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Chris Surridge
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Clearly we're in the midst of change and transformation within the science publishing domain and with regard to how scientific information is communicated to the public. Useful and constructive conversation about what is needed and how to get there is always welcome. However, this over-the-top piece takes the same 4-5 criticisms that have been leveled (fair enough) for years now and simply jumps the shark with the Potter-esque descriptions of evil.

You'll notice that Nature Publishing Group isn't mentioned in the article and perhaps for good reason. NPG only represents ~1% of the literature, while Elsevier and a couple others represent a large portion of academic publishing, as pointed out by the article. I play no role in the decisions to modernize, adapt or listen to the outcry from the public and from the scientists, so I have been watching NPG's moves with the rest of you. And there are many things being done.

1. With regards to the high prices of individual articles, Nature has an iPhone/iPad app that is being used to better serve the consumer with content. Along those lines, alternative payment structures are being explored and implemented to match the demand and desire to consume content on these devices at a reasonable cost. Concepts such as tiered pricing and articles with access time limitations at lower costs make use of the technology that's available and may find a price point for most people. This article's author could have made one phone call to learn about these strategies, if he so desired. He didn't, apparently.

2. The author states that journals retain perpetual copyright of a scientist's work. At NPG, authors grant an exclusive license to commercially publish and the author retains copyright.

3. The discussion regarding the library and institutional charges feel like some kind of diversion. It is vaguely written to confuse and thus the less-savvy reader could walk away from the article believing that it costs thousands of dollars to an individual for a subscription. Rather, it can be as low as <$100 (for students), just like so many other mass-media publications. With regards to the actual charges for institutions, yeah, that's a lot of money, but a lot of people use that one subscription through a library. I'd love to see the numbers used by the author to confirm his point that high prices charged by publishing houses are directly leading to rising tuition costs at the university (I assume that is what he means when he claims universities are passing these costs on to students. He's not that clear.)

4. The discussion that the public pays for the research is way more complicated than it is described in the article. Funding for different fields vary wildly; these days in the USA, much of the autism work is funded by private foundations and in Alzheimer's disease research, it is difficult NOT to find a researcher who has received money from companies. It is indeed important for publicly-funded research to be back in the hands of the public, which is why NPG unilaterally deposits publications into public depositories on behalf of the authors after six months. Did I mention that the NIH mandate is 12 months?
[2:05 ADDITION: Also, with governments beginning to de-fund science and consistently failing to raise the investment in science, perhaps relying on public money isn't the best strategy anyway...]

5. Papers are NOT locked into one place. It seems the author hasn't heard yet that PLoS ONE has rapidly become the largest journal in the world, publishing 30,000 papers a year at the moment and still growing (I think...) So his dismissal of open access journals seems silly at best and conveniently deceptive at worst. Oh and did I mention that NPG offers 37 titles with at least an open-access option, 6 fully OA? That's out of a total of 101 NPG journals. In Nature Communications , out of 150 papers published in 2010, 40% opted for OA.

6. Through participation in programs like AGORA, HINARI and OARE, NPG has made thousands of articles available to the developing world and there are regular protocols in place to waive fees for those who can't pay as needed.

7. Through the Open Archives Initiative, the full-text of Nature papers is indexed and searchable by Google.

There's a long way to go and this list only scratches the surface of what many want in terms of changes to science publishing, but to write an article like this, encouraging countries to wage war on their evil corporate citizens involved in the racketeering adventure of academic publishing seems a bit over-the-top. We'll get where the science community needs to be because frankly, it is inevitable and the future. Luckily, NPG has been thinking a lot about the future for a long time.

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Interesting article: . Quote from a Deutsche Bank report: "We believe the publisher adds relatively little value to the publishing process … if the process really were as complex, costly and value-added as the publishers protest that it is, 40% margins wouldn't be available."

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For a more careful look at the financing of scientific publishing than we got from Monbiot, Richard Poynder is your man. This introduction to this interview with Robert Kiley is nicely detailed. One point that needs to be taken away is that there is little sign of Open Access reducing the cost of scientific publishing. Indeed it seems to be slightly increasing it with the rise of the Hybrid OA options that most publishers now offer. This might be because we are in a transition period or it may be that OA is a less disruptive model than its champions (which I guess included me) originally thought.

It is all very well talking about monopolies and rentier tactics but the simple question that ever scientist needs to ask about their publishing behaviour is: how much does it cost and is what I get worth the price.

It is also worth mentioning that there are radical alternatives if you don't think conventional journals are providing value for money. Get together with a few like minded individuals, down load the Open Journal System software ( and you can have your own journal up and running by the end of the week.

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This annoyed me when I saw it too.

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The things my 'friends' find on the internet: "Prosodic Structure and Expletive Infixation". Fan-flippin-tastic.

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Once again Arthur C. Clarke appears to have invented everything and the World is only just catching up!
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