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UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles

Posted by Amir C. Akhavan  
UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 11:51AM
avatar Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 12:28PM
I don't like the way they're doing it. Instead of giving up to £50 million to science publishing companies they should invest in a ground-up new system for free distribution of scientific information.

It's not like it's even hard to do...

Jolyon
avatar Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 12:32PM
They should do this:

1. Pass a law that any publically funded research must be published for free online. It can in addition be given to a paid journal, but not exclusively.

2. Build a system that allows UK Science to publish papers online (who wants printed journals any more), with full peer review etc.

3. Instead of money going to publishers and their shareholders, use some of this £50 million to pay directly back to reviewers for their tine.

Commercial scientific journals are dinosaurs, we need an asteroid.
Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 01:08PM
Yes, I agree, and yes, money is still used inefficiently (publishers are involved in the talks, after all grinning smiley ).
But I am happy that they start to realize that something is wrong with the current system.
Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 01:11PM
Jolyon,

To me, as a Canadian, the grass is greener in UK, 'cause at least, your scientists have the freedom to publish !

You spoke of dinosaurs, so... have a look at what OUR government does to Science :

[www.vancouversun.com]

Hope for you that reading about the hardships of others will be of some comfort !
Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 01:12PM
Oups...

Sorry, should have written Amir and Jolyon !

My mistake... sad smiley
avatar Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 02:29PM
I think it's a complex issue and one incapable of solution/ improvement by any single initiative. Indeed, some equally valid concerns pull in opposed directions.

It seems to me a fair and underlying principle that those who have paid for the research (in this particular, the UK taxpayer) should benefit the most from it. The idea that this benefit is best reaped by open publication via the net is entirely unclear and (IMO) probably more wrong than right. The profits of paper publishing houses is but a trivial side-issue it seems to me, in comparison to the financial rewards to garnered from the application of research.

The question then becomes one of what range of measures are required - in a world still run as separate sovereign states with competitive as well as cooperative interests to protect and prosper the several national commonwealth that has been invested in research. This relates directly to what may be (and when it may be) put in the public domain rather then to the means of dissemination and the matter of charges for access. I think that the Canadian example raised is most likely to concern the what/whether/when of publication rather than the 'how'.

In consideration only of the 'how' of publication, I'd agree that the day of high priced (at least high priced to the man in the street) publication of publicly funded research is largely over and that that most such publishers willl have to seek new employment for their talents within a decade from now. The is no respectable argument for the continuation of the present system, though its birth in the Age of Enlightenment was a boon. Only the recent ubiquitous access to fast (and cheap) data transfer and storage has caused what has worked well for 300 years to irritate, pinch and chafe.

But there are no free lunches - ever. The setting up and running of means to receive, store and forward publicly-funded information on a massive scale - and with a first class search engine to boot - will cost a substantial amount of money. I see no reason why this cost should be yet another charge on the British taxpayer in general. Rather, the system should be self-funding to the greatest extent. This should mean pay-as-you-go access - and one returns to something that will look remarkably like one of the existing electronic publishing houses winking smiley Albeit, there *might* be some reduction in the scale of charges winking smiley
Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 04:08PM
I agree onehundred percent with Jolyon on this, and yes it is an utter waste of money when it can be given to reveiwers!
avatar Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 04:32PM
    
Just to add to Jean-Yves comments, I think it is going to get even worse and I think our scientists think so too...they are taking to the streets to protest "the death of evidence"
[www.cbc.ca]
avatar Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 05:32PM
    
The Harper government in Canada has all the answers, so they don't need science. The problem is that science contradicts Harper's ideology and in Harperland that is just so much the worse for science. Harper is a control freak and so the problem is simply solved by muzzling the scientists and cutting their funding. If I went backpacking these days I'm not sure what flag I'd sew on the backpack. Being from Harperland has become an embarrassment sad smiley

I'm really surprised that this has moved ahead relatively quickly. Jolyon is right, but nothing will happen without greasing the publishers who make money by selling tax supported research to tax supported individuals, libraries and institutions. Paying the peer reviewers would be a nice touch.
Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 06:07PM
    
I was at the science protest on the Hill, expressing my discontent with 2000 others (and handing out fossils/minerals). It was excellent. Rob: Perhaps sew the Canadian flag, but upside down?

I also completely agree with Jolyon - public research should be made public via a public platform, not private (only makes sense!). Science literacy is too low, and lack of access (unless you want to shell out $40 per article) for the general population doesn't help.
Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 17, 2012 08:39PM
Unfortunately, many of the control freeks that have power over our income and taxes are not what you and I might consider wize men. Foolish to begin with or corrupted by their power, their main goal eventually becomes the perpetuation of their jobs and pensions. Often logic and reason take a back seat. Although we buy the vehicle and fuel, we are seen as annoying back seat drivers. Like the crazy driving instructions we sometimes get from an internet mapper, they apply a limited view to the world. One can hope the bad world economy and the protests of wizer folks(the taxpayers who should be the real drivers) will see that these Bozos are bannished to the circus where they can drive toy cars in circles.
avatar Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 18, 2012 02:33PM
Well, one notes that there are no other suggestions as to how this very large 'free' resource should be funded. Or is there an inference that all UK tax payers must be required to fund the transfer of information not only to themselves but to a much larger world audience that:
1. Does not pay UK taxes and has no stake in costs of creating the information
2. Makes no reciprocal arrangement for 'free' information from within their tax areas to reach UK taxpayers.

There is a second issue also. Where is the strength in any case for unlimited 'free'( = state) provision of the best food for the mind that does not apply with greater force to the free provision to all of the best quality nourishment for the body? We *all* have bodies that require nourishment or else the mind dies along with the body. But less that 10% of the population (arguably, less than 1%) have minds fit enough and well-prepared enough to receive nourishment from access to scientific research papers - free or otherwise. That a quite disproportionately large percentage of these gather in public discussion groups such as this only serves to skew the public debate smiling smiley

*Someone* has to pay. The fundamental question remains, who should pay and why.

In the UK, we have a largely free education system through the primary and secondary levels for all and with subsidised and selective tertiary education made available only to some. Of these, some of the the very brightest will continue in research for years beyond and it is mainly from these very few that publicly funded scientific research papers come. It seems to me that there is a largely self-evident case for free access for all within the state's education system, be it as student, faculty member or state-subsidised researcher. Equally there is a self-evident case that those outside of the UK state education and research system (and that includes the likes of me and most of thee, I'll guess) should pay the full economic cost of access to such information on a pay-as-you-go basis. And no, I don't like paying any more than you - but it's fair on all other UK tax payers that I should.
Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 18, 2012 02:54PM
We're not talking about paper, printing presses and postage here; but rather online information distribution, which costs only a fraction of what the old pre-internet ways cost. But we have allowed the obsolete paper publishers to reinvent themselves as middlemen between the information producers and consumers, and we let them demand that research results pass through their hands first! And to add insult to injury, instead of getting cheaper it has become more expensive to buy a research paper than it was in the old days when I could pay a few cents to photocopy it at the university library. Somebody is laughing all the way to the bank.
Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 18, 2012 03:22PM
Related, but perhaps a little "off thread" - the US Geological Survey Library here in Reston, Virginia is a treasure trove of geologic information freely accessible to the public. However the recent conversion of current journals to digital media, and the licensing of them to USGS staff only, makes them inaccessible to us, the taxpayers who have paid for them.
avatar Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 18, 2012 06:33PM
    
Tom, The USGS is one of the few government agencies that I thought is doing a good job of sharing technical reports. Am I missing something?

Here is their publications warehouse site. You can either buy a printed version or download most reports:
[pubs.er.usgs.gov]

As an example, here is a free publication regarding the Rare Earth minerals which I am interested in.
[pubs.usgs.gov]


Jolyon, David, I do not see a link to "Free Geological Literature and Journals" on the Mindat Directory page.

Regards,
Dean Allum
avatar Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 18, 2012 07:17PM
I think that what is fundamentally needed is an easy and inexpensive system to handle micro transactions. I you want to look at a particular article on line the charge for it should be some small fraction of a dollar and you could access it and be charged for it by clicking on a link. This way the author/reviewer/web site could receive some payment for their work. It would provide greater rewards to those whose was perceived more important, useful and or entertaining. This is the way the world has always worked. Such systems are slowly developing and I would hope would be soon applied to micro transactions. There would be a lot of kinks to work out along the way but I suspect that is where we are heading.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 18, 2012 08:47PM
Yes Dean, the USGS is in the forefront in making their own publications digitally available, but I'm referring to journals they subscribe to. The library used to have a large "reading room" with score of journals from around the world, freely available for all to access. The area is now quite barren. Very dismal. I recently tried to access an article in a contemporary journal which is in their catalog, but it was not available to the public. It's only available for "staff".
And of course, unrelated, all of their over-the-counter public sales offices for maps and documents are closed also. Of course their extensive open stacks of older publications in the library remain a treasure, accessible to everyone who can pass the security checkpoint.
avatar Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 18, 2012 11:04PM
Alfredo Petrov Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> We're not talking about paper, printing presses
> and postage here; but rather online information
> distribution, which costs only a fraction of what
> the old pre-internet ways cost. But we have
> allowed the obsolete paper publishers to reinvent
> themselves as middlemen between the information
> producers and consumers, and we let them demand
> that research results pass through their hands
> first! And to add insult to injury, instead of
> getting cheaper it has become more expensive to
> buy a research paper than it was in the old days
> when I could pay a few cents to photocopy it at
> the university library. Somebody is laughing all
> the way to the bank.

It costs whatever it costs. I'm not as sanguine as you that those costs are trivial. Very few indeed have ever made a fortune out of publishing reference works, electronically or otherwise, though a some have made a decent living out of it. But whatever the costs are, kibbitzers, domestic businesses and all foreign concerns, personal, business and state, should not expect a taxpayer subsidy from another country.

We already (in the UK) have the essential principles well-established. E.g. The Land Registry now holds electronically records of almost all land ownership, buildings thereon and all legal rights, constraints and charges attaching to these. A search of the Registry, possibly with copies thereof, are an essential pre requisite to contracting to purchase real propert. Those with only a speculative interest may well also find it worth their while to conduct Registry Searches for any of a variety of reasons. Such searches are not particularly cheap, GBP 25 - 40 being about the current range of charges, per on-line search, depending on what exactly the searcher wants.

Searches of other registries of govt held information charge similarly. Births, deaths, marriages, laws, regulations, maps of the UK and much more; all are available on-line in return for payment. And so it should be. These services, meeting private and business needs not only serve the nation but subsantially meet their own running costs, with any surplus minimising the forward tax burden on those who paid to create the resources in the first place.

There really are no free lunches and we should not seek such at the expense of others.
avatar Re: UK plans to open access to publicly funded scientific articles
July 18, 2012 11:23PM
You're not in the least bit comparing like with like Owen.

Building and maintaining a land registry database is a monumental task.

Putting a bunch of PDFs online, that's not. Give me the contract, I'll do it. Trying to say downloading a PDF should, in any way, cost £20 - £40 is just way out of track with reality.

This isn't a matter of free lunches. The UK Govt is paying £50 million to publishers that it really does not need to.
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