From Plagiarism Today:
Last week, two of the largest academic publishers filed a lawsuit against the social networking site ResearchGate, saying that the site is not doing enough to discourage the pirating of academic papers that they hold the copyright to.
It is their second lawsuit against ResearchGate, the first was filed in Germany last year. That case is ongoing.
Meanwhile, China has been working for more than five months on creating a blacklist of “poor quality” journals that their scientists should not submit to. Once the list is complete and implemented, research published in those journals will not count toward a scientist’s promotion prospects or grant funding.
While these two stories might seem completely separate, they are actually both symptoms of a growing crisis in research. It’s a crisis with complicated origins and no easy resolution, but it’s also a problem that strikes to the core how we share the latest scientific knowledge.
However, the crisis can be summed up like this: Reviewing and publishing research costs money and no one is really sure how to best pay for it.
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Frustratingly, there’s no simple beginning to the problem. Though, as with many things in our modern world, it’d be easy to blame it on the internet, the truth is that many of the dominos were in place and falling long before the internet even existed.
The internet certainly contributed, but can’t be pinned as the cause.
Instead, the cause can be traced back to four separate important parts.
- Pressure to Publish: Researchers and have felt a growing pressure to publish. The environment is often described as “publish or perish” as such publication is required to maintain one’s position, seek promotions or to secure funding.
- Limited Publication Space: Though publishers have increased the number of journals available, the numbers haven’t risen as quickly as the number of submissions, making competition for the top journal spots especially intense.
- Increased Costs of Subscription: At a time where academic libraries either have stagnant or shrinking budgets, the cost of subscribing to even the most noted journals is increasing, causing many to reduce the number of subscriptions they keep.
- The Ease of Piracy: The internet has made it easy to share academic research broadly, with or without approval from the copyright holder. Though research was not at the forefront of the early piracy battles, it’s become the subject of a growing piracy landscape, one dominated by Sci-Hub but also compounded by stories like the ResearchGate one.
The issue is that it costs money to publish an academic journal and, whether publishers are profit or non-profit, they have to recoup those costs. However, as 2008 research showed, the budgets of academic libraries, the primary consumers of such journals, have either shrunk or remained flat. This has resulted in many universities scaling back their subscriptions.
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Open access is a fairly straightforward concept that says, when an article is published, it should easily and freely accessible to everyone. Usually, such articles are published under a Creative Commons or similar licensing meaning that users are free to copy, share and distribute the research as they please.
The idea began in the early 1990s but began to rapidly expand in the 2000s with the launch of PLOS One, the largest and best-known open access journal.
The benefits of open access are obvious. There is no paywall or barrier between a research paper and those who might use it. Anyone can read or build off of open access research at any time. This is especially positive in cases where research is government-funded but might otherwise be hidden away from public consumption.
For researchers, the benefits are also obvious. Studies have found that open access works are more regularly cited and it helps increase both the impact of their work and their own reputation in the academic community.
However, where traditional journals charge for access to a work, open access journals have to recoup their costs elsewhere. They do this one of two ways:
- Charging Article Processing Fees: Either charging the submitter of an article when their work is submitted or after it is accepted. This is the model that approximately 28% of open access journals use, including PLOS One. At PLOS journals, those fees range from $1,595 – $3,000 depending on the specific journal.
- Subsidized: Other journals don’t charge article processing or access fees but, instead, either have a direct subsidy from a University, laboratory or other research entity or adopt a different business model such as advertising or selling reprints to make up costs.
While many journals successfully and ethically use both approaches, they also can create problems.
Article processing fees, for example, have led to the rise of predatory journals. Though the issue of journals publishing fake science is as old as research itself, article processing fees have turned it into a business model. No longer having to fight for subscribers, many journals will simply publish anything for a fee, even if it’s nonsense.
There have been many attempts to stop predatory journals, or at least make scientists aware of them. However, many are still caught unaware and, due to the aforementioned “publish or perish” environment, some publish in such journals willingly.
This is why China is working on its list of low quality journals.
Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today
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