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Why are scientists like me getting so worked up over Elsevier and other journal publishers? It must seem strange from the outside. This cartoon explains it very clearly. It's hilarious - but unfortunately, it's TRUE!!! This is why we need a revolution.

(True except for one small thing: in math and physics, Elsevier does let us put our papers on our websites and free electronic archives... though not the final version, only the near-final draft.)

Thanks to +Jordan Peacock for pointing this out!
John Baez's profile photoPatrick Lam's profile photoDaniel Lemire's profile photoMarcin “Qrczak” Kowalczyk's profile photo
That's one "advantage" of working on classified projects. Nothing ever gets published :/
i was trying to explain this to someone the other day and just couldn't get my point across, this will help significantly! Looking forward to watching this evolve.
I must be standing next to Tony Soprano

Lol, true, true.
Look up self-archiving pre-print or post-print rights here: . I am with the researchers, on the researchers' side, but let's remain objective. We can freely choose to publish solely in OA if we want to. And right now it is considered that around 90% of commercially published scholarly journals do allow self-archiving.
"I'm so angry I could throw a marshmallow"? Am I missing some pop-culture reference? :)
"good golly Miss molly!"
lol thanks +Jurate Stanaityte :)
In my defense (for not knowing this) I've read the entire "Southern Vampire Mysteries" ( ) series of books, so I've never felt the need to see the TV series - the books are fantastic, which yeah is strange I admit coming from a 38 year old engineer :)

Oh and amusing item from the article you linked - the good Doctor being interviewed talks about "representative samples of some of the things I’ve found in alligators’ stomachs" - among which are "dog tags". Somehow I thing the dog tag doesn't quite fall into the same category of things as, say, cans... probably the tag was attached to something when the alligator swallowed it! :D
My son told me in the car yesterday (he's a college student) that a professor explained to him recently that open source science is impossible. I disagreed. He screamed at me.
+Dana Blankenhorn, I had a similar experience with a biochemist I met at a party who proceeded to lecture me about it for the rest of the night.
open source No. open access Yes. There are many who pledge to attain tenure with OA publications only. Increasingly funding bodies require publications to be accessible to the public. What's even better, here and there we read about an Open Access publication getting a champion Journal Impact Factor - should become a given in the very near future.
this is really stupid!!!!
dont even understand this............
Funny thing is - this is exactly the sort of scenario why piracy exists and thrives. I laughed the day I found the full PDF of a textbook I helped write on the Internet. I'll prolly laugh just as hard when I find a recent research paper I wrote for ACM online too in PDF form.

I think the situation is dire because we have students paying $200 for a textbook that the authors wrote freely. Paying $30 for a chapter in PDF and making money hand over fist on other people's work. Journals tend to be worse in this case with that $5000 subscription fee and demanding the full ownership of the papers.

So as an academic myself, I applaud and laugh when my stuff get's pirated. Serves the greedy bastards right. Yarr! Matey!
frds in india the situation is worst....
You want to read the fine script from your publisher, put what's allowed on your own website, and make sure google scholar indexes it. Why so relatively few do this?

God I love Capitalism :)... (err-I-mean Extortion)

I know that others will disagree with my posts, but seriously... this way hysterical. Both points of view are 100% correct. If you don't publish, your job and funding will perish, but the publishers are charging ridiculously expensive fees, making it impossible.

I am just entering this phase of my career, and am really looking forward to this monumental hoop jump myself. I cannot wait for those first 100 rejection letter (WaHoo) :)
Hard to believe that the academic secular scientific community lacks the capital and entrepreneurial skills to establish a single open source publishing platform. Or even a .sci top level domain.
Colin, multiple of them exist! The problem is tying bibliometric measurements (let's call it desirability factor) to OA ecosystem. But that is changing. In so many ways!
If the problem is so bad, can't some enterprising entrepreneur start a publishing company that is more friendly to the scientific community? Publishing is only expensive because the companies say it is. There are so many magazines out there that publish garbage. Come to think of it there probably is a magazine called garbage. I would think someone willing to risk a little more money than those rags could publish a very respectable paper in short order. Seems like something +TIM OREILLY, +TED, or +Solve for X would be interested in getting involved with.
+Nicholas Elliott The business approach does work. The condition is that the government must tell researchers: "we give you $X, in exchange, make sure your results are available freely to our citizens". Then all of a sudden, you get a market going. The job of the publisher becomes "take stuff from researcher and post it online". The client of the publisher then becomes the researcher (by extension of the government). Elsevier fears this market competition. Obviously, entrepreneurs like +Tim O'Reilly could start journals (e.g., in Computer Science) under this model. There would be a clear business model: entice the researchers to publish with you using low cost and great exposure and curation. I would publish in an O'Reilly journal. Well. What I am describing is slowly happening. The downside is that if you are a researcher without a grant, well... you have to somehow put the money together to publish... but given enough competition, the costs could be quite low (while maintaining great profits through high efficiency).
It's hard for outsiders to see how hard it is to solve the journal problem.

There are lots of open-access journals that are free to read and free for the author. There are also lots of them that are free to read but the author needs to pay a fee. Why doesn't everyone switch to publishing in these? Lots of people have. But most haven't. Two reasons:

1) These journals aren't as "prestigious" as the journals owned by the evil Big Three publishers: Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley-Blackwell. In the last 30 years the Big Three bought most of the really "prestigious" journals - and a journal can't become "prestigious" overnight, so while things are changing, they're changing slowly.

Publishing in a "prestigious" journal helps you get hired, promoted, and get grants. "Prestige" is not a vague thing: it's even measured numerically using something called the Impact Factor. It may be baloney, but it is collectively agreed-upon baloney. Trying to make it go away is like trying to make money go away: people would not know what to do without it.

2) It's not the professors who pay the outrageous subscription fees for journals - it's the university libraries. So nothing instantly punishes the professors for publishing in "prestigious" but highly expensive journals, except the nasty rules about resharing journal articles, which however are invisible if you live in a world of professors where everyone has library access!

So, the problem is hard to solve. A government approach like +Daniel Lemire suggests could work, and indeed the US National Institute of Health has mandated a certain amount of open access. But - surprise, surprise - the Big Three publishers have a lot of money, and they're paying lobbyists and congresspeople to fight for less open access, not more.

So, the fight is hard. But we'll win anyway.
Strikes me that we are rapidly converging on a point of Open source, Open access, open society, open education, open... Might be that the new prestige is there.
+John Baez It is not just a matter of prestige and impact factor. There are "good" and "bad" journals, and this is not strictly a matter of prestige. You can have "good" low prestige journals. Say I have the "journal of board game mathematics" (I made it up). It may be low prestige, but if you submit your board game math. paper, you'll get great and timely review from experts who will help you quickly perfect your paper... and once it appears, the 2-3 people that need to see it are likely to find out about it. The journal is actually a bunch of nodes is a social network. You can't recreate this out of thin air. Prestige is a factor, I don't deny this, but if I did combinatorics, I would have no problem publishing in the electronic journal of combinatorics even though it is said to be low prestige... there is obviously a sane community around this journal supporting it...
+Daniel Lemire - I always publish my work on category theory in the very good but low-impact-factor Theory and Applications of Categories, which was founded when people in that subject rebelled against the Springer journal Applied Categorical Structures and Elsevier journal Pure and Applied Algebra, which have high impact factors.

"...if I did combinatorics, I would have no problem publishing in the electronic journal of combinatorics even though it is said to be low prestige..."

If you have tenure (like I do), it's pretty easy to make that kind of decision. People without tenure tend to be scared.
+John Baez wondering if you could please point me to some undergraduate readings in categorisation?
+Colin Mackay - Maybe you mean categorification. You need to understand a little category theory before you tackle "categorification", which is the process of taking ordinary set-based math and systematically replacing the sets by categories.

So, I'll start you out here:;cc=math;view=toc;subview=short;idno=Gold010

If this stuff is too elementary, let me know!
+Will Burns I just put my own papers on my own web site, which ACM allows you to do. Indeed, I don't understand why anyone would not do it---it ought to boost one's citation count.
+Patrick Lam For the record, Elsevier and most sane publishers also allow self-hosted open access. I am not trying to fight for Elsevier here, but rather to point out that researchers already have the tools to make their work freely available. They choose not to. So while it is convenient to blame Elsevier, and I hate corporations more than the average guy, researchers have a huge part of the blame here. (Of course, self-hosting is not sufficient. Dead and retired people tend to be bad at self-hosting. As well as people who left research to pursue more lucrative activities.) When +John Baez says that untenured prof. are scared of publishing in less prestigious journals, well, they are not scared of Elsevier, but of other professors. I've heard no end of disparaging remarks about open access journals... from professors... things like "my paper has been turned down, maybe I should send it to an open access journal"...
The crème de la crème of specific fields and publications have their own pragmatic reasons. Every high impact journal tries to maintain a small circle of people who maintain and improve JIF. Exiting the matrix is for the young generation!
+Patrick Lam - it's great to put your papers on your own website, but it's even better to put them on the arXiv, because then more people will find them and cite them (this has been demonstrated), and they'll be taken care of until civilization collapses. Does the ACM allow that?
Sherpa/Romeo collects all the info on what is allowed by various journals ( - and it's more than 90% of all currently published - so you could say publishers are unfairly demonized [yes, it's just one aspect; truth be told, they are aware of all the pressures and they do try to adapt their business models by suffering the least possible].
+John Baez ACM (which is a scholarly society, not a for-profit) allows preprints, but not camera-ready copies, to be posted on arXiv, or CoRR, which is the arXiV for CS. ACM sort of sponsors CoRR, but doesn't sell it very hard. I agree that hosting on a third-party server is more likely to remain accessible over the long term, but it hasn't gotten high enough on my priority list to become part of my workflow; I care most about my papers being accessible while I'm active in the research community.

ACM has also started an initiative where authors can link to the ACM copy of a paper, and that link is freely-downloadable. I'm not sure what to think about that. I sort of trust ACM, but maybe not enough to believe that this is a good replacement for hosting one's own copy. Of course, one could have both the link and the local copy.
+Patrick Lam What you do is fine. You post the documents on your home page and Google Scholar finds them. Now, if you could just add a picture to your Google Scholar profile, everything would be perfect. ;-)
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