Dr. Douglas Fields: 50 Shades of Grey in Scientific Publication: How Digital Publishing Is Harming Science

abernard102@gmail.com 2012-11-21


"Newsweek is dead. But we have Twitter. Harper-Collins just closed its last warehouse of books in the United States. Cambridge University Press, the oldest publisher of scholarly books and journals in the world, printing continuously since 1584, ceased printing operations this year and will outsource printing to another company. The Press survived tumultuous changes since the Middle Ages -- the coming and going of plagues, the rise and fall of empires, wars and famine -- but it could not sustain itself in the new environment of digital publication and self-publication that the electronic medium feeds. Most people are acutely aware of the devastation of print journalism by the rise of digital media, but most people are oblivious to the consequences that the same upheaval is having on scientific publication. There is no science without scholarly publication, and scholarly publication as we have known it is dying. As readers witness their daily newspapers thin, wither away and die, citizens worry about the digital tidal wave sweeping away the once-vigorous independent press. Many fear that one of the three vital legs of democracy is buckling under the combined weight of government power, ruthless capitalistic self-interest and an uninformed public. Scientific publication is undergoing a drastic transformation as it passes deeper into government and capitalistic control, while weakened from struggling simultaneously to cope with unprecedented transformations brought about by electronic publication...  Two transformational changes in scientific publishing are undermining the traditional system of scientific publication: mandated open access and electronic publication. The federal government has mandated that scientific research that is funded in part by federal grants be made freely available to anyone over the Internet. As most scientific research receives some public funding, this mandate affects most biomedical science conducted in the United State and, through international collaborations, much of the science conducted in Europe and Asia. The well-intentioned reasoning of the mandate is that if the research is supported by public funds, then the public should have the right to obtain the published results free of charge. The idea sounds great, but nothing is free... All this requires a highly educated and expensive workforce. Even as scientific journals (like magazines) transition entirely to digital publication, most of these costs and new ones unique to electronic publication must be paid. The government mandate, however, undercuts all the investment involved in validating and publishing the research studies it funds.

In the absence of income derived from subscriptions, scientific journals must now obtain the necessary funds for publication by charging the authors directly to publish their scientific study. The cost to authors ranges from $1,000 to $3,000 or more per article. Scientists must publish several articles a year, so these costs are substantial.  The funding model fueling open-access publication is a modern rendition of the well-known 'vanity' model of publication, in which the author pays to have his or her work printed..."



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Date tagged:

11/21/2012, 13:06

Date published:

11/21/2012, 08:06