ Parent ]
My Paper gets lost MORE easily. (3.50 / 4) (#32)
by priestess on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 12:59:27 PM EST

there are maybe two or three people I know who don't delete most emails they get soon after they've read them.
Well, I know I'm a strange weird exception with things like this, and I'm definately not a business who have to keep records for all kinds of reasons.
I file all my email on my hard drive and file paper letters somewhere around on a desk or something and then it gets used to scribble a phone number or an address or a quick back-of-envelope calculation a few days later. Before I know it someone's asking why I didn't pay that bill or reply to that demand or whatever and I'm like 'what bill?'

My paper filling skills are somewhat lacking.
----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
ethics and economics (2.33 / 6) (#15)
by codemonkey_uk on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 06:15:16 AM EST

It seems to me that the main difference between the books bought by libraries and the electronic / online versions is that each time you read the online version you need to connect to the content providers servers.

Maintaining servers is expensive. It makes sense that they charge you for using them.

On the other hand it makes no sense that you cannot (I assume you cannot) pay to download an article once, and then view it locally for free.

Is there any reason why this model has not been adopted, at least for libraries?
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell

Why not copy?! (3.66 / 3) (#17)
by richieb on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 09:22:51 AM EST

It is trivial to copy the content to a local server. Why shouldn't the library keep a machine for that?

Moreover, why not have a Napster-like service for scientific papers? The machines holding the info need not be big or costly, but great sharing can take place.

You only need big servers if you hoard the data.

...richie
It is a good day to code.
[ Parent ]

Napster for scientific papers (4.50 / 4) (#22)
by Rocky on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 11:16:30 AM EST

Y'know, I seem to remember that the one of the original reasons that the web and hypertext were created ->was<- to facilitate the sharing of scientific papers. I admit the similarities to Napster end there, as there is no central trading mechanism, although xxx-lanl seems to be a central cache for Physics pre-prints, anyway.

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
[ Parent ]
Connecting to server? (3.50 / 2) (#19)
by J'raxis on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 10:04:28 AM EST

... [E]ach time you read the online version you need to connect to the content providers servers.
Local browser cache, HTTP proxy cache, "File... Save as..." — take your pick.
On the other hand it makes no sense that you cannot (I assume you cannot) pay to download an article once, and then view it locally for free.
I have yet to see a feature in HTML that can disable the "Save as..." command. I think PDF has print/copy restrictions available. Even if this were implemented in HTML, there's still the matter of upgrading all these browsers out there. My University's library is still using Netscape 4.0 on a lot of computers.

-- The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Not talking about hacks... (2.33 / 3) (#23)
by codemonkey_uk on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 11:17:47 AM EST

...but a legitimate, legal solution.

I know that the librarys *can* do that, technically, but are the allowed to legally, and if so, why don't they do it, if not, why not?
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Peer review (4.00 / 17) (#18)
by jabber on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 09:27:18 AM EST

For those who don't know, "peer-review" is a process by which researchers volunteer their time to judge the quality of the journal submissions.

Seeing this in a posted K5 artice is just fall-down funny to me. :)

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Will you do my shirts for me? (none / 0) (#51)
by leonbrooks on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 11:54:39 AM EST

Seeing this in a posted K5 artic[l]e is just fall-down funny to me.
You have such a fine sense of irony. (-:
-- If at first you don't succeed, try a shorter bungee
[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 0) (#53)
by jabber on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 08:54:13 PM EST

I guess sometimes, when you think the world is laughing with you, it is actually laughing AT you. :) Well, as long as everyone is happy, what difference the reason?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Stop being cheap! (1.45 / 20) (#20)
by darthaya on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 10:09:51 AM EST

and realize free internet service is doomed.

It is funny you are whining about it. And if you don't like their service, don't buy it! I am surprised to even see this kind of garbage on FP. Is k5 becoming more and more slashdot like?

We will pay! Just not as much as they'd like. (3.00 / 5) (#41)
by Blarney on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 05:29:43 PM EST

>> It is funny that you are whining about it. And if you don't like their
>> service, don't buy it! I'm surprised to see this kind of garbage.....

News flash! We AREN'T buying it! Lots of really good schools aren't buying it! What's garbagy about that?

We aren't buying it, because they've jacked up the prices unreasonably and refused to allow access to an issue, once it's purchased. We will buy it again if they sell it on the terms that we want them to.

Nobody wants or expects journal access for free. We're willing to pay. We just are only willing to pay a certain amount, and we want certain guarantees of perpetual access just as we would have from purchasing the paper version. It's simple supply and demand. The demand for electronic Nature journals under the new pricing scheme is less then the amount of University libraries, and some are dropping it. If Nature doesn't like this, they can cut their prices and grant the access guarantees that the librarians want. Is this too "cheap" for you?

[ Parent ]

Wired Article (4.00 / 5) (#21)
by farmgeek on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 10:12:30 AM EST

Wired has an interesting article on new alternatives to the established journals. You can check it out here: http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,42377,00.html



Their raison d'etre (3.50 / 8) (#24)
by j on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 11:25:19 AM EST

They may have forgotten that they don't exist to make money - they make money to exist and continue doing what they do, which is publishing excellent scientific research.

Why would you say something like that? I don't know whether we are talking about the same Nature magazine, but the one that is available over here in the US is not published by a non-profit organisation.
It can be assumed that the magazine doesn't primarily exist to serve the scientific community. It exists to make money, plain and simple. Assuming otherwise would be like saying that Mc Donald's exists for the love of burgers.

A couple of things (4.45 / 11) (#27)
by drgerg on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 12:40:30 PM EST

There are a million different points here that could be debated/discussed. Here are a few:
  1. The behavior of Nature
  2. The cost of journal subscriptions
  3. Page costs for publishing
  4. Problems with the peer-review system
  5. Electronic publishing of scientific journals
  6. pre-print servers (like xxx.lanl.gov, not a porn site, I promise)
I'll hit on a couple of these. First a nit:
This process is 2-way anonymous - the reviewer's don't know the author's names, and the authors don't know the reviewer's names. Every peer-reviewed journal has a great deal of volunteer work involved in its publication.
I've submitted and reviewed a lot of chemistry papers and I have yet to encounter a journal where the review process is doubly anonymous. The reviewers know who the authors of the paper are. It would be easy enough to figure it out anyway, but the name/reputation of the scientist is an important bit of peer review. It is very frequently possible to figure out who the "anonymous" reviewers are as well, but that's a different story.
I don't know if this is legally enforceable, or if the librarian could just subscribe in his name and put the magazines on the shelf, but our library does not want to rock the boat and confront them.
I don't know the law on this either, but many(most) individual journal subscriptions include a stipulation that you are not supposed to give your personal copy to a library for X amount of time (usually measured in years), if ever. From a business perspective (and do not make the mistake of thinking that publishing scientific articles is not a business) this makes perfect sense. Printing and publishing a technical journal is expensive, and there is not much in the way of economies of scale (circulations are too low for that), and libraries cut down on the number of "sales" a publisher can make. So libraries get charged more for their subscriptions.

I am not surprised that Nature is being a bunch of jerks about electronic access. I don't know how much interaction you've had with them, but they have a serious attitude. Combine this with the general uneasiness about electronic publication in the chemical community (oh the debates which took place in the middle of the '90s), and the newness of the medium and you get a situation where anything (bad for the end user) can happen.

So what can you do about it?

  • You've already written a letter, that's good (though, as pointed out earlier, you ought to send a real one as well as the electronic form).
  • Your university isn't going to subscribe to the new service, that's good.
  • You can personally boycott Nature: don't send any papers to them and politely decline to review anything they may send you. These are both more relevant courses of action when you are a faculty member, but you can still do it yourself.
  • You might also want to send a letter to C&EN (Chemical and Engineering News, the weekly newsrag of the American Chemical Society). They occasionally publish such things.
Of course, realistically, none of this is going to do a whit of good. Well, other than making you feel better that is. As you probably know, the community is very conservative and the powers that be (the older, established professors) tend to not make waves or push for change. As long as the customers sit meekly by and refuse to take action, nothing will ever change. You can bet that if enough people actually got outraged and stopped sending articles to Nature, they'd change their policies real quick... particularly if everytime a paper went elsewhere the author sent a letter to Nature explaining why. I can just imagine that "Well, I sent my paper to Science because I think you are a bunch of greedy bastards and here's why..."

sigh too bad that'll never happen.

Double-Blind Reviews (4.00 / 2) (#36)
by Carter Butts on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 02:45:03 PM EST

I've submitted and reviewed a lot of chemistry papers and I have yet to encounter a journal where the review process is doubly anonymous. The reviewers know who the authors of the paper are. It would be easy enough to figure it out anyway, but the name/reputation of the scientist is an important bit of peer review. It is very frequently possible to figure out who the "anonymous" reviewers are as well, but that's a different story.

This varies both by journal and by field. I can tell you from personal experience as a reviewer that many if not most social science journals employ a double-blind process; though, as you say, one may be able to guess an author's identity, this information is not provided to the reviewer. That said, I don't know of any journals in which reviews are triple-blind: that is, the editors always know who both the reviewers and the authors are. Thus, reputation effects can certainly enter the editorial process in this way, and I'd imagine that they probably do.

Such a triple-blind system could be implemented, by the by, but it would be fairly complicated. Since most journals (in my field, anyway) are managed by faculty in their "spare" time, I'm guessing that the bias-reduction to effort ratio here is probably not worth it. That said, the decreasing cost of information management technology might eventually change this situation....we'll see.

-Carter

[ Parent ]

Subscribing individually and giving to libraries (none / 0) (#55)
by Peeteriz on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 05:42:42 AM EST

If the journals are treated legally the same way as books, then after the first sale(subscription) the publisher has no control at all about what you do with it. You may sell it , donate it, share with your friends, put it in library.
The legal battle about this with the book publishers has been won a very long time ago. It is a shame that now laws are being passed that do not grant the same rights for digital media.

[ Parent ]
Do it yourself! (3.80 / 5) (#29)
by technik on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 12:47:48 PM EST

These journals rely on a few things on the part of the community they serve: poverty, inertia, incumbency, and legacy. The research communities will suffer whatever the journals desire because- except for the first, poverty- they permit it to happen. Until a large enough group breaks from the established journals- and the first few to do so are probably risking their careers- there will be more of the same.
An insurgency of well-respected, published researchers will need to declare that because of these policies they won't publish through the mainstream journals. Universities could follow suit that research performed under their auspices will not be submitted to these publications because of the policies. Imagine if the ten largest universities rejected the journals and avised their staff and students to publish elsewhere- it would slowly discredit the journal and starve it for material.

Instead, these renegades could conduct their publication through one of their own creation and/or will do it on-line. It's a matter of organization. Publishing print material is a huge, time-consuming and costly job- one that should be farmed out to contractors- but the electronic format is not and could be done by a small organized team. Hell, the peer reviews could be conducted electronically if a large enough community could be drawn around the new journal. It's not a small task, and it's risky in lots of ways- not the least, personally for the early advocates- but it is one of the few solutions available.

- technik

Re: Do it yourself! (4.80 / 5) (#35)
by drgerg on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 02:40:34 PM EST

Instead, these renegades could conduct their publication through one of their own creation and/or will do it on-line. It's a matter of organization. Publishing print material is a huge, time-consuming and costly job- one that should be farmed out to contractors- but the electronic format is not and could be done by a small organized team.
What the publishing companies say to this argument (or what they were saying when I was following this debate in the mid '90s) is that it's actually more expensive to publish electronically than on paper. What they really meant is that it costs more to publish electronically and on paper than it costs to publish just on paper. Duh. That's clearly a spurious argument.

However, there are a large number of costs associated with publishing a journal that have nothing to do with the printing/e-publishing process. A prestigious scientific journal (like Nature, or Science, or JACS, or whatever) gets an enormous number of submissions. There is a not insignificant logistical problem in parcelling out the submissions to the appropriate sub-editors and selecting reasonable reviewers. The people who do this get paid. You'd have to be insane to agree to be an editor for a big journal without getting paid. The amount of hassle is unbelievable. (I actually think you need to be mildly crazy to do it even if you are getting paid, but that's just me.)

I think that the American Physical Society has done a pretty good job of going electronic. They have all kinds of stuff online and offer reasonably priced electronic-only subscriptions (with optional CDs, so you can have it forever).

It helps that:

  • They are nonprofit.
  • They have a community which can/will deal with Tex/Latex for document preparation, so doing an electronic version is trivial.
  • Physicists appear to be more technically literate/adept than chemists. They are certainly more receptive to new forms of publication. Hell, the physicists have had a preprint server for years. Chemistry kind of sort of has one (two?) now, but it's a joke.
Hell, the peer reviews could be conducted electronically if a large enough community could be drawn around the new journal. It's not a small task, and it's risky in lots of ways- not the least, personally for the early advocates- but it is one of the few solutions available.
This is a great solution for a perfect world. I don't think it will ever happen though.

[ Parent ]
Online Journals as Services (3.12 / 8) (#30)
by MrAcheson on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 12:49:46 PM EST

I think people are misunderstanding a big part of the e-conomy. With a book or physical journal you are essentially buying an object containing the information you want. You pay for that object once and you always have it. This is essentially a manufacturing model. Likewise if they were providing you with electronic version of their journal on CDs it would be a manufacturing issue.

Providing information online is essentially a service however. You pay a flat fee per month for the connection to their servers with all their articles regardless of when they were written. No fee, no online content. Now they are charging you a monthly fee to access their service instead of throwing it in for free with the cost of a standard subscription. Big "f"ing deal.

They are charging you service money which is appropriate for their service model. They have every right to do this. If you have a problem with it then read the physical texts instead.


These opinions do not represent those of the US Army, DoD, or US Government.


appropriate service money for web != 5 digit sums (none / 0) (#54)
by Peeteriz on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 05:38:22 AM EST

NT

[ Parent ]
so go ahead (3.20 / 5) (#34)
by jeanlucpikachu on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 01:13:54 PM EST

and cut your subscription. Tell other people to cut their subscriptions in protest as well. And then this dead tree company will scream about how much money it's losing to the internet and scream for new legislation and stuff. They want your money and they'll fight tooth and nail for it.

--
Peace,
Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu AIM: jeanlucpikachu
very appropriate (4.00 / 5) (#39)
by bitemysquirrel on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 04:36:49 PM EST

Nice post... I was wondering why I couldn't access Nature today!

I'm getting increasing leery of for-profit academic publishers. They don't do the research, write or review the papers... just what ARE they contributing to the process besides the printing press? OK, Nature does supplement the pure research with non-technical summaries and scientific news, but the majority of journals provide neither.

One interesting example of direct action against a private publisher occurred in my field. Fed up with increasing subscription costs, the entire editorial board of a journal quit and started up a low-cost competitor (Evolutionary Ecology Research). Good for them! This page explains their motivations.

I much prefer non-profit journals owned by professional societies, such as Science, Ecology, American Naturalist.



Wired has the story (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by Luke Francl on Thu Mar 15, 2001 at 05:22:12 PM EST

I just saw this over at Hack the Planet:

http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,42377,00.html

It's the oddly appropriately timed story of Evolutionary Ecology Research and the fight for low-cost peer-reviewed journal access.

[ Parent ]

Welcome to Capitalism (2.00 / 1) (#46)
by Akaru on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 08:01:02 AM EST

I've argued with people about how capitalist societys work, and this is a typical example.

Of course the sad thing is that there is no real alternative. Learn to live with the real world, people don't matter anymore. No one cares about people anymore, well no one who counts anyway.


----------------------------------------
Soylent Greens is made of People

Just a short comment... (none / 0) (#50)
by xandoz on Fri Mar 16, 2001 at 10:09:10 PM EST

ARRR matey...we've pitratin' ta do!
- - -
"Well the first thing ya know, ole Jed's an engineer"
Poll-eeze! (1.00 / 1) (#52)
by leonbrooks on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 12:04:14 PM EST

Currently, the poll winner (with 3x the votes of second place) is ``steal stuff.''

Great morals, guys! What's this dead-end ``world owes me a living'' attitude? What happened to the gift culture? Have you all been using Microsoft products for so long that the commercial stuff is the only option (no matter how bad) and if we don't like the prices, we rip it off?

Go with the amateur publications, the range is greater and some of the best innovations remain uncensored. And it also leaves the greedy buggers unsupported, even in readership.

Oh, and do any of you happen to have a valid Office 2000 key handy?

Wait! Joke! I was kidding, OK! Stop! No! I use StarOffice. (-:
-- If at first you don't succeed, try a shorter bungee

Nature and Uni. having arguments...... | 55 comments (51 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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