Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


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?

Article continued here

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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.

Read and learn more

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