Closed Minds and Open Access

 

Okay, start with this. (The suggestion will come as a total shock to you, I’m sure.)

Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science

Behavioral and Brain Sciences / Target Articles Under Commentary October 2014

• Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014

Abstract: Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity—particularly diversity of viewpoints—for enhancing creativity, discovery, and problem solving. But one key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology in general and socialpsychology in particular: political diversity. This article reviews the available evidence and finds support for four claims: 1)Academic psychology once had considerable political diversity, but has lost nearly all of it in the last 50 years; 2) This lack of political diversity can undermine the validity of social psychological science via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike; 3) Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking; and 4) The underrepresentation of non-liberals in social psychology is most likely due to a combination of self-selection, hostile climate, and discrimination. We close with recommendations for increasing political diversity in social psychology.

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? I’d be curious to know what evidence they looked at, what support they found for it, more about their methodology, and precisely what their recommendations were. I reckon quite a few of us here would be. And believe it or not, however much my instincts and experience cause me to suspect that they might very well have quite good evidence, and that their methodology may well be faultless, by this point I’ve just seen too much lousy science in my life to ever, ever, ever take it on faith that a study was done well simply because it sounds kind of right, based on my experience and gut feeling.

So I’d quite like to read the whole thing.

But I can’t, of course, because it costs $45 to buy this article, and $5.99 to rent it. And frankly, I’m a little unclear on that “rental” concept—what does that mean? This isn’t a book. It’s not like you take it out of the library and then give it back. Once I’ve got it, I’ve got it, right? I want to keep it, I just copy it, no? I mean, is it supposed to be an honor-code thing? Is the idea that I promise only to read it for 24 hours and then never look at it again?

But that’s not the main point, just a minor point of perplexity.

The main point is this. I think Cambridge University Press is entirely entitled to be in the business of selling articles. I do not think it reasonable to expect that their editor-in-chief, deputy editor-in-chief, their copy editors, their production manager, their web designers, their customer-service representatives, acquisitions editors, graphic designers, proofreaders, webmasters, human resources managers, accountants, administrative assistants, and fact-checkers work for free. Indeed, the 14th Amendment settled that question rather definitively.

Nor do I believe the researchers who wrote this paper should have done so for free, nor do I believe they would have done so, even if I believed—which I do not—that they should have. They have families to support, presumably, and even if they didn’t, it would be their business, not mine, if they said that they had Ferraris to buy, and thus did not care to work without adequate pecuniary compensation.

And yet.

The proponents of the open access movement have a serious point. The paper above may not be an important key or clue to progress in science. My guess is that it probably isn’t even much of a clue at all. But other papers, equally beyond the means of all but the very wealthy and well-connected, very well may be. And we need to have some reasonable way widely to share the results of that kind of scientific research.

Right now, only the kind of people to whom $45 is spare change, or those affiliated with elite research institutions, can read an article like this. This is a problem not least because of the very phenomenon the abstract above suggests. But it is a problem for a much more significant reason. Remember these guys in that ashram near Pune? I think it’s safe to say that they don’t have the resources to shell out that kind of money, either—and that they’re nowhere near the kinds of institutions that do.

Again, I’m not sure that’s a huge problem in the case of the article above (and particularly not sure since I haven’t read it). But is a very obvious problem if you are, say, a highly talented teenager who studies at an ashram-lab in a small village 40 kilometers from Pune:

The objective of the school is to teach children, mainly from the nearby rural areas, skills which have direct relevance to the family occupation, primarily agriculture and related vocations . The children develop the traits of entrepreneurship right from the school as it is mandatory for them to earn Rs. 1000 per month through the skills that they are learning currently.

NB: Rs 1000 is worth about $16. Not even half an article. And say, for example, that you are a highly talented teenager who is trying to figure out how, for example, to build something like this:

A new prototype design … for fabricating hand-operated de-husking machines. This low cost machine will be useful for preparing brown rice (non-polished rice as traditional rice pounding ) without grid (electricity) power. Dr. B.S.K.K.V , Agriculture B. Tech students Sanath Prabhukhanolkar and Nilam Shirsat worked on this prototype designing during their summer training at Vigyan ashram campus.

Now, I imagine it would be quite useful to those students to know what, exactly, has been tried before, how well it worked, and whether that research suggests anything of relevance to the task before them. I am not certain of this, but I also suspect they are not likely to have the kind of pocket money that would allow them to spend $45 dollars to read articles that might, if the abstract is to be believed, contain a hint—although certainly a promising abstract is no guarantee, so really, it would be a gamble. Nor, I suspect, are they apt to have access to the kinds of research institutes so amply endowed that subscribing to all of these journals would be a trivial matter.

It is genuinely not in the public interest for access to research results to be highly restricted and available only to the most narrow of the economic elite. Who knows what those kids could do, given full access to the body of knowledge that’s already out there? Who knows how this might benefit not just them, but us? After all, if they manage to solve this problem, its implications and applications could perhaps be sufficiently wide to benefit—even greatly to benefit—those whose diets are not highly-reliant on hand-pounded rice.

Or it may not be. There’s no way to say. But it is certainly fair to say that it’s a lot more likely that kids like that could go somewhere useful, fast, if they had low-cost access to journals where relevant research might be published; and safe as well to say that the faster they go somewhere useful, the better off we all will be.

So what’s the solution? I can’t say I have one. Someone has to pay for the kind of research published by Behavioral and Brain Sciences. It’s simply not going to arise by means of a flock of benevolent winged science fairies.

Should the American taxpayer pay for it? No, he should not; or certainly, not more than he already does. Taxation is theft. The less of it, the better. This is all the more true because the vast, indeed the overwhelming amount of research published in journals such as this is a complete waste of time and money, if not utterly fraudulent, and among the tasks I least trust my government (or anyone’s) to do well is to discern what’s worth funding—especially in such fields as behavioral and brain science. But hardly limited to those.

Not a new problem, precisely. Economists have devoted many a page to these kinds of questions. But it is one I find quite vexing, and a genuine dilemma. We can’t make people work for free. But it is still very much in our interest that what they do be given to others, sold at rates well below what others are willing to pay, or in many cases, sold at rates that they would be willing to pay if they could, but those circumstances are right now so far from imaginable that it is ludicrous even to imagine them. What might make them less ludicrous? Massive advances in science and technology. What might help to stimulate those advances? Access to the massive body of research they right now can’t afford to read.

So what would you consider the appropriate balance? And who would you wish to adjudicate these questions, assuming they are to be adjudicated case-by-case?

Is this question just too hard? I suspect so. But it nonetheless requires a solution. So what might we be missing here?

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There are 45 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Member

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Maybe one of the reasons this sort of article is so expensive to buy is that it’s so easy to pirate?

    The publishers know that only a minority of very, very honest people will take the high road and actually pay for it, so in order to cover the costs they need to get as much cash out of that minority as possible.

    Much like how shoplifting encourages retail stores to raise their prices.

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    So, go ahead and pay the $5.99, and then strip the DRM from the file. At least they get a little money that way, and you can tell yourself that it isn’t stealing if that helps you sleep at night.

    ;-)

    • #1
    • December 4, 2014, at 11:50 AM PDT
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  2. Inactive

    If they just need to pay the people who made it, then these fees don’t need to be charged in perpetuity. If they are a profit making enterprise, that’s a different story. Considering the amount of state funding, SHOULD they be profit making enterprises?

    Shooting from the hip: Make the copyright allow redistribution. Problem solved. Someone has to pay for access, but after that they can share if they want to. Other sites will host for free, or with advertisements, or with donations, or via bittorrent.

    That’s what Aaron Swartz was trying to do when he got arrested.

    • etc.
    • #2
    • December 4, 2014, at 12:33 PM PDT
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  3. Contributor

    One of the curious cultural differences between physics and astronomy and the social sciences is that virtually every publication in the former is posted on arXiv.org, usually long before the paper appears in a print journal, and remains on arXiv even after paper publication. Papers on arXiv are available to anybody without any fees or restrictions whatsoever, and can be downloaded in DRM-free PostScript or PDF to file in a personal library. In the social sciences, apart from SSRN, the traditional model of publication in extremely expensive narrow-focus journals seems to be the norm, with huge fees for access by non-subscribers (which means, in practice, that few people interested in the article who do not have access to a university library which subscribes to the journal can read them).

    I am not one of those “information wants to be free” guys, but as somebody who spent most of his professional life getting people to pay for information, I think I’ve developed a pretty good nose for a scam when I encounter one. Consider: much of this research is funded by taxpayer money in one way or another. That pays the salaries and expenses of the researchers who produce the work. Then, in order to publish their work and obtain citations, they have to submit it to a journal, whose editor sends the paper out for peer review to others in the field, who are not paid (and hence are effectively paid for their time by taxpayers who support this aspect of their research careers). Once the work is accepted for publication, the researcher is charged page charges by the journal, which are paid by the researcher’s grant or institution (the taxpayers, once again). Finally, the paper appears in the journal, exorbitantly-priced subscriptions to which are paid by university and other research institution libraries which are, in most cases, ultimately funded by the taxpayer.

    See a pattern in this? Ultimately, the profits booked by the journal publishers are paid from taxes on cab drivers, shop owners, and manufacturing workers, all of whom earn less than the scientists and publishing personnel privy to the scam.

    Information may not want to be free, but neither should those not interested in it be looted to publish it.

    • #3
    • December 4, 2014, at 1:14 PM PDT
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  4. Member

    I think this article was originally published in The Onion.

    • #4
    • December 4, 2014, at 3:34 PM PDT
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  5. Inactive

    I would just settle for our elected officials, who write position papers on the public dime and which are public domain and arguably campaign materials, publishing them somewhere besides behind the Wall Street Journal’s paywall.

    • #5
    • December 4, 2014, at 3:38 PM PDT
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  6. Inactive
    AIG

    Claire Berlinski: Right now, only the kind of people to whom $45 is spare change, or those affiliated with elite research institutions, can read an article like this.

    This is a very long post Claire for a problem that to me seems…trivial.

    I.e., this stuff is made available at any university library for free.

    Since all universities will let you go into their universities for free, and allow you access to their journal database for free (you may need to ask them for a visitor log in or something), it means it’s freely available to everyone.

    So yeah, they do charge money if you’re trying to access it from an external source, but no one ever pays for this externally.

    Just go to a library (I suspect even local public libraries will have access to these journals, and if they don’t you can request it for free from some other library).

    Now I tried getting access to it from my university’s database, and I have free access to this journal, but I can’t seem to find it in their database. Maybe the article is not in print yet, or I can’t seem to find it because the citation given at that website is horrible and doesn’t tell you which issue it is in, and hence I can’t find it.

    Either way, it’s freely available.

    John Walker: One of the curious cultural differences between physics and astronomy and the social sciences is that virtually every publication in the former is posted on arXiv.org, usually long before the paper appears in a print journal, and remains on arXiv even after paper publication.

    Social sciences are the same way. Papers will either appear in SSRN or as working papers in the particular university’s website.

    But someone has to upload it on SSRN, and if the author doesn’t want to, then it doesn’t, and it won’t appear until the journal makes it available.

    Authors of course can make it freely available directly on their websites.

    John Walker: I am not one of those “information wants to be free” guys, but as somebody who spent most of his professional life getting people to pay for information, I think I’ve developed a pretty good nose for a scam when I encounter one. Consider: much of this research is funded by taxpayer money in one way or another.

    Vast majority of this work isn’t funded by “taxpayers”. As in, directly funding the particular research paper.

    Vast majority of these studies require no money to carry out. It just requires the author’s time.

    But that depends on the field, of course. Many social science fields are heavy grant-funded etc, like Sociology. Others, not at all (like mine)

    Either way, everything is freely available. Just got to the library.

    • #6
    • December 4, 2014, at 3:39 PM PDT
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  7. Inactive

    John Walker is mostly correct.

    The scientific publishing industry is almost wholly supported by taxpayers (albeit indirectly). There is a movement toward an open access model supported by high mandatory publication charges (greater than $1000 for less than 6 journal pages) paid by the author or the authors’ institution, so again paid by taxpayers, but has the added benefit of allowing anybody access.

    The arXiv is a free cheap solution, but provides no peer review, copy editing, formatting (however most use the Physical Review format), etc, and is not indexed in the major science citation indexes like Web of Science or Inspec so as an academic cannot be used for career advancement.

    • #7
    • December 4, 2014, at 3:53 PM PDT
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  8. Inactive
    AIG

    Now as far as the actual topic of the paper (which as I said, I could not find, because the journal’s citation doesn’t even list an issue, and it’s not on it’s website, so it may not actually be in print yet)…

    …there’s obviously a “liberal” bias in psychology or sociology departments. It’s overwhelming.

    But that may be due, to a large extent, by self-selection. I.e., people who want to study psychology or sociology and are “conservatives” might not end up in the “traditional” psychology or sociology departments or fields.

    They might end up in business schools or econ schools. I.e., both business and econ disciplines have sub-fields which do the same thing as “psychology” and “sociology” do, but from a different perspective.

    Now, this isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. You’ll get paid double or triple for doing the same “stuff” in a business school, then you will get in a psychology school ;)

    So…no worries ;)

    PS: Although there’s obviously bias in psychology in political terms, I don’t think I’ve seen much of it in their actual studies (not that I read much psychology at all, just what I’ve seen). Eventually, the results are the results, and they speak for themselves.

    Sociology, of course, it’s a “make it up as you go along” field with little actual “studies” going on rather than “commentaries”. But then again, who has ever given a darn what sociologists say?

    • #8
    • December 4, 2014, at 3:54 PM PDT
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  9. Member

    There is a simple answer to most of the questions in this post. And that answer is: most scientific papers are actually almost never (or rarely) read.

    Look at the list of journals published by Elsevier (one of the most expensive publishers of academic journals). Almost 3,000 journals, most of which appear at least monthly, with probably between 10-30 articles per month. And that’s just a fraction of the journals out there (and honestly, a fairly low-end fraction).

    Do you really think there is a huge readership for most of those 50,000 or so papers that Elsevier puts out? Short answer: no.

    In a normal market, if an expensive product was being underconsumed, the producer would stop producing it. But most academic publications do not exist to be read, they exist to puff up the careers of their authors (believe me, I am an author on some publications I did not even contribute to).

    In other words, the reason articles are so expensive for a non-institutional reader is because they’re not meant to be read by non-institutional readers. They are meant to be bought wholesale by institutions who will only read a tiny fraction of the articles they have access to, but who pay a high price for those few articles in order to keep those journals alive for when the institution’s own researchers want to publish.

    • #9
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:00 PM PDT
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  10. Inactive
    AIG

    Z in MT: John Walker is mostly correct. The scientific publishing industry is almost wholly supported by taxpayers (albeit indirectly).

    So is the entire higher ed system. Does that mean anyone should be allowed to go to college for free? ;)

    Obviously not.

    “Wholly supported” is obviously the wrong here. It’s almost certainly not so. Many journals are affiliated either with a particular institution, or a particular academic society. Those institutions are in many cases…private universities (how many journals does Cornell sponsor, for example?). Academic societies are paid for by membership fees.

    Now you can argue that in many cases the individual studies which end up in these journals might have received some “grants” from government institutions.

    Fine. Then don’t publish in what is essentially a “private” corporation’s publication. Go publish it somewhere else.

    But either way, the real issue here is that this stuff is, actually, available for free. Just go to a library.

    • #10
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:01 PM PDT
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  11. Inactive

    AIG: Vast majority of this work isn’t funded by “taxpayers”. As in, directly funding the particular research paper. Vast majority of these studies require no money to carry out. It just requires the author’s time. But that depends on the field, of course. Many social science fields are heavy grant-funded etc, like Sociology. Others, not at all (like mine)

    This is a very odd attitude. The author’s time is valuable and paid by someone, and in academia this almost always comes back to the taxpayer.

    • #11
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:01 PM PDT
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  12. Member

    I will second John Walker’s and Z in MT’s comments about open access.

    The important thing to remember is that all of these journals, regardless of their models, are run by and for academics, and as such, they are financed one way or another by the academics’ funding (i.e. tax dollars).

    The tempting solution is always to say: well, then, let’s stop funding the unnecessary research and only fund the important stuff. My response: great idea. And perhaps when science invents a gold-pooping unicorn he will tell us how to implement it. Until then, we will be stuck with only poor mechanisms to avoid funding “useless” research.

    • #12
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:04 PM PDT
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  13. Inactive

    AIG,

    You apparently have not been in the scientific publishing game for very long. Scientific publishing even in the society journals is quite expensive, and they charge university libraries an enormous amount of money for the subscriptions. In the US the majority of universities are public, so again the taxpayer pays.

    • #13
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:05 PM PDT
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  14. Contributor

    AIG: Vast majority of this work isn’t funded by “taxpayers”. As in, directly funding the particular research paper.

    Really? I’m not as familiar with the voodoo sciences, but look at the acknowledgements for almost any paper published in the hard sciences and you will find an acknowledgement of support from some granting agency funded by coercively extracted taxation. And even if the research was funded by a university or an independent research institution, where did its funding come from? If the salary and research budget of the author(s) of the paper are funded in a substantial part by the taxpayer, I believe the taxpayers own that work product (as it would be in any direct work for hire arrangement) and impeding their access to it in any way is looting them.

    In my experience if you walk into your local university library which does not subscribe to a journal which published an article in which you’re interested and order a copy, they’ll ask you for your faculty or student ID and, failing that, either blow you off or make you pay the full non-subscriber fee.

    • #14
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:06 PM PDT
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  15. Member

    AIG:

    “Wholly supported” is obviously the wrong here. It’s almost certainly not so.

    Many, if not most journals today derive the majority of their revenue from page costs. In every grant I have ever help write, there has been a line item for “publication costs.” So that is coming directly from the government.

    There may be some university libraries who pay for academic journal subscriptions through privately donated money. However, in the case of the more obscure journals, the subscription fees are almost always paid for by the department which uses the journal most (which is why they often ensconce access to that journal within their own fiefdom), and the department pays for that subscription using the funds it skims off the top of its faculty members’ grants.

    And even though many journals are still published by academic presses, in many cases they receive few fees from their home institution (often because that institution is afraid of taking a bath).

    So in the end, I would wager at least 80% of the funding for specialized journals can be traced back to taxpayer dollars.

    • #15
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:09 PM PDT
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  16. Inactive

    Mendel:I will second John Walker’s and Z in MT’s comments about open access.

    The important thing to remember is that all of these journals, regardless of their models, are run by and for academics, and as such, they are financed one way or another by the academics’ funding (i.e. tax dollars).

    The tempting solution is always to say: well, then, let’s stop funding the unnecessary research and only fund the important stuff. My response: great idea. And perhaps when science invents a gold-pooping unicorn he will tell us how to implement it. Until then, we will be stuck with only poor mechanisms to avoid funding “useless” research.

    I agree with you there.

    I am a 100% soft-money researcher, which means my entire salary comes from the grants and contracts that I propose and win. In my estimation, most of the research funding process is a random game. If I submit 16 proposals this year on average I will get 25% of those and I will be able to fund myself, my staff of 4 professional researchers, and 4 students.

    • #16
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:11 PM PDT
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  17. Member

    Claire Berlinski:But I can’t, of course, because it costs $45 to buy this article, and $5.99 to rent it. And frankly, I’m a little unclear on that “rental” concept—what does that mean?

    This is a fairly trivial issue.

    Essentially, when you get temporary access to an article, they send you a .pdf file with DRM (like an iTunes song) which only allows you to view the article on one computer, doesn’t allow you to print it, prevents you from opening the file after a certain amount of time, etc.

    Of course you could theoretically take a screen shot of the article or re-type its text. But realistically, almost nobody “rents” articles anyway, so I doubt the publishers are very concerned either way.

    • #17
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:15 PM PDT
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  18. Contributor

    Z in MT:The arXiv is a free cheap solution, but provides no peer review, copy editing, formatting (however most use the Physical Review format), etc, and is not indexed in the major science citation indexes like Web of Science or Inspec so as an academic cannot be used for career advancement.

    All true, but in my experience talking with working physicists, it’s how they communicate with one another. Yes, they have to get the paper published in as prestigious a journal as possible to increase their SCI score and impact, but the paper publication occurs long after their work (if significant) has been perceived by their peers. If you read papers in physics and astronomy (at least those I read: I don’t read many in condensed matter, nuclear experiments, etc.) many of the citations are to papers on arXiv, in part because they’re commenting on papers which haven’t yet been published in a journal, but also because they’re accessible in one click to any reader, as opposed to going to the library

    • #18
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:18 PM PDT
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  19. Inactive

    John Walker:

    Z in MT:The arXiv is a free cheap solution, but provides no peer review, copy editing, formatting (however most use the Physical Review format), etc, and is not indexed in the major science citation indexes like Web of Science or Inspec so as an academic cannot be used for career advancement.

    All true, but in my experience talking with working physicists, it’s how they communicate with one another. Yes, they have to get the paper published in as prestigious a journal as possible to increase their SCI score and impact, but the paper publication occurs long after their work (if significant) has been perceived by their peers. If you read papers in physics and astronomy (at least those I read: I don’t read many in condensed matter, nuclear experiments, etc.) many of the citations are to papers on arXiv, in part because they’re commenting on papers which haven’t yet been published in a journal, but also because they’re accessible in one click to any reader, as opposed to going to the library

    I do agree with you there. It is particularly true for certain sub-disciplines. I did my PhD in atomic physics and we would post and cite arXiv articles all the time. Now that I am focusing more on optics\signal processing\remote sensing I use arXiv a lot less. One of the problems is that optics is such an diverse and varied discipline the optics feed on arXiv is too random to keep my interest.

    • #19
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:28 PM PDT
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  20. Inactive
    AIG

    John Walker: Really? I’m not as familiar with the voodoo sciences, but look at the acknowledgements for almost any paper published in the hard sciences and you will find an acknowledgement of support from some granting agency funded by coercively extracted taxation

    And I’m talking about the “voodoo sciences” ;)

    There has been 0 grant money involved in any of my research or publications, or of anyone I know in my field.

    Z in MT: You apparently have not been in the scientific publishing game for very long. Scientific publishing even in the society journals is quite expensive, and they charge university libraries an enormous amount of money for the subscriptions.

    And university libraries make it freely available to anyone, if not on their websites, then on their physical locations.

    Z in MT: In the US the majority of universities are public, so again the taxpayer pays.

    In the US, the majority of the research doesn’t come from the majority of the public universities ;)

    Mendel: In every grant I have ever help write, there has been a line item for “publication costs.” So that is coming directly from the government.

    That depends on the field. In your field, that may be the case. Not so in very many social science fields.

    Mendel: However, in the case of the more obscure journals, the subscription fees are almost always paid for by the department which uses the journal most

    Sure. For more obscure journals which no one ever reads.

    Z in MT: I am a 100% soft-money researcher, which means my entire salary comes from the grants and contracts that I propose and win.

    That’s fine. It is not so, however, for many other disciplines. So you can’t attribute your experience to other fields.

    And the main point here is that not only do universities make these journals freely available, but the journals themselves aren’t “public” or tax-payer funded.

    Don’t publish there, if you want it to be freely available to anyone on the internet ;)

    • #20
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:37 PM PDT
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  21. Inactive
    AIG

    The logic here is pretty straight forward. If you say that much of the research is funded through tax-payer money, then several points follow:

    1) Go publish in a tax-payer funded venue. These journals’ aren’t.

    2) Even if the journals charge for publishing (overall a trivial amount), the universities do make it publicly available for free. So, what’s the problem?

    3) If the logic that everything that is tax-payer funded should be available for free, then shouldn’t all of college be available for free? ;) Shouldn’t all roads be free? Shouldn’t everything Lockheed Martin produces be free? Shouldn’t electricity be free? Shouldn’t water be free?

    Here comes Elizabeth Warren ;)

    But, again, be careful here when speaking about “all research”. Most research, isn’t grant funded in very many disciplines. In some, it’s not grant-funded at all (like mine). When you’re talking about psychology, as is the case of this article, for example, most of research isn’t grant funded. It just requires the researcher’s time, and a bunch of volunteer students on whom to run their experiments (usually).

    • #21
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:43 PM PDT
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  22. Inactive

    I would like to see the scientific publishing model move more toward a more low cost model like the arXiv. However, I do value the peer-review process, and I don’t want to see that go away.

    • #22
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:47 PM PDT
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  23. Contributor

    Z in MT:I would like to see the scientific publishing model move more toward a more low cost model like the arXiv. However, I do value the peer-review process, and I don’t want to see that go away.

    It seems to me that an equivalent of the peer review process is a straightforward add-on to arXiv. We already have a preliminary screening process with “recommenders” for posting on the preprint server. We could have a vote-up and vote-down mechanism based upon citations and reputation which would probably work better than the current peer review process. It would take some debugging, but there is ample evidence the existing system is flawed (for example, the number of nonsense papers which are published without any reviewer looking at them seriously).

    • #23
    • December 4, 2014, at 4:55 PM PDT
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  24. Thatcher

    Claire,

    I don’t wish make a mountain out of a molehill. However, there is a major principle at stake here. Mr. Obama says “you didn’t build that”. How much of a stretch is it to “you didn’t write that”. Intellectual Property Right assumes what? First, that intellectual property exists. In Kantian terms you hold a physical manuscript that you prepared. If you did prepare it then you have the Right to all financial benefit from its use. The institutional arrangements that John Walker is talking about doesn’t change anything. You have entered into a contract where you have exchanged your Right in advance for some form of consideration.

    What is making this very old issue seem different is information technology. McLuhan said the medium is the message. We need to realize that to a certain extent that is true but also realize when the line has been crossed and the message is what matters and the medium is a triviality.

    Of course, I could do a screen shot, print out the jpg, and then run the print out through optical character recognition. There will be plenty of errors in the resulting Word Processing file but you’ve got to do a little work to steal. This is exactly what I’m talking about. Because the effort is low with information media the assumption has often been that it’s OK. Not to be obsessive but if I see a locked door I can go to the supermarket and by a cheap screw driver for $1.98 and break the lock. Does ease of access make it less of a crime?

    Don’t get me wrong, computer technology and the internet make the sharing of information a tremendous benefit and in fact a joy to use. I’d much rather download a powerful article about something I’m interested in than waste even 1/2 hr on some retail nonsense that is almost all entertainment with a pinch of real information thrown in.

    Even as we love using information technology we must remember that ‘you did write that’ just like the entrepreneur ‘did build that’. The Marxist fantasy resulted in mass starvation not mass happiness. Charity and a generous spirit are not the same as believing that fundamental rights don’t exist.

    There now, that’s quite a mountain I’ve made.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #24
    • December 4, 2014, at 5:18 PM PDT
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  25. Contributor

    AIG: If the logic that everything that is tax-payer funded should be available for free, then shouldn’t all of college be available for free? ;)

    Shouldn’t all roads be free?

    Shouldn’t everything Lockheed Martin produces be free?

    Shouldn’t electricity be free?

    Shouldn’t water be free?

    Here comes Elizabeth Warren ;)

    (As usual, the formatting of your comment was destroyed when I copied it. I have tried to restore it as best I can through the smeared and foggy windshield which is Ricochet 2.0.)

    Shouldn’t all of college be available for free?

    If the college is 100% funded by taxpayers (which is the case for many state and community colleges), it should, for students from within the jurisdiction that funds it. Otherwise, how can one justify the coercive taxation which funds it?

    Shouldn’t all roads be free?

    If the roads are 100% funded by taxpayers, those who pay taxes to build and maintain them should be able to use them without paying additional tribute. This includes licenses to travel on them and any taxes for using them.

    Shouldn’t everything Lockheed Martin produces be free?

    No, but all intellectual property Lockheed Martin and other defence contractors create as work for hire on federal contracts should be (subject only to classification for national security purposes) placed in the public domain to be used by taxpayers who funded it to use as they wish without any restrictions whatsoever.

    Shouldn’t electricity be free?

    If it is produced by a taxpayer-funded utility such as the TVA or Bonneville, the electricity it produces should be free to the taxpayers who funded it.

    Shouldn’t water be free?

    If it is produced by a taxpayer-funded facility such as the Hoover Dam, it should be free to the taxpayers who paid for it and support its maintenance.

    Here comes Elizabeth Warren ;)

    Nope; here comes Lysander Spooner!

    As a libertarian, I don’t want anything to be “free”. But if coercion is going to be used to pay for goods and there isn’t a consensus to end this, one way to couple the expenses back to the taxes extracted to support them is to insist that each of these “free” benefits be completely funded by the taxpayers. Then they’ll realise what they actually cost.

    • #25
    • December 4, 2014, at 5:23 PM PDT
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  26. Thatcher

    I am simple minded about who should pay, if the research was paid for privately, then they have an absolute right to charge whatever they want to read about it. If it was partially or wholly paid for by a government grant, then the information should be in the public domain, and free to all comers. Your acceptance and use of any government funds to do your research should cost you all data rights to the results of that research. If you want the rights, then don’t use my money to do the research. If your accounting system is good enough to separate the public parts from the private parts, then you keep the rights for the part you paid for. If not, tough luck.

    This would be a disincentive for the use of government funds for work that might be profitable, and that is a good thing.

    • #26
    • December 4, 2014, at 7:41 PM PDT
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  27. Member
    John Hanson

    If it was partially or wholly paid for by a government grant, then the information should be in the public domain, and free to all comers. Your acceptance and use of any government funds to do your research should cost you all data rights to the results of that research.

    —————————————————————————–

    With all respect, John, I think you might be confusing some issues here.

    Most researchers themselves would like nothing more than for their work to be freely available to all, because it would mean more attention paid to their research.

    The only ones restricting access in this case are the journals publishing that work, who need to do so to prevent going broke. But most researchers will happily thumb their nose at the publisher of their work by sending you a free copy of any and all of their papers if you just ask (I used this trick throughout my PhD if we didn’t subscribe to a certain journal. Great networking tool as well).

    On the other hand, what you describe in your comment is much more pertinent to intellectual property rights, which can be a much thornier issue: who gets to commercially exploit discoveries funded by public money? (As a side note, patentable discoveries are usually not published in journals until the patent applications have been submitted.)

    • #27
    • December 4, 2014, at 8:14 PM PDT
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  28. Inactive
    AIG

    John Walker…no no no :) You don’t get away with what you said.

    What you’re essentially saying is what Mr. Obama said when he said “you didn’t build that!” (ht to Jim who got exactly what I was saying)

    Virtually…everything…that you do, or anyone else does in society, benefits to some degree from some form of tax-payer funds. The logic however does not follow that all this…everything…should be available for free to everyone.

    State colleges may be “tax-payer” funded, but they are not “wholly” tax-payer funded. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be charging tuition, or accepting corporate research money, or accepting alumni donations.

    If you look at a State university like…Rutgers…about 60% of their funding comes from tuition, private economic activity they undertake, donations and other non-governmental sources. ASU, as another example, is 67% privately funded. UT Austin – 68% private.

    There’s no such thing as “wholly tax-payer funded”.

    So you want to make all State schools free to the people in those States? Cool. Guess what, that means…to maintain the same level of university…the State is going to have to triple it’s expenditures on higher ed. No more private money. No more tuition.

    On the other hand, if you’re going to make everything 100% no government money (state or federal), who do you think is going to be impacted the most by the lack of grants?

    Social sciences? Or “hard sciences” like yours which rely close to 100% on government grants?

    It ain’t going to be the social sciences, you can bet on that. Their costs of doing research are close to zero.

    • #28
    • December 4, 2014, at 8:18 PM PDT
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  29. Member

    By the way, to everyone making the argument that state-funded research should be visible to all, well, in the US your wish has (partially) been granted for over 5 years now:

    The NIH requires all research supported by its grants to be made open access within 1 year of publication.

    • #29
    • December 4, 2014, at 8:21 PM PDT
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  30. Inactive
    AIG

    Mendel: The only ones restricting access in this case are the journals publishing that work, who need to do so to prevent going broke. But most researchers will happily thumb their nose at the publisher of their work by sending you a free copy of any and all of their papers if you just ask

    But you’re again ignoring the fact that all this research is available…for free to anyone. 

    The fact that the publishing house charges if you want to access it through their portal is irrelevant. No one ever pays for that. The publishing house allows universities and libraries to distribute it for free…

    The publishing house incurs costs for getting editors and reviewers together, copy-editing, the actual publication, the website etc etc.

    That stuff ain’t free. So of course they will charge a university for getting this stuff ready made. But after that, the content is free.

    • #30
    • December 4, 2014, at 8:26 PM PDT
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