Are publishers the enemies of science?
A provocative but interesting manifesto in The Guardian:
Publishers’ “rhetoric has traditionally been of partnering with scientists, but the truth is that for some time now scientific publishers have been anti-science and anti-publication. The Research Works Act, introduced in the US Congress on 16 December, amounts to a declaration of war by the publishers. (…)
All of this is great for the progress of science, which has always been based on the free flow of ideas, the sharing of data, and standing on the shoulders of giants
But what’s good for science isn’t necessarily good for science publishers, whose interests have drifted far out of alignment with ours. Under the old model, publishers become the owners of the papers they publish, holding the copyright and selling copies around the world – a useful service in pre-internet days. But now that it’s a trivial undertaking to make a paper globally available, there is no reason why scientists need yield copyright to publishers. (…)
Open-access publishers such as the Public Library of Science are able to make a modest profit on a publication fee of $1,350 (£880). But traditional publishers have become used to making much more than this, and so resist the inevitable conversion to open access.
t’s hardly surprising that publishers would fight dirty to hang on to a business model where scientists do research that is largely publicly funded, and write manuscripts and prepare figures at no cost to the journal; other scientists perform peer-review for free; and other scientists handle the editorial tasks for free or for token stipends. The result of all this free and far-below-minimum-wage professional work is journal articles in which the publisher, which has done almost nothing, owns the copyright and is able to sell copies back to libraries at monopolistic costs, and to individuals at $30 or more per view.
What is surprising is how complicit scientists are in perpetuating this feudal system (…)
The bottom line for scientists is that many publishers have now made themselves our enemies instead of the allies they once were. Elsevier’s business does not make money by publishing our work, but by doing the exact opposite: restricting access to it. We must not be complicit in their newest attempt to cripple the progress of science”.
Dr Mike Taylor. Academic publishers have become the enemies of science. The Guardian, Online, the 16th of January 2012.