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July 31, 2007

Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Posted by John Baez

A recent email from Carl Willis mentions a practice that’s been annoying me lately: a particular form of ‘web spamming’ by academic publishers, sometimes called ‘cloaking’. The publishing company gives search engine crawlers access to full-text articles — but when you try to read these articles, typically clicking on a link to a PDF file, you get a ‘doorway page’ demanding a subscription or payment.

Sometimes you’ll even be taken to a page that has nothing to do with the paper you thought you were about to see! That’s what infuriates me the most. I don’t expect free articles from these guys, but it would at least be nice to see basic bibliographical information.

Culprits include Springer, Reed Elsevier, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. The last one seems to have quit — but to see why they did it, check out their powerpoint presentation on this subject, courtesy of Carl Willis.

Do you know any particularly egregious examples of this practice in the world of academic publishing? Do you know of any serious attempts to stop them?

Addenda: Above I wrote that the IEEE “seems to have quit” web spamming — but Bruce Bartlett notes that I was wrong. As of August 1, 2007, if you click here and try to view the PDF file that comes up on top of this Google search, you’ll see the IEEE is still ‘cloaking’. You’ll get a page that’s not the PDF file you bargained for!

Here’s a nice related blog entry:

Pierre Far has a Ph.D. in bacterial genetics, and now works as a search engine marketer.

Here’s another discussion launched by the one we’re having here:

And, an older one about the same problem:

These are by people in the search engine industry, not academics, so they present an interestingly different viewpoint.

Posted at July 31, 2007 2:14 PM UTC

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Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I hit these teaser sites a few times a day, and every time it makes me a little more bitter. This bitterness has accumulated over years, so now, if you’ll allow it, I’m going to rant for a few paragraphs.

These esteemed publishing houses are a blight on the physics community. They once served a useful purpose – as a means of disseminating information – but that time has long passed. Their useful role has been overtaken by the net. Now they are nothing but drag. They drain financial resources away from universities by charging libraries large subscription fees. They lock down the information as best they can, often restricting authors from distributing via other channels. And, as John is pointing out, they tease people with search results leading to payment portals – the old bait and switch. This behavior might be justifiable if they were providing or encouraging some sort of content, but they produce absolutely nothing! Yes, they organize the peer review process, but this is a farce. The journals send articles off to be reviewed by harried professors who usually don’t want to read them, and do a lousy job or pass the work on to grad students. Or, worse, the articles are reviewed by people who have a stake in revising or hindering the appearance of the information.

So why the heck are these journals still in business? It’s because the physics community is propping them up! It looks better on a C.V. if an article has been accepted by a journal. That’s it. That’s the only reason these journals still exist. It’s a ridiculous criterion, since the journal peer review process has been shown over and over to be broken. But every postdoc and assistant professor feels this pressure to get her articles into the “best” journal possible, so the tenure and hiring committees will see these stamps of acceptance on her C.V. Heck, even I, a researcher working outside of academia, get advised repeatedly to submit my work to journals if I want it taken seriously. This pressure keeps the articles and money flowing into the journals, and it needs to stop. And, fortunately, I believe it will.

I think this situation will improve with technology. Although the arxiv has been dragging its feet, the technology is in place elsewhere to replace the (non)functionality of official peer review with collaborative filtering. Via this method, articles can be read by people who want to read them, and rated higher or lower by these interested readers. Comments on articles are also useful, as are the informal reviews that take place at conferences. And even if a system like this is not put in place explicitly, it effectively occurs via citations. So these more effective methods will take over, and the journals will die.

But they will not go quietly. You can count on them trying every nasty trick in the book to keep the money coming. At their side will be an old guard of physicists sitting in committees and judging other scientists based on what journals they’ve published in. But there will be some young punks who embrace new ideas and technology and couldn’t care less if a researcher’s work has been transcribed onto an especially exclusive piece of dead tree.

These young punks will win. And when they do, the journals will be a piece of history, and the world will be better for it. I will do my part by writing the best stuff I can and NOT submitting it to exclusive journals. Maybe others aren’t willing to do that yet, because they need to climb the academic ladder the old way. That’s fine. But if you find yourself on a committee reviewing a researcher’s work, keep in mind that the old system of journals and their archaic practices is on the way out – and it will be.

Posted by: garrett on July 31, 2007 7:21 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Commercial publishers versus online journals is a logically independent issue from that of peer review. Online journals such as JHEP or JCAP have free (or cheap) access, run by the academic community and cost small fraction of commercial print journal, and they still run a conventional peer review process. With time they acquire, at least in my field, the prestige previously given to the print journals.

I for one happen to think that peer review works very well, providing an indispensable quality control mechanism needed for improvement and evaluation of research results. The prestige of a journal comes generally from this kind of quality control, so relaxing such measures by some publication will have a predictable effects…

Something tells me we will probably not all agree on that point, but we should not confuse the issue with that of commercial publishing being such an unnecessary drain on the system, that point is much clearer and less controversial.

Posted by: Moshe on July 31, 2007 11:13 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I’ve just read the powerpoint presentation made by the IEEE current president Leah Jameson(then vice-president), entitled

IEEE Publishing Strategy : Key Issues and Next Steps.

It was one of the most sickening things I have ever read. It disturbed me deeply, and has made me quite angry. Here are the opening lines of the IEEE’s “About us” blurb, taken from their website:

The IEEE, a non-profit organization, is the world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology.

I am most angry about their all-pervasive greed and 100% profit-driven publishing sector. They are shameless in this respect, as anyone who reads the presentation will accept.

To be fair, I am less angry (yet still very annoyed) at the web-spamming strategy they adopt. (Aside : It doesn’t seem that they’ve quit this practice. I’m puzzled why John seemed to imply that they had. To see this, try Carl Willis’s example of typing “x-ray cable 150V” and then clicking on the ieeexplore pdf file.)

Web-spamming is a low-blow but is it definitely against the vague “Google regulations”? After all, typing “Harry Potter” on Google will deliver Amazon hits.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 1, 2007 12:08 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Web-spamming is a low-blow but is it definitely against the vague “Google regulations”? After all, typing “Harry Potter” on Google will deliver Amazon hits.

But said Amazon hits will actually include the terms, “Harry Potter”. Try your example of a webspam again and see if the page it brings up contains “x-ray”, “cable”, or “150V”.

Also notice that the Google results page shows an excerpt, leading one to believe that the file is real. The Google page for “Harry Potter” doesn’t claim to link to the text of an actual HP book.

Posted by: John Armstrong on August 1, 2007 1:05 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

You’re right. Still, I’d be pleasantly surprised if Google was unhappy with web-spamming by academic publishers. Their spam-report page sounds nice in principle, but at the end of the day, makes no solid promises. I fear that they are well aware of the situation, but are perhaps turning a blind eye to it.

After all, Google is a 100%-for-profit company themselves, and every purchase of a journal article from Publisher X, originally located via Google, results in a payment from Publisher X to Google. That’s Google’s business model. It’s a racket, and as long as Google’s position as the most popular search engine remains unthreatened, I can’t see what motivation they would have to stop this sort of web spamming.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 1, 2007 2:05 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Google is very interested in stopping web spamming, because spamming reduces the quality of the search results. There are hundreds of engineers working on that. There are posters around the office asking us to report spam if we see it.

Searchers come to Google because they get good results, and advertisers come to Google because searchers come to Google. It’s very much in our interest to stop spam.

Posted by: Mike Stay on August 1, 2007 5:47 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

By the way, the term for presenting content to Googlebot and a doorway page to users is called “cloaking” here.

Posted by: Mike Stay on August 1, 2007 6:08 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Okay, I appreciate your answer. But is it absolutely certain that it’s not just a numbers game?

Let NN be the number of people in the academic community, a pretty small sector (though I accept an important sector) of the global internet users. Let aa be the percentage of academics who get upset when they encounter spamming by web publishers. Let bb be the percentage of angry academics who are so angry that they decide to go to another search engine where spamming does not occur, or alternatively, stop using search engines. Since I don’t know of a search engine where spamming does not occur, bb must be a very small number indeed.

Thus the bottom line is that the number of people that Google actually have to worry about is b*a*Nb * a * N.

On the other hand, let cc be the (admittedly small but certainly non-zero) number of academics who occasionally purchase an journal article from Publisher X after a spam search episode, and let dd be the fraction of subsequent revenue which XX pays to Google. The total gross revenue Google is thus earning from web-spamming from academic publishers is something like

(1)c*d*N*priceofarticle c*d*N*price of article

Since the price of the articles are so high (I saw a maths one for 120 dollars the other day), I am worried that Google is not overly concerned with web spamming by academic publishers. I don’t doubt Google’s sincerity though in stopping web spamming in general.

I admit this numbers argument is over-the-top and a bit silly. But it worries me.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 1, 2007 6:19 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

let d be the fraction of subsequent revenue which X pays to Google

But d is zero unless the hit comes from an ad link, and all those are clearly marked.

Posted by: Mike Stay on August 1, 2007 6:43 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

But d is zero unless the hit comes from an ad link, and all those are clearly marked.

Okay, thanks for clearing that up. But I still can’t understand it : this is spamming on a massive scale. Type in any random math/physics text you can think of, “loop group automorphism”, “conformal superstring SU(2)” and on the first two pages of hits on Google you’ll always get a few Springerlink, IOP, Elsevier, etc. bogus cloaked links. It’s no secret. How can we reasonably believe that Google is doing everything in its power to stamp this out? If I were a cynical man, I would think that some money was being exchanged behind the scenes.

Having said that, I thought Dave Tweed made an interesting point when he said that

…it remains desirable to have general search engines able to index documents even if you can’t be directly taken to them, since you really don’t want each individual academic publisher instituting their own indexing (and OCR for older papers).

As I understand it, it seems the beef we have with spamming is that it is a form of deception.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 2, 2007 5:24 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Bruce wrote:

But I still can’t understand it: this is spamming on a massive scale. Type in any random math/physics text you can think of, “loop group automorphism”, “conformal superstring SU(2)” and on the first two pages of hits on Google you’ll always get a few Springerlink, IOP, Elsevier, etc. bogus cloaked links. It’s no secret. How can we reasonably believe that Google is doing everything in its power to stamp this out?

You may forget how unimportant mathematical physics is in the grand scheme of commerce. There are lots of people trying to make money off the Web in lots of ways — and believe it or not, tricking experts in superstring theory is not one of the main ways.

Estimate how much money exchanges hands from people googling phrases like “loop group automorphism” or “conformal superstring SU(2)”, as a fraction of the total money that exchanges hands from transactions involving Google searches.

Maybe 0.001%?

That’s about the fraction of their time you can expect Google to have spent on this issue, before we told Mike about it.

Posted by: John Baez on August 2, 2007 6:51 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt that Mike is one of the good guys. But I’m not just talking about “superstring theory” - I was talking about any math/physics subject whatsoever.

I tried my luck with other academic fields, and it’s the same thing there too. Try inputting “DNA subsequence gene pair” for biology, or “black-scholes martingale actuarial” for financial sciences, or “J. M. Coetzee surrealist postmodern study” for literature, or “kierkegaard wittgenstein relativism ontological” for philosophy…

All of these produce hits whose pages do not contain the text which showed up on Google. They redirect you to portals for purchasing the full text.

It seems fair to suggest we’re talking about something which is rampant across all academic fields here.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 2, 2007 7:41 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Okay. I was just sort of teasing you about your indignation about spamming on a massive scale, with your example being just type in “loop group automorphism”, “conformal superstring SU(2)”… as opposed to, say, “Britney Spears” or “Paris Hilton”.

Anyway, it seems you were right. Google is in bed with these publishers. We’re doomed.

Posted by: John Baez on August 3, 2007 11:10 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I was just sort of teasing you about your indignation about spamming on a massive scale.

I guess when I spouted forth about loop group automorphisms, my mind was really tring to say it’s happening on the Grand Unification Scale! pic

That was a great blog post by Pierre Far.

Okay, how about this suggestion : Google allows academic publishers to index their content in a cloaked way, providing such “subscription only” content is clearly marked as such by the publishers (so that the Googlebot recognizes it as such), and then Google could place it in a seperate marked panel on your Google search. In other words, there would be two panels after making a Google search : “Free to view” where the normal search results were placed, and “Subscription only” where this kind of stuff goes. That’s not exactly the way I’d like to see the net work, but hey, these guys are forcing our hand.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 3, 2007 11:59 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Bruce Bartlett wrote, about the IEEE’s web-spamming:

It doesn’t seem that they’ve quit this practice. I’m puzzled why John seemed to imply that they had.

Carl Willis, who first informed me about the IEEE’s web spamming, told me they had stopped. Since I’m rather cautious, I reported this by saying they “seem” to have to stopped.

You just reminded me why I’m cautious!

If I were a really good reporter, I would just have said that Carl Willis said they had stopped.

Web-spamming is a low-blow but is it definitely against the vague “Google regulations”? After all, typing “Harry Potter” on Google will deliver Amazon hits.

As John Armstrong notes, web spamming needs to be carefully defined!

There’s an ongoing battle to decide which web practices count as legitimate. SEO (search engine optimization) is a big business, and there’s constant discussion about the distinction between ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ methods.

According to the Wikipedia:

White hat advice is generally summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines, and then making that content easily accessible to the spiders, rather than attempting to game the algorithm. White hat SEO is in many ways similar to web development that promotes accessibility, although the two are not identical.

Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One black hat technique uses text that is hidden, either as text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking.

By this definition, your Amazon example counts as white hat SEO, while the IEEE is engaged in ‘cloaking’, a form of black hat CEO.

I’m no expert on this stuff — I’m just pretending to be one after 10 minutes of research! My main impression is that it’s a huge business that most academics are largely oblivious to. If you go to the SEO chat site you’ll see tons of articles like this:

Matt Cutts Gives Talk on White Hat SEO

WordCamp 2007 was a two-day conference held recently in San Francisco for WordPress users and developers. Perhaps the most popular and eagerly-anticipated item on the schedule happened the first day of the conference at 5 PM, when Matt Cutts gave a talk on white hat SEO tips for bloggers. Keep reading to see what he had to say.

If you’ve been doing SEO for any length of time, Matt Cutts needs no introduction. He’s the closest thing the industry has to a rock star. Working as part of the spam team at Google, his panels and talks attract huge audiences at conferences, and he writes one of the most widely read blogs covering Google, SEO, and other cool topics. A number of bloggers covered his talk; at least one blogged it live.

Why would a talk given by a search engine expert be of such interest to bloggers? Blogging isn’t just a labor of love anymore; many people are actually making money from their blogs. And like other online businesses, much of their traffic comes in from Google… [blah blah blah]

Btw, I’m curious about how brutal the competition is to have your site come up on top when people google the term “SEO”.

Posted by: John Baez on August 1, 2007 10:33 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Although not in favour of the commercial publishers, let me defend the need for ‘scholarship’ in papers and professionalism in refereeing and through that defend the idea of the refereed journal.

Too often papers have been published that reinvent the wheel. Our own areas are not immune to that! A good knowledgeable referee should be able to pick that up and help the researcher in the process.

Of course, it is impossible to read everything and blogs like this provide a good way of pooling information so that we can learn of new things AND OLD ONES! Don’t dump peer review completely. It is VERY flawed as we all know, but it does provide a safety net. Some mechanism is needed to defend the young, and not so young, researcher who has seen ideas they have worked hard to develop ‘stolen’ by a big name in the game and then put forward by them as their own. Yet the career of the young researcher does depend on their research reputation and profile and hiring committees will go on using publication records in making hiring decisions. Where is the balance?

The older researcher in countries like the UK with their Research Assessment Exercise, may find their job in jeopardy similarly. (I KNOW TO MY COST!) My point is that value judgements will be made whatever, and they will often be very suspect. How can they be improved, … if at all?

The peer review system does provide a modicum of protection, although very imperfect. Not all referees do their jobs professionally but many do.

Perhaps the Academic Societies are the way forward for publishing, but they are also flawed as others have noted in this blog.

Perhaps all one can say is that it is up to the individual to behave professionally… but no doubt some of the people we might criticise most believe they are acting professionally… that is the problem!

Posted by: Tim Porter on August 7, 2007 4:49 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I wrote a similar bit in secret blogging, but I want to empahsize some points. ADMINISTRATORS and TENURE COMMITTEES have to be educated about (1) using citation indices as the only measure of scientific value is dangerous; (2) the arXiv and the blogosphere can provide some refereeing functionality; (3) peer reviewing and refereeing can be a beauty contest and self serving: Just because we are scientists does not mean we are not slaves to fashion.

Having said that, I wonder:

Does anyone have a workable review system that could be used for publically available articles?

How can we protect the potential commercial interests of the author in mathematics and physics if all articles are made public?

Sometime soon, somewhere nearby, n-categories are going to yield commercial products.

Posted by: Scott Carter on July 31, 2007 11:20 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Is there a list available of physics journals ranked by subscription cost/article (=subscription cost per year/articles per year)?

Posted by: matt on July 31, 2007 11:34 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I can’t easily find one. There seems to be a lot more easily available information on prices for math journals than for physics journals! In fact, if you google “physics journal prices”, some of the top hits are tables of math journal prices.

This despite the fact (?) that physics journals are often more expensive than math journals!

Physicists need to get their act together…

Posted by: John Baez on August 1, 2007 10:55 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

If you suspect them of giving different content to Google than to you, Google certainly wants to know. If you’re on Firefox, you can install the “User Agent Switcher” plugin and try switching your user agent string to

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

to see if they’ll give you the hidden content.

Posted by: Mike Stay on July 31, 2007 11:58 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Most sites do not use the user-agent string for access control (or cloaking) for the obvious reason that you point out. Instead they use the IP address space of the google web crawlers, which cannot be forged.

Posted by: Patrick on August 2, 2007 5:50 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I am another researcher who happens to think that the peer review process is working just fine, at least in the mathematical subfield in which I work. I take my refereeing assignments seriously, reading proofs carefully to ensure their correctness (unless I reject the paper outright for other reasons). And I’m forever grateful to those referees who’ve read my papers thoroughly, providing very useful and insightful suggestions. If this process ever goes away - and I hope not - the mathematical literature would undoubtedly become more and more unreliable as more logical mistakes go undiscovered. This would be a disaster for the field, unlike the sciences where results can be verified by experiments (except perhaps in string theory…)

Posted by: IC on August 1, 2007 5:51 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I’ll just wildly guess that — not just in mathematics, but any discipline — peer reviewing works best in specialized subfields with well-established methodologies, where a group of experts rely heavily on each other’s results and are seriously concerned with the details of how these results were obtained.

By comparison, certain areas on the borderline of mathematics and physics resemble the Wild West. Here the peer review system lets outlaws like the Bogdanoff Brothers get away with murder, at least for a time.

Posted by: John Baez on August 1, 2007 10:57 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

In any event, my point above was that very few people would argue that standards need to be relaxed, rather than be tightened…in the current academic system anything not involving peer review is dead on arrival, and I think it should be this way.

I fear that one of the issues blocking the online journal is its association with lax standards of review. Not sure why that is, sometime just simple confusion (no, it is not the arxiv…). Hard to overestimate inertia though, maybe that all it is, given the stakes I’d think by now the transition away from commercial paper journal would be complete by now…

Hey, physicists got their act together long ago! at least in my field the electronic journal is the default mode of publication for about a decade now.

Posted by: Moshe on August 1, 2007 5:07 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Moshe wrote:

Hard to overestimate inertia though, maybe that all it is, given the stakes I’d think by now the transition away from commercial paper journal would be complete by now…

To me it matters less whether a journal is on paper or electronic, than whether it’s expensive or freely available.

Of course a paper journal will never be free, but an electronic journal can still be expensive. Elsevier and the other big publishers sell ‘bundles’ of electronic journals to university libraries at very high prices!

As for inertia, people seem to lose their inertia when big money is at stake. From this point of view, the problem is that the people losing money from high-priced journals are university libraries, while the people making money are various large corporation. The people in the middle who keep everything going — the academics who write for these journals and get tenure for publishing in them — don’t have to pay for them, and make more money when they get tenure! So, the only people with a serious financial incentive to end the reign of expensive commercial journals are the university librarians.

If each department of a university were forced to pay for the journals in its subject, things would change rapidly.

(Of course it would now be difficult to assess the price, given the insidious practice of journal bundling.)

Hey, physicists got their act together long ago! at least in my field the electronic journal is the default mode of publication for about a decade now.

Certainly physicists deserve immense credit for inventing and supporting the arXiv. And, I’m glad your field uses electronic journals. But — how expensive are these journals? And, is your department still demanding that your university library subscribe to the paper versions of these journals?

For example:

Most good university libraries still subscribe to Nuclear Physics A and B. Back in 1999, subscribing to both of these cost about $20,000 a year. Now
Nuc. Phys. A costs $12,390
and Nuc. Phys. B costs $13,612. I don’t know how much of a discount you get if you buy both, or buy them bundled with the rest of Elsevier’s journals, but the point is: they ain’t cheap!

This is money that your university library might otherwise use to buy books.

And look how many physics journals show up in this list of the of 10 most expensive journals (prices from 1999):

  • Tetrahedron full package: $23,061
  • Nuclear Physics A-B: $19,396
  • Brain Research: $16,344
  • Physica A-E: $16,177
  • Journal of Comparative Neurology: $15,294 [most expensive single title]
  • Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research A-B: $14,697
  • Surface Science package: $14,219
  • Physics Letters A-B: $13,843
  • Biochimica et Biophysica Acta: $11,362
  • Journal of Chromatography A-B: $11,109

(Again, this list neglects the practice of journal bundling took over. But, prices overall have gone up since then, not dropped.)

Posted by: John Baez on August 2, 2007 10:13 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

From this point of view, the problem is that the people losing money from high-priced journals are university libraries, while the people making money are various large corporation.

Yes, exactly! You’ve hit the nail on the head. I feel that the way forward is for all of us to make our own university administrators and libarians thoroughly aware of the fact that there is no good reason under heaven why they should cough up the cash for these incredibly overpriced journals !

I would like to see posters up in my math department, something to the effect of

Wanted : Sirius Black. Dangerous criminal recently escaped from Azkaban.

Oops! I mean, the posters should say,

Directive from the Vice Chancellor : Effective immediately, all mathematicians are to cease submitting to the following overpriced journals : X, Y, …

The point is that, as is well known, young researchers (myself included) are practically forced to publish in these journals due to the prestige and brownie-points they still offer, due to the inertia of the community, but we wouldn’t have to publish in them if no-one else did.

I know we should be doing everything in our power ourselves to stop this business; we shouldn’t have to ask university managers to, um, manage us. But the point is that they are the ones coughing up the cash, and if we make it clear to them that it’s all for nothing, then their inertia will surely be an order of magnitude lower than the academic community’s.

Also, I don’t know how the budgeting system works, but what should be happening is that math departments should be told, “Here is your pot of money for the year; from this you’ll have to pay out salaries, travel, journals, books, etc.”. I’m sure this will seem hopelessly naive to the cogniscenti, and perhaps there’s some problem with that idea, but surely the upshot would be that overnight we’ll see departments droppping their subscriptions to a large number of overpriced journals?

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 2, 2007 3:11 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Bruce writes:

I feel that the way forward is for all of us to make our own university administrators and libarians thoroughly aware of the fact that there is no good reason under heaven why they should cough up the cash for these incredibly overpriced journals!

It’s a complicated feedback loop, and one needs to find the right places to chop it. Maybe you’ve found one.

It’s hard to convince administrators to stop judging us on simple standards like how much we publish in prestigious (= expensive) journals. But, even if some of us go ahead and publish in those journals, I see little reason for institutions to subscribe to them if the articles are obtainable some other way. In math and physics this is usually true, thanks to the arXiv. In most other sciences, the journals still have a chokehold on the communication of information. So, we also need more arXiv-like websites for other subjects!

Also, I don’t know how the budgeting system works, but what should be happening is that math departments should be told, ”Here is your pot of money for the year; from this you’ll have to pay out salaries, travel, journals, books, etc.”

It’s worth noting that math departments are small potatoes in this game. All the big money goes to lab sciences, so these are the subjects that have really expensive journals: medicine, biology, chemistry, and physics. Maybe computer science too.

Posted by: John Baez on August 2, 2007 3:40 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

But, even if some of us go ahead and publish in those journals, I see little reason for institutions to subscribe to them if the articles are obtainable some other way.

Ah, good point. I hadn’t considered this.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 2, 2007 4:56 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

But, even if some of us go ahead and publish in those journals, I see little reason for institutions to subscribe to them if the articles are obtainable some other way .

On second thoughts… that doesn’t smell right. We shouldn’t dance with the devil. We shouldn’t give ourselves any excuse, any justification for publishing in these journals. It’s just a hollow feel-better argument, isn’t it?

“I’m not going to feel bad about publishing in that massively overpriced journal, because I know that, in theory, no-one actually needs to buy it, since it’s available on the archive.”

Having said that, I have to admit that that was the moral side of me speaking. The practical, career side of me find this argument very convincing!! I think all of us are in the same boat : we feel rotten about publishing in these overpriced journals but we can’t afford not to do it, for the sake of our respective careers. That’s a familiar conundrum in life, I suppose.

But we’ve got to break the shackles, somehow .

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 2, 2007 5:41 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Bruce writes:

We shouldn’t dance with the devil. We shouldn’t give ourselves any excuse, any justification for publishing in these journals.

That’s true.

Having said that, I have to admit that that was the moral side of me speaking. The practical, career side of me finds this argument very convincing!! I think all of us are in the same boat: we feel rotten about publishing in these overpriced journals but we can’t afford not to do it, for the sake of our respective careers.

Maybe we’re not all in the same boat. I can afford not to publish in evil journals. So, I don’t!

I think fewer people need to publish in these journals than we tend to think.

My point, though — which I guess you understand perfectly well — is that to break an evil cycle, you have to find the weak link. If it’s hard to get academics to stop publishing in ‘prestigious’ journals, maybe it’s easier to get universities to stop subscribing to them. When even a few major universities cancel their subscriptions, these journals may stop looking so prestigious! They’ll look more like the nasty dinosaurs they are.

Posted by: John Baez on August 2, 2007 7:22 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I’m just a little Ph.D. student who knows little about such matters, but who is reading with interest.

It strikes me that the people who have most need to be published in ‘prestigous’ journals are those who have the least influence. Prof. Bloggs of Oxford/Princeton, world renowned in his/her field and with tenure, is in a safer position to publish wherever they want than Mr. Hair of somewhere or other. Conversely Prof. Bloggs articles are more likely to attract readers. Surely the more secure you are, the more action you should be taking to reduce these journals influence, and the more effective your action will be.

Or am I being hopelessly naive here?

Posted by: Stevie Budden on August 8, 2007 2:21 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Your argument sounds plausible: the more prestigious you are, the less you need more prestige. And the richer you are, the less you need more money.

But, there are a few people who always want money. These are among the richest people in the world.

Similarly, there are a few academics who always want more prestige. These are among the most prestigious academics in the world.

Telling such an academic that he doesn’t need to publish in prestigious journals anymore is like telling Bill Gates that he doesn’t need to expand the dominion of Microsoft any further. For such people, the word ‘enough’ has no meaning.

Luckily, there are also some very good scholars, with good reputations, for whom scholarship itself is more important than prestige.

So, while many prestigious academics have been seduced by the publishing industry, there are also some powerful rebels. For example: Donald Knuth, Paul Ginsparg, and the editors of Topology.

Posted by: John Baez on August 13, 2007 11:32 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

But, even if some of us go ahead and publish in those journals, I see little reason for institutions to subscribe to them if the articles are obtainable some other way.

Here’s one (relatively minor) issue with that suggestion, brought to mind by papers I’m reading right now. Kind authors, in referring to other papers, give some hint as to where in reference [5] you can find the remark which illuminates some part of what’s going on. If [5] appears in both published and preprint forms, in which at least the page numbers will be different (if not much more), then it is sometimes hard to figure out how best to do that.

Of course there’s the more significant issue of not always being able to get a paper another way. While this is getting better, use of the arxiv is catching on more slowly in some subfields than others.

Posted by: Mark on August 2, 2007 6:45 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Thanks John, good points all around. Of course you are right regarding paper vs. electronic journals. Only that paper journals cost more to publish, which means that even paper journals run by physics societies tend to be more expensive than electronic-only journals (and what’s more important- more expensive than necessary). Both are much less expensive than those journals published by for-profit organizations.

In string theory most people moved to publishing mostly in JHEP over a very short period of time. That journal simply has no paper version, not sure what the subscription prices are precisely, but they are tiny compared to the numbers you cited.

The problem of inertia comes when interacting with the larger physics community. You’d be surprised how many times I had to explain that we should not count PRLs for high energy candidates, that electronic-only journals are referred the conventional way, that they are different from the arxiv…and still you keep on hearing the myth about high energy theorists not bothering to publish their work anymore…

Pointless and artificial numbers like impact index are helpful in making the point (JHEP and JCAP have very high impact indices), but there is always the nagging suspicion that sometime somewhere some dean is going to mull over your CV and ask where are all the PRLs :-).

Posted by: Moshe on August 2, 2007 5:31 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I don’t know much about all this. Why don’t high-energy physicists publish in PRL?

Posted by: Jamie Vicary on August 10, 2007 1:49 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Would someone post concrete examples of this for as many of these sites as you can (like the 150V x-ray example above)? I’m pretty sure that the spam team is simply unaware of these sites. Most of the publishers’ income comes from paper publications, but getting delisted from Google would probably hurt.

If all you’re going to show the user is the paper’s abstract, that’s all you’re allowed to show Googlebot and expect to stay listed.

Posted by: Mike Stay on August 1, 2007 6:15 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Hi Mike,
Here’s an example. Do a google search on:

superconnection e8

About half of the resulting search results are from cloaked PDFs. The linked SpringerLink, eprintweb, and IOP sites give pages that don’t have these search terms, but presumably link to the PDFs that do, available for purchase.

Posted by: garrett on August 1, 2007 6:36 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Firstly, since no-one’s mentioned this, I’ll point out that, if it’s not possible to completely transition to completely free academic publishing everywhere, it remains desirable to have general search engines able to index documents even if you can’t be directly taken to them, since you really don’t want each individual academic publisher instituting their own indexing (and OCR for older papers). Even if they do it as well as a dedicated searcher (which is hard), it’d still be preferable to have one search portal rather than twenty different ones. I think John B’s primary issue is the way search results are presented (which isn’t the search engines fault since they being “deceived”).

Anyway, on to examples (probably duplicating what others have noted), searching for “canonical gamut map”

brings up

“[PDF]
Relaxed Grey-World: Computational Colour Constancy by Surface Matching
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat”

but takes you to this page from springerlink.

A couple of pages of results further on you get

“[PDF]
Color in Information Display Principles, Perception, and Models
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat”

but clicking on it takes you to this page from the acm.

A bit further on you get

“[PDF]
Appendix E: Program Code
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat”

which takes you to this page from wiley interscience.

Again, it’s the misleading-ness rather than that the contents aren’t freely available that’s the issue here.

Posted by: dave tweed on August 1, 2007 7:17 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

More SpringerLink examples:

Search for RCFT “simple current”. The fifth hit is a SpringerLink PDF file. The excerpt is:

case for tensor products of RCFT’s, where the number of simple current invariants. grows very rapidly with the number of factors. It is certainly true that …

But, when you click on the link, you are taken to an abstract page which does not contain the text in the above excerpt. Clearly, a case of cloaking.

Hit number 19, for the same search yields an IOP PDF file, with excerpt

I review the simple current construction of D-branes and O-planes in string … The common property of these backgrounds is that the RCFT has simple …

When you click on the link, you are taken to an abstract page. Note that the second sentence in the excerpt does not appear anywhere on the abstract page. Another clear example of cloaking.

Elsevier does the same thing. So do other publishers.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 1, 2007 7:56 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I’m glad folks are giving Mike examples of ‘cloaking’ by academic publishers. As some of you know, he works at Google now. If he can get Google to delist these rascals, I can claim to have done something good in my life.

What really burns me is when I click on a link to a seeming PDF file and I get, not even an abstract, but a moronic general-purpose portal. Springer seems to do this a lot:

http://www.springerlink.com/index/GLYVA8V327B4PQBR.pdf

http://www.springerlink.com/index/RG3WH26R187216K4.pdf

Even if I wanted to buy the frigging paper, it would be difficult! It’s not only deceitful, it’s downright stupid.

I spent a little time yesterday trying to follow Mike’s suggestion and get Firefox to coax Springer into giving me the hidden content. I didn’t succeed. But maybe it was just my technical ineptitude! I downloaded the user agent switcher, and typed

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

in the ‘user agent’ line, and set this as my new default, but I still couldn’t see the PDF files.

Can anyone (e.g. Mike) follow Mike’s suggestions and succeed in reading the above PDF files? I’d really like to learn how to do this, if it’s possible! It would be a case of poetic justice.

Posted by: John Baez on August 2, 2007 10:53 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

John said

What really burns me is when I click on a link to a seeming PDF file and I get, not even an abstract, but a moronic general-purpose portal. Springer seems to do this a lot:

http://www.springerlink.com/index/RG3WH26R187216K4.pdf

I do actually get an abstract. An abstract to a paper “Complete classification of simple current modular invariants for RCFT’s with a center (Z p) k(Z_p)^k”.

I had no joy with Mike’s googlebot suggestion either.

Posted by: Simon Willerton on August 2, 2007 11:39 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Can I just point out one splendid irony - the 4th hit of a Google search for “Springerlink cloaking googlebot” is a PDF of a chapter in a Springer-published IT book apparently describing the cloaking technique though of course you get sent to a doorway page with no mention of cloaking.

Posted by: Dan on August 2, 2007 11:57 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Apparently exactly what you get when following such links depends on what subscriptions your institution has. When I tried the Springer links John posted above, the first showed me a web page with an abstract and a link for the full-text PDF which did work; the second link showed me the same style of abstract page but the full-text PDF link took me to the annoying portal.

Of course, in both cases the original link falsely purported to be to a PDF file, so regardless of your subscriptions you will see some form of spamming.

Posted by: Mark on August 2, 2007 2:44 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Right now I’m using the web not from any institution, just from a friend’s house — maybe that’s why I’m getting shown something completely useless when I click on these ‘PDF files’.

Posted by: John Baez on August 2, 2007 3:05 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I didn’t expect that you’d get anything different from these big sites; I think they check the incoming IP address as well as the user agent. Googlebot only crawls from certain IP address ranges, so they know you’re just trying to fake them out.

You’ll certainly get a different response if your institution subscribes; I wouldn’t be surprised if they determine access rights entirely from the IP address. I’m pretty sure that all requests to the outside pass through a proxy server for the math department at UCR. Wikipedia’s page edit histories are littered with IP addresses that simply resolve to a university.

It would be interesting to see if any universities run an open http proxy from which you could access this content. It would certainly be a violation of the journals’ terms of service, but it’s also easy to set up and hard for them to trace.

Posted by: Mike Stay on August 3, 2007 1:03 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

U. C. Riverside recently shut down its proxy server:

Dear Campus Community,

UCR’s Libraries and Computing & Communications (C&C) are pleased to announce the availability of a web enabled Virtual Private Network service known as WebVPN. This new service enables the campus community to securely access UCR systems and web content from anywhere in the world.

UCR’s WebVPN service not only allows faculty, staff, and students to initiate secure Internet browser connections, but WebVPN will also allow the campus to retire its Proxy Server, which will be discontinued effective June 15, 2007 due to security concerns.

An upsetting side-effect of this change is that the UCR library catalog is no longer viewable by people outside the university. That’s tough on independent scholars.

Since I’m on the library committee, I’ll have to complain about this stuff and see if there’s any way to improve the situation.

(On a gossipy side note: my wife hasn’t been able to get this WebVPN thing to work during our travels this summer. She’s spent a lot of time talking to the people at the UCR computer help desk, and so far, she’s been enmeshed in an a ever-growing tangle of technical problems. She’s better at this stuff than I am — she used to work in the computer biz. So, I haven’t even bothered to try to get it to work. But now I hear her problem may be due to specifics of her hardware. So, maybe I’ll try it. If it works, I’ll be back inside the ‘academic bubble’, where I no longer suffer from cloaking and blocked access to the UCR library catalog. Meanwhile, people outside the bubble will continue to suffer.)

Posted by: John Baez on August 3, 2007 9:48 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

What really burns me is when I click on a link to a seeming PDF file and I get, not even an abstract, but a moronic general-purpose portal. Springer seems to do this a lot(…)

When I click on those links you mention (using the web from my office), I do get the abstract page of the given paper. Then there is a column at right with the following text:


Text
PDF
The size of this document is 202 kilobytes. Although it may be a lengthier download, this is the most authoritative online format.
Open: Entire document

Notice that there is nowhere an indication that clicking on the “open” link will actually bring me to the following:


Access to this resource is secured.
Add this item to your shopping cart for purchase later.
Description Price
Individual Book Chapter (Electronic Only) $25.00
Log in to verify access
Username
Password

Bummer!

And yes, it also happened many times to me, when googling for a document, and finding what seemed to be a direct link to a pdf file, the link actually sent me to another page where I would have to pay for the document, or to a more general page.

Christine

Posted by: Christine Dantas on August 3, 2007 12:32 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

The content you see is coming out of the Google Scholar program, launched in late 2004 and specifically allowing these publications to cloak with Google’s full cooperation and knowledge. IE, they’re not spamming. It doesn’t make it less annoying, of course – but to be spamming, they’d have to be doing something Google tells them not to do. In this case, Google’s helping them do it.

Posted by: Danny Sullivan on August 3, 2007 2:46 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

So, Bruce Bartlett’s cynicism was well-founded.

I wish Google would make these cloaked PDF files detectable only by those using Google Scholar… or better, by those who have permission to access them. When I’m doing my normal googling, I don’t want to see links to stuff I can’t access!

Posted by: John Baez on August 3, 2007 10:25 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

There is still some cause to complain to Google since their conditions insist the links “show a complete abstract (or more) to all users who arrive from Google and Google Scholar” which is evidently not the case in some of the SpringerLink examples above.

Posted by: Dan on August 3, 2007 10:51 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Our discussion has led to this nice blog post, which contains more illustrations of cloaking by academic publishers:

Pierre Far has a Ph.D. in bacterial genetics, and now works as a search engine marketer.

Posted by: John Baez on August 3, 2007 11:15 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Suggestion?

I would like to know what experienced campaigners think of the following proposal, intended as a step against overpriced journals.

Ben Webster suggested it at the Secret Blogging seminar, and I’m sure we all agree to it, at least in spirit.

We should create a webpage (perhaps some kind of Wiki? I don’t know about these things) which acts as a one-stop source of information on all things to do with overpriced academic journals. I propose just starting with math and physics journals; and taking it from there.

The Wikipedia content on this subject is quite minimal.

The intention is to “name and shame” the big evil companies, but to do it through plain and simple facts. Something like a Wikipedia page, but not unbiased. The page will definitely adopt an ethical stance - aginst overpriced math+physics journals - but do so in a sober way.

It seems the only material doing the rounds on the net on math journal prices is the 2004 AMS Journal Price Survey. This survey is great, but it’s just a huge table consisting of numbers. The information could be available in a much more accessible way; for instance, I would like to see a system where you could click on Journal X in the table, and be taken to a seperate page explaining all the hard facts about Journal X (who publishes it, how much it costs w.r.t the various bundles, editorial board, and so on).

A one-stop resource for all things math-and-physics-overpriced-journalish.

There is such a lot of energy available for this task. Witness the Secret Blogging Seminar’s (I and II) , Pierre Far’s, the Unapologetic Mathematician’s and Science After Sunclipse’s posts in recent days.

Ben titled his article,

Websites that someone that isn’t me should make : MathJournalWiki.

I think it’s fair to suggest that all of us feel the same way - we want to do something, but are scared of it consuming our energy, which is tough for thesis writers (like me!) and post-docs and everybody.

Nevertheless, surely if we make a communal effort, and we delegate all the tasks out, we can make this work, without any one person having to brunt a horrible workload.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 3, 2007 10:36 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

I support this. I like the idea of a wiki along these lines, on my website.

Posted by: John Baez on August 5, 2007 1:32 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Ok great, so far that makes three of us. Blake Stacey is a supporter too. He already set up a skeleton wiki page here, but we can discuss this and change it to your website, it’s definitely up for negotiation.

Are there any other supporters of this idea? Anonymous yes/no posts are welcome.

I had in mind that we would set up a page outlining the principles of the thing, and a clear list of “What you can do”, so that when people visit the page, they can join in the effort. This list would range from very easy things which every casual visitor could fill out, like a poll-type question “Do you think that Google’s setup with the publishing houses is ethical?” (after you click yes/no, the percentages are displayed), to slightly harder tasks like “Find out how much your library is paying for these journals : X, Y, …” (we shouldn’t just rely on the AMS data, that’s old already), or “Find out which journals your library has unsubscribed to or subscribed to this year”, to more hard-core things like “Do some homework on the history of SpringerLink for that section of the webpage”.

Of course, all that is up for negotation! The principle though is that it shouldn’t be thought of as a “committee” who is running the thing; it’s a wiki project and runs on the energy and enthusiasm of all who visit it.

But this will only work if it’s clear that there would be a reasonable amount of support from the mathematical community in general. If not, then that is very discouraging… it calls into question the basic princple behind the project, namely that “the big publishing houses are greedy and unethical and just about everyone in the mathematical community agrees on this.”

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 5, 2007 2:50 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

I whipped up a quick proof-of-concept wiki on my server. As an anti-spam measure, logging in is required before editing.

MediaWiki is fairly easy to install and has all of the features which I’d expect the MathSciJournalWiki would require. Jacques Distler says that the source code of anything written in PHP looks like “the raccoons have gotten loose in the trash again,” and I’d agree — but I’m not sure modifying the source will be necessary, beyond the little tweaks required to specify a few options.

MediaWiki has three primary classes of users: anonymous people browsing the site who have not logged in, users with registered accounts, and sysops with administrative privileges such as deleting pages. On Wikipedia, the mother of all MediaWiki installations, anonymous users can edit pages (and there’s a perennial proposal to change this) but this site might be better served with more restrictive settings.

We could always buck the trend and go with another platform, such as Instiki. However, Instiki does password authentication on a wiki-by-wiki basis, rather than per user, so we might have to soup up the code before it is usable in the most convenient way. Furthermore, I’m not aware of “bots” for Instiki, whereas the MediaWiki user community has made things like the pywikipedia framework, which makes automated content generation and management much easier.

(My mission for today is to get a bot working which can extract information from the AMS Journal Price Survey’s spreadsheet and build articles out of it.)

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 5, 2007 2:56 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Wikis

We could always buck the trend and go with another platform, such as Instiki. However, Instiki does password authentication on a wiki-by-wiki basis, rather than per user, so we might have to soup up the code before it is usable in the most convenient way.

Do you really need password protection at all? For a project like this, I would think that low barrier-to-entry for adding information would be desirable.

If you proxy the Instiki installation behind Apache, you can use Apache’s authentication mechanisms which are far more flexible than anything built-in.

Furthermore, I’m not aware of “bots” for Instiki, whereas the MediaWiki user community has made things like the pywikipedia framework, which makes automated content generation and management much easier.

I’m not aware of any bots for Instiki either, but one would not be hard to write.

On the other hand, one thing that Instiki does offer that MediaWiki doesn’t (AFAIK), that would be useful to people in this context, is Atom feeds that people can subscribe to.

After all, you might want to be apprised when the subscription price of your “favourite” journal has changed.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 5, 2007 6:40 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Wikis

Do you really need password protection at all? For a project like this, I would think that low barrier-to-entry for adding information would be desirable.

Low barriers-to-entry are nice, but I’ve grown accustomed to the model where everybody (or almost everybody) can edit, while administrative privileges such as deleting pages or, in rare cases, blocking users are reserved for a smaller group.

As you wrote in your first Instiki-related post, “I don’t want to have to remember N passwords for N different wikis. I want to assign each person a password, and then use access-controls to determine what areas that person can access.” While I don’t think the MathSciJournalWiki will have pages restricted from public view, I expect that some users would naturally have larger sets of abilities than others.

On the other hand, one thing that Instiki does offer that MediaWiki doesn’t (AFAIK), that would be useful to people in this context, is Atom feeds that people can subscribe to.

MediaWiki does provide some syndication feeds, although the ones provided by default might not be the most useful. Here are the English Wikipedia’s most recently created articles, and here is a feed of the most recent text changes. In the most recent MediaWiki versions, the history of each page is available as an Atom feed; see here for some elaboration.

I haven’t used Instiki since January or thereabouts, so I’m probably vague on the details and ignorant of more recent developments.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 5, 2007 11:56 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Wikis

On the other hand, one thing that Instiki does offer that MediaWiki doesn’t (AFAIK), that would be useful to people in this context, is Atom feeds that people can subscribe to.

Just thought I’d point out that MediaWiki does have RSS feeds, but not for every page individually. Rather, you subscribe to the special pages: “New Pages” and “Recent Changes”. These RSS feeds are very helpful and I only discovered them after a few months of work on an intranet MediaWiki implementation.

Posted by: Eric on August 6, 2007 8:35 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Wikis

Sorry Blake. I should finish reading before posting, but have only got a few seconds here and there and wanted to help. I see you already pointed out the MediaWiki feeds. Doh! :)

Posted by: Eric on August 6, 2007 8:37 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

I support this too.

We should be careful not to bite off more than we can chew. For example, committing to keeping an updated list of all the prices and editorial boards of all maths and physics journals would be an enormous commitment! Best to focus on a few things and do them well, see how much interest the site gathers, and expand the scope if the energy is there.

Posted by: Tom Leinster on August 5, 2007 4:35 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

I support this too.

Great!

For example, committing to keeping an updated list of all the prices and editorial boards of all maths and physics journals would be an enormous commitment! Best to focus on a few things and do them well, see how much interest the site gathers, and expand the scope if the energy is there.

I sort of agree with you… but still, that’s the central point I want to stress : that it should be a genuine wiki . If it’s thought of by fellow mathematicians as yet another “So-and-so’s webpage on math journals”, then I feel it will have failed. There are already a lot of very good “so-and-so’s webpage on maths journals” around.

People who enter the site should get the feeling that they themselves are the producers of the content of the site; that there isn’t some small band of people who are running the thing that one should “email” if one would like to comment about certain parts of the site.

In the early days of course, there will inevitably be such a small band of people… but its existence should be a practical arrangement and not an intrinsic part of the philosophy of the site.

Everyone contributes, everyone makes pages. There are not two groups of people, the “visitors” and the “people who run the site”.

In a wiki, no-one commits to keeping any updated information on anything. There’s no committment by Wikipedia that they’ll provide the most up-to-date information on any subject… but it happens automatically, that’s the beauty of it.

For example, if Cornell drops its subscription to Journal X, then I would very much like it if it appeared on the site very soon, hopefully posted by someone who heard it from someone who … was at Cornell.

That’s a big dream of course, and maybe it’s just too big. For it to work, there’d need to be a lot of support from the community, which is perhaps wishful thinking.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 5, 2007 5:29 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Thanks Bruce. Point taken; your vision is now clearer to me.

Posted by: Tom Leinster on August 6, 2007 5:44 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

One question to ask yourself before embarking on a project like this is whether a separate wiki is necessary or if you should just tag onto an existing wiki. For example, the topic you are discussing seems perfectly appropriate as part of WikiPedia itself. Why not just create a page there? This blog seems to have enough critical mass to keep the conversations going, but certainly not enough to generate an active wiki. Spawning off a page on WikiPedia seems like an option you might want to consider.

Just a thought…

Posted by: Eric on August 5, 2007 7:56 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Hi Eric,

I mumbled some reasons why I don’t think it should be part of Wikipedia in my original post,

Something like a Wikipedia page, but not unbiased. The page will definitely adopt an ethical stance - aginst overpriced math+physics journals - but do so in a sober way.

The trouble with Wikipedia is that you have to appear to remain unbiased. You can’t adopt a moral stance. This is not just going to be a wiki about math journals… it’s going to be a wiki with an agenda . And we will freely admit that.

It would be impossible to put something like “What you can do to stop the evil practices of Elsevier” in a Wikipedia article.

Consider the Wikipedia page on Elsevier. It reads like an encyclopedia article should. There’s a heading entitled “Criticism” and it mentions how various editorial boards have resigned, but it does it all in a very noncommittal way. I believe we will definitely have to adopt a clear stance… it’s nothing less than a war.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 5, 2007 8:46 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Another issue is Wikipedia’s attitude about “original research”. Imagine that the Cornell library decides to no longer purchase Progress in Gerbe Puns; we’d like to know about this, even if there isn’t a place on the Cornell website where the datum can be easily checked. So, we’ll accept the original reporting of (say) a Cornell professor, appropriately signed and traceable to the source.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 5, 2007 11:16 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Hi all,

I just emailed Bruce with a long email, so I’ll keep it short here. I’m in support of this initiative too, but not sure how inolved I can be.

Key considerations for starting a website:

1. Get a good name. This is the brand. Make it something that can double as a verb (think Google or Hoover). Make it funny that only a mathematician would ‘get it’ (I won’t attempt to give examples).

2. Get a domain name. Host it separately.

3. Choose a platform. A wiki makes sense, but also look at Drupal and WordPress. For something like this, Drupal might be best.

Would a RSS feed of recently updated pages be useful? I think very much so.

4. Now choose a place to host it. Choose a host with 24/7 tech support, or at least, 24/7 emergency support.

5. Designate who are the admins and make sure the host knows they are authorized to call in problems. The admins need to be spread across all timezones. I suggest getting people from Japan and Australia, central Europe, east coast USA, and west coast USA. This way an admin is always awake and ready to deal with problems.

6. Get a logo. Have words in it as they are shown to be more memorable (like CNN or BBC - just text).

That’s it off the top of my head.

Cheers,
Pierre

Posted by: Pierre Far on August 6, 2007 8:26 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Let me take the liberty of summarizing what appears to be the state of affairs at the moment regarding the “MathSciJournalWiki” concept.

We’re in Stage A. This is the conceptual stage, where basic decisions are made. The most fundamental questions are

  • Is there enough support in the mathematical community for this site?
  • Aren’t there already websites that cover this issue? See the excellent www.journalprices.com.
  • What is the core vision of the site? Is it something like “combating greedy practices by academic publishers with the sword of information”, or more like “a powerful resource for the world of math journals”?
  • What is the scope of the site?
  • What should the site be called?

As I mentioned above, I recently discovered a great website www.journalprices.com run by an economist academic Ted Bergstrom and R. Preston McAfee. We need to talk with these guys.

There are also important technical decisions to be made, like

At the moment Blake Stacey has set up a proof-of-concept wiki here. But currently we’re still in Stage A, and that means we’re looking for input and wise words from fellow academics. This is why I’m still making comments here at the n-category cafe, as opposed to making them all at the skeleton page.

The alternative is to move on to Stage B. This is where we abandon democracy and boldly go ahead and set up the basics of the site. That would mean

  • Setting up a stub page on all the major math journals, with data fields corresponding to price, publisher, editorial board, whether they allow you to release your paper on the archive, and prominent libraries who have recently unsubscribed.
  • Setting up a “What you can do” section on the main page, a clickable list where every visitor can get involved easily.
  • A “Purpose of this site” page, hopefully written by a well-known gadfly of journals (John?), explaining clearly the moral imperative of fighting back against the publishing houses (assuming this is indeed the purpose of the site).

And then it would move on to Stage C. This would involve:

  • Emailing all role-players in the academic community, informing them of the site, and asking for their assistance. This includes the guys behind the Banff Protocol, the guys behind www.journalprices.com, and anybody who has ever had a beef with the greedy practices of the Big Publishing Houses.
  • Emailing the various maths research lists, like the Topology list and the Categories list, informing fellow mathematicians of the new site, and urging them to contribute.

Then we sit back, sip on pina coladas, and watch the content of the site grow!

Nevertheless, I believe we are still in Stage A… some more input and wise words are needed I think.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 6, 2007 2:36 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Hi Bruce,

Sorry I missed your comments specifically about Wikipedia. Those are good points, but “Wikipedia” was just an example. The point I was trying to make was to consider tagging onto some existing structure.

For the record, I think something like this is a good idea, but I’m a bit jaded because of similar attempts I’ve made that failed, so trying to add what I can to the pool of knowledge.

The reality is that there is a well defined evolution for projects like this and understanding that evolution might be helpful. Conceptually, it seems great.

Then we sit back, sip on pina coladas, and watch the content of the site grow!

If you get 20 people who say it is a great idea, you MIGHT get 2 that actually contribute something. And that is probably optimistic. I’m afraid you’ll find that the people who set up the project will likely be the only ones contributing content. You need literally thousands of interested parties to reach the critical mass you’re hoping for.

Just being a devil’s advocate. Hope you don’t mind! :|

Best wishes,
Eric

Posted by: Eric on August 6, 2007 4:58 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

We now have content!

I wrote a bot which turned the AMS data into wiki pages. With small modifications, it could process other tabular information as well. Should we decide to use a different platform than MediaWiki, transferring content shouldn’t be terribly difficult (particularly if you know regular expressions).

Were I an optimist by nature, I would suggest that even if the MathSciJournalWiki doesn’t itself take off, it would likely “raise consciousness” of the problems we’re trying to address, making more people aware of the other tools available today.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 6, 2007 9:27 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Jeepers Blake, that’s stunning!

Posted by: Tom Leinster on August 6, 2007 10:52 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Yes, that’s very impressive Blake!

The good folks behind www.journalprices.com, Ted Bergstrom and R. Preston McAfee, have been contacted and they have offered some valuable suggestions.

Their website is quite comprehensive and contains good information on about 7000 journals.

They have also pointed out the following links:

  • Ted Bergstrom’s own journal pricing webpage.
  • A related site called www.eigenfactor.org.
  • A site by Hakan Carlson set up for Lund University in Sweden.

There are also pages by fellow mathematicians, some of which have been mentioned by John Baez on his page on this stuff. These include Rob Kirby’s original letter on overpriced math journals from 1997, and the update in 2000, Ulf Rehmann’s page on overpriced math journals, here and here, and Jim Pitman’s webpage.

I point these out since Eric is right, we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. On the other hand, there are unique features about the site we are proposing :

  • It will be a wiki,
  • It will be focused on what YOU can do, listing concrete tasks which would contribute to the wiki, as opposed to simply being a ‘static’ resource. (On the other hand, it is not really fair to call the other sites ‘static’ resources either).
  • It will be limited to maths (and possibly physics) journals. This might be a strength. One of the reasons is that it becomes possible to actually contact all the roleplayers via the academic mailing lists. It’s on a more human scale. For instance, Blake’s table of math journals is sort of manageable, you can scroll through it manually, no search functions are needed.
  • We can offer new features, such as displaying the editors names, etc.
  • The site might attempt to calculate the average time between submission and acceptance for various journals. I’m not sure if this represents mission creep, but it might be a drawcard to the average academic.

I can’t say that I’m completely convinced by these arguments. Eric’s wise words ring true,

If you get 20 people who say it is a great idea, you MIGHT get 2 that actually contribute something. And that is probably optimistic.

So far there are only about 9 people who have expressed an interest in it. Nevertheless, I am prepared to push on, if push comes to shove.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 7, 2007 12:35 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Daniel Greenhoe posted a useful message to the newsgroup sci.math.research on 13 July. It contains links to lots of journal resources, e.g. a list of open access journals, a summary of preprint policies, etc.

Posted by: Tom Leinster on August 7, 2007 1:15 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

Very useful information in Daniel Greenhoe’s message. Some new items arising from this message have been added to the wiki’s To do list.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 7, 2007 3:00 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Suggestion?

It seems to be a basic Internet rule that the number of people who surf through a site is larger than the number of people who make any kind of contributions and much larger than the number who become active, regular contributors. So it goes.

Still, wikis have the advantage over search engines that the user can feel “involved.” The more efforts we make to address the journal problem, the more people will become aware of it, and the more they’ll know what they themselves can do about it.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 7, 2007 6:30 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Here is a blog about web spam

seo blog

Posted by: andy on September 11, 2007 1:36 PM | Permalink | Reply to this
Read the post Change My Name to Springer
Weblog: Science After Sunclipse
Excerpt: Dear academic publishing industry: play nice, and we won’t crush you under our advancing wall of ice. Google Scholar’s publisher policies insist that people searching journal articles through Google “must be offered at least a comple...
Tracked: August 3, 2007 3:37 PM

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Another discussion launched by the one we’re having here:

And, an older one about the same issue:

These are by people in the search engine industry, not academics, so they present an interestingly different viewpoint.

Posted by: John Baez on August 4, 2007 12:16 PM | Permalink | Reply to this
Read the post Summary of Academic Publishers Cloaking Discussion
Weblog: blogsci.com
Excerpt: So the dust seems to have settled a bit about the issue of academic publishers cloaking their pages to Google. This post is a summary of the facts that emerged and the observations made, a quick recap tying it all together, and a suggestion for the nex...
Tracked: August 5, 2007 9:00 PM

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Recently springerlink.com made lots of its book content available to various universities on a one-month trial basis. You would get one (random) chapter of a desired book. Unsurprisingly, some undergrads set up a data-suck that would get all the chapters and then re-assemble them. Re-distribution has already begun to occur. Academics have not exactly been outspoken in speaking against such theft— indeed, many of them not only approve, but take part in this. Is it any wonder that the publishers treat academics as an enemy?

Posted by: Academic Poster on August 6, 2007 10:58 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Wouldn’t we, you know, have to have heard about it before we could be outspoken? I heard about the Springer trial offer, and this is the first I heard of this.

Posted by: Walt on August 6, 2007 11:52 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I just spoke with the guy in charge of Google Scholar about the cloaking. Yes, Google is allowing these publishers to cloak their content. There has been a lot of debate, internally and externally, about this at Google.

There are good arguments that this is, at the moment, providing a useful service. The big problem is that most of this information is only available in the journals. If there was anywhere else to find it, Google would not have allowed the cloaking. There are few people looking for it and few people providing it. For-pay news doesn’t get indexed, for-pay financial info doesn’t get indexed, etc.

The search terms that people use to find academic information are self-selecting. The vast majority of people searching for these terms are people at universities whose libraries are already paying for access. At the moment, there is no way to tell whether a given user has access or not. If they default to not showing the information, most of those searching would not be able to see what they are actually allowed to see.

Google recognizes that their policy unfairly supports these publishers, but feels that the traffic Google drives to their sites simply isn’t a big enough source of income to have any clout with the publishers. If anyone’s going to crack this nut, it will have to be the university libraries.

Google doesn’t get any revenue from the publishers except indirectly through the Google ads that appear beside the search results.

There are some interesting borderline cases between for-pay science papers and other content; Nature is half advertising and half hard science. Google delisted them until Nature provided some way to distinguish between the news/ads and the science.

As far as Google can tell, hardly anyone knows about Google scholar. Again, if they restricted these results to turning up under Google scholar, most people doing searches for these terms would not find the content that’s actually available to them.

Marking the content as “maybe for pay” would typically discourage people from clicking the links, even though, in the majority of cases, they already have access.

Hardly anyone uses the advanced search operators either. A search operator to eliminate for-pay content would be possible; this is one of several ideas they’re tossing around to try to make things better. In the meantime, if you don’t have access to springerlink or simply don’t want to be their patron, add the term

-site:springerlink.org

to your search. Three or four such terms should eliminate the majority of the for-pay hits in your search results. It would be trivial to write up a webpage that automatically includes these terms in every web search.

So Google’s not particularly happy about the situation, but at the moment, this is the compromise they’ve settled on.

Posted by: Mike Stay on August 7, 2007 1:02 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

The big problem is that most of this information is only available in the journals. If there was anywhere else to find it, Google would not have allowed the cloaking.

Actually, a lot of it (at least, the recent stuff) is available at the arXivs.

The thing that bugs me about this is not that the SpringerLink (et al) hits appear in the search results, but that they seem to have a high enough pagerank to push the corresponding arXiv hits not just off the first page, but off the first N pages of search results.

add the term

-site:springerlink.org

to your search.

Unless Google start penalizing these cloaked sources (downgrading their pagerank to the point where they appear after the corresponding arXiv hits), that would seem to be the only solution.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 7, 2007 3:57 AM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Google was/is quite eager to have publishers index their material in the main index. So I don’t think you can blame only the publishers or even call it spamming since the content was explicitly solicited by Google.

The issue of access is an important one. We at APS do get a lot of traffic from both Google and Google Scholar (more from Google, but not lots more) and this results in many articles being downloaded. So it is providing a service to many researchers out there who do have subscription access and who could, if they wanted to, get the arXiv version. For those who want the definitive, peer-reviewed work, it would be a disservice not to include links to this version.

It should be noted that Google and Google Scholar have two separate indexes with two separate ranking algorithms. In fact, Google Scholar came about because of the problems of ranking scholarly articles in the main Google index (GS uses citation ranking rather than page rank). Furthermore, GS works hard to match up copies of works (for instance, e-prints vs. the published article) and then ranks them as a single item and gives links to all available copies/bibliographic records. In fact, many publishers provide XML metadata to Google Scholar so that this matching can be made robust and thing like author searching can be made precise.

That said, some publishers are better than others about creating proper landing pages and providing good metadata to make searching in Google and Google Scholar as seamless as possible. I have no doubt some publishers could be doing better.

Anyway, I would suggest using Google Scholar and clicking on the link for the appropriate copy of an article depending on your research needs.

Disclaimer: I work for the American Physical Society and I used to work at arXiv.org. Google gets no money from hits that lead to APS journals and we get no money from Google.

Posted by: Mark Doyle on August 7, 2007 10:37 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

K-Theory editors “resign”

Peter Woit reports that the editorial board of K-Theory has done a Topology and resigned en masse.

Posted by: Tom Leinster on August 7, 2007 11:19 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: K-Theory editors “resign”

This is great news!

I hacked something horrible together at the “MathSciJournalWiki” to report this. I even added it to the K-Theory page. Someone had better add in a new journal now : ‘Journal of K-Theory’ :-)

Also, someone should do the same for ‘Jounal of Topology’. Hooray for these editors.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on August 7, 2007 12:51 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: K-Theory editors “resign”

I’ve updated the pages for K-Theory and the Journal of K-Theory, as well as tweaking the front page to look a little nicer.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on August 7, 2007 6:11 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Hi John,

Here’s a weird tie in to this article. I was sitting on Wiki about 20 minutes ago, when I linked to their piece on New Scientist and noted that you got a mention on their obligatory criticism (it’s the done thing you know).

So I wished to respond somehow, so followed a few more links through ‘tinternet to find an article that you were at least recently active in to just ask a question:

“What is wrong with thinking about breaking the laws of conservation of momentum?”

Ironic the way this question came up on a thread on Academic Spam and that it took no more than 25 minutes to complete a communication loop with mild relevance (relatively speaking) from a subject matter stretched over months.

One eagerly awaits your response, I shall return in a couple of year again having broken all practical sense of conservative ideals on momentum once again ;)

Yours demonstrating the impracticably practicable,

In-Limbo

Posted by: In-Limbo on August 8, 2007 1:00 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

In-Limbo wrote:

What is wrong with thinking about breaking the laws of conservation of momentum?

There’s nothing wrong per se with thinking about non-conservation of momentum in some kind of coherent framework, but if you read the thread on this blog in which New Scientist and Shawyer were criticised, you’ll find that what most people were objecting to was New Scientist parroting a load of pseudo-scientific gobbledygook of Shawyer’s by which he claimed that standard special relativity and standard electrodynamics predict the effect he believes he has measured. It’s a mathematical fact that they don’t. Whatever the physical reality, these are well-defined theories, and it’s possible to calculate precisely what they predict about the kind of cavities Shawyer describes. I’ve done the calculations in detail, here. Unsurprisingly, there is no net force on a sealed cavity.

Who knows, it might yet turn out that some magic new physics has popped out of hidden dimensions in Shawyer’s workshop, but since nobody else on the planet has repeated his results, I’m not holding my breath waiting for this revolution. It’s also worth noting that Shawyer himself can’t even see that his claimed effect does violate conservation of momentum. Far from claiming to have overthrown this fusty old law, he insists (contrary to logic that any high school physics student could follow) that his claims are entirely consistent with it.

BTW, our host would be well within his rights to simply delete this sub-thread, since it’s completely off-topic. The subject was argued to death on this blog a long time ago; if you really want to exchange views with people who are still remotely interested in keeping this phoney controversy alive, the New Scientist blog on the topic hasn’t quite died completely yet. But don’t expect to find anything new there.

Posted by: Greg Egan on August 9, 2007 4:35 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Elsevier’s new journal

Elsevier’s starting a new journal, Computer Science Review, and will pay authors EU400 per article.

Posted by: Mike Stay on August 9, 2007 2:20 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I believe that this is a self-correcting problem. The conventional Physics and Math journals are doing to their audience (customers) very close to what the RIAA has done with music recording. The RIAA buried their heads in the sand about downloading music legally, sued children and innocent bystanders, and annoyed the hell out of musicians and audiences alike.

By so doing, the conventional pressed bleached wood-pulp journals and the RIAA have doomed themselves to obsolescence, to be replaced by new technologies and new business models. For Physics and Math publishing, this includes open-access publishing, the arXiv, edited on-line encyclopedias such as The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences
http://www.research.att.com/~njas/sequences/
where I just added 14 sequences on Blandin-Diaz compositional Bernoulli numbers based on the fine paper published in arXiv and referencing John Baez:
Hector Blandin, Rafael Diaz, Compositional Bernoulli numbers, 6 Aug 2007.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIAA
[RIAA: The Recording Industry Association of America… a trade group that represents the recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of a large number of private corporate entities such as record labels and distributors, who create and distribute about 90% of recorded music sold in the US. It is involved in a series of controversial copyright infringement legal actions on behalf of its members. The RIAA was formed in 1952 primarily to administer the RIAA equalization curve. This is a technical standard of frequency response applied to vinyl records during manufacturing and playback. The RIAA has continued to participate in creating and administering technical standards for later systems of music recording and reproduction, including magnetic tape, cassette tapes, digital audio tapes, CDs and software-based digital technologies. The RIAA also participates in the collection, administration and distribution of music licenses and royalties. The association is responsible for certifying gold and platinum albums and singles in the USA. For more information about sales data see List of best selling albums and List of best selling singles. The RIAA’s stated goals are to protect intellectual property rights worldwide and the First Amendment rights of artists; to perform research about the music industry; and to monitor and review relevant laws, regulations and policies.]

Into the Great Wide Open
ASSOCIATIONS NOW, August 2007

Is open-access publishing opening the doors to achievement and innovation, or is it opening
By: Interview by Lisa Junker, CAE

Open-access publishing opens a scary chasm between a known public good–open sharing of information–and an untested and seemingly unreliable business model. Patrick Brown of the Public Library of Science argues that publishers (including associations) can, and must, bridge this gap to remain relevant.

http://www.asaecenter.org/PublicationsResources/ANowDetail.cfm?ItemNumber=27572

I’d also make the analogy to science fiction book publishers and magazine publishers, who have had diminishing sales figures for many years. More and more professional science fiction authors bypass the medieval system and publish themselves with POD technology, or via web sites, or via podcasts, or by other means.

The social networking of science and math conferences, musical events, and science fiction conventions are still extremely valuable. They just have less and less to do with ink on paper. Web Spamming is another nail in the coffin.

Posted by: Jonathan Vos Post on August 13, 2007 8:04 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

This has been a very productive discussion and I am sorry to be a latecomer to it on this forum. I’m grateful that a few committed folks have started the Eureka wiki, and I have already posted to it regarding one particular cloaker, Ingenta.

Something that emerged from my very brief research for that article was the hint that Google actually takes payment in exchange for granting permission to a publisher to cloak with impunity. To wit., please read an old 2004 post at the blog of Ingenta’s CTO, Leigh Dodds:

http://www.ldodds.com/blog/archives/000165.html

This post is very instructive in the process of cloaking from a publisher’s perspective. But here’s a little thing that caught my eye: Mr. Dodds describes “play[ing] with the Google frisbee that their marketing department sent me.” The fact that Google’s marketing people are involved suggests to me that baksheesh was paid. What do you think? Is payment to Google for the “right” to cloak common knowledge now? Or am I moving too fast on weak information?

The fact that the cloaking issue has resonated so strongly on this forum and some others should be a warning to Google and its partners in this little game that resentment is becoming loud and organized. Thanks for all the thoughts.

-Carl Willis

Posted by: Carl Willis on August 17, 2007 9:36 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Hey, why does this comment (linked from Eureka here) no longer exist?

Posted by: Toby Bartels on August 30, 2008 10:38 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I don’t know! That’s weird. I can’t imagine I deleted it. A massive conspiracy?

I’ll do a little nosing around. I should have a saved copy of your comment somewhere.

Posted by: John Baez on August 31, 2008 3:53 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

John’s comment linked to from the front page is also missing!

Posted by: Mike Stay on August 31, 2008 4:49 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

In fact, there are at least three missing (all related).

Posted by: Toby Bartels on September 1, 2008 6:46 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

Toby wrote:

In fact, there are at least three missing (all related).

Whenever anyone posts a comment to a thread I initiated, I get a copy in my email. I try to keep these. So far I’ve just found the one you just mentioned, Toby: the comment called “web_spamming_by_academic_publi.html#c012268”.

Here it is:

John wrote:

Thanks for the info, Toby! This is probably the most relevant place in the Café for this information, but maybe I’ll also put it in the EUREKA article on cloaking.

Cool. I’ve edited that a bit for a broader audience.

We miss you here!

Thanks. But you know why I’m no longer a regular here.

Posted by: John Baez on September 1, 2008 9:55 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

The other two missing comments don’t seem to be in my files. That’s not shocking to me: what’s shocking is that comments on this blog have been disappearing!

Of course, the really important comment is the one where Toby told the world How to tell if you can read a file returned by a Google search. Luckily you can still see that on Eureka, by clicking the link here.

Btw, the example Toby gave in his advice is slightly outdated: his own page is no longer the top hit when you search under “time-is-imaginary new-theory”. He’s been displaced by an actual crackpot.

Posted by: John Baez on September 1, 2008 10:05 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Missing Comments

With threaded comments, when you delete the parent comment, the children are still there, in the database, but invisible. Thus, comments 12268 and 12235 have, as their parent, comment 12227. But the latter is no longer in the database. Hence the former no longer appear in the comment listings.

The best I can offer is to “liberate” those two comments from their now-deceased parent.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on September 1, 2008 11:58 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

I could have done something stupid…

Since I’ve already managed to repost Toby’s 12268 above, and 12235 seems to be the rather bland comment of mine that Toby was responding to, the only really interesting comment that’s missing is Toby’s 12227. This, alas, is really gone… but luckily, it’s available in a more polished form at Eureka!

So, I’m not sure there’s much worth doing. Perhaps Toby or I should repost a version of his 12227 here at the nn-Café.

Posted by: John Baez on September 3, 2008 2:16 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

John wrote in part:

Since I’ve already managed to repost Toby’s 12268 above, and 12235 seems to be the rather bland comment of mine that Toby was responding to,

Quite possibly entirely quoted in my response.

the only really interesting comment that’s missing is Toby’s 12227. This, alas, is really gone… but luckily, it’s available in a more polished form at Eureka!

But I don’t think that I actually copied all of it to Eureka, else why would I bother to link from Eureka back to it? That’s what really makes me wonder, as I certainly no longer have a copy.

It’s probably not important, but curious.

Posted by: Toby Bartels on September 11, 2008 6:32 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

John wrote in part:

Btw, the example Toby gave in his advice is slightly outdated:

Agh, but I just changed the examples to make them ones that actually worked! (literally the day that I posted my ‘Hey, what happened to my comment!?’ comment).

his own page is no longer the top hit when you search under “time-is-imaginary new-theory”. He’s been displaced by an actual crackpot.

Wow, 10 points already in the second line! (Although it takes a while to get any more points.) I see that the basic idea is to conflate the two sense of ‘imaginary’ in the phrase ‘imaginary time’:

[…] Albert Einstein’s refusal to admit that time, being an imaginary value […,] should be understood as something connected to the subjective world […]

(Surprisingly, this sentence does not seem to be worth any points.)

Posted by: Toby Bartels on September 11, 2008 6:16 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Web Spamming by Academic Publishers

The Wayback Machine has a copy of the missing comment#12227 by Toby Bartels, discussed above. I think the Eureka wiki entry on cloaking contains all of the information in Toby’s comment.

Posted by: András Salamon on June 25, 2010 8:06 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

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