Thursday, May 3, 2012

Open access

There is an editorial in The Hindu on open access. I have written about this before in this blog several times. 


While Harvard spends around $4 million of its $400 million budget on the library (i.e., 1%), IITs/IISc spends around $2 million per year on its library budget, which is nearly 5-10% of the overall budget. Much of these are wasted on commercial publishers while the cost of many society journals are still manageable. It is rather critical to understand the differences between a society and a commercial publisher. I have written in detail about the differences in commercial and society publishers and the need for a faculty to understand the cost involved in publishing. 


While nearly 80% of the IISc budget is paid to the commercial publisher, less than 40% of the articles published by faculty are in journals published by commercial publishersA librarian (especially in India) wants to buy the entire package sold by the publisher as the commercial publishers continue to add journals without adding to the contentLibrarians would withdraw from "big deals" and ask themselves what the faculty actually needs. At the initial stages (like the new IITs), the librarians should ask the faculty to buy the journals as individual subscriptions and subsidize it through institution funding rather than get institution-wide site licence.


Recently, in a meeting with the publishers, I was appalled to see Springer quoting nearly $100,000 for subscription to each new IIT. Many new IITs do not have any reasonable number of faculty and the number of full text downloads are minimal (< 1000). When questioned why this cost was nearly 10 times that offered to an Indian university, they were quick to point out that IITs are funded better and may have higher usage later. This differential pricing (depending on the ability to pay) is ridiculous. This is like that the price of a car is determined depending on my pay and   how much I will use the car !


Later in the meeting, the representative made a statement that scientists can not survive without them. In USA, statements like this leads to scientists withdrawing from editorial boards, refusing to review and publish with these publishers. Not that it may make any difference, but as a scientist, I will not publish any more with journals published by Springer.

31 comments:

Vinay said...

And all this arrogance on part of the publisher, when the 'peer review' that ratifies the content is obtained free of cost.

If IITs have better funding, there exists a possibility that IIT faculty services would be used in far greater amount compared to other universities. This means, IITs should get a discount for the labour services their faculty would provide in future.

Digbijoy Nath said...

Acually a lot of professors and institute in USA are boycotting Springer for their silly acts as illustrated above in this post by Prof Madras ....besides, in several research areas like elctrical engineering for example, Springer has nothing to offer ...their journals in my area are pathetic ....

Anonymous said...

In case of CSE, Commercial and Society publishers are equally greedy. IEEE Subscription is costlier than Elsevier or Springer Subscription.

Giri@iisc said...

Anon above,

You are wrong. In case of IIT/IISc, Springer and Elsevier are much much more costlier than IEEE subscription. If you email me, I can send you the cost of each for IISc/IIT.

Giridhar

vergere6 said...

Bravo, Professor! I've seen similar reactions to Springer and Elsevier here. Their demands have become outrageous.

Anonymous said...

Great to see Prof Giri voice his opinion on this issue. When top US universities are worried about this journal mafia which exorbitantly overcharges for its subscription, it makes no sense that most Indian scientists do not voice their concerns. The reasons for this is that the money is paid from the government or in other words the tax payers pocket and thus does not affect Indian Scientists directly. I'm happy that Prof Balaram has talked about this before and now Prof Giri also.

Why should these publishers charge such huge amounts when(Atleast in India)
1) They do not fund research work
2)They do not pay much to the people who actually do the peer review.
3)Almost no money is paid as a reward to the people who actually publish, which is the same as no funding for research work.

Vijay Sethuraman said...

To the first anon above:

As an electrochemist, I can tell you that my society (ECS) charges very very little for their journals compared to what Elsevier charges for similar electrochemistry journals. I think open-access is the way to go.

Uploading your preprints to arXiv and sharing them with your colleagues (or putting them on your webpage) is even better. Most mathematicians and to some extent physicists do this.

Vijay.

Anonymous said...

Harvard's budget is more than $2 billion, so the said expenses are an even tinier fraction of the total. Even tier 3 universities in the US have budgets > $400 M. The point I am trying to make, however, is that it is not really that big of a deal in the US, but it is a huge deal for Indian universities.

Anonymous said...

" I think open-access is the way to go.

Uploading your preprints to arXiv and sharing them with your colleagues (or putting them on your webpage) is even better."

Great words sir. This would indeed be a great step towards improving the way science works throughout the world. I hope this is the route that most scientists would want to follow.

"is that it is not really that big of a deal in the US, but it is a huge deal for Indian universities."

very true.

Anonymous said...

It is heartening to note that Prof. Giri has uploaded nearly all his papers to the eprints site of IISc and they can be downloaded by anyone. Wish others also did the same.

Ankur Kulkarni said...

Dear Prof Giri,

It is highly commendable that you plan to boycott Springer by not publishing in their journals. May I also request that you also stop reviewing for them? Why should they avail of free services from you?

Anonymous said...

@Ankur Kulkarni

Good point. Why should these people enjoy free services?

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I made a mistake in my previous post. The service is not even awarded generally at free of cost, but rather at negative cost, i.e they charge you so that you can do services for them!!!

It's the craziest and most ludicrous economical model in the world and even worst than a fascist economic model.

Digbijoy Nath said...

Someone raised a valid point to me (in context of journals in USA at least) - the research output from various groups (in USA) in various universities is possible due to the funding given by the various government agencies like DARPA, AFOSR, ONR, NSF, etc. These research output translate into journal papers. Cool. Now, where do these millions of dollars given to universities by these government agencies come from ? Simple. They come from tax payers' money. Tax-payers are the common people of the country. Thus, why should not the common people get free access to read the scientific results which have become possible with their money ?...I do not know the answer.

Anonymous said...

1. Improving the quality of journals published in India would ameliorate the problem.

2. Why do librarians agree to buy highly priced journals? Why do research institutes buy desktop computers through DGS&D rate contract when tendering would get better specifications at lower rates? These are questions whose answers can only be guessed, but not publicly.

Giri@iisc said...

I receive review requests for around 150 papers and I review only around 100 papers a year and I review only for journals in which I publish. Therefore, I will certainly not review for Springer journals.

I am not against journals making money. Around 10 years back, they were collecting the papers into volumes and printing them. For this, they had to employ people. Naturally, they can charge us for that. Even now, they need people to format the manuscript, edit it further, host it etc. However, the cost of all these functions is a fraction of what they actually charge. Many of us submit pre-formatted manuscripts and the job of a publisher is only to maintain servers etc and employ a few people as executive editors. They can charge but not the charges have become too exorbitant.

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

If you think many librarians buy subscriptions because they are interested in keeping a collection, you are wrong. Many librarians are treated to five star hotels, trips abroad etc by the private publishers, which is why they keep on buying even trash from them.

gautam said...

Until we abandon "h-index", "impact factor" and all that, in evaluating our faculty, this menace will not go away.

Kshema Prakash said...

Sir, I appreciate your views and decision. I also understand the conditions in which the older IITs/IISc went ahead with the bundled subscriptions that could not be curtailed at later stages and also fully appreciate your article in reference too. As you predicted in your article, the problem has surely aggravated as evident from the talks with Springer. As a library professional associated with one of the new IITs, I very much see the possibility of mindful spending for having a controlled situation so that we can sustain our actions in future. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

This is very timely. May I also point out the Elsevier boycott, which is a very worthy cause.

http://thecostofknowledge.com/

Please do sign up!

Anonymous said...

" Even now, they need people to format the manuscript, edit it further, host it etc. However, the cost of all these functions is a fraction of what they actually charge. Many of us submit pre-formatted manuscripts and the job of a publisher is only to maintain servers etc and employ a few people as executive editors."

Sir, ideally things like review cost of publishing must be free of cost and in return the journals should also be very minimally priced. but unfortunately that is not the case. the journals are very heavily priced.
i can give you a specific case also. for ex if you want to attach pretty pictures(in colour) in your paper along with your results you have to pay huge amounts to the publisher. and of course journals cannot host videos.
in this day and age can't things like pictures, videos be viewed on academic archives?

The present journal publishing model could have been called as fine some some 15 years ago but isn't fine anymore in the age of the internet and information boom.
i hope most of the academic publishing moves out of the journals and into open access archives/blogs, atleast in the next 20 years.

Anonymous said...

The cost of knowledge boycott was a very interesting read indeed. i see 'happy days' for science in the next 10 years.

Shyam said...

Meanwhile I'd like to point out an interesting question that has come up at Academia.stackexchange.com: Why do universities have to splurge on journals?

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Dr. Kshema Prakash:

Thanks for your comment and I appreciate it. Young librarians such as yourself in premier institutions should discuss and be against this packaging and bundling of journals. One should buy what one really needs. For the new IITs, there is no need to go for bundles and one can buy individual journals till the faculty strength grows to a considerable size.

Best

Giridhar

KRK said...

There used to be a time when mathematicians outside india wanted to publish their work in the Proceedingd of Banaras Mathematical Society (Ganitha journal). If I remember , Prof.C.N.R.Rao, mentioned that he published his first paper in Agra University journal. Time has come for indian journals to resurge

Anonymous said...

It is taboo for people in IISc to publish in Indian Journals. Maybe we must rename IISc to International Institute of Science ;P

Ankur Kulkarni said...

I guess as an academic one should publish in a place that will give the work maximum visibility. So if the work is not nation-specific, it makes sense to publish in international journals. If the work of relevance only to domestic academics, then it may make sense to publish in a journal that has only national readership,

saswata said...

@Ankur

Correct. The Indian journals/conferences (open-access or not) should improve the quality of the accepted papers, make it relevant to the international community, and then expect good researchers to submit their articles there. I know that one CSE conference in India (FSTTCS) is trusted by the international community, and therefore good researchers submit articles there. More importantly, the researchers across the world read the articles published here, which is one of the most important factor to decide the publication venue.

Abir said...

One can always check how many good journals (say, impact factor above 2) are published by Springer (especially, in his/her area). As far as Solid Mechanics/Structure area is concerned, in my opinion, there are very few and can be ignored completely.

Anonymous said...

can any please share interview experience in IISER for physics faculty

Thanks

Kram said...

I appreciate the spirit behind the protest. Academics is not the place for arm-twisters. The publishing houses' arrogance should be checked and the voice should grow louder across the scientific community.