bjoern.brembs.blog » The trinity of failures
peter.suber's bookmarks 2021-10-08
"A trinity of failures: reliability, affordability, functionality
This development leads to a trinity of failures in the academic publication infrastructures:
o The systemic pernicious incentives of publish or perish fuel the replication crisis in many disciplines: publications in the most renowned journals promote careers, but at the same time the most unreliable science is published there.
o The commercialization of Open Access turns the long-standing serials crisis into an article crisis: the costs rise inexorably if only the direction of the payments is turned from reading to publishing and the system otherwise remains under the regime of monopolists (which have long since outgrown the status of major publishers), and continues to provide profits free from competition.
o The focus of the ex-publishers on user data, of researchers on publications and of institutions on cash flow and rankings led to a functionality crisis in which some of the most basic digital functionalities remain out of reach for research objects.
We can now switch at any time
Precisely because the scientific journals are at the center of this trinity of failures, experts have been calling for a modernization of information infrastructures in science for at least 15 years. In fact, the first calls for radical reform can be traced all the way back to the the late 1990s. Several possible alternatives are now available, such that we could switch at any time now.
Out of these alternatives, let’s pick the publication platform “Open Research Europe” (ORE) as only one example. Researchers funded by the European Union publish in ORE free of charge and open access. ORE is a platform owned by the EU and not by a publisher. The EU can replace the publication service provider with a different one if it is not satisfied with the provider. This creates real competition for publication services that is impossible in the reputation-based journal system. ORE is part of the “Open Research Central” (ORC) service, in which publication platforms such as ORE are aggregated into a common literature corpus, so that all institutions can, in principle, find their place here.
The academic publishers were already a platform economy long before the well-known Internet companies adapted this principle in order to secure their dominant market position. Also the legacy publishers abuse their unassailable position in the scientific system, which links publications with the collection of metrics of prestige. Long before services like ORC were developed, it was therefore clear that a journal replacement would have to make a clean cut with this logic of the platform economy: because it locks-in scientific communication in a similar way how WhatsApp and other messengers lock-in private communication – even though before these messengers there were already protocols and standards for e-mail that enabled the exchange of service providers. The recent Facebook downtime again reminds us all that protocols and standards are superior to platforms.
Consequently, the traditional magazines must be replaced by a decentralized, resilient, evolvable network where everything is connected by open standards and protocols, that much has been clear for at least two decades now. Such a network allows for seamless switching from one provider to another under the control of the scientific community and would allow the journal article as the only scientific output that “counts”, to fade into the background. Instead, the focus would then be on the interwoven web of text, data and code, which would provide a much better orientation function for scientific knowledge than the journals have ever been able to do. The concept behind services like ORC is aimed precisely at developing such a decentralized information infrastructure...."