[linux-elitists] Science Journals Suck

Rusty Foster rusty@kuro5hin.org
Sun Jul 1 22:45:26 PDT 2001

Bulent Murtezaoglu wrote:
> Several exist.  One off the top of my head:
> http://www.cs.washington.edu/research/jair/home.html

...and, in a similar vein...

Jay Sulzberger wrote:
> http://xxx.lanl.gov
> http://front.math.ucdavis.edu
> oo--JS.

I don't doubt there are many more online journals of science. But if the
problem is solved, then why are 24 kilo-scientists signing this
petition? The goals of the Public Library of Science are to get stuff
publically released, so that it can be collected and cross-indexed.
Seems obvious, right. But they don't seem to be looking to the future.
They don't seem to be considering changing their abominably idiotic
relationship with these publishing profiteers. While campaigning for the
release of the existing hostage research is good, at the same time, they
really ought to be using their bully pulpit to figure out some way to
fix the current broken system, and ensure they don't have to fight this
battle all over again.

> IMHO starting an on-line journal is not a technical problem to be
> solved, you just need to get reputable people to agree to referee
> (and hold them to it in a reasonable timeframe).

I completely agree. The technical issues are minimal. But the economic
issues are rather interesting. Elsevier is charging a hell of a lot of
money for this stuff. And they don't own *any* of what makes it worth
paying for. That is, the researchers, and the reviewers. If those two
groups went elsewhere, Elsevier is well and truly fucked.

Now what if someone started an online Journal, not of any one tiny slice
of science, but organized topically across a wide range of fields.
Stipulate that articles submitted will not require copyright tranfer to
this organization, merely a three-month exclusive distribution license,
after which time they will be put into the public domain. They can bea
searched and cross-referenced on the Journal's site, or removed to other
databases, copied freely, etc. That is, after all, the whole point --
and was one of the original ideas behind the internet.

Charge one flat subscription fee to the whole shebang, call it $50.00 a
month. Hell, make it $25. If you could get half of the signatories to
the PLoS petition interested, you just created a $3.6 million a year
company. But it gets even better!

Create this journal as a subscriber-owned co-op. Subscribers may elect a
Board to carry out the business of running the Journal, and managing the
money. Subscription fees would go toward hardware, bandwidth,
maintaining the site, and logistics of coordinating the peer-review. Of
course, this would all be done as cheaply as possible, because we're not
trying to create a fat publishing monopoly. Then, whatever's not spent
of annual revenue (which I'm guessing would be a goodly chunk) would go
into a trust, to be used for funding worthy scientific research, as
determined by a board of trustees (probably also elected).

That sounds awfully good to me. But maybe I'm just fantasizing. :-)

Rusty Foster :: rusty@kuro5hin.org :: http://www.kuro5hin.org

Aren't you glad you decided to take on the high-paying, 
prestige-laden, media-influencing role of a scoop site admin?

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