EDITORIAL: Paywalls

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Today’s post is a rant about the research publishing industry – explaining the hole they have dug for themselves and us (via profiteering and a lack of innovation), discussing how the research community supports the system, and exploring efforts to solve the problem.

You will be forgiven if you don’t read on, but understand that this subject is important.

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Source: Fifteendesign

A reader recently emailed me regarding the 500th post with a list of questions. One of which was: if you were not doing Parkinson’s research, what would you be doing?

In a previous SoPD post I have discussed my “Plan B“, but that involves Parkinson’s subject matter so it doesn’t really count here.

If I’m honest, and I wasn’t working in the area of Parkinson’s, I would be doing one of two things:

OPTION  #1:  I would be working for Eric Eisner.

Eric Eisner. Source: Yes

In 1998, Mr Eisner quit a high-flying career in Hollywood deal-making and walked into a forgotten corner of Los Angeles education system.

In the Lennox School District – with the support of the Richstone Family Center – he sat down with a group of 7th graders with the simple goal: identifying underserved academically promising students. Once identified, Mr Eisner would equip them with resources and support to facilitate their success through high school, college, and beyond.

In 2010, a not-for-profit program had grown out of his efforts and it became known as the Young Eisner Scholars (or simply “YES”).

Source: Twitter

I first learnt about this amazing initiative from an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, called “Carlos doesn’t remember” (seriously, you should listen to that episode).

Mr Eisner’s YES program is now nation-wide in the US, and in 2017 they were supporting more than 500 students from elementary school through to graduate school (source).

YES is my kind of capitalism, but Mr Eisner needs to think globally – the next Ramanujan is out there.

OPTION #2:  I would be working to help solve the problem of scientific research publishing.

Source: Tsepustuksia

This is a constant source of frustration for yours truly.

At present, large publishing houses control the dissemination of most of the research being generated around the world by keeping it behind pay-to-view paywalls (they also charge researchers an “administration fee” to publish in their journal and insist that they sign over the copyright of the publication to the publisher).

Charging a fee on what should be public information is the worse kind of capitalism: It is rent seeking.

And this week one of the big academic publishing companies made an announcement that made me shake my head.

What did they announce?

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