[Marxism] on the publishing of scientific papers

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Thu Apr 21 14:44:05 MDT 2005

from MIT's Technology Review, and interview with Michael Eisen, one of 
the founders of the Public Library of Science (PLoS), lets see if they 
sue me for publicly spreading the word.

and whats wrong with socialized publishing anyway???

les schaffer

====full article, i think you need a subscription to get in =====

Science Wants to Be Free
By Spencer Reiss May 2005

Publicly funded research belongs in the public domain, says Michael 
Eisen, a computational biologist at Lawrence Berkeley National 
Labo­ratory. Along with Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown and Nobel 
Prize–winning oncologist Harold Varmus, Eisen founded the Public Library 
of Science, which is launching three new “open access” scientific 
journals this year. The publishers of paid-subscription journals such as 
Science, Nature, and Cell aren’t laughing.

What’s the state of open-access publishing today?
Depending on who’s counting, 95 percent of research papers in the life 
sciences are still locked up by the big commercial publishers—Elsevier, 
Springer, and the rest. It’s ludicrous at a time when the Internet has 
pushed the actual cost of distributing a research paper close to zero.

But it’s not as if a scientist who really needs a paper can’t find it. 
Isn’t that why research libraries pay for subscriptions?
For starters, if research were freely available, people would build 
better tools to sift through and dig things out. And what if you’re Joe 
Guy who’s just been diagnosed with cancer? It’s ridiculous that you 
can’t read papers that your tax dollars have paid for that might be 
pertinent to your condition. And often your doctor can’t either—we won’t 
even mention the doctor in Uganda. In the first issue of the 
Lancet—Elsevier’s prime medical journal—there was an editorial stating 
that the aim of the publication was to communicate the findings of 
science to the widest possible audience. Somewhere along the line, they 
became a business and lost touch with why they exist.

The latest policy from the National Institutes of Health “asks” grant 
recipients to submit their results for public access within a year of 
publication but doesn’t require it. That’s a lot less than some ­people 
were hoping for; what happened?
The forces of darkness surprised us.

“Forces of darkness”?
Scientific publishing is a $10 billion global business, growing 10 
percent a year. They’re not going to let go without a fight. The 
Association of American Publishers has hired [former congressperson] Pat 
Schroeder as its president and chief lobbyist—the queen of darkness. 
They went up to Capitol Hill and said we were socializing scientific 
publishing. NIH knows where its purse strings are.

Any merit to their argument?
It’s ludicrous. What we have now is an egregiously subsidized 
industry—they’re given content for free and then paid tremendous amounts 
of money to process and distribute it. Peer reviewers mostly aren’t 
compensated. In a lot of fields, even the people who oversee the 
peer-review process are volunteers. And of course, the research that 
went into the papers is already paid for. And then the publishers have 
the gall to insist that they own a copyright on the results.

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