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

Nick Grishin grishin at chop.swmed.edu
Sun Mar 1 16:27:29 CST 2020

> Hi Nic,You said: "Now, while Universities are still paying same 
> subscriptions fees (from overhead), researchers are charged for OA from 
> their grants".Fleshing this out a bit more:One BIG unknown is the extent 
> to which OA will be retrospective, or whether the 75 year (or whatever 
> it is) copyright period will continue to be upheld. Hence, we could end 
> up in a situation of having to pay subscriptions to access a lot of what 
> is already published (more of a problem for taxonomy than many other 
> sciences, which makes heavy use of legacy literature) AND having to pay 
> OA fees to publish new stuff!

Well, yes, that's partly what I was saying. Today, a larger fraction of 
the budget effectively allocated for science & education is channelled 
towards publishing than before OA. I guess one can argue that it is part 
of educational mission and maybe that's how it should really be. I argue 
that spending on publishing today is grossly excessive and doesn't achieve 
educational goals, but it does profit publishers.

I remember that 25 year ago I was physically walking into a library, 
finding a journal and making a xerox copy of the paper I needed. So, if 
the library paid for it, it had it "forever", even if they later decided 
to stop subscribing to this journal. It is logical if this practice 
upholds for electronic subscriptions. But I can surely imagine that the 
crumbling publishing industry will find legal ways to retaliate and do 
what you fear about. That industry landed on their feet by sprawling OA 
journals charging up to $5000 per small paper.

> Also, note that it benefits the university for the researcher to pay for 
> OA from their grants. I have already explained how. If the researcher 
> does less work/research for the same grant (after the uni has claimed 
> the "overheads"), then they can go back for more funding and repeat the 
> process more efficiently. The last thing that the uni wants (presumably) 
> is for a researcher to be tied up for a long time working on one 
> external grant.Cheers, Stephen

Yes and no. That would be a dumb university (not that they do not exist). 
The most valuable commodity here is prestige, because only that is more 
effective than anything in brining more money in. The best for the 
university would be if their researchers make seminal scientific 
discoveries and win various prizes, like the Nobel. That will allow the 
university to raise more private money as donations and to recruit better 
researchers, who are more willing to come to a more prestigious place and 
are more capable of raising more money, so that they can make better 
discoveries repeating the cycle. (Or a university could have a better 
spots team instead).

Finally, this prestige issue is the crux of the publishing problem and 
paper access. This CNS (Cell, Nature, Science for journal titles) problem 
is a hard nut to crack. Due to the prestige of these journals, publishing 
a paper in one of them means getting best academic jobs (better 
university, higher salary, higher startup funds) for the lead authors of 
the paper. If the CNS issue goes away, there would be no problem with the 
archive-based publishing instead of journal-based publishing. But I do not 
have a foggiest idea about how to fight the CNS issue. Really, none! If 
anything, the problem only becomes more severe with time, as more people 
are getting into science and leaders are less capable of judging the 
merits of each paper as it stands, instead of by prestige of a journal in 
which it was published.

Someone who is ingenious enough to solve the CNS problem will make this 
world a better place for publishing and research. Any takers out there?


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