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June 9, 2010

Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Posted by John Baez

The Nature Publishing Group publishes not only the prestigious journal Nature, but also many others. When this company bought Scientific American, it raised the institutional subscription price seven-fold. Now they are insisting on quadrupling the fees for 67 journals to which the University of California subscribes.

Right now, we pay them an average of $4,465 per year for each journal we subscribe to. After the increase, this would soar to $17,479 per year.

In response, the University of California is considering a system-wide boycott of the Nature Publishing Group — for example, cancelling subscriptions to all their journals.

Here is a letter signed by various people including the director of the California Digital Library:

Re: Informational Update on a Possible UC Systemwide Boycott of the Nature Publishing Group

Dear UC Divisional Chairs and Members of the UC Faculty,

UC Libraries are confronting an impending crisis in providing access to journals from the Nature Publishing Group (NPG). NPG has insisted on increasing the price of our license for Nature and its affiliated journals by 400 percent beginning in 2011, which would raise our cost for their 67 journals by well over $1 million dollars per year.

While Nature and other NPG publications are among the most prestigious of academic journals, such a price increase is of unprecedented magnitude. NPG has made their ultimatum with full knowledge that our libraries are under economic distress — a fact widely publicized in an Open Letter to Licensed Content Providers and distributed by the California Digital Library (CDL) in May 2009. In fact, CDL has worked successfully with many other publishers and content providers over the past year to address the University’s current economic challenges in a spirit of mutual problem solving, with positive results including lowering our overall costs for electronic journals by $1 million dollars per year.

NPG by contrast has been singularly unresponsive to the plight of libraries and has employed a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy that directs major price increases to various institutions in different years. Their proposed new license fee is especially difficult to accept in a time of shrinking UC library budgets and with the many sacrifices we all continue to make Systemwide. Capitulating to NPG now would wipe out all of the recent cost-saving measures taken by CDL and our campus libraries to reduce expenditures for electronic journals. More information about the UC Libraries’ concerns, including a history of previous unsustainable price increases from this publisher and others, is available on the CDL’s Challenges to Licensing page.

UC Libraries have already taken a stand against NPG. After recently acquiring Scientific American, NPG doubled the institutional site license fee and raised the price of an institutional print subscription seven-fold. In response, UC Libraries, along with numerous other institutions throughout the country, discontinued their license to the online version and reduced the number of print subscriptions. As a first response to the current NPG proposal, UC Libraries plan to forgo all online subscriptions to any new NPG journals. But more drastic actions may be necessary.

What can UC Faculty do to help?

UC Faculty and researchers author a significant percentage of all articles published in NPG journals and are a major force in shaping the prestige of its publications. In the past six years, UC authors have contributed approximately 5300 articles to these journals, 638 of them in the flagship journal Nature. Using NPG’s own figures, an analysis by CDL suggests that UC articles published in Nature alone have contributed at least $19 million dollars in revenue to NPG over the past 6 years — or more than $3 million dollars per year for just that one journal. Moreover, UC Faculty supply countless hours serving as reviewers, editors, and advisory board members.

Many UC Faculty now believe that a larger and more concerted response is necessary to counter the monopolistic tactics of NPG. Keith Yamamoto, a Professor and Executive Vice Dean at UCSF who helped lead a successful boycott against Elsevier and Cell Press in 2003, has begun to assemble a group of Faculty that will help lead a UC Systemwide boycott of NPG. This means that unless NPG is willing to maintain our current licensing agreement, UC Faculty would ask the UC Libraries to suspend their online subscriptions entirely, and all UC Faculty would be strongly encouraged to:

• Decline to peer review manuscripts for journals from the Nature Publishing Group.

• Resign from Nature Publishing Group editorial and advisory boards.

• Cease to submit papers to the Nature Publishing Group.

• Refrain from advertising any open or new UC positions in Nature Publishing Group journals.

• Talk widely about Nature Publishing Group pricing tactics and business strategies with colleagues outside UC, and encourage sympathy actions such as those listed above.

We clearly recognize that the consequences of such a boycott would be complex and present hardships for individual UC researchers. But we believe that in the end, we will all benefit if UC can achieve a sustainable and mutually rewarding relationship with NPG. In the meantime, UC scholars can help break the monopoly that commercial and for-profit entities like NPG hold over the work that we create through positive actions such as:

• Complying with open access policies from Federal funding agencies such as the NIH.

• Utilizing eScholarship, an open access repository service from CDL.

• Considering other high-quality research publishing outlets, including open access journals such as those published by PLoS and others.

• Insisting on language in publication agreements that allows UC authors to retain their copyright.

A full list of journals currently licensed from NPG by UC Libraries is attached. We will keep you informed as this situation progresses, including the possibility of canceling all NPG titles. Please feel free to contact the University Librarian on your campus with questions or concerns, or any of us. You can also communicate your concern to key contacts at NPG. The managing director of NPG, Steven Inchcoombe, and other members of the executive committee can be reached at exec@nature.com.

Posted at June 9, 2010 7:42 PM UTC

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60 Comments & 1 Trackback

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

There are two sides to every story. Here is the official response from the Nature Publishing Group.

http://www.nature.com/press_releases/cdl.html

Disclaimer - I am an employee of the NPG.

Posted by: Cromercrox on June 10, 2010 11:34 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

I have read the press release and I feel that NPG should start taking PR lessons from BP. The thing that comes out loud and clear in the press release — NPG wants to be profitable, very profitable. Brilliant.

Posted by: Eugene Lerman on June 10, 2010 7:48 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

To quote from the press release:

However, we believe our colleagues at PLOS would agree that publishing high quality manuscripts, in journals with a high rejection rate, is an expensive business, and requires either high subscription fees, or high article processing charges, to be profitable.

‘Twould be more expensive if academics didn’t referee for free, or do any other volunteer work gratis.

I’d be interested to know the actual cost of producing one of these high-rejection-rate journals, and what the net profit from selling it is. But with modern bundling policies and so forth, calculating such costs would be, I’m afraid, completely opaque.

And trumpeting that NPG is cheaper than other high-end publishers is not particularly impressive, given Elsevier or Springer pricing.

Posted by: David Roberts on June 11, 2010 1:18 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

I love the NPG’s press release! But they don’t go nearly far enough. Why don’t they increase the price of their journals a hundredfold and then claim they’re giving everybody at least a 99% discount on all journals, and that therefore all their customers should actively worship them for their generosity?

Posted by: James Cranch on June 11, 2010 11:12 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

I have sent a link to this post to Ellen Tise, the current president of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), who is at my institution (Stellenbosch University). Just so that she knows that academics are angry about exorbitant pricing! The IFLA might support these kinds of actions.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on June 15, 2010 12:18 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

I’ve forwarded this story to our maths librarian, and she has sent it up the chain.

Posted by: David Roberts on June 17, 2010 1:47 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Anybody noticing the increase in the number of pages in Nature etc. devoted to advertisements as opposed to several decades ago? More price for less content and for more pages for profit.

Why is higher rejection rate surviving paper supposedly more expensive if referees are for free, and editors do their job for free? Well, mainly for commercial reasons. For example, secretaries send more often reminders to finish refereeing or proofs as they want to have smaller average acceptance period in their papers what is an ad for their journal. Also secretaries are sending you and receiving faxes with various agreements that you transfer them rights for YOUR work to their journal. If you do not do that very quickly they will do this and that to explain you your rights and to fights for theirs. They pay LAWYERS to make all those complicated agreements. Then they pay for advertising their journal elsewhere and for various special cases. Then they spend time for accounting for all the categories of people, of licences of prices for ordinary customers, for such and such universities for bundles and so on. They have meetings of committees defining those bundles in which you have to buy trash with things which you want in first place. And so on.

If the community decides to take over to arxiv refereeing, making overlay journals on top of arxiv, which will just make some versions of some arxiv articles refereed and accepted we will reduce the cost to small fraction. The same editors and referees, and no nonsense activities. I hope the community will make that move soon. Just making a stamp at an arxiv paper solely by email and online forms with online active editorial boards. Scientists send to Nature just because it is now the rule that the scientists appreciate its editorial procedure despite the lousy service of the underlying publisher, so if the editorial procedures get transferred to the same people and the small computer overhead over the arxiv, we can get rid of underlying publisher. In the minds of physicists this change is almost there, for biologists and other more currently commercial sciences the money scheme is more in mind than pure logic and the altruism of the scientific profession. Let’s convince them to follow the behaviour of physicists (that is first send to arxiv then send to a journal; and in future of course not even that, send to arxiv and then submit notice to overlay of arxiv).

Posted by: Zoran Skoda on June 14, 2010 4:07 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Everyone in the biosciences who writes papers with the help of grant money from the National Institute of Health needs to put those paper on PubMed Central, so this is currently the closest analogue to the arXiv in the biosciences.

Unfortunately, the rule is that they need to put the papers on PubMed no later than 12 months after publication. If that were changed to, say, 12 seconds before publication, it would have an enormous effect. The journals would howl, of course. But maybe scientists are already allowed to put their papers on PubMed before publication. So maybe they should just do it!

Posted by: John Baez on June 14, 2010 6:06 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Most of the highest profile journals like Science or Nature, I think, do not allow that the submitted papers are posted before publication and any time after except those in special provisions like the PubMed posting or articles for which you paid to be open access.

Posted by: zoran skoda on June 14, 2010 9:57 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

…except those in special provisions like the PubMed posting or articles for which you paid to be open access.

You mean one has to pay to make one’s own work open access? That’s about as crazy as paying a publisher to accept your article for refereeing, and then having to buy copies after publication.

My first published article was in a journal that would not give reprints unless you bought a huge number, for (IIRC) 90 pounds, then extra copies cost more. I’m glad they allowed it on the arXiv, or I couldn’t have owned physical copies of my own work!

Posted by: David Roberts on June 15, 2010 4:18 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

David wrote:

You mean one has to pay to make one’s own work open access?

Yes, this is how many publishers have decided to interpret the concept of ‘open access’. See:

You can get a glimpse of the publisher’s worldview here:

Few people would disagree, in principle, with the ideal of open access. The question is whether the economics can be made to work. Employing peer review to sift through hundreds of manuscripts, and then editing the accepted ones into shape, can be an expensive business.

I think there’s a typo here — I think the last sentence should read:

Employing unpaid slaves to sift through hundreds of manuscripts, and making the authors format their own papers in the journal’s house style, can be an expensive business.

Posted by: John Baez on June 15, 2010 4:18 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Zoran,

Just to clarify, Nature Publishing Group encourages authors of original research articles accepted for Nature and our other journals to self-archive their accepted manuscript, for public access six months after publication. There is no fee to do this.

For authors funded by NIH and other funders who support PubMed Central, we offer to deposit on their behalf in PubMed Central. Again, we do not charge authors for this.

More information on NPG’s policies on self-archiving here: http://www.nature.com/authors/editorial_policies/license.html

I realise this is a wider discussion but did want to provide some clarification on that particular question.

Grace Baynes (Nature Publishing Group)

Posted by: Grace Baynes on June 17, 2010 3:58 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Dear Grace — thanks for having the bravery to post some information in the lion’s den!

I’m glad NPG encourages authors to “archive this version of the manuscript in their institution’s repositories and, if they wish, on their personal websites, also six months after the original publication.” But this wording seems to exclude putting the manuscripts on easily found worldwide databases such as the arXiv. (If that’s not true, it would be good to clarify this!) And the 6-month window ensures that anyone who wants to get the article in a timely manner will need to pay for the journal.

All this seems to contrast unfortunately with, say, Elsevier’s policies, which allow “the right to post a pre-print version of the journal article on Internet web sites including electronic pre-print servers, and to retain indefinitely such version on such servers or sites”.

As for the original question of ‘paying for open access’, there are a number of publishers that allow authors to make their articles freely available from the moment of publication if the authors pay a fee. Some examples I know include Oxford University Press and Springer.

(Since I teach at the University of California, Springer will now give open access to any paper I publish with them — part of a deal that was struck in January 2009. But this sort of piecemeal arrangement is not really a solid way for academics to regain control over their own communication, so I still avoid publishing in Springer journals, with an exception here and there for articles written with grad students whose careers might benefit from that touch of ‘prestige’ which is supposedly the main benefit of publishing in an expensive journal.)

Posted by: John Baez on June 17, 2010 6:27 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Here is the University of California’s response to the Nature Publishing Group’s response. I’ve emphasized some passages so people who skim the material can see some important facts:

Response from the University of California to the public statement from Nature Publishing Group regarding subscription renewals at the California Digital Library

June 10, 2010

The University of California appreciates the full and detailed response provided by Nature Publishing Group (NPG) to the informational letter recently shared with the University of California Faculty. As NPG has requested, we are providing a response of our own, attempting to answer in order the points that NPG has raised.

The UC letter that has been circulated was issued not from the California Digital Library (CDL) alone, but jointly from CDL, the UC Libraries, and the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC), which is made up of Faculty representatives from each of our ten campuses. The letter was intended to be an internal informational update to alert our Faculty to the challenges surrounding the renewal of our site license with NPG for 2011. Our Faculty library committees have explicitly requested that they be consulted on major negotiations and journal cancellations. We also wanted to provide information on a separate grass-roots initiative developing among a group of senior Faculty who are concerned about the proposed price increases that NPG had presented to CDL. As this letter was issued by a large public university, we are not surprised that it made its way to the press, though that was not our intent.

To begin, CDL has a different impression of our last meeting in May to which NPG refers. While CDL had not yet proposed a counter-offer to NPG, we were led to understand quite explicitly that no counteroffer was possible, that ‘this was the price,’ and that the NPG offer had a firm deadline. NPG suggested to us several times that canceling journals was our most likely opportunity to achieve the cost controls we sought. The demeanor was markedly different from other publishers with whom we regularly conduct negotiations. As to the confidential nature of these discussions, again our communication was to our own Faculty community, with whom we have an obligation to consult in the course of internal business.

Contrary to what NPG claims in their response, the UC letter does not state, and nowhere implies, that NPG has increased its list prices by 400%. Rather, the letter states that NPG proposes to raise our site license fees by that amount. Any misrepresentation on this point is solely attributable to NPG. Whether the historical, published price increases by NPG have been reasonable—or whether they even mirror reality—is another and more debatable matter. On the first point, an increase of 7% per year translates to an increase of 40% over five years. Few, if any, library budgets have gone up at even a fraction of that amount over a comparable period (the materials budget of the UC Libraries increased by 7.46% between 2005 and 2009 and is now slated to decrease during the next few years). In other words, 7% increases compounded annually are budget busting (also note that 7% is more than three times the average US rate of inflation for the past few years).

In our most recent negotiations, nearly all publishers from whom we license content have worked with us to meet the significant budget challenges presented by the current economic downturn, significantly reducing fees in many instances. We would be acting in bad faith in our dealings with those providers if we turned around and accepted an increase of the magnitude that has been proposed by NPG. Moreover, doing so would completely negate the savings reductions achieved to date, which still fall short of cuts being absorbed by UC libraries.

On the second point, the past price increases of NPG journals at the University of California are instructive about the tactics of NPG. Between 2005 and 2009, NPG increased their licensing fees to the University by 137% (granted this included some new titles, but truthfully not enough to warrant such a dramatic price increase). Even when our license was placed on a new and, we believed, more stable footing in 2008, our fees still increased by 5%. But now, NPG claims that their proposed 400% increase is to make up for “an unsustainable discount” that they have provided UC all along. We find this to be an implausible explanation given the remarkably large sums of money others and we already pay to NPG every year. The notion that other institutions are subsidizing “our discount” is nonsensical. If anything, other institutions are simply paying too much. NPG also refers to their proposed new license fee as a 50% discount off of list price, but this is misleading and has been taken out of context. First of all, NPG is free to set list price at any amount they want, so in many ways this is a meaningless number. Most academic institutions receive substantial discounts off of list price. Historical subscription patterns in the context of long-standing journal agreements tend to be the main determinants of price (as indeed they were for our original NPG agreement). But we recognize that NPG has a different perspective on this issue and welcome their commitment to authentic discussions.

The question of how to determine value is also a complex matter. Indeed, the UC Libraries have devoted significant resources to studying this issue. While we agree that NPG publishes very high quality content, so do many other publishers, at more reasonable costs. The Fact Sheet appended to our Faculty letter indicates that the current average price of NPG journals at UC is appropriately aligned with other content licensed at the University, whereas the new proposal from NPG would position its journals as significant outliers. While there is no question that cost per use for NPG journals at UC is low, the characteristics of these journals must also be taken into account to ensure that like is being compared with like. As many observers and analysts have noted (including those in Nature such as Andew Odlyzko, http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/accessdebate/7.html), the marginal cost to a publisher of increased online usage is very low in comparison to first-copy costs. There are many extrinsic factors that drive usage in today’s digital environment, most of which bear little relation to a publisher’s internal cost structure. We look forward to working with NPG to determine a fair assessment of value as we continue discussions.

We appreciate that NPG recognizes that the scientific community is both its core audience and its major stakeholder. And we agree that NPG has been a leader in adopting the “green” publishing policies that many scholars seek today and commend them for these forward-looking perspectives. With respect to our attempt to assign a monetary value to the contributions of UC researchers to the NPG enterprise, we would be happy to share with NPG how we arrived at this estimate and to learn if NPG has a different way of calculating such figures. We note here only that our estimate made no attempt to factor in the value of peer review, editorial or advisory board service by UC Faculty, or the contribution value of UC articles in other NPG journals besides Nature itself. In fact, we would welcome more transparent means of determining what UC Faculty contribute and how this virtually free labor gets factored into revenue calculations or potentially could be used to offset subscription rates.

We have also frequently sought a dialogue with publishers about new business models needed to sustain high quality online publication. In an earlier era, journals were supported by more diversified sources of revenue, such as page charges, personal subscriptions, advertising, and the like. In today’s site license environment, a significantly higher percentage of a publisher’s revenue now depends on institutional library budgets. Using grant funds to support article processing charges for open access publication is intended in part to address this, as is the suggestion that journals with extremely high rejection rates consider charging submission fees. Unfortunately, we have found publishers largely unwilling to engage with libraries or authors on these issues despite repeated attempts on our part to enter into such conversations. UC would welcome an opportunity to have such conversations with NPG.

In summary, the CDL, UCOLASC, and UC Libraries categorically reject the notion that we have resorted to misinformation or distortion of any sort, as well as any suggestion that we sought to engender premature publicity. We included accurate information, not misinformation, in an internal communication intended for our Faculty. As the UC Libraries contemplate budget reductions of 20% or more over the next two years on top of reductions already taken in 2010, we are faced with difficult choices and seek publisher partners who are willing to work with us over the long-term. That being said, we want to emphasize that the UC letter represents the deliberations of many Faculty committees and librarians across the UC System who unanimously felt that UC needed to take a stand on this issue as a matter of principle and not merely as a budgetary consideration. Plainly put, UC Faculty do not think that their libraries should have to pay exorbitant and unreasonable fees to get access to their own work. A key concept in our letter is that UC ultimately wants to reach a “sustainable and mutually rewarding relationship with NPG” but Faculty and librarians feel that this cannot be achieved with the present proposal from NPG. Thus, we stand by our letter and look forward to a productive dialogue with NPG on these issues.

Sincerely,

Laine Farley

Richard Schneider

Brian E. C. Schottlaender

Posted by: John Baez on June 15, 2010 7:17 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Watching from the sidelines (I’m neither affiliated with an academic institution nor with any journal, but certainly biased nevertheless):

Reputation based on providing useful information only is earned quickly these days thanks to the internet, any business models based on that alone are under severe attack. Currently this is a problem for all newspapers around the world, and many of them add much to the content they provide by employing, for example, foreign language correspondence clerks.

Do science journals add anything useful to the content they publish besides their reputation? If not, their days are over, definitly over, and they are not going to come back.

Everybody can found an online newspaper today. But I doubt that, for example, anybody could found a company that builds cars today. I doubt there is anyone on the world who can get enough cash and know-how and employees and … whatsoever … and has the vision and the endurance to suffer this long, and keep all that together for at least two years (usually it takes five years to develop a new model, I’m being optimistic here). Do you see the difference?

Posted by: Tim van Beek on June 17, 2010 7:39 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Tim van Beek wrote:

Do science journals add anything useful to the content they publish besides their reputation? If not, their days are over, definitely over, and they are not going to come back.

Simplifying a bit, the basic business model is this:

  • Scientific journals try to select good papers and publish those, and gain prestige in proportion to how well they do.
  • Universities pay for journals in proportion to how prestigious they are. They hire and promote professors in promotion to the number of papers they publish, weighted by the prestige of the journal in which the papers appear.
  • Professors try to publish as many papers as they can, counting the papers in a way that’s weighted by the prestige of the journal in which they appear.

Note that transmission of information by publishing papers in journals is only a minor aspect of this feedback loop — except insofar as publishers like Nature Publishing Group put an embargo on distributing this information through other channels.

What really matters is transmission of the information about which papers are good. That’s what ‘prestige’ does. The ranking of journals by prestige helps professors and news media decided which papers to pay attention to, and they help universities decide which professors to hire and promote.

If the professors got good enough at making their papers available without using journals (e.g. on databases like the arXiv), professors and universities would not need to subscribe to the journals! They would, however, still want to know which papers were published in which journals. For this, a bibliographical database would suffice.

And if they could also switch to another method of assessing prestige, professors and universities would hardly need journals at all.

The main roadblock is that you can’t suddenly start assessing prestige in a new way: most people won’t believe in the new method until most other people do. But if we come up with cheaper methods of assessing prestige, and these methods gradually catch on, eventually the expensive journals will be driven to extinction.

Posted by: John Baez on June 17, 2010 8:25 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

I intend no irony, nor endorsement of Springer, by citing this as one of the better survey papers that I know on the topic in which your “business model” of scientific publishing may be evaluated.

The ‘science-as-market’ analogy: a constitutional economics perspective

Viktor J. Vanberg1 Contact Information
(1) Walter Eucken Institut, University of Freiburg, Freiburg i.Br., Germany

Contact Information Viktor J. Vanberg
Email: vvanberg@vwl.uni-freiburg.de

Published online: 18 October 2008

Abstract The ‘science-as-market’ analogy has been used in support of the notion that in science just as in markets competition works as an effective instrument for reconciling the self-interested ambitions of individual agents with the social function that science and markets are supposed to serve. This paper examines the analogy from a constitutional economics perspective, drawing attention to the role that the rules of the constitution of the ‘game of science’ as well as the ‘market game’ play in conditioning the ways in which competition works in the two realms.

Posted by: Jonathan Vos Post on June 18, 2010 7:25 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

What about peer review? If all that was accomplished by publishing a paper in a journal were the transmission of prestige, then that could certainly be accomplished in some other way. But I think before journals can be discarded completely we will also have to find some other reliable and trustworthy system to make sure that peer review happens. (I would hope that we could even improve on the current system, which has many flaws, but even in its flawed state it is better than nothing.) Certainly, since reviewers are usually academics donating their time anyway, there’s no particular reason that journals need to play a role in this process, but I’m just saying that there’s slightly more to it than prestige.

Posted by: Mike Shulman on June 19, 2010 6:08 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Something like MO might work. The quality of a review depends on the “reputation” of the reviewer, which in turn depends on peer ranking/voting etc.

A paper that has not been reviewed by reviewers with a good enough reputation would itself not be viewed as highly.

Or something…

Posted by: Eric on June 19, 2010 6:28 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Sour grapes, perhaps, but I’ve gotten a little soured on this business of reputation points at MO: they are to be taken with a very large grain of salt. Some quick two-line responses that are easy to think of get upvoted 35 times; others that required a lot of thought and consideration sometimes get only 2 votes. It makes me think that answers which “instantly gratify” (are instantly apprehended) are the ones which especially excite the pushing of the up-button.

The upvoting of questions follows a similar logic. I see many, many questions whose answers are quite well known (easily findable on Wikipedia) which get upvoted a bunch because they too are easily apprehended. I find the business rather odd.

(This is not to say that the people with reputations in the tens of thousands don’t deserve it! There is a lot of insight on display in those cases. But it’s also possible to rack up thousands of points simply by yacking your head off. So I’m a little skeptical of this reputation business.)

Posted by: Todd Trimble on June 19, 2010 2:11 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

I can’t imagine such issues arising in a site dedicated to peer review whose membership is presumably limited to graduate students and professors.

Posted by: Eric on June 19, 2010 2:41 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

But aren’t most of the “consumers” at MO already math grad students and faculty?

With instant voting behind a computer screen a button-push away, open to any academic regardless of expertise, I easily imagine such issues arising.

Posted by: Todd Trimble on June 19, 2010 2:56 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Then the only thing we can conclude is there is no hope for humanity :)

Posted by: Eric on June 19, 2010 3:39 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

The current system of refereeing papers has plenty of its own problems: for example, referees are much more likely to accept papers written by their friends. In the humanities, the name of a paper’s author is hidden from the referee. I have trouble believing this works very well… but in the sciences, we don’t even bother. So the first thing you see upon refereeing a paper is who wrote it, where they work, and so on.

There are lots of tales one could tell. But unlike this ‘reputation points’ business at MathOverflow, the business of refereeing is kept invisible from the people who finally read the paper. As Otto von Bismarck noted:

Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.

Posted by: John Baez on June 19, 2010 5:20 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

I have nothing to say to that, because I agree with all of it! :-)

Posted by: Todd Trimble on June 19, 2010 6:17 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

No wonder people on the internet seem so argumentative… when they agree, they usually just nod.

Posted by: John Baez on June 19, 2010 6:57 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

In computer science, for conference papers (which are I gather more important careerwise than they are in mathematics) the refereeing is done anonymously. However, as you suggest it’s pretty difficult to completely avoid seeing identifying information: I’ve got a paper in my hand that’s doing some semi-experimental machine learning work and their dataset comes from the city around institute X, where can it have come from?

To be honest though, I think Todd’s original issue with MO reputation is the big problem. I can only think of one case when ill-intent may have entered reviewing, whilst the frequent problem is reviewers who, IMO, hadn’t spent enough time reading and considering the material before coming to and writing down a verdict. I half think that things might be better if reviewers could charge somebody for “n quarter-of-an-hour spent reviewing paper X” since I think the majority of people would be relatively honest, and you could maybe derive some additional weighting from that.

Posted by: bane on June 19, 2010 9:57 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

reputation

Sour grapes, perhaps, but I’ve gotten a little soured on this business of reputation points at MO: they are to be taken with a very large grain of salt.

As so many numbers.

But the real purpose of sticking points and badges to a person is not so much to signify to others the achievements of that person (others will form an opinion anyway) but to grab that person by his ego and make him want to get more. Sticking badges to persons is a well-known motivational boost in other areas of life, too. For better or worse. Another question is if this is desirable in academia.

So I’m a little skeptical of this reputation business.

+1. (As they say on MO ;-)

Posted by: Urs Schreiber on June 21, 2010 1:38 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: reputation

Pretty much nailed it on the head there, Urs.

On the other hand, a +1 from you means something! :-)

Posted by: Todd Trimble on June 21, 2010 3:43 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Perhaps I’ll sound too defensive saying this, but the reputations on MO were never meant to be definitive quality signals. They’re more markers of who is an active participant of the site, and are largely more purposes of community privileges than anything else.

I agree that using anything like that for purposes of professional evaluation would be slightly crazy. You would at least need something like PageRank, where each vote dilutes the power of all the others, and people with more votes have more influence.

Posted by: Ben Webster on July 4, 2010 9:57 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Ben, you don’t sound at all defensive to me – what you just said is the plain truth of the matter. The points business is nothing to worry about, and I was probably writing while PO’ed about some response I got on MO. :-)

I think my biggest worry is not to waste too much time there! It can be terribly seductive…

Posted by: Todd Trimble on July 4, 2010 11:36 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

MO would probably have worked better if by principle completely anonymized and with just some summary feedback evaluation for each user. Such anonymization would perhaps have made more of the top mathematicians participating and would have made MO more interesting.

Posted by: Thomas on July 7, 2010 10:07 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Worked better for *whom*?

Posted by: Yemon Choi on July 8, 2010 7:58 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Better for those interested in receiving infos on current developments, my impression was that questions on such issues cause only very few or no answers.

At this occasion here some very interesting new video lectures from Suslin’s birthday conference, here the conference volume.

Posted by: Thomas on July 8, 2010 12:11 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Mike wrote:

What about peer review? If all that was accomplished by publishing a paper in a journal were the transmission of prestige, then that could certainly be accomplished in some other way.

Of course peer review — or at least the appearance of peer review — is crucial to prestige in the current system. And that’s basically good, even though peer review is a lot less thorough than people like to pretend.

There are lots of imaginable systems. For example: universities could run ‘journals’ that would simply point at certain papers on the arXiv (and similar databases) and certify these papers as being good. How much would it cost for universities to pay academics to referee papers for these journals? Maybe they could ‘pay’ them by giving them service credit that they’d need to collect for promotions.

But I imagine we’ll take a few more decades to blunder our way to a new system. Right now the old system is slowly collapsing as the big publishers keep jacking up their prices, university libraries run out of money and cancel journal subscriptions, and professors get more and more papers from free online sources. But people are still clinging to the old system, because it still sort of works, and has a lot of interconnected parts, which makes it hard to change.

Right now the librarians at UCR are asking if we’ll let them cancel the following Springer journals:

Algorithmica

Annals of the Institute of Statistical Mathematics

Algebra Universalis

They’re also wondering if we’ll let them cancel the following journals, which were only used a few times in 2009:

Annals of Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence

Order

Analysis Mathematica

Russian Mathematics

Moscow University Mathematics Bulletin

Algebras and Representation Theory

Computational Mathematics and Modeling

Algebra and Logic

Geometriae Dedicatae

The Journal of Geometric A

Selecta Mathematica, New Series

Journal of Dynamics and Differential equations

Journal of Theoretical Probability

Acta Mathematicae Applicatae Sinica

Potential analysis

Monatshefte für Mathematik

Journal d’analyse Mathematique

Periodica Mathematica Hungarica

Arkiv for Matematik

Archive for Mathematical Logic

Mathematical Physics, Analysis and Geometry

And so, the old system is gradually crumbling…

Posted by: John Baez on June 19, 2010 4:56 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Many things I’m observing these days make me sad. This is yet another.

Does anybody have any good news?

Posted by: Eric Forgy on June 19, 2010 5:19 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Does anybody have any good news? We are standing in it! Right here in this blog. A few years ago it would have been impossible to ask your question and get almost instant response from all around the world.

And the accelerating collapse of the scientific journal system is just another aspect of the transcendence of the web and attendant technologies. Some of those who depend on our current system of publishing scientific knowledge must feel a bit like the medieval monks who bemoaned the obsolescence of their illuminated copies triggered by the rise of the printing press, and followed by the revolutions in literacy and education that then became possible.

But a miracle is occurring all around us! We are a part of it every day and so often can’t see the forest for the trees. But think about learning about some topic in, say, mathematics or physics from today’s text books. Many are excellent! But even so, if we can’t attend classes in universities or ask professors to explain, often the concepts as presented are very opaque indeed, and solving problems and proving theorems are always so much harder than we thought they would be. Now look at the Wikipedia, or This Week’s Finds, or the n-Category Café/nLab for example. There are thousands of outstanding presentations on all sorts of mathematics and physics. All the terms in each presentation are defined by links to other presentations. Many of the presentations have diagrams, colored pictures, motion pictures! And there are pointers to class notes, videos of lectures, technical papers and books, many of which are available online, world-wide, for free! Instantly! Twenty years ago, these riches could have cost thousands of dollars to access, and taken weeks and months of library research, tuition costs, and travel. Today, they are just a click of the soon-to-be-obsolete mouse away! The pace of research and teaching has increased by at least an order of magnitude and the cost has decreased likewise in the past few years!

Of course the Wikipedia, et al., and everything they point to are not the perfect solution. There are plenty of problems with sometimes ragged quality and uncertain expertise requirements, and it is far too easy to get lost in a labyrinth of url’s while seeking out just one more definition. And we are still struggling to free our new system implementations from the limitations of the printed page bound into books. But even though printing has been around for quite a while now and the book has pretty much achieved its potential, and even though this new internet technology is still wet behind the ears, it is nevertheless on the verge of totally revolutionizing both research and education. Plus many other things as well. As a new generation of digital-age students become the next teachers and researchers, the pace can only quicken further.

Of course most of us already know this, but since we are a part of this revolution and living in the eye of the storm, it is easy to forget sometimes.

Bottom line. We couldn’t pick a more exciting and important time in the history of science, in the history of civilization, to live in than right now! It’s a wondrous world that we’re part of!

Posted by: Charlie C on June 19, 2010 10:34 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Old systems need to crumble for new systems to be born.

As my friend Christopher Lee said: “The thing that makes things and the thing that makes things fall apart - they’re the same thing. Entropy maximization!”

There’s more always bad news than good news, because bad things can happen more quickly and on a larger scale than good things. There’s no good-news equivalent of a bomb, a riot, or an oil spill. Trees grow over years and can be chopped down in minutes. But that doesn’t mean more bad things are happening than good things! You’ll never see a headline saying:

MILLIONS MAKE INCREMENTAL PROGRESS IN ACHIEVING NOBLE GOALS

because if you did, it would have to be on the newspaper every day.

Good news? California voters passed a referendum for open primary elections, which may reduce the partisan extremism that’s been causing budget deadlocks. People in the poorest slums of Cairo are installing solar water heaters. A large expanse of Eastern Columbia was successfully reforested. Esther Duflo at the Poverty Action Lab at MIT is spearheading the use of randomized trials to scientifically evaluate social programs to reduce poverty — and now she’s put out a free online course on how to do this! Betsy Dresser is making progress on cloning endangered or extinct species.

And: scientists have recently discovered anaerobic animals — actual multicelled animals, not just single-celled organisms, that have adapted to deep ocean conditions by losing all their mitochondria and symbiotically acquiring new organelles that do the same energy-producing job without oxygen!

If these little critters could adapt and survive, surely we can too.

Posted by: John Baez on June 19, 2010 6:31 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Your links to Esther Duflo and the PAL are broken (the urls in the href= stop prematurely)

Posted by: David Roberts on June 20, 2010 1:39 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Thanks — fixed. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is pretty cool, so I urge y’all to read about it and think up more good ideas like this. A quick quote from the article I just linked to:

Among the most crucial and potentially most influential findings is that small costs and small incentives have huge effects on people’s actions, especially in preventive health. The long-standing practice has been for charities to charge small fees for items such as insecticide-treated bed nets, which prevent the spread of malaria, on the grounds that paying for something causes people to value it more. But raising the price of bed nets from zero to 60 cents reduced use by 60 percentage points in a study done in Kenya by J-PAL member Pascaline Dupas of UCLA and Harvard’s Jessica Cohen, and people who receive bed nets for free use them no differently from those who pay. A series of deworming studies by Harvard’s Michael Kremer and Berkeley’s Edward Miguel found that raising the price from free to 30 cents reduced the percentage of kids taking the drug from 75% to 19%. Other J-PAL studies showed the same dynamic in chlorinating water and HIV testing.

Together, this body of work explodes the conventional wisdom. Says Glennerster: “Charging small amounts is the exact wrong thing to do.” In fact, if anything, tiny subsidies can greatly increase uptake, as shown by Banerjee’s immunization-and-lentils study and others that demonstrate that effect in everything from picking up HIV-test results to buying fertilizer.

Now, what about the practice of letting publishers charge fees to access papers written with the help of government grants like NSF grants? Shouldn’t the government do some more studies on the impact of that, and maybe rethink it?

Posted by: John Baez on June 20, 2010 5:42 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

From “Which Poverty-Fighting Policies Work? J-PAL Has the Answer”:

That’s the beauty of the experimental method…

That’s of course true not only for poverty fighting policies, but for all.

Sigh…It should be obvious that it is a good idea to run some tests in a controlled environment before you install a policy that will influence the lives of millions of people. For example, I was always very sceptical that the German school system is effective, and I often tried to convince people that there should be some tests that evaluate different approaches to teaching, but the disinterest in doing this always exceeded my greatest expectations.

That was a couple of years before PISA told Germans that their students are able of an average performance at best (which was and is called the “PISA shock”, I am still enjoying some Schadenfreude).

But that did not result in an overall acceptance of the experimental method. Pick a member of parliament of your choice (in a country of your choice), pick e.g. a subsidy of your choice, ask “do you have any reliable data what would happen if you increase the money paid by 50% or reduce it to 50%”? Empty stares all around, I bet. (From years of discussions during my time in highschool I’d say that the answers you will get will be: “We don’t need to test that. We know that it’s working. It’s just obvious. We discussed it at length. Everyone agrees that the way we did it is the best one. Everybody does it. It works elsewhere.” etc.).

Shouldn’t the government do some more studies on the impact of that, and maybe rethink it?

I don’t think we need more studies, if no one reads these journals anymore because the content is available for free from other sources, it will be obvious that they are obsolete.

Posted by: Tim van Beek on June 20, 2010 6:47 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Tim wrote:

Sigh…It should be obvious that it is a good idea to run some tests in a controlled environment before you install a policy that will influence the lives of millions of people.

True! Excellent point! But for some reason the scientific method has been very slow to catch on in governance — perhaps because it threatens established interests.

Consider for example the new trend toward evidence-based medicine. Makes sense. But why is it only catching on now?

I don’t think we need more studies; if no one reads these journals anymore because the content is available for free from other sources, it will be obvious that they are obsolete.

I mentioned ‘studies’ partially to provide that link and partially to hook up to the theme of ‘using the scientific method when deciding government policy’. But I don’t think ‘nobody reads these journals anymore’. The journals I listed above may be dropped because of low readership at UCR — we do use the scientific method; we keep track of journal usage! But many journals are widely read, especially the most expensive ones, which are not math but rather biology, chemistry and engineering journals. So I actually think some more studies may be needed to convince the NSF (and other such bodies worldwide) that its grant money would be much more productively spent if they followed the policy of the National Institute of Health and demanded that research they fund be made freely available online.

Of course, all the studies in the world may be insufficient to overcome an expensive lobbying effort. The publishers were caught off guard by the NIH, but I hear they won’t let the NSF do anything without a big fight:

AAP Urges Collaboration to Advance Research Publications. Publishers of peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific journals recently called on the Obama Administration to adopt a collaborative approach to the development of a federal policy to expand public access to scientific information. They encouraged the Administration to avoid adopting policies that would damage the very institutions that researchers, the public and government itself rely on to peer review, publish, disseminate and preserve scientific information. Publishers are concerned that inflexible, government mandates will undermine the substantial contribution the private sector makes to science through its management of the complex process that fuels millions of peer-reviewed journal articles every year, and makes research results accessible to a global community of users. The Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the AAP and DC Principles Coalition for Free Access to Science expressed their concerns in a letter to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The letter was submitted in response to a December 9, 2009 OSTP request for comments on “Public Access Policies for Science and Technology Funding Agencies Across the Federal Government.”

AAP Contact: Allan Adler, 202/220-4544; aadler@publishers.org

Posted by: John Baez on June 20, 2010 9:36 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

For example: universities could run ‘journals’ that would simply point at certain papers on the arXiv (and similar databases) and certify these papers as being good.

There do exist “arXiv overlay journals” already, right? If we could replace all existing journals with that sort of journal, then we’d have a system that was no worse than the current one, but without the exorbitant prices of commercial journals. Then we’d just have to figure out how to select good people to do the reviewing and incentivize them to do it well, with some system like you suggest.

That would also solve the ever-so-annoying problem of journals insisting that you use their LaTeX style file, which always ends up requiring lots of little modifications to a paper to make it compile.

Posted by: Mike Shulman on June 20, 2010 4:39 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Mike wrote:

There do exist “arXiv overlay journals” already, right?

I’m having trouble spotting any. More common are journals that accept submissions from the arXiv, like the prestigious Annals of Mathematics.

I know the RIOJA project developed software to run overlay journals. But who is using it?

Posted by: John Baez on June 20, 2010 5:54 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

I’m not entirely sure what people mean by “arXiv overlay journals”, but some journals not only accept submissions from the arXiv but also post the published version (including the journal’s page numbering, etc.) on the arXiv. IIRC, these journals include Annals of Math, as well as all the journals of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (Annals of Probability, etc.).

Posted by: Mark Meckes on June 21, 2010 1:38 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Mark wrote:

IIRC, these journals include Annals of Math

I had thought they did that, but when I went to their website and tried to look at a paper, it said I didn’t have a subscription. I guess this isn’t incompatible with them doing what you said, but it would be kinda odd.

Posted by: John Baez on June 21, 2010 1:46 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

…it said I didn’t have a subscription…

It seems that they check your IP-address and don’t redirect you to some kind of login screen if that fails. That means you have to use some access via the UCR net…

But it would seem that the paper is indeed on the arXiv, here.

Posted by: Tim van Beek on June 21, 2010 9:30 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

The paper John tried to look at is on the arXiv as Tim says, but not in the final published form. Checking at random, this paper and this paper published in Annals of Math appear not to be on the arXiv at all. So they don’t seem to be doing things the way I thought. This paper (published in Annals of Math in 1999) is an example of what I thought they were doing.

On the other hand, I know that the Annals of Probability and its sister journals are currently posting all their published papers to the arXiv, since I get the math.PR abstracts emailed to me.

Posted by: Mark Meckes on June 21, 2010 3:14 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

According to this page at the UC Davis front for the arxiv there are 4 journals that overlay the arxiv:

  • Adv. Theor. Math. Phys.

  • Algebraic and Geometric Topology

  • Geometry and Topology

and

  • Journal of Nonlinear Mathematical Physics

Other journals that overlays the arxiv are SIGMA and Institute of Mathematical statistics journals, so the info on that front page is incomplete and badly out of date. Annals of Math had been an arxiv overlay journal at some point of its life. The announcements of this move are still proudly preserved on the web. As John discovered, this is no longer true. Somebody may want to put together an up-to-date overlay journal wiki.

Posted by: Eugene Lerman on June 21, 2010 4:33 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

According to this page at the UC Davis front for the arxiv there are 4 journals that overlay the arxiv:

When I tried from home last night, I could only get content from Adv. Theor. Math. Phys. At the office, I can tap into MIT’s wireless network and get myself an 18. IP address, so I can read Algebraic and Geometric Topology and Geometry and Topology, but not the J. Nonlin. Math. Phys. Picking a random recent article from the last journal, I find I can Google-Scholar my way to an arXiv preprint, but the journal’s own website doesn’t point to that preprint anywhere.

There’s a wide gulf between “maybe we’ll put (some of) our papers on the arXiv” and really being an overlay, that is, a thin layer of infrastructure on top of the arXiv itself.

Somebody may want to put together an up-to-date overlay journal wiki.

If all we want is a list of arXiv overlay journals, a blog post (updated as new information arises) might be a simpler solution. We tried to make a go at a full-blown wiki, back in 2007; it kind of stalled, because no one could commit enough time to do the technical work necessary and wrangle the content. I did just update the arXiv overlay journal page, since it’s top of the Google hit parade when one searches for the subject.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on June 21, 2010 5:40 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Blake wrote:

We tried to make a go at a full-blown wiki, back in 2007; it kind of stalled, because no one could commit enough time to do the technical work necessary and wrangle the content. I did just update the arXiv overlay journal page, since it’s top of the Google hit parade when one searches for the subject.

It makes me sad to see this wiki so visibly defunct. Is there a way I could have the ability to keep making changes? I’m too erratic in my interests to work on it full-time, but—as you can see here—I occasionally get hit with a wave of righteous furor concerning journals, and then I want to enter the information I find into this wiki!

Posted by: John Baez on June 21, 2010 6:46 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

It makes me sad to see this wiki so visibly defunct.

Me, too — it was, and still is, a pretty good idea. If only I could get paid to work on it …

Is there a way I could have the ability to keep making changes?

I switched off new account creation because the only beings registering for accounts were spambots, but the account you used before should still work. E-mail me if you need your password reset or something like that.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on June 21, 2010 10:07 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Blake wrote:

I switched off new account creation because the only beings registering for accounts were spambots, but the account you used before should still work.

Okay, it does — I must admit I’d never worked on Eureka after you instituted passwords.

So all the ‘administrators’ can still work on this wiki, whoever they were? (I can guess.) But not the ‘ordinary folks’?

Posted by: John Baez on June 22, 2010 11:10 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Eureka account access

So all the ‘administrators’ can still work on this wiki, whoever they were? (I can guess.) But not the ‘ordinary folks’?

Looking again at the configuration code, I found that an account doesn’t have to be in the “administrators” group to be able to edit pages; just having an account will do for that. (Moving a page still requires administrator privilege.) I’ve modified the wiki front page to reflect this.

Posted by: Blake Stacey on June 23, 2010 3:49 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

Posted by: Bas Spitters on June 21, 2010 8:34 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Boycotting the Nature Publishing Group

I guess I should have said “there exists the technology to have arXiv overlay journals.” (-:O

Posted by: Mike Shulman on June 21, 2010 1:04 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

new ways of publication and peer review

At the conference Communication Formats and their Dynamics in Digital Science Communication quite interesting was Ulrich Pöschl’s discussion of the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

This is an open-access online journal whose peer review is by choice of the referee non-anonymous and which is supplemented by general public online discussion.

Pöschl said that they have hade very good experiences with this. Non-anonymous referee reports tend to have very high quality. Even followup research papers grew out of these and their public discussion.

Posted by: Urs Schreiber on June 20, 2010 9:09 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: new ways of publication and peer review

Great! So, contrary to Otto von Bismarck’s belief, perhaps sausages will be better if the public is allowed to watch them being made.

Posted by: John Baez on June 20, 2010 10:05 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: new ways of publication and peer review

One really interesting idea I heard was to create laws with test cases; the test cases would be sent to the judicial arm to see how they would rule on the cases given the text of the new law; if it did not match the intent of the legislators, it would go back for revision.

Posted by: Mike Stay on June 21, 2010 7:01 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: new ways of publication and peer review

Would the sausages be better if the public is allowed to yell at (or throw stones at) the people making them?

Sorry to sound a cynical note, but I feel that open public discussion should come after, not before publication, because open public discussions often tend to test the limits of civility.

Posted by: Amitabha on July 15, 2010 7:54 AM | Permalink | Reply to this
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