Why Is Science Behind A Paywall?

Scientists’ work follows a consistent pattern. They apply for grants, perform their research, and publish the results in a journal. The process is so routine it almost seems inevitable. But what if it’s not the best way to do science?

Although the act of publishing seems to entail sharing your research with the world, most published papers sit behind paywalls. The journals that publish them charge thousands of dollars per subscription, putting access out of reach to all but the most minted universities. Subscription costs have risen dramatically over the past generation. According to critics of the publishers, those increases are the result of the consolidation of journals by private companies who unduly profit off their market share of scientific knowledge.

When we investigated these alleged scrooges of the science world, we discovered that, for their opponents, the battle against this parasitic profiting is only one part of the scientific process that needs to be fixed.

Advocates of “open science” argue that the current model of science, developed in the 1600s, needs to change and take full advantage of the Internet to share research and collaborate in the discovery making process. When the entire scientific community can connect instantly online, they argue, there is simply no reason for research teams to work in silos and share their findings according to the publishing schedules of journals.

Subscriptions limit access to scientific knowledge. And when careers are made and tenures earned by publishing in prestigious journals, then sharing datasets, collaborating with other scientists, and crowdsourcing difficult problems are all disincentivized. Following 17th century practices, open science advocates insist, limits the progress of science in the 21st.

The Creation of Academic Journals

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

~ Isaac Newton

Into the 17th century, scientists often kept their discoveries secret. Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz argued over which of them first invented calculus because Isaac Newton did not publish his invention for decades. Robert Hooke, Leonardo da Vinci, and Galileo Galilei published only encoded messages proving their discoveries. Scientists gained little by sharing their research other than claiming their spot in history. As a result, they preferred to keep their discoveries secret and build off their findings, only revealing how to decode their message when the next man or woman made the same discovery.

Public funding of research and its distribution in scholarly journals began at this time. Wealthy patrons pooled their money to create scientific academies like England’s Royal Society and the French Academy of Sciences, allowing scientists to pursue their research in a stable, funded environment. By subsidizing research, they hoped to aid its creation and dissemination for society’s benefit.

Academic journals developed in the 1660s as an efficient way for the new academies to spread their findings. The first started when Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society, published the society’s articles at his own expense. At the time, the market for scientific articles was small and publishing a major expense. Scientists gave away the articles for free because the publisher provided a great value in spreading the findings at very little profit. When the journals market became more formal, almost all publishers were nonprofits, often associated with research institutions. Up until the mid 20th century, profits were low and private publishers rare.

Universities have since replaced academies as the dominant scientific institution. Due to the rising costs of research (think linear accelerators), governments replaced individual patrons as the biggest subsidiser of science, with researchers applying for grants from the government or foundations to fund research projects. And journals transitioned from a means to publish findings to take on the role of a marker of prestige. Scientists’ most important qualification today is their publication history.

Today many researchers work in the private sector, where the profit incentives of intellectual property incentivise scientific discovery.

But outside of research with immediate commercial applications, the system developed in the 1600s has remained a relative constant. As physicist turned science writer Michael Nielsen notes, this system facilitated “a scientific culture which to this day rewards the sharing of discoveries with jobs and prestige for the discoverer… It has changed surprisingly little in the last 300 years.”

The Monopolisation of Science

In April 2012, the Harvard Library published a letter stating that their subscriptions to academic journals were “financially untenable.” Due to price increases as high as 145% over the past 6 years, the library said that it would soon be forced to cut back on subscriptions.

The Harvard Library singled out one group as primarily responsible for the problem: “This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called “providers”) to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.”

The most famous of these providers is Elsevier. It is a behemoth. Every year it publishes 250,000 articles in 2000 journals. Its 2012 revenues reached $US2.7 billion. Its profits of over $US1 billion account for 45 per cent of the Reed Elsevier Group - its parent company which is the 495th largest company in the world in terms of market capitalisation.

Companies like Elsevier developed in the 1960s and 1970s. They bought academic journals from the non-profits and academic societies that ran them, successfully betting that they could raise prices without losing customers. Today just three publishers, Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, account for roughly 42 per cent of all articles published in the $US19 billion plus academic publishing market for science, technology, engineering, and medical topics. University libraries account for 80 per cent of their customers. Since every article is published in only one journal and researchers ideally want access to every article in their field, libraries bought subscriptions no matter the price. From 1984 to 2002, for example, the price of science journals increased nearly 600 per cent. One estimate puts Elsevier’s prices at642 per cent higher than industry-wide averages.

These providers also bundle journals together. Critics argue that this forces libraries to buy less prestigious journals to gain access to indispensable offerings. There is no set cost for a bundle, instead providers like Elsevier structure plans in response to each institution’s past history of subscriptions.

Source: “The Economics of Ecology Journals”

The tactics of Elsevier and its ilk have made them an evil empire in the eyes of their critics - the science professors, library administrators, PhD students, independent researchers, science companies, and interested individuals who find their efforts to access information thwarted by Elsevier’s paywalls. They cite two main objections.

The first is that prices are increasing at a time when the Internet has made it cheaper and easier than ever before to share information.

The second is that universities are paying for research that they themselves produced. Universities fund research with grants and pay the salaries of the researchers behind every paper. Even peer review, which Elsevier cites as a major value it adds by checking the validity of papers and publishing only significant and valuable findings, is performed on a volunteer basis by professors whose salaries are paid by universities.

Elsevier actively responds to each challenge to its legitimacy, refuting point by point and speaking of “work[ing] in partnership with the research community to make real and sustainable contributions to science.” Deutsche Bank, in an investor analyst report, summarizes Elsevier’s arguments:

“In justifying the margins earned, the publishers point to the highly skilled nature of the staff they employ (to pre-vet submitted papers prior to the peer review process), the support they provide to the peer review panels, including modest stipends, the complex typesetting, printing and distribution activities, including Web publishing and hosting. REL [Reed Elsevier] employs around 7,000 people in its Science business as a whole. REL also argues that the high margins reflect economies of scale and the very high levels of efficiency with which they operate.”

How do their arguments stand up?

One means of analysis is to compare the value of for profit journals to non-profits. Within ecology, for example (PDF), the price per page of a for profit journal is nearly three times that of a non-profit. When comparing on the basis of the price per citation (an indicator of a paper’s quality and influence), non-profit papers do more than five times better.

Source: “The Economics of Ecology Journals”

Another is to look at their profit margins. Elsevier’s profit margins of 36 per cent are wellabove the average of 4-5 per cent for the periodical publishing business. Its hard to imagine that no one could do the centuries old business of publishing papers at lower margins. The aforementioned Deutsche Bank report concludes similarly:

“We believe the [Elsevier] adds relatively little value to the publishing process. We are not attempting to dismiss what 7000 people at [Elsevier] do for a living. We are simply observing that if the process really were as complex, costly and value-added as the publishers protest that it is, 40 per cent margins wouldn’t be available.”

Libraries point to the high cost of journal subscriptions as a problem. It has been reported as far back as 1998 by The Economist. But now even the world’s wealthiest university cannot afford to purchase access to new scientific knowledge - even though universities are responsible for funding and performing that research.

No One to Blame but Ourselves

For critics of private publisher’s monopolisation of the journal industry, there is a simple solution: open access journals. Like traditional journals, they accept submissions, manage a peer review process, and publish. But they charge no subscription fees -- they make all their articles available free, online. To cover costs, they instead charge researchers publication fees around $US2000. (Reviewers not on payroll decide which papers to accept to spare journals the temptation of accepting every paper and raking in the dough.) Unlike traditional journals, which claim exclusive copyright to the paper for publishing it, open access (OA) journals are free of almost all copyright restrictions.

If universities source the funding for research, and its researchers perform both the research and peer review, why don’t they all switch to OA journals? There have been some notable successes in the form of the Public Library of Science’swell-regarded open access journals. However, current scientific culture makes it hard to switch.

A history of publication in prestigious journals is a prerequisite to every step on the career ladder of a scientist. Every paper submitted to a new, unproven OA journal is one that could have been published in heavyweights like Science orNature. And even if a tenured or idealistic professor is willing to sacrifice in the name of science, what about their PhD students and co-authors for whom publication in a prestigious journal could mean everything?

One game changer would be governments mandating that publicly-financed research be made publicly available. Every year the United States government provides over $US60 billion in public grants for scientific research. In 2008, Congress mandated (over furious opposition from private publishers) that all research funded through the National Institute of Health, which accounts for 50 per cent of government funding of science, be made publicly available within a year. Extending this requirement to all other research financed by the government would go a long way for OA publishing. This is true of similar efforts by the British and Canadian governments, which are in the midst of such steps.

The Costs of Closed Publishing: The Reinhart-Rogoff Paper

The controversy over the 2010 paper “Growth In A Time of Debt,” published by Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff in the American Economic Review, illustrates some of the problems with the journal system.

The paper used a dataset of countries’ rate of GDP growth and debt levels to suggest that countries with public debts over 90 per cent of their GDP grow significantly slower than countries with more modest levels of debt.

To the media that covered their findings and the politicians and technocrats that cited it, the message was clear: debt is bad and austerity (reducing government spending) is good. Although they discussed their findings with more nuance, Reinhart and Rogoff obliged Washington by discussing how their findings supported the case for deficit reduction.

But this past April, a group of researchers from UMass Amherst revealed that the Reinhart-Rogoff paper was wrong. Like many economists, the researchers had been trying unsuccessfully to replicate Reinhart and Rogoff’s findings. Only when the Harvard economists sent them their original dataset and Excel spreadsheet did the UMass team discover why no one could replicate the findings: the economists had made an Excel error. They forgot to include 5 cells of data. Noting this mistake, and the exclusion of a number of years of high debt growth in several countries and a weighting system that they found questionable, the UMass team declared that the effect Reinhart and Rogoff reported disappeared. Instead of contracting 0.1%, the average growth rate of countries with debt over 90% of GDP was a respectable 2.2%.

The mistake was caught, but for two years the false finding influenced policy-makers and informed the work of other economists.

Bad Incentives>

Moving to open access journals would expand access to scientific knowledge, but if it preserves the idolisation of the research paper, then the work of science reformers is incomplete.

They argue that the current journal system slows down the publication of science research. Peer review rarely takes less than a month, and journals often ask for papers to be rewritten or new analysis undertaken, which stretches out publication for half a year or more. While quality control is necessary, thanks to the internet, articles don’t need to be in a final form before they appear. Michael Eisen, co-founder of the Public Library of Science, also notes that, in his experience, “the most important technical flaws are uncovered after papers are published.”

People celebrate the discovery of new drugs, theories, and social phenomena. But if we conceptualize science as crossing out a list of possible hypotheses to improve our odds of hitting on the correct one, then experiments that fail are just as important to publish as successful ones.

But journals could not remain prestigious if they published litanies of failed experiments. As a result, the scientific community lacks an efficient way to learn about disproven hypotheses. Worse, it encourages researchers to cherry pick their data and express full confidence in a conclusion that the data and their gut may not fully support. Until science moves beyond the journal system, we may never know how many false positives are produced by this type of fraud-lite.

A Scientific Process for the 21st Century

Although scientists are the cutting edge, there are many instances of missed opportunities to make the process of science more efficient through technology.

As part of our look at academic journals and the scientific process, we talked with Banyan, a startup whose core mission is open science. A surprisingly illuminating moment was when we learned how much low hanging fruit is out there. “We want to go after peer review,” CEO Toni Gemayel told us. “Lots of people still print their papers and [physically] give them to professors for review or put them in Word documents that have no software compatibility.”

Banyan recently launched a public beta version of their product -- tools that allow researchers to share, collaborate on, and publish research. “The basis of the company,” Toni explained, “is that scientists will go open source if given simple, beneficial tools.”

Physicist turned open science advocate Michael Nielsen is an eloquent voice on what new tools facilitating an open culture of sharing and collaboration in science could look like.

One existing tool that he advocates expanding upon is arXiv, which allows physicists to share “preprints” of their papers before they are published. This facilitates feedback on ongoing work and disseminates findings faster. Another practice he advocates - publishing all data and source code used in research projects along with their papers - has long been called for by scientists and could be accomplished within the journal framework.

He also imagines new tools that don’t yet exist. A system of wikis, for example, that allow scientists to maintain perfectly up to date “super-textbooks” on their field for reference by their fellow researchers. Or an efficient system for scientists to benefit from the expertise of scientists in other fields when their research“gives rise to problems in areas” in which they are not experts. (Even Einstein needed help from mathematicians working on new forms of geometry to build his General Theory of Relativity.) For a full account of his proposals, see his excellent essay, “The Future of Science.”

But none of these ideas are likely to take off on a mass scale until scientists have clear incentives to contribute to them. Since publication history is all too often the sole metric by which a scientist’s work is judged, a scientist who primarily assembles data sets for others to use or maintains a public wiki of meta-knowledge of the field will not progress in his or her career.

Addressing this issue, Toni references the open spirit amongst coders working on open-source software. “There’s no reward system right now for open science. Scientists’ careers don’t benefit from it. But in software, everyone wants to see your GitHub account.”

Talented coders who could make good money freelancing often pour hours of unpaid work into open-source software, which is free to use and adapt for any purpose. On one hand, many people do so to work on interesting problems and as part of an ethos of contributing to its development. Thousands of companies and services (including Priceonomics’s price guides) would simply not exist without the development of open-source software.

But coders also benefit personally from open-source work because the rest of the field recognises its value. Employers look at their open-source work via their GitHub accounts (by publicly showing their software work, it can effectively function as a resume), and people generally respect the contributions people make via open-source projects and sharing valuable tips in blog posts and comments. It’s the exact type of open pursuit that you would expect in science. But we see it more in Silicon Valley because it is valued and benefits people’s careers.

Disrupting Science

“The process of scientific discovery — how we do science — will change more over the next 20 years than in the past 300 years.”

~ Michael Nielsen

The current model of publicly funding research and publishing it in academic journals was developed during the days of Isaac Newton in response to 17th century problems.

Beginning in the 1960s, private companies began to buy up and unduly profit off the copyrights they enjoyed as the publishers of new scientific knowledge. This has caused a panic among cash-strapped university libraries. But the bigger problem may be that scientists have not fully utilized the Internet to share, collaborate, and invent new ways of doing science.

The impact of this failure is “impossible to measure or put an upper bound on,” Toni told us. “We don’t know what could have been created or solved if knowledge wasn’t paywalled. What if Tim Berners-Lee had put the world wide web behind a paywall. Or patented it?”

Advocates of open science present a strong case that the idolization of publishing articles in journals has resulted in too much secrecy, too many false positives, and a slowdown in the rate at which scientific discoveries are made. Only by changing the culture and incentives among scientists can a system of openness and collaboration be fostered.

The Internet was created to help scientists share their research. It seems overdue that scientists take full advantage of its original purpose.

This post was written by Alex Mayyasi for Priceonomics.com.

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    I read Giz AU daily, and I have to say... You have gotten boring.

    A timely article, considering I was complaining about the Science paywall not very long ago in another article on Gizmodo. It's evident that the publishers have no reasonable justification for their pricing, but hopefully a combination of high quality internet services and the tireless involvement of agitants pursuing change to bring modern science in line with its altruistic goals will bring about a better, more open and collaborative environment in the next 50 years.

    This interesting, not boring. Grow up.

    An issue with all of this is the measure of a scientist's work. The most common way is to establish publication history, and in particular, the impact factors of those journals. Many of the original heavy hitting, high impact journals are owned by private companies - and this won't change for historic reasons.
    PLoS journals are going gangbusters, but PLoS One, for example is publishing (exponentially increasing year-on-year) so many papers that its impact factor in the coming years is likely to drop because of it. That can be an issue with OA journals.. but at the same time I must add that PLoS Biology and PLoS Genetics certainly buck that trend, with relatively high impact factors - restrained publication numbers, higher standards (whatever that really means - probably should say "publish sexy science"), and offer a glimmer of hope for OA journals.

    Fascinating article, much better than the usual drivel that often crops up on Giz. More of these please!

      I read this on hacker news last week. A lot of the content on Giz is re-posts lately. Check out https://news.ycombinator.com/

    All I know is, if you ask me to pay to read your paper, I'm going somewhere else. I've never failed to find another equally useful but free source before.

    You can't do high end scientific research without access to high end publications. There is no where else to go. This isn't a high school paper you are writing.

      You need access to published research, but there's no reason it has to be expensive. The only thing the "high end" journals have going for them as opposed to other quality peer reviewed publications is reputation based on tradition. and the chief purpose of being published in those journals is for the researchers to achieve some sort of political advantage within their fields, increasing their earning potential. As the article discusses, the publishing companies use those factors as leverage to charge universities colossal sums, (much the same thing as US "Ivy league" universities do to their students)
      There's clearly a lot wrong here.

      I want the #HTCOne for its: Design

      I want the #HTCOne for its: Design

    Fantastic article, and timely as the discussion of freedom of information becomes more and more prevalent.

    I want the #HTCOne for its: BlinkFeed

    If you go to university, not only will you get to access the articles for 'free' (so university is not cheap), but you'll also be able to make constructive use of the journals and articles. Remember, each journal is aimed at the professionals in its own field, and they rely on subscription money to publish and survive. Quality comes at a price.

    I want the #HTCOne for its: Design

    The problem with some open access journals is their lack of accountability. They say their articles are peer reviewed, but then neglect to name the reviewers. They come across as amateurish and unreliable.

    I want the #HTCOne for its: Screen

    As a scientist it's difficult to really pick a side on this one. Just to explain, you need access to scientific journals if you're doing research, it's not an optional extra.

    On one hand the older-style approach was that you could submit a paper to a journal and, if accepted, you'd pay publishing costs - the money it would take for someone's time to edit, proof-read, re-format and publish. This seemed to work well, except rising costs (the journals' excuse, not mine) made the cost of publishing a scientific paper rise so money was sought out via subscriptions that academic institutions then paid for so all their staff and students could access the journals. The downsides of this is that a) the general public had no access and b) less-wealthy institutions found themselves limited as to the scientific papers they could access.

    On the other hand the more recent model (Open Access journals) seems to be that the researcher wanting to publish will, if their work is accepted, foot the bill for publication and editorial costs but also for everything else. To put it into perspective, a paper published in a reasonably good science journal costs upwards of $3,000 (three thousand dollars!) to enable Open Access. While that then allows for the public and any institution to access those papers, the cost to the researchers mean that the less-wealthy institutions are less able to get their work out there, which further limits their (future) funding.

    The all-open internet-rich third approach, were everything goes onto arXiv or something sounds promising and in-line with the modern world. Why should there be high costs involved if everything is online and in electronic form? However in developing countries internet access is not always a given, even at a university level. In addition, as articles are made available before they are peer-reviewed (and therefore at a stage where they might not be correct) you get these early media frenzies that usually fizzle out and occasionally cost scientists dearly as the whole world wonders why that latest fantastic discovery never came to fruition after being picked up by all media outlets around the world.

    It's a tricky problem. I don't agree with having high costs associated with scientific publishing as that, one way or another, limits the chances of accessing and publishing scientific work. Eventually I suppose an electronic-only system is the way to go, however it has to be done properly and in accordance with how science works and not simply jumping on the internet bandwagon.

    I want the #HTCOne for its: Camera Quality

    A side effect of all this is that quite a few universities have become super journal-focussed in how they operate. Take the University of Queensland, for example. They are one of Australia's leading research universities and receive a massive proportion of the nation's research funding. That in and of itself isn't an issue, since they do great work. What, in my opinion, has become a bit of a problem is that so much of the university has become obsessed with publishing journals. It has almost come to the point where your worth as a lecturer/staff member is measured by the number of journals you publish each year - this is exactly how they determine who gets pay rises.

    To an extent, I can see why they do it this way - it's one way to objectively measure an academic's contributions to their scientific field over the year. However, it's pretty clear that someone's worth should not just be measured by journal articles.

    If science was never placed behind this paywall in the first place, then none of the above would have happened. It's interesting to wonder what its replacement would be in driving the research universities.

    I want the #HTCOne for its: Design

    @orly (this was meant to be a reply to your post):

    There's a middle ground solution. Create an online central repository of all scientific papers, whose purpose is to preserve research and provide free access to all. The repository would be strictly non-profit and could be funded either through annual fundraising drives (ala Wikipedia) or through a minor supporter's subscription that any organisation or individual could engage in.

    Complementing the free online system, any publisher may request a licence to publish content from the repository in physical form. Reasonable requirements would apply, including full disclosure of the authors of each paper, no detail excluded, and clear references back to the repository itself for people to verify online if they have the ability. Publishers could set their own price that would allow them to recover their expenses and make a reasonable profit. Because it's a licence and not ownership, no one publisher could keep a stranglehold on a particular paper or field of research, and that would allow competition amongst publishers to thrive and keep prices down.

    With this system, most of the world would use the freely accessible non-profit online repository. Any organisation or individual who can't access the internet or wants a professionally published collection of physical papers could purchase hard copies from a publisher, at what would hopefully be a much more reasonable fee than it is currently. And with the online repository as the main custodian of published scientific research, it would ensure that all information is free first, with the option for reasonably priced professional hard copies second.

    I want the #HTCOne for its: Design

    Last edited 15/05/13 10:05 am

      As far as print-journals getting a licence to print the articles, who controls who gets the licence? The author or the repository? Can the author stop the repo giving a licence to specific journals? What kind of licence will the Authors need to assign to the paper upon submission to the repo?

      Who will run the repo? Will it be a private organisation? If so there's the same problem as now. One company having control of large portions of the scientific output. Publicly traded? Then the rich will be the ones to control it.

      What happens if your paper is rejected? At the moment you can take it to another journal. If there's one repository who will you go to? Which papers would it accept? Papers showing the earth is flat? Papers with enhancements in early cancer detection? If you are going to be rejecting papers, who will do the rejecting and what transparency will there be? Peer review? If so, who would peer review them? How would the repo choose those reviewers? Wikipedia style with the "community" deciding? If so, say goodbye to anything the least bit controversial.
      Or will it be accepting all papers regardless of scientific accuracy or merit.

        I suggested a broad solution, not a 500 page business proposition. Most of these questions you could probably solve yourself, but I'll address what I can anyway.

        The foundation or whatever organisation exists to operate the repository would manage licensing. Authors of papers would submit them to the repository with the understanding that they may be viewed freely and published by anyone fairly with a consistent set of standards. The author would grant the repository a transferrable, irrevocable licence that would suit the needs of the repository to publish online directly, and to transfer limited publishing rights to other publishers. Authors of course retain ownership of their paper and can do what they like with it, but they can't revoke the repository's licence.

        The operation of the repository would probably be best served by a non-profit body with open membership, perhaps made up of universities. It wouldn't reflect the current problem at all, and we already have many industry standard bodies like IUPAC or IAU that function perfectly well without corrupting the content or availability of the science they preside over. Non-profit organisations can't be publicly traded.

        There are any number of options for acceptance. The repository could accept any paper, and the system could filter or sort papers based on the number of peer reviews, rebuttals or any criteria you can imagine. Or it may accept papers only above a certain peer review threshold. The system would accept papers on any subject, suitably categorised. Papers could be rejected for failing to follow necessary standards of format or other static measures, or in a system using an acceptance threshold, they could be rejected based on peer reviews. The question of who performs peer reviews themselves is already answered in the current system, or alternatively there is already in successful practice an 'open peer review' system.

        None of the things you raised are particularly difficult, and most of them aren't new or unique to the proposed system. Hopefully I've answered your questions though.

        I want the #HTCOne for its: Design

        Last edited 15/05/13 11:32 am

          I'll be honest, I hadn't though of such a system, good thinking!

          Besides the business aspects of it (and, whether we like it or not, academia doesn't exist in a vacuum and is therefore money-dependent) the biggest problem I see is how to combine that with a peer-review system that works at least as well as the current one does.

          The advantage of having (maybe too) many journals is that a piece of scientific work can be submitted to a journal that has reviewers with great experience in the particular area of science the paper is about; so if your work is, for example, on "Nanostructured mechanical Actuators for Dubstep Evaluation Analysis" then you'd send it to the Journal of Applied Dubstep Nanoscience where scientists relevant to the field (wubwubwub) could judge its worth, rather than the Journal of Ultimate Theoretical Studies of Theoretical Theories where it will be judged by people irrelevant to the subject (they listen to Russian reggae for some reason).

          But as I said, in principle I really like the idea!

            Peer review is the biggest problem with academic work at the moment. It's a great idea in theory but anonymous peer review has a lot of critics and rightfully so - the system shouldn't operate behind anonymity, it should be open. But at the same time, experiments in open peer review have sometimes had low takeup. Why, I'm not really sure, but it seems some scientists are only interested in doing peer reviews as long as they're anonymous. I think that's a mindset that needs to be broken.

            The centralised system does have its drawbacks, as you say. Specialised journals tend to be able to give better quality reviews than interdisciplinary journals. That's why the success of a centralised system pivots around the idea of revamping the peer review system. I think some degree of open peer review system would be fantastic.

            The way I envision it, any paper would be accepted by the repository immediately and without review, but it would be categorised as such. Any suitably qualified scientist could then come along and review it. If it got enough positive reviews, it would be flagged as 'peer reviewed' and come up in normal searches. Papers positively reviewed by more scientists, or perhaps papers with a good positive-negative ratio might appear higher in the list. But importantly, nothing can stop the paper appearing in the system - positive reviews can establish its legitimacy, but negative reviews can't suppress it. The idea would be that readers could weigh the content of a paper based on its number or ratio of positive and negative reviews, rather than having an anonymous cabal of reviewers decide the fate of a paper.

            You sound like a researcher so I'm sure you know that arXiv already stores preprint papers, so it's really not a big overhead or problem for the repository to accept papers without review. As long as they're clearly marked as such, it would be easy for users to just filter out the crackpot stuff.

            Anyway, I'm sure there are other quirks and problems that would need to be worked out, but in my mind at least it seems like a good foundation to build from.

            I want the #HTCOne for its: Design

            Last edited 15/05/13 3:51 pm

    That's why there are some companies out there trying to get researches to share earlier, who cares about a paper when you can see the whole research project journey. Just like this new start-up www.projectia.com.

    This is an antiquated systems that will be irrelivanant in 10 years.

    I want the #HTCOne for its: Design

    Sorry this was people with more than the attention span of a gnat. maybe you could put on a show an entertain us all.

    I want the #HTCOne for its: Camera Quality

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