Random Thoughts on the Universe

Friday, June 11, 2010

An Academic Boycott!

Today's article is more of a news item and social commentary, so those who are only interested in science or mathematics can skip this one...

I saw this article today and thought it was worth repeating and expanding on. It concerns the treatment of academics by the Nature Publishing Group, who are responsible for several scientific journals. (For the record, before any of this happened, I already disliked the Nature publication for its low standards and often vapid content)

The Nature Publishing Group has increased their prices by 400% this year, and so many universities cannot afford to subscribe to these magazines anymore. Normally this would just be a market support issue - if it doesn't sell then they must lower the prices. But this is academics, so it isn't that simple.

Many people don't understand how academic publishing works. As a scientist, I get paid to teach classes or sometimes through government grants for my work. The research I do is completely unpaid (unless I happen to have a sponsorship from the private sector, but that is rare).

When I have new results to present, I must write an article (for no pay) and send it to a journal. They then have another scientist review it (again for no pay) and suggest revisions. I make those revisions (you guessed it, for no pay) and then resubmit the article. When the reviewer and I finally agree on the final version it gets printed in the journal.

If I were a reporter, or a columnist, or any other type of author I would then get paid by the magazine. But as a scientist I get no pay. In fact a new trend has scientist required to pay the magazine to print their article!

The journal then sells the final article to the library at my university and thousands of other libraries around the world. Except the journal receives hundreds or thousands of dollars for the subscription.

So to recap, the authors are paid nothing. The reviewers who monitor the quality of the research receive nothing. The company that sells my work to my university receives thousands of dollars for my article...

Of course the publisher can't afford to keep raking in money for other people's hard work, so they have to raise their prices...

Boycott Nature!

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