The Digital Era: Changing Science Publications

Is there a power shift taking place on how research is being published?  For many years peer-reviewed journal papers were under the guidance of editors who decided which articles would be published and which papers would not be published. It has maintained restrict access to the public where you had to pay a pretty hefty subscription fee in order to read it.  Even when the internet became popular, traditional publishing charged a subscription, but this may change.

“Open access” is becoming a trend in mainstream publications,  it allows the public to read the science papers for free while charging the author! These open access sites are putting the pressure on paid sites and traditional papers to change their format.

What should taxpayers pay for government funded research anyway? Most of the research published comes from taxpayers money. By having the author pay a fee or a sponsor pay a fee for the privilege of publication, allows everyone to read the publications! Which is way more educational doing this way!

While a leading publication called, nature is flawed on how things work in the universe, they do make sense with their support for  “open access.”

“Publishers in such an environment will need all the more to demonstrate that they add value to the research process. This sits alongside their need to deliver a reasonable profit — whether to fund learned-society activities or to reduce their publishing charges (the aim of the Public Library of Science) or, like many suppliers of services and equipment to researchers, to deliver a return to their investors.”

“The perception of publishers as profiteers is strong, and understanding of the value they add is weak. Not noted for their transparency, publishers will have to work hard to develop trust amid a fundamental shift in their customer base.”

Geoffrey Boulton another author for nature wrote this back in January 2012 in Nature News…

“We also need to be open towards fellow citizens. The massive impact of science on our collective and individual lives has decreased the willingness of many to accept the pronouncements of scientists unless they can verify the strength of the underlying evidence for themselves.”

“The furore surrounding ‘Climategate’ — rooted in the resistance of climate scientists to accede to requests from members of the public for data underlying some of the claims of climate science — was in part a motivation for the Royal Society’s current report. It is vital that science is not seen to hide behind closed laboratory doors, but engages seriously with the public.”

The challenge that lies ahead for “open access” is making it less abstruse thus, making it more readable for the public! Other responses about “open access” among researchers is quite favorable.  Are you in favor of “open access” or not?

Lack of transparency along with the status-quo science has long been the complaint of many “maverick” scientists who felt that consensus was limiting innovation in research. Open access may open the door for change with that dramatically which may help cause major discoveries in science! Instead of just peer-review now you the public at large being also the reviewers.

Does this mean it will open the door for crazy theories to be published? This happens already with traditional publications as they published many wild and crazy theories and some of these types of theories actually go mainstream like fractal geometry, and plate tectonics.

But new solutions also breed new problems,  for example, Wikipedia where one  can just type in a word and then almost instantly have the information available to him or her.  Much like traditional peer-review, the society within Wikipedia have censored and then structured the information to their opinions, thus errors remain in the information. “Open access” may encounter these same problems but it’s well worth a try as change can’t be any worse than traditional peer-review publications at a subscription level!

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4 thoughts on “The Digital Era: Changing Science Publications

  1. It is certainly not true that the author (well, his or her institute, of course) needs to pay for open access publications … often the taxpayer does that. Which makes it obvious to me that the same taxpayer should not have to pay again to read these publications.

  2. So what’s your point, Michael? Just general science bashing, or did you have more in mind?

    The problems in science publication are pretty much the same as for other areas of publishing, for music, and for video. Digital technology and internet distribution have upended the economic models for entire industries.

    Lack of transparency along with the status-quo science has long been the complaint of many “maverick” scientists who felt that consensus was limiting innovation in research. Open access may open the door for change with that [sic] dramatically which may help cause major discoveries in science! Instead of just peer-review [sic] now you the public at large being also the reviewers.

    Michael misunderstands the term “open access.” It concerns restrictions on the ability to READ the material, not restrictions on writing it. Open access has nothing to do with what gets published, but only with who can read what gets published.

    Michael also misunderstands the purpose of peer review. Michael believes that that the goal of peer review is to weed out unconventional theories. This is a form of conspiracy theory. The actual purpose of review by others knowledgeable in the art is to judge papers for technical accuracy, complete citation of prior relevant work, robustness of results, and logic of interpretations. One of the reasons to distrust creationist papers is that no one has checked them for these factors. Since science is cumulative, future researchers must be able to rely upon previous work. This is one reason why creationist theories never progress—no one can trust their previous papers.

    Does this mean it will open the door for crazy theories to be published? This happens already with traditional publications as they published many wild and crazy theories and some of these types of theories actually go mainstream like fractal geometry, and plate tectonics.

    First, if “crazy theories” do get published, why does this not refute your oft-repeated claims that creationist papers can’t get published?

    Second, why do you say that fractal geometry and plate tectonics were “crazy theories”? This seems to be yet another instance of your ignorance of the history of science.

    I worked at IBM Research, where Benoit Mandelbrot developed fractal geometry. No one thought it was crazy or untruewrong. It made a big splash mostly because it seemed strange that no one (except von Koch,,Hausdorff and a handful of others) had ever investigated it thoroughly.

    You are confusing plate tectonics with continental drift. The latter was rejected for half a century—because Wegner could not propose a mechanism sufficient to drive it. The discovery of convection currents in the 1940s provided that mechanism, and plate tectonics quickly emerged as a consensus.

    Even Boltzmann’s atomic theory of matter, although loudly reviled by his continuist opponents, had convinced more than half of all physicists before it was finally confirmed by Brownian-motion experiments..

  3. Going through some back issues of American Scientist, I came across a good article on peer review and professionalism in science publishing:
    Nancy L. Jones, “Raising Scientific Experts,” AmSci 99:458-461.

    One gem—

    The central role of publication is to create a record that advances collective knowledge. When research and scholarship are published in a peer-reviewed journal, it means that the scientific community has judged them to be worthwhile contributions to the collective knowledge.

    The only purpose of creationist journals is to advocate specific theories. They often explicitly forbid competing views.

    Creationist journals do not add new knowledge—not even knowledge about creationism. They frequently repeat the same arguments over and over again, without accumulating any new information from one paper to the next..

  4. “Open access” may encounter these same problems but it’s well worth a try as change can’t be any worse than traditional peer-review publications at a subscription level!

    Michael, what relevance does open access have to peer review?

    Peer-review decides what can get published.

    Open access determines who can read what gets published.

    These two aspects have nothing to do with each other, and have entirely different kinds of policy considerations. Peer review considers quality. Open access considers economics.

    This post demonstrates Michael’s total ignorance of the practice of science.

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