Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


The Int’l Assoc. Of STM Publishers – Do They Have a Conflict of Interest Viewpoint?

The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers’ (STM) three-day Annual U.S. Conference 2015  was held in Washington, DC last week; AND many of the keynote speakers took offense at the copious growing calls for changes/fairness in this lucrative publishing sector.

Are they fighting inevitable change? I think so.

One thing I’ve always championed in academic research is the fair treatment of the research authors. They are not fairly compensated and actually have to pay to get their articles published in ‘recognized’ academic journals that are highly compensated from almost hijacked scholarly institutions, libraries, etc. I also firmly believe in Open Access academic publishing to level the playing/political field between academia, academic publishers and the actual research authors.

Excerpt from Gavin Simpson as posted in ‘Bottom of the Heap‘ under Science:

“The cost of subscribing to academic journals: Much has been written about the Research Works Act [you could do a lot worse than read Saurodpod Mike on the subject], academic publishing and the relationship between the scientists who do most of the work and the publishers who then assert somewhat draconian rights over those works. A boycott of the biggest publisher of them all, Elsevier, started to gain a fair degree of traction with almost 8000 scientists having pledged to limit some or all of their interactions with Elsevier and its journals.

One of the allegations levelled at Elsevier is that they charge such exorbitant prices for subscriptions to their journals that they essentially force university libraries to subscribe to so-called “bundles” or “deals” that allow access to huge swathes of titles. Accessing all those titles individually would be prohibitively costly for any institution, but by offering bundles, STEM publishers are accused of exploiting the high prices of their most popular titles to foist titles onto users and librarians that have no need for them.”

Read the following research/resource article for tonight, make up your own mind Re the keynote speaker’s stance and please offer your comments.


STM’s Hot Button Issues: Open Access, Data and Social Media

By Paula Gantz:

According to discussions at the Int’l Assoc. of STM Publishers conference, OA and data-driven articles need more scrutiny, even as scholars open up online.

Trends and new approaches that are reinvigorating science, technical and medical publishing were explored last week at the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers’ (STM) three-day Annual U.S. Conference 2015 in Washington, DC.

Blasting Open Access

Setting an inspiring tone for the conference, Jeff Beale, scholarly communications librarian at University of Colorado,


Denver, lambasted Open Access in his keynote address on the first day.

“Most of the information about Open Access comes from Open Access advocates and furthers their aims and goals, and it is misleading, he said. The Open Access movement has spawned a host of predatory publishers who are causing a breakdown in the research culture globally. “It is giving rise to counterfeit, junk science promoting non-approved products,” he maintained.

Beale likened Gold Open Access, where the author pays, to graffiti. He chastised “unfair government legislation” that essentially “eliminates freedom of the press by favoring one business model over another.”

He urged academic publishers to persevere in their resistance to Open Access mandates, suggesting that they stick with Green Open Access or maybe a single Open Access journal to silence advocates.

Beale also reprimanded librarians for being Open Access supporters, and turning a blind eye to predatory publishers because it is not politically correct.

Beale maintains a blog which lists predatory publishers, hijacked journals and misleading metrics companies. There are over 700 publishers on his list. He particularly called attention to hijacked journals which target real journals with impact factors. “They even copy the addresses and telephone numbers of the journals. Most of their authors think that they have published in an impact factor journal.”

Pushing Back Against Data

The keynote speaker on the second day, Christine L. Borgman, presidential chair in information studies at UCLA and


author of “Big Data, Little Data, No Data,” defined data as representations of observations, objects or other entities used as evidence of phenomena for the purposes of research or scholarship.

“Publications are arguments made by authors, and data are evidence used to support the arguments. You can use data to support different arguments. This is where the publication-data relationship breaks down, by assuming that one set of data produces one paper,” she pointed out.

According to Borgman, data is not easily definable because they are compound objects and ownership is rarely clear. Authorship is also a problem; attribution might make more sense. “The concept of authorship needs definition,” she said.

She also observed that most open data is not very useful and not very marked-up.

“I have been pushing back at the metaphor of publishing data. Are we going to curate, preserve and steward data? Data are not peer-reviewed usually,” she remarked. “There is the assumption that communities will put data in repositories, but this assumes that researchers are going to share data. That is the most problematic assumption of all. The labor to document data is not economically rewardable. It is not in scientists’ interests to release to an unknown other, and there is a lack of incentives to reuse data.”

Borgman urged the publishing industry to focus on the important skills of data curation and stewardship. She also warned that data repositories are funded on three to five year grants and are frequently at risk of going dark for lack of investment.




Social Media Matters in STM, Too

Cassidy R. Sugimoto, assistant professor at Indiana University, focused the third day’s keynote onaltmetrics, social

Cassidy R. Sugimoto

media and researcher behavior in light of these trends. She suggested that people no longer want to remain anonymous and are building their reputations through social media. But she voiced a fear that time spent on creating digital reputations might detract from time spent on academic research.

Sugimoto suggested that there is a need to capture the heterogeneity of researcher behavior that expands beyond pure publication. This will lead to better metrics that can improve scholarship. She pointed to mentoring as one of the uncaptured metrics.

“The altmetrics movement has failed to do what it promised to do,” she stated. “Altmetrics needs a far greater protocol and greater validity. Altmetrics have been around for five years, but still only looks at the impact of publications. Nothing has been made visible that wasn’t before.”

She suggested eliminating the term “alt” and focusing on the validity of metrics; refining how they are captured and evaluated, which might require human intervention.

“Maybe tweets are not important. May they just have to do with humor value and not scientific exchange. We have to think about what’s being tweeted and also who is tweeting. Sometimes it’s organizations. Sometimes it’s bots,” she observed.

Sugimoto commented that open peer review has largely failed, but it is not true that researchers are not active online. “Researchers need to be incentivized. We need to think about micro-reviewing too, so that the process does not demand as much.”


Academic Publishing’s ‘Luxury Journals’: Too Big to Fail?

Publishing in a spin? Young scientists caught in no man’s land. Photograph: Carol and Mike Werner/Alamy

I have visited the academic publishing arena before; and have highlighted much of the intrigue and corruption therein. Here is one roadmap to those posts for those interested in more background.

The academic publishing angle we’re pursuing tonight is the luxury journals domination over young academics who want to revolt against them for pure scientific or other moral reasons (such as being forced to research and publish on only ‘popular’ or more highly salable topics – and not the true science the young academics are truly interested in or believe will be more beneficial to mankind).

Presently, if they try to publish elsewhere, it seems, their careers will be in jeopardy! Bullshit.

This is core corruption! Are these high-profile journals too big to fail? Like some of our unfettered corporations or banks – allowed to run amok?

I HATE to think so. You see, for-profit, luxury journals such as Science, Cell and Nature (just like big corporations and banks) have, in my opinion, gained prominence because we, the people, bestowed such upon them through our patronage and support — So, why can’t the ‘we’ experts in the academic fields just remove that same patronage and start more pure academic journals and raise them to immediate prominence? Making all the new journals ‘open access’ at the same time.

This is how a prestigious academic and research field SHOULD operate. I’m aware that some progress has been made in the form of new, open-access, academic e-journals, etc., but, the progress is too damn slow and the for-profit, luxury journals still hold too many young academics hostage.

This insightful, insider perspective comes from Thomas Livermore, a PhD candidate in the MRC laboratory of molecular and cell biology at University College London:

Boycotting academic publishers is a career risk for young scientists

Research careers are built on publishing in high-profile journals, so can postdocs be expected to take a stand against them?

In December 2013, professor Randy Schekman collected his Nobel prize for physiology and medicine. He also announced his decision to boycott three of the most prestigious scientific journals: Nature, Science and Cell. He accused these “luxury journals” of exerting a kind of “tyranny” over scientific research and invites others to follow his lead.

Schekman suggests that luxury journals’ decisions to publish work, or not, are made according to how fashionable it is, rather than its scientific merit. He argues convincingly that such is the influence of these journals, they actually direct the type of scientific research undertaken. By pursuing their own agenda to publish work that will be cited, these journals encourage the disproportionate investment of resources in fashionable fields.

Schekman is not the first to argue these points, but he is the most prominent to state them so publicly, doing so just one week before collecting his Nobel Prize. It is not, however, the first time that academics have called for boycotts of the most prestigious journals. In 2012, British mathematician Timothy Gowers proposed a boycott of Dutch publishing house Elsevier, publisher of Cell, due to their practice of selling journals in bundles at great expense to universities.

In regards to Schekman, my experience suggests that many scientists agree with him that Nature, Cell and Science editors are too influential. To hear these views echoed by such a prominent colleague has been refreshing and well received. It is also my experience, however, that appreciation for Schekman’s candour is often qualified by the statement: “It’s easy for him to say that though; he’s just won the Nobel Prize”.

He freely admits that his career, like many others, has benefited from publishing in these journals. As a result of his success, he now finds himself in a position of great influence, a position that also affords a certain freedom from the tyranny he decries. So, as he calls on others to follow his lead, I wonder if early career researchers can be expected to answer his call?

For many of my peers – PhD students and post-doctoral scientists alike – Nature, Science and Cell continue to represent a major career goal, offering recognition and exposure for their research. After all, it was in these journals that the world first learnt of the existence of the neutron, the structure of DNA and the sequencing of the human genome. Despite the boycotts, the lure of these revered pages remains strong.

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What Are Academic ‘Luxury Journals’? And Are They the Death of True Scholarship

Nobel Prize Winner, Randy Schekman

The prestigious, commercial academic journals — like Science, Nature and Cell — are doing to academic researchers just what the TP publishers have been doing to non-academic writers for some years.

What is that?

Putting the almighty dollar ahead of true, talented content makers. Publishing only what they feel will make the top buck and not what may actually be better for society.

Can’t really blame TP’s, though, if their main guiding factor is money/profit — Call it their ‘Impact Factor’ – a term used to measure commercial academic journals.

BUT, academic publishing should be more pure in getting the genuinely researched scholastics (perhaps boring but better for build-upon future research) PUBLISHED.

Tonight Nobel Prize winner, Randy Schekman (a scientist and academic researcher himself), is interviewed by  of the Library Journal and dishes on Impact Factor and how to fix academic publishing.

Some interesting insights unfold. For those interested, further background on academic journals can be found in these previous posts on this blog.

Ian interviews Randy:

A Broken System: Nobel Winner Randy Schekman Talks Impact Factor and How To Fix Publishing


Just before he accepted a Nobel Prize in December for his work exploring how cells regulate and transport proteins, UC Berkeley professor Randy Schekman penned an indictment in the pages of UK newspaper The Guardian criticizing the role of what he calls the “luxury journals” – NatureCell, and Science in particular – for damaging science by promoting flashy or controversial papers over careful scientific research. Library Journal spoke with Schekman, who also edits the open-access journal eLife, about what he sees wrong with academic publishing today, and how it can be fixed.

For those who haven’t read your piece in The Guardian, what’s the thrust of your argument?

My feeling is the system is broken. People are chasing what amounts to a lottery to get their best work published in these journals, and those decisions about what gets published are being made by people who are not practicing scientists.

Commercial journals restrict the number of articles that are available by making limited print runs. In the electronic world, there are no limitations. They do this because it’s their business plan to sell subscriptions. Scientists and science suffer as a result.

What prompted your boycott? Was there a straw that broke the camel’s back in publishing for you?

I haven’t actually published in these journals for years, aside from a few review articles in Scienceand Nature. I have not submitted my own research to these journals for six or seven years. I was just fed up with them. Even if you win the lotto, they make you cut the heart of the paper and relegate it to a supplement that very few people will ever read. It’s a crazy way to display scholarship.

What are the major things you see wrong with the prestigious luxury journals today?

One is restricting the number of papers and pages. In a sense, these journals have a quota, and if you don’t fit it, even if your work is first-rate, they will find an excuse not to publish it. And these decisions are being made by people who are not active scientists and have not seen experiments for sometimes decades. Most scientists would prefer to have these pub[lication] decisions made by active peers.

One of the other major problems is that journals now live and die by impact factor. That is a measurement of citation and impact that was initially created by the Institute for Scientific Information (now Thomson ISI) to help librarians determine the journals they should be subscribing to. Now it has morphed into a number that every young scientist knows by heart. It’s become a holy grail for publication and it’s being used in ways it was never intended for.

Are there things the industry could do to fix impact factor?

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Academic Publishing – Re ‘Open Access’ – More Intrigue, More Progress

Piles of Profit

Piles of Profit

I have often championed the open access to research done and published in prestigious academic journals; especially without proper compensation given to the writer/researchers (also peer reviewers) — and have stood against all the resulting meaty profits going to for-profit academic publishers (like Elsevier).

These academic publishers have had a free f—king ride for way too long. ‘The current enterprise—selling the results of other people’s work, submitted free of charge and vetted for nothing by third parties in a process called peer review, has been immensely profitable.’

In addition, the greater part of this research is paid for on the taxpayers’ dime! AND the poor subsequent researchers (and their academic institutions) needing to access this previous research for further research have to pay exorbitant fees (even if the research was done at their own institution) — Talk about giving away all your rights!

From The Economist:

Academic publishing  



Open-access scientific publishing is gaining ground  

AT THE beginning of April, Research Councils UK, a conduit through which the government transmits taxpayers’ money to academic researchers, changed the rules on how the results of studies it pays for are made public. From now on they will have to be published in journals that make them available free—preferably immediately, but certainly within a year.

In February the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy told federal agencies to make similar plans. A week before that, a bill which would require free access to government-financed research after six months had begun to wend its way through Congress. The European Union is moving in the same direction. So are charities. And SCOAP3, a consortium of particle-physics laboratories, libraries and funding agencies, is pressing all 12 of the field’s leading journals to make the 7,000 articles they publish each year free to read. For scientific publishers, it seems, the party may soon be over.

It has, they would have to admit, been a good bash. The current enterprise—selling the results of other people’s work, submitted free of charge and vetted for nothing by third parties in a process called peer review, has been immensely profitable. Elsevier, a Dutch firm that is the world’s biggest journal publisher, had a margin last year of 38% on revenues of £2.1 billion ($3.2 billion). Springer, a German firm that is the second-biggest journal publisher, made 36% on sales of €875m ($1.1 billion) in 2011 (the most recent year for which figures are available). Such firms are now, though, faced with competitors set up explicitly to cover only their costs. Some rely on charity, but many have a proper business model: academics pay a fee to be published. So, on the principle of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, commercial publishers, too, are setting up open-access subsidiaries.

Open for business

The biggest is BioMed Central, part of Springer. It was founded in 2000 and in February it published its 150,000th paper and also launched its 250th periodical, catchily entitled the Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins Including Tropical Diseases. Days later Nature Publishing Group (NPG), which owns Nature and 81 other journals, and which itself belongs to the Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, another German firm, bought a majority stake in Frontiers, a Swiss open-access platform with 30 titles in 14 scientific fields. In combination, NPG and Frontiers publish 46 open-access journals, and 7,300 free papers a year.

In the past year Elsevier has more than doubled the number of open-access journals it publishes, to 39. And even in those that usuNature,ally charge readers (such as Cell and the Lancet), paying a publication fee makes a paper available free immediately.

Outsell, a Californian consultancy, estimates that open-access journals generated $172m in 2012. That was just 2.8% of the total revenue journals brought their publishers (some $6 billion a year), but it was up by 34% from 2011 and is expected to reach $336m in 2015. The number of open-access papers is forecast to grow from 194,000 (out of a total of 1.7m publications) to 352,000 in the same period.

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More Publishing Intrigue: A Monopoly-Like Stranglehold Has Invaded the Academic Publishing World

Academic Research Libraries

The world of academic journals, and their ever-increasing corrupt and predatory capitalistic publishing models, desperately needs a full house cleaning. A real deep gutting and restructuring, if you will, to return this vital publishing and research resource to its intended (and I might add pure) mission.  

A few big publishing houses have gained control of most of the prestigious journals and have been charging the very institutions’ libraries usury subscription rates for content that was provided by that institution in the first place!

One solution to these monopolistic journal publishers’ outrageous subscription rates is the ‘open access’ journal that has been growing in popularity lately — but, in the open access model, they charge the poor academic article writer/researcher several thousand dollars to publish the damn article — and, as I’ve said in previous posts, this is butt-ball-busting-poor as the writer/researcher should be getting paid for his work and writing in the first place. Some academics who publish (a requirement for tenure, recognition, promotion, etc.) use grant money — but, many can’t.

More details and a must-read is provided by Simon Owens  in U.S. News and World Report:

Is the Academic Publishing Industry on the Verge of Disruption?

As Harvard balks at subscription cost and others take a page from its book, open access publishers get a fresh look

But critics of this business model often sidestep the reality that many closed access journals charge processing fees as well. In fact, the entire publication structure of scholarly publishing would seem alien to those who work within the non-academic publishing world. Rather than paying the writer of the composition, he or she is often charged upward of a few thousand dollars to publish in the journal. The journals also don’t pay the peer reviewers who first read and then provide significant editorial feedback in order to strengthen a manuscript. These peer reviewers are often made up of experts within the field of the paper’s topic; many academics who publish are also called upon to read as a reviewer. “You devote your time to reviewing someone else’s article because you want them to spend the same time on your articles,” explained Fred Dylla, executive director at the American Institute of Physics, a scientific society that publishes several journals. Though the publishers say they bear the cost of managing the editorial process (polishing the final manuscript, formatting it for publication, and generating all the tables, charts, and graphics), these are all costs that are carried by any non-academic publisher–newspaper, magazine, or book–which also pays both the writers and editors of its products.

As for the accusations of a conflict of interest, this question was put toward Kristen Ratan, the chief product officer of the Public Library of Science, or PLoS, as it’s commonly referred to. PLoS is a nonprofit publishing project that launched one of the earliest experiments in open access when it produced its first journal, PLoS Biology, in 2003. Formed by several scientists, PLoS today publishes seven journals, each of which has amassed significant prestige and impact within its respective field. Over a two-week period, Ratan said, PLoS will see up to 1.2 million article page views across all its journals and its impact factor–the average number of citations per article, one of the key indicators of a journal’s prestige–is on par with most well-regarded closed access journals.

Ratan said the merit of an article submitted to PLoS is determined by those who have no financial interest in the publication. “I think it’s a problem that PLoS has been very good at solving by engaging academic editors and peer reviewers to be the mechanisms determining what gets published, as opposed to having internal staff making those decisions,” she explained. “So that removes the conflict of interest.” Some have suggested that PLoS and other open-access journal publishers should charge the researcher per round of editorial review, thereby removing some of the financial incentive to accept an article (since some revenue would then be extracted even if the piece is ultimately rejected). But Ratan asserted that “peer review is only one aspect of the cost factor of publishing,” and so charging for the peer review wouldn’t adequately address this issue.

Asked whether she thinks open access has reached a tipping point that will soon make it a major player in the industry, Ratan pointed to the rapid increase in articles published in PLoS over the last few years–it published 84 percent more articles in 2011 than in 2010. But what’s even more indicative of such a shift, she said, is how closed access journals have reacted to their open access counterparts. “What I’ve noticed is that publishers have responded by in some cases launching open access publications themselves. Some of the ones that have historically been closed are now experimenting in open access.” Indeed, nearly every society publisher interviewed has either published an open-access journal or plans to in the near future (that includes both Elsevier and Wiley).

When an established journal converts to open access, it addresses the prestige problem that has hindered the model for years. A researcher has an incentive to always first submit his paper to a journal with the highest impact, not just because it will therefore be seen by more of his colleagues and have a larger resonance, but also because his trajectory in the tenure track partly depends on it. A brand new open access journal has no proven track record, so it can have difficulty attracting serious, groundbreaking research.

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My past posts on academic publishing:


Academic Publishing and The Free and Easy Movement of Information

Big Journal Publishers Bullying Academic Researchers

More tonight on the growing revolution among academics RE academic publishing. Please refer to my Writers Welcome Blog post Academic Publishing is a Good Gig if You Can Get It – And a Rip Off for Creators for more background.

Researchers may even have to pay to get their work published in prestigious journals (some probably do already) in order to keep costs from being sky-high to consumer readers of scientific journals.

Damn, imagine charging cash-strapped youngsters for publishing new research data! That’s akin to charging Matt Damon for the privilege of performing on-screen rather than paying him for his on-screen content.

These put upon and victimized, young researchers are rated by and advance their careers according to how often they publish and the reputation of the journals they publish in – Sort of like extortion, slave labor and stealing candy from babies, if you ask me 😦

This enlightening piece is from The Economist

The price of information

Academics are starting to boycott a big publisher of journals

SOMETIMES it takes but a single pebble to start an avalanche. On January 21st Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at Cambridge University, wrote a blog post outlining the reasons for his longstanding boycott of research journals published by Elsevier. This firm, which is based in the Netherlands, owns more than 2,000 journals, including such top-ranking titles as Cell and the Lancet. However Dr Gowers, who won the Fields medal, mathematics’s equivalent of a Nobel prize, in 1998, is not happy with it, and he hoped his post might embolden others to do something similar.

It did. More than 2,700 researchers from around the world have so far signed an online pledge set up by Tyler Neylon, a fellow-mathematician who was inspired by Dr Gowers’s post, promising not to submit their work to Elsevier’s journals, or to referee or edit papers appearing in them. That number seems, to borrow a mathematical term, to be growing exponentially. If it really takes off, established academic publishers might find they have a revolution on their hands.

A bundle of trouble

Dr Gowers’s immediate gripes are threefold. First, that Elsevier charges too much for its products. Second, that its practice of “bundling” journals forces libraries which wish to subscribe to a particular publication to buy it as part of a set that includes several others they may not want. And third, that it supports legislation such as the Research Works Act, a bill now before America’s Congress that would forbid the government requiring that free access be given to taxpayer-funded research.

Elsevier insists it is being misrepresented. The firm is certainly in rude financial health. In 2010 it made a £724m ($1.16 billion) profit on revenues of £2 billion, a margin of 36%. But it charges average industry prices for its products, according to Nick Fowler, its director of global academic relations, and its price rises have been lower than those imposed by other publishers over the past few years. Elsevier’s enviable margins, Dr Fowler says, are simply a consequence of the firm’s efficient operation.

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