Science Publishers Do Not “Produce”: The Arrogance of the AAP

By now, you might have read about the Research Works Act, H.R. 3699, which would prevent any government agency from placing privately published articles into a public access repository if “any value-added contribution, including peer review or editing” has been performed by the publisher even if the work is publicly funded. Currently, the NIH requires any NIH-funded work to be placed in PubMed twelve months after publication, so the public can access it.

There have been a lot of good posts about this travesty–Jonathan Eisen, Cameron Neylon, Michael Eisen (one quibble: both sides of the aisle have had Reed Elsevier money thrown at them; that’s why this is bipartisan), John Dupuis, David Dobbs, Rebecca Rosen, Sandra Porter, Kevin Zelnio, deevybee, LibraryLoon, and Jane Stemwedel–but what’s really obnoxious is how the American Association of Publishers delusionally believes they are essential to the process (boldface mine):

The legislation is aimed at preventing regulatory interference with private-sector research publishers in the production, peer review and publication of scientific, medical, technical, humanities, legal and scholarly journal articles. This sector represents tens of thousands of articles which report on, analyze and interpret original research; more than 30,000 U.S. workers; and millions of dollars invested by publishers in staff, editorial, technological, capital and operational funding of independent peer review by specialized experts. North American-based science journal publishers alone account for 45% of all peer-reviewed papers published annually for researchers worldwide.

Yes, publishers, well, print stuff. And there’s some administrative and copy editing too. But the actual production of the research, the analysis, and the writing is done by scientists (who are not paid by publishers). Usually, the editing is too. Won’t even bring up the whole page charges issue: money from research grants are given to the publisher to defray costs (if these gonifs ever get out of the publishing business, they have a bright future selling subprime mortgages). So a published paper is lock, stock, and barrel the NIH’s (or other funders’) work. The publishers are just putting the cherry on top.

And then academic institutions, which pay most of the researchers’ salaries (the publishers are not paying the labor costs), have to buy this information back, often at ridiculous prices.

Yet these arrogant jackasses won’t even admit this.

Hell, with this business model, I bet even daily newspapers could turn a profit.

Why we let pubishers profit so much from our labors escapes me. Maybe there’s an upside to this: it will hasten the demise of the pervasive influence publishers have over how scientists communicate with each other.

Full disclosure: Reed-Elsevier once tried to illegally copyright portions of my blog, so I have no love lost for these mamzers.

Update: Here’s a great roundup of links on this topic.

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2 Responses to Science Publishers Do Not “Produce”: The Arrogance of the AAP

  1. I definitely don’t support the Research Works Act, and I do really like the idea of open access journals. At the same time though, I am concerned about how much the publication charges to scientists will increase with the push toward public access. While I’d love for the journals to give up on print publishing already and cut costs that way, I feel like it’s more likely for them to simply push those charges toward researchers looking to publish.

    My first paper was on an unfunded project, and I have no idea how my advisor would have come up with the $1000 that particular journal charged for open access. If that were suddenly the only option, I could see this really hurting smaller labs.

  2. leavesamark says:

    EE: In cases of economic hardship, many fee-based open-access journals will waive all or part of the fee.

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