Publishing model: a proposal
Today most research papers are written for the free divulgation of knowledge with the goal of a swift improvement of life on Earth (I should say humankind, but hopefully not just that!). [short term patents (5-10y): where are you?] They are supported by governments and companies all around the world. The same researchers also provide peer-review and organize research reviews in groups and topics, typically for free!
Yet many times today knowledge is NOT free, and thus not available to many, because of the cost of middle-man publishing agencies and poor policies. And these middle men are now allowed to make too high profits! [Forbes]
We might all want to think on how to really make human knowledge free, or as close as possible to that.
The motivation for this model is the following:
- knowledge should be open source. We need this to speed the progress of mankind and avoid delays because someone somewhere cannot access a useful piece of information that someone else discovered/invented many many years before (Open knowledge saves lives: worst case scenario).
- publishers already get science content for free from researchers around the world. Yet they then require subscription to access that material. Sure they maintain databases and websites, and sure printed copies should not be free, but online material cost should be close to zero. It is fine if they then get paid to provide services (copy-editing, graphics, organizing conferences, etc.) but NOT for selling subscription of research that has been already paid for by taxpayer money world-wide [NYTimes, Atlantic, Forbes on Elsevier, Sauropod, Ref, Gowers, Cost of Knowledge, Open knowledge saves lives, Michael Nielsen, lots more]. And now publishing houses are really making TOO much money out of our free work! [Forbes on Elsevier, Michael Nielsen]
- a more subtle problem is the emergence of ‘clubs’ within publishing organizations and some of their journals and conferences. Especially high-profile journals and conference that grow out of proportion (a list is below). For these clubs, the reviews of submitted papers are organized only within a closed group of people selected in a non-democratic manner. These clubs are not a model of free and open policies and usually breed their own papers and block newcomers from entering. They also tend to select incremental work and many times fail to recognize new breakthrough material.
- editors are often busy and overloaded and often select the wrong reviewers for a paper. Are you asked also 100 times a month to review a paper that is not in your area? We should allow reviewers to organize themselves and find appropriate reviewing entities and groups.
- the importance of a paper should really be based on comments, reviews and citations, and for this reason we need to allow more open reviews, so everyone is responsible for their comments and reviews can be rebutted. After all reviewers many times do not have the time to conduct experiments and prove the validity of some claims. But a larger audience and an open review over time can allow this to happen, generally pushing for more open data, research and tools.
- a open website database with FREE access
- add-on subscription “modules” for services: printed versions, copy-editing, graphics, etc.
- each author can submit the paper as soon as he deems useful, and the paper then immediately appears on the web database, it becomes immediately citable and has access to reviewer comments
- each paper submission is versioned: can evolve over time with feedback from reviewers
- anyone in the world can review the paper. The reviewer name appears with the review.
- a reviewing champion can organize blind reviews by selecting a group of expert reviewers. These reviewers can then decide to reveal their identity or not. See note 1 for nice ideas
- reviews can receive scores from readers (Amazon model). Scorers names appear with the review.
PROBLEMS and ADVANTAGES of the MODEL:
- everyone is responsible for what they write and what they review, and their comments are out in the public
- some papers are not reviewed
- COMMENT: only paper that create interest in the world-wide audience will grow and receive attention
- some people might submit a large number of small papers with little impact
- COMMENT: only well-thought and well-crafted papers that are complete and useful will create interest in the world-wide audience and receive attention. Only the number of citations (normalized for the field/area – maybe) is a good indication of the usefulness of the paper, and not overall number of article published.
- reviewers can organize in groups of friends of foes
- COMMENT: this problem can be avoided by the law or large numbers of open-access
- we will need to spend more time reviewing the same article too many times
- only if you deem necessary
- in a world of too much stuff, we need quality control
- having more people look at papers and all its history will give you more quality and more control
- do not want “reviews” dominated by the blogosphere of people with
too much time on their hands
- some people will comment more than others, but what counts is the total number of people commenting and being interested in a paper, or citing it
1- This model was inspired by many years of thought and ideas and also pushed forward by Yann LeCun’s model: http://yann.lecun.com/ex/pamphlets/publishing-models.html. and the upheaval of many of us at the beginning of 2012!
2- examples of high-profile papers that are close to exclusive clubs: Science, Nature, IEEE solid-state circuits conference and journal… [to be continued]
3- We really need to shorten patents life for the same reasons. We need to share knowledge faster. 5-10 years give a company enough time to develop and take the lead, and would free them later from spending too many resources protecting old patents, resources that they could use to develop new inventions instead of clinging to past glory (if any).