[Taxacom] Priorities in Funding

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Mon Mar 9 17:01:34 CDT 2020


 Alan,Those figures mean little or nothing in themselves. Sure it would cost your university less if they didn't have to pay subscriptions, but the savings would just add to their profits. They aren't gonna reimburse anyone with the money that they save! So, the uni wants to shift the cost of publication access to the public purse. Why do you see that as a win for you or for science or for anyone except shareholders in your uni?Cheers, Stephen    On Monday, 9 March 2020, 09:55:30 pm UTC, Weakley, Alan via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:  
 
 Perhaps apropos of OA, etc., my university (a "Tier 1 Research University" with mega research grants, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA) is currently negotiating (battling) with Elsevier over the cost of renewing subscription to the >2000 journals (!!) in their fleet (the contract costs $ millions annually).  I (and other researchers/teachers) were asked to review the list and prioritize.  It's a sobering list, with a very tiny fraction of journals that aren't human medicine -- maybe 5-10 out of 2000+ that are taxonomy/systematics/biodiversity related...  Yet there are important journals that I use regularly but can't get the University to subscribe to, because of tight money (= all of the $$ are going to Elsevier and other titans).  So, I put in my Interlibrary Loan Requests, get the article I need in a day as a pdf, costing the university $100 a pop -- which adds up to more than if they just subscribed to that journal.  Ah well...


From: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
Sent: Monday, March 9, 2020 5:25 PM
To: Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu; Weakley, Alan <weakley at bio.unc.edu>
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Priorities in Funding

Rich,
I seems to me that you have missed the point. I'm all in favour of more funding for documenting biodiversity. My concern here is that OA/OS isn't going to result in more biodiversity being documented. Instead, it will either reduce the amount of biodiversity being documented, if funding isn't increased to cover OA costs. If funding is increased to cover OA costs, then the amount of biodiversity being documented will be the same, but extra public funding will be diverted from elsewhere just to make literature open to people who have no reason to want to read it. One might argue that all published taxonomy is intrinsically important, but OA/OS covers all science and there is an awful lot of non-taxonomic stuff that loses relevance quickly, and a fair bit that has little or no relevance to anything to begin with, being no more than a required output for a funded project. Mandatory OA/OS has the potential to boost profits of publishers and research institutions which operate on external (public) funding. Unless you own shares in either of those, I don't see any other benefits from mandatory OA/OS, other than being fractionally easier to access literature if you are one of the few people who needs to access large amounts of scientific literature on a regular basis. But at what cost? Trillions in the long run.
Cheers,
Stephen
On Monday, 9 March 2020, 09:03:30 pm UTC, Weakley, Alan via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>> wrote:


Amen, Rich.

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From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>> on behalf of Richard Pyle via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>>
Sent: Monday, March 9, 2020 4:57:05 PM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>>
Subject: [Taxacom] Priorities in Funding

I know I'm jumping in a bit late to this game (been travelling), but I did want to comment on a couple of things (and, perhaps, shift the direction of the conversation a bit; hence the new subject line).

John Wrote:

> And lets not forget the zillions spent on war, space exploration etc.

Consider this:
https://youtu.be/TbhEaYpVrSs
(the second half puts your point in perspective)

Stephen wrote:

> by way of diverting what in the long run will be $trillions away
> from healthcare, welfare, etc., thereby helping to keep much
> of the world locked in poverty.

That's a pretty LLLLOONNNGGGG run for the OA publishing price tag to add up to $trillions; but what the hell -- I'll bite.

Stephen:  you got it backwards, mate.  With just a *tiny fraction* of the $trillions already spent on healthcare, welfare, etc. (more like $quadrillions by the time OA costs add up to $trillions) -- which probably saves only a few tens of millions of lives --  we could make MAJOR progress on documenting, understanding and perpetuating global biodiversity -- something of profound importance to the entire future of humanity (i.e., many **billions** of lives).  And because we'd be siphoning only a *tiny fraction*, we'd *both* be able to save tens of millions of lives *and* give the future of humanity a fighting chance. Let's have our cake and eat it too!

Oh, and we don't even need to siphon a tiny fraction away from healthcare, welfare, etc. -- we can instead take a tiny fraction away from military, political campaigns, etc., who won't even notice that it's missing.

Donat clearly has the right of this, in my opinion. This may be a bit overly provocative, but entire civilizations have come and gone within the tiny window of time humans have roamed the planet, but global biodiversity is a nearly 4-billion-year old legacy that demands WAY more of our attention (compared to other luxuries we currently spend our time and resources on) than it has ever received. OA is an admittedly small(ish) part of this, but it is an important part nonetheless.

<sermon>
I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but our perpetual problem is that the choir of taxonomy/biodiversity has been *horribly* out of harmony, so there's no wonder hardly anyone has been listening.  It's great that the issue of Climate Change has reached the heights that it has, but it's inexcusable that the associated loss of biodiversity has been little more than a footnote on the large-scale global conversation about climate change. The loss of biodiversity wasn't even mentioned in the film "An Inconvenient Truth" (except in the extended features on the DVD).  I know we've been gradually getting better, and stories about the impact of climate change on biodiversity have been gradually making their way into the public consciousness.  But it's still a bit of the tail wagging the dog, in my opinion.  I think a STRONG case can be made that biodiversity loss should be **THE** major issue in the climate change conversation, because of it's potential impacts on the *entirety* of future human civilization (not just the measly few million years that we've been around so far, let alone the few decades of any particular human life, or more trivially, a political cycle).  We in the biodiversity community are WAY underselling both the value and the urgency of this issue.  The CBD and the like are all great steps in the right direction, but I fear those efforts are being seriously held back by our insatiable desire to bicker with each other about trivial issues.  The physicists and astronomers figured this out decades ago, which I think is largely why their funding levels are *five orders of magnitude* more than ours (reference the above-linked video).  Judging by the banality of what I often see on Taxacom and elsewhere, I'm not holding out a lot of hope.
</sermon>

Aloha,
Rich


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