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

Fernandez, Jose (AAFC/AAC) jose.fernandez at canada.ca
Mon Mar 2 10:31:29 CST 2020

Hi Nick,

No, I am not the taker you were looking for (for solving the CNS problem ;-)  And I do not think there is an easy solution for that, unless it comes from the top (one cannot expect that a grad student, looking for her/his place in the scientific community, starts publishing in "low impact" journals, that way jeopardizing her/his chances of finding a job). I am also pessimistic, as this society is losing the ability to judge the true value of things, instead relying on "likes", "followers", "clicks (on websites)" "impact"... But I fully agree with most of your points (and those of Carlos and many of Stephen's).

For a few years now, I have thought that we (scientists) should push more for OA platinum access (like the European Journal of Taxonomy mentioned by Carlos). These days, as Nick well said, the "costs of publishing" are much smaller. They may involve paying for a server (to host journal/papers), and having a few professionals involved with day to day activities (webmaster, layout editor, some programmers). There is no one anymore down in the galleys assembling the movable types (I am not talking about holotypes here ;-), or mixing ink gallons, or cutting papers, or binding books... at least that is not required for most of the journals the scientific community uses. Of course, the (mostly) electronic publishing still has some costs (everything costs!), but it should not be thousands per article (or dozens per page), it should be a much cheaper cost. The EJT is indeed the way to go (and there are others, two that come to mind are the Acta Entomologica Musei Nationalis Praga or the Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario, but I am sure that there are others... and, disclaimer, I have zero relationship with those two journals). Now, if we could build up upon those examples... It is mostly a matter of pushing this, and perhaps more scientists getting involved.

[One topic not yet mentioned is the other side of the coin: The "easiness" of publishing electronic journals also opens the door for predatory journals, a pest that is becoming more and more prevalent... let's not go there now].

As for the impact factor and similar (CSN problem)... Imagine if the scientific community would start giving more value to those (EJT-like) journals, then more papers are published there, then more citations/impact, then (perhaps!) they would become at some point more "important" and valued by the committees that assign grants and jobs... The initial effort would have to come from established scientist (with less to loose than new ones), and it may take a while until the move is strong enough as to get everyone else to accept it. [But I am pessimistic that we would reach a tipping point on that].

Now, this list is about "taxonomy" (most of the times, or perhaps just some times ;-)  We have some (at least partial) success stories in taxonomy. The two most successful journals in taxonomy (Zootaxa and ZooKeys) are relatively "new", certainly not part of old established/traditional publishing houses. Zootaxa immense success is a result of being "free" for the authors (but of course, not OA as readers have to pay). And ZooKeys is the starship of Pensoft, with a really user friendly environment (to submit, review, edit papers), and a really cool overall vibe due to all tools available in Pensoft (but is not free either, as in this case authors have to pay). Whatever the criticisms we want to discuss about those two journals (and their publishing houses Magnolia Press and Pensoft), they still constitute success stories in the sense of accessing the "market shares" of taxonomic papers -however small and "unimportant" taxonomy is within the context of other scientific branches. Could you image if we would have a "ZooKeys-like" journal which would be truly free? So far EJT has not displaced the two big Zs, but perhaps is matter of time, marketing and/or making the interface with users friendlier (hint: look at ZooKeys!). Or perhaps something else happens, I do not claim to know the future or even being able to predict it. [Now, if we could only get one of the Kardashians or Justin Bieber saying to their followers that publishing in the European Journal of Taxonomy is the cool way to go... ;-)]

But I would love if we could, as a scientific community, have an impact in reducing the amount of money spent on activities that indeed do not need that much. And, I FULLY agree with the "Open Science" concept that Carlos mentioned. Can we get there? 


José L. Fernández-Triana, Ph.D.
Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Canadian National Collection of Insects (CNC) 
960 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0C6, CANADA 
Phone: 613-759-1034. Email: jose.fernandez at canada.ca 
Alternative email : cnc.braconidae at gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> On Behalf Of Nick Grishin via Taxacom
Sent: Sunday, March 1, 2020 5:27 PM
To: Taxa com <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] OSTP request for information on Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications, Data and Code Resulting From US Federally Funded Research

> 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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