we're in trouble! - (2 points)

Paul Schlosser SCHLOSSER at ciit.org
Wed Jul 6 10:29:10 EST 1994


In <94187.005359U58563 at uicvm.uic.edu>
<U58563 at uicvm.uic.edu> writes:

>   Once again I thank the other responders, whose arguments, again, are better
>than my own!  But I never could bear to let someone else have the last word...
>
>In article <199407051407.HAA21644 at net.bio.net>, SCHLOSSER at ciit.org (Paul
>Schlosser) says:
>>Copyright laws are set up so that someone will have the insensitive to produce
>>the 1st one.  And it is unreasonable to expect the individual buying that 1st
>>copy to cover it's entire cost--better to spread the cost out over all
>>readers.
>   Ahem... Aren't you forgetting who is producing the first copy!  How much
>money do -you- get for your articles?

I get paid quite a bit ... my entire salary is based on my ability to publish.
No I'm not paid by the publisher, but they are providing a service to me--the
venue in which I communicate my results.  And publishers are willing to print 
this stuff precisely because, through the copyright system, they have a 
reasonable expectation of covering the expense.  Now if I had to pay the entire
fee for type-setting, duplication, distribution, etc., instead of having that
shared by the readers, then it would be rather expensive.  Covering some of the
expense means that I will be very careful about what I send out, so that others
don't become over-burdened with the amount of material that must be critiqued/
reviewed.

>>Or, you can have the government (via NIH and/or NSF) pick up the tab, in which
>>case everyone pays for it thru taxes.
>   They already do.  But why should they be asked to pay, so that a few
>specific researchers will have the right to read the research they are also
>paying for?  [Well, come to think of it, you're partially right.  Some of the
>cost they pay instead in the price of life-saving drugs!]

They (the public) are asked to pay not only the expense of performing the
research, but the expense of publishing it as well, since it is through
publication that the results may benefit society.  (No benefit is achieved if
the results aren't published.)  The "few researchers" who read the results 
include those who might translate the results into a practical benefit and/or
build upon the previous results.  This is the purpose of publication in
scientific journals.  It's nice if non-scientists can read this material and
gain an appreciation for what they are paying for, and the difficulties of
accomplishing research, but that is not the primary purpose, and would not,
in and of itself, justify the expense of publication.  But if one person
publishes their findings on the regulation of the cell cycle, and we make use
of that to better understand the process of chemicaly-induced carcinogenesis,
thereby providing a better estimate of risk to humans from chemical exposure
(which we publish), so that, in turn, public health can be more surely 
safeguarded--*that* is a benefit/return to the public for their support of
research that would not be achieved without the publication process.

>   In response to your other comments on fees:  I feel that both research and
>education are worthy causes, and closely related at all levels.  If a program
>must needs offer service for both purposes, and increases efficiency at the
>same time, I see no disadvantage to this!  Why should we be eager to fund the
>sequencing of a new tyrosine kinase, yet be ashamed to fund the operation of
>computer servers sufficient to make this information universally available?
>(aside from the sequence itself, that is --- Many thanks to the NCBI server!)

In short, scientific journals now serve a particular purpose (research), and 
attempting to broaden that to second purpose (education) is likely to mean 
that neither is accomplished very well, not because the two aren't closely
related, but because the way in which one writes/communicates for the two
tend to be different.  [Here, by education, I am referring to attempts to
increase general scientific literacy in the public, and not the education of 
graduate students, who already participate in journal communication.]

Basicly, I contend that:
1) It is beneficial to have venues of communication for scientists within
various fields/specialties; this is currently provided by journals; opening 
up all such venues to allow complete public access may severely hamper the 
ability of scientists to communicate with one another (for the same reason
that small specialty conferences have advantages over large meetings); while 
the current fee structures have some serious draw-backs, they do provide for 
these venues (it would be worth exploring ways of having the venues without
the fees, and electronic publishing looks right for this).
2) Having publicly funded (via NIH/NSF) means of scientific communication will
not result in significantly more money for research (any savings will just be
taken out of the science budgets and used for something else).
3) Science education, and improvement of public attitude toward science, will
not be significantly approved by providing open access to articles written
for other scientists within one's field.  *Some* high school students would
probably benefit, and this would encourage more to enter the sciences, which,
given the current funding situation ..., but for the vast majority I am very
sceptical that this would help.  We do need to communicate better with the
public, and articles written for other scientists are probably not a good way
to do this.

>>BTW, one important aspect of journal publication is the peer review process--
>>when you find something in a reviewed journal you have some additional
>>confidence in it's accuracy.  To replace this we will need electronic
>>services where only reviewed articles appear.  While NIH might insist that
>   I don't think that we need to hold the review process to be sacred.  The
>existing format assumes that only a few reviewers can see the article, and that
>an article, once published, can never be changed.  In electronic publication,
>it would be possible that anyone could "follow-up" to an article with comments
>about it 

Including, J. Rifkin and followers, etc., if free access is provided.
                      
>--- and as a bonus those comments would only concern the quality of
>the science and the logic of the paper, not whether it is of sufficiently
>general interest for the journal.  Also, existing problems with dishonest
>reviewers who reject a paper and then publish identical research would be
>avoided completely.

Really?  No flames?  It seems to me that the commenting process will have to
be moderated; ie. some aspects of access can't be unlimited.

Actually, I too am sure that e-publishing will prove to be a very good thing,
once the various bugs/issues are worked out.  I just don't believe that
unlimited access by any and all to the primary vehicles for scientific
communication is something that will really benefit the conduct of science.

Paul
schlosser at beta.ciit.org



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