Resistance Emerging to Sci Tech Publishing Status Quo

March 6, 2012

More hassles are brewing for Elsevier Science, as We, Beasties discusses in “The Future of Science Publishing.”

Since the earliest scientific journals began being published in 1665, their key position in the field of science has grown exponentially. They have become so integral that it is nigh impossible to build a successful career as a scientist without publishing in them. The publishers of these journals vigorously guard their territory; even now, they are throwing their weight behind the Research Works Act, a proposed US law that would nullify the current mandate: that any scientific data derived from public funding  must be made available to the public within one year of publication. So, we helped pay for the research, but wouldn’t be able to read the results without paying again? Hmph.

Prominent mathematician Timothy Gowers has had enough such tactics, and has begun a publishing boycott of Elsevier, one of the largest journal publishers. If such a boycott expands to all the publishers, and it might, those who participate will risk prestige and grant money until the system changes. How many will take such a risk?

We, Beasties writer Kevin presents his own vision of a post-journal-centric field:

“In my idyllic world, every lab has their own blog, and publishes their results in real time, sharing them on a site like ResearchGate. Individual figures can be indexed on something like FigShare. Scientists can post their negative or confusing data and ask the entire world for help, or talk about their research plans and get critiqued. Meanwhile, altmetrics are being generated in real time to assess the validity of data, and scientists peer review on their own blogs or at some central location. The distribution of scientific knowledge returns to the model of the 19th century – free and openly distributed – but now also instantly and globally distributed at the same time.”

Sounds great. Will grass-roots action by scientists be enough to break the stranglehold of entrenched science publishers like Elsevier?

Cynthia Murrell, March 6, 2012

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