Scientific peer review and publishing taking a turn for the better

A number of people have brought this recent article in the Economist to my attention. Some excerpts:

There is a widespread feeling that the journal publishers who have mediated this exchange for the past century or more are becoming an impediment to it. One of the latest converts is the British government. On July 16th it announced that, from 2013, the results of taxpayer-financed research would be available, free and online, for anyone to read and redistribute.

Criticism of journal publishers usually boils down to two things. One is that their processes take months, when the internet could allow them to take days. The other is that because each paper is like a mini-monopoly, which workers in the field have to read if they are to advance their own research, there is no incentive to keep the price down. The publishers thus have scientists—or, more accurately, their universities, which pay the subscriptions—in an armlock. That, combined with the fact that the raw material (manuscripts of papers) is free, leads to generous returns. In 2011 Elsevier, a large Dutch publisher, made a profit of £768m on revenues of £2.06 billion—a margin of 37%. Indeed, Elsevier’s profits are thought so egregious by many people that 12,000 researchers have signed up to a boycott of the company’s journals.

Support has been swelling for open-access scientific publishing: doing it online, in a way that allows anyone to read papers free of charge. The movement started among scientists themselves, but governments are now, as Britain’s announcement makes clear, paying attention and asking whether they, too, might benefit from the change.

Read the entire article here

============================================================

The recent backlash and boycott associated with Elsevier and their outrageous policies and pricing certainly became a spark that fanned flames across many venue of science. International Business Times wrote then:

Timothy Gowers, a mathematician from Cambridge University, called for the boycott on his blog in January over Elsevier’s high subscription price, high profit margins and subscription bundles.

“I am not only going to refuse to have anything to do with Elsevier journals from now on, but I am saying so publicly,” Gowers said in his post. “I am by no means the first person to do this, but the more of us there are, the more socially acceptable it becomes.”

I can tell you this, I’m aware of movements on several fronts along these lines, it is not a matter of if, but when. It seems inevitable to me that traditional journals will eventually go the way of the dodo.

About these ads

76 thoughts on “Scientific peer review and publishing taking a turn for the better

  1. Perhaps indirectly, this looks like the first fruit of the Climategate scandal. No more can scientists refuse to archive their material properly, in complete and accessible form, and no longer can they illegally refuse FOIA requests for their data.

  2. so every poorly written paper will be published w/o review or will the authors round up some buddies to “review” it for them. Can’t say it is much different from current science journals…but seriously how would the truly unscientific get filtered?
    Try an internet search cancer, normal search brings up every charlatan. Where as google science filters for only published papers. Or will only govt funded science be considered legit?
    curious as to how others see this developing.

  3. There is a bit of hyperbole here.

    In the olden days, university libraries subscribed to journals and anyone could visit the library and read whatever. Most university libraries restricted borrowing to academics, but anyone was welcome to the reading rooms. Indeed, academics could not borrow journals either.

    Now that journals have moved online, free (at the margin) access is limited to academics. The vast majority of journal articles is only ever read by academics.

    Although free access to all is laudable in principle, it is not a big change in practice.

    The crucial change is that, in the old system, the readers paid — and they stopped paying for journals that only publish rubbish. In the new system, the writers pay — and there will always rubbish researchers with too much money.

  4. We need journals as we want peer review. Blogs/ forums/wiki have a role too, but they in general are not up to peer review. Climate is an exception, as intelligent people capable of seeing the hype and BS did not get a straight answer to a straight question and smelt a rat. The journal contrived not not having the data or serious review as that suited their product suppliers and most of thier client base went along.
    We want the arguements in the journals to be superior to the internet and we are prepared to pay. But if they do not much better than the internet, why pay?

  5. So, essentially, publishers like Elsevier also feed on the government trough. They too have a big interest in the continuing of all the global warming research and publishing. Scary, actually, since free press and free publishers are a guard to protect us from wannabee dictators to succeed.

    “but governments are now, as Britain’s announcement makes clear, paying attention and asking whether they, too, might benefit from the change.”
    How could they NOT benefit, when their public financed scientists won’t have to pay anymore for public financed research? Just do the math. But governments nowadays have no economic principles, just tax-maximalisation and people-minimalisation (which goes hand in hand btw)
    The green inmates are running the asylum.

    And what has government to do with science in the first place?

    One solution only:
    Stop public funding of science and adjourn the scientific-governmental AGW death-spiral.

  6. The Journals should face a De-Radical Shakeup.

    Too often, the agendas of Radical Leftists who have overtaken journals, have misrepresented information, promoted false information or taken anti-science actions outside of the Scientific Method.

    It’s Time to Remove the Radicals and Restore the Scientific Method to Scientific Journals.

  7. Wonderful news! This will shake up the fraudulent parties! Heck, we might even get some TRUTH out of them. Honest scientists everywhere will applaud this. :)

  8. It is 40 years since I last attended University, but this month I returned to the hallowed halls of academia to advance my post graduate qualifications. 40 years ago, most papers were available within the university library, now i have to request most of them and the library will source them from the respective journals. The main difference is that instead of the library holding a physical journal that I could read, they now receive a pdf copy of the paper I request and that in turn is emailed to me.

    So if the journals deliver the required papers electronically, I receive and read it electronically what is the reason for the papers being so expensive? Obviously publishing on the internet, with an open review, would make for faster and better spread of scientific information.

  9. >In the new system, the writers pay — and there will always rubbish researchers with too much money.

    Amazon’s rating system does a good job of pointing out worthwhile books. Something similar would work for scientific papers too.

  10. This development may be a lot more important than any of us realise.

    This should mean the end of Team-style ‘climate reseach’, where the original data is usually hidden, eaten by the dog, lost or considered proprietory, and therefore confidential by the researcher,

    It may also herald the beginning of the end of climate ‘research’, where the results are already pre-determined, (i.e. scary enough) to generate sufficient grants for the researchers to continue with their comfortable lifestyles.

    Why this has not been done before beggars belief. If the release of all government (or quasi-government) funded data on climate had been made mandatory 20 years ago, then I doubt if any of us would have ever heard of Mann, Hansen, Jones and their ilk. Not only that, but there would never have been a Hockey Stick.

  11. The movement started among scientists themselves,

    No mention of WUWT or CA or the rest – but it is still implied since a large number of the readership here are indeed scientists whether trained or no. After all, it is the pursuit of scientific method that defines a real scientist, not qualifications. A point we understand here but, it seems, warmist supporters do not.

    I was tickled pink to hear Rob Honeycutt (Skeptical Science), criticizing Robert Tamaki over at Amazon (Tamaki gave Mann’s book a one-star rating). Rob Honeycutt complains that Andrew Montford is not a scientist. But Rob declares himself to be no scientist.

    So, yes, the movement started among scientists.

  12. The vast majority of journal articles is only ever read by academics.

    Actually, the vast majority of journal articles are barely read at all. A couple of other people in the same field, then they gather moss.

    There post focuses on science, but there is no need to. Other disciplines with more general readership face the same restrictions. Lots of history articles, for example, would have large readerships if they were available.

    All publicly funded research should be available for minimal charge, not just science.

  13. I live six blocks from Columbia’s library system for which I have an alumni reading access card. I still put off reading 80% of the pay wall articles I come across. Even a slight hassle changes behavior when it amounts to an hour trip instead of the five minutes it would take to figure out what the article is really about. The professors and students there working in labs of course have a password to be able to use Columbia’s full computer access system to all of the pay wall material, so they can read the literature after midnight whenever they want.

  14. Finally.
    This is what the World Wide Web was invented for—to give scientists a way to publicize
    their work so their peers (and anyone else interested) could have ready, easy and early
    access to it.
    Tim Berners-Lee’s original intention is bearing fruit at long last.

  15. Some have said that the change to open research publication would allow inferior research to be available to all. That is already true, as Climategate supplies evidence. It will still be up to the reader, as best he can, to distinguish good from bad. There has always been both good science and junk science in published material; the fact that it will now be free and open for inspection can only be an improvement. Peer review can and will still occur, and should also be available for inspection. Those who know the science will be able to benefit from quicker, easier, and cheaper access to new works from others, which can advance their own research.

  16. It would be good to know that our hard earned money is spent on worthwhile research instead of some of the rubbish now making its way to Nature, New Scientist et al.

  17. Peter Miller says:

    July 25, 2012 at 12:55 am

    This development may be a lot more important than any of us realise.

    This should mean the end of Team-style ‘climate reseach’, where the original data is usually hidden, eaten by the dog, lost or considered proprietory, and therefore confidential by the researcher… [etc.]

    *

    I think we all realize this, Peter. It’s certainly what I’m celebrating for. Your whole post nailed it. :)

  18. @Sean
    Publishers will tell you that you pay for the value added by their professional editorial, publishing, and database management skills.
    Others might tell you that researchers want to publish in the most prestigious journals, that journal space is in short supply, and that publishers extract a monopoly rent.
    A quick look at the profit margins of major publishers suggest that the latter is closer to the truth.

  19. There might come a time when, to be considered a credible, proper scientist, you have to publish your (tax-payer funded) scientific research so it’s publicly available and all paywall-published, pal-reviewed scientists’ articles will be frowned upon. Make it so.

  20. They should be published online and peer reviewed online so that anybody can view and contribute to the process in real time. There should be a mechanism for people who register to comment to have their field of study and qualifications, checked and displayed below their name. Anyone should be able to go and view the comments and be able to filter them e.g.
    Show me comments by assigned peer reviewers only
    Show me comments only by people with a PhD
    Show me comments by everybody
    Show me comments by people with PhDs in Astrophysics, tenured to U.S. universities who are less than 40 years old.

    People should be able to rate comments and the rating would be weighted by the qualifications of the raters (i.e. like Google PageRank).

    This would make it more likely that a bright idea (or pertinent question) by someone unqualified gets noticed by the people qualified enough to judge whether the idea has any merit.

    The experts can reply to comments or questions by the general public. Others can read these. So the whole thing becomes a teaching resource. A cutting-edge online university where the lessons are based on papers in the process of entering the literature.

  21. Who reviews the peers?. I won’t believe anything these days unless it has been cleared by the Ponds Institute.

  22. This trend will also eventually extend to scholarly texts and books. Anyone who has purchased either university texts or secondary school books know that the profit margin for these companies is huge. The costs associated just don’t support the pricing. Talk about price-gouging of the Eviil oil companies – these Pulishers are Professionals!

    In my opinion – it is indeed a mini-monopoly, where there is an unbalanced transaction – where the ‘public / government’ entity has no power / incentive to say ‘no’ to the pricing policy of the publisher. The student at University has only a couple of options:
    1) purchasing used books (even that market is becoming organized), or
    2) reading the reserved book in Libraries (not so convienient)).

    In addition, Secondary school systems aren’t very adept (or interested) at negotiating for reduced prices because they are not spending their own money anyway. The cost of Education (and HealthCare) have risen faster than inflation for years – leaving one to ask why: degree of open competition? degree to which the government is a poor steward of taxpayer dollars?

  23. In my experience (over 150 scientific papers) commercial and society publishers do a good job. I do not begrudge them a margin (=profit) on their contribution. That’s just the Market in operation. Open Access is still a doubtful proposition in my opinion because (1) many of the “journals” popping up to service this market are just “vanity publishers” that take the authors’ money and put up a weakly reviewed e-paper, (2) Open Access shifts the burden of payment in many cases to the authors, and the costs can actually be quite steep!

  24. The PLoS journals (Public Library of Science) have already been at the forefront of online open access for a decade.

    http://www.plosone.org/static/information.action

    Everyone who has any influence with friends, colleagues, peers who publish scientific articles should already be urging this option on others — it does not have to wait for these changes from govt and national research bodies, which will still take years to take effect even with the best of will and effort (often lacking).

    Please consider circulating the link below (I have no connection, it’s simply something I’ve been aware of and applauding for awhile):

    http://www.plosone.org

    I think that PLoS One is a broad-based journal that aims to be a kind of online “Nature” for all scientific fields (but wide open rather than restrictive).

    There are several other PLoS journals so far, mostly oriented toward biomedical fields. Maybe with a boost of interest there will be PLoS journals for every field, or perhaps PLoS One is intended to fill that role for all scientific fields, I’m not sure.

  25. The real complaint seems to be that Elsevier makes a profit for doing all the things required to publish journals of rather limited circulation. So, if it’s all done slickly on line, allowing limited peer review, how is that different from hard copy publishing and science by press release that goes on today? We now have electronic versions. I’m not sure this is much of an improvement.

  26. Related News

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/18962349

    Last February, a reviewer of German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s doctoral dissertation discovered and documented some plagiarised passages.
    […]
    Within days, a group of people formed around a wiki they called GuttenPlag Wiki and proved him to be quite wrong. He had to resign just two weeks later.

    That was not the end of it. Soon it was suspected that a major ex-politician’s daughter was guilty of plagiarism in her dissertation, and a new wiki was set up, VroniPlag Wiki, to document this case. Quite soon plagiarism was discovered in yet another dissertation, and it has not stopped. Currently there are 27 documented cases on the site.
    […]
    However, it seems that the plague of plagiarism has also reached the level of the professorships in Germany. Those who are supposed to be teaching students have also been caught using copy and paste. Last month it was revealed that more than a third of a new book for law students on how to write papers properly was plagiarised, including liberal smatterings from Wikipedia.

    Fittingly, even the chapter on plagiarism was plagiarised. And just to show how contagious the disease is, the authors also cite zu Guttenberg’s dissertation – albeit incorrectly.
    […]
    The problem is deep-rooted and systemic. Professors in Germany tend to work alone, with their subordinate research groups. Most will not criticise other professors, and they do not discuss problems, full stop. There is no official vetting or oversight.

    For decades in Germany there has been a creeping toleration of scientific misconduct, a looking away when lines were crossed. Anyone who spoke out was quickly silenced. Honest scholars have felt frustrated at seeing others getting away with cutting corners.
    […]
    Dissertations need to be published online with open access to permit easy checking, and a random sample of theses defended in the past five years needs to be reviewed in order to identify weak points. However, there is currently no funding for such measures, so it’s unclear whether Germany universities will really get serious about plagiarism, or keep muddling on.

    Evidence suggests this is not an exclusively Germany plague, so similar measures may be required in other European countries too, possibly all, to ensure that higher degrees awarded in Europe’s universities continue to attract the respect they deserve.

  27. From Canberra times quote “Almost two thirds of people still believe climate change is occurring, but the depth of concern is in decline.” This shows the very low level of scientific education that Australians have been getting for years now.

  28. One problem is that the number of true peers is often very few.
    As a scientist, you want your work to be reviewed by those peers (often competitors too) who can spot any weakness and raise queries about it as a part of the review process.
    The Editor is there to see both the the job is done well and that the reviewer is playing fair.
    Not to use true peers is to risk mistakes getting under the radar.
    It is a burden being a reviewer and it takes up a good deal of time to do a proper job, check the methodology, logic, statistics, references etc.
    Someone outside the immediate field might struggle just to locate the references, never mind figure out if they are appropriate to the paper.
    I find it hard to find the time to review more than one paper per year.

    To my mind, the system works to the point of publication.
    I do feel that, now that re-prints and photocopies have been superceded by pdf files, the justification for charging for disseminating published work has dissapeared.
    I don’t have a huge budget and have to judge whether its worth paying for a paper from the abstract and what I know of the authors.

  29. I am astonished that the economist buys the story that Elsevier’s margins are as low as 37%. I’d put them several orders of magnitude higher. The scientists write all the material for free. They review and edit it for free. They typeset it for free. Elsevier of course pays for … um … what exactly do they pay for I wonder? With electronic journals these days they don’t even have to pay to get the things printed and shipped.

  30. Ok, not to rain on the parade here, but there ARE costs associated with publishing, scientific papers or anything else. Would someone please explain to me the business model of how these costs are going to be met?

  31. @ Geoff Withnell says:
    July 25, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Electronic publishing doesn’t cost much. Create a pdf of your article and post it online. Dead cheap.
    There is absolutely no reason to print anything.

  32. @Geoff W
    There are three models. 1. You pay for every accepted paper. This creates an incentive for editors to accept as many papers as possible. 2. You pay for every submitted paper. This creates an expectation of acceptance with the author. 3. The university or funding agency pays an annual sum to the publisher covering all papers. This does not distort the review of individual papers. It is difficult to negotiate the right price, though.

  33. I suspect the only real reason people still publish in journals is because the student/professor/scientist gains social and professional status from publishing articles in respected journals. A “wiki” system needs to account for this if it is to fully replace the journals. It could even provide a faceted reputation system with more information than “published 100 articles” regarding someone’s contributions to their field.

    Wikipedia is a poor replacement for scientific journals due to both policy (e.g. “not news” and “not a journal”) and some odd technical choices in the software. It’s frustrating when people put forth Wikipedia as the archetype for online collaborative publishing, and assume other efforts will suffer from the same flaws. For one thing, dividing knowledge up into “articles” is an arbitrary decision and a limitation in the digital world. Let the reader choose the scope of an “article” and dynamically extract it from the knowledge base.

  34. Geoff Withnell says:
    July 25, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Ok, not to rain on the parade here, but there ARE costs associated with publishing, scientific papers or anything else. Would someone please explain to me the business model of how these costs are going to be met?

    There is nothing wrong with making a profit on privately-funded research, but when public-funded it ought to be available to those providing the funding without charge.

    And, that 37% profit margin kind of puts Exxon Mobile’s roughly 8% into perspective.

  35. A first step, but this principle of open access should be extended to all government commissioned studies by external consultants paid for by the tax payer. Despite freedom of information laws, too much is still held for government bureaucrat eyes only.

  36. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the point of “peer review” (lately devolved to mere mutual-admiration backscratching) is not to assess the validity of a hypothesis but to screen for ridiculousities such as violation of Conservation Laws while ensuring that all results be strictly replicable.

    Absent replication, no hypothesis is scientifically meaningful in any wise. Since “climate studies” exemplars such as Michael Mann uniformly fail to archive data, in many cases even destroy findings to eliminate any “paper trail,” their conclusions are entirely spurious. Failing even the possibility of confirmation, Mann et al. profess entirely junk science on which no researcher of integrity can base any valid conjecture whatsoever.

    Cf: Kentti Linkola.

  37. “There is nothing wrong with making a profit on privately-funded research, but when public-funded it ought to be available to those providing the funding without charge.”

    The primary purpose of copyright law (in the U.S., at least) is to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. That is, copyright protection gives people incentive to invest in research and publish results without fear that others will sell the results without making their own investment.

    If a work is funded a priori by the government, it should not be granted any copyright protection whatsoever, because the author already has full incentive to publish. And 100+ years of copyright protection should certainly not be transferred to a shady journal that hinders the progress of science and the useful arts by forbidding the free exchange of said tax-funded research.

    (Omitted attributions for ironic effect. :) )

  38. It is time to identify the reviewers and post their reviews along with the final paper. The combination of knowing the author and the reviewers would go a long way to identifying what should be quality work as opposed to a flimsy excuse for a scientific paper.

  39. How does free to access scientific reports change the culture of hiding and obfuscation of the data, methods and results?

    Not at all.

    What does it mean for the deliberate undermining of the peer review system by some climate scientists?

    Nothing.

    The question of how science self-corrects when such key information is hidden and the peer review system broken has yet to be addressed.

  40. Skiphil says:
    July 25, 2012 at 3:25 am

    I think that PLoS One is a broad-based journal that aims to be a kind of online “Nature” for all scientific fields (but wide open rather than restrictive).

    There are several other PLoS journals so far, mostly oriented toward biomedical fields. Maybe with a boost of interest there will be PLoS journals for every field, or perhaps PLoS One is intended to fill that role for all scientific fields, I’m not sure.

    How about disgruntled skeptical climatologists getting together and founding a PLOS for climatology? It could/should have been done five years ago.

  41. I have to support Geoff Withnell here. There is no such thing as free since the costs have to be paid somehow. This can be done by page charges or institutional subscriptions, both government funded or industry funded. At best you are changing the path of funding which will still probably lead to an increase in taxes. If industry funding disappears it will most certainly lead to an increase in taxes. It may also lead to a decrease in both commercial publishers and independent scientific society publishers, followed by an increase in directly controlled government publishers. I do not think that this is a good thing. Web publishing may, of course, lead to a decrease in cost, but this will happen more efficiently in a free enterprise system. Do we really want more government dictates?

  42. HOORAY!!!!!!! I am a geologist who is in private practice but also have taught at university continuously throughout my 30 year career and have been an active researcher on issues relevant to my clients’ projects. NOT being an academic (so it is not my actual job to shepherd publications through the mills but to produce economically viable results) I have always found the actual process of publication to be the single largest detriment to making the committment to publish – it is not the actual research, writing and coordination of the research paper itself. That part is intuitively straightforward.

    The research publishers do serve a purpose in the same way that publishers of fiction serve a purpose – they have been a screening house, weeding out nonsense and garbarge, so that other researchers who do not want to waste their time filtering out nonsense but get right to the meat of serious findings know where to go. I mean, Amazon is now allow people to self publish their ‘books’ which will be available on line for really cheap prices for a download to a kindle. Can you image all the tripe you will have to slog through to find one decent work of fiction in that mess? With that in mind, I hope the publishers of scientific research learn how to live in the internet world so we can use their filtering abilities and some semblance of the former stodgy peer review process but still have immediate access to real-time publications for a reasonable fee – or in the case of government sponsored research, no fee.

  43. From an article by Alexander Cockburn ‘I have committed intellectual blasphemy’, first published on spiked in January 2008. He died on 21 July 2012:

    Regarding peer review…

    “One way in which critics are silenced is through the accusation that they are ignoring ‘peer-reviewed science’. Yet oftentimes, peer review is a nonsense. As anyone who has ever put his nose inside a university will know, peer review is usually a mode of excluding the unexpected, the unpredictable and the unrespectable, and forming a mutually back-scratching circle. The history of peer review and how it developed is not a pretty sight. Through the process of peer review, of certain papers being nodded through by experts and other papers being given a red cross, the controllers of the major scientific journals can include what they like and exclude what they don’t like. Peer review is frequently a way of controlling debate, even curtailing it. Many people who fall back on peer-reviewed science seem afraid to have out the intellectual argument.”

    The complete essay at http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/12664/

  44. The best peer review system is what we have on WUWT. Qualified readers comment and either show up the stupidity or laud the effort. Vicious SOBs and Trolls are shown up as what they are, and science triumphs (hopefully). The writer can respond back and forth and knock out the idiots or be knocked out. I think that is a pretty good filter for quality.

  45. Looking back a bit, there lots of carvings in stone…very public. Then there was the era of standing in groups to share wisdom and other great thinking….very public. Then greed entered the system during the Renaissance Era (approximation).

    We tax payers provide funding for universities who compete for revenue. All universities and agencies receiving any public money are bound to the public. For me to pay ridiculous fees for publicly owned intelligence is a fraud. For us alumni who have privileges to libraries, that is a nice perk. However, the public should have the same access. It is their money paying for the facilities. Students pay, donors pay, public funds pay, private entities donate, state taxes pay, federal funding pays, etc.

    The peer review system would be much improved if research was totally open to view. Let all who desire to test/question/legitimize/support/criticize your work have a shot at it. What do you have to hide if it is legitimate?

    Then there is greed, the ultimate answer to the evils of this subject. Chisel your work in stone!

  46. This is good news, in my opinion.
    Peer review and, later, public review should be better than just one or the other.
    The high cost of reading scientific articles should be opposed, I think.
    A ranking system could help preventing us from making mistakes and believing some junk science.

  47. Climate “science” will fight this tooth and nail. They will not go down without a fight. The reason being is they have to know that this is a fight to the death for them. (metaphorically, of course) If they do submit to these rules in Britain, I expect to hear a different tune coming out of climate “science” in the next 15 years or so. Interesting development.

  48. I believe this is one of the main reasons why the education system is slow to incorporate important research findings into daily educational practice in the classroom. It is written into federal and state law that we must use research-based instruction (from curriculum to teaching strategies), yet we do not have ready and open access to the very research we are supposed to be basing our practice in the classroom on. Yes we can read the abstracts, but as we all know here, abstracts are written to hide many inconvenient caveats found in the body of the paper we cannot read unless we fork over coinage.

    Untie our hands legislatures.

  49. Excellent news. However, might this endanger the furture of joint private and government funded research. Perhaps this will be protected.

  50. The idea that the results of publically funded research should be freely available to the public that paid for it is certainly a legitimate one. That would only be one component of what a publishing system should provide, however. The current system of peer review and publish for profit performs some necessary functions. Whatever would replace it needs to provide all of those services at least as well as they are performed now – preferably with some enhancements to cut down on the cliquishness and corruption. Designing such a model is not a trivial exercise.

  51. Sean said:

    We need journals as we want peer review. Blogs/ forums/wiki have a role too, but they in general are not up to peer review. Climate is an exception, as intelligent people capable of seeing the hype and BS did not get a straight answer to a straight question and smelt a rat.

    I follow one other pursuit of science besides CAGW and that’s diet and nutrition and I can assure you that the conventional wisdom due to scientific efforts over the past 50 years are just as bad (if not worse) in that discipline as it is in CAGW. We have a world full of unhealthy people costing health care trillions due to the unacceptable science that cholesterol and fat being dangerous. And just as with CAGW, it’s been interested outsiders willing to go against the majority who publish on blogs who are finally changing things. The paths taken by CAGW and diet are so similar it makes me wonder just how many other branches of science are FUBAR.

  52. I agree with William Sears that free market forces usually make products and services better and government operations tend to have no incentive to get better. However, the options under discussion do not have to include government funded on-line journals. The current open access journals are businesses that obviously have an interest in profit but also in competing and improving services. When I publish in PlosOne, I have to pay about $1,700 for each paper accepted. Although this isn’t a trivial amount, in comparison to other costs of research, it isn’t prohibitive unless perhaps one publishes exclusively in open access journals. I cannot distinguish much difference in peer review for the traditional journals and the open access journals. The only difference worth noting is that PlosOne asks reviewers not to worry about the “importance or impact” of the paper but only whether the studies were done properly and the results and interpretation are plausible. This is a very good move, because it is impossible to accurately determine importance or impact until after the paper is published and the results replicated and incorporated by others.

  53. What the average taxpayer dislikes about taxpayer funded ‘science’ is that it’s not science.
    It’s cash paid out to donors, supporters and political propagandists.

    OH! Hey-let’s start a NEW taxpayer funded agency to oversee the taxpayers money. Yeah. We can populate it w/ hand-picked Presidential appointees. That’ll fix the problem.

  54. It is important to focus on eaxctly what problem you’re trying to solve. To me the important things are (a) research which is cited in support of proposed public policy and (b) publicly funded research in general. The first if by far the most important. Here’s my go at it:

    1) No legislative or regulatory body may use, consider, or be influenced by a research study which is not freely available together with all supporting data and code.

    2) Any publicly funded research which results in publication anywhere must be freely available together with all supporting data and code no more than 90 days after first appearance in any professional journal. [This preserves the role of current professional journals. Note that research so published cannot be used under rule (1) until it is made available under this rule]

    3) The Library of Congress shall provide a repository to meet the requirements of (1) and (2) for an at-cost charge. All federally funded research grant proposals must include a line item for this charge.

    That’s my modest proposal — I’m not trying to fix all the real or perceived defects in the current system, just trying to protect public policy making from junk science. If some scientists want to work in a sandbox only interacting with other scientists, and if they can find funding sources willing to support their research knowing it can never be used to affect public policy, and if there are journals which will publish their papers knowing only other sandbox scientists will ever read them, that’s fine.

    One hopes that a wider distribution and examination of research publications will have a feedback effect on the granting agencies so really sloppy research is penalized at the funding source, but that may be hoping for too much. If we can just stop or reduce the pollution of bad science into policy debates, that would be a major acheivement.

  55. Journal publishers should not be profiting from taxpayer funded grants and then in addition, require even more taxpayer money in order to read the articles the taxpayer has already paid for. This seems so very simple. That this attempt at pick pocketing continues speaks volumes about those who could outlaw it. Elected law-making entities cannot pass the buck on this one. Wonder what the backstory is on the end of the buck passing trail. Legislatures? Care to comment?

  56. Smokey says:
    July 25, 2012 at 4:43 am
    “Most peer reviewed papers are wrong.”

    I think this opening up is all well and good, but in my experience the scientific literature is swamped with dross:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_publishing

    “with estimates suggesting that around 50 million journal articles[3] have been published since the first appearance of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society”

    “Perhaps the most widely recognized failing of peer review is its inability to ensure the identification of high-quality work. The list of important scientific papers that were initially rejected by peer-reviewed journals goes back at least as far as the editor of Philosophical Transaction’s 1796 rejection of Edward Jenner’s report of the first vaccination against smallpox.”.

    50×10^6 scientific papers says it all. The quality of researcher and research has decliined with the lowering of standards for entry into Universities because of the funding of the institution directly based on head counts. Quality has also been impacted by an appalling broad-based decline in morality in western societies (no links, just having lived the history). The system of obtaining research grants makes Universities into financial institutions rather than centres of excellence in research. I haven’t seen a graph of the number of papers published over time but it is probably a logarithmic plot with a doubling every generation from the 1700s when it began. How many of these technicians (modern scientists) will grace our history books of the future. There has only been a few dozen in the last couple of hundred years that have made real discoveries, I suggest they should enjoy a separate category from the technicians, There are a lot more violin players than composers,

    OK we have the prospect of open access, what do we do about the tonnage of dross to wade through. Can we develop a way to weight the papers so that the gold can be tapped out from under the slag.,

  57. @Sean July 24, 2012 at 11:52 pm:
    “We want the arguements [sic] in the journals to be superior to the internet and we are prepared to pay. But if they do not much better than the internet, why pay?”

    If they only charged $3-$5 an article, I don’t think we would be having this discussion. But paying more for ONE article than for a year’s subscription to most magazines or news sites – that is just rape.

    Steve Garcia

  58. Deja vu all over again. I suspect that the effect of the internet on civilization wiil be faster and bigger than the invention moveable type and the printing press. Gutenberg’s press wiped out the scribes and the monopoly the Catholic Church had on written material. The spread of knowledge produced by the printing press transformed the Western World. I also suspect the Internet will transform the world that is connected to it. I expect there will be a lot of road kill on the information highway in the form of traditional news hacks and monopolistic book publishers.

  59. Pointman says:
    July 25, 2012 at 3:20 am

    The huge and winning advantage the science blogosphere has over those dinosaur science journals is money. They can make it, we can’t, and paradoxically, that’s precisely what is killing them….
    ____________________________
    I am afraid I disagree.

    Up until about ten years ago I got several periodicals in three different fields. However the useful information to propaganda ratio got so bad I finally chucked all of them. It just wasn’t worth the several hundred a year. If you have read WUWT over time the disgust with the propaganda in scientific journals is very evident and I am not the only one who has chucked their science rag subscriptions for that reason.

    If the journals were worth the money and had stuck to science instead of pushing propaganda (and money making) I think they would have lasted a lot longer. I LIKE books, I LIKE to be able to put my hands on the information instead of finding out my bookmarked link is dead. However I am not going to pay for my own brain washing. Therefore I think the death of journals is due to a combination of factors and to put it bluntly “They asked for it.”

  60. David Ross says:
    July 25, 2012 at 3:40 am

    Related News

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/18962349

    Last February, a reviewer of German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s doctoral dissertation discovered and documented some plagiarised passages….
    ____________________________
    My husband some times edits Doctoral thesis that are written by foreign students in English. He has found whole sections plagiarized from WIKI and other sources.

    And then there is this

    The Shadow Scholar The man who writes your students’ papers tells his story

    I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature…

    I’ve written toward a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I’ve worked on bachelor’s degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I’ve written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I’ve attended three dozen online universities. I’ve completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

    You’ve never heard of me, but there’s a good chance that you’ve read some of my work. I’m a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can’t detect, that you can’t defend against, that you may not even know exists….

  61. Perhaps this would be a good time to remind people about this Climategate Report, and to read the section beginning at page 126.

    http://www.cce-review.org/pdf/FINAL%20REPORT.pdf

    It would seem to fit in nicely as a complement to the ideas raised here.

    APPENDIX 5: PEER REVIEW
    UNDERSTANDING UNCERTAINTY: A BRIEF HISTORY
    OF PEER REVIEW
    By Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet

    Amid the public and scientific furore over alleged events at the University of East Anglia‘s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), peer review has emerged as a central issue in the dispute. In the Times Higher Education, for example, Andrew Montford, author of The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science (1), argued that events at the CRU had far-reaching implications for the world of scientific publishing (2). His charge sheet was extensive – undermining the peer-review process, threatening editors who published work contrary to orthodox scientific opinion, organising mass resignations from editorial boards, and persuading colleagues to stop submitting papers to allegedly offending journals. Montford suggests that ―as many as four different journals may have had their normal procedures interfered with‖. He
    continues,“

    fwiw…

    Highly recommended.

  62. Bob Johnston says: @ July 25, 2012 at 7:56 am

    …I follow one other pursuit of science besides CAGW and that’s diet and nutrition and I can assure you that the conventional wisdom due to scientific efforts over the past 50 years are just as bad…
    ________________________
    I will certainly agree with you there. Big Pharma can’t make money on a change of diet so the research is geared toward pushing pills. Healthy humans are not big money makers so treatments not cures are the focus. My Doctor ran afoul of the FDA on a cure for rheumatoid arthritis back in the late 1960’s. She was proof it worked – haven’t heard of it have you….

  63. Lest one get the impression that the only driver for publication costs is corporate profit, here are the top salaries for the American Chemical Society, a non-profit publisher.

    http://www.idontcare.com/acs/

    One of these guys is the editor of the house magazine, C&E News, where he routinely spouts liberal pablum from the editorial page…except when it comes to open access. While one could arguably say open access is a cause that would naturally belong to the left. In this case, he purports to be on the side of “free enterprise”.

  64. John M says:
    July 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Lest one get the impression that the only driver for publication costs is corporate profit, here are the top salaries for the American Chemical Society, a non-profit publisher….
    ____________________________
    And the dues for ACS were darn high too to support him. In junior year as a Chem/Chem Eng major you got roped into ACS by your prof. – large hints on how important membership was to your career, you needed two people to recommend you etc etc – the student rate was low because they hoped to grab you before you left college and milk you for the rest of your working life.

  65. Gail,

    Good point. My advice to any youngsters who fall for the ploy…don’t sign up for any of the Society bennies like life insurance, retirement annuities, favorable bank rates etc, since if you get fed up enough to resign your membership, you’ll have to scramble to find alternatives.

  66. Open access is a must for any paper or study if it is publicly-funded or if it is for public policy purposes. But there is a downside.

    The problem isn’t the open access, but the method used to fund it, namely, the author pays the journal to publish it. This is OK if the author is funded by the state (or whoever) or is independently wealthy but, for ordinary people, paying $1,350–the cost of publishing in PLoS One, for example–is a lot of moolah (although I believe some journals may waive that under unspecified circumstances). I find this to be a disincentive to even submit a paper to such publications.

    There is an excellent letter to Nature on this, Open access: Hard on lone authors by a Christopher Smith at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v487/n7408/full/487432e.html :

    Nowhere in your discussion on the future of author payments for open-access publication (Nature 486, 439; 2012) do you mention the predicament of the independent researcher or, for that matter, the scholar who is not funded by grants. I trust that the authors of the Finch report have borne this in mind.

    Otherwise, the paywalls that prevent free access to knowledge for those who are not members of a university or other academic library will merely be replaced by article-publishing charges that prevent them from making a contribution.

  67. One of the latest converts is the British government. On July 16th it announced that, from 2013, the results of taxpayer-financed research would be available, free and online, for anyone to read and redistribute.

    Results aren’t the problem. We need to see the data, methods, code, everything used to ACHIEVE those results. Without those, results are meaningless.

  68. ironargonaut says: July 24, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Where as google science filters for only published papers.

    I assume you mean Google Scholar which does not filter only published papers – this is an Internet urban legend,

    What do you include in Google Scholar? (Google Scholar Help)

    “Google Scholar includes journal and conference papers, theses and dissertations, academic books, pre-prints, abstracts, technical reports and other scholarly literature from all broad areas of research. …Shorter articles, such as book reviews, news sections, editorials, announcements and letters, may …be included.”

    You can find over 100,000 results from the New York Times,

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=&as_publication=new+york+times

    …and over 25,000 from The Guardian,

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=&as_publication=guardian

    Hardly sources of published papers.

  69. sophocles says:
    July 25, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Finally.
    This is what the World Wide Web was invented for—to give scientists a way to publicize
    their work so their peers (and anyone else interested) could have ready, easy and early
    access to it.
    Tim Berners-Lee’s original intention is bearing fruit at long last.
    >>>>>>>
    BINGO
    I might go back in history and demonstrate the principle of universities in the first place was to provide a venue for the free transmission of ideas.
    (Wikipedia) “Academic freedom is the belief that the freedom of inquiry by students and faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment.”

    The internet is just an extension of that idea. Whether or not you agree with a specific idea, the concept of Academic Freedom should stop you from preventing that idea being communicated.

  70. What about the gigantic ripoff from regular textbooks? Talk about a dodo. Wonder why traditional copyright is under siege? Look no further.

  71. For a moderate fee ($100-300) many peer-reviewed journals now publish individual articles as open access. For example, in Limnology and Oceanography, about 50% of articles are open access supported by fees from authors. I chose this option when possible. It wouldn’t take so much to provide funding from Federal agencies for open access for research that they fund. Grants often have items for publication costs, such as the page charges made by some journals, especially the lower cost, nonprofit organizations. Many journals only accept a small (<20%) of submitted articles. Not sure how this would work with open, online reviews. Generally, authors want their papers reviewed by people who are fimiliar with the literature in the field. For example, if a manuscript cites 50 papers, an editor would try to get reviews who are familiar with a good proportion of the cited papers. Almost all manuscripts need to be revised in response to comments by reviewers.

Comments are closed.