Scientists are not the problem with science

Story: Science Needs an Upgrade to ‘Open’Total Replies: 7
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Dec 27, 2016
1:46 PM EDT
I know many scientists. Sometimes I even pretend to be one...

Many of the researchers I know would like to openly share the resultant papers. However, they are prevented from doing so because of the intellectual property agreements with the publishers of the papers. Many of these papers are published by the institutions and funded through tax dollar grants. The scientists themselves are not to blame for the 'non-openness' of the either the research process or the cost of the resultant papers.

There are worldwide initiatives currently attempting to end-run the pay-walled publishing houses. However, many of these free or inexpensive access publishers have a basic credibility problem. Humans, unfortunately, attach a great deal of importance on the idea that things that are available for free must not be worthwhile. And also unfortunately, greedy publishers of research papers by scientists who would much rather give away the papers for free, are ready and more than willing to oblige the human error of believing that free in cost equates to worthless.

Not so strangely, the same problem exists with FOSS. And again, I must point out that Open Source is not the same as FOSS...

In any case, I think Kevin Esvelt presentation at MIT has a significant problem confusing the source of the 'closed-science' problem and conflating scientists with publishers. I should also add that the 'free' Internet publishers, such as Google, extract a very large payment from the readers. Ads and tracking are expensive payment options.

Dec 27, 2016
3:43 PM EDT
> Many of these papers are published by the institutions and funded through tax dollar grants.

And many of those institutions are state funded universities, which are subject to political pressure. The private universities are another matter, but if the scientists go directly to the state legislatures, and are persuasive enough, things will change.

Dec 27, 2016
5:12 PM EDT
The peer-review process should not be made any less stringent, though... I am not sure if doctorate thesis should be fully published but if there would be a centralised thesis-bank , we should assume a researcher will be able to distinguish whether what is presented is valid or not...

About the second part of Kevin Esvelt's yt lecture, I reckon it was a little bit difficult for anyone to believe that the CRISP system used in that way in order to 'save' any species would not result, inevitably, in either the better case in which negative selection abolishes this thing of its DNA inventory, or in the worst case, in the occurance of all sorts of fetal aberrations . Worse still if these babies survive to aldulthood, these creatures may become those ' many-legged muties' Stephen King speaks so often of the in the Dark Tower...Really, let's focus on what mathematician Malcolm says in the book of Jurassic Park about chaotic systems?? peace

Dec 28, 2016
7:51 AM EDT
>The scientists themselves are not to blame ...

They are partly to blame, at least here in France. Elder scientists require that post-graduate professionals preparing a PhD for example, or wishing to become a 'Professor', have in their CV many publications in well known journals. No papers ? Go home ! They don't consider as valid scientific work published otherwise. Their institutions could offer an online space of reviewed scientific work, which would be of great value for the institutions themselves. But the scientists I know and with whom I discussed the matter rejected this approach in less than a second.

Dec 29, 2016
9:14 AM EDT
>Elder scientists require that post-graduate professionals preparing a PhD for example, or wishing to become a 'Professor', have in their CV many publications in well known journals. No papers ? Go home ! They don't consider as valid scientific work published otherwise.

This is the problem I'm referring to above. The professors and institutions want the grant money and want their graduates to be 'successful'. The publishing houses have a lock on the definition of 'successful.' And so, publishing science in non-open access journals along with maintaining secrecy of the actual data and methods is the only viable way for scientists to earn a living. The scientists didn't create the system. The system was created by outside forces such as government bureaucrats and non-scientist upper management within institutions.

If you were a professor at a prestigious school, would you tell your graduate students to publish papers for free somewhere on the Internet and risk both the ire of your management as well as the potentially 'cheapening' your graduates?

The problem of pay-walled science publishing is a problem of perception and lobbying power of the publishers, not the scientists.

Of course the 'elder' scientists are scientists, but they are like parents teaching their children 'how to work within the system'... The system was not made by the 'elder' scientists.

*** That's my story and I'm sticking with it *** How's that for a dogmatic closed minded statement!

Dec 31, 2016
9:05 AM EDT
I hold a PhD in mycological taxonomy. Fine......I have also published a very large number of papers about my work on the Hygrophoraceae, the genus Ramaria (and several other species) in recognised mycological journals. Most of those papers are behind paywalls and this irritates me immensely. I did that work freely and gave it to the scientific community freely......but I accept there is a cost in maintaining a web site and putting the material on line. I guess it's a case of "we're stuck with it".

However, those papers ARE readily available, free, if you go to a university or herbarium and look them up in the actual journals held by the libraries. And for fair dealing you can walk out with copies of those papers for research purposes. We are spoiled by the internet in many ways because so often we seem to think it is the ONLY way to get hold of research material. I'm one of the old school which still considers "hard copy" to be the ultimate medium for research...

There is a great deal of skill employed when you begin to look for material in the actual journals or books, and our youngsters have unfortunately discarded the process as too "time consuming"....or that's my opinion. And dare I say that I think you learn a lot more about your research area when you rake through the actual journals or printed material......I cannot prove it of course, but that's my strong impression. I don't decry the internet as a research tool, but I'd dearly like to see our youth take on board the lesson that the internet is just ONE of the tools of information research and that there are other methods as well and they can be very, very useful.

Even if you are hundreds of kilometres from those institutional libraries, there are ways of getting at those books and journals.

Dec 31, 2016
10:11 AM EDT
>Even if you are hundreds of kilometres from those institutional libraries, there are ways of getting at those books and journals.

I agree with your post and am rather old school myself... I can't read long reports unless I print them out. I take notes on the pages in pencil, and make drawings of my thoughts on the backs of each page. However, there are circumstances where the only practical research medium is the Internet.

When I was employed by the federal government, I needed to produce reports on things like, "The State of the xyz Industry." I had no choice but to rely on the Internet and utilize only the small number of journals to which my organization was subscribed. However, using some of the online science research publishers, I could see that there was significantly more information to be read and incorporated. It was impractical for me to request for travel funds to go hundreds of miles (sorry, USA convention). It was much more cost effective to simply request the few dollars per paper and proceed to download.

One of the most problematic aspects of the paywalled research is that much of it has been paid for by the taxpayer. Thus the 'real' owners of the report are the general public. And so, why are there paywalls at all!? Shouldn't the taxpayer gain access to a taxpayer funded paper? Shouldn't that paper be distributed in a format that is available to the widest audience possible at the cheapest taxpayer funded distribution costs. Wouldn't that necessarily mean that the papers should be published by the government organizations on a government run web page.

Jan 01, 2017
6:33 AM EDT
>One of the most problematic aspects of the paywalled research... ...

That's why I believe no one should continue on that old reflex of submitting, and above that, valuing traditional editors that do not do the research work over months or years. Every institution doing research work should be able to publish their work online within their own organization, or within their representative nation-wide college. They can charge for it in whatever way because they do the work, or give it free, it's their choice.

Before the internet era, it was the only way of sharing knowledge. That's no longer the case. Institutions failed to adapt. It may change when today's youngsters get old enough to realize there are better ways of sharing knowledge.

Currently, some papers are available at a cost 35-40 $ !!! And it's not guaranteed that the content is really that worthy. Let us remember that it's big business, there must be publications, even at the cost of quality, there are also mostly empty but well presented papers in journals.

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