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Support for UC-Nature ban

University of California scientists are speaking out in favor of UC's threat to boycott Nature Publishing Group over a proposed 400 percent hike in licensing fees. "Nature is making a very unfortunate move here," said linkurl:Alex Bell,;http://www.cchem.berkeley.edu/atbgrp/research.html a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. "Multiple-fold increases are unjustified. I think it's bordering on exploitation." In a letter mass e-mailed to faculty earlier thi

By | June 10, 2010

University of California scientists are speaking out in favor of UC's threat to boycott Nature Publishing Group over a proposed 400 percent hike in licensing fees. "Nature is making a very unfortunate move here," said linkurl:Alex Bell,;http://www.cchem.berkeley.edu/atbgrp/research.html a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. "Multiple-fold increases are unjustified. I think it's bordering on exploitation." In a letter mass e-mailed to faculty earlier this week and linkurl:posted on the UC Libraries website,;http://www.cdlib.org/cdlinfo/2010/06/09/letter-to-uc-faculty-on-nature-publishing-group-subscription-increases/ the California Digital Library and the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communications say the school is facing an "impending crisis," a proposed licensing price hike that would raise the cost for 67 Nature Publishing Group (NPG) journals by well over $1 million per year. The proposed new fees come at a time when UC libraries are in an economic pinch and worked all last year to reduce their electronic journal costs by $1 million per year. UC libraries currently pay $4,465 on average per NPG journal. The 2011 proposed average cost would be $17,479 per journal. UC authors create a "huge amount" of content for NPG journals, said linkurl:Rich Schneider,;http://orthosurg.ucsf.edu/Richard.Schneider a molecular biologist at UCSF and chair of the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication: In the last six years, they contributed about 5,300 articles to NPG journals, including 638 in Nature alone, according to the UC letter. "We feel like we should get a fair discount for our services," said Schneider. "Other institutions are paying much too much as well." Negotiations between the California Digital Library (CDL) and NPG stalled at a meeting earlier this month. Now, if NPG does not re-negotiate the new pricing, "more drastic actions will be necessary," the letter states. If the publisher does not relent, UC Libraries are planning to forgo all online subscriptions to Nature and its affiliated journals, and will "strongly encourage" UC faculty to implement a boycott -- not submitting, editing, or peer reviewing manuscripts for NPG and refraining from advertising in Nature journals. The move is similar to a 2003 effort, in which UC successfully boycotted Elsevier when they tried to linkurl:raise Cell Press licensing costs.;http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA379265.html This morning, NPG issued a response to the letter, linkurl:posted on their website.;http://www.nature.com/press_releases/cdl.html The letter came as a "shock," the publishers write, misrepresenting pricing policies while using data out of context. UC Libraries currently receive an unsustainable 88 percent discount off list price, NPG argues, causing other subscribers to subsidize the University. The rise in costs reflects an attempt to bring the discount closer to 50 percent. "We will not be bullied into continuing CDL's subsidy by our other customers," says NPG. "We're not talking about list price -- nobody pays list price," responded Schneider. "We're talking about the amount of money that we actually pay, and nobody can expect a 400 percent increase in a single year," he said. "That is just completely unreasonable." UC librarians have received hundreds of reactions, said Schneider, which have been overwhelmingly supportive. Campus librarians will be compiling the comments to discuss before any additional actions are taken, he added. "There is no boycott yet," he said. "We just want people to be ready that something could happen. Hopefully it doesn't get to that point." The threat of losing NPG subscriptions will likely encourage faculty to pay more attention to scholarly communication in general, including the high prices of subscriptions and the idea of open access publishing, said linkurl:Philip Bourne,;http://www.sdsc.edu/pb/ a computational biologist at UCSD and self-proclaimed open access advocate, who will support the boycott if it moves forward. "It's time to think seriously about what we're doing here. There's over emphasis on being in a top tier journal versus making the work more accessible to a larger group of people," said Bourne, who is editor-in-chief of the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology. "Nature and every other journal depends on leading scholars contributing their work, and we do this all for free," added Bell, who has published in and been a reviewer for Nature journals in the past. "Then our institutions have to pay to buy the intellectual property back. It's kind of an outrageous situation." Editor's update: UC has linkurl:published a response;http://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/UC_Response_to_Nature_Publishing_Group.pdf to NPG's public statement.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Nature to aid open access;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54823/
[8th July 2008]*linkurl: Open access brings more citations;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23448/
[16th May 2006]

Comments

June 10, 2010

Scientific research is expensive in terms of monetary funds, time consuming and reqires highly qualified human resources. Journals publishers are benefitting from research publishing while authors and their institutions are squeezed for funds.It should be a win-win policy for authors/research institutions and publishers of scientific journals. Compensation for authors and their instituions is mandatory either in forms of free-access to publications or with greatly reduced fees. The 'PloS' journals free-access publishing policy is a good example.
Avatar of: jitendra Mehrishi

jitendra Mehrishi

Posts: 12

June 10, 2010

I have said to our librarians here at Cambridge, having to economise (even cancelling some Js) and in print to several Journals' Eds that the charges were getting outrageously high.\n\nNATURE, CELL and others have acquired prestigious status chiefly, entirely because of the hard working able scientists (after 2 yrs work-funded to ~$250, 0000, all clerical work done) wanting to publish in these Js from which the publishers make a profit.\n\nBut for the prestigious work, the publishers would not have a flourishing business. \n\nEven in the 1970s, we made it my departmental policy never to send our papers from Cambridge to any J that made a page charge or exorbitant charges for pictures in colour.\n\nOnce when I wanted to reproduce a part of my fig in a KARGER J to which the sole use had been assigned- not transfer of copyright- they wanted to charge me fees for 'permission' to reproduce a Fig from my own paper. I had to point out directly to the CEO of KARGER that it was totally unacceptable and that although I had been publishing in their J since 1962, never ever will be send MSS to them!\nThe 'obliging' let out answer was that of course we only need to know and we will waive the fees!\n\n\nA recent episode of the publishers unacceptable practice exploiting the scientific institution for scientists, who do work for the good of humanity and inform the scientific community.\n \nBiomed Central had started with claims- NO charges for authors from Universities/Institutes supporting BMC, but the goal posts changed soon and it became ~ $1500 with a derisory 15% disocunt!\nAfter the acceptance of the paper- 5 months to reviewing process- requiring four reminders- there was a huge bill- and charges not to be waived/reduced. With no provision for funds and wishing not to publish in the BMC J, the MS and the correspondence was sent to the editor of a highly Prestige Cancer J: the editor said that yes, BMC may be open, but the fees were unreasonably high.\n\n\nWe would support UC whole heartedly in boycotting any J that tried to exploit the position.\n\nThey have already ruined the publishing process- many MSS are screened by preliminary screeners apparently without any deep knowledge and do not seem to be quite so widely read and produce less perceptive reports and 'seem to take pride'in turning down- obvious important development- with...' we have nothing against this paper... but..'\n\nAn equation relating to blood gases analyses obviously of great importance in critical care was found to be in error made by authors, not spotted by referees required modification to take into account certain important crucial factors. When any distinguished authors- ability of Pauling, Perutz might have made an 'error', missing an important solution, using the iappropriate equations requiring correction/modifications, these preliminary screeners would not have known what to do with the problem.\n \nAnd the equation in question was a first year undergraduate level physical chemistry that I would expect a ~5 year post degree or PhD level preliminary screeners to appreciate- there is a glaring error being pointed out, a new modified equation is being offered of world wide importance. Attention of physiologists, clinicians needs ot be drawn to it.\n\nUC and other institutions need to be supported in this,\n
Avatar of: Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee

Posts: 50

June 10, 2010

In a ideal World, grant-giving bodies would not only finance but also run the scientific publication scene.\n\nThe argument isn't just financial: reading and reviewing submitted papers should be as good a way as any of ensuring that those reviewing grant applications are in touch with the research presently being done.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 18

June 10, 2010

Although Nature is privately owned, many other excellent ones are property of scientific societies. We (societies) should end agreements with publishers who raise rates so markedly, and even consider self-publishing. Although publishers have lost the income from the bloated fees they used to charge for reprints. so too have their costs gone down. There is no longer type setting of each paper, making figure blocks, etc., and the revision process is also much faster. The idea that one cannot do an experiment because of bloated publication or subscriptions costs is unacceptable.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

June 10, 2010

I think UC and other institutions of higher learning should support open access journals exclusively.\n\nThe results of scientific research should reach as broad an audience as possible. Requiring readers to pay for a subscription excludes most readers who do not belong to an institution that pays the subscription for them.\n\nPaying for a subscription to even one scientific journal, let alone several, can be prohibitively expensive as an individual.\n\nThe results of scientific research, after all, are most beneficial when they are shared broadly, and the researchers, not the journals, conduct the research and report on it.\n\nPLOS One is an excellent example of a set of peer reviewed scientific journals that are freely available to everyone.\n
Avatar of: Mitchell Wachtel

Mitchell Wachtel

Posts: 30

June 10, 2010

Open Access means everyone on the planet sees your work in full for free. Charges are less than a box load of reprints and, in any case, are negligible when the cost of the work, even in terms of your time, is taken into account. Articles are instantly published. You can keep track of how many people read what you write. You also get immediate contact from your readers if they have any questions. Should you discover an error, you do not have to wait for an issue ten months from now to correct matters. You can write the editor to tell him or her that you really meant 10% and not 100%. This is directly connected to the article, so no one can misread the typo and everyone sees the error before reading it. There is no limit on the number of images; the quality is far superior because they will not fade over time. In terms of honesty, you can actually attach the original data worksheet, something all journals should consider requiring for studies other than database analyses or reviews.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 5

June 10, 2010

It all comes down to who pays for printing publications, e-infrastructure, peer review (even tho it's unpaid, there are costs for compiling, reviewing and editing), and archiving. There are two real models:\nAuthor pays: really this is taxpayer pays, since the taxpayer funds the research grant. Should the taxpayer also pay for the cost of the entire peer review system, for journal articles that are not intended for them, but for the career advancement and vetting of the scientific community. Also, does one believe that appropriators will really build in $3000 extra to each grantees award to cover the publication costs? Likely, all this will do is divert money away from research.\n\nReader pays: those that want journals, namely the scientists, pay for access to them. This is a more efficient allocation of money over the author pays model, since only those that desire the service pay for the costs to create it. For scholarly societies that publish journals, they are non-profit. Hence, they do not make profit and the aggregate costs of subscriptions equals the cost to create the journal. You want to know the cost of operating a journal? Look at the price of your closest non-profit publication, find out how many people subscribe to it, and multiply by the annual rate. Typically, no more, no less.\n\nThe bottom line is through OA policies, libraries benefit. They want to shift the burden of the entire peer review system to the taxpayer to get the subscriptions costs off their ledger. All under the premise that the taxpayer and scientists don't have access - two claims that have never been substantiated. Someone has to pay for the costs of creating journals. Until this point, it's been the scientists themselves, oftentimes through universities. Now they want the taxpayer to pick up the tab, even though the average taxpayer would gain absolutely no utility from journals articles.\n\nThe price at Cell and Nature are rising for the reason given in another article today from the-scientist: more and more people are submitting to these top-tier journals. It's not rocket science (no pun intended) - more demand on the peer review system equal rising costs. But the opportunistic libraries are using this increase a reason to move to an OA system, and pass the buck to the taxpayer for something they should be providing for their faculty. If they were more honest, they would implore their scientists to only submit to Nature if they felt they had a chance at being published - that would alleviate the pressure on the system and keep costs level. But shame on them for encouraging cost increases, complaining about them, then trying to shift these costs to the taxpayer.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

June 10, 2010

Reporting on the results of a research project is as much a part of doing the research as running the experiment. Paying to have the results of the research published is no different than paying for any other part of the research project.\n\nIf the research grantors were willing to pay to have the research performed, then it wouldn't make sense that they wouldn't want to pay to have the results published.\n\nThe primary difference between paying to publish versus paying to subscribe is who controls access to the results. When publishing the results is paid for as a part of the research (as everything else associated with the research is paid for, including the researcher's time while writing up the results), then no one controls access to the results, since the costs of publication have already been paid, the results are available to everyone immediately and indefinitely.\n\nWhen publishing the results is paid for via subscription, then access to the results of the research is controlled by the publisher who can arbitrarily charge or change access terms at any time, and only those who belong to institutions with the resources to pay for the subscriptions (and UC may not be one of those institutions as the article states) can access the results.\n\nCertainly, if UC has difficulty paying for the subscriptions, then it is could be impossible for many other institutions and especially individuals.
Avatar of: Augustus White

Augustus White

Posts: 7

June 10, 2010

Anonymous Poster's critique contains a major flaw. The fact is that the taxpayer pays either way. Both the university library and the scientist's salary and grants are generally supported by taxes. As at UC, the identities of the taxpayers may differ. But that's about it. \n\nThe subscription economic model, regardless of who pays, does shift some costs to advertisers. Some of those costs are probably borne by taxpayers under OA, since the publication costs come from the scientist's academic overhead. However, I really doubt this amounts to much. \n\nPersonally, as a non-scientist taxpayer, I prefer OA, because I at least get to see what I paid for without a lot of inconvenience and additional cost. It really irks me to pay a subscription or "donate" to my local university library as the price of getting convenient access to reports I've already paid for twice over. \n\nBut there's no sense in any of us complaining. This is just an economic issue. Please don't treat it as political. If it becomes political then, on top of everything else, I'll also have to pay for politicians and bureaucrats to write press releases and bicker with each other about it. Just pay the requested fee or drop the journals.\n\nBoth UC and NPG are simply posturing, increasing temperature and costs by politicizing this issue to no one's benefit. A plague on both their houses.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

June 10, 2010

Contemplate these numbers:\nFrom UC's posting:\nAverage cost for all journals: $3103\nNumber of journals UC wide: 7846\nTotal cost: 7846 X 3103 = 24.3 million\n\nNPG cost to UC-\nNumber of NPG journals X Cost (current): 67 X $4465 = $299 000.\n\nNumber of NPG journals X Cost (new): 67 X $17, 479 = $1.17 million.\n\n(but something is not right because the new cost is supposed to raise UC cost by more than $1 million. The numbers do not quite add up based on the info.... but this is not the main point. Read on...)\n\nSo UC is encouraging OA publishing, and many posters are saying OA is the way to go. UC's letter indicates they contribute 5300 articles to NPG in the last 6 years (i.e. 883/year). Average OA journal charges author about $3000 (it's no secret that OA journals like PLoS and JCI have shown this ballpark number is not sustainable. Also, journals like Nature cost a lot more). So the cost to UC is 883 X 3000 = $2.65 million. Think about that.\n\nOK, caveat 1)once it's out it's free to all. But who is this system penalizing? Caveat 2) UC is not paying, funders are paying - c'mon, do you think this point makes sense?\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

June 10, 2010

Imagine if Microsoft or Apple didn't have to pay their programmers, while still selling their goods for profit. This is akin to what the journals are doing now. The producers of the content have to be accepted (peer reviewed-correct) AND have to pay (exploitative-incorrect)? Though it would drive up costs (which is happening anyway), how about having the journals compete, and pay, for the best papers? This would foster competition among journals, and un-enslave our most brilliant minds. Conversely, it may even raise publishing standards, and avoid some of the quantity over quality issues. Regardless, the papers are someone else's property, until they are published. It's not right that the people that generate the content get treated this way.
Avatar of: David Hill

David Hill

Posts: 41

June 10, 2010

The reported action by Nature, to raise rates, may have a positive impact for the communication of scientific ideas and results in the future, as it can only hasten the current trend toward open access (OA) publishing. For some years now, I have been encouraging my colleagues to stop giving away their work to these publishers if at all possible, particularly if their careers are no longer held hostage by committees that put stock in these 'big name' publications.\n\nOpen access, open review, and open commentary are the way of the present and future. We have clearly seen that scientific publishers, like newspaper publishers, will not willingly give up revenues to support progress in open access. Yet, just as these technical journals have proliferated over the last four decades, they will all most certainly disappear over the next two.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 34

June 10, 2010

It is replicating itself into so many sister or dude journals that become uncontrollable. I am not surprised that now they want more money. We do need a "Neo" to begin to say NO. Luckily, we still have one Science.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 5

June 10, 2010

Your point about the taxpayer paying either way is taken, but I would say it is also flawed. Under and OA, author pays model, the taxpayer pays for the peer review/publication system with no scrutiny or accountability for how the dollars are being spent. Secondly, those that had no interest in science and never asked for open access are being forced to pay for it. Thirdly, to pay for an author pays model, PIs will have to keep ~$3000 left over from their grant money to pay for the author pays model - re-directing money from research.\n\nA more efficient model is the reader pays. That way, only those that use the publications bear the costs of producing them - the editing, publishing, e-infrastructure, etc. When journal quality slips, journals can identify this lack of quality by subscribers voting with their wallets and dropping subscriptions. It is a system governed by markets, characterized by efficiency, passing costs to those that request the services, and not burdening taxpayers with costs that they never asked for.\n\nLibraries are selling an OA policy on the false premises that: the public wants access to scholarly journals, and b.) science will be advanced. Neither of these claims have ever been substantiated. But an OA model will certainly and inefficiently pass the buck to millions of taxpayers that never asked for access to science while unfairly redirecting the financial burden from those that actually use the product. It's a disingenuous, and the libraries and universities (flush with endowments that dwarf publishers profits) look like spoiled brats demanding more and more of taxpayers.\n\nWhen universities, who get nearly all of their research costs paid for by the taxpayer, agree to stop accepting royalties for IP created from taxpayer money, thereby passing that cost back to the taxpayer when final products are developed and sold to the public, then universities remain hypocrites and liars in this debate.
Avatar of: DENNIS HOLLENBERG

DENNIS HOLLENBERG

Posts: 26

June 10, 2010

Class, our economic question for today, is, "How does the market react when the lead supplier prices its products higher than the market is willing to pay?"\n\nContrary to the transparently self-serving comments by the anonymous "Who pays" responder, taxpayers largely pick up the tab for research and the publication of results. For commercial publishers, it is a sweetheart deal: they get free ownership of costly and hard-won research information paid for by sucker tax-payers.\n\nSuch publishers then turn around and tell the same tax payers that they get to pay four times the amount previously paid for what is for the most part their own intellectual property to begin with. As an independent researcher, I'm unable to buy Nature mag today, let alone any of the other NG pubs even as they are currently priced.\n\nExactly what value does Nature mag add to the free property provided to it? Fluff in the form of news, opinions, pretty pictures and little review pieces on various topics that, at best, merely regurgitate conventional wisdom and are often wrong-headed. Nature could offer stripped-down versions of its products for libraries, but it won't.\n\nNature Group thinks it has the market presence to muscle more protection money from its customers. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Perhaps the open-access pubs will demonstrate the total economic value of their model and put the Nature Group on the ropes.\n\nOur word for next week, class, is "disintermediation."\n\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 5

June 10, 2010

The word for today is: contradiction.\n\nFrom one side of your mouth, you claim that Nature is the lead supplier in the market and you are priced out this market as an individual.\n\nYet, from the other side of your mouth, you claim that Nature is not worth the money.\n\nEither Nature is over priced and people will stop subscribing - which seems to be happening via UC. Or people do in fact find it useful and continue to purchase it. But don't pretend that people don't have a choice - as has been pointed out numerous times, there are THOUSANDS of journals. Choice is rife in the publishing world and higher demand for Nature does not result in a distorted market, no matter how emotional you get about the higher prices they can charge in response to higher demand. Simple economics.\n\nBut you also sound like a spoiled drain on taxpayers - as you trash Nature's quality, you whine that you can't afford it. Your solution? Keep Nature's quality but make anonymous taxpayers pay for its publication so you can reluctantly sit and browse through its "fluffy pictures."\n\nAs a taxpayer who has no interest in Nature, no thanks. If you want Nature to reduce its prices, encourage your colleagues to only publish in non-profit scholarly journals. Again, the key word here is: non-profit. Simple. Not many markets have non-profits to compete fiercely with for-profit entities. The publishing world is one of them though. So if for-profit publishing houses keep seeing demand for their products, the users of that product have no one to blame but themselves for the inevitable rise in prices. Vote with your wallet - it's simple. Yet, I have a feeling you'll continue to want to pass the buck to the rest of us, while still wanting to stick it to use through your IP royalties afforded by Bayh-Dole for the research the rest of us paid for.\n\nCan't have it both ways. Again, the word for today is: contradiction.
Avatar of: Augustus White

Augustus White

Posts: 7

June 11, 2010

I'll have to oversimplify here, and I do appreciate that space creates the same problem for you. With that said, your economic model is inapplicable for at least the following reasons:\n1) We can't use a traditional market efficiency/rationality criterion where the major "buyers" are public entities. Their production outputs and opportunity costs are not tested by a free market, but by aggregate political success. \n2) I put "buyer" in quotes, because I question who produces and who consumes. In large measure, you have it backwards. In truth, the ambitious scientist is buying advertising from NPG. Why should the marketing target (readers) pay for the scientist's marketing? The whole point is that NPG journals are prestigious. NPG sells this prestige to authors who will be compensated with increased pay, status and grants. That model is at least as valid as the reader-consumer model.\n3) To the extent we use an efficiency model, we might look at it the other way. The value NPG delivers to readers has no rational relation to cost allocation. Top scientists at big institutions get the most value, but pay lowest cost. Non-scientist subscribers (like myself) pay highest cost and get only psychological value. \n4) The reader-pays system is inefficient because it reinforces intellectual mercantilism, if you will, or (to use another economic analogy) it is intellectually regressive. Science can't avoid building some walls between scientists and the rest of us; but it should avoid building them where it can. Else we'll lose interest in paying for science and (as in several recent cases) we'll simply stop believing scientists. The pay barrier should be avoided if another allocation model will avoid it.\n5) Another perspective shift: instead of arbitrarily atomizing all readers and scientists, arbitrarily aggregate all those players. This eliminates the economic effects of political advantage among segments. Then NPG is paid to provide a specilized communications infrastructure. If so, several rational pricing schemes are possible, but the metric would be bytes (or page) x cost per byte (inputted, transported, delivered, or some mix). That's nowhere close to the current pricing, no matter what the mix. \n\nDon't use the economic rationality schtik unless you're prepared to apply it ... rationally.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 5

June 11, 2010

Thanks for your reply, but I fear that it too misses the mark in some critical areas.\n\nThe publishing world is not all that dissimilar from the health insurance world. In health insurance, insurers serve as brokers between the suppliers (providers, hospitals) and buyers (patients). In the publishing world, the same dynamic exists, with the publisher serving as a broker.\n\nUnlike the health care world, the publishing world has thousands of brokers or publishers. They also have a high percentage of non-profit publishers, where, absent profits, the publisher simply passes through the general costs of publication.\n\nBut in your analysis, you identify yourself as a single customer, not able to enjoy the benefits of group purchasing discounts that larger buyers currently enjoy. Ah, the market at work - much as it does in the health care arena. Those in the individual market routinely saw 20-30% increases in premiums throughout the years (as did small businesses), as they couldn't enjoy group pricing discounts that other larger group plans benefited from. No doubt you are frustrated by this dynamic, but is such a fundamental market evolution cause for a total transformation to a more inefficient model?\n\nAs an individual that is being priced out of a market that is increasingly benefiting group buyers, you have a few choices - particularly in a market as robust as the publishing world. You could seek to reduce cost but maintain quality by grouping with other interested professionals and work with the publisher to work out a group rate. This could be done through your professional org perhaps? Or a local library? You could also encourage your colleagues to stop driving demand in such magazines. You don't comment on the quality of Nature, but you seem to enjoy it being an "aggregator" or good science. Since when has a well-functioning market not seen a quality good rise in value so much where a competitor emerged to garner significant market share? It seems the price of Nature is approaching bubble-like dynamics. I would say a market shift will be fast approaching as customers and providers will be tired of perpetuating the bubble - as UC's boycott of Nature will help reduce demand and cost.\n\nIf the meritocracy of science is being perpetuated by scientists wanting to be published in the very vehicles that drive their own merit and reputation, then you can expect prices to rise in those handful of journals. And you can blame those same scientists for perpetuating the cycle while simultaneously complaining about the resultant costs (driven by their own increased demand!). Even if Nature were a non-profit entities, the demand on their peer review, editing and printing/e-infrastructure costs would rise, resulting in higher subscription costs.\n\nBut the best way to deal with a bubble in a well functioning market, driven by irrational actors (in the form of scientists that *must* be published in nothing but Nature!), is to alleviate demand and cost drivers by moving scientists to other publications. In simple terms, UC is dong the right thing by boycotting and driving their scientists to different journals. \n\nBut this bubble in Nature's price, driven by irrational behavior to be published in Nature, is NOT a reason to pass the cost of Nature to everyday Americans that have no interest in Nature. When institutions look at what journals they will buy, and when you do as well, you scrutinize and discriminate, choosing only to buy those that you derive commensurate value from. This is the definition of optimization. But in the proposed OA model, you would eliminate this efficient user-fee model that encourages choice, discrimination and scrutiny, only to replace it with a model where all Americans pay for a service and product that only a handful of Americans actually use. \n\nThe heart of the matter is: where does the taxpayer's investment in NIH end? With the last day of the grant? With the final word of the grantee's manuscript? With the last word of the final peer reviewed journal article? With a final product or drug, or percentage of that product, that results from taxpayer funded research?\n\nMy view, and the traditional view of NIH, is that the taxpayer's investment ends with the last day of the grant. That is why a grant funding mechanism is used. Grants encourage behavior or activities by third parties, with the belief that the third party will create something of value for the taxpayer, and the grantee gets to keep all intellectual property resulting from the grant. However, if NIH used contracts, which are used when the government wants to fund a specific activity with the goal of owning the results of that activity at the conclusion of the contract, then OA advocates would have a leg to stand on by saying the government owned the final results from grantee's work, and thus be responsible for the publication costs as owners of the research results.\n\nYet, as we currently stand, grantees continue to own their research results, per a grant funding mechanism. As such, they need to seek publication in journals to publicize their work, and journals carry the cost of those operations, paid for by those that want to read the science. Grantees are also able to sell their IP and collect royalties.\n\nBut if you want the government to control the publication system, then for the same reasons you must accept that scientists do not own their research results and are not permitted to sell their IP to developers. You can not have it both ways. To do so is an unprincipled giveaway of taxpayer property that he and she is forced to again purchase back from researchers and developers twice over.
Avatar of: Stevan Harnad

Stevan Harnad

Posts: 7

June 16, 2010

The University of California (UC) dispute with Nature Publishing Group (NPG) is about journal pricing -- an important topic, but one on which I have no expertise, hence take no position. It needs to be pointed out, however, that there are two points in UC's latest response to NPG's response that are incorrect:\n\n(1) It is incorrect that "NPG has been a leader in adopting the 'green' publishing policies." \n\nA green publishing policy on open access (OA) means explicitly endorsing authors providing OA to the peer-reviewed final drafts of their papers ("postprints") immediately upon acceptance for publication (as 63% of journals do, including the counterpart of NPG's Nature, AAS's Science). NPG was once, in 2003, a leader in green OA, but it backslid in January 2005 to declaring that its authors should wait six months after publication before making their postprints OA.\n\n(2) It is incorrect that "UC... libraries... pay... fees to get access to their own work." \n\nUC libraries (like all other libraries) pay fees to access the work of other universities. If UC is concerned about providing access to its own work, it should mandate Green OA. When other universities do likewise, UC will gain access to their work too (though for the first six months, that access to Nature articles in particular may have to be "Almost OA" rather than OA, owing to Nature's regressive embargo...)\n\nStevan Harnad\nAmerican Scientist Open Access Forum

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