[Taxacom] OSTP request for information on Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications, Data and Code Resulting From US Federally Funded Research

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sun Mar 1 14:30:31 CST 2020


 Hi again Carlos,"Sorry for the long email. I didn't have time to write a shorter one." - Hilarious! :)Anyway, I have some comments regarding your economic analysis. To my mind, the issue is independent of the *amount* of tax that anyone pays. I don't expect anyone (rich or poor) will pay more tax in order to cover OA fees for scientific literature. It is more about how existing taxes are spent. Now, in a fair system, taxes are spent on things which benefit everyone, rather than being biased to the benefit of the interests of the wealthy. Money spent on OA cannot be spent on other things like healthcare, welfare, etc. (which is not to say that the money would be spent on such things, but in theory it could be). Large scale OA creates a money sink which, in the long run, takes billions (trillions even) out of the system and pumps it into the corporate coffers of scientific institutions (possibly partly resulting in greater bonuses and perks for the managers of such institutions). So, the fact that the wealthy, via their taxes, may be paying for most of the total OA cost is actually irrelevant. That money still only really benefits the wealthy few (in the science industry) and I don't see any other real benefits for the majority of mankind (i.e. what are the benefits of access to endless phylogenetic analyses on beetles or whatever, or pointless debates on biogeography, etc.?) Note also that, as far as I can make out, at least here in New Zealand, when an institution of some kind gets an external grant, the first thing that happens is that they claim up to 50% of it as overheads (the exact proportion doesn't alter my point), and then have to spend the remaining 50% on "approved" work/research. If they can strategically ditch some of that remaining 50% quickly and effortlessly on OA fees, then they have to do less actual work/research to justify that grant, so less research gets done for the same amount of public research funding. The institutions benefit financially from this, but I wouldn't call it a win for science or for mankind! It is simply a less efficient use of funding from the point of view of outputs, and, again, it benefits the wealthy few in the science industry! This fits a pattern which I think I can see in the world, whereby the wealthy devise intitiatives, sometimes, as in this case, under a guise of "public good", but simply designed to divert more money their way. Another example was a recent research project by a university around here, which was externally funded by a charitable trust (whose chairman was a professor on staff of the university), and which was pitched as climate change research, but was actually total nonsense which could not possibly conclude anything meaningful, but which was heavily loaded with expenses (travel, accommodation, etc.) No "watchdog agency" gave a damn about it, arguably because they are all part of a system set up to look after its own financial interests! I'm not suggesting any particular corrupt system, just that "the system" (worldwide) is set up by the wealthy to look after its own interests first and foremost. I'm seeing OA (and OS) as potentially fitting the same pattern.Cheers,Stephen
    On Sunday, 1 March 2020, 09:39:11 am UTC, Carlos Alberto Martínez Muñoz <biotemail at gmail.com> wrote:  
 
 Hi Stephen,Thank you for this question. First some context."As for the most likely outcome from USA, I would point out that it already has a well-entrenched history of most of the wealth being in the hands of the few, and taxpayer funded OA fees for every single item of low interest scientific research output would fit the established pattern!"I do agree in that USA "has a well-entrenched history of most of the wealth being in the hands of the few". And I also agree in that "taxpayer funded OA fees for (...) scientific research output would fit the established pattern". What we need to clarify here is the pattern you are talking about. In USA, concentration of wealth and tax burden are better synchronized than in Europe. Europe has a more generous safety net than USA and, in order to fund it, high taxes. In order to raise enough revenue, these taxes fall disproportionately on the poor, middle and upper middle class. Denmark has one of the highest top income tax rates in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 55.9 percent, but that rate is applied to anyone making 1.3 times the average national income. In the United States, this would mean that any income above $65,000 would be taxed at the rate of 55.9 percent. In fact, the highest tax rate in the United States, 43.7 percent, applies to income that is 9.3 times the national average, which means that only those with incomes over approximately $500,000 pay this rate. Yes, I occasionally read the Washington Post.
Why am I pointing this out? Because I want to illustrate the fact that while in Europe we may all be carrying the cost of open access in a disproportionate way across economic classes, in USA that cost is not likely to aggravate the tax burden of the poor, middle and upper middle class. In USA it is the top notch of the wealthy few who will carry the tax burden of funds destined to open access. However, this would be a solidarian tax, in the sense that the wealthy top notch will benefit from open access too. So, Stephen, it is unlikely that in a mandated publicly-funded OA publishing model most scientists will be paying for open access from their pockets, at least in USA. Instead, they will stop paying for it, unless that some of them have a hidden fortune that we don't know about. And if those wealthy few get a reason to worry about how much money they have to contribute to rip-off private publishing, then they will quickly become supporters of a non-profit academic press. 

"...Pensoft seemingly doing very well indeed by charging fairly substantial fees and not having to worry if anyone actually ever reads anything! I don't know the financial details, of course, but does Pensoft in its present form fit your vision for an OA future, and, if not, is it likely to change, do you think?"Part 1.  "...not having to worry if anyone actually ever reads anything!". It is not the main interest of a private publisher in the current OA model to worry about anyone reading anything. Research institutions are mandated to publish and the private publishers are happy to get clients. As long as metrics and economic incentives are put on number of publications and not on quality, this will continue to be this way. However, there are already advocates for "slow science" and hopefully at some point we will start slowly fixing a system that was corrupted by metrics more than 40 years ago. This I can promise, it will take a lot of time, effort and also a capacity for logical thinking that seems to be lacking, even among scientists.Part 2. Even if it is not their main interest, private publishers do worry if someone reads something. The Web of Science is well remembered for its bragging about "we index the best science" and "we have the most cited journals", and publishers want that. The current system just counts citations without scoring them, even if the initial idea of Garfield (1955) was to score negative citations too. But negative citations are difficult to score and not good for private-driven ecosystems. They directly and negatively affect engagement. That's why you won't find a dislike button in Facebook, for example. However, 65 years after Garfield's initial ideas, technologies for counting negative citations are emerging.Part 3. "...your vision for an OA future...". I don't have a vision for an OA future. I have a vision for an Open Science (OS) future. That is a vision shared by Europe and USA. You can see that the OSTP request is not just about OA but about OS. It includes not only publications but also data and code.Part 4. "...does Pensoft in its present form fit your vision for an OA future, and, if not, is it likely to change, do you think?". Pensoft indeed fitted the vision of the European Commission on OA. They are a private publisher, they pay taxes and as part of that solidarian tax that I mentioned above, they have received EC co-funding for developing informatic tools fostering OA. As a publisher, they have benefitted from their own taxes and from a symbiotic relationship with the public sector. Pensoft was able to further develop the Pensoft Writing Tool into the ARPHA Writing Tool, which is what we see today within their platform. The vision of the European Commission then evolved from OA to OS, and Pensoft evolved with it. They have co-developed and continue to co-develop open source software for open science and biodiversity informatics applications. My critics to Pensoft are that the ARPHA WT continues to be proprietary software and that there are economic barriers to publishing with Pensoft. Small journals may not find affordable to publish with Pensoft while getting the services that the journal needs. Also, the current open source tools that Pensoft is developing with EC co-funding continue adding value to their AWT proprietary software. Using public funding in a way that adds value to proprietary software may or may not be restricted in the near future. But that is EC's call, not mine.

What I would recommend for USA is to develop an Open Science Cloud, and to implement publicly funded, non-profit OA journals as an integral part of that cyber-infrastructure. I think that Canada may well like to join in building a North American Open Science Cloud. The Public Knowledge Project, a distributed initiative involving institutions from both countries, could contribute its 20+ years experience in the development of innovative online environments. And of course, as a wealthy and worried billionaire, I would consider injecting funds for developing the Open Journal Systems and upgrade that open source publishing platform to present day biodiversity informatics publishing standards.

Sorry for the long email. I didn't have time to write a shorter one.Cheers,Carlos


Carlos A. Martínez MuñozZoological Museum, Biodiversity UnitFI-20014 University of TurkuFinlandResearchGate profileMyriapod Morphology and Evolution

 

El sáb., 29 feb. 2020 a las 23:06, Stephen Thorpe (<stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>) escribió:

 Hi Carlos,Very interesting! As for the most likely outcome from USA, I would point out that it already has a well-entrenched history of most of the wealth being in the hands of the few, and taxpayer funded OA fees for every single item of low interest scientific research output would fit the established pattern! Even in Europe, there has been, for many years now, Pensoft seemingly doing very well indeed by charging fairly substantial fees and not having to worry if anyone actually ever reads anything! I don't know the financial details, of course, but does Pensoft in its present form fit your vision for an OA future, and, if not, is it likely to change, do you think?Cheers, Stephen

    On Saturday, 29 February 2020, 06:56:34 pm UTC, Carlos Alberto Martínez Muñoz via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:  
 
 Hi Taxacomers,
It is true that paying for Open Access could be a rip-off, but that is only
a partial truth, in one of at least two possible scenarios. The rip-off is
not inherent to OA itself but to the publication system being based mostly
in for-profit publishers with high profit margins. For companies like
Elsevier, this is as high as 37% of the total cost, which is higher than
the profit margin of oil companies.
However, it is clear now that journals are research infrastructures and
that publicly funded academic journals (jobs included) are an integral part
of the data life cycle and of existing physical infrastructures. It is
evident to the European Commission that the current moral imperative and
ethics towards taxpayers is not just about open access but about how much
is lost in private publishers' profit margins. With this I want to say that
private publishers are already experiencing the economic effects of a
change of paradigm at the European level. Regardless of the platform or
software, we will build a distributed, pan-European academic press in the
upcoming years. The best current example that I know is the European
Journal of Taxonomy.
Of course, not all the science is publicly funded and private publishers
have a role to play in both publishing and innovating. About private
innovation, we should also not lose sight that part of it is also co-funded
with public funds (rip-off included!). If well managed, there could be a
symbiotic interaction, benefiting both the public sector and the private
sector, instead of the predatory interaction that exists today.
In summary, we will implement the necessary measures to close the research
cycle within academic infrastructures. USA could do the same too in quite a
short time, as there have been voices calling for more support to academic
press. With non-profit academic journals, we could save up to one-third of
publishing and access expenses and invest those in publishing more,
expanding access and improving the current cyber-infrastructures. Now, if
in USA you do mandate open access but don't change the publishing paradigm,
then yes, Stephen Thorpe will be totally right, it will be a big rip-off,
with (for example) publication and access charges rising 5% per year while
the university sector will be growing just 1% per year. You could use your
freedom and your democracy for voting against open access, or you could use
it for voting for integrating non-profit publishing into academia. Up to
you!
Cheers,

Carlos A. Martínez Muñoz
Zoological Museum, Biodiversity Unit
FI-20014 University of Turku
Finland
ResearchGate profile
<https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Carlos_Martinez-Munoz>
Myriapod Morphology and Evolution
<https://www.facebook.com/groups/205802113162102/>
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