The scientific publishing lobby: why science does not work

Scientific progress is anchored in the way science is communicated to other scientists. Research papers are published through an antiquated system: scientific journals. This system, enforced by the scientific journals’ lobby, enormously slows down the progress of our society. This article analyzes the limitations of the current scientific publishing system, focusing on journals’ interests, their consequences on science and possible solutions to overcome the problem….”

The Forest of the SPARC Landscape

The recent “Landscape Analysis” from SPARC, released at the end of March, walks readers through a sober-sided evaluation of the market, with an emphasis on the major publishers — Elsevier, Wiley, and Springer Nature on the journals side, with Pearson and McGraw-Hill (and Cengage, now part of McGraw-Hill) on the education side.

There are some interesting analyses in the document, and some surprising figures to be sure (for example, Elsevier makes less money per article than either Springer Nature or Wiley). There are tables showing the asymmetry of usage (~5-7% of journals account for ~50% or more usage in multiple fields), but drawing what I consider to be unforgiving conclusion (I don’t agree that low usage equates to low value — a lot of good science and scholarship comes out of small disciplines, new ways of thinking, or emerging fields). The authors confirm in passing my finding that subscriptions only cost academic institutions 0.5% of their budgets. There are arguments about productivity gains, and some contradictory and incomplete data. But overall, the analysis seems solid at the detailed level, missing the mark only a few times here and there.

What’s truly interesting about the analysis is the forest it describes — the big picture it asserts — which is alive with customer knowledge and Big Data assumptions. The authors examine how Elsevier and other companies are now pivoting away from content and into the surveillance economy.

The implications of this are examined in the analysis through a narrow premise — that academic institutions can and should guide the data acquisition and analysis practices of private firms using information products as ways to ignite data exhaust they can use to sell information and projections about academic practices, research areas, and individuals back to institutions.

What the analysis describes is a fascinating — and totally expected — pivot, one we’ve seen developing for quite some time. The SPARC analysis puts a pin in it, and states it quite explicitly.

But exploring the forest is where the analysis falls down, failing multiple times to answer questions its own premise begs — for instance, it asserts data acquisition and analysis should be guided by academic culture, without testing whether there is actually something we can identify as “academic culture” against which proper data utilization practices can be judged….”

Speeding up the publication process at PLOS ONE | EveryONE: The PLOS ONE blog

At PLOS ONE we like to speed up the publication process wherever we can. We like science to be out in the open, and publication of peer-reviewed research to take place without undue delays, so that others can use and build upon the findings. Aligned with our founding mission, we aim to be as fast as we can while remaining true to our publication criteria and without compromising the quality of the peer review process. To ensure common editorial standards across the journal we have also increased desk rejects of submission that fail our editorial criteria. This rate now stands at around 23%.

 

In the past few months we have seen a few exciting improvements in the speed of manuscript handling at PLOS ONE. During April our median time to first editorial decision after peer review dropped to 42 days. It was at 53 days a year ago. And our median time from submission to publication online has also dropped to 165 days in April, coming down from 183 days earlier in 2018. This means that manuscripts that we publish move now 18 days faster through the full peer review process than a year ago, and the first decision after peer review is reached 11 days earlier. A more comprehensive list of long-term metrics is appended below and on our web page. We are very grateful to the members of our Editorial Board and our reviewers that have facilitated a fast peer review at the journal….”

Springer Nature journals unify their policy to encourage preprint sharing

“For more than two decades, Nature and its sister journals have supported pre-publication sharing of manuscripts on preprint servers. Nature’s first editorial on this goes back to 1997 — although, back then, the practice was common only among physicists. By making early research findings accessible quickly and easily, preprints allow researchers to claim priority of discovery, receive community input and demonstrate evidence of progress for funders and others.

Recognizing these benefits, we are now pleased to announce an updated policy encouraging preprint sharing for Springer Nature journals. This intends to remove ambiguity on two important points. First, we now make it clear that authors may choose any licence for preprints, including Creative Commons licences. Licensing choice will not impede consideration at a Springer Nature journal, but authors should bear in mind that it could affect sharing, adaptation and reuse of the preprint itself.

Second, the updated policy provides more information about our position on author engagement with the media in response to enquiries about preprints. Authors are free to provide clarification and context, and this will not affect editorial consideration. However, in the interests of transparency, we advise researchers to emphasize in their communications that the study has not been peer reviewed and that the findings could change. We also recommend that reporters who cover such work indicate that the study is a preprint and has not been peer reviewed, a practice that we strive to follow in these pages. Finally, we stand by our policy supporting citation of preprints in reference lists of submitted and published manuscripts….”

 

2019 Big Deals Survey Report: An Updated Mapping of Major Scholarly Publishing Contracts in Europe

“The Second EUA Big Deals Survey Report is an updated mapping of major scholarly publishing contracts in Europe.

Conducted in 2017-2018, the report gathers data from 31 consortia covering an unprecedented 167 contracts with five major publishers: Elsevier, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, Wiley and American Chemical Society. Readers will discover that the total costs reported by the participating consortia exceed one billion euros for periodicals, databases, e-books and other resources – mainly to the benefit of large, commercial scholarly publishers.

The report provides an overview of Big Deal negotiations across Europe, focusing on topics such as the organisation of negotiations, provisions on Open Access and transparency of contracts and costs. It also offers information on the consortia and focuses specifically on periodical Big Deal contracts with the five large publishers selected for this survey. Finally, the report addresses the costs of Big Deal contracts, offering conclusions and policy recommendations on the negotiation of contracts….”

Springer Nature are not a friend to Open Access – Green Tea and Velociraptors

“So, if we look at history, Springer Nature (SN) are the definition of bandwagon jumpers. Things like arXiv (1991), SciELO (1997) and PLOS (2000) were leaders on OA from around. SN acquired BMC (2008) and Frontiers (2013, via merger with Nature Publishing Group) to essentially neutralise them as a competitive threat. And also make it look like they cared about OA That does not mean they lead the way. This is like Microsoft saying they lead the way on Open Source because they purchased GitHub. It is propaganda.

In reality, Springer Nature have been dragged kicking and screaming into the OA space. They are part of a multi-billion dollar empire that has thrived based on a business model of preventing access to knowledge. OA was obviously a threat to that, so historically they fought hard against it until the could find a way to subvert it into a new revenue stream. Hence, their love of hybrid and high-APC OA. Even now, SN are launching new Nature-branded journals that are subscription only! That is not leadership. It is showing that they are using their brand strength to continue to pervert the scholarly communication process. Nature Communications costs $5000 (+VAT) for authors to publish their own work. No other industry operates this backwards. I refuse to believe that for an efficient, quality publishing system it costs more to publish a paper than it does to live in Bali for a year. (And I know how much this costs). It is daylight robbery, pure and simple, and the taxpayers and researchers are the ones who suffer. And again, statistically, if you look at the proportional figures, if SN are a “leader” in OA publishing, using the exact same numbers they are also still one of the largest barrier-based publishers out there.”

*Here, all of the statements that are made are demonstrably false based on how SN conduct their business in public (one example here).”

US Authors Guild Joins With AAP and Copyright Alliance on CASE Act

“On last Wednesday (May 1), the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (called the CASE Act) was introduced on the floors of the US House by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) and Doug Collins (R-Georgia) as HR 2426; and in the Senate by John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) as S 1273….

“The CASE Act would create a streamlined, much less formal process than currently exists in federal court,” according to the [Authors Guild] staff’s messaging. “The parties would not need to hire attorneys and all proceedings would be conducted remotely, drastically reducing the cost. A three-‘judge’ tribunal within the Copyright Office would hear small copyright cases. … The process would also be entirely optional for both parties.” …

There is disagreement about the bill, albeit respectful, coming from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the nonprofit that works to defend civil liberties issues as they pertain to the digital space. “Though it’s well-intentioned,” a letter from April 23 on the subject from the EFF reads, “this bill would re-ignite the nationwide problem of copyright trolling, just as the federal courts are beginning to address this abusive practice.” 

The foundation’s position is that the CASE Act makes it easier, not harder, for copyright trolls to operate, and that it raises potential threats to the privacy of “home and business Internet subscribers.”

The EFF writes, “We recognize that federal litigation can be expensive, making the pursuit of many small-dollar-value claims impractical for copyright holders. But we believe that much of that expense results from procedures that promote fairness, established and refined through decades of use. Creating a new, parallel system that allows copyright holders to dispense with those procedures invites abuse, especially given the Copyright Office’s institutional bias.” …”

The New “University Journals” in the Marketplace – The Scholarly Kitchen

” “University Journals” brings some impressive firepower to the marketplace. Although the details of the service are sketchy (we have an announcement, but not yet a publicly perusable business plan), it is notable that it already has the support of fourteen universities and its “initial development is funded by the PICA foundation and the University of Amsterdam.” The model is open access (OA), but there are no article processing charges (APCs); rather all fees are paid by researchers’ parent institutions. The appeal to authors — no requirement of transfer of copyright — is clear. The service itself will leverage pre-existing infrastructure such as institutional repositories, which brings to mind what may have been the granddaddy of proposals of this kind: Raym Crow’s white paper written on behalf of SPARC. Raym published that report in 2002. The “University Journals” website as well notes that authors will share in the prestige of the universities that sponsor the service, which appears to be an attempt to offset the appeal of highly ranked journals of the subscription variety….”